January 28-29, 2012.
It was ladies weekend at Smith Rock. I’d organized a mini-retreat for myself and a handful of my female co-workers as a way to get to know each other better outside the typical, chaotic work environment. Since I was so familiar with the area I took on the lead role of planning the activities for the day.
Smith Rock Loop
Not knowing too well the physical abilities of the group, I had to make a guess as to which hike would be appropriate. I’d done a loop with a friend here before that required a little off-trail scrambling so I hoped that it would be okay.
It was a frigid morning so we layered up and hit the trail. We didn’t get far because everyone was stopping to ooh and aah and take pictures. I couldn’t believe it. I stopped to look around. It’s freaking gorgeous here. I come here all the time with a purpose: to climb rocks. I realized that I’d lost that sense of awe that everyone else had. Breathe, I thought, we were here to enjoy the experience, not rush to complete a hiking loop in record time. I needed this break from my routine to step back and take all the beauty in.
We walked down to the river, crossed the bridge and started huffing and puffing up Misery Ridge. Ah, the first hurdle. One of our group was really struggling to get up the hill. That hadn’t even occurred to me since I was so focused on the scramble part. She turned back to take it easy and focus on photography for the day while the rest of us carried on. Up and over Misery Ridge to enjoy the views and to find the start of our scramble. We headed slightly off-trail and then over a short, brushy wall to a fairly well-trodden user path. The hard part was over, and it wasn’t too much trouble for the group.
We walked along the ridge until we connected with Burma Road. From there it was an easy downhill walk to the river. We paused at the irrigation channel, which was empty, and peered inside.
Overall we had a lovely day with some beautiful views, good conversation and productive physical work.
I frantically searched for an easy hiking option that the whole group could enjoy, and I landed on the Scout Camp Loop. This trail was just 2.5 miles total with 700 feet of elevation gain. The elevation could be the killer, but with such a short trail I thought we could take as much time as we wanted.
The trail was beautiful. This was my first time out here and I fell in love immediately. It had that same high desert feel as Smith Rock but now I could see it with truly new eyes. It was a cold day, but the sun felt warm on our faces. We descended into the canyon, admiring the steep rock walls on either side. The rock was formed in horizontal layers, with different colors and textures in each band. It was very quiet; it felt like we’d discovered a secret. I was glad that everyone got to enjoy the walk today and that we found such a special place.
While I wouldn’t go out of my way to do this hike, it’s a nice place to bring visitors if you’re in the area.