South Sister: The rite of passage for every Central Oregonian

By Dusty Trails

 

Besides hiking up Bachelor, South Sister was my first real mountain. On the one hand, I was nervous because I had never hiked anything close to 12 miles with 5000 feet of elevation gain before. I had also heard the search and rescue stories in the Cascades that inevitably happen every year. But I was more excited, because it was a new challenge and the perfect beginner mountain climb. What’s more, the view at the tippy top promised to be spectacular.

 

At 10,358 feet, South is the third highest peak in Oregon. It’s got glaciers and pools and a view of the Cascade peaks, evergreen forests, and alpine lakes as good as any other. And it’s nontechnical, so any reasonably fit hiker can do it in a day, or do it in two by backpacking up to Moraine Lake. On a sunny Saturday in August, as many as 300 hikers may reach the top.
I packed up the 10 essentials, including plenty of food and water, sunscreen, a jacket for the summit, and my camera. We hit the trail before 7:00 am, not only to beat the summer traffic on the trail and in the parking area, but to beat the heat and threat of an afternoon thunderstorm.

 

The first couple of miles were steep and they hit me pretty hard, but after awhile we got into the swing of things and I felt like I could go all day, just putting one foot in front of the other. Apart from the summit, the hike itself is a sight for sore eyes (and legs). There are plenty of viewpoints along the way, including awesome proximity to the backside of Broken Top and the green depths of Moraine Lake. My favorite place was the electric blue glacial pool near the top, where we stopped for a snack and dipped our toes in the freezing snow melt.

 

After that comes the not-so-good-part: about a half mile of scree awaits before you can reach the top–that’s climber’s lingo for really loose terrain that makes it feel like for every step you take forward, you are falling two steps back. It’s no walk in the park, but it’s not very often that you find a mountain that you can virtually just walk up.

 

Reaching the summit was one of the most surreal experiences of my life. Middle and North Sisters were so close that it seemed as if I was looking at them through a microscope. Bachelor was looking as handsome as ever, and I could see for miles beyond that, all the way to Mt. Shasta. This moment is what living in Central Oregon is all about–and we hadn’t even gotten to the fun part yet.

 

We went in late July, and there was still plenty of snow covering the bowls of the mountain. So, rather than painstakingly making our way down until our poor knees could take it no more, we plopped down on our shells, vests, space blankets, whatever we could find, and slid down from the summit. And we could not stop smiling. The only casualty was that I lost my puffy jacket somewhere on the way down, but that’s something that the local REI would have no problem fixing.

 

The best time of year to go is late summer or early fall (sidenote: that’s right now!) because there is the least amount of snow and bugs. The average hiker should plan for an 8-10 hour day. And the best part is, the trailhead is only 25 minutes up the road from Tripleknot. So you can mark this peak off your checklist and be home just in time for dinner.

The Low-Down on Floating the River this Summer

By Dusty Trails

The weather is getting hotter, the water is warming up, and Bendites are starting to get out on the water to float the river. It’s one of the more popular summer activities in Bend: last year, The Bulletin announced that the Deschutes made the “Top 10 Western River Floats” in Discovery News. However, the thought of it can be daunting at first if you’ve never done it before. Here are some tips to make your floating excursion go, well… swimmingly.

The gear:

Don’t have a floatie or a personal floatation device? Head over to Riverbend Park and look for the little trailer with the Sun Country Tours logo on the side. They rent inner tubes and standup paddleboards, and loan PFDs to children 12 and younger for free (Under Oregon law, all boats must carry a Coast Guard-approved PFD for every person onboard or being towed. Children under 12 must wear PFDs at all times on a moving boat, including inflatable rafts and kayaks. That doesn’t include individual air mattresses, inner tubes, and floating toys. However, if any of these are tied together, they count as “boats” and the PFD law applies). Another option is Tumalo Creek Kayak & Canoe, who rents the same things in addition to canoes, kayaks and stand-up paddle boards.

