“You should do it,” they said.
“Think about how cool it’d be,” they told me.
“You get to do it during the work day, ya know,” they reminded me.
So I said yes.
I agreed to embark upon what, for me, would be the ultimate one-day Central Oregon adventure. An adventure to showcase all that is glorious each spring in Central Oregon.
The Central Oregon Adventure 6-Pack (in 1 day). (OK, so that’s the best we could come up with..but hey, it’s got a beer theme, right?)
- Sunrise hike at Smith Rock
- Cinder Cone run at Mt. Bachelor
- 9 Holes at Widgi Creek
- Mountain bike ride at Phil’s Trail
- Kayak on the Deschutes River
- Complete part of Bend Ale Trail.
Sunrise at Smith Rock
A 5 a.m. alarm comes pretty early when you’re the father of an 8-week old who demands to sleep on your chest from 4 a.m. on. It’s also tempting to hit the snooze button a thousand times knowing you’re waking up to a hike called “Misery Ridge.”
But I rolled my little girl on to the bed and hit the shower on what I knew was going to be one of the best days of my life.
We arrived at Smith Rock State Park in Terrebonne just before 6 a.m. fueled with coffee, Cheerios and adrenaline. The day would be a marathon, and any thoughts we had of turning the opening hike into a sprint were quickly erased. Misery Ridge sounds a little more daunting than it is, but it’s still a leg burner no matter what time of day you hit the trail.
We opted for the four-mile loop, which includes about 1,400 feet of elevation gain. But the reward at the top is most certainly worth any bit of pain you experienced on the way up. Smith Rock, one of the 7 Wonders of Oregon, is a breathtakingly unique part of our state with sheer rock cliffs rising abruptly from the banks of the Crooked River below.
As we were heading back down the trail, the parking lot was beginning to bustle with climbers eager to get an early start.
The Cone Run
More coffee and a sense of “maybe the worst is behind us” pushed us back to Bend and up the Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway to Mt. Bachelor. We arrived just as the chairs started running, but our goal was to bypass the motorized lift to the top and hike the “cone” and for me to take a run that’s a rite of passage for Bendites.
The cinder cone is adjacent to the ski area and a favorite of skiers wanting to “earn their turns” and get fresh tracks on powder days. The cone is open all day every day and it’s free to ride the 715 feet of vertical drop. Assuming of course, you’re willing to hike the 715 of vertical ascent.
It didn’t sound all that bad considering we’d just hiked up twice that at Smith Rock. But it was a little different taking a hike in fresh snow, wearing too-small snowboard boots and carrying your board on a backpack.
After several “hey, let’s stop and take in the view/desperately gasping for my breath” breaks we made it to the top. Once again, the reward was worth the effort. (I’m sensing a theme here.) I sat down on the top of the cone to take it all in. I had been to the mountain dozens of times over the years and always looked up to the cone as something beyond my level of expertise.
“Mission accomplished” I thought as I strapped in and carved my way down the mountain toward some more fun thinking “why in the world hadn’t I done this before?”
Welcome to “The Widg”
After we loaded up the car in the Bachelor parking lot and grabbed a world famous burrito from the ski area’s Nordic center we headed back into town to Widgi Creek Golf Club, which we passed on the road up to the mountain earlier.
This, I wasn’t worried about. I served as the assistant golf professional here and looked forward to the nice little walk that the front 9 offers. By now, the sun was up and it was starting to feel a little more like spring and there were just a few people on the golf course. That was probably a good thing with the pace we were walking (not fast) and the number of strokes my buddy was taking each hole (many.)
But even as he was having me write down his double bogey on the scorecard, he couldn’t get over how good the course looked so early in the season. And, even more surprisingly, we played in right at 2 hours. I’ve played nearly every course in Central Oregon (we have 30) and people always ask me “what’s your favorite golf course?” That’s impossible to answer, but if I could only play one course every single day, I’d probably tee it up at “The Widg.”
Phil? Phil? Phil!?!
By now our legs were good and warmed up. And tired. And maybe not ready to pedal our bikes for a little more than 7 miles at Phil’s Trail.
But, we thought, at least there’d be some downhill sections so we’d get to rest albeit briefly for a few minutes at a time. We rolled through the parking area up the slight climb of Ben’s Trail to MTB before veering up Kent’s, over to KGB (here’s the ride) back down to KGB, and down Phil’s Trail back to the trail along the road to Skyliners and back to our car. Normally this ride takes me about 40 minutes – when it’s the only thing I’ve done all day. Today…well, let’s just say I took in the scenery a little more than usual and we got back to the care in about an hour.
A River Runs Through It
As comfortable as I am on a golf course I am twice as uncomfortable on water. But that was part of the challenge – get out on a kayak on the Deschutes. I wasn’t going far and I knew I could probably touch the river bottom if I happened to fall out.
Still, my heart was beating a little more quickly with this one. Luckily I had set up a little informal lesson with Laurel from Tumalo Creek Kayak and Canoe. She put me at ease and stayed with us as we paddled upstream to the Healy Bridge, which was very hard for me by the way, and back to the shop, which sits right on the bank of the river.
