Saturday, February 14, 2015

Smith Rock and Biking in Bend

This weekend was supposed to be our Annual Maiden Hut backcountry ski weekend but with this winter being one of the worst snow seasons in Oregon’s history it wasn’t possible.  In fact we could have hiked in to the hut but where’s the fun in that?  So far this year Ski Bowl only opened for about a week and Willamette Pass and Hoodoo haven’t opened (they would never open this season - I wrote this in July :).  So yeah, I had pretty much written off any snow activity for the year.  Read on….

We packed up Leo in the car and headed to Smith Rock to meet up with Ian and his friends  Bill, Lizzie, Autumn, and Fraser who were rock climbing close to Monkey Face.   We drove over the pass by Ski Bowl around noon and were shocked at what we saw.  SkiBowl in mid-February was completely barren of snow except for a light dusting on Upper Bowl.  I never imagined it could be this bad in Oregon.  Ironically, the East Coast was getting absolutely dumped on by feet and feet of snow, effectively shutting down business in many cities including Boston and Portland, ME.  Wish they could have sent us some of that goodness!

When we got to Smith Leo was anxious to get out of the car and explore so we took him for a loop hike around Smith to meet up with everyone on the backside near Monkey Face.  On the way around we were treated to the usual honking geese everywhere as well as a very cute pair of river otters in the Crooked River below us.  We had all the time in the world so Emily and Leo were patient with me as I took a bunch of photos of them with my 300mm lens.  

As we continued down the trail we saw many climbers high up on the rock faces around us.  I never cease to be amazed by the rock formations at Smith Rock.  It is such a unique place geologically compared to the surrounding landscape.   I’ve tried to get into rock climbing but honestly it just doesn’t appeal to me.  This is odd to many as I love climbing mountains so much but going up and down the same wall over and over again painfully jamming my hands onto smaller and smaller holds just doesn’t do it for me.  

Before we reached Ian and the others on the opposite side of Smith from the parking lot we caught glimpses of a bunch of Eagles, Red-tail Hawks, Ducks and even a big fat marmot.  The wildlife was really out in force this visit!  It took us a little bit to find Ian and the others climbing on a secluded wall up on a steep hillside.  There we sat for the next couple hours watching them climb and hanging out with Leo in the warm sun.  I had brought my shoes and harness to climb but with daylight running out and them being better climbers I declined to give them more time on the wall.  

Ellie had been on a kick trying to understand why I don’t believe in God and why I don’t go to church.  She happened to Face Time me while I was watching everyone climb.  She asked again why I don’t go to church and my answer was to pan around the beautiful pillars and columns of orange and red rock illuminated by the setting sun and reply, “this is my church” and “mother nature is my God”.  This seemed to placate her for the time being :).

Emily, Leo and I then left the group to continue on our walk up and around Monkey Face.  Emily hadn’t been here before so I was excited to show here the amazing gap and exposure between “the diving board” and the mouth of Monkey Face.  We saw some climbers as they were making their final ascent under the setting the sun up to the mouth of monkey Face.  They certainly are more talented than I’ll ever be at rock climbing!  We then continued on up and over the main massif of Smith and down the other side to the parking lot with everything along the way lit up beautifully by the setting sun.  

Emily and I then drove out to the Pump House Bar and Grill House in the small town of Terrebonne for dinner and drinks.  We held a table until the rest of the group got there and joined us for a great dinner and drinks.  After dinner we headed to Skull Hollow behind and to the west of Smith Rock to camp overnight.  On the way we had a fun time stopping for driftwood where I loaded up a massive dried-out stump into the back of my truck.  It took literally all night to burn through the stump with just a tiny fraction remaining in the morning.  

On Sunday everyone headed back to Smith Rock but Emily and I headed to Bend for some biking on the amazing trail system just below Mt. Bachelor and Tumalo off the Cascade Lakes Highway.  I planned a loop ride for us along COD to Storm King to Phils trail but Emily was biking very sluggishly and didn’t feel good a few miles in so she returned to the truck at the trailhead where we had left Leo in some shade.  Thankfully, we had been practicing with her driving stick so she was able to take the truck and pick me up at the end.  I continued on myself to Phils with EDM music blasting in my ears and cruising along empty trails in February at my own pace.  Honestly, it was one of the best biking experiences of my life and I fell in love with my new Mountain bike all over again.  Tired, and thoroughly satisfied I met up with Emily at the Phils trailhead and we headed home after a great weekend in Bend. 

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