My second trip to Oregon has been just as filled with activities as the first time I was here. I am now living in the high desert located in central Oregon. It is about 5 hours northwest of Baker City and about 3 hours southeast of Portland. This part of Oregon looks nothing like Baker City does. There are the mountains, but this reminds me more of Arizona. Bend, which is the biggest city that I am close to (I live in Redmond) reminds me very much of Flagstaff, AZ. I like it here and I don’t think I could ever get sick of looking at the beautiful scenery. Some days, it almost takes my breath away to look at how the sun rises over the snow-capped Cascades Mountains. The terrain has been formed by lots of volcanic and glacial activity. It is truly the work of fire and ice working together.
I was very excited when I first got this assignment because I have a very good friend who lives in Baker City and I knew I would be able to see her. The drive may be 5 hours over there, but it also is undeniably gorgeous. Passing through mountain passes and the John Day Fossil Beds area is beyond words. I was able to visit the fossil beds and a place called Cathedral Rock. Formed by the violent natural history of the area. As part of that, there is a place also called the Painted Hills. They truly are. The colors just run together and form these patterns that have no name. I only went once, but I read that the colors change considerably during the course of the day. I chose a sunny, hot day to explore-make sure you have PLENTY of water to avoid heat stroke. It really is in the middle of nowhere and not close to any place that you can purchase drinks or food. What I can promise is that you will have no regrets in stopping there.
One of the most unforgettable things is the first time I saw Crater Lake. I equate it to my first breath-taking look at the Grand Canyon. The expansive terrain of the clear, blue water and the jagged cliffs of the caldera are mesmerizing. It’s far too overwhelming to drink it all in without spending some time really looking at things and noticing the details. I went to the visitor’s center to watch a short film and then decided to take a trolley tour of the 33-mile rim. The road can get a little hairy and if you want to be able to see everything, I would highly recommend it. I did also go into the lodge that is lakeside and was told that reservations have to be made at least a year in advance. There is a boat tour for the lake, but it does require hiking a steep trail, which is not recommended by the park rangers if you have bad knees. There are plenty of hiking and biking trails as well including part of the Pacific Crest Trail. I would recommend not to miss this beautiful natural wonder.
This area is rich with outdoor activities and even if that is not something you’re into, the outdoors still begs to be discovered. Hiking, biking, horseback riding, rock climbing, kayaking, paddle boarding and outdoor festivals are everywhere. There are many museums including the High Desert Museum, which I thoroughly enjoyed going to. I visited Lava Lands Visitors Center, drove to the top of Paulina Peak and hiked the Great Obsidian Trail. The trail winds all through a lava bed and it’s like a landscape out of Star Trek. The obsidian is shiny and beautiful-a sight you’ll never forget. There are many hot springs as well to discover.
Oregon has consistently been at the top of list for breweries and this part of the state does its’ fair share to help Oregon stay as a brew friendly place. I took part in the Bend Brew Fest and also on the Bend Brew Bus. There are 10 breweries on the Bend Ale Trail-not unlike the Kentucky Bourbon Trail that I have also visited part of. The cool thing about the bus is that it picks you up at home or hotel to discourage drinking and driving. They take you to four breweries, where you try whatever sounds good to you. So far, my favorite brewery is Boneyard-their Diablo Rojo (made with Habanero) brew was just too good to resist and since they don’t bottle or can their beer, I left with a growler of it. The coolest thing I thought was that the brewery was built from cast off part of other breweries (13 to be exact) and they opened their doors debt-free. That’s pretty impressive in my book.
The list of things I have seen and done here probably could keep going on and who knows what I don’t know about to go see. Part of the to-do list is Smith Rock, where there is hiking, but it mostly caters to rock climbers. I can assure you that boredom will never be a problem here.