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Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Smith Rock in Winter

It all started with a calendar photo.  Nearly every year, I try and get some type of "Scenic Oregon" calendar for my computer desk.  Not only providing fantastic images of my home state, they also give me ideas of places to photograph.


First light on the rocks

This year's was better than ever, chock-full of gorgeous scenery.  Flipping to January, I gasped at a stunning shot of snow-covered Smith Rock State Park.  The photo was so amazing, it got the wheels turning in my brain.  In late January, I was traveling to Bend to visit my brother.  Smith Rock was on the way.  Perfect opportunity to capture that image for myself!


Lovely golden reflections

Of course with the dismal winter we'd been having, there was no chance of seeing any snow at Smith Rock (thus, no chance of recreating that calendar photo).  But I love visiting Smith Rock State Park. There's no shortage of great photo subjects here.  The seed had been planted, and lack of snow wasn't going to deter me. 


A river of gold

My grand plan was to leave super-early Saturday morning, and arrive in time to catch the sunrise.  On the last day of January, I rose at o-dark-thirty, and left my home in Portland 'burbs.  The drive was fairly uneventful, until I hit thick fog on the back side of Mt. Hood.  The cloud bank stayed with me through the rest of my trip.  I was beginning to get worried.  What if Smith Rock was cloaked in this?  Did I get up early for nothing?


Steep trail to canyon's bottom

Luckily, about five miles from the park turnoff, the sky miraculously began to clear, revealing a fast-brightening sky.  Although it appeared I'd miss the sunrise, at least Smith Rock's incredible scenery would now be visible.


Fog rolling in

Reaching the parking lot by 8 am, I had my choice of spots.  Trudging to the canyon's rim, I looked over and saw the rising sun illuminating the tall rock columns a bright golden-orange.  Perfect!


The sky begins to fog up

Smith Rock State Park is a scenic canyon comprised of multicolored rock spires rising from Central Oregon's high desert.  The towering rock formations were created from volcanic eruptions.  Volcanic ash erupting under extreme heat and pressure, welded together to form "tuff."  This tuff created a layer over a half mile thick, which over time, became eroded into tall, columnar spires of rock.  The Crooked River makes a lazy loop through the center of these formations, creating some dramatic landscapes.


Ultra-steep walls

Besides jaw-dropping scenery, Smith Rock State Park is also a rock climbing mecca.  The tall, nearly-vertical rock spires create perfect climbing walls.  The park provides many defined routes, including the famous "Monkey Face."


View from near the canyon bottom

At the rim overlook, I set up my tripod and got to work.  Although sunlight hadn't yet reached the canyon bottom, first light on the rock formations was too lovely to miss.  The orangeish color from these rocky walls reflected in the Crooked River below.  Although still in shadow, the river's reflections made an interesting subject.


River reflections from the bridge

Slowly, I worked my way down the steep path to the canyon's bottom.  Every bend and switchback provided yet another perspective on the grand scene before me.  As the morning sun climbed higher in the sky, more of the canyon became illuminated.


Riverside trail

On the footbridge across the Crooked River, I stopped to admire the tall wall of rock before me.  It's brown and green colors reflected nicely in the river's still waters.


River view from bridge

And the view from the bridge's other side wasn't too shabby either.  Small, foggy clouds were beginning to drift over the far canyon.  A mother Canada goose and her babies floated in the river's calm waters.


Perfect morning light along the river

A wide well-used trail led visitors around the tallest rock spire, following the river bank.  I meandered along this path, stopping frequently when something photo-worthy caught my eye.  Looking behind me, I discovered an amazing scene.  The light was so perfect, the colors so vibrant, the reflections drop-dead gorgeous.  It was here I captured my best image of the day.


Following the trail

Continuing on the trail, it led me through the heart of Smith Rock's deep canyon.  Walls of multicolored rock rose from all sides.


Looking up at these enormous rock formations

Although the views down the canyon bottom were great, looking upwards from the trail also gave some interesting perspectives.


Lots of Canada Geese here

Wildlife abounded.  Birds flitted about the river bank, chirping happy songs.  A huge flock of Canada geese had apparently taken up residence in the park.  Their chorus of honks filled the canyon walls.  I wasn't expecting to see so much animal activity in the dead of winter.


Rock climbers

About an hour after my arrival, people began streaming into the park.  Large groups of rock climbers were continuously marching down the trail, ropes dangling off their backpacks.  A few groups of trail runners sped by, and I encountered a good number of people out walking their dogs, enjoying this sunny January day.  I wasn't expecting this place to be so busy in the dead of winter!


More rock climbers (can you spot them?)

I had fun watching some of the rock climbers, perched high on the canyon's walls.  Multiple trails branched off this main one, each leading to a designated climbing route.


Lazy river

I hung out along the riverbank, watching both climbers and geese. 


Clearing fog

Foggy clouds started drifting back around the tallest rock towers.  But instead of detracting from the landscape, they actually made for some interesting shots.  At least I thought so.


Looking back down on the Crooked River

After trekking around the trail for a good two hours, my foot, although nearly healed, began to protest a bit.  Carrying a bunch of heavy photography equipment, and the fact that this was the first "real" hike since my October surgery probably overtaxed it a bit.  Listening to my body, I began the steep climb back out of the canyon to my car.


Zig-zag fence

Oh, was I out of shape!  The trail, although steep, wasn't very long.  I was winded before reaching the halfway point.  Oh well, good excuse to stop and take a few parting shots of this classic view of Smith Rock.  Now about 11 am, it was interesting to see the difference midday light made on these rock faces.  No more vibrant golden hues.


