I first went to Smith Rock State Park in the late 1990’s. It is truly one of the most beautiful and unique places that I have ever seen. As with all things cool, it was born out of a volcanic eruption. 300 million years ago the eruption shot ash and debris into the air. When it settled Smith Rock was created. Then half a million years ago lava flowed into the area and hardened the rocks. Over time erosion and the Crooked River formed magnificent Smith Rock State Park.

There are many things to do in Smith Rock State Park. There is a first come first serve camping area with bathrooms and showers, and it’s vast 621 acres provides hiking and horseback trails. From these you can see massive amounts of amazing animals. There is a family of River Otters that live in the Crooked River. Mule deer, marmots(I took a quiz online and this is my Smith Rock spirit animal), lizards, and rattlesnakes all dot the landscape. If you look into the sky you will see bald eagles, canadian geese, northern harriers, ospreys, great blue herons, and one of the biggest birds of prey in North America, the golden eagle. But most come here for the climbing.

Smith Rock State Park

The thing I love about climbing is the adrenaline rush you get with minimal risk. I know, minimal risk you say; have you seen Cliffhanger with Sly Stallone. That scene where that woman’s harness buckle breaks and she plunges thousands of feet to her untimely death. No wonder Black Diamond was going to sue. That would never happen. Anyway, I’ll go climb, but I would never ride my bike downtown; too risky. It’s also relatively cheap to start climbing. All you need are some climbing shoes, harness, belay device, about five locking carabiners, fourteen quickdraws , a rope and rope bag, some chalk with a chalk bag, an anchor and a personal anchor. All this will run you about six hundred bucks. Small change for a new and exciting passion in your life. And if you live near Portland, Smith Rock is only three hours away.

US Outdoor employee Dan G. sport climbing Smith Rock

Smith Rock is the birthplace of sport climbing in the U.S.. Sport climbing is a type of climbing that relies on the use of permanent anchors, or bolts fixed to the rock for protection. You climb up the route, clip into the bolt with a quickdraw, clip the quickdraw to your rope and move up to the next bolt, and on and on. Alan Watts, the father of sport climbing, started climbing Smith back in the 1980’s. Back then there were only a small group of core climbers at Smith, now it has become a destination for climbing all over the world. One of the great things about Smith Rock is the diversity of places to climb and the amount of routes, there are close to 2000. Monkey Face, To Bolt or Not to Be, Five Gallon Bucket, Crybabies, and Just Do It, a 5.14c that at one time was the hardest sport route in North America, are just a few of the famous climbs of Smith Rock.

You can see why Smith Rock is a world renowned climbing destination. Which is why the American Alpine Club is having the SMITH ROCK CRAGGIN’ CLASSIC, a 3-day climbing festival at Smith Rock. It’s starts September 15th and goes to the 17th. It’s a celebration of climbing one of the great crags in the world. There will be food and beer, and you can stop by for some of the clinics taught by professional climbers. You should probably go before the beer. Two US Outdoor climbers, Alex H. and Dan G. will be there, you will be able to spot them by the US Outdoor shirts they will be wearing. Dan’s got a pretty impressive beard, and Alex, well, he’s pretty. So stop by the pop up tent, pick up some swag and talk to those guys about climbing. They know their stuff. And like I said, the beard.

It’s All About the Shoes

Lower Turret Lake, High SIerras

Lower Turret Lake, High SIerras

Regardless of your activity, shoes play an intimate role in how you feel during participation. There is a reason people spend so much money on footwear. Our feet are sensitive, and we use them almost all the time during physical activity. Picking the right set of shoes/boots for hiking or trail running  is a crucial part of finding enjoyment in your adventures. Two trips that I took recently reminded me how shoe choice can make the difference between success and failure. One trip was a run/walk around Mt. St. Helens, totaling about 30 miles with a light backpack in a single day. The other was a two night adventure in the High Sierras covering over 50 miles, mostly off trail, boulder hopping. Each required excessive use of my feet. The only store I trusted in picking up the right trail running shoes was US Outdoor.

Saucony Progrid Perigrine Trail Running Shoes

Saucony Progrid Perigrine 2 Shoes After 30 Miles

For the run around Mt. St. Helens, I wore Saucony’s Progrid Perigrine 2 shoes. Coming in at only 1 lb. 3.8 oz, they still offer enough heal and forefoot support to keep the foot centered and stable on the sole. Even with a backpack near 15 lbs., they provided plenty of stability and cushion. They also are minimalist regarding the foot bed. This means they do not have an arch support, or other technology that interferes with the foot’s natural movement. The sole has a thin plastic shank that runs back and forth like a riverbed S-shaped through the sole. This reduces stiffness and weight while protecting from rock protrusion through the sole. The tread has massive grip with large, knobby rubber protrusions. The trail around St. Helens has sand, mud, rock, boulders, hard pack, and “Ah Ha” lava (the rough, hard to walk on kind). These shoes held up perfectly across every type of terrain I could find. If you trail run or backpack light, there is not a better shoe out there.

High Sierras La Sportiva Trangos

High Sierras La Sportiva Trangos

Next, I went off trail in the High Sierras on the west side of the mountain range. For this trip, I needed a beefier shoe since I had heard that the terrain was brutal on foot wear. I had no idea how brutal it would be. I’m glad I chose my La Sportiva Trango Extreme Evo Light GTX boots. The moment I stepped off the John Muir Trail, I was committed to careful foot placement on boulders ranging in size from cars to bowling balls. Literally, every step was crucial since the boulders are stacked in a chaotic granite wonderland of enormous proportions. Any mistake here could be very costly since few people are likely to be traveling in the same place off trail. The La Sportiva Trango has extremely good ankle support, ridiculous durability, and more importantly, a sole that protects the foot bed no matter how sharp the rock feature placed beneath. Anything less stout would have put my safety at risk.

North Side of Mt. St. Helens

North Side of Mt. St. Helens

Of course, that nature of your trip is what matters most. So if you are planning any type of adventure, consider seriously, the shoes or boots you are going to choose. Not only is that shoe choice going to affect the entire quality of your experience, it also will influence the safety of the trip. For lightweight backpacking, hiking, or running, I can attest to the quality, comfort, and durability of the Saucony Progrid Perigrine 2. It is my favorite shoe. For three season mountaineering, and strenuous backpacking, nothing competes with the La Sportiva Trango. The ankle support, footbed protection, and rugged construction make it perfect for serious mountain travel. Both are available for men and women. The basement at US Outdoor has the most knowledgeable staff in the state regarding hiking shoes, boots and trail running shoes. Be sure to take advantage of this wonderful Portland resource when you think about your next exciting trip.