It’s getting down to the final days. Fortunately Central Oregon has plenty to offer so I can wring-out a last few activities before we slowly wind our way back towards the north.
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As noted previously, the map represents several distinct side-trips rather than a single concerted effort. This is intended to provide an orientation and approximate distances between our base in Bend, OR and various activities.
I completed the Bend Ale Trail, a fiendishly clever promotional effort of the Bend Oregon Visitor Bureau. Bend has become a haven for microbreweries and brewpubs in recent years, with a per capita average that rivals or exceeds any other location. It’s like a Napa Valley of beer.
The city promotes this fortunate and happy confluence of business activities as a tourist attraction. They issue a "passport" so that visiting each of (currently) nine breweries represented on the trail earns a stamp. Visitors collecting all nine stamps receive a Bend Ale Trail silipint. Grab the optional tenth stamp in nearby Sisters, OR, and one also earns a patch. Regular 12MC readers will not be surprised to learn that I earned each and every stamp including the optional one, bribing the kids with an ice cream sundae at the final stop (see elbow on the right).
Let me go through a little math before you feel you need to contact Alcoholics Anonymous on my behalf or start a round of Hail Marys for the recovery of my liver. See those little glasses? Those are part of a sampler set. They are about 4 ounces each generally speaking, and my wife and I split them. Most places served around six, some with less and some with more as in this photo. Six samples times four ounces per sample divided by two people equals twelve ounces (0.35 L.) per person, or the equivalent of a single beer per stop on average.
Recognize that we were in Bend for eight nights and suddenly it doesn’t appear excessive at all. It’s an exercise in moderation and appreciation. One would hardly raise an eyebrow if this were a wine tasting expedition, yet for some reason it seems a bit more questionable to many people when the beverage of choice happens to be beer. One has to eat lunch or dinner somewhere so it might as well be a place with good beer, right?
Now my waistline from eating so many heavy restaurant meals rather than cooking for ourselves at our rental home is a different story. I’m going to have to get back to some seriously better nutrition when I return home.
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White water rafting used to be a favorite activity before we had kids. The boys are finally getting old enough for us to try to ease back into this activity. We took them on some starter rapids along the Deschutes River southwest of Bend. It was a quick trip — barely more than an hour — and most of the rapids were easy Class II. The route did include a Class III called Big Eddy which was probably running at III+ or maybe even IV due to recent rainfall although nothing too challenging. That brief stretch of river can be seen in the satellite image. The boys loved their little rafting sampler so we’ll keep this on our list of future adventures.
We also completed our exploration of the Newberry Volcanic National Monument, this time at the northern end closer to Bend. We kept driving past it on Highway 97 as we explored other areas with the intent of saving it for later as a filler activity. Somehow we had the foresight to hit it right as it opened in the morning. We figured it would be tourist-laden later in the day because of its easy access. That was a great decision. We had the mile-long passageway through the lava tube practically to ourselves on the way down, but felt like salmon swimming upriver by the time we looped back and began to approach the entrance again. It’s an unusual and chilly hike (40°f. / 4°c) through a smooth, gently sloping tube with only flashlights guiding the way, best appreciated when it doesn’t feel like a super-highway at rush hour.
Completing that, we then drove to the top of Lava Butte and hiked a trail around the rim. This is another in a long series of volcanic calderas along the spine of the Cascades. Molten rock spewed from this spot about 7,000 years ago and yet very little grows on that barren lava field even today.
No trip to Central Oregon would be considered complete without an obligatory stop at Crater Lake National Park. Now I understand why. It quickly rocketed to the top tier of my personal list of places worth seeing in person. I tried to find a single photograph in my collection to do it justice and I failed. I compiled this brief video instead. Easily, I took twice as many photos here in a single day than at any other place during the trip. Each new angle, each new vista wowed me more than the previous one. I couldn’t stop staring at snow-capped mountains set amongst the darkest sapphire waters imaginable.
I’d also highly recommend the two-hour boat tour. The rim drive and the boat loop present vastly different perspective. It’s like visiting two completely different parks. The boat requires a 700 ft. / 213 m. hike from the rim down to the lake along the steep Cleetwood Cove Trail, and of course a strenuous hike of equal length returning to the rim. That right there tends to limit the number of people who will ever be able to experience Crater Lake at surface-level, and this is the only place along the rim where this can be done. It’s totally worth it.
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What a difference a few hours can make. I’d been complaining about Oregon not having any self-serve gasoline pumps, and the inconvenience of having to wait on an attendant to complete this very mundane and ordinary task on one’s behalf. Loyal 12MC reader "Marc" came to the rescue. He commented that there were a small number of places where Federal or Tribal law preempted that rather silly State law. One such spot is a Shell station on the reservation of the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs. Guess who drove through Warm Springs yesterday? Thanks Marc for providing necessary information to allow one to subvert an antiquated Oregon gas-pumping law in a completely legal manner. This Street View image should be helpful those who wish follow Marc’s advice, or simply set a GPS to 44.764087,-121.263831.
Other articles in this travelogue: