“Oregon is wild. Wildly diverse. Wildly complex. Wildly beautiful.“
We set out to traverse the state of Oregon through the lens of the four elements, making stops at countless beautiful places alongside our talented storyteller friends, Jules Davies and Chelsea Parrett. A soulful search to find and explore the diverse places that make this state such a remarkable beauty. Stay tuned to Downstream because over the next few weeks, we will be unraveling this marvelous adventure – element by element. To explore through all of the elements, read the full Elemental Oregon editorial here.
The challenge of both capturing and exploring the element of Air is inexplicable in nature, as something that cannot be seen. In our search, we thought that the best manifestation of air would be to visit the birthplace of Sport Climbing, Smith Rock State Park.
With towering walls of rock standing hundreds of feet above the charming Crooked River below, it never stops feeling overwhelming even after almost 18 years of visiting this place. Smith Rock is a force. It has a way of drawing you in, and in many cases, drawing those who dare UP. This has been claimed as the birthplace of modern day Sport Rock Climbing. With thousands of established routes, mostly bolted and managed by a careful team of rangers and volunteers, Smith Rock is one giant playground for climbers and adventure seekers.
While setting up camp at the Bivy we noticed a young Bald Eagle flying around it’s nest and later learned, from a local nature photographer, it had just learned to fly several weeks before. The proximity to such a symbolic creature of freedom seemed so fitting for the challenge we were on. The element of Air was effortlessly woven into this experience.
Smith Rock 101:
- Chase the shade. No matter the time of year, climbing in the sun is hard.
- Bring extra water. Hydration is key. If you’re new and learning to climb, make sure you carry gear and a good attitude.
- Don’t forget your guide book. Buy one at Redpoint in Terrebone, OR.
- Stop for Huckleberry Ice Cream on your way out. It’s really good.
The best way to enjoy Smith is to have a solid crew of friends along for the trip. There are several places to camp, and if you’re looking for great access to the climbing wall and epic views, the Bivy at Smith Rock State Park is your best bet. Note that you have to walk in and there’s a fire ban. If you’re camping with a larger crew, drive 10 minutes out to Skull Hollow Campground where you’ll have space to car camp and the ability to have campfires. Some of the most memorable moments from climbing trips are spent around the campfire after a long day on the wall.