Monday’s Meander: Bend, Central Oregon Gem

We left quaint Sisters and moved further into high desert country, east of the beautiful Cascade Range. We arrived at Bend in late afternoon, happy with our views from the hotel on the Deschutes River, alongside which Bend, population of about 100,000, sprang up. It was one of the few crossing points along the river and was established as a logging town in early 1900s. Later it became a gateway for many year- around outdoor sports. The weather, typical of this elevation of 3623 ft. and semi-arid climate, tends towards cool nights and sunshine-filled days. Winter brings some snow; summer averages 65 degrees F. It was perfect when we were there, in the upper 50s to upper 60s.

Part of a view from our room.

It is easy to see why the population has increased the past 20 years and why a main business is tourism. Also, folks with some money can retire well here–we’d thought of it, but it got pricier. We got to know this area better 15 years ago when my son and his then-wife moved their family to La Pine, a smaller more rural town 30 minutes away. I liked the climate and different nature offerings. The clarity and freshness of air is, for one, pretty phenomenal; junipers, lodgepole pine, and sagebrush lend a pungent fragrance. And the mountains offer a view that never tire me. Mt. Bachelor is a favorite for skiing and more but there are several snow-capped peaks. Black Butte (noted last week, not well seen here) is another interesting peak. (I’d like to spend time at Black Butte Ranch.)

Below, views as evening fell around the Hilton Garden Inn in the Old Mill District. The stacks you see rising into the lovely sky are attached to a building that was originally the power station for the mill at this site. (It is now an REI outdoor store.) They nudged my eyes upward even in day, but then back to open sky and mountains.

The next day we walked along the winding and excellent waterfront path, noting birds and scenery. There is a somewhat upscale shopping district here, so I also browsed and purchased a few things. Marc found a local coffee shop that sold the Sisters Coffee brand and said it was great.

It was a good day out and about the area as well as meeting our 20 y.o. granddaughter, enjoying a a fish and chips lunch at her work place, basking in hot sunshine at a table outside. (It always feels hotter when the sun is out in high desert…) Avery has lived there with her mother and our 15 y.o. grandson for many years, and it’s a pleasure to visit with them whenever we can, in Bend or here.

I should note that the Hilton Garden Inn served a very good breakfast. Later we’d hoped to eat outdoors at an Italian restaurant by the water–but when night arrived it was quite cold for us. High desert temperatures change a great deal at night and again in the day. We got a few microwaveable items and “roughed it” in our cozy room, a fire going in the fireplace. But that’s skipping ahead!

A few of the day’s views below.

Above, in a shot from the hotel balcony: I watched marathon runners crossing a bridge and rushing down the paths. Mt. Bachelor is in the distance. You might note the two colors of the many bridge flags are in support of war-ravaged Ukraine. The wind at this spot is, incidentally, very strong at times.

We soon were off to explore the High Desert Museum for the afternoon. It has excellent informative indoor exhibits but we looked forward to seeing new developments outdoors. We last visited perhaps 10 years ago, during which time we saw rescued (from those who had caught and caged them) wolves up close. I also spotted a cougar paw print on a hike and have to admit I was not at ease tha rest of that trail…they are so sly.

It was an educational, pleasant meander there. A quick peek into a scene from museum grounds, below–I’ll post many more shots next Monday, so see you then!

Mondays’ Meander: En Route to High Desert Country

We started south from Portland but in a short while turned off I-5 toward the Santiam Pass in the Cascade Range. We were embarking on a three day weekend trip in Central Oregon. I was looking forward to the drive toward the 4,817 ft. high pass situated betwween volcanic peaks of Three-Fingered Jack and Mount Washington.

The weather was cloudy and roads were fine, with a spatter of rain now and then, and plenty of white snowy banks and forest floors at highest elevations. But soon we had to pass through countless charred remains of coniferous trees and through Detroit, a tourist town of 231 which sits alongside Detroit lake and Detroit Lake State Park. The infamous Santiam Fire in August 2020 began as three separate fires due to lightning strikes, merging into one horrific fire spurred on by 50 mph winds. It finally burned 402, 274 acres. We recall it well; it spread to four counties including a part of ours. Under fire watch for weeks, we remained indoors for ten days due to gathering thick smoke and gusts of high winds; bags were readied for an evacuation order. We didn’t get one, but thousands of others did. It was an unprecendented monster fire as it began to creep closer to Portland. I already had a healthy fear of fire; I tend to be very careful even when using candles. The smoke lingered for a very long while; there were many fires trhoughout Oregon that summer and fall.

And this was our first time in this particularly damaged Cascades Range area since then. And as we drove closer to the areas impacted, I had a window partically down–I could still smell the entrenched odor of old burned wood.

As we climbed, we began to see the black tree trunks and stumps. It was unnerving to drive from lushly green Willamette Valley into fire-eaten landscape.

Above, a view taken by Detroit lake which does show some greening of the forests; the darker and somewhat sparse areas of the mountains are not the worst damage, it seemd, but it was still apparent. Marc captured subdued feelings as I scanned blackened parts of trees beyond the camera, as I tried to imagine what it was like for residents to scramble for their lives amid an inferno…Any charred remains looked worse with each mile travelled. Five people died in the wide ranging fire. And all homes in Detroit were destroyed.

We continued into and past Detroit, gazed quietly at remnants of fire’s path–as well as hopeful rebuilding of homes and mercifully greener spots. Forest habitats heal and even can flourish, finally.

(Apologies for some poorer shots–I was shooting from a moving car mostly during this part.)

Below, a part of Detroit Lake with a view of Black Butte, left.

We began to reach the summit and then to descend.

Before long, we were entering the rain shadow side of the mountains–and into Sisters, OR.

Well-known for its touristy Western-themed atmosphere and shops, there are many reasons to visit, including hiking, fishing, horseback riding (lots of ranches in this area), mountain biking, skiing–as well as enjoying the Sisters Rodeo, a Quilt Show and the Sisters Folk Fesitival. Here are a few shots taken as we drove, then walked a little downtown. But it was very windy and cold and we wanted to get to Bend by late afternoon.

Then we were off and into sprawling high desert, a whole other experience and one of my favorite kinds– despite being a rainforest sort of gal…For one thing, the different types and fragrances of plants and the rocky, dry earth are fascinating, really lovely. And sunlight shines hotter; my skin’s rosiness after three days attests to it. And everywhere around the flatter landscape–easily seen mountains!

A sculptural group of wild horses.

It was just the start of a fun and relaxing trip. See you soon for upcoming posts–I have many more pictures from this Central Oregon trip! Next up: the bustling small city of attractive Bend and more of the surrounding environs.