The canyon in midday light

Although I've visited Smith Rock in the summer, (see a past blog post here) this was my first winter trip.  I was impressed by how beautiful this place is, even when all the vegetation is brown.  And I was surprised by the crowds of people who flock here in the off season (when I returned to my car, the parking lot was packed!)

A good break in my journey and a wonderful way to spend a sunny January morning.  Although I didn't capture the coveted calendar image, I did come away with a bunch of great shots.  And maybe I'll get lucky and visit after a snowstorm next winter (I've already written off this year...)


Sharing with:  Our World Tuesday and Wednesday Around the World and Good Fences.

47 comments:

  1. Hi Linda, I enjoyed the hike with you. Smith Rock and the Crooked River are beautiful scenes.. It is cool watching the rock climbers too. Great capture of the Geese.. Beautiful series of images, have a great evening!

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  2. Looks like you got enough photos for your own calendar!!! These are wonderful captures, each one is something you can show with pride.

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  3. Magnificent scenery captured so well in your photos. You seem to have chosen the perfect time of day for these too.

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  4. You did the rock proud. I love the wisps of fog floating down among the rocks. I'm surprised your foot felt healed enough for the steep down and up! I love watching climbers - scary! Great photos, Linda!

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  5. That little bit of left over fog really makes these shots, Linda! Gorgeous!!!!

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  6. Linda the reflections are the best...just awesome!

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  7. Glad you got some great shots!

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  8. Gorgeous - it reminds me of some of our local rock formations (except that we don't usually have water).

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  9. I used to live in Redmond so I went there a lot to run. Great photos.

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  10. Absolutely stunning scenery! You went to a lot of trouble to get them, but you were rewarded with fantastic shots. I especially love the rock and reflections.

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  11. Linda, what a lovely time, I appreciate your sharing this beautiful walk. I am so glad to see our Canada Geese found their way there as well, for your photo shoot. :)

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  12. another fantastic photo series Linda. there is some gorgeous scenery in the Smith.

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  13. Wow! Looks like a neat place! Glad you got out for a first serious hike too. I presume the 'dismal winter' is a subtle reference to your lack of snow for skiing. So sorry.

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  14. The fog in the photos adds to the dramatic nature of the place! LOVE it! I will have to walk the trail to the canyon floor next time I am out that way:)
    Blessings, Aimee

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  15. Awesome views I think I would be stopping all the time just to take a different one

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  16. Beautiful scenery, plenty landscapes, pure photos Linda.

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  17. Glorious scenery. I love being in the mountains when there's a little cloud and fog swirling around, it always creates interesting effects. It seems that the rule about making an early start to miss the crowds applies the world over.

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  18. Oh how cool!!! It would be so great to visit there with my camera too.

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  19. A feast for the eyes!
    Fantastic images.. super great post!

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  20. The rock formations are really amazing and the river is so beautiful.

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  21. Beautiful! The third one... it's like a river of gold... Beautiful montains!!

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  22. What a place! These are spectacular images. The scenery is breathtaking.

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  23. It was such an interesting post! I like the rock climbers!

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  24. I'll say you got some great shots. Fabulous I would say!! I visited Bend a few years ago on a road trip with 3 girlfriends. I hope to go back with Hubby. It was gorgeous! We would love going to Smith Rock park!
    hugs,
    Jann

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  25. Fantastic photos- yours are good enough to be a calendar themselves. :-)

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  26. Gorgeous... I hope that the weather starts to change here soon. Just too cold to get out...and not enough good snow to have fun.

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  27. Amazing views, wonderful photography!

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  28. I can see why there would be lots of climbers there - its looks great!

    Cheers - Stewart M - Melbourne

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  29. I like the idea of getting a calendar to get ideas of beautiful places! How wise you are!

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  30. What a view, Linda! You captured some completely awesome shots! And...I like the fog!

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  31. Beautiful scenery and the fences there of.

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  32. just beautiful! rugged terrain, rugged fences, rugged folks. :)

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  33. What a beautiful spot to visit! I will have to look it up on the map. You got some calender worthy shots! :)

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  34. I'm always in awe of your gorgeous photos. You've done this place proud here. I've never been to Smith Rock but man oh man it's amazing. Loved the fences, the rock formations, the skies....well everything about your post.

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  35. Gorgeous pictures. I like the warm golden light and the fog rolling over the mountains.

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  36. ooh aah! The magic of nature! Bet you left with just the best 'Good to be alive' feeing. I've got it just from viewing your wonderful pics.

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  37. Glad you got hike in, I've been eyeing your weather forecast with envy. Don't look at ours unless you want a reason to cry. Love the lingering fog in your shots.

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  38. Well, once again I am speechless. These are just beautiful...the reflections, the fog, the lighting. Well done, you really captured the beauty of this place for us to see!

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  39. Fantastic scenery, fences, rflections and critters in this post.

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  40. Wonderful shots of one of my very favorite places near Bend! One day I want to see the otter that live in the river...

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  41. Wow it's an awe-inspiring scenery. The mountain is magnificent. The fog in top of it makes it even more mystical. The stream looks perfect too. If that's my kind of destination, I won't hesitate getting up early than usual.

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  42. A marvellous series of shots Linda - I especially like the golden reflection, the Canada Geese and the weathered fencing.

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  43. Another beautiful adventure, Linda! The Smith Rock area almost reminds me of the Black Hills, only bigger rocks and streams. Thanks for sharing the beauty of God's creation.

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  44. Absolutely fantastic scenery Linda. Stunning photos!

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  45. Stellar, stellar shots Linda! You introduce me to some of the coolest places!
    I love the affect that the foggy clouds add. Fantastic.

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