After some fun times exploring Bend, OR, Jessica and I took a day trip 30 minutes north to Smith Rock State Park.
Smith Rock State Park encompasses a section of the Crooked River as it weaves its way around enormous towering fins knows as Smith Rock. Smith Rock was formerly a portion of a calder rim (like Crater Lake). Portions of the crater are gone, but the portion that remains is now known as Smith Rock.
Having not hiked for a few days, Jessica and I were excited to arrive at the park. We had big plans to tackle the well-named Misery Ridge Trail, which climbs its way straight up and over Smith Rock. After descending the ridge, we planned to return to our car via a riverside trail. All in all, just a lovely 3.6 mile jaunt.
The views from the top of Misery Ridge were amazing. Bend and Smith Rock lie east of the Cascades Mountain Range, which contains many volcanoes. From high points of elevation, you can often see the snow-covered peaks. Upon claiming the summit of the ridge, Jessica and I cooled off and then traversed to the far side of the ridge. From there, we had our first view of the Cascades and of a famous rock formation known as The Monkey Face.
Besides being a beautiful and wonderful place to hike, Smith Rock is really well known as a destination for climbers. One portion of The Monkey Face (shown above) is famous for being the first 5.14 (a difficulty ranking) climbed in the United States. I certainly cannot climb things that difficult, but I hope to one day climb the much easier (5.8) side.
As Jessica and I walked around The Monkey Face, we noticed some climbers were working on the easier route to the summit. Jessica sped off down the trail, but I lingered to snap some shots of climbers taking down something on my bucket list.
Once we reached the far side of the park, the trail continued alongside the Crooked River. The trail itself was rather unexciting, but we were not left wanting things to look at. We saw hawks, ducks, and climbers traveling along the rivers and up the shear cliffs. At one point Jessica even ventured out onto a rock in the center of the river.
One of the highlights of this hike was spotting a Bald Eagle nest high above the river. Jessica and I heard the bald eagle call (recognizing it from the High Desert Museum) but couldn’t spot the nest. Luckily, we passed a park ranger who was observing the nest, and he was able to point out the eagles’ perch. He also explained that the nest contained three eaglets. It was hard to see them from the river plain, but he explained we could walk to the edge of the rim on our way out of the park. This was a MUST DO!
Once there, we could see directly into the nest. In the above photo you can see a bald eagle. The reason this one lacks the signature white head feathers is because it is actually just a juvenile–probably around 12 weeks old. This guy (or gal) is close to taking his first flight, but is still reliant on his/her parents to catch food.
After some serious
frustration and boredom patience, one of the adults arrived, and I was able to snap a quick picture of two of the eaglets with the adult. The adult didn’t relax for long. After dropping of a quick snack, it was off to hunt for more food.
Jessica and I had seen a few bald eagles in southern Oregon, but this experience was different. Previously we had been driving in the car and spotted one only briefly or in the High Desert Museum. Here, we were able to observe wild ones in their natural habitat. They are incredibly beautiful and large. Really large! And, they are some seriously committed parents. The young eagles won’t reach adulthood for up to four years, so these eagles have their work cut out for them.
After the adult bald eagle flew away, the action died down around the nest. Jessica and I began the trek back to our car. On the way, however, we passed a small bouldering wall, and Jessica got her climb on!