By Dusty Trails
We love our dogs here in Central Oregon. That’s why Dog Fancy magazine named Bend the top “dog town” in the country last year. We’ve got restaurants that encourage dogs in their patio areas, a parade for pets on the 4th of July, and a luxury hotel that gives your dog a personalized pet bed, Joshua Tree Pet Salve, and even pet massages. So yes, I think it’s safe to say we’re deserving of our new title.
In the summertime, it’s not uncommon to see dogs floating along on the front of a kayak or paddleboard with the locals, or jumping into the river after a Frisbee at the River Bend Dog Park. The city boasts six other off-leash areas, along with miles of dog-friendly mountain biking trails in the Deschutes National Forest.
Wintertime is just as much fun for dogs. The city’s dog advocacy group, DogPAC, has acquired a snowcat—renamed Sno-Dog—to enhance trail grooming at Wanoga Sno-Park, resulting in a two-mile loop of dog-friendly winter trails next to your own ski and snowshoe tracks.
Area residents and winter visitors can take dog-sled rides at the Oregon Trail of Dreams on Mt. Bachelor and maybe meet local Iditarod musher Rachel Scdoris. Mt. Bachelor Avalanche Rescue Dogs are skilled at locating victims under masses created by snow slides, while the dogs in the High Desert Search Dogs group focus on wilderness and urban tracking and trailing.
With “ruffly” 27,000 dogs to 80,000 people, the city has definitely warmed up to its canine companions. It’s easy to see why Dog Fancy has honored Bend as the best place for man’s best friends to have a healthy, active life. And it’s not too shabby for their owners, either.
By Dusty Trails
Sipping a microbrew by the roaring fire at 10 Barrel Brewing Company might be up there with the favorite funtivities after dark for locals. But in the wintertime, there’s a different kind of nightlife available in Bend that is a little more adventurous than just trying the newest IPA.
With family and friends visiting for the holidays, the trails at Virginia Meissner and Swampy Lakes sno-parks are perfect for nighttime Nordic skiing and snowshoeing. Rustic shelters along the way provide a warm place to relax in front of a wood stove fire, sip hot chocolate and enjoy the company of friends met on the trail, both old and new. If you want to bring your four-legged friends along, head to Wanoga or Skyliners sno-park instead, where dogs are allowed. Don’t forget to bring a light for their collars, so you can see them in the dark, as well as a plastic baggy for you know what.
The full moon can provide a natural light as it reflects off the fresh white snow. The experience presents you with a new perspective about the wilderness—a different kind of calm and quiet that this community’s superior location provides. And unlike during the daytime, it is rare to come across others on the trail at night, making it feel like you have the whole forest to yourself. Just make sure you take along flashlights or headlamps to help you read maps and trail signs, not to mention plenty of warm clothing, water and snacks.
For those who are new to the area or would like to experience nighttime outdoor activities in the company of others, Pine Mountain Sports, Wanderlust Tours, and Bend Parks and Recreation District all offer organized group expeditions, for beginners and experts alike. Pine Mountain, Mountain Supply and REI can also take care of all your needs for renting or purchasing snowshoes, skis and other essential equipment.
Darkness may fall early in the winter, but there is certainly no shortage of adventures to be found not far away from the city lights of Bend. And if you play your cards right, you still get back in time for an IPA at the 10 Barrel fire pit. Cheers!