Pacific Northwest, traveling with baby, United States

Baby’s first canyon hike

“I’m not doing a hike with the word ‘misery’ in the trail name!” I said to Bryce as I carried our 20-pound baby on my back.

We had just crossed the footbridge over the river at Smith Rock State Park and the trail sign in front of us was for Misery Ridge Trail. There were a handful of people hiking up this trail but I quickly nixed even the thought of it. After all, Bryce and I had planned to do an easy hike with our baby and pup as it was our first full day in the Central Oregon Desert during our 5-day “spring break” in April. (When we had booked our Airbnb, I kept calling this trip our spring break … originally I wanted to go somewhere warm for spring break. It snowed a few times during this “spring break!”)

We took the River Trail — yep, you guessed it! — and hiked along the river. We wanted a flat and easy hike. It was sunny and there was a little breeze every now and then but it was a pretty fantastic day to be out on a hike. The clouds rolled in and out but there was no snow here on this day! Aki, our pup, was having a field day with all the new smells. She also had quite the fan club, with nearly every passerby commenting on how “cute” or “beautiful” she was and asking the breed type. (She’s a shiba inu!)

There were two things that surprised me about Smith Rock:

  1. The geese! There are so many Canadian geese everywhere! This just felt weird to me because I didn’t think they would be so abundant in the desert. We see them all the time in the parks back home in Seattle. There were geese at Smith Rock swimming in the water. There were geese napping in grassy fields next to the river. We even saw two geese just hanging out at the top of one of the boulders!
  2. How is Smith Rock not a national park? Smith Rock State Park is such an incredible place with its river canyons and cliffs of basalt and tuffs. It’s known for its rock climbing but even if you’re not a climber, the hiking is worth it. If you don’t or can’t hike, even a short walk will give you fantastic views. (The beginning part is even a paved path.) I’m no expert on national parks but I’m assuming that perhaps Smith Rock is too small to be a national park?

As I was saying before I interrupted myself, we were having a great time hiking along the river. The trail is well maintained and since it was mid-week, it wasn’t too crowded. (There were definitely people around, but I’m assuming nothing like what it’s like on the weekends.)

About 45 minutes in, baby started getting fussy. We took her out of the hiking backpack and tried to feed her. Nope, not hungry. We smelled her diaper. Nope, not poopy. Bryce held her for a few minutes and she seemed to be in a better mood. After taking some photos, we put her back in the hiking backpack and she settled back in without issues.

We continued our hike and turned a corner where the river bends. There were fewer people around. We also realized that baby had fallen asleep.

“I guess we can just keep going then?” Bryce and I simultaneously asked and agreed with one another.

A sleeping baby is a baby in a good mood, right?

We eventually reached a fork in the trail. Our options were to go straight and continue along the river. Or, start to make an ascent. We chose the latter because this would be a shorter loop than if we had continued along the river.

I started to slow down — I had an extra 20 pounds on me, remember! We walked by a wooden shed that had some flyers posted (info for climbers) as well as a pair of crutches.

“Do you think this is safe for us to be hiking here?” I asked Bryce as I saw the crutches. I was partially joking as I knew those were for climbers who may potentially have an accident, but I was also a little nervous as I saw some switch-backs up ahead.

I took my time as we started up the switch-backs. I made sure my footing was stable. It was getting really windy but baby remained sound asleep. At one point, I gave Bryce my hat because I realized I was nervous of it blowing away which was distracting me from focusing on my footing.

When we arrived to the top of this section, now above the prominent Monkey Face rock — yes, that’s what it’s called because it looks like a monkey face! — I could finally catch my breath. I looked down and was both proud and stunned that I made it up carrying my napping baby. (Folks, the trick was that I never turned back around while going up the switch-backs. I also took a few short breaks in between the switch-backs.)

Although it was cloudy and we didn’t get views of the surrounding mountains, it was still a nice view. Baby woke up at this point to take in the sights as well 🙂

After doing a photoshoot at the top with our dog — yes, of course she has her own IG so she can share her adventures with her friends! — we continued. We walked along the ridge heading east where we connected with none other than, yuuuuup, Misery Ridge Trail.

Oh, you again.

Bryce had given me a head’s up that we would connect with Misery Ridge once we had made the decision to take this route “up.” So, I somewhat knew what I was getting into.

Since we were hiking down Misery Ridge Trail, it wasn’t that bad. Some sections of it has stairs, which I find easier when going downhill. (Easier mentally and while carrying a baby, not easier for my knees!) As we slowly made our way down, and started seeing other people again, I noted to Bryce that we made the correct decision by not going up this trail. I couldn’t imagine climbing up on this side with baby on my back.

The sun was out in full force as we finally made it back to the river and crossed the footbridge back. In total from our car and back our hike was 4.86 miles over 2 hours and 51 minutes. Kudos to the veggie burrito I devoured from a food truck in Redmond right before our hike!

Baby’s first canyon hike and black diamond trail — yes, of course I’m referring to Misery Ridge — was a success. This was also the hardest hike I had done postpartum so I was quite pleased with myself. I’m looking forward to returning to Smith Rock when baby is older and tell her “When you were a baby, I carried you up this canyon ON MY BACK!”

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