Where to start:

According to Visit Bend, the easiest place to kick off your river float is from Riverbend Park, just behind the Bend Park & Rec District office. On the opposite shore, about ½ mile upstream and just a few feet downstream from the Bill Healy Memorial Bridge, Farewell Bend Park offers a longer float, if you can manage to find a parking spot next to Reed Market Road. Either place offers a safe, sandy shore for you to launch your air mattress, float tube, or raft. If you want a shorter float, you can also start just downstream from the Colorado Avenue Bridge on the sandy beach in McKay Park and float from there to Drake Park.

Where to go:

If you start at Farewell Bend or Riverbend Park, you’ll meander along the Deschutes through the Old Mill District. As you approach the Colorado Avenue Bridge, you’ll see a bunch of signs pointing you toward an exit. Follow the signs carefully, as a trip over the spillway would be extremely dangerous. Bend Park & Rec is taking steps to create a safe passage around the spillway next year. But for now, it’s up to you to make the short portage.

Once you’re out of the river before the spillway, you can hoof it back to the car or continue your journey by putting in again from the beach in McKay Park and floating from there to Drake Park. At the end, you can walk back, shuttle it with your own vehicles, or catch the Ride the River shuttle back to your starting point. Check the website for the schedule and pricing.

Things to note:

Bring some type of water shoe to make the getting in/out and walking process easier on your feet. They can also serve as a make-shift paddle. Chacos, Keens, and Tevas, are good. Flip-flops work too, but there’s a good chance you might lose them in the water! Phone, keys, wallet, camera, and any other personal items you choose to bring should be in a waterproof bag. It’s a good idea to keep your sunglasses on a strap as well. Finally, pay close attention to the signs before the spillway, and don’t litter!

For the more adventurous:

The slow curving river that provides Bend’s namesake is a popular destination for a lazy kind of day. But the recent Discovery News article highlights the more adventurous side of water sports that Bend caters to: whitewater rafting and kayaking. The upper section just south of Bend has the Big Eddy Class IV rapid, which is perfect for rafting on your own or with a trip through Sun Country Tours. The lower section starts at Warm Springs and ends just before Sherars Falls – but be careful of fishermen! No matter what section you plan on visiting, you are bound to find an epic day playing in the water in Central Oregon.

 

For more information on floating the river, including safety tips and a handy map, check out this page from Bend Metro Parks & Rec.

Our top picks for summer races (including beer)

By Dusty Trails

 

We just had a great Pole Pedal Paddle weekend and Happy Girls Half Marathon, and we’re only getting started. Here are our picks for some of the best summer races in Central Oregon.

 

Next up is one of my personal favorites, the Heaven Can Wait 5K Run/Walk for Breast Cancer on June 1. The event has grown to become one of the largest 5K races in Central Oregon. Whether you run, walk, or volunteer, the uplifting vibes and overwhelming sense of community are incredible.

 

After that comes the classic Dirty Half marathon on June 8. This is a local favorite and takes place on the single track trails west of Bend.

 

Next, we’ve got the Oregon Senior Games. Athletes ages 50 and older can compete in one of the sixteen sports offered. It’s a great chance to test your mettle against other seniors while enjoying a getaway to the outdoor playground of the West. Whether you’re a super-competitive athlete, or just someone looking to stay active, the Oregon Senior Games is a great event to add to your bucket list.

 

One June 29, take a break from your hard-core training regimen and sign up for the Bite of Bend Beer Run, which takes participants along a 5k race loop through Drake Park to Alpine Physical Therapy and back through Columbia Park, with three beer stops along the way. Finishers are greeted with—you guessed it—another beer! Because it wouldn’t be an event in Bend without craft beer involved.

 

On the 4th of July, you can work off those BBQ burgers and hot dogs with the Spark Your Heart 5K to support Adult and Children’s Heart Services in Central Oregon.

 

Another highlight in July is the Deschutes Dash, which offers Olympic and sprint triathlons and duathlons, 5K, 10K, Youth tri and kid’s Splash ‘N Dash on the 26-27th.

