May 12 – We left Florence this morning, headed for Bend about 180 miles away. This is our longest drive of the trip so far. It has really been nice not doing so many long drive days. The things to do and see just seem to be so much closer to one another. Even though we are not staying very long at each stopping point, we certainly could spend more time at each of the them. The drive through the Cascades was nice if not a bit windy. It was pretty amazing how many cars were leaving the Bend area as we arrived. There is a lot to do with mountains, rivers and tons of hiking trails all around, but the same could be said for many areas of the state, so it was pretty surprising that there was such an exodus this Sunday morning. It turned considerably warmer as we drove inland and when we reached Bend around 1PM, it was downright hot – well into the 80’s. We pulled into Tumalo State Park – a nice park we had stayed in before – and were really fortunate to get the very last full hook-up site in the campground, just beating out an Airstream who turned into loop B as we moved on to loop C. There were plenty of other sites available, but on a day like today, electricity is really nice to have. We ran the air conditioner the rest of the afternoon until it cooled off.
May 13 – Our 24th wedding anniversary! It comes a week after Mary’s birthday. She chose that date originally to distract her from the fact she was turning 40 that year. I guess it worked. We didn’t really celebrate especially other than opening one of the special wines for dinner we brought along with us. I did make a special post to Facebook to her which read, “On a beautiful afternoon in Woodside, California 24 years ago today, this wonderful woman married me. Mary, I love you more today than ever before. I love our ongoing adventure and looking forward to many more years together.” Along with that, I posted the portrait I did of her on our hike at Sweet Creek Falls. She “liked” it.
In the morning we headed out to explore. Our first stop was to Tumalo Falls which is really nowhere near Tumalo State Park. It was kind of a long drive out there, but the river was high and the falls were really falling. Most of the river on the way up is not all that beautiful to look at, but at the falls it is quite impressive. At the first viewpoint, we got a really tremendous look at the nearly 100 ft drop of the falls. The way the quarter mile trail to the top is laid out, there are also several other impressive views along the way. At the top are great spots to look over the edge to really experience the power of this waterway. We happily clicked away with the cameras as the light constantly changed. By now it was lunchtime and getting quite windy which was causing havoc with Mary’s contacts. We returned to the car and ate inside before moving on.
We moved on to Paulina Lake from there. There is an obsidian hike through an old lava flow that we did on our last visit that we wanted to do again. It was pretty cool last time, with a lake with nice grasses along side the flow. This time however, the pretty little lake was now more of a murky puddle and the obsidian trail was still snow covered in parts. We tromped through patches using our tripods as snow picks for awhile, but soon the patches became larger and eventually impassable, so we turned back. It was late afternoon by now so we headed the 40 miles back to camp.
May 14 – This started out as chore day for us. It took all morning. Washing and grocery shopping mostly. I also had to find a replacement battery for my satellite radio. The one in there now has been slowly expanding over the past few months to the point now were I can’t even close the cover over it. The little on/off/sleep switch on the side of the radio had stopped engaging without using a lot of pressure some months ago. I didn’t realize it was because of the battery expanding and putting too much pressure on the mechanism. Eventually, the back of the radio popped off. Looking at the battery now, it is bulging out like Oliver Harty. So it was off to a Radio Shack. Of course none of them carry this battery. On store tried to have one delivered to them from the website, but apparently it showed “discontinued” so he couldn’t do it. It would allow me to order it myself, but where to send it? One of the problems of getting stuff while on the road. So it will be waiting for me when we get to Baker City for the Lazy Daze GTG next week.
After finishing with the chores, we headed out for an afternoon walk along the Deschutes River just outside of town. The river actually goes right through town and there is lots of hiking all around. We picked a starting spot that a very helpful volunteer at the local visitor center recommended. As we turned off the road, a coyote crossed out path – the first one we’ve seen on this trip. I wasn’t expecting much from the hike. How good could a hike be that runs through a managed forest next to a city be? Well it turned out to be really nice. The trail was very easy and very picturesque. On one side of the river is a large volcanic flow with only very scrubby brush with an occasional tree popping up. The other side is very nicely forested with an easy trail and lots of views of the river.
Unexpectedly, there are lots of rapids too. It was great fun photographing the raging water from the shore. As we walked along, around each bend was a new set of rapids. There were a number of rafters shooting the rapids. Unfortunately, we didn’t manage to capture any in progress. We could hear the hoots and hollers as they made their runs, but we always seemed to be in the right spot at the right time. We saw several just as they had finished a section. We also spied several Osprey and a nest on the other side. I’m told river otter are also common and we heard woodpeckers along the was as well.
We ended up not walking all that far – maybe a mile and a half – before turning back. It was getting a little late and we weren’t prepared for a long hike. Smoke from controlled burns up north had moved in and while it served to soften the late afternoon light it also mucked up the air. We returned to camp.
May 15 – Today we decided to to a more difficult hike out at Smith Rock State Park. This was also on the recommendation of the Visitor Center volunteer we’d talked to earlier. We probably would have never found this place otherwise. Smith Rock is largely a climbers paradise, but the trails in and around the formations are great for just hiking as well. The park is setup so that as you arrive, you are on one side of the Crooked River about 300′ above it. Huge rock formations rise from the other side of the river with trails snaking all around and through them. We had planned out a 3+ mile loop course which would take us down to and across the river, well up into the formations, then back down the other side and along the river around the formations and back across the river and back up to the starting point.
According to the elevation lines on our map, it was about a 300′ drop down to the river then back up into the formations. I think they left out a few of the elevation lines, because while it was about 300′ down, it was also more like 700′ up into the formations. I guess the name of the trail was a pretty good indicator – Misery Ridge Trail. It was difficult and pretty warm at the start. On the horizon we could see a weather front beginning to move in over the mountains. Once we got to the top of the formations it got much easier and the rest of the trail was simply a joy. But it was also the hottest part of the day. From the top there were amazing views all around. It was just wonderful. We could see the weather system getting closer, but it was also cooling off nicely.
The hike down was steep but not too bad and hiking around the river was also very nice. Sections of the formations were off limits to climbers because of nesting falcons and bald eagles, but we didn’t get any close views of either. There were geese though. We also saw lots of climbers. There were tons of them all over the place. Where there weren’t climbers, we could see caulk marks where they had climbed and permeant pitons embedded in the rocks.
We reached the river crossing bridge and began the hike back up to the start. The 300′ climb up seemed easy compared to hiking over the formations. It was considerably cooler too as the weather front moved in. We felt the first drops of rain as we sat with our coffee and cookies at the top looking over the scene. Another wonderful day.