First Weekend of April – 02-Apr-2021 through 04-Apr-2021
It’s been a while since I’ve had a full adventure weekend. I’ve been kind of floating around between adventures this spring, not really sure what I want to be doing and feeling a bit aimless. I don’t know if it’s the longer days, the solitude, or what… but for better or worse, it’s been a real challenge motivating myself to do much else aside from go to work, go to the gym, and try to regenerate my energy at home by laying on the couch like a lazy bear.
This weekend, I planned it out. I set goals, timetables, and decided to move. To charge forward and to try and drive myself out of the funk that comes with the changing of the seasons!
I drove and drove, through night and day
And in and out of weeks
And almost over a year
I watched the suburbs give way to forest
The forest give way to snow
The snow give way to forest
The forest give way to desert
And the desert, at last, give way to the rock
Then, I came to where the climber things are.
(Ed Note: Again, I really have nothing as to why Ben is being poetic. Spring time, maybe? This one’s… pretty solid though; Ben spent most of the long drive working on it, and I’m pretty proud of him)
It’s been a while since I’ve done a road trip. The last one was… Going out to the Wallowas, to hike out to Ice Lake, I think? So late last fall, right before the September snows started coming in. Yeah, quite a long time.
I’d been itching for it, and this weekend presented the perfect time to really embrace the adventure, and make a few solid memories… along with maybe taking a few good pictures for the photo album, if I’m lucky.
The main goal of the day was to explore. No stress, no rush, just get out of the house fairly early and then… just kind of go, you know? I was hoping to find some interesting spot to stop and get my Stepdad a good birthday present, and was aiming to hit up Smith, but aside from that… or even in what order… I didn’t have any specific requirements.
Which is kind of the optimal way to do a road trip… at least, when possible.
I started out early – having a quick cup of coffee and the heading out straight away. I tossed some random gear into the car; not a ton, but just enough for a few contingencies, and hit the road. Originally I’d planned on grabbing myself a breakfast sandwich or something, but… I don’t know, it just felt better to get some miles under my tires first, before making any stops.
I started composing that poem you read earlier as the forests of Mt. Hood gave way to the desert of Central Oregon… It felt good to be moving, and I appreciated the reminder of just how diverse the Oregon ecosystems actually are.
A quick stop along the banks of the Deschutes river was the only rest I took before I passed by Smith Rock.
I didn’t quite feel like stopping just yet, so I kept the pace going – I mentioned that I’d been wracking my brain for a birthday present, and I finally had figured it out! A thunder Egg!
I’d seen shops along the highway South of Smith Rock that sold Thunder Eggs, but I’d never had a chance to stop into any of them… I’m always rushing between adventures, or speeding along the highway in order to get home in time, but they’d still gotten filed away as one of those neat places that I wanted to explore someday, if the situation arose.
Well, today the situation arose.
The first place that I wanted to check out was closed, but soon enough I saw another sign off the side of the highway. You know the type, the kind of old and weathered sign crying out that there’s some world-famous thing just minutes off the highway, and that you’d be crazy to keep driving on by. The sign that was probably put up half a century ago, when people regularly drove across the country instead of flying, and probably had a full parking lot sometime back in the 70s.
Well, I took the exit and started my search. It was barely even an exit, really… more like a small pullout that led to an old and lonely desert road. But I still pulled off, and started the meandering trek following signs that seemed to get older and smaller the further I went from the highway.
I did stop to take a few pictures of said lone and lonely road, of course, just since it was so gorgeously scenic and empty… but also because the drive out to the rock garden was starting to drag onward a bit long… I nearly gave up, actually, after a particularly long stretch of road without any signs or updates on how much more “just off the highway” this dang place was…
Finally though, I saw the final sign: “Petersen Rock Garden, next right!”
I walked around, visited with the garden cats and the peacocks, and chatted with the great-grand daughter of the original builder in the rock shop on site.
I found the presents I was looking for… and even found a bit of peace and quiet in the empty gardens. I wandered around and enjoyed the silence until my legs started getting restless, and I felt the need to get back onto the road back toward Smith.
Desert flew by as I pointed the nose of the car back onto the highway. I went fairly direct, though didn’t immediately go for the highway… I enjoyed the back roads for a little longer, before jumping back into traffic on the main road… it was nice, and I was hugely appreciative of the simple smells of the desert. It’s been so long since I’d been out that way that I’d forgotten how everything smells like sage…
Anyways, I got to Smith Rock.
The parking lot was fairly full, but not nearly as full as I’d normally expect for a weekend… though the fact that it was mid-day on a Sunday may have been the cause of parking spots being available – maybe most people had already headed back toward the city, after a solid weekend of climbing.
There were still quite a few people though, and I ran into my fair share of folks as I walked in, and then as I started down the Misery Ridge trail… but soon enough I left the crowds behind as I moved deeper into the park, and I finally got to really stretch out and enjoy the solitude.
I mostly hiked, but did a little bit of bouldering as the opportunities presented themselves. It was sort of slow, just enjoying the air and the sun, and remembering all the climbs and times that I’d had at Smith up ’till now. Good and bad, positive and negative… just a ton of memories and emotions associated with the soaring rock faces.
It was simply lovely – fun hiking, a little exploring of the bases of the rock faces, and a lot of just appreciating the scenery and the simplicity of not being in the city anymore. I did have to stop a few times to replace my sunscreen, but aside from that and a few snack breaks, I mostly just wandered and explored.
I felt good – I remember the first time that I hiked at Smith Rock, and how winded I got as I charged up the switchbacks, at a slightly higher elevation than I was used to. Now, I was able to simply cruise – not charging, but not getting winded… really at all. I felt good, really good, and was glad to feel that all the cardio and gym time had been paying off.
The rest of the day… really wasn’t much. I hiked, I appreciated the scenery, and I got back to the car. I didn’t have any real dinner plans, but I wasn’t quite feeling like a dinner out… so instead I had a quick snack and then started back on the highway toward the city, and then down to Wilsonville.
The Sun set in the distance as I drove down the highway, through the empty desert and toward the peak of Mt. Hood, looming in the distance. I wasn’t planning on making it home before nightfall, but I’d timed it almost perfectly that I got to see the glimmer of sunset on the mountain as I drove onward.
The rock quickly gave way to endless desert
The desert gave way to sweeping forests
The trees gave way to drifts of snow
The snow gave way to the warm forest
And finally, the forest spread out and was replaced by suburbs, calling me home.
Thunder Egg link: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thunderegg
Rock Garden Link: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Petersen_Rock_Garden