Monday, September 30, 2013

Wrapping Up Our Stay In Bend, OR

We like Bend, OR so much it's one of our top choices of places to settle down if we decide to buy a house again. It's got a cute and vibrant downtown and some cool older neighborhoods. No matter where you are in town you are only minutes from an incredible variety of outdoor recreation in some gorgeous natural settings.

The existing 2 year college will become a 4 year university (part of the Oregon State University system) in the next three years. The excellent medical industry is slated for expansion in the next few years too. Bend is already considered a retirement destination; we spoke to several couples who were here looking for property during our stay.

That said, Bend does have some drawbacks. It's population, and housing prices, have exploded in the last 20 years and is predicted to grow from 81,000 people to 115,000 by 2025. The city is working furiously to accommodate this growth; with the accompanying traffic and construction boom that must happen as well. City planners have already shown they are keen, and able, to provide walking/biking trails as a key part of the new infrastructure.

We'll keep Bend on the back burner, let it simmer for a while as we continue our travels (we've only been on the road for a year!), knowing we can visit any time and enjoy its many pleasures from the comfort of our home on wheels.

Here's what we've been up to during our last couple of weeks in Bend:

Fantastic metal buffalo sculpture in the Old Mill District.

There's great mountain biking on Phil's Trails, on the West edge of Bend. Hard packed dirt single track through the forest. From the main trailhead all trails head West and slightly uphill, making the return ride a fun, flowy slightly downhill joyride! The Deschutes River Trails dirt trails are prettier, but these trails are lots of fun.

Phil's Trail system.

Mountain Bike Art!

Fall colors are popping up here and there around town.

The Lava River Cave is cool...42 degrees year round! This cave was found when part of the lava tube collapsed. Today you can walk about a mile into the tube, lights are necessary and can be rented at the entrance.

You walk through the collapsed portion of the lava tube to enter the cave...

Lime green rocks at the entrance!

Once inside, the first couple hundred feet are very rocky, then the floor smooths out.

We enjoyed Smith Rock so much a couple weeks ago, we returned to hike around the mountain. This hike was about 7.5 miles, with a climb on the back side of the range. We searched for otters in the river, having heard about them on our previous visit, but did not see any, perhaps the drastic change in weather had something to do with that. The views on this hike were incredible. The recent weather system had left the local mountains enveloped in white.

Mt Bachelor, the local ski destination, shines in its cloak of white.

In my previous post on Smith Rocks I was enamored with this rock formation.
Turns out it is named Monkey Face!

From left to right: Broken Top, South, Middle and North Sisters, all dominate the Western horizon.

Mt Jefferson bathed in sun and clouds.

The uphill part of the hike was a series of gentle switchbacks...with views!

From the top we looked down on the Crooked River canyon walled in by Smith Rocks.
The snowy peaks of the Cascade Range in the distance.

The weather was quite cold during our last week in Bend (40's - 50's during the day) and the last couple of days have been rainy and that kind of weather always gets me in cooking mode. I made a new batch of Harissa, a delicious Mediterranean condiment that goes on anything you want to spice up: meats, vegetables, eggs, grains, beans, breads...the uses are many. Here's my version of Harissa, I made it pretty spicy, using dried chiles we bought in New Mexico, but milder chiles will make a less piquant sauce.

I made a neat version of biscotti as well using this delicious recipe from The Way The Cookie Crumbles. I used only whole wheat flour, only brown sugar and omitted the lavender (because I didn't have any). This recipe is a little less fussy than traditional biscotti by making them into bite size pieces instead of long wedges. Yummy!

Today is our last full day in Bend and it's supposed to be a rainy one. We'll try to sneak in one last walk along the beautiful Deschutes River and perhaps hang out in the library for a while, which happens to be in charming downtown Bend...a nice place for a stroll.

Tomorrow we cross the Cascades for a visit with my daughter and son in law, Chantal and James, in Myrtle Creek, OR. So looking forward to seeing them!

