Sunday, September 22, 2013

Oregon, Quack!

After a long drive through a great expanse of utter nothing (made shorter by our obsession with the Wise Man's Fear audio book), we made it to Smith Rock, Oregon. Smith rock is a famous climbing destination, gaining notoriety as the birthplace of American sport climbing. For those who don't know, sport climbing is rope climbing where your means of protection comes from hangers bolted into the rock wall. Generally, this style of climbing is done for 1 reason, because the rock formation does not take any traditional gear. Typically, this allows climbers to push themselves physically without the burden of placing their own protection while climbing. Typically, this style feels safer to the climber. TYPICALLY.

Smith Rock's distinction as the birthplace of American sport climbing also means that it was on the forefront of what was considered "good" bolting ethics. Long story short, this means that when first ascensionists bolted in this area, they were doing it in what they considered the best possible ethics, meaning the bolts are VERY far apart. Normally,this isn't a a HUGE issue for me if it is still safe AND if the climbing is overhanging. As we quickly found out, most of the climbing at Smith is not overhanging.

With that description of Smith Rock past us, allow me to continue. We arrived at Smith Rock in the dark(as usual) and stumbled to set up camp. The camping is split up into two areas; a very large field where you can set up your tent and a communal area with picnic tables where you can do your cooking. We set up tent that night and passed out.

As the sun peeked around the corner, we slipped open the tent door and were greeted with Smith Rock right in front of us. Smith is beautiful, golden spires sticking straight up as an emerald river creates a moat around the rock towers. After heading to breakfast, I noticed that the people in the campsite There was way too much talking about slack-lining and not nearly enough talking about climbing for this to be a regular climbers' campsite. I later found out that there was a highligning festival going on, explaining why the camp felt so strange.

After breakfast, we headed onto the trail that we thought led us to the climbing. Remember I said there was a moat around Smith? Well, a moat is beautiful and all, but it also means that unless you know where the bridge is, well, you're stuck. After wandering around a meandering trail, we eventually found where the bridge was. We planned on heading to the Mesa Verde wall, which is on the back side of Smith. We were going here because Smith was 20 degrees above average temperature, a sweltering 90 degrees and Mesa was our best chance for moderate climbing in the shade.

Before I go any farther, let me remind you that the day before we spent the day driving trying to recover from our epic day at the grand. Let me tell you, driving is not a true rest day and I was still stiff and sore as could be. Anyway, we took a look at the guide book and tried to decide what is the fastest way to the Mesa wall. We pick our route and start going... and going... AND GOING.

It turns out the trail that we chose was called the Misery Trail and boy does it live up to it's name. The trail snakes it way to the peak of smith, all the way around and then back down again. Mind you, we were still recovering from the hike, it's a sweltering 90 degrees, the trail is loose gravel, AND Alanna was wearing her chacos expecting an easy hike. Like I said, misery.

After cursing and stumbling our way down the trail, we made it to the Mesa Verde wall. Booting up, I chose a climb well within my normal warm up grade and started climbing. 45 minutes later I was finally lowering to the ground after epicing my way up the face. In retrospect, the climbing was probably fun, but in the moment I hated it. It was low angle, insecure and spaciously bolted. In summary, my least favorite style. Alanna top roped it in good style and we decided to head for greener pastures, aka overhanging rock climbs. Eventually we moved to the other side of Smith by means of the appropriate trail ( there is a cut through that you can use that makes the trail much more manageable. We found some overhanging climbs that were not so classic and then decided to call it a night early.

The next day, we decided to do a half day before heading to Eugene to see my uncle. After our troubles the day before, we judged it best to brave the sun and find the climbs that looked fun. And they were fun! Unfortunately for us, the climbs that we enjoyed most were baking in the sun. Nevertheless, they were very fun and made up for our previous sour day. After making some DELICIOUS hot dogs for lunch, we hit the road for Eugene, Oregon to visit my Uncle David and his family.

We arrived in Eugene that night for a wonderful home cooked lasagna dinner with my Uncle and Aunt. It was great to have some good home cooking and a comfortable bed! My cousin, Jacob, and his girlfriend Alia, took us for a tour of Eugene. We saw the University, which was quite spectacular and a little tour of downtown. This included a stop at Voodoo doughnuts where I had a butterfinger covered doughnut. It's only a matter of time before something of the sort opens in Asheville! Being the lame people that we are, we decided to cut the night short and go to bed in preparation for the Oregon Ducks game we were attending the next day!

(stolen image....

My uncle is a therapist and he works extensively with the Ducks football team, so much so that he travels with the team and is on the sideline for each game. That being said, he was able to score us tickets with passes to be on the field when the team came out and warmed up. Pretty awesome! The Ducks are ranked 2 in the country and so there was some pretty serious talent on the field.

After the team warmed up, we made our way to our seats. Let me tell you, Ducks fans are SERIOUS about their football. At least the lady was who sat behind us. Her vocal chords should be donated to science because there is NO way it should be possible for her to have maintained such a high pitched scream for the duration that she did during that game. The Ducks played the Tennessee Vols, a game that several years ago may have been exciting, but now it was just a blowout in the Ducks favor. By late in the third quarter the ducks back ups were all in and they coasted to a huge blow out. That said, it was still fun. The Ducks style of play is so exciting that even during a blowout it's fun to watch.    

That night, we had some pizza and watched more football! We played card games and had a nice relaxing night before going to bed and getting ready for our long drive to San Francisco the next day. My time in Eugene was great. I know why this part of my family moved to Oregon, hell, I'm tempted to myself, but I couldn't help but feel a little bit sad that I'm not able to spend more time with them. When we left, I realized just how little time I've been able to spend with that side of my family. They're such great people and I know that my life would be enriched if I was able to see them more. As we drove south to San Francisco, I was left to ponder this and how it might shape the way I make decisions about my own future.

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