Rock climbers, in my opinion, are certifiably crazy. Which is why I admire them so much. And a big part of what made today's hike around a 4-mile loop in central Oregon's Smith Rock State Park so enjoyable.
To get there we hiked a couple of mostly flat miles on the River Trail. A short ways from the parking lot you already feel like you're on a Western movie set (in fact, "Rooster Cogburn" was filmed here).
To take the loop you head off uphill on the Mesa Verde Trail. Before too long the scenery is worth the panting (and it was just in the mid-60s today; if it's much hotter be sure to take a lot more water than the one bottle I carried with me).
Mesa Verde merges with the even more aptly named Misery Ridge Trail. After some heart-pounding switchbacks we ended up on the other side of Monkey Face, where no monkey is visible.
(Note to Bill Sullivan, author of "100 Hikes in the Central Oregon Cascades": We love your hiking books. But dude, if your Smith Rock loop is "moderate," I'd hate to see what an "extreme" hike is like. My wife and I are in good shape, but the Misery Ridge Trail deserves its name. Even on a cool day.)
Especially when you're just five feet or so above the trail.