Google+ Badge

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Smith Rock State Park

Smith Rock is situated just outside of the small town of Terrebonne Oregon and it is a very well known climbing and hiking destination. But you can also ride in this park and enjoy the incredible beauty from horseback.

Smith Rock State Park.

To get there: From Terrebonne drive east on Smith Rock Way, and follow signs 3 miles to the park. Once there, take a the left at the sign that says RV and bus parking, which is before you get to the car parking area. There are mapboards at the pay stations and also brochures you can take with you that have a map of the trails. The junctions are all signed and marked. It is a $5.00 per day fee if you do not have a state park pass.

The RV/bus/trailer parking area.

The trails are clearly marked.

The Crooked River runs through the park and if you are lucky you may see otters frolicking in the water. There are also a lot of Canada geese, bald and golden eagles that nest here, and of course tourists! This is a popular place, and to avoid the crowds it is better to visit during the week.
Dogs are allowed, but must be on a leash.

An otter enjoys his fresh fish catch.

Canada goose with babies.

There are always climbers at Smith Rock.

Monkey Face is one of the most unique rock formations to behold, and you can ride past it on the River Trail and also a section of the Summit Trail.
Monkey Face.

There are about 6 miles of horse trails that include two river crossings, but there is no real way to do a loop, (horses are not allowed on a section of private land) so you will have to ride one way for awhile, then turn around and go back, which does add more mileage. Also the park borders BLM and after crossing the northern side of the river you can head up the Burma Road and out into public land from there. Or on the flip side you can start at Skull Hollow Trailhead and ride into the park from the north. As far as camping goes,  Cyrus Horse Camp is the closest place to stay, and although you could technically ride all the way to Smith Rock from camp, it would be a long trek.

The Burma Road from afar.

On the Burma Rd. Trail.

On the Burma Road.

Looking down on the park from the Burma Road.

On the Gray Butte Trail in the BLM that borders the park.

If anyone saw the recent movie "Wild" about a woman hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, oddly a scene from the movie was filmed here, although the PCT does NOT run through Smith Rock!

A viewpoint on the Canyon Trail.

Interesting erosion on the Canyon Trail.

The southern river crossing is most definitely quite deep when the river is full, "swim your horse" type of deep, so waiting until the water level recedes is best.
The crossing to the north is usually the easy one, but this spring it is raging, with our heavy snow pack just now starting to melt.

One of the horse ford signs.

The northern horse ford, currently a little deep.

Summer can get quite hot, and there are rattlesnakes once it's warm enough for them to venture out. I tend to not even hike/ride here during the summer, the other three seasons being much more preferable temperature wise.

On the River Trail.

Happy Trails!


Sunday, April 9, 2017

Cyrus Springs Horse Camp, Crooked River National Grasslands

Cyrus is a great desert camp in Central Oregon, that can be accessed all year round, but it is the best in the spring and fall. Especially for people trying to escape the ongoing torrential downpour west of the cascades.

On the Warner Loop, Haystack Butte.

To get there: From Terrebonne follow Hwy 97 north for 7 miles, then take a right on Norris Lane.
Go 4 miles and take another right, this road is not signed.
After almost another 2 miles the sign for Cyrus is on the right. It's one more mile to camp after the turnoff. After leaving the highway all the roads are gravel/dirt and are usually in good shape unless it has been extremely wet.

The road in to Cyrus Springs Horse Camp.

Cyrus is a free camp and it has nine sites with steel corrals, picnic tables and fire rings, and the spots are big enough for larger rigs. There is one bathroom, a manure bin, and a spring fed water trough for stock, but no potable water. Most of the year the water trough is there and in working order, however it does get removed during the winter, and it's anybodies guess when they decide to set it back up again. Calling ahead to ask for info usually does not work, so if it is especially early or late in the season, I would carry my own stock water.

The sign in camp.

Cyrus Springs Horse Camp.

