Ultimate Road Trip

French Toast and Toasted Toes

Oregon is … lovely. Our first full day in Mosier, we did all of the things. We worked throughout the morning, then did a run along the Historic Columbia River Highway State Trail. We had gotten some really nice cinnamon swirl bread at the market in Coeur d’Alene, so I made French toast for all. My uncle Carey noted that he probably hadn’t had French toast since he last spent time at the Laicos’—I probably hadn’t, either. We Laicos are big breakfast people.

Morning view

After the work day, we drove back across the river (and therefore back into Washington) to check out an area called Empire Boulders. While we were mostly only sending V3s, we got to attempt a lot of cool movement on V6s and V7s. The boulders were all named after empires, naturally. We tackled some problems on the Persian (Trojan Horse, V3; Achilles’ Heel V7), Greek (Zeus, V4), British (Mini Cooper, V3; Notre Dame, V7), Viking (Ulfbehrt, V3; Downtown Funky Stuff Malone, V4), and Ursa Minor (Big for Your Boots, V6; Bearly There, V3) boulders, all solid quality.

Ryan on Persian Boulder

The area was pretty spectacular. These boulders spring up seemingly out of nowhere, amid this tall, dense pine forest. The sunlight beamed through the trees over the hours we climbed, making for a gorgeous sunset. And it was just 30 minutes from Mosier.

We returned to Carey’s and had a delicious chorizo pasta dish with salad. We discussed more wind surfing and climbing, psychology, the differences between rain suits and wet suits, and all sorts of nonsense. We went to bed full and happy.

The following day, we took a short stroll to the coffee shop in Mosier, Randoneé, for some bougie beverages. I loved the place when I visited the first time last year and was just as happy to get a pistachio latte this time around. Despite being a population of 430, Mosier appears to do quite well economically. Not only did the coffee shop have heavy traffic, the taco truck La Vaquita Taqueria, and the pizza / brew pub, Mosier Company (MoCo), seem to always be busy. I could visit anytime.

We broke up the day with a short but intense trail run right out the door on the Mosier Plateau Trail, which takes you past a waterfall to a viewpoint, then down. There is something so satisfying when you’re trail running to crank up a long hill and feel your cardiovascular system falling into rhythm; you feel your legs and lungs burning, but your will to push through increases and the satisfaction at the top is unparalleled.

View at the end of the trail

We departed around midday (thank you again for your hospitality, Uncle Carey!) and proceeded to Hood River to do a little exploring. I had already seen Full Sail Brewing and was eager to check out a new spot. Luckily, my career counselor and dear friend, John “Chief” Mann, had talked to me the previous day and recommended Double Mountain Brewery. We both got a German-style beer called “Lederhosed,” which was top-notch.

I tend to get overly curious when I’m out and about, so I pestered the bartender with a couple questions. The first was what characterizes a “Northwest IPA”? She explained that their NWIPA is the brewery’s original beer. Back in the day, PNW-ers preferred pretty hop-forward IPAs, as opposed to the more malty New England IPAs (I thought NEIPAs were known for hoppiness … what do I know?). Nowadays, however, PNW-ers prefer a more piney, citrusy IPA. I mentioned that I always like a West Coast IPA (even though I don’t know what hops they entail) and she said that’s exactly what NWIPAs are now. Basically one in the same.

The other question I had regarded their ciders, which listed a percentage next to the ABV titled “RS.” RS stands for “residual sugar.” All of their ciders were pretty dry, but for those who like a sweeter cider, the percentage is meant to indicate what is more or less sweet on the menu. I am out here learning all the important facts.

Now it was time to hit the road toward Bend. It was admittedly a pretty sleepy drive, but quite beautiful going up and over the pass where Mount Hood Meadows resides.

We headed straight to a campsite just 20 minutes from Smith Rock State Park, called Steelhead Falls. The free site was somewhat luxurious, in that it had specific plots for cars and tents plus a bathroom. When we arrived, we found a lot of folks set up in the back of the site, but plenty of room for us up front. We parked, then did the short half-mile hike to the falls, which were actually pretty legitimate. On this short walk, we managed to see a woolly caterpillar, a lizard, and a snake! We’d been feeling deprived of animal sightings (with the exception of some sweet birds of prey in Mosier), so we were satisfied.

Back at camp, we made a simple dinner of rice, beans, and veggies, then had cereal for dessert, of course. We always laugh at ourselves as we proceed to go to bed at 8:30 or 9:00 on a Friday night.

