Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Upon Clay's suggestion I'm starting a new category in my blogging of hiking & camping spots. After having already lived in the scenic northwest for almost three years we're a bit behind on recording all of the many, many places we've explored. But we'll start with the present and, as I have time, work our way backwards. Memorial Day weekend gave us a good excuse to get out into the great outdoors of Oregon...

Smith Rocks State Park

Fees: $3 day use pass

Hiked Misery Ridge Trail. Difficulty: moderate to difficult (tending perhaps more to the difficult side, at least on the lungs of a certain pregnant woman)

Click here for a map of the park.

The trail may have been challenging at points (let's just say it is aptly named) but the view was worth it at the top! And after all, it's only 3/4 mile to the summit and a 700 foot climb. The dry side of Oregon definitely holds a lot of beauty and with the Cascade Mountain Range lining the horizon this spot gives you plenty to feast your eyes on. From the top of Misery Ridge you can see eight mountains over 9,000 feet in height: North Sister, South Sister, Middle Sister, Bachelor, Broken Top, Jefferson, Hood and Adams. Just bring lots of sunscreen and water. And your camera.

Crooked River at the base of Smith Rocks.
Monkey Face - a 400 foot vertical spire.
From viewpoint by Monkey Face rock.

Wildlife: More plentiful than you might think. Several cliff faces were closed off from rock climbing until August 1 due to raptor nesting. There are purportedly rattlesnakes in the area but our snake viewing was limited to two large gopher snakes near the bottom. Lots of western fence lizards and various birds - even without our binoculars we spotted several including a Townsend's Warbler.

Rim Rock Springs Wildlife Management Area

Fees: None

We made this a brief stop and only hiked the 0.5 mile level paved trail to the spring-fed wetland oasis for some bird-watching. However, there is also a 0.9 mile non-paved trail that completes the loop back to the parking lot.

There are no signs advertising this desert-land oasis so just keep a sharp eye out for the small parking lot off of Hwy 26 outside of Madras. And bring your binoculars! Again, we didn't spend much time here but even in our short exploration of it we managed to get some good views of ash throated flycatchers, yellow headed blackbirds, hooded mergansers and an excellent view of a northern harrier.


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