It’s been an annual tradition since New Years 2007: Get out of town. My first five years of New Years in Portland had been mediocre at best, either a whatever party or home alone. So getting out of Dodge, somewhere, anywhere was a better option. I’ve stuck with that tradition, hitting up places like the Columbia Gorge, Oregon Coast, Coast Range, Seattle and Vancouver BC. This was the first time doing it in Central Oregon. Destination: Bend, the outdoors-loving metropolis of the region.
I’ve been to Central Oregon several times, and have passed through Bend on a couple occasions. This would be the first time I would spend more than a day here. Bend is part of a class of Western Mountain Towns like Park City or Telluride, where urbanites go to get away or move permanently so they can mountain bike or ski all the time. And it being Central Oregon, it’s drier, sunnier, and colder than Portland in the winter, so many people come to enjoy the sun and/or winter activities.
We took off from Portland on Friday December 28. It was raining pretty good, though it thankfully wasn’t snowing when we got over the shoulder of Mount Hood at Wapinitia Pass. The next few days would be mostly dry with a bit of precipitation at night. We spent three full days in the Bend area (a half day spent in neighboring Sisters), basically wandering around, eating a bunch of good food and drinking some good beer. Bend is no slouch in these departments. We didn’t bike around (many of the side streets were sketchy) but we did see a decent amount of folks on bikes, both fat and not. More folks than I saw riding in Austin during my recent visit, yet Austin is ten times larger (and double the warmth) of Bend!
We returned home on Monday January 1st. We took a longer way back, heading north on US 97/197 to The Dalles then west on I-84 to Portland. On the way back we stopped by Smith Rock State Park for an hour hike. Smith Rock has to be one of the most beautiful spots in the state (in a state with lots of beautiful spots.) Lots of folks were enjoying the park, too.
Oh Central Oregon, you tantalize me. So close yet so far away. I’d get out to you more often if driving wasn’t the only viable way to get here. (Yes, I can bike, but it’ll take me maybe three or so days one way. And the bus to/from Bend isn’t that great, esp. when it comes to bikes.) I’d love to spend more time in Central Oregon and really explore the high desert. Maybe a bike tour is in order…