There are several different options as far as trails in the area go. The Warner Loop is 12 miles and leaves from camp. The Cole Loop Trail is 23 miles long, runs through camp and also crosses by several other trailheads on it's way around Gray Butte.

There are signs in camp with mileage for the trails.

On the Warner Loop.

On the Warner Loop.

Scales Corral is also on the north side of Gray Butte and it is about a mile east past the turnoff to Cyrus. Since it is right off the main road, if I want to do a day ride, I just park there rather than driving into the camp.

Scales Corral.

Riding a dirt road near Scales Corral.

There is another trail that runs up the hill behind the camp, and you can follow it and just explore for awhile, or ride from there over to Trail Crossing Trailhead or Skull Hollow Trailhead.

Views from above Cyrus, Haystack Reservoir in the distance.

Trail Crossing Trailhead is on the west side of Gray Butte, with no amenities.There is some nice riding from here, especially if you want your horse to have more of a workout with some elevation gain.

Henderson Flats OHV area is right nearby, but the trails are separate and it is only open from April 1st through November 30th, so in the winter, I ride the OHV trails a lot as well. Even when it is open, it is not an extremely heavily used area.

To get there: From Terrebonne, follow Hwy 97 north for 5 miles and take a right on Park Lane. After 2 miles it becomes a narrow dirt road, and after crossing a cattle guard, continue .5 of a mile until you get to the parking area on the right.

Trail Crossing Trailhead.

Heading up the hill from Trail Crossing Trailhead.

You can get in some hill work from Trail Crossing Trailhead.

From the OHV trails at Henderson Flats.

Even though this is dry desert, there are numerous springs throughout the area, on every trail you will run into some kind of water trough set up for cows.

Many springs available for water.

In the spring there are also a surprising number of wildflowers, especially after a wetter than normal winter.... okay it's not like the super bloom California is experiencing right now, but still very pretty to see the pops of color here and there.

Wildflowers in the spring.

Wildflowers in the spring.

Skull Hollow Trailhead is on the east side of Gray Butte, although there are no amenities, there is a bathroom in the people campground nearby.

To get there:
From Terrebonne take Smith Rock Way east for 5 miles until it ends on Lone Pine Rd, then take a left and follow it for 4 miles. The trailhead is on the left, keep an eye out for the sign, it is sometimes hidden behind foliage, and you may blow right by it.
From Redmond take Hwy 97 north for 3 miles, take a right on O'Neil Hwy, drive for 5 miles then take a left on Lone Pine Rd. and follow it 5.5 miles to the trailhead on the left.

Plenty of parking at Skull Hollow Trailhead.

Jonni and Ron riding from Skull Hollow Trailhead.

Happy Trails!


Friday, March 3, 2017


I am very lucky to have been to all the main Hawaiian islands once, this was my second trip to Kauai, my first time being seven years ago. It is such a beautiful island with so much wilderness and hiking trails. The first time we didn't stay very long, and I only got to do about three hikes so I knew at some point I would have to return. Although not much else has changed since my last visit, it did used to be a lot cheaper, hotel and flight prices have gone way up.

Waimea Canyon.

Kauai is not a huge island, there are really only two ways to go, one highway leads to the east and north shores, the other to the south and west shores.
It's called the Garden Island for a reason, lush green beauty. If you do not hike or enjoy nature then there are less reasons to vacation there, the towns are small, and there are not a lot of other things to do.

Lush greenery on Kauai.

The highways do not go all the way around the island, and the NaPali Coast that is in between is one of the main attractions for tourists. NaPali literally means "the cliffs" and they are incredibly stunning and are only accessible by boat, air, or hiking trails. I have managed to see this area in all three ways. Seven years ago we splurged and did the helicopter tour, this time we went by boat, and I have now also hiked in to several overlooks.