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Following the Bend Ale Trail

Craft beer, it's all the rage these days and Bend, OR happens to be a hub for craft brewers. There's so many breweries here that they've come up with the Bend Ale Trail. All you have to do is visit a dozen breweries, get a stamp from each, and collect your prize at the Bend Visitor Center. Luckily we had a month in Bend so we didn't have to hit twelve breweries in one day!  ;-)

We started off at the newest brewery in town, Worthy Brewing Co. Opened in February of 2013, Worthy boasts a huge new facility, a small hops and herb garden, and sells delicious brews and food. We enjoyed the Worthy IPA and a wonderful beet salad.

Those are hops plants on the right.

Next stop, our RV buddies Jen and Deas, the Nealys on Wheels, happened to be in Bend for a few days of our stay so we met up at Crux Fermentation Project one evening. We enjoyed the Off Leash Session Ale. Good beer, decent food.

Meet up with the Nealy's on Crux Fermentation Project's dog-friendly patio.

Next we visited one of our favorite chain organizations: McMenamins. McMenamins is not your typical chain...the company buys historical buildings and restores and renews them into unique bars, restaurants, hotels, theaters. Plus they hire local artists to create some amazing art that depicts the buildings history. They also have live music at many locations on a regular basis.

The Bend location is McMenamins Old St Francis School, a former catholic school. We went for music and beer one evening, enjoying the Ruby, a light, slightly raspberry flavored ale. This location has music two or three days a week so we went several times during our month long stay in Bend.

Intimate music venue at Old St Francis School.

For our fourth brewery we stopped at 10 Barrel Brewing Co for lunch. This may very well be our favorite. We shared the 10 beer sampler and had a pizza and salad. We liked every single beer and the food was very good too. Hans especially enjoyed the OG Wheat IPA and I loved the Apricot Crush.

10 Barrel's 10-beer sampler. 

#5! Old Mill Brew Werks. Deas and Jennifer joined us at this stop for their last evening in Bend. We really like sharing the samplers to get a taste of several beers.

#6: Boneyard Beer calls itself the anti establishment brewery. It's housed in a former auto repair shop, brews with other brewers used equipment and only sells tasters and growler refills. It's truly a funky place in a funky part of downtown Bend and I forgot to take a picture...the beer was very good though! In fact, we were able to enjoy their brews at other eating establishments in town during our stay...good beer!

Brewery #7 followed a day full of lava and forests and water falls along highway 242, SW of Sisters. Three Creeks Brewing Co lies at the East end of Sisters and has a cozy mountain cabin vibe going on, making it a fine place to end a day of exploring. We shared a sampler and cheered the Chargers on to their first win of the season.

Our 8th brewery was our respite from a day filled with insurance calls, truck damage estimation, rental car shuffle...and it just so happened that Monday was $3 pint day and $5 for two fish tacos! Silver Moon Brewing really hit the spot and its Hopknob IPA is a winner.

Mural at Silver Moon Brewing.

#9, Goodlife Brewing, ended up being great place for a fulltimers meet up. Tim and Amanda were in town and we planned on knocking a brewery off our list together and it just so happened that Brian and Maria of The Roaming Pint arrived in Bend too. TRP knows their craft brewing - all over the US. It was fun to share good beer and sandwiches with fellow roadies.

Our #10 stop was the largest brewer in Bend: Deschutes Brewery. Well known for their top sellers, Mirror Pond and Black Butte Porter, they have both a pub and the huge brewery in town...we opted to take the brewery tour. It's a thorough tour of the premises with a knowledgeable guide and includes tasting time both before and after the tour. Sounds like the food at the pub would be good too, they use some of the spent grains and hops in their breads and other tasty sounding items.

Giant brewing tanks at Deschutes Brewery.

Adding hops to a batch of Inversion IPA.

