{explore} Smith Rock, OR

After introducing some lovely new-to-me folks in Portland, OR, to the delights of the Body Love Box and health at every size, I took two days to explore Oregon and test out a car-sleeping arrangement for my big upcoming road trip in June.

Me + the Body Love Box booth at Curvy Chic Closet in Portland.
My route for this trip, over two days from Portland to Seattle.

As a recovering perfectionist, it’s always tempting to plan out every moment of a trip, neatly preventing surprises — both dismaying and delightful — along the way. These days, I’m trying to leave space for those surprises. This sometimes backfires, as it did on a 2014 trip to Hawaii’s Big Island. I wanted to see all the beautiful places we’d been to once before, but refused to plan anything, so we spent a lot of time repeating the same highway routes when we could have combined destinations.

A lovely mural in Portland.
Clackamas River, Three Lynx, OR, May 2019
Clackamas River, Three Lynx, OR

Now, it’s about trying to find the balance between the two approaches: educated and prepared and reasonably efficient, but open.

Detroit Lake, OR

I had a lovely long meander through Oregon on some gorgeous mountain roads. 211 to Eagle Creek, 224 through Estacada and Breitenbush. There was still snow on the road in the highlands, and my attempt to reach Olallie Lake on a whim ended when the snow on the road got high enough to crunch on my car’s undercarriage. Ah well.

There’s snow in those hills.

Beautiful blue-green lake in Detroit, so I drove along it for its length and then doubled back to take 20 down to Sisters. There’s an overlook on 20 at mile 83 with a view of Mount Washington + informative captions about the forest fires that made the surrounding area look strange and dead. There was also a random lava field (!).

Mount Washington, OR, May 2019
Mount Washington and hills of dead trees from an early 2000s forest fire.

At Sisters I took 126 to Redmond, then headed north on 97. I stopped briefly at Cline Falls, hoping to find the waterfall, but it seemed to be on private property (?), so I just enjoyed the part of the river open to the actual public for a few minutes and moved on.

Cline Falls, OR, May 2019

Near Terrebonne, I saw some high dry hills with monolithic stones poking out of them like otherworldly fingers. I ducked off the highway and found a church parking lot with a good view, then crunched across lava stones scattered with grass and small flowers to the edge of the ridge to take photos across the valley.

Terrebonne, OR, May 2019
Smith Rock from Terrebonne, OR. Click to expand the panorama!

I was too invested to stop there, so I traced my way to Smith Rock State Park, the source of the scenery. It was absolutely breathtaking. I’m not even going to try to describe it beyond dry-side river valley with spectacular rearing bluffs and standing stones.

Terrebonne, OR, May 2019

I wandered around for an hour or two right at sunset and just breathed. Amazing.

Smith Rock State Park, Terrebonne, OR, May 2019
At Smith Rock
Smith Rock State Park, Terrebonne, OR, May 2019

The park is really extensive. There are rim trails, a campground, a path down to walk beside the river on each side, various rock-climbing areas, and parking along the upper rim of the valley.

Smith Rock State Park, Terrebonne, OR, May 2019
Smith Rock State Park, Terrebonne, OR, May 2019
Wildflowers overlooking the river valley
Smith Rock State Park, Terrebonne, OR, May 2019
Further along the valley
Smith Rock State Park, Terrebonne, OR, May 2019
Sunset and spectacular rock silhouettes

I was much further south than I wanted to be to close out the day, so at nightfall I got back on 97 and continued north for an hour or so. I stopped at a rest area called Cow Canyon (I didn’t see any cows, but it was dark, so who knows?) to use the bathroom and decided it felt comfortable and safe enough to spend the night for my big sleeping-in-the-car test.

Given that I couldn’t sleep in the back or even lean the seats back because my car was so full, sleeping in the car didn’t work well at all, but it was excellent data collection. I got maybe three hours of sleep. 0/5, would not try again.

The ‘otel at Biggs, on the Oregon side of the Columbia River.

Fueled entirely by determination and caffeine, I headed north again on Monday morning to Biggs Junction on the Columbia. I’d intended to follow the Columbia as it winds north, but I was feeling scattered and ready to be home and my knee hurt like fire (I kept having to stop and stretch it out), so I rook 84 to Richland and then, rather than take back roads that didn’t seem to follow the river all that closely anyway, took 240 until it crossed the river and then turned west on 243. At the rest area at the junction I adopted a very small tumbleweed.

Near Vernita Bridge, Mattawa, WA, May 2019
One of these — a very small one — lives on my bookshelf now.

Compared to the spectacular scenery I’d been seeing, this country was boring, but it had a sere beauty of its own. I was too tired and achy to really explore it, though. I just wanted to get home.

Near Vernita Bridge, Mattawa, WA, May 2019

Which I did, after another few hours. I took 243 north to Vantage, stopped for half an hour or so at a state campground on the east side of the river, then took 90 home and cried on the way because I was so happy to get home. I love wandering, but it had been a long week.

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