Saturday, July 14, 2018

Terra Incognita

Have you ever heard of Smith Rock State Park? Possibly, probably, not. Known and revered by avid rock climbers, its actually considered one of the 7 Wonders of Oregon (alongside Painted Hills from my last post). The staggering towers of Smith Rock are visually reminiscent of the patriarchs of Zion, though admittedly to a lesser scale. Smooth slants, rugged lines, and once you glance up: climbers peppering the grandiose rocks, quietly and diligently working their way to the top. The basalt formations are actually volcanic, which probably explains my magnetic attraction to this place (someone cue Johnny Cash's Ring Of Fire..).

I huffed and puffed my way up the Misery Ridge trail, which is the main hiking attraction inside the park. There's a nice river amble and some trails to other climb spots but this is The One. It's steep as hell but generously short. The dusty trail is entirely exposed to the elements though, which makes it feel a LOT harder than it should, especially on a hot day.

Base of Misery Ridge
Hottest, hardest part

And from the tippy top:

It made me so damn happy to look down upon this bewildering jewel of a place, a mere 2 hours Southeast of Portland. Catching my breath on top of Misery Ridge, I couldn't help but feel like the Universe was reminding me how much more I have yet to see in my own back yard. Although I grew up experiencing international travel from an early age, there's an astounding amount of ground within the continental US that I've never seen, smelled, or touched. This fall will be my first time ever visiting NYC, despite flying out of the airport there multiple times on layovers overseas. I grew up going to New Mexico and Arizona nearly every Summer to spend time with my dad and yet I had never been to Utah or the prolific National Parks there before my 30th birthday.

Looking back I feel like my eyes have been cast "ever-outward" to quote Vonnegut, focused on idealistic European adventures and tropical international destinations. I'm thinking that I may spend a few more years traveling exclusively within the US before I plan any more excursions abroad. My passport expired this month and my heart is telling me to pursue parts of this country that I had previously, unwittingly, written off. Perhaps this is a fledgling desire to find some brand of patriotism that I don't currently possess. Maybe too, I'm scared that once I leave again, I won't ever come back. Lord knows I wanted to stay in Iceland forever. After all, these days are very different: truly nothing concrete or unforgiving holds me here (there, anywhere...)

"Mankind, ignorant of the truths that lie within every human being, looked outward—pushed ever outward.../
Only inwardness remained to be explored.
Only the human soul remained terra incognita."
-Kurt Vonnegut, The Sirens of Titan

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