Bend Oregon is a reasonably small (76,000 people) city at the edge of the Oregon Cascade range. This young, active community, located on a plain between the mountains and the dessert, is the heart of one of Oregon’s premier outdoor sports areas with hiking, mountain climbing, mountain biking, whitewater rafting and kayaking, skiing, snowboarding, golf and many other outdoor activities.
It is also a young, vibrant, tourist city with boutiques, galleries, music venues and public art pieces that line its Roundabout Art Route. It has dozens of restaurants to feed people, and breweries, wineries, distilleries and hard cider mills to quench the thirst of residents and visitors after a tough day of outdoor exercise. And this does not even begin to consider the city’s now formalized and legal cannabis culture with its more than two dozen cannabis dispensaries and farms. It is, in other words, something like a less gentrified version of Boulder, Colorado.
Bend Oregon To Do
Downtown, a pretty, roughly 16 square-block area that contains many of the town’s boutiques, galleries and restaurants.
Old Mill District, a 1919 textile mill highlighted by three tall smokestacks, has been converted into a shopping, dining and entertainment complex that also has a few hiking trails.
Drake Park, a lovely Creekside park that, on a hot summer Saturday, was crowded with people, both on the bank and tubing, rafting and paddle boarding downstream
Tumalo Falls is a lovely, 97 foot-tall waterfall located in the Deschutes National Forest. It is accessible both from the base and from the top, via a short climb. We enjoyed both views plus an upriver walk through the hemlock forest.
Pilot Butte State Park, a one-mile, 480-foot elevation gain walk or drive (the trail is alongside the road) to the top of one of the many craters of the Newberry Volcanic Range. The summit provides a 360-degree view from the summit which has interpretive panels that describes the 26 million-year geological history of the regions, the two million-year history of the Newbury range and the 188,000-year history of the Pilot Butte cinder cone. The top provides views that range from the Cascades, including Mt, Jefferson, Mt. St Helens and Mt. Hood to the west, to the city and to the desert to the east.
Newberry National Volcanic Monument, which enclosed parts of the 120 sq. mile Newbury Shield lava flow that contains several hundred cones (including the Pilot Butte Crater) that erupted over the last two million years and that remain active, erupting roughly evenly 300 to 3,000 years. The largest of these eruptions, which occurred 75,000 years ago, was 100 times more powerful than the Mt. St. Helen’s eruption and formed a 17 sq-mile crater, took 1,000 feet off the mountain, created two lakes and a huge, dramatic obsidian flow, not to speak of miles of chunky, sharp, A’a-type, basalt lava fields, lava casts of trees and the longest exposed lava cave in North America.
The two visitor centers have large displays explaining the various types of volcanic structures, eruptions (explosive pyroclastic, ashfall, lava flow, mud flow, etc.), rocks (pumice, rhyolite, basalt, ash, obsidian, etc.) and the particular geologic history of the Newbury flow area. It was a semi-tropical shallow sea that began uplifting 40-90 million years ago when the Juan de Fuca tectonic plate began to subduct beneath the North American plate, which created the western Cascade range. This sedimentary foundation was initially covered with a thick pahoehoe-style (think and viscous) lava flow about 400,000 years ago from the massive eruption of nearby Mount Mazama (which now houses Crater Lake) and then in a blanket of a’a-style lava from multiple eruptions from a series of cones along the Newbury rift zone (a linear series of cracks in the earth’s crust that expose a series of volcanic vents). The largest of these occurred 300,000 and 80,000 years ago, with the most recent about 22,000 years ago.
Among the most interesting of the stops we made in the large, fascinating, still seismically- and thermally-active (although not currently erupting) site include:
- Lava Butte, a reddish (iron-oxide) cinder cone topped by a fire watch station and a quarter-mile loop around the top of the cone. Fifteen miles north of the Newbury crater, it is one of a line of cones that line the rift zone, that reach up three-to-five miles through the crust to the lava chamber.
- Molten Land Trail, a one-mile loop through a rugged, a’a, basalt lava flow, though which we accompanied a ranger that explained the two lava layers (Mazama and Newberry), the nature of a’a lava, the various plants and Ponderosa pine that manage to grow in, and the various copying mechanisms through which they survive this hot, dry, mineral-poor environment and the types of animals that live there, from picas and ground squirrels to predators including weasels, hawks and eagles. We learned how some of the half-molten rocks (i.e., tumblers) began rolling downhill, collecting other lava along the way to create large boulders and how lava tubes form in trenches over which the top of some slow-moving flows gradually hardens into a roof, many of which ultimately collapse after the tubes empty of lava, but some of which (including Lava River Cave) still have roofs that are roughly 50 feet thick.
