Around the Bend

On July 19, 2012 · 6 Comments

We’re spending a great portion of our adventure in and around the vicinity of Bend, Oregon. We’ve rented a house for the week. That has provided us with a sense of normalcy and a means to travel to numerous outdoor destinations while minimizing travel time.

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Once again, the map can be used to orient physical proximity of locations mentioned in the article. It actually represents several short side-trips from our home base.

Deschutes River in Bend Oregon

This looks remote and bucolic. It’s actually located directly in the middle of Bend, mere steps from Old Bend and the downtown area. The Deschutes River arises from snowmelt draining down from the Cascades Range immediately to the west. It provides Bend and the rest of the valley with drinking water, recreational opportunities and a signature waterway. Bend would be nothing but scrubland, as is the case a few miles farther east, without Cascades snowfall feeding the Deschutes River.

Rather, Bend is filled with wonderful parks, including Drake Park which is pictured above. We stumbled onto this after we had trouble finding a parking spot downtown because of a festival taking place nearby. It’s hard to believe that a five-minute walk will take one from riverside peacefulness to the heart of Bend’s social activity.

Traffic and parking was more problematic than I imagined. Bend has experienced huge population growth. It had 20,000 residents in 1990 and 80,000 in 2012. I’m not sure the road infrastructure managed to keep pace. It’s not been terrible — I live in an area with some of the worst traffic in the United States — just a bit surprising.

Mount Bachelor Ski Resort in Summer

I used to ski in the winter. I don’t do that very often anymore because nobody else in the family enjoys it. However we’ve become fans of ski resorts in the summer, somewhat counterintuitively. Ski resorts have made concerted efforts to transform themselves into year-round destinations to at least cover their fixed-costs after the slopes close. We had a good time visiting Park City, Utah last July and repeated the experience in Bend.

Mount Bachelor is Bend’s closest ski resort, about twenty miles outside of town. I don’t care how many times I’ve seen snow in July, it’s still a thrill. We rode a chairlift high above the treeline, hiked around for awhile, enjoyed the view and stopped at the Pine Marten Lodge at 7,700 feet (2,350 metres) to warm up. Middle of July. Nearly frozen. Loved it.

High Desert Museum

With all the mountains and snow-fed rivers, one tends to forget that we’re still in Oregon’s corner of the High Desert. The High Desert Museum south of Bend brought it back to reality. This was a nice attraction with indoor and outdoor components including a "living history" portion with costumed interpreters. It’s a decent filler activity that’s good for a couple of hours between longer-lasting activities, maybe as a means to round out the day. We hit the last two hours before closing time as the crowd began to wane.

Paulina Peak Newberry Volcanic Monument

Central Oregon is a big volcano. It seems as if just about every mountain is volcanic in nature, and many of them remain active to one degree or another. Remains of lava flows fill valleys and define topography. It’s hard to move more than a few feet without spotting a volcanic rock. Bend is a great location for exploring the Newberry National Volcanic Monument, which is managed by the U.S. Forest Service.

We hit the southern unit first, in the vicinity of the Paulina Visitor Center area. The Paulina Peak viewpoint was one of several highlights. That was my kind of mountaineering — one can drive an automobile straight up to its 7,985 ft. (2,432 m.) summit. The gravel road made me glad I’d rented a 4-Wheel Drive. Nonetheless we got to the top and spotted a Prius in the parking lot so how bad could it be? Yes theoretically, one could also hike to the summit. Maybe we’d have done that if we’d had more time. Who am I kidding?!? I’d always take the lazy way out.

Big Obsidian Flow Newberry Volcanic Monument

This is also the site of the Big Obsidian Flow, which wins points for its completely descriptive if unimaginative name. Indeed, it’s a big obsidian flow and it’s only about 1,300 years old. Obsidian is a volcanic glass and Native Americans used obsidian to create super-sharp cutting tools. Obsidian doesn’t occur in a lot of places so broad trading networks formed wherever it occurred. The Big Obsidian Flow contains massive quantities and served as a major source in the Pacific Northwest.

Random Observations

(1) What do Oregon and New Jersey have in common? They’re the only two states that I know about that do not provide a self-service option at gasoline stations. I’m not sure if it’s some kind of protection racket for minimum-wage paying jobs or if they don’t believe people have sufficient intelligence to operate a gas pump. Either way, it’s a pain.

(2) I love county counting but I’ve discovered that even I have my limits. Lake and Harney Counties would cover a huge chunk of my Oregon map. However, I just can’t seem to justify four hours of driving solely to capture them. Bypassing this opportunity will likely mean that I will never capture them, and I’m strangely OK with that. Don’t think it didn’t cross my mind though.

Other articles in this travelogue:

On July 19, 2012 · 6 Comments

6 Responses to “Around the Bend”

  1. You’d figure with pay-before-you-pump laws in most jurisdictions, the ban on self-service pumps would be unnecessary, especially now when most service stations have options for paying directly at the pump via credit or debit card. I assume Oregon and New Jersey’s laws date from before cashless payment at the pump was an option and gas stations were still the frequent victims of ‘gas-and-dash’ crimes.

    EDIT: Doing some research, NJ’s law dates from 1949, and OR’s from 1951, and are exactly for the reasons you listened. A 1982 voter proposition in Oregon to change the law was rejected by voters.

  2. AF says:

    If you liked Drake Park I would suggest taking a float down the river through Bend. You can rent or buy floaties or tubes for pretty cheap. You have to make one portage to prevent yourself from tumbling over a vicious dam. But, the detour is well marked.

  3. Marc says:

    As someone who moved from New Jersey to Oregon, the gas thing drives me crazy. At this point, I don’t think it’s so much about employment or explosions, but just because the people are lazy and scared to do it. When I talk to natives about this, they get all defensive and tell me I’m crazy. So be it.

    I discovered just a couple of weeks ago a way to avoid the full serve problem if you’re willing to go a little out of your way. We were on a road trip similar to your own, and the last day we drove from Fort Klamath to Crater Lake, to Portland, by way of Bend and highway 97. Taking that route, I was able to gas up self serve at a campground in Crater Lake National Park, where the federal jurisdiction trumps the state law. I subsequently drove up highway 97 until I hit the Warm Springs reservation. Again, the reservation land falls out of the state scheme and I was able to pump my own.

    Sounds like we passed through Bend a week or two early to have rendezvous’ed. Enjoy the rest of your time in our awesome state.

  4. Ariel Dybner says:

    I live in New Jersey. My wife, who grew up in Florida, absolutely loves the fact that she no longer has to get out of the car to pump gas. She especially like it when she was pregnant.

    I see no support statewide for ending the ban. New Jersey drivers love the ban and view it as one of the few perks of living in this overtaxed state.

  5. Fritz Keppler says:

    Always loved the trail through Big Obsidian Flow, I try to walk it every time I’m in the area. And it’s fascinating to look at the obsidian through a polarizing filter, it creates some fascinating effects on the volcanic glass.

  6. Ski Trainer says:

    Nice photos.I’ve been in Bend, Oregon last yea.I like the place.I love to ski there.My family wants to visit gain this year.We love the quite place that allows us to relax except for the traffic sometimes.Thanks for sharing..

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