A week ago, I went to Bend, Oregon for my birthday week. As usual for me, I wasn’t planning on visiting Central Oregon: I wanted to go on the Seattle City Light boat tour on Diablo Lake, as it’s been on my list for over a year now.
Why didn’t I go? Well, a scheduling error on my part made it not possible. It’s still on my list, and that’s okay, because while Bend wasn’t one of the destinations on my ‘would like to visit’ list, I’m glad I went!
If you’ve never been, and you love anything water-related, hiking, beer, or relaxing, this is the place for you in the summer. In the winter, all you snow lovers would probably rejoice: me, I only plan to visit again in the summer. Decades of living with feet of the white stuff gave me an aversion to anything snow related.
Since it was an approximately six hour drive from Seattle (I took a brief detour in Boring, Oregon, sister city to Dull, Scotland — there’s a celebration coming up on the 9th of August!), I got not just a good idea of what Central Oregon looks like (mostly desert), but lots of information about the upcoming solar eclipse. Hint: the small desert town of Madras not only needs the tourism, it’s one of the best places in the country for eclipse viewing on the 21st. Ahh, in going back, it looks like I didn’t take a picture of Madras!
I arrived around dinnertime, checked into my AirBnB in a residential neighborhood on the Orchard District, and immediately asked my host for recommendations for food: skipping lunch wasn’t a good idea. He recommended Zydeco’s, known for being gluten free. I stopped at Zydeco’s, a very nice, but expensive restaurant in the city’s downtown. Vegetarians like me — this place isn’t for you. Fortunately, I eat chicken, and what I thought would be a boring roasted chicken dinner ended up being absolutely delicious!
I love to swim, and with the hottest temperatures of the summer coming up, I then scoped out the best places for river swimming/book reading and found my spot: the First Street Rapids Park. I also visited whitewater rapids park, toured the Mill District, and finally went home to rest.
The next day, for my birthday, I decided to try stand-up paddle boarding on the river with Sun Country Tours. It was a tough decision, because they also offered float tube rentals. Sure, I could do both in a day, but I was on a mission to pack as much river relaxation time in my few short days, plus I had a book to finish for book club. It was a good experience, but next time, I’ll choose the float tube rental.
At some point, I realized just how many breweries Bend has downtown, not just the famous Deschutes Brewery selections I can buy in my local grocery store. I decided I had to visit at least the most interestingly-named ones during my trip as possible for a solo driver, which just ended up being three. I started off with lunch at Bend Brewing, which was a great location, but seemed to be rather newer in town. Nevertheless, their selection was truly award-winning (as the medals on their walls suggest).
With the temperature rising, I headed to the river where I was able to cool down in the river, then heat up, read and repeat. Fortunately, I got to learn a new sport as well: riverboarding. A local had left a plywood board in the shape of a boogie board tied to a giant boulder. All you have to do is stand on it and shift your weight and you’ll end up in rapids — a pretty fun, free excursion for all ages and body types!
I stopped at 10 Barrels Brewery for dinner, and I’m sorry to say, I wasn’t as impressed with their food, but their beer was great!
I also drove up to Pilot Butte State Park around sunset. It reminded me of one of the mini mountains nearby my friend’s house in San Francisco — a lot of families using the hill for exercise, and a windy, terrifying drive for drivers. I made it to the top, and terrifyingly managed to successfully park my car on the edge without driving off — a serious fear for me with a lack of good parking.
The next day, despite seeing that it indeed would be the hottest day of the week at a whopping 99 degrees, I chose to continue on my path and go “hiking.” In quotes because of the heat, I chose to do a short hike at Tumalo Falls, which you can see right from the packed parking lot! However, if you walk a short distance, about a mile, you get to see two to three more falls! Pretty awesome! I learned from a couple starting off at the same time that there’s a nice six-mile loop around the falls as well. Next time: I wasn’t prepared for the heat.
With temperatures rising, I headed to Mt Bachelor — the only time you can get this girl to go on a ski lift is in the summer. The best part is I hadn’t been on a ski lift in about 15 years, always terrified of getting on and off; this time, I managed to not fall or get injured during the short ride. Fortunately, I came around the right time: enough to get a VERY expensive snack at the lodge, eat and enjoy the view in time for a free geology talk from a US Forest Ranger. Ed was great — I learned that we’re walking on a volcano, and that in Central Oregon, the volcano/mountains don’t have rivers that drain the water from the top to the lakes below — the water seeps through the ground! I even walked on a snowfield, in sneakers, without falling! Thanks for the tips, Ed! It was a great way to stay cool, explore and learn, in the heat! I only wish I had the energy in me to find the way to hike to the top of the mountain or explore some of the closed ski trails. But the mountain bikers were certainly having fun — I’m sure there are plenty of happy campers there!
I ended my day at Sunriver Brewing — which was great because not only did it have the best selection of beers, but food as well! Wahoo!
Oh, and let’s not forget — every day I spent in Bend I had ice cream. One day, twice! I first tried Goodie’s, because it’s right downtown and near my parking spot. My favorite place, however, was Bonta, which technically is gelato. Both days I went, there were lines out the door. Don’t be discouraged — the wait is worth it!
This post is getting long, so if you’re still reading – I swear it’s almost done!
On my way back, despite not stopping at a couple of interestingly-named towns on the way into Bend, I decided to take another way home, through Sisters. Because if you haven’t had Sisters Coffee — YOU MUST. It’s the best coffee I’ve had in a long time, and their home base in Sisters feels more like walking into a resort than a coffee shop. This too, had a line, but again — you won’t be disappointed.
After viewing some of the eclectic metal working around town, from sculptures to garbage bin toppers, I headed on home, through the mountains. Thanks to the smoke from nearby wildfires and the fact that photo-destination pull outs were on the opposite side, I couldn’t get any pictures of Mt Washington or the other cool-shaped mountains on the way. It was a beautiful roadway that dumped me out in the capital, Salem.
I stopped in Salem for a postcard so you don’t have to: I wasn’t impressed. I spent an hour trying to get parking close to the capitol (didn’t work) and it was hot! I didn’t get a tour, but snapped a few pictures, stopped at the famous Dutch Bros Coffee (I prefer Dunkin Donuts, thank you), looked at the time and realized I might be headed into rush hour traffic, if Portland has the same rush hour time of 3p-7p.
And I did. One hour of crawling traffic, when all I wanted to do was get home! To avoid more rush hour traffic in Olympia/JBLM, I drove out of my way to eat at Applebees, because I haven’t been in awhile. I was disappointed, didn’t eat half my food, and won’t be back for another 10 years.
I arrived back home around 8p.m, about 10 hours after I left Bend. Whoops! But I’m glad I made all the stops I did, and wouldn’t take it back.
On my next trip to Bend: white water rafting, more hiking and breweries. Whose in?