Saturday, July 14, 2012

Bikes, Beer and Bend

After spending a week in Bend recently I was reminded why I love that Central Oregon town so much. Majestic mountain views, 300 days of sunshine a year and an outdoor enthusiast's playground.  Last year during my 4th of July vacation in Bend I even skied at Mt. Bachelor!

Trails; yeah, Bend has them in spades.  Paved bike paths and smooth, fast single-track trails complement ample bike lanes spreading West from the river into the Deschutes National Forest.  Once in the National Forest you could bike or run for hundreds of miles into the high volcanic peaks of the Cascade Mountains.  The crown jewel of this trail network is Phil's Trail System just 2 miles from downtown.  Since an injury has prevented me from running I mountain biked every day on Phil's trails and even got lured into chasing some Strava KOM's to test my off-road fitness and skills.

There are many, many more places with great mountain biking including Lookout Mountain.  I was lured to lookout by friend and race director Dave Thomason for a group ride at this trail system 90 minutes Northeast of Bend in the Ochoco National Forest.  Phils trails get pretty busy on weekends so it was nice to get away to trail and see almost no other people for 2 hours.  4 miles of climbing gained us 2000' of vertical and amazing 360 degree views from the summit of 7000' Lookout Mountain.

Almost as fun as the mountain biking was the drive to the trailhead in a 25 year old Chevy conversion van previously owned by some timber company executives for their trips to Las Vegas.  Definitely not your modern, suburban grocery getter.

Beer.  Bend is most definitely beer country.  This town of 80,000 people is home to 10 breweries including one that opened up the week before we arrived.  The Crux Fermentation Project has it's new brew pub located in an industrial park and backing up on the Hwy 97 bypass.  What visitors don't see until they walk up to the brewery and turn around is the grand sweeping view of the Cascade Mountains.  Currently Crux has mostly guest taps until they get their own beers brewed.

Coffee makes the morning come around; makes the world go around.  America may run on Dunkin but for those runners with more discerning coffee tastes in Bend Backporch Coffee Roasters is the place to fuel up.  Backporch roasts its own beans in the lighter "Stumptown" style and has skilled baristas who will throw away a substandard shot before serving it to a customer.

Smith Rock State Park.  I ran here once this past winter when there was so much snow, rain and wind in Bend that pretty much every outdoor activity sucked.  Mt. Bachelor closed due to too much snow.  The trails in town were snow covered and the roads were a mess of slush and water.....and it was pouring down rain.  Meanwhile 25 miles North at Smith Rock State Park the sun was out and the trails were dry.  I ran for 2 hours, never ran the same trail twice and never saw another person.  On this trip Kelly and I went to Smith Rock to hike and take pictures of the amazing rock formations that make this a rock climbers paradise.  Behold.

As seems always to be the case our 5 days in Bend ended all too quickly.  I didn't end up having time to kayak on the Deschutes River.  Our side trip down to the resort of Sunriver revealed a long, flat section of the river ideal for canoeing so that's also on the "to-do" list for next time.  Sunriver also has miles of flat paved trails ideal for roller-skiing for the 4 short months each year that snow skiing isn't practical.  Also now on the to-do list. I ride my road bike every day in California but didn't on this trip to Bend - again, on the to-do list. I'm not generally a museum person but I still need to get to the High Desert Museum just South of town.

So much to do; so little time.  It's no wonder I almost never watch TV in Bend.  See you in September.