 

Standout races in August are the Haulin’ Aspen Half/7-Miler and the Deschutes Brewery Twilight Run 5K that celebrates the long days and warm temperatures of August. After crossing the finish line, treat yourself to a beer garden featuring Deschutes Brewery’s Twilight Summer Ale, great post race food, and some music to shake your booty to if you have any energy left. On August 24 is the Monkey Face Half Marathon, which features scenic views of Monkey Face and Eastern Oregon’s high desert. Finally, on August 30, check out the 4th Annual Sunriver Marathon for a Cause, Marathon (Boston Qualifier), Two Half Marathons, 10k, 5k, and/or Kid’s Dash, on August 30-31, 2014 in beautiful Sunriver, Oregon.

 

We’ve got races for the young and old, the marathoners and the walkers, the minors and the beer-connoisseurs. We’ll see you out on the trails!

Watching for Wildlife

By Dusty Trails

Here’s a hint from a local: if we see you pulled over taking a picture of a deer on your smartphone, we will automatically assume you’re a tourist. That’s because we see deer so often here that many of us take it for granted. But regardless of how long you’ve lived here, both tourists and locals can appreciate the abundance and diversity of wildlife that Central Oregon has to offer.

Walking around Tripleknot and the environs of Tetherow, you’re likely to notice woodpeckers, flickers, hummingbirds, and other wild birds darting everywhere. If you’re lucky, you might get a robin’s nest with babies right in front of your dining room window. Squirrels and chipmunks chase each other in the trees. In addition to deer, herds of elk are not uncommon. But you’re much more likely to spot herds of toned, spandex-clad creatures zooming across the landscape (cyclists is the technical term). In the evening, watch for porcupines and raccoons among the Ponderosas, and listen for the hoot of owls or even coyotes in the distance.

Drive down to the Old Mill along Bond Street this time of year and you’ll probably see some rock chucks scurrying around on the grass by the road. Baby ducks and geese are learning to swim in Mirror Pond and on the Deschutes. In the tree tops above the river, ospreys and occasionally bald eagles can be seen tending their nests and getting ready for the eggs to hatch.

If you want to see some of the more rare wildlife in the area, head down to the High Desert Museum, just 5 minutes outside of town on Highway 97. There, you will find a plethora of native animals, including birds of prey, adorable sea otters, not-so-adorable snakes, in addition to interesting and interactive exhibits about the history of Central Oregon.

We are incredibly lucky to live in an area as rich with wildlife as Bend is – so much so that we get used to seeing them all around town. Just watch out for those cyclists.

Enjoy dinner and a movie in style this spring

By Dusty Trails

 

It’s that transition time of year again. The snow on the mountain is still sublime, but the increased sunshine and warmer temperatures are getting us excited for different types of fun in Central Oregon. Until then, we’ve still got some time in March and April to kill before the outdoor concerts, festivals and barbecues warm up our evenings.

There’s always the typical “dinner and a movie” option at the Old Mill Regal Cinemas, our one and only multiplex movie theater, to keep you entertained. On weekends, plan on getting there two hours early to find parking, get a table at Hola, Kona Mix Plate or Red Robin, and hope you get out in time to stand in line for $10 tickets and a $7 bucket of popcorn soaked in butter–assuming your show isn’t sold out by then. But then again, life in Bend is never just “typical.” That’s why we’re highlighting a few alternatives to dinner with a movie instead.

 

McMenamins Old St. Francis School
Since it’s been here almost 20 years, McMenamins is pretty much an old standby for local moviegoers. As a result of its popularity (and cheap $4 admission prices for almost new movies), it requires a pretty standard routine: Arrive at least 45 minutes early on weekends because most of their movies sell out. That gives you plenty of time to order a reasonably priced slice of pizza or a tasty burger with fries or tots, and enjoy them in the comfort of a slightly lumpy sofa or chair, before or during the movie. Along with a refreshing glass of beer or wine, it’s much better and healthier than having a buttery bucket of popcorn be your dinner (or kill your appetite). And surprisingly, it costs about the same.

Tin Pan Theater
Located in Tin Pan Alley in downtown Bend, this friendly hole in the wall specializes in award-winning documentaries and art films, and yummy microbrews . On Wednesdays, they feature “Spaghetti Westerns” (yep, classic shoot-em-up cowboy movies) with a heaping plate of spaghetti and garlic bread for just $6. They usually don’t tell you what the movie will be. But who cares. It’s a great deal.