- Lava River Cave is one of the park’s primary attractions. This lava cave (which is 41 degrees year-round) ranges from a narrow low-ceiling passageway to a roughly 30-foot wide, 15-foot high cave with some caverns as high tall as 58 feet. The roughly mile-long channels tumbles about 300 feet down to a sand plug that marks the end of the segment of the longer cave that is open to the public. The cave, which is home to thousands of bats, ranges from very smooth walls, ceiling and floors to sections that ate very rough. Among its most interesting features area “sand garden” in which percolating water and sand has carved a “garden” of pinnacles and spires. Even more interesting, if you happen to point your light up at just the right spots on the dark ceiling, is a second empty lava tube that formed and ran above the original one.
- Lava Cast Forest, a one mile-loop that winds through a pahoehoe lava field in which burning lava engulfed a forest. The lava surrounded and gradually burned the trees, solidifying around the base (due to a combination of the air and the steam from the burning trees). By the time the tree burned, the lava had solidified into casts or molds of the original tree trunks and roots. While most are roughly two-to-four-feet deep, they were originally covered to about six feet in depth.
- Big Obsidian Flow, a one-mile loop that climbs and runs atop and along the top of a 500 mountain of obsidian that was formed in the Newberry Crater’s caldera a mere 1,300 years ago. Obsidian is a rare, beautiful, extremely hard form of glass that forms when high-temperature, silica-rich (typically about 60 percent) lava hardens before the molecules have had time to form into crystals. The stone, which looks almost like a black jewel (the color coming from iron oxide embedded in the lava), was used by Native Americans as a currency, for jewelry and to craft the sharpest knives and spear- and arrow-heads. It is so hard and durable and forms such ultra-sharp (to the width of a single molecule) edges that its blades are finer than those of stainless steel surgical knives. They were, in fact, used as surgical knives (including for open-heart and brain surgery) through the 1970s.
- Newberry Caldera, a huge, mostly wooded area that contains a number of cider cone craters and two 185-to-250-foot deep lakes, Paulina and East, that know cover about half the crater;
- Paulina Falls, an eighty-foot twin waterfall at the base of Paulina Lake, that drains into the Deschutes River. Although the flow is currently only about 20 cubic meters per second, it once (during a great flood more than 2,000 years ago) surged to about 10,000 cubic meters per second.
- Mount Bachelor, a 9,000-foot volcanic mountain, which we did not have a chance to visit. It has hiking and mountain biking trails in the summer and downhill and cross-country skiing in the winter. The region also has a number of lakes for boating, fishing and swimming.
Bend Oregon Cannabis Tour
Oregon has legalized cannabis…as has many states. But it also has some ingenious cannabis aficionados who have put together a fun and very educational tour–Tris (or Twis) and Stacy from Blazing Trails. The tour began with a very informative, introductory PowerPoint presentation that began with the history of cannabis sales (from the pre-1948 sale of medicines, through criminalization and the different stages of decriminalization (1973), recriminalization (1996) and medical/therapeutic (1997) and adult recreational (2014) legalization of the weed; then through the
- Varying concentrations of THC (with its psychoactive properties) and CBD (anti-inflammatory, anti-anxiety, digestive-enhancing and sleep-inducing, seizure-suppressing CBD effects)
- Roles of different cannabinoids (effects) and terpines (aromas and tastes) and the body’s own production of cannabinoids;
- The cannabinoid receptors in different parts of the body and how different different cannabinoids affect people;
- The difference between indica (relaxing) and sativa (energizing) and hybid cannabis and how the differences are fading;
- How it interacts with other drugs (especially alcohol and opiods);
- Different means of using (smoking, vaping, edibles, drinkables, tinctures, patches, suppositories, bath bombs and so forth);
- Intense testing and screening provided by the state and the profiles it produces;
- Oregon taxing structure (a total of about 40 percent) and revenues (about $150 in 2017) and how the proceeds are divided among counties (based on sales) and how it is used (as divided among education, drug and mental health treatment, law enforcement, etc.).
OK, who knew all of this stuff. It was so educational. And no question was left unanswered.
Then the tour, which began at Crater Lake Spirits. This place sells CBD-intensive cannabis-infused spirits (vodka, gin, whiskeys, etc) and selected beverages (including ginger beer), foods (including olives), sauces (including chili) and balms (including honey). After tasting a few of the spirits, we then went to the Columbia Crest cannabis farm that grows CBD-intensive medicinal/therapeutic cannabis; spending winter in inside rooms with fluorescent lighting, spring in greenhouses and summers in the field, where it roughly doubles in size every month until it reaches a mature height of about eight feet. They explained the difference between male and female plants (the females produce the valuable flowers and the males the seeds) and how they eliminate the males plants; how they are planted; how the reduction in sunlight prompts flowering, the yield (about a quarter pound of bud per plant and how the current oversupply of cannabis is affecting prices.