#11 on our tasting route was Bend Brewing Co. I failed to take pictures here and, in fact, was a bit underwhelmed by the place. Though the beer was fine and other folks food looked good, the atmosphere didn't make me want to spend much time there. Had it been a nice day so we could have sat on their patio I might have felt differently.

Last stop, Cascade Lakes Brewing Co. We shared a beer sampler there, and fish and chips. All were drinkable and edible but no real stand outs.

Happy to finish the Bend Ale Trail!

Lastly, we stopped at the Bend Visitor Center to collect our goodies...including the extra credit for going to Three Creeks Brewery in Sisters: two sili-half pints and two stickers. The sili-half pints are made out of silicon, perfect for RV travel, though it remains to be seen how they feel when drinking out of them! I thought the stickers were pretty lame as "extra credit" prizes!

All in all this was a fun exercise, it got us out trying new beers (which we enjoy doing anyhow) and visiting places we might not have visited otherwise. Plus it provided a fun way to meet up with other full time if we need an excuse! Though you don't have to purchase anything to participate, it can get expensive drinking and eating at twelve locations.

Our favorite was definitely 10 Barrel Brewing. Good venue in a neat neighborhood, excellent beer and food. Every beer in the 10-beer sampler was very good! We also thoroughly enjoyed Silver Moon's beer and their Monday night bargain; Bone Yard was super funky but their beer was delicious and widely available around town; Crux was also a favorite, with tasty beer and decent food.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

San Diegans Arrive in Bend, Just as Fall Begins in Earnest

Hans parents, Turid and Fritz, wanted a little get away from San Diego and our month long stay in Bend offered a perfect change of pace. Little did we know when planning this adventure that fall would arrive abruptly on the day they arrived in Bend. Overnight, we went from days hovering at 90 degrees to days in the mid 50's.

It turns out our RV park, Crown Villa, has a small park model unit available for rent on the premises. It's a well appointed unit that can sleep up to six people, but really was perfect for two people. (Though they found the bedroom to be a bit tight...much like the bedroom in an RV!) The convenience factor was wonderful though, as they did not need to rent a car and were near our site making it easy to eat meals together and yet each have private time too.

Lisa, Fritz and Turid in front of the park model at Crown Villa.

Our first day we drove to Smith Rock to see the rock climbers I spoke of in a recent post. The low temps and threat of rain did not stop us from sightseeing nor the climbers from the rock faces.

Cameras and binoculars intent on climbers on the rocks opposite us.

Two on this wall!

We also visited Benham and Dillon Falls, falls which are easily accessed by short natural trails, as well as the Deschutes River trail that Hans and I had ridden just a week ago.

Benham Falls

On day two we visited Lava Lands Visitor Center, walked the interpretive trail through the lava field and took in the views from the top of Lava Butte.

Admiring the crater atop Lava Butte.

Fire Lookout atop Lava Butte.

Walking the Lava Butte crater rim trail.

Walking the Molten Lava trail at Lava Lands Visitor Center.

We also drove the Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway. This road travels through continuous forest and, for the most part, you have to drive out to each lake from the highway. The day we drove was cloudy, misty and threatening rain so we were not able to view the nearby snowy peaks and passed on visiting some of the lakes.

We happened to drive by the final stage of a controlled burn where we could see smoke among the trees.

Upper Deschutes River.

Hosmer Lake under threatening skies.

We really enjoyed the variety and beauty of the clouds over the past few days.

Rosie's taken a liking to Fritz' lap!

On our last full day rain was in the forecast so we decided to see the latest Woody Allen movie, Blue Jasmine. Cate Blanchett was phenomenal as a NY socialite fallen on hard times and struggling with an emotional breakdown and possible slide into mental illness, who moves in with her sister in San Francisco.

All bundled up in the Old Mill District.

It's been a fun interlude with Fritz and Turid. Lots of good meals and sights seen together! This afternoon we put them on a plane back to San Diego.