We slept in until 8:30 the following morning and did our usual coffee and reading until around 10:00. Then it was time to hit the road to Smith. Smith Rock has been on my bucket list for quite a while now; it is supposedly the birthplace of sport climbing, which is the discipline I like and do the most. I wasn’t disappointed when we pulled up to the parking lot and found ourselves surrounded by massive walls.

The wall we had chosen, Morning Glory, seemed to be a popular area on Mountain Project with plenty of difficulty levels and excellent reviews. However, as we hiked down to it, we quickly realized the bridge necessary to reach it, over the Deschutes River, was closed. I was prepared to hang my head and pick a new, lesser-quality crag, but Ryan was determined. Recently stoked on the concept of “fording” rivers, he was sure we could find a spot that we could cross.

We spotted some folks crossing close to the wall we were after, so we hiked down. A couple on the riverside said they’d seen a woman cross pretty easily right above a small fall—but with a hiking pole. We’d risk it. The water did get somewhat deep in places, reaching mid-thigh, and the rocks were incredibly slippery. Yet we made it through without getting soaked, and that was all that mattered.

Making our way up to the crag at last, we noticed it was hot. And getting hotter. We quickly identified a route we’d like to try, a 3-star (Mountain Project rates routes out of 4, so 3 stars is good) 5.10a called “Light on the Path.” The hardest sections of the route were probably the beginning and last few clips, with the middle being full of pockets and huecos to crank up on. It felt long and it definitely was toasty outside, but we agreed it was solid rock quality and movement. That was probably the most type 1 fun we had at the crag.

Ryan had put up the first route, so I was up for the second. The route next door was a 5.11b called “Cat Scan,” and boy, did it do me dirty. The first bolt was insanely high off the ground and required a lot of bad pockets and mediocre crimps. I clipped the first couple bolts and sat on the rope in pain. My toes felt like they were on fire, roasting in the 80-degree heat; my fingers tips felt shredded; my morale was low. I was too stubborn to quit, though, so I made my way, clip by clip up the route. Ryan graciously let me sit on the rope time and time again as I pulled my shoes off and used my own shadow to cool my burning toes. Once I was on the ground again, I felt utterly spent.

Ryan, seeing how miserable a time I had had, decided to top-rope the route, which made his turn a lot less painful, though still challenging. He came down and was willing to put up another, the 5.10+ next door. “Morning Sky” had an even higher first clip than the 5.11b, and the first 3 clips were no joke. The route mercifully let up the rest of the way, but now Ryan was suffering the same way I had—fingertips raw, toes ablaze, sweating profusely. I chose to top-rope this one, and I almost quit just feeling the starting handholds, two crimps that on a day unlike this would’ve seemed totally manageable. I think my dad put it best when I called him after and he said, “Sounds like purgatory.”

It was a relief to pack up and go get some food. Though the climbing was a total suffer-fest, Smith Rock is still awesome. The rock quality is quite high and the routes we did, on a day 20 degrees cooler, would’ve been phenomenal. We’re just dummies for climbing in 80 degrees on a wall that receives direct sunlight.

View on the way out

Now it was time to visit Bend for the first time. Still on the Guy Fieri train, we hit a Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives spot first: Dump City Dumplings. We got four to share (all amazing), but after the day we’d had, we needed more sustenance. We proceeded down the street to a happening beer and coffee joint, Boss Rambler Beer Pub, with folks sitting outside watching football. There, we got beers topped with frosé floats—dubious at first, but actually quite delicious—as well as split a double veggie burger from the food truck.

A long while ago, someone had told me about a site where in exchange for house/pet setting, folks will let you stay in their home — pretty much across the whole world. Essentially, you get a free Airbnb in exchange for watching someone’s cat or dog. I had signed up a couple weeks ago on Trusted Housesitters (you do have to pay an initiation fee), and immediately I was finding spots where we could potentially sit. I even have had a few people reach out looking for help in Colorado Springs. I had found a house/cat-sit in Bend for this weekend and was luckily selected. So, after finishing food and drink, we drove over to this woman’s house, where she showed us around, introduced us to her cat, and gave us all the details. It was shockingly easy. She departed for her travels, and we settled in.

Next we wanted to watch some of the Oregon Ducks football game, just being in Oregon, so we walked to the Old Mill District. This area was rad; lots of food trucks and shipping containers, breweries and eateries, overflowing with folks. We found a sports bar to watch the Ducks and were in good company. All the places around us looked so inviting, we knew we’d come back again. As we headed back to the house sit, we could hear music from a local concert hall. Little did we know, the Lumineers are playing Bend the whole weekend!

Now for another day (and week) of exploring, exerting ourselves (probably too much), and eating (probably too much). If you’re reading this, thanks for sticking with us. 🙂

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September 6, 2023