What if the hard road contains beauty?

“It’s only about eight miles around,” Dan said.

“Lets do it,” I responded with enthusiasm, fully trusting my fiancé.


At the top of the Burma Road, looking down on Misery Ridge (all photos: Dan or Marlys)

We were at Smith Rock State Park. With the Misery Ridge trail still closed, Dan suggested we hike the perimeter.

“That’s where we’re going. Burma Road.” He pointed off to an upwardly-sloping trail sliced into the side of a rocky mountain—barren, ugly, and in full sun on this warm day.

“Way over there?” I whined. “When you said perimeter, I thought you meant around the bottom of these rock walls.” Wah.

The ascent is slow and steady—at first through juniper trees and sage brush and then the barren stretch that prompted my whining.

But here’s where the unexpected showed up. What looked ugly from the valley below was rocky terrain and hardy brown grasses sprinkled with color.

And of course, we had to stop for photos.


All these … and more

There were silhouettes of juniper against the harsh desert formations. Which meant more photo stops.


Stark juniper against craggy cliffs

And we gaped in awe at the view as we climbed higher and looked down on Misery Ridge. Yep. More pausing for photos.


Looking down on Misery Ridge Trail with the Cascade Mountains as backdrop

At the top of Burma Road, we located hard-rock seating overlooking the valley. Sandwiches, apple slices, and homemade oatmeal cookies were washed down with a thermos of tea.

As the trail descended and paralleled the Crooked River, the 350-foot spire known as Monkey Face came into view. Which meant another photo op stop.


Monkey Face — 350-ft pinnacle

Following the Crooked River, we spotted a duck sunning on a rock with her eight ducklings. More photos were snapped until the little fuzz balls plopped into the river and paddled after their mama.

Two large black crows harassed a bald eagle overhead.

An alert deer lapped water from the edge of a small island in the river before fording across to a shady nook.

And with each spotting of wildlife, we stopped to take more photos.


Wading across to shadier places

According to Dan’s GPS, we ascended a total of 1,486 feet and trekked 8.6 miles. Which took us several hours.

Not because it was that difficult.

But because … well, you noticed all the stops along the way, right?

What if?

“Who knew this would turn out to be one of my favorite hikes?” I marveled, so sure that it would be too warm and no fun.

To which my very wise husband-to-be replied:

Until we’ve been on that road, we don’t know what’s there, what we’re missing … we don’t know until we get there and experience it.

What if we’re complaining in our spirits about what’s ahead because it looks challenging, it looks like something we don’t want to deal with?

But what if we tackled it anyway with as little whine as possible?

And what if we found unexpected beauty along the hard way?


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  1. OH my! What beautiful sights to behold! I imagine the sounds were wonderful, too. What a blessing to enjoy God’s creations. 🙂

    • It was a sensory overload, Melissa – the sounds of water rushing over large boulders, wind gusting, and geese honking overhead. So much to take in!

  2. Oh, Marlys, you are so wise. Thank you for this. I’ll try to remember. <3

  3. Melody

    Beautiful! I needed this. Thank you!

  4. Jane Ford

    Loved reading about your wonderful hike, the pictures are awesome and your closing comments are “food for thought. You are quite the writer. So happy for you.
    Jane (Val’s wife).

  5. Dawn Shipman

    This was lovely, Marlys. Thanks for sharing. I was hoping to see the bald eagle! 🙂 I’ve hiked at Smith Rock before but never this far or high. Maybe someday…

  6. I have to admit I impressed with how far you two walked along the trail in the length of time it took to get there. I loved each and every photo session you stopped for along the way. I must also admit I am jealous because I could not do what you too just accomplished. One year when I grow healthier. Till I count on your blogs and picture shoots. Thank you !!

    • Thank you for your kind words, James. What I’m impressed with is this: God sent someone into my life who loves doing outdoor activity as much as I do!

  7. Barbara Howe

    Hi Marlys,
    Peter showed me and as I read, emotions welled up inside of me… you took US on a trip down memory lane, in ’94 we cycled over a 1,000 miles in Oregon, some of the wonderful adventure for me (for I had never done anything like this before), as WE miandered through Smith Rock area, Monkey Face Rock included, seeing Bison for the first time and so many soaring eagles. Thank you, you’ve made me appreciate the flowers in our garden, I’m set up for the day now. Peter would often plan something and I might not be sure about it, then he’d say, ‘Let’s Just do it’… and God provides for those who venture. Our love, Barbara & P.

    • Barbara – I love hearing about your’s and Peter’s audacious adventures, including being at Smith Rock. Wow, 1000 miles in Oregon! So glad to bring back some good memories for you!

  8. Darrell Lake

    Beautiful pictures to go along with your beautifully written words Maryls… Love those kind of adventures 🙂

  9. Hidie Baker

    I had postponed reading this until today. So glad I did because I have been whining a lot this week about challenging jobs. But in the end it ended up being simple and not as bad as I thought. Thanks for this. What a beautiful hike.

    • I love this, Hidie – “… it ended up being simple and not as bad as I thought.” It is a beautiful hike. If you ever get the chance, take it!

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