Friday, April 12, 2019

Winter Trip to Smith Rock

Still on my quest to photograph a snowy Smith Rock State Park, I planned a late February trip to Central Oregon in hopes of catching some white stuff.  En route, I found lots of snow on nearby Santiam Pass.  I even captured a great photo of Mt Washington cloaked in her winter finest.

Not Smith Rock

But...brown, un-snowy scenery greeted me upon my arrival at Smith Rock.  Curses, foiled again!  (Frowny face....)

Classic Smith Rock View

However with scenery this spectacular, one doesn't stay sad for long.  Smith Rock features acres of  unique geologic formations that are amazing in any season.

Mountain view through the gap

It's steep, red rocky cliffs are extremely photogenic.  And they're also popular with the rock-climbing crowd.

Riverside Trail

I started out on my favorite loop that began with a ramble along the Crooked River's banks.  Tall colorful cliffs rose straight up from the river's edge.

Rock climbers

A few hardy rock climbers were already beginning their ascents.  Nothing I'd ever try, but fun to watch.

A bit of red

Ambling along the Crooked River, I was delighted to see a bit of reddish colored bushes lining it's banks.  Accenting the blue water, orange rock reflections, and green trees, it made for a lovely scene.

Golden river bank

Further down the river I spotted a deer dozing in the tall grass.  Slowly I crept closer to her, snapping images as I went.  Finally, the doe deemed me too close for comfort, and rose up to move away.  I noticed she was limping, one hind leg dangling.  Not wanting to distress the doe any further, I backed away.  But looking back for one final glance, I noticed she'd teamed up with another doe, both keeping a close eye on me.

Wildlife sighting

The trail then wound around the back side of Smith Rock's cliffs.  Still following the river I entertained myself by watching the numerous ducks and geese floating in its waters.  And the golden grasses lining the banks made nice photo subjects.

More golden grasses
Rounding a bend, I got my first look at the famous "Monkey Face" rock formation.  A favorite conquest of rock climbers, the top looks like - you guessed it - a monkey's face.

The Monkey Face

Can you see the resemblance?

Row of mountains

Just past the Monkey Face, I ran into a junction with the Misery Ridge Trail.  This path takes hikers up and over the ridge adjacent to Monkey Face.  After a leisurely flat jaunt along the river, it was time to climb.

Climber attempting the Monkey Face

And on this trail I finally got my wish - these north-facing slopes held final remnants of the last snowstorm.  A bit of white dusted the bushes and wedged into rock crevices.  But, not so nice, any snow on the trail had been beaten down into treacherous, slippery ice.

Peak panorama

Lucky for me, I'd remembered to bring my microspikes.  As I stood contemplating whether to use them on this icy path a man approached, gingerly walking downhill.  He warned me that the trail was ice nearly all the way to the top and very slippery.  That was enough incentive to make me dig those microspikes out of the backpack and slip them over my boots.

Another classic view

It was a good decision.  The microspikes gave me all the traction necessary to safely scale the icy trail.  However, I was surprised by the number of people I encountered going the opposite direction without any kind of traction whatsoever.  It was bad enough trying to hike uphill on ice, I couldn't imagine trying to make my way downhill on shoes alone. 

Rocky spires

This was one trail that rewarded you for your effort.  As I slogged higher, the valley opened up below, with more and more scenery unfolding.  I began to see several Cascade peaks lining the horizon.  Also the checkerboard shapes of farmland and several huge Mcmansions dotted the landscape.

Good name for this trail!

On the ridge's very top a bench was strategically placed.  Good place for a snack break to take in the views.  I glimpsed at the white Cascades peaks jutting up at the border between mountain and plain.  Some of Smith Rock's shorter spires were front and center directly below.  And of course, Monkey Face was now at eye level.

Lame selfie attempt

Climbing now behind me, I removed my microspikes for a relaxed stroll across the top of Misery Ridge.  Traveling to the opposite side, more spectacular views awaited me.

These people need microspikes! did more slippery, icy trail.  The top portion of the path down the other side was just as ice packed.  I wasn't really keen to go through the trouble of pulling out my microspikes and putting them on once again.  Maybe I could carefully traverse this short patch of trail?

More great vistas

However, watching the people ahead of me trying to navigate this slippery path quickly changed my mind.  I thought to myself  "Why risk injury when you have devices with you to prevent falling?"  Common sense won the day, and I took another break to don microspikes once again.

Red rocks

Although I only needed traction for a short distance, it made the return trip must faster (and safer!).  Once past the ice, it was a quick downhill trek back to the parking area.  Now time to head towards Bend to see my daughter and grand-puppy (who was becoming a huge, but handsome doggy).

And ironically, Central Oregon got walloped with nearly two feet of snow the day after I left.  Had I stuck around there would have been ample opportunities to get my Smith Rock winter photo fix.  Always a day late and a dollar short.... (however with that much snow, I also would've been stuck in Bend!)

Handsome grandpuppy

Hike number 8 in the books!  A wonderful 4.5 mile ramble through one of my favorite state parks. 


  1. Your Grand puppy is really growing and oh so cute...hope you got your puppy fix!! Lovely photos! I have a pair of Yak Trax...I just keep them on an old pair of snowboots, they have saved me from many falls:)

  2. Spectacular scenery. When I went to places like this I always thought about the people who never got to see the area.

  3. Such beautiful images! Gorgeous scenery.

    And oh that face! Your grandpuppy is adorable.

  4. I do like the rock formations, and you captured them well. Thanks for sharing. Your grandpuppy is so cute too.

  5. Hello, I love your beautiful granddog! The views on this trail are just amazing. The rock formations are cool. I think it is best to have those spikes on your shoes, I would not want to slip and fall off that trail. I like your selfie and your photos. Happy weekend!

  6. That looks beautiful, but I wouldn't try that one stretch of icy trail without traction. Wise decision!

  7. I love that hike, but I can imagine how slippery it would have been, there are some steep sections! Some day I want to see the otters that live in the Crooked River!

  8. Weird there wasn't snow. I did a little climbing there back in the day but decided I didn't really like climbing all that much.

  9. The Rocky Spires shot looks like a caldera that really blew up. Very nice scenery, with that last patch of ice I am glad you had spikes, the edge looked close and a bad fall.

  10. Glad you put on your microspikes. Your energy is impressive.

  11. You missed the snow covered edifices, but for this reader, the hike was stunningly beautiful. You and your camera capture this beauty spectacularly.
    What an adoreable, Grandpuppy you have.

  12. I am glady you made the effort to visit Smith Rock, even without snow. Glad you took your microspikes with you, cuz you never know when you'll need them. I shoot photos from below, like a bald eagle we saw in Astoria on Wed evening. Wasn't a close photo but I can make it out as one. Nice photos, Linda!

  13. Love the red rocks and snow capped mountains behind. Your hike plan is coming along well :)

  14. I used to live around there. It was often a good place to run or hike in the winter, with less snow.


  16. What a hike! I loved the first photo of Mt Washington! That monkey face peak really did look like a monkey.


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