Buenos Aires, by Noelia Diaco. Photo is not visible, used only for sharing on social networks.

Road trip: Bend

October 1, 2014

Start from the beginning of our Oregon trip.

Day 12: Beacon Rock State Park to Bend, via Mt. Hood (185 miles)

Our notes for this day began with this observation: "Only 4 more days," followed by a sad face. After we returned from a somewhat lackluster Thanksgiving camping trip, we commented on how much better our Oregon trip was. It was basically the most awesome vacation ever.

At this point in the "most awesome vacation ever," we had hung out on the Oregon/Washington border for several days and were starting to make our way back to California. We had heard a lot of great things about the city of Bend, an outdoor mecca on the eastern edge of the Cascades. Plus it made geographical sense to stop here on our way to Crater Lake.

After hanging out in the vineyards, fruit farms, rivers and waterfalls of the Columbia River Valley, the ride to Bend provided a beautiful change of scenery — an arid desert, with the snow-capped Cascades hovering off in the distance.

Bend is located in the high desert, at an elevation of 3,623 feet. 

Along the way, we took a detour to the Cove Palisades State Park, with its incredible canyons and rivers. About 10 million to 12 million years ago, alternating layers of stream sediments, volcanic debris and basaltic lava flowed into a huge basin in this area, creating the “Deschutes Formation.” Over time, water erosion and volcanic activity eroded the formation, creating the canyons and vertical cliffs that exist today. [1] The Deschutes and Crooked rivers run through the park, and in 1964, Lake Billy Chinook was created by damming the Deschutes River. The lake offers 72 miles of shoreline, drawing fishermen, campers and boaters to its waters. One of the most popular activities in the park is to rent a houseboat and float through the park. We didn't have the time on this trip, but it would be fun to vacation on a boat one day.

Our picnic spot, on the left. Picturesque, right? Unfortunately lots of gnats thought so too. Provisions: fresh cherries.

We continued on to Bend, where we checked into our hotel, grabbed dinner, then drinks at one of Oregon's many breweries (10 Barrel Brewing), before ending the night in the hotel hot tub.

Day 13: Bend (0 miles)

Half the reason for stopping in Bend was I wanted to float down the Deschutes River. When I was a kid, my family would go to Water Country every summer and one of my favorite attractions was the lazy river, in which you float down a river in inner tubes. You were supposed to stay in the tubes, but we never did. It's a ton of fun to get pushed downstream by the current. And happily it turns out that river floating isn't limited to water parks. Floating down the Russian River in northern California is a popular summertime activity but we've never down it because the logistics seemed complicated with the motorcycle. When I learned you could float down the Deschutes River, which flows through the center of Bend, I was set on doing it.

And guess what happened? It rained. Now you might say, it's the Pacific Northwest, weren't you prepared for that? Well, Bend enjoys almost 300 days of sunshine per year. So no — this was the one day of the trip we were assuming would be sunny. The rain meant no river floating for us. Instead, we visited the High Desert Museum.

The museum, which includes both indoor and outdoor exhibits, explores the wildlife, culture and history of Oregon's high desert region. We got there just in time for a show about the "raptors of the sky" (we literally had to run a half mile across the grounds to make it in time). In the show, the handlers brought out several birds, including a barn owl, hawk and vulture. The birds flew from perch to perch, sometimes flying directly over our heads, which always elicited ooo's from the crowd. All of the birds in the show were either unable to fly or too comfortable around humans to be released back into the wild. The one fact that struck with me from the program: Vultures are a valuable part of the ecosystem because of their ability to digest harmful bacteria without getting sick, yet they're getting poisoned by the lead bullets used by hunters. Our presenter said he was a hunter and urged any other hunters in the audience not to use lead bullets.

On the subject of guns, when I was looking for a place to stay in Bend, I came across an AirBnB listing that included this among the house rules: "Please declare any firearms you intend to have on the premises and if you have a Concealed Carry Permit. We are firearm friendly and do allow firearms on the property we just want to be aware of them."

The museum includes a recreation of a 1904 homestead and sawmill. One of our favorite parts was an exhibit on the history of the area called the "Spirit of the West." This is how the museum describes the exhibit: "Your journey starts with a stroll past a Northern Paiute shelter and a French trapper's camp where all the historic details are depicted in incredible detail. Continue through the Hudson's Bay Company fort, alongside an Oregon Trail wagon, through a hard rock mine, past a settler's cabin and into the boomtown of Silver City." We took part in a (free) guided tour of the exhibit, which was surprisingly great. It was much more engaging to listen to the guide than to read the plaques. He seemed to really enjoy giving the tour, which made it a lot of fun to listen to.

After the museum, it was time for dinner at the Deschutes Brewery and Public House. Deschutes is based in Bend and is one of the larger craft breweries in the U.S. We had visited their brewpub in Portland and enjoyed the experience so much that we couldn't help but try the Bend location as well. Somehow, we had an even better time the second time. My food was mediocre (ribs at the brewpub maybe wasn't the best decision) but the beer was delicious. I don't think I've ever enjoyed a beer as much as I enjoyed their Doppel Dinkel Bock. Their description of the beer: "This imperial spelt beer features a generous amount of dinkel (spelt) malt in place of the traditional wheat malt. The result features aromas of bubblegum, banana, clove, citrus, and a slight spiciness. Smooth, full bodied and drinkable, Doppel Dinkel Bock will make the Bavarian in you proud!" After writing this post and remembering how much I loved that beer, we ordered some from an online craft beer shop.

If you read our Portland post, you may recall that our visit to the McMenamins in Portland didn't live up to our expectations. We had a much better experience at the Bend location, where we watched "The Grand Budapest Hotel." McMenamins converted the former parish hall of an old Catholic school into a theater, with comfortable armchairs and couches. It projects the movie onto a large screen and it's a super-comfortable way to watch a movie (affordable too). And the movie seemed quite fitting for the setting. (And we highly recommend it.)

And a few more photos...

Leaving the Mt. Hood area
Driving through Oregon's high desert
Deschutes River, in Bend
- Steph

[1] Lake Billy, Chinook, Oregon State Parks

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