If you go outside enough, chances are you’ll meet some places that make you stop dead in your tracks and audibly say, “damn.” I can happily tell you that the number of those moments only increase with the amount of time you spend traveling to different places. I was fortunate enough to spend about a week in Terrabonne, OR which is only a short drive from the entryway to Smith Rock State Park. I had a lot of those moments during my time there.
I’ve never personally spent time in central Oregon. I’ve been to Portland to visit friends and family, road motorcycles through the dense forests, and have ran along the coast with wine bottle in hand like a true Dharma Bum. When you think about Oregon you don’t really think of sage and juniper ruling the landscape. As someone that loves the desert, it felt like a home.
The climbing community in Smith is small and tight knit. Everyone knows each other, and what car they drive so they can decide if they want to stop for a beer in the small climbing shop, Red Point, or not. Walking through the park you’re guarantied to stop a few times to ask each other how their day is going, what they got on, and how their dog is feeling.
The rock is sharp and unforgiving. You’re never quite sure if a hold is going to break and crumble in your hand, you just trust the chalked up spots and hope the last people to climb the route were right. The whole time you’re climbing at Smith you’re playing hide-and-go-seek with the sun. Staying in the shade in the morning until the cold rock numbs your hand, jumping onto a route in the sun to warm up, and then running back to the shade when your skin instantly starts dripping with sweat two bolts up.
The climbing here is humbling. The routes are long, the rock is rough, and a few of the climbs are sandbagged. A perfect combo for some type II fun. You struggle up a route, fall, get scared, and then you top out. You get to take the view in of a truly magical place. You get to hang some couple hundred feet off the ground and have a perfectly orchestrated “damn.” moment.
They say that the average Smith visitor only spends ten minutes in the park. That includes driving in, walking to the entrance trail overlooking the park, and snapping a photo. They then get back into their car and drive away. It’s mind blowing that people think that’s enough time to take in a place like Smith. Places like Smith deserve so much more, they need your full attention. I hope the next time you go somewhere beautiful, you take the time to settle in, observe the greatness around you, and allow yourself to have a “damn.” moment.