As we were climbing Mount St. Helens five years ago, a ranger passed us on the way up, swinging her trekking poles jauntily and barely breathing hard. Yes, she joked, getting up is optional. Getting down is mandatory.
Prophetic words, as it turned out.
I was reminded of those words on Saturday. Jeff and I decided to hike a trail over at Smith Rock that we have been wanting to do all year. We needed to get out of the house and into nature, distract ourselves from present problems, so we headed out in the mid-morning. Our goal was Misery Ridge Trail, a four-mile moderate trail that zigzags over the rock right by the bridge over Crooked River, then swings around by the river. After looking at the map, I decided we should walk in the opposite direction than that suggested, so that I could climb up the steeper-and-no-doubt-rockier part of the trail and down the zigzag stairs. I have a phobia about walking down gravelly surfaces, you see.
So we crossed the bridge and turned left, along the River Trail that you can see across the river in this photo.
You can see the zigzag stairs that we didn't take in the top left corner of this photo, just below the sheer rock surface. This is looking to the right of the bridge.
It was a gorgeous day on Saturday, warm with a slight breeze, and a haze in the air that made long distances hard to see. There are over a thousand climbing routes in this state park, and hundreds of climbers were out taking advantage of the day, the canyon walls echoing with their shouts.
The trail along the river was easy and picturesque.
We enjoyed looking at the climbers, without any inkling of envy.
We are not that adventurous, my honey and me.
Look carefully at the photos, because some of the climbers are hard to see.
I took this photo looking back along the river behind us. When I was editing photos from the day, I couldn't resist adding some contrast and saturation to this shot. The scenery in Central Oregon is spectacular, but I do miss the colours that we enjoy further west. It looks magical, doesn't it?
I get some strange looks when I hike out here. Because it is generally hot and sunny (until winter, when it is cold and sunny) I usually wear cool, comfortable cotton, which pleases me but doesn't look like your average Columbia-garbed trail denizen. I am sure other hikers think I am some poor old lady who has no idea what she is doing.
We imagined how amazing it would be to live above such a view.
Spot the climber.
In the centre of the picture is monkey-face.
After a couple of miles, the trail forked. To the right, and uphill, was the Mesa Verde trail, so up we went. I was pretty sure this would take us over the top.
Do you see the silhouettes of the two climbers?
The view was awesome. This is looking across the river towards Crooked River Ranch. We had climbed out of the canyon at this point and were well above the other side.
We passed a sign that pointed up and said "Very difficult".
Well, we thought, we don't want to do anything very difficult, so we stayed on the trail, which was not in itself particularly easy.
We walked and walked and walked, passing Monkey Face, which had a few climbers on it.
These piles of stones were under an overhanging piece of rock. I always wonder who starts stuff like this.
After a while, I said to Jeff, this sure feels like more than four miles, and we aren't even in sight of anything that looks like a summit yet. But no one we asked as we passed them seemed to know any more than we did.
Finally, the trail headed back down to the river. It was my least favourite kind of trail, covered in loose rock and very dodgy to descend, even with my trusty trekking poles.
Then we reached a sign that said "Summit Trail", so we breathed a sigh of relief and headed up it.
It felt like several miles long, especially when it started to zigzag up the side of the mountain. Halfway up, we asked a gal who was coming up behind if she had hiked it before. She had, many times. How far is it, we asked. Oh, about eight miles, she said. Turns out, we should have taken the "very difficult" route, which would have taken us over the Misery Ridge Trail. We had inadvertently done the long loop.
However, the views were magnificent, even with the haze.
Remember this post when I threatened to hike the zigzag some day?
We had to descend using this very road. It is called Burma Road, and I will be happy if I never walk it again.
It was steep, rocky, and hot.
The centre left of this photo shows a small section of it, and it is readily apparent in the next one, cutting straight down the side of the mountain. It is over a mile long. When we reached the bottom, there was still about a mile to go to reach the bridge. I was fairly unhappy by this time, as all of the ascending and descending had given me a good-sized blister on my little toe.
I was very glad to get back to the car, but after I stopped complaining I was glad that we accomplished the long hike.
Next time, we plan to do Misery Ridge as suggested in the hiking guides!
Wanna come too?