Volcanic Theatre Pub
Volcano only has movies occasionally, in addition to a mixture of live music and plays. But like McMenamins, they have comfy old sofas and chairs, so it’s living-room style. According to their Facebook page, the owner is “quite possibly the coolest dude in town” and the bartender is the “most handsome bearded fella in Bend.” Sold.

Sisters Movie House
It’s a bit of a drive from Bend, but it’s in an awesome big red “barn” modeled after agricultural buildings from the Sisters area. What’s cooler than that? The Movie House has a café that serves light meals, beer, and wine along with traditional theatre concessions. They show a diverse selection of film, including feature first-run film, independent, documentary, foreign, and animated film.

 

Early spring evenings can be a drag when it’s too cold to be outside. So make the most of the great indoors with a new and authentic “dinner and a movie” experience at one (or all) of these great locations. It’s just one of the many unique things that Bend has to offer.

Celebrate the snow at this year’s WinterFest!

By Dusty Trails

 

No one does winter quite like Bend. It’s even better now that our snow dances have finally paid off just in time for us to celebrate the 2014 Bend WinterFest, February 14-16 at the Old Mill. Here’s what is in store:

 

Art
This year will include more snow sculptures, ice carvings, and artisan fire pits than ever before, lighting up the festival with interactive art! Plus, the Oregon Lottery Marketplace is packed with artisan food, art and clothing.

 

Action
Whether you’re a participant or an onlooker, there’s something exciting for everyone at WinterFest. First off, don’t miss the US Cellular Rail Jam at 5:30, 6:30 and 8pm on Friday and Saturday nights. Then catch the Metal Mulisha Motorcycle Jump Show on Sunday at 12, 2, and 4pm. If you’re not into spectating, you can freeze your buns off for a good cause in the Bend Polar Plunge supporting Special Olympics of Oregon. Or you can participate in the OSU Cascades Snow Warriors Extreme Obstacle Race. This race has everything, including flames, barbed wire, ice, mud, big walls, costumes, and prizes for “fastest warrior and warrior princess.” If that doesn’t capture the spirit of Bend, I don’t know what does.

 

Music
They’ve rounded up a groovin’ line up this year. Check out the Mt. Bachelor Music Mainstage on Friday night for New Orleans Jazz icons the Dirty Dozen Brass Band. They’re a world famous music machine and former featured guests on albums by David Bowie, Elvis Costello, Dr. John, Buckwheat Zydeco, Dave Matthews Band, Modest Mouse, Widespread Panic, and the Black Crowes. No big deal. Saturday night has even more fun in store with Redwood Son, voted Portland’s “Best New Artist” this year. They are opening for the headliner Menomena, a band with Portland pop vibes.

 

Merriment
What would a Bend celebration be without some great craft beer? The Growler Guys Bent Lounge will have that covered on all fronts. Visit the Dutch Bros Wild Tent for gaming, DJ dancing, and more good times. For the more “refined” crowd, be sure to go to the Whole Foods Market Wine Walk on Friday. It costs $22 and will include admission to WinterFest and a commemorative wine glass.

 

For the kids
WinterFest is fun for all ages. For the snow babies and little ones, go to the Bend Research Children’s Tent with OMSI educational displays, the Hayden Homes interactive snow sculptures, and the kids bouncy houses from Bouncing Off The Walls.

 

WinterFest is coming at the perfect time. We’ve finally got the fresh snow we’ve been waiting for, not to mention the perfect excuse to have fun with friends, family, or your Valentine. And it’s all just 10 minutes away from Tripleknot. Cheers!

The bright side about having a snowless winter

By Dusty Trails

It’s been rather depressing for snow enthusiasts to be dodging rocks on Cliffhanger and sliding down ice on the nordic trails. The great news is that after weeks of this weird drought, it’s finally starting to snow at Mt. Bachelor! So it’s on the road to recovery. But while we’d all like to have some more snow to play with in town, there are some positive things about not having to deal with it as much as usual, even in a neighborhood where they remove it for you…

 

1. No ice and no cinders on the roads, and that means no new potholes!

2. You can get your car washed today and it will still look relatively good tomorrow.

3. The mountain biking and running trails are almost in peak form around Tetherow, nice and firm with just a few muddy spots to avoid. And you can have the trail pretty much to yourself.

