Bend – Oregon’s Playground
This spring and summer we have been on a quest to become more intimately familiar with our new home state of Oregon — something we intended to do after we returned from our last trip to Europe in 2019. However, that plan was unfortunately interrupted and we had to put travel on hold for awhile. It was finally time to explore (albeit cautiously) once again and in June, we chose to travel to Bend. After Portland, Salem (the capital), and Eugene (where we live), Bend ranks 6th in population. It has experienced quite a boom in the last 20 years growing from 50,000 to over 100,000 inhabitants during this period. It may be the most popular and well-known city in Oregon due to the fact that it has developed into a veritable outdoor playground. Where people used to only frequent the area to ski in the winter, now all seasons of the year attract tourists for a variety of adventures.
In Bend, you can play at almost anything you can imagine and often the adventures are right downtown. It was unusually warm during our visit and many people were already taking advantage of the beautiful Deschutes River that runs through the center of the city. There were kayaks, floats, and all manner of water locomotion out and about enjoying a fairly lazy afternoon on the river. We also have a famous river running through our city, but it’s not accessible like this. We really loved the inviting atmosphere the Deschutes creates in Bend.
One unique feature created right downtown is the River Wave. So, if you’re a surfer you can get a quick fix. Apparently, this is nothing like ocean surfing and is even quite challenging for the pros. Nevertheless, they certainly make it look easy and fun!
Bend is one of only four cities in the U.S. featuring an extinct volcano within its city limits. It’s a popular hike but rather steep so we chose to drive to the top of Pilot Butte which rises to almost 500 feet. From there you get a 360-degree view of Bend and the surrounding mountains which is truly spectacular and much better in person that any photograph conveys.
In fact, there are so many huge mountains that can be seen from this point in Oregon, it’s very difficult to keep track of which one you are looking at. You are literally surrounded by dormant (you hope!) volcanoes. Mt. Washington, Mt. Jefferson, Mt. Hood, the Three Sisters — they’re all here and with the help if this compass located in the center of the viewing platform, you can pick them out. Without it, however, I just happy to see so many gorgeous snowcapped mountains.
Of course, you can’t visit Bend without taking a drive through the Deschutes National Forest to the famous Mt. Bachelor. At 9,068 feet, it is the only major volcano in the Cascades with a chairlift to the summit — open for skiing in the winter and mountain biking in the summer.
And this stellar summit is Broken Top… I think.
Last but not least, you are guaranteed to run into Sasquatch many places in Oregon and Bend is no exception. However, he can be a little intimidating!
After three days, it was time to say “Farewell Bend” (as originally named by the pioneers). On our way to Bend, we took the more northerly route passing through some of the worst devastated areas from the fires of 2019. They are still actively clearing lumber and debris as well as landslides along this highway greatly disrupting the traffic flow. Even now, it was a sad sight to see. There is still so much work to be done.
For our return trip, we decided to take the southerly route and ended up discovering a real treasure. For sometime, I had heard about the incredible beauty of Salt Creek Falls and all of a sudden we realized we were going to pass right by the entrance. We couldn’t resist the possibility of seeing one more spectacular Oregon waterfall so we made a quick detour. Was it ever worth it! We will definitely be back for a longer visit to this one with all our camera gear in tow and perhaps a fancy picnic lunch.
And… I’m sure we will visit Bend again. In fact, we already have plans for a trip to some of our favorite Oregon locales in October to enjoy the fall color and try to capture it through the lens of our DSLR. We are not exactly an outdoorsy couple (especially me), but the beauty and tranquility will bring back.