One of my favorite hikes was the Nu'alolo Trail. This once could be done as a big loop, with several amazing views, but the middle cliff section of the trail has washed/eroded away and so now you can only hike out to the viewpoint and back. On the day I did this hike it started out quite lovely, weather wise. When I arrived at Lolo Vista Point overlooking Nu'alolo Valley, I had time to take pictures, check out some of the wild goats, and sit down to eat lunch. Shortly thereafter the fog and clouds rolled in and completely obliterated any views, in fact a few people who had hiked the four miles down after me, saw absolutely nothing for their trouble. As I started hiking back, it started to rain... hard. The trails in Kauai are red clay and very slippery, I was very glad they were dry on the way down, but the more it rained, the more they turned into small streams. My trusty hiking boots saved the day, but I ran into a couple of people trying to climb back up the steep sections with just regular running shoes and they were having a really hard time. Although I ended up completely drenched this hike was amazing, and one I will always remember.

The NaPali Coast from the Lolo Vista Point.

Wild goats on the Nu'alolo Trail.

Waimea Canyon is also quite something to behold, Hawaii's version of the Grand Canyon, it is 10 miles long and about 3600 feet deep. Most people just drive up and stop at all the various overlooks and get their fill of glorious views, but the state park also has a lot of hiking trails to get a little more up close and personal. Unfortunately one of the roads that led to several trails was closed during my visit, but I still had quite a few options. A popular short and scenic hike leads to Waipo'o Falls, the scenic part is actually of the canyon on the way, once you actually get to the falls, you are in the middle of them, so all you really see is the creek. A great view of the whole shebang is from the Pu'u Ka Pele Overlook.

Waipo'o Falls from afar.

On the trail to Waipo'o Falls, yup, that's a rooster.

The Kukui Trail is not at the deepest part of the canyon, consequently you can hike to the bottom and back in five miles. I did the falls hike in the morning and then did this one afterwards, but I only went about halfway down to a great viewpoint.

On the Kukui Trail.

A really nice hike that I did on my last visit, but decided not to repeat this time is the Pihea Trail. My mom and her friend Chantal came on this trip with me, but we mostly did separate daytime activities, since they did not want to do long or tricky hikes. They decided to do the first section of the Pihea Trail and I met them there after doing a different hike in the same area.
Although many people just stick to checking out the first part of the trail with the beautiful view of the Kalalau Valley you can continue on and do an 8 mile hike along the Alaka'i Swamp Trail to a viewpoint overlooking the north shore.

Chantal hikes down the Pihea Trail.

On the Alaka'i Swamp Trail boardwalk, back in 2010.

The Sleeping Giant or Nounou Mountain Trail is relatively easy, except for the steep last mile, and is closer to civilization than some of the other hikes. Once on the top you get a great view down to Kapa'a.

View of Kapa'a from the top of The Sleeping Giant.

Cook Island Pines on the Sleeping Giant hike.

In my guidebook there is a section on hiking trails and then another section for "adventures".
The hike to Honopu Ridge was categorized as an adventure because the trail is unmaintained and I guess there is the potential to take a wrong turn. I found it pretty easy to stay on the correct trail especially since there was a lot of flagging tape along the way. But I definitely had to do some crouching through tunnels of prickly ferns and crawling over logs. Once at the viewpoint, it was all worth it. The trail continued on after that another half a mile or so, but one section stopped me in my tracks, straight down, very slippery, with nothing to hang on to, so I called it quits and headed back.

On the unmaintained trail to Honopu Ridge.

Honopu Ridge.

On our first visit to Kauai my mom and I were driving down the highway and we kept seeing chickens along the road, at first we just thought somebodies chickens were running amok, but we quickly learned that this island is known for the "wild" chickens. In 1992 there was a hurricane and a lot of chickens got loose and stayed that way forever after. They are EVERYWHERE, you will see them while hiking in the jungle, at the beach, in the Safeway parking lot. It becomes abnormal to be somewhere and not hear a cockadoodledoo. Consequently, in order to actually sleep, I kept the fan on high in my hotel room to drown out the constant noise.

Chickens rule Kauai.

On days I wasn't hiking I would visit some of the tourist vistas, and the many beautiful beaches.
The Kilauea Lighthouse is one of the places you can just take a look at from afar, or you can pay $5.00 to go down onto the bluff and wander around.

The Kilauea Lighthouse.

On a particularly stormy day I decided to go over to the west side where the weather is generally better. I drove out to Polihale State Park, which is easier said then done, once the pavement ends there is a 45 minute drive over an extremely potholed road. It would be faster with a high clearance vehicle but I just had my little Chevy Spark rental car. This area rarely gets wind or precipitation but on this day it was just howling, with blowing sand and rain. I did not want to damage my camera so I just took a few pictures with my phone. This is the end of the line where the NaPali Coast starts and there is a 15 mile stretch of pristine beach along here.

A few other people attempt to walk along the beach while being nearly knocked over by the wind.

Two waterfalls you can easily drive to, with no hiking required, are Wailua and Opaeka'a Falls.

Wailua Falls.

Opaeka'a Falls

The Spouting Horn is on the south shore and fun to check out especially when the waves are really crashing.

The Spouting Horn.

Sunset by the Spouting Horn in Poipu.

On my birthday my mom and I did a boat tour of the NaPali Coast. ( Chantal does not do boats.) We used Liko Kauai Cruises, they provide a five hour tour either in the morning or afternoon, we did the morning option, and it included getting up close and personal with the beautiful NaPali Coast, ( in winter they cannot stop at any beaches or caves because of rough seas, but we still got very close to shore ) about an hour of snorkeling, and we also saw both Spinner and Bottlenose Dolphins. On the way back we looked for whales, spotted a couple breaching in the distance, and got as close to them as I have ever been in my life...... which was amazing. The two guides Mike and Dave (both humorous and informative guys) had a hydrophone contraption that they lowered into the water so we could hear the whales singing.

On the Liko Kauai boat tour.

The NaPali Coast by boat.

Spinner Dolphins.

Along the NaPali coast by boat.

A few of the hikes on Kauai are kind of on the death defying side. I decided to do the Okolehao Trail over in Hanalei. It's a steep first mile or so, then it gets to a picnic bench with a good view, but from there the trail continues, as did I. In these kind of mountains, a lot of the trails run along a ridgeline that is the width of the trail with sheer drop offs of thousands of feet on either side, paying attention is important, there is no room for error.
On a side note: On the earlier mentioned Pihea Trail, my mom wanted to sit down and have lunch while looking at the view, she was literally about to perch herself on the very edge of a 3000 foot cliff, when I mentioned perhaps she should rethink that. It is somewhat deceiving because there is a lot of vegetation along the edges of the trails making it not that easy to see that there is nothing but thin air right beside your foot.

As I continued along the Okolehao Trail, it got narrower and narrower and there were several steep slopes where I had to use ropes to make my way up and down the trail.
As I was hiking an incredibly loud siren started, which I assumed was a tsunami warning. I could see down to the beach and kept an eye out for the supposed tsunami while being alternately grateful I was not in harms way, and wondering where my mom and Chantal were. In any case, it turns out they test the sirens at the exact same time on the first business day of every month. Good to know.

Hanalei, the Okolehao hike is in the mountains to the left.

Taro fields in Hanalei.

Some beaches are easy to just drive to, but some require a short walk or hike.
Larsens Beach is one that took a little while to hike down to. I continued on the inland trail for awhile once I reached the beach and as I finally headed out onto the sand I stumbled right into a group of nudists...oops. I chose to take no pictures from that particular incident.

We spent a day snorkeling at Poipu Beach, and there were two monk seals napping on the sand while we were there, which is a very common occurrence. Someone comes along and puts ropes around them and signs to keep people from getting too close, and then they sit nearby and guard them. I saw the seals on two different days, the beach was quiet the first time, but it was jam packed the second time, and the seals just kept sleeping, completely oblivious to all the commotion.

