Put your bike to the test at Smith Rock
If you are from Jefferson County, you have probably been to, or at least heard of Smith Rock — an internationally renowned hiking and rock climbing spot.
Growing up in Madras, I have been hiking there numerous times — sunrise and sunset hikes, walks around the river, and even the Misery Ridge Trail. But this year, I wanted to do something different, something I have not done before. I decided to grab my bike and hit the trails for the first time.
I have always been a very active person and could never stand still. If you don't believe me, you could probably ask my old Madras High School teachers.
Biking is something fairly new to me; once I passed my driving test, I didn't really see any need to ride a bike anymore. That is, until I won a bike at the Kids Club Christmas party and silent auction.
It only took three years and a lot of raffle tickets to finally win a bike, so I could test it out on the Central Oregon trails.
Since December, I have taken my bike out to several different spots, the most common one being the Dry Canyon Trail at Sam Johnson Park in Redmond. The first part of the trail is all paved, but on the way back, there are some dirt trails behind the disc golf course. The trails aren't too difficult, but are still challenging enough to make for a fun ride.
While working at Kids Club of Jefferson County, I took members on several bike rides at Juniper Hills Park, and on segments of the Willow Creek Trail that encircles Madras, from the skate park to the fishing pond and even the path from Sonic to the Willow Creek Canyon Trail.
For some reason, I thought this would make me ready for the Summit Loop Bike Trail at Smith Rock. I was wrong.
I arrived at Smith Rock around 6 p.m. hoping for some cooler weather and hoping to take some sunset pictures. I went to the ticket station and bought a $5 parking pass and checked the temperature on my phone, which read 89 degrees.
I loaded my backpack with my water pack, first-aid kit, hunting knife, camera and was off for the ride.
From the Welcome Center you take a very steep decline in elevation until you reach a small sign that says Canyon Trail.
You take a right at the sign and a left at a wooden bridge crossing Crooked River and from there your ride begins.
Canyon Trail is a somewhat easy ride, and turns quickly into the River Trail. The ride is around 2.1 miles long and starts at an elevation of 2,644 feet and ends at 2,739 feet for a 315-foot increase in elevation.
On the River Trail, you will cross several wooden bridges on a gravel path that will eventually turn into dirt. The trail leads you closer and closer to the river, until you are riding directly next to the river bank. The path does turn into sand at one point, which can stop your bike dead in its tracks.
The path will also get very narrow, and you will be surrounded by blackberry bushes until it opens up into two different paths. On the right will be the Mesa Verde Trail for hiking and mountain climbing only. On the left is a sign pointing to Summit Trail.
The elevation begins at 2,739 feet and you immediately start your incline. The path goes from dirt to very loose gravel on a very small path. The trail is extremely difficult and tiring. You ride straight up Smith Rock for about a half-mile and one wrong turn or fall and you're heading straight down.
Once you get past the rapid increase in elevation, the path turns into private property for hikers and bikers only. The trail turns into all dirt and you slowly ride up Smith Rock, zigzagging in elevation.
After a very difficult and exhausting ride, you finally reach the summit of Smith Rock at an elevation of 3,563 feet. Your legs will feel like jello and you will be sweaty and out of breath, but the view and sense of accomplishment is something to remember.
I took a long rest on top of Smith Rock, catching my breath and drinking lots of water. I had two choices: either go back the way I came or take the Burma Trail to the Wolf Tree Trail and hope I make it back before the sun goes down. I decided to go back the way I came, because I was short on time, down Summit Trail, to River Trail and finally, Canyon Trail.
With the hardest part over, I was looking forward to the easier trails down Smith Rock.
Everything was going great, not very tiring, winds cooling me off and the views back down were incredible. There was not a worry in my head about anything; I was feeling calm and at peace, until I saw something in the middle of River Trail.
There was a large snake laying in the middle of the path and I was heading straight towards it at high speed. I slammed on my brake, turned my handlebars and crashed, flying through the air.
My bike went one way and I went the other, with my face slamming into the hard surface of the ground. I stood up, checked for injuries and cleared the cobwebs from my head and heard a sound that sent shivers down my spine.
I turned my head to the sound of the rattle, the buzzing noise of a full-grown rattlesnake, hissing at me. About five feet away, I had found my bike, but so had the snake. The rattlesnake stared at me for a bit, watching my every move, seeing if I was a threat.
After a bit, the snake slithered off and I was able to grab my camera and take some pictures of itke heading off the trail and toward the sagebrush.
The excitement was over and I went to check my bike; luckily it was not broken, but the chain had fallen off. I fixed the chain and rode my bike through the rest of the trails. I arrived back to the Welcome Center with about 30 minutes of daylight left and headed home.
Overall, I think the bike ride was a success. Summit Trail was extremely difficult, and I did run into a snake, but most of the trails were fun and getting to enjoy nature is always fun.
So, hopefully you can go out and test the rest of the bike trails yourself and start your own adventure.