Every time I venture over the Santiam Pass toward the beautiful haven that is Bend, I start thinking of ways I could successfully make it my new home.
The metropolis of Central Oregon is bursting at the seams with fun outdoor activities, delicious breweries, dry weather, great skiing and my most treasured aspect — hiking trails galore.
Once over the pass and into the city of about 78,280 Bendites, I begin to rationalize quitting my job, working at Mount Bachelor all winter and living in a tiny apartment. While it may not be the smartest move for my career, nor for my finances, the trade-off could be worth the jump.
And then I stop day dreaming and soak up the warm mountain sun, breathe in the smell of pine trees and forget worrying about the future.
Cascade National Scenic Byway, just outside of Bend, stretches from Mount Bachelor all the way to Highway 58 near Oakridge, offers endless lakes, trails, camping spots and adventure.
Recently, friends and I took a trip to the area with all things necessary for camping as well as a couple of inflatable kayaks.
Not quite knowing where we wanted to end up, we chose Lava Lake campground at random as our destination for the night. Arriving long after dark, we paid for the campsite and set up our tent with the help of a headlamp, and 20 minutes later, we were enjoying the crackle of a fire in an otherwise silent Deschutes National Forest.
Lava Lake is just one of the many places one can stop to camp, swim, or hike on the byway. Some of the surrounding attractions include Cultus Lake, Crane Prairie Reservoir, Elk Lake and Mount Bachelor.
After a light breakfast and a hike along the shores of Lava Lake, we packed up camp and headed toward Bend, pulling the car over more times than I can remember to take photos and admire the many natural attractions that make up the area.
The first thing that caught my eye less than 20 minutes into the drive was the turquoise-green waters of Devils Lake, a 23-acre shallow lake 10 miles from Mount Bachelor. People were canoeing in the water as well as fishing. The small lake offers 11 walk-in camping sites and some of the most beautiful clear (and cold) waters in the area.
Mount Bachelor was up next. Usually covered in snow and skiers, Mount Bachelor defines the word powerful in the winter, but in the summer, it seems much more inviting for those who aren’t as excited about rigorous activity in below-freezing temperatures.
We grabbed some coffee from the coffee shop within the lodge and sat at a table outside, admiring the mountain bikers and people traveling up the ski lift to hike around toward the summit. For $17, you can ride the ski lift to the Pine Martin Lodge halfway up the mountain and get some food, a beer or just take some photos.
Mount Bachelor is well known not only for its snow activities, but for its 13-mile downhill mountain bike park, which is open from 10 a.m to 4 p.m. Fridays through Sundays through October. Tickets for the park vary depending on your age and how high up the mountain you want to go.
Don’t want to pay $17? Neither did I. Instead, I followed my ears toward the echoing sounds of barking. Just to the right of the main ski lodge was a teepee where small blonde puppies were chasing one another. Naturally, I headed in their direction and found an abundance of dogs all strung together.
Yes, they were sled dogs. Throughout the year, Mount Bachelor offers sled dog rides several times a day. During the winter, a ride with the sled dogs is $75, but in the summer, when the dogs still have just as much energy to expend and not as many sledders, the cost of a ride is just $10.
While I didn’t take a ride on the sled, I did get to hold the sleepy Alaskan Husky puppies.