The sun was blistering and the rocky trail was leading us steeply over Smith Rock. The loose gravel underfoot was unsteady and several times we almost skidded down the hillside. Completely unprepared, I wore jeans which stuck to my legs making the ascent more difficult. The name of the trail says it all: Misery Ridge.
While this past holiday weekend was to be spent lounging in sunny Central Oregon with my extended family, we rarely sat idle. Instead, we hiked mountains, biked along rivers, and ran a 5K. I guess considering we were also stuffing our faces with all the delicacies of backyard barbecues, we had to compensate for our calorie intake. I think we probably broke even.
So, on our first day in Oregon, we found ourselves at the base of Smith Rock just outside of Bend. As we pondered our choices, I thought it obvious that we climb over Smith Rock and not around. How silly to come all this way and not enjoy a little bit of a vertical climb, right? While the sun beat down overhead, we made our way up the precarious pathway.
The hike up was difficult, but the view from the top was rewarding. Spanning the horizon are dozens of volcanic mountains which make up the Cascade Volcanic Range. Looking out at the impressive natural wonders of our world, the wind blew against my face, and I never felt more alive than in that moment.
To our dismay we discovered that going up was actually the easy part. Coming down was even more difficult. Every one of us slipped or fell at some point on the dozens of steep switchbacks leading us down. It's not that any of us are out of shape, we just couldn't navigate the unsteady gravel below us.
Once we had carefully made our way down, the last two miles of trail led us through a gorge carved out by the Crooked River. The vertical cliffs of Smith Rock towered overhead and were dotted with rock climbers making their way up. In many ways, I found Smith Rock to look oddly similar to Zion National Park in Utah.
Once our hike was completed we made our way to the Crooked River Gorge picnic area where we practically inhaled our lunches. While lounging about the grass, my Aunt Becky pulled out her GPS and found a geocache nearby. I have never participated in a geocache before so I was eager to give it a try. Basically, geocaching is a modern day treasure hunt where by using GPS you locate "caches" throughout the world. Excited to engage in this popular past time we set off in search of our treasure.
The clue was "No Christmas Tree" and obviously based on the barren stump and brush, the treasure just had to be underneath. We pulled out an old pringles can that was filled with all sorts of goodies (anyone notice the Ants in the Pants?!). We added our name to the log, picked our item - a wooden coin from California, and added our treasure to the cache. I can definitely see the appeal.
The day was far from over, so we made our way back to Sunriver where my Aunt and Uncle live. While everyone settled nicely into the backyard lounge chairs, I was itching to explore. I may have just hiked Misery Ridge, but my legs hadn't quite realized it yet, so I suggest a bike ride. My cousin Katy indulged me and took me on a tour of Sunriver. With miles of paved bike paths, this is an outdoor enthusiast's paradise.
We made it back home just in time for dinner and some good old fashioned banjo, blue grass music. With "Grandma's Feather Bed" playing in the background, a Bailey's hot chocolate in hand, family surrounding me, and the sun setting in the distance, life couldn't have been any better.
Here's one for the ladies!! (that's my dad!)