There are many perks to working for a travel company. One of those perks is getting the opportunity to explore the areas that we will bring our guests to. By physically visiting these places ourselves, we can properly and strategically craft itineraries and activities that we are familiar with to create the best opportunities for our guests. In mid-March, part of our team headed down the coast to scope out new, captivating areas that would better shape our tours.
We pulled into Smith Rock State Park before the sun had even risen over the horizon. We were surrounded by the compelling rocky arena, divided by a single river. Because it was an early, cold morning, there was only one other couple in the vicinity besides our small group. They gave us a gentle wave as we walked by and continued to suit up in their rock-climbing gear.
We started to make our way down the hill towards the river, over a bridge, and there they were- the grand, jagged hills that I have seen so many times in pictures on the internet when researching the unparalleled natural phenomena of the Pacific Northwest. This was nothing like the lush PNW climate that I thought I had known from growing up in Washington.
As I turned from side to side in wonder, taking in my surroundings, my frozen ponytail whipped the side of my face, leaving a red mark. The scene before me seemed so far from reality. Here I was, in the middle of March, surrounded by titian-colored rocks that had been built and carved over the years by travelers, like myself, who weren’t expecting to find such a dry treasure in the middle of Oregon.
We decided that we wanted to explore the park by hiking to the top of Misery Ridge to stare down at the river and surrounding areas. I put on two pairs of thermal leggings, a tank top, short sleeve shirt, sweatshirt, vest, gloves, and a scarf around my face for the cutting winds hitting our bodies from head to toe.
As we started hiking, I noticed that Smith Rock truly was a rock climber’s dream. Ellie, my colleague, is an adamant rock-climber. I noticed that she kept lining the trail to simply graze her palms against the side of the rock and grip her fingers into different holes and ridges.
With each step, the crumbled remains of humanity’s impact on this incredible area rolled underneath my shoes. With each few hundred feet, I would stop to catch my breath, turn around, and lay my eyes upon the progress that we had made, expanding my all-encompassing view of the terrain.
I looked forward and noticed strategically placed steps on the trail made of wood. I wondered, who in their right mind would volunteer to hike up these jagged walls and prepare strangers for ease as they pushed forward in their exploration?
I thought back to the couple that had kindly waved and greeted us at the front of the park. This is when I realized that often people who are passionate about the protection of the parks are also the people who care for and watch out for one another. As I pushed on, I thought, this is an incredible community that I feel so lucky to be a part of. We need to share this.
As we climbed to the summit of Smith Rock State Park, the horizon began to light up and the sun lifted over the east side of the ridge, caressing the top and blending it beautifully. It seemed as if the sky, horizon and Earth’s crust had been completely smoothed out by the sun. The river that we had a crossed over danced and swirled with reflections of light as birds floated down upon it.
We decided to continue hiking to the southern side of the summit and were able to see a whole other perception of the park, with the Oregon Cascade Mountain Range as a complete backdrop. At that moment, I didn’t realize how much my fiery red ears were stinging from the morning chill, or how my eyes were uncontrollably watering from the greater wind speeds at a higher elevation.
I was completely infatuated by a piece of Oregon that I will never forget-Smith Rock State Park.
If you are interested in visiting Smith Rock State Park or other renowned areas in Oregon like the Columbia River Gorge, Crater Lake, the Oregon Coast and Willamette Valley Wine Country- check out our Oregon Adventure Tour.