In Oregon’s high desert, near Terrebonne, striking spires rise up from the Crooked River Canyon. Crafted from molten rock and subsequent flowing water, these basalt tufts have been sculpted into what is now known as Smith Rock State Park. This striking setting draws cyclists, hikers, and photographers, and in the mid-1980’s gained the attention of rock climbers, both local and international. Today more than 1,000 bolted climbing routes dot the vertical basalt walls, challenging beginners and experts alike.
After seeing photos in a brochure, I knew we had to make a slight detour and stop to soak in the views and hopefully take a hike. The 3-mile Misery Ridge Trail, incorporating sections of several other trails, was the hike that would take us up high for views of the surrounding Cascades, the Crooked River, basalt tufts, and Monkey Face Rock. Monkey Face is where we hoped to catch sight of climbers perfecting their sport. Taking the route less traveled, suggested by a Ranger, was to be the easier way down a steep, rocky trail. As I watched others with small children sliding down sections of the trail in the opposite direction, I whispered a silent prayer of thanks to that Ranger.
Starting up The Chute and hiking alongside the Crooked River, both sides of the trail offer enticing views and soon we found “beginner” climbers scaling the chiseled walls. As the hike increased in elevation, Monkey Face Rock absorbed our attention as a group of four climbers clung to the vertical face, the lead climber making his way into the mouth of the big ape. After many photos we continued up Misery Ridge.
Around the backside of Monkey Face we soon realized that two climbers were pushing for the summit, high-fiving one another as they stood at the top looking out over the mountain peaks dotting the horizon. What an exhilarating feeling that must be!
We slowly picked our way down the loose, steep trail, back to The Chute, where are feet once again met level ground.
If you are in the vicinity, a visit to Smith Rock State Park should be on your list, particularly at sunset we are told, as this is the magic hour at this stop.