We are into our last week in Bend. Amazing how fast the time flies when staying in an area full of things to do! Bend is definitely a place we can see ourselves visiting over and over again. There are a number of forest service and state park campgrounds in the area surrounding Bend that are worth a look so we could stay closer to additional hiking trails.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

A Day at Newberry National Volcanic Monument

Newberry National Volcanic Monument contains one of the hubs of volcanic activity in the area surrounding Bend, OR: Newberry Caldera. This potentially active shield volcano lies just 20 miles South of Bend, has a diameter of about 20 miles, and is thought to have first erupted about 500,000 years ago. The most recent activity dates to about 1,300 years ago when the Big Obsidian Flow erupted.

There are many interesting and informative volcanic sites within the National Monument including the Lava Lands Visitor Center, Lava River Cave and Lava Cast Forest; our focus on this day trip was the Newberry Caldera and the two lakes within the Caldera: Paulina and East Lake, as well as the Big Obsidian Flow.

Our first stop in the Monument was to view Paulina Falls. This falls has been eroding up canyon for decades and is impressive even at the end of summer. Viewing at the top of the falls (shown below) is right by the parking area and you can take a short hike to the bottom of the falls as well.

Next up we stopped at the visitor center just up the road and with the help of the park ranger decided to hike the Paulina Lake Loop counter clockwise. The ranger told us to keep our eyes open for a hot spring on the shore at the North end of the lake. The hike listed as 7.5 miles with elevation ranging from 6,330 to 6,560, but we only clocked 7 miles for the loop.

The trail followed the lake shore, starting out in beautiful mixed confer forest.

We passed by some old Odd Fellows summer cabins.

We also passed a couple of marshes.

For about a half mile the trail joined a road going through Little Crater Campground.
This lovely, no hook up campground had many large, mostly level water front sites!

You can see some RV's camped right on the lake on the left above.
Paulina Peak rises in the background.

The North shore has ancient lava flows at waters edge.

Lava explosion filled with colorful lichens.

We passed an obsidian flow, the shiny, glassy rock catching the sunlight as we passed.

At the NW corner of the lake the trail gained a couple hundred feet to skirt a cinder flow.
Across the lake we had a great view of Paulina Peak and the Big Obsidian Flow on its left.

At the high point of the trail we looked back and saw the hot springs we had forgotten about! We actually saw a person dumping cold water from the lake into the blocked off hot springs area. We didn't feel like going back down the trail, so we'll have to check out the hot spring some other time!

Looking back at the red cinder flow we went over.
The hot spring was at waters edge immediately east of the cinder flow.

Having finished the loop we decided to drive to the top of Paulina Peak. It's a washboardy, four mile, gravel road that leads to spectacular 360 degree views. We hiked to the top years ago and it's a beautiful forested trail that is quite steep.

View of Paulina Lake that we hiked around.
Our viewpoint is on the crater rim, and you can easily see the far edge of the crater beyond Paulina Lake.
You can even see the Three Sisters mountains at the top left of the photo.

Paulina Lake to the left, East Lake at top, Big Obsidian Flow front right,
crater rim beyond East Lake.

A nice view of the sweeping Big Obsidian Flow with the crater rim on the right.

Next we drove a couple miles further into the park to hike the half mile interpretive trail through the Big Obsidian Flow. We've done this trail before but it's so fascinating we had to do it again! This flow is the most recent in the area at about 1,300 hundred years old. It's made up of 90% pumice and 10% obsidian.

The flow stops abruptly against forest and a small lake.

The loop trail takes you right through the massive pumice and obsidian flow.

Pumice is full of air pockets making it very light!

The obsidian is actually glass and catches the light beautifully!

Here you can easily see the dark patches of obsidian mixed with the lighter pumice.

Newberry Caldera has many more trails and someday we hope to camp right on the lake at Little Crater Campground so we can see more of this fascinating National Monument.