4. You can ride your road bike without looking like Nanook of the North.

5. You can eat lunch al fresco at The Lot or by the fire at 10 Barrel.

6. Pine needles are a good substitute for snow angels.

7. You can send eat-your-heart-out Instagrams to friends and family back East.

8. You can hike Misery Ridge at Smith Rock in shorts and a t-shirt.

9. Golf season can’t be too far away, can it?

10. Craft beer tastes good no matter what the weather is doing.

The point is, Bend is great regardless of whether it’s snowing when it’s supposed to be. And chances are, as soon as you put away your skis and snowshoes, that’s when it will finally dump again.

6 things to do in Bend without the snow

By Dusty Trails

 

It’s a sad day when you wake up early in the morning ready for an epic day of skiing Mt. Bachelor only to find that the lifts are frozen over from yesterday’s storm. Or worse, dodging rocks on Cliffhanger once the mountain is actually open. So the snow gods aren’t being very nice to us lately. But luckily there are many other adventures to be had in Bend over the holidays, even without that white powdery stuff from the heavens.

 

1. Shop ‘til you drop. Didn’t get everything on your list this Christmas? Getting out of the house and perusing the shops at the Old Mill and in Downtown Bend is always a fun option. We’ve got all the popular stores like REI, Banana Republic, Gap, and Victoria’s Secret, as well as factory outlet stores for Nike, Columbia, Eddie Bauer and many others. But we also have dozens of killer local shops downtown and all over the place that are sure to suit your fancy. Try Silverado for unique, casual jewelry, Ranch Records for new CDs and vintage vinyl, and Made in Oregon for Pendleton blankets, wine, fruit & nut baskets and other things that our state is known for. Grab some coffee at Strictly Organic, Looney Bean or Thump, and refuel with a bite at Pizza Mondo, Jackson’s Corner or 5 Fusion!

 

2. See a movie. This is an option virtually everywhere you go. Bend has Regal Cinemas at the Old Mill that shows all the popular holiday blockbusters, like “Saving Mr. Banks,” “American Hustle,” and “Anchorman 2.” But we also have a more unique movie viewing experience to offer. Tin Pan Theater is a local independent movie theater downtown that shows indie films and documentaries in an intimate setting with beer and wine on tap. At McMenamin’s Old St. Francis School Hotel, you can watch that movie you missed when it first came out, but at less than half the price, and with comfy chairs and yummy food and beverage options available from the pub.

 

3. Hit the trails. The thing about having no snow is that the weather in Bend is sunny and gorgeous, making for some awesome hiking. Try Tumalo Falls, the Oregon Badlands Wilderness, or Dylan and Benham Falls for some fresh crisp winter air without need for snowshoes. Just be prepared for some mud and ice on the trails. Some fun snowshoe excursions include Vista Butte and Tam MacArthur Rim. If you don’t own snowshoes, they’re available for rent at many different locations in Bend.

 

4. Go ice skating. Even though there isn’t snow, we’ve still got ice. So try out your skating legs at the ice rinks at Seventh Mountain Resort and Sunriver Resort. Followed by some yummy hot chocolate of course. If you have your own skates, it’s a little-known secret that the pond below Seventh Mountain Resort has been cleared for ice skating in a natural setting. But make sure the ice is at least four inches thick before you try it!

 

5. Take a tour of Beer Town USA. What better way to keep warm than to sip some of the finest microbrews in the country? Bend has 14 breweries and counting–that’s more breweries per capita than any other city in Oregon. You can join a guided tour of the breweries on the Bend Brew Bus Tour, or embark on your own brewery crawl with the Bend Ale Trail Map.

 

6. Wander through the High Desert Museum. It’s the number one attraction in Bend on TripAdvisor, and for good reason. The otters are always a hit, but don’t forget about the bobcat, lynx, and birds of prey to cater to your “wild” side. Then take a walk through time with the Spirit of the West exhibit and the 1904 Miller Family Ranch and Sawmill. The museum has fun activities and a special “Science Party” for the kids and tours, occasional live music, and “Natural History Pubs” for the adults.