Monk seal at Poipu Beach.

On the hike down to SeaLodge Beach.

At Secret Beach.

My shade tree at Donkey Beach.

Ever feel like you are being watched? The sand crabs are plentiful.

Hanakapi'ai Falls was a hike I was really looking forward to. It starts on the Kalalau Trail at the far end of the north shore. On the day I decided to do it I arrived at the trailhead and was unable to find a spot to park my tiny car, even in the overflow parking area or along the road. I eventually gave up and did other things that day, however the next time I tried, I left the hotel REALLY early and managed to snag a spot this time, still not in the main area, but close enough. The first couple of miles are above and along the shore, then you get to a river, cross it, and start hiking up into a valley to get to the falls. On a side note: After the Kalalau trail crosses the river it continues along the shore and into the NaPali Coast, it is 11 miles one way and you need a permit to continue, you will need to backpack and spend a few nights out there. Although I did not do that, I can only imagine it would be an amazing experience.

I brought water shoes to change into knowing I had to wade across the river, I then hid them in the bushes for my return. What I was not aware of was that there were going to be several other crossings along the way over the same river, I lost track of how many, but I just did what most everyone else was doing and boulder hopped across them all.... I was very pleased that I managed to not end up in the drink. Others were not so lucky.

Ke'e Beach. Where the Kalalau Trail starts.

On the Kalalau Trail.

Hanakapi'ai Falls.

The Nene's (Hawaiian Geese) in Hawaii are plentiful and found nowhere else on earth, they are also very photogenic.

Nene, (Hawaiian Goose)

On the way to Ho'opi'i Falls.

One of my favorite walks was to the Maha'ulepu beaches. You used to be able to drive there in a regular car along a dirt road, but the road now resembles a rollercoaster, although a lot of people still attempt to drive it, and do not seem phased to be scraping the heck out of the bottoms of their rental cars, but I thought a better idea was to walk in from another direction. Pictures unfortunately do not do this area justice, the blue of the water, and the lithified cliffs are stunning. Oddly although it is not a long trek, no one seems to wander very far afield, and it's nice and unpopulated the farther you walk.

Maha'ulepu Beach area.

Lithified cliffs at Maha'ulepu Beaches.

There are more lithified cliffs, also worth a visit, over by the Hyatt in Poipu..

Lithified cliffs in Poipu.

The locals in Kauai are very friendly, and sometimes they do very entertaining things, this guy made me wonder why I shelled out so much money for a trailer when I could have just tied my horse to my bumper. A couple of minutes after I took the picture he drove through a river pulling the mule along behind him.

The locals have a wide variety of fishing techniques. Some of them risk life and limb out on rocky outcroppings along the ocean wielding a knife and trying to harvest opihi (an edible shellfish) while waves crash all around them. Others use safer methods, like the island tradition of using throw nets.

A local throw net fisherman.

The Allerton Gardens was a favorite experience of ours back in 2010, however on this trip I opted not to go again, but my mom and Chantal went and reported back that it is now almost twice as expensive, it wasn't cheap to start with, and the tour is not as good. The famous Moreton Bay Fig tree from the Jurassic Park movie is in the garden as well as a lot of flora that is very unique. If you like gardens Hawaii is definitely the place to visit one, I have been to some amazing ones on all of the different islands.

The Moreton Bay Fig tree where they found the dinosaur eggs in Jurassic Park.

I also visited the Kauai Hindu Monastery, the main temple and some of the other areas are not open to the public, but the view of the Wailua River from the grounds was worth checking out.

The Wailua River from the grounds of the Hindu Monastery.

Although my trip went very well, the flight back did not, what is fast becoming one of my least favorite activities, spending the night in an airport, happened to me twice in the space of one year and I only flew three times!


For my other blogs specifically about Hawaii:

The Big Island