Oregon is awesome.
We’re used to experiencing Oregon’s glory in the typical Pacific Northwestern fashion: visiting waterfalls, hiking through old growth forests, and seeing lots and lots of green. Obviously, we love these aspects of Oregon (check out our many Oregon adventures on the ExplOregon page), but it’s nice to change things up every now and then. We attempted to escape the rain in the Willamette Valley on Saturday by heading east, over the Cascade Mountains and into the desert to Smith Rock State Park.
Most folks would be surprised to know that a big chunk of Oregon is desert. Once you head east of the Cascades, things look a whole lot different. Aside from our drive across Oregon when we moved out here a few years ago, we haven’t spent much time exploring that area, but from the pictures I’ve seen, it’s really beautiful. And if you can ignore the rattlesnakes, I’m sure it’s lots of fun.
One of the fun/weird things about living here is the variety of weather patterns you can experience in just a few minutes. There have been times where I’ll look out the window and see plenty of sunshine, and by the time I get my shoes tied to head outside, it’s hailing. This little trip was a prime example of Oregon’s wild weather.
For instance, it was pretty chilly when we started our day in Eugene, but none of us expected to encounter several inches of snow in the McKenzie Pass.
We thought Sahalie Falls might look pretty cool in the snow, so we stopped for a quick walk down to the viewpoint. It was beautiful. And with all the rain and snow melt happening around here lately, that waterfall was fierce! What’s not so fierce? My hiking shoes, which are not at all waterproof, and quickly left my feet freezing cold and soaking wet. I guess it’s time to get the gear.
(The accuracy of that sketch is embarrassing.)
I’m kind of surprised it took us this long to get to Smith Rock, seeing as how it’s one of the Seven Wonders of Oregon. It seems we have two wonders to go, and hopefully several to repeat again and again. But my goodness, this one was pretty cool (as I stated over and over again on our hike).
When we started the hike, it was about 40 degrees, drizzling, and super windy. I was regretting not bringing a winter hat and gloves. A few minutes later, the sun came out and we all removed some layers before we even got on the trail. A little bit after that, we had to stop to remove more layers (I may have been the one experiencing major temperature changes and needing to immediately remove my clothing). A few minutes later, it started raining. And then it hailed. And then it was sunny. And then it hailed again. What a weather day. (And a brilliant example of why dressing in layers is a must around here.)
We followed these directions for the Misery Ridge Loop Hike, which was 3.8 miles with a 1000 foot elevation gain. Despite the intimidating name, the hike was awesome.
We followed a bunch of switchbacks up to Misery Ridge, where we took in the views and kept an eye out for rattlesnakes.
We hiked a bit longer until we came to Monkey Face, a big pillar that looks like, well, a monkey face. There were a few daring rock climbers braving the crazy weather and climbing that bad boy.
The Misery Ridge Trail met up with the Mesa Verde Trail, which then met the River Trail, making for a scenic loop with the river on our right, and climbers attempting the rock faces on the left.
After our hike, we drove down to Bend for an early dinner at 10 Barrel (get the delicious pubhouse burger), followed by what has become a traditional stop at Sisters Coffee for a little caffeine for the drive home.
All in all, it was a delightful Oregon day. It doesn’t get much better than this.