Smith Rocks

Saturday, October 29, 2011
Leader: Brian Hamilton
Hike: 12.7 miles, 2842 ft (Difficult)

This trip was intended to be a dry-weather hike around Smith Rock State Park in Central Oregon at a time when the weather on the west side might be wet and miserable. To make the 6-hour round-trip drive worth the effort, the starting point of the hike began at the Gray Butte Trailhead, adding 4 miles to a 6-mile loop. Sure enough, it was raining when we left Eugene at 7:00 A.M., but the skies cleared up when we crossed the Santiam Pass. This was an exploratory hike for the leader, which led to some interesting results. On our way to the trailhead, we were stopped by a locked gate 1½ miles from the trailhead. We arrived at the gate at 10:00 A.M. and were on our way up the trail at 10:20. After a 500-foot elevation gain, we reached the actual trailhead, confounded by a maze of hiking, biking, and cattle trails and dirt roads branching off in different directions. Luckily, a couple of passing bikers on their way to climb at Smith Rock pointed out the correct trail. The trail was fairly level for next 2½ miles, beginning among juniper trees and then transitioning to open sage brush and grassland with views of the Cascade volcanoes expanding in front of us. At noon, we reached a viewpoint on the east end of Smith Rock State Park, looking down at the Crooked River and the rock walls that attract climbers from around the world. Working our way along unofficial climbers’ trails on the back side of the park, we dropped quickly until we were close to the river and could overlook the rock spire known as “Monkey Face.” We found ourselves in a “can’t get there from here” spot and had to turn north and scramble down steep, rocky areas until we reached the trail near the base of Monkey Face. By now, it was 1:00 P.M. and the next section of the hike took us 600 feet up and over “Misery Ridge” and back down to Crooked River. We followed the river upstream looking for Burma Road which would lead us back to our original trail. There were several unmarked trails and again we resorted to asking a climber for directions. The sun was out and weather turned very warm while we made our way back to our starting point. After 12.7 miles of hiking, we reached our vehicle shortly after 5:00 PM. On our way back to Highway 97, we stopped for a nice dinner at Terrebonne Depot. Again, we ran into rain when we crossed Santiam Pass. We made it back to Eugene by 10:00 PM.

Members: Brian Hamilton, Kate Parrish, Bob Harrison. Nonmembers: Diantha Hull.

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