At the next stop, Hempies Boutique, we saw and learned about all types of cannabis accessories, including pipes, waterpipes vaporizers, nectar collectors, bud (glass) and oil (silicone) storage containers and even the padded bags in which people carry glass paraphernalia.
After passing and learning about some peripheral cannabis businesses, such as grow shops (for grow-your-own users) and delivery services (including to assisted care, nursing and hospice facilities), we arrived at our final stop, Dr. Jolly’s Cannabis Dispensary. This visit provided an overview of all types of different edibles, tinctures, beverages, oils and buds. They explained and we smelled the differences between sativa, indica, hybrid, concentrate and CBD (with no THC) buds, the appetite-suppressant effects of THC-V, and we discussed the relative advantages and disadvantages of smoking and vaping buds and oils and the virtues of cannabis oil pens.
Overall, this was a fascinating and very educational overview of the history, the experience of and the culture that has developed around cannabis in one of the first states to fully legalize medical (which has since been embraced by most states) and recreational cannabis. Whether you imbibe or not, this is a great way to educate yourself on the cannabis industry.
Bend Oregon Restaurants
Wild Rose Northern Thai Eats, a Northern Thai restaurant to which a friend took us on our first night in the city: This is the best Thai food that we have been to outside of Thailand…and that is saying alot from foodies like us. We ended up splitting four delicious dishes and a bottle of 2016 Sokol-Blosser Pinot Gris. The dishes were Turmeric Curry Clams, Mussels Hot Pot with ginger curry , fish sauce-marinated chicken wings and the unanimous star of the evening, Khao Soi Yellow Curry with chicken and egg noodles. Although we have always enjoyed good Northern Thai food, this was a special treat.
So much so that, after reviewing many of the alternatives, we even decided to return.something that we rarely do. This time we had a very good Avocado and Prawn dish (with shrimp sauce, snow peas and carrots) plus a another delicious re-do of our previous visit’s favorite—Khao Soi Yellow curry. This time with a 2016 Mantlerhof gruner veltliner. Well worth the return visit, even if that meant forgoing other, as yet unexplored restaurants.
Ariana, Bend’s most popular fine dining and celebration restaurant, has an interesting menu and a nice wine list. We had three dishes accompanied by one of our favorite Oregon pinots, a 2015 Ken Wright Shea Vineyard pinot noir. After a white gazpacho (with olive oil and basil) amuse bouche, we had two main courses: a delicious braised rabbit leg with cannellini beans and arugula; and equally delicious, perfectly cooked seared jumbo scallops with a crab risotto which could have had more taste. We finished the dinner with a very nice butterscotch budino with caramel sauce and whipped cream.
Jackalope Grill, where we began with escargot with garlic and shallot butter, followed by a marrow bone with sourdough toast; and pan-roasted elk medallions with blackberry-red wine sauce and truffle mashed potatoes. Both were good, although not with the complexity or subtlety of the dishes at Wild Rose or Ariana. Wine consisted of a 2015 Willamette Valley pinot from Lavinea Winery’s Lazy River Vineyard.
Our lunch options were severely limited by being in Bend over the weekend, when many weekday lunch spots, such as Zydeco (southern) and Mezze (Middle Eastern) restaurants were open only for dinner. The best options we could find were brewpubs, from which we chose two (one for each day).
- Deschutes Brewery Public House. We had a tasty elk burger with housemate porter cheddar, bacon and tomato/cherry relish; and nachos with ground beef, housemate cheese sauce plus the other typical ingredients. While Joyce had an ice tea, Tom sampled six beers (Mirror Pond, Fresh Haze IPA, Fresh Squeezed IPA, Twilight IPA and his favorite, the Bachelor Bitter and Earl Grey and Twilight IPAs plus the house hard cider).
- Immersion Brewing is one of the city’s many breweries and brewpubs. Here we had an uninspired lunch of a black n’ blue cheeseburger with bacon and Columbia River Cajun-style steelhead BLT on a brioche role. The best part of the food was the tater tots that came with the meals. Although the lunch was less than memorable, it did provide Tom with a chance to sample a number of their beers. Of the Little Fawn Saison, Box Factory Red and three IPAs (Twisted Sister, Epic Bender and River Rider), he particularly enjoyed the Belgian-style Little Fawn and the malty, full-bodied River Rider IPA.
Bend Oregon Hotel
Wall Street Suites. This is a remodeled motel a short walk from downtown. When you see it from the outside, you get very nervous. The room was remodeled and the bathroom had a large shower and a small refrigerator and coffee maker. You have an assigned parking spot in front of your unit. The staff went out of its way to be helpful. When we left, they asked what they could have done to make things better and they really meant it. It was comfortable and maybe a little overpriced for what it was. Someone said it was a boutique hotel. I am not sure I could call it that, maybe a boutique motel.