 

Of course, we have faith that our snow dances will be fruitful and Bend will have the white winter we’re accustomed to. But in the meantime, there’s no need to keep your holiday spirit cooped up in front of the TV! Get out and enjoy. And share some of your own favorite snowless pursuits.

Hit the slopes this Friday instead of waiting in line at Walmart

By Dusty Trails

We all know the signs. The first morning you wake up with frost on the windshield of your car. The first holiday decorations at the grocery store. The first time you hear Jingle Bells on the radio–before Thanksgiving has even passed. I’m not talking about Christmas. I’m referring to the ultimate gift. The gift that truly keeps on giving. The one that’s white and powdery and falling all over town. It’s a little thing called snow.

Ski season is so close we can almost taste it–just like the turkey and cranberry sauce we’re about to consume on Thursday. It’s that wonderful time of year when we slip on our beanies and our boots, get stoked at the latest ski premier, and pick up some “Pray for Snow” from 10 Barrel on our way home from work. It’s when we dust off our helmets, wax our skis, and prepare ourselves for some delicious laps at Mt. Bachelor.

If you’re as excited as we are, then we know how important it is for you to have easy access to one of the Top Ten Ski Resorts in North America. Now get ready for some numbers: 20 is the number of minutes away Tripleknot is from Pine Marten or the Nordic Center. 10 is the number of minutes it takes to get to the newly revamped Meisner Sno-Park. 0 is the amount of time you’ll spend dealing with snow removal, landscaping, and routine maintenance, so nothing can come between you and a day in the mountains.

And infinity is the number of adventures you’ll find right in Bend’s backyard this winter, whether it be downhill skiing, snowshoeing, snowmobiling, sledding, skate skiing, cross country skiing, ice skating, or going on sled dog rides. And the whipped cream on the pumpkin pie is that you can even sink into a cozy sofa by the fire after an epic day of “shredding the pow.” Basically, Tripleknot is a snow lover’s dream come true. Even resident Terry Skjersaa thinks so.

Bend in the winter is magical. All we’re waiting on is those little white flakes to come down from the sky. Thankfully, regardless of how the weather treats us, Bachelor is set to open Friday at 9am! So kick your snow dance into high gear–and work off that Thanksgiving turkey while you’re at it.

Get spooked downtown this weekend with Historical Haunts!

By Dusty Trails

For many Bend-ites, perhaps the most bone-chilling thing to happen to them is realizing that their 6-pack of Mirror Pond Pale Ale has somehow “magically” disappeared from their refrigerator. But believe it or not, downtown Bend truly does have its share of spooky stories and locales. And on this late October weekend before All Hallow’s Eve, the Des Chutes Historical Museum invites you to come hear about several of them.

Take, for example, the story of George Brosterhous. In 1914 he was on the roof of the building that now houses the Des Chutes Historical Museum downtown overseeing the delivery of some materials when he fell to his death through a hole in the staircase.

Then, in 2004, a concert pianist scheduled to perform in Bend visited the Des Chutes Historical Museum to warm up on their piano. When he finished playing, he asked an employee who the man was that was watching her work. Confused, the employee insisted that they were the only two people in the room the whole time he played.

Later, the pianist reached the lobby to leave the building and froze when he saw the man from the room in an old photograph on the wall. It was a photograph of George Brosterhous.

Creepy, huh? There’s more where that came from at the Deschutes County Historical Society’s Historical Haunts of Downtown Bend tour taking place October 24-27 from 4-7pm. There are 15 guided tours each evening that last approximately an hour, and they always sell out–so get there early! Cost is $10 per person, and children under 12 and Des Chutes Historical Museum members are free. All tours begin at the Museum at at 129 NW Idaho Ave. (between Wall and Bond), and end at The Tower Theater.

Hot chocolate and apple cider will be available. But since the entire tour is outside, it’s a good idea to bring a coat, good walking shoes and a flashlight. Chances are you won’t see the ghost of George Brosterhous. But you might get a good chill or two up your spine.