I’m not saying I’m planning to go out and buy a kayak now, but I can say I wouldn’t be opposed to renting one for a relaxing float on one of the high lakes come summer. And for me, that’s a huge step.
Down the Hatch, Again and Again and (Hiccup!)
My first steps out of the kayak must have looked like the first steps of a newborn horse. A little wobbly to say the least. But, I took some confident steps toward the car knowing the “exercise” portion of the day was complete. It was, as they say, all over but the drinking.
Next up was a hike of a different sort – a hike along the Bend Ale Trail. Stretching from Bend to Sisters with the help of the John Flannery and the Bend Tour Company. (No way we were going to ruin this epic day by drinking and driving.)
And we wouldn’t be doing all that much drinking. Yes, we planned to hit many of the pubs on the trail, but no, we didn’t plan on having a full beer at each one. A taster (and appetizer) at each would suffice for crossing this final adventure off our 6-pack list.
We did, though, start off toasting our day with a well-deserved full pint of Bachelor Bitter and a burger at Deschutes Brewery. We hit up Bend Brewing Company next, McMenamins, Silver Moon, 10 Barrel, Cascade Lakes Brewing, Worthy….etc.
We ended the day with a beer and a high five at the Crux Fermentation Project. My wife and daughter came by just in time to see the kind of sunset Central Oregon is known for. Sunsets that for many of us from time to time, are the perfect exclamation point on the perfectly fun-filled day.
I was asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow, with my head spinning – not because of the beer, but from thinking of all the reasons I love living in Central Oregon.
That alarm – in the form of my daughter – came early again the next morning.
(editors note: This adventure is an extreme example of what awaits you in Central Oregon. And while you could, of course, actually do all these things in one day in the spring, the author actually did not.)
Happy April Fool’s Day!
More inspiring stories, adventures, and tips & tricks for planning and experiencing the best Central Oregon has to offer.
Great Getaway: Sisters, Oregon
When pulling into Sisters from the West you’re greeted by a main-street cowboy town filled with local shops, western storefronts and lots of charm. But as you reach the far end of that main street (it’s actually U.S. Hwy. 20,) something different emerges. There’s some upscale lodging, a brewpub, movie theater, and spa that gives Sisters a whole new attitude.
Central Oregon Golf: Best Par 3s
Play a good golf course and chances are that when you’re back at the 19th hole, you’re talking about the Par 3s. The short one you made double on. The bear where you snaked in a 20-footer for your only birdie all month. They’re the “short” holes that can make or break a round. Some of the signature holes on the Central Oregon Golf Trail are Par 3s. Here’s a look at some of the best.
Hiking Black Butte – Central Oregon’s Iconic & Majestic Cinder Cone
From a distance, Black Butte looks like it doesn’t quite match the picturesque alpine mountains that surround it. The volcanic rock that emerges above the tree line gives the impression of a hill constructed with loose stones that was carelessly dropped in the middle of the woods. Unlike the Cascades that puncture the horizon to the west and north, Black Butte can be hiked and enjoyed in under four hours.
Accessible Adventure: Easy Hikes for Families near Bend, Oregon
There are so many great hikes in Central Oregon, it can be tough to choose where to start. For beginner hikers or families here’s a couple of easy to get to – and more importantly – easy to conquer starter-hikes. Flanking the Deschutes River near Bend’s Old Mill District, the Deschutes River Trail is a 3-mile loop that starts near Farewell Bend Park.
Casual Family Weekend in Sunriver
Imagine this: you’re riding your bike through a rolling meadow, the Cascade mountain range in the background, and the only sound is from the whir of a prop plane taking off against a crisp blue sky. Up ahead, your children pull carrots from their pockets and present them to a gathering of friendly horses in an adjacent pasture.
Outward Bound in the City: Central Oregon’s 5 Best Urban Hikes
Hiking in Central Oregon can take you deep into the wilderness, far away from worry and stress. But sometimes all you need is a quick break from reality…just a half hour or so outside in nature, on a trail, alone with your thoughts (or with your dog, husband and two kids.) There are hundreds of hikes and trails available in and around Bend, Oregon and Sunriver, Oregon. These “Urban Hikes” are the perfect remedy to slow down our all-too-busy lives.
Central Oregon Hiking Trails
Head east on Highway 20 (Greenwood Avenue) to the Pilot Butte State Park. The parking area and trailhead are just east of the butte. Walk on either the nature trail or the paved road. The road is also for vehicle traffic, weather permitting. It is a wonderful viewpoint for the entire Bend area. This hiking trail is one of the most popular in Central Oregon.
Scenic Bikeways Showcase Central Oregon’s Backroad Beauty
Oregon’s official scenic bikeways are the first of their kind in the U.S – and Central Oregon is home to 6 of the state’s 11 most beautiful bike routes. An absolute summer must for road cyclists are riding the best of the best – our scenic bikeways. Every rider can find a ride to suit their style and mood, from family-friendly to adventurous.
Central Oregon’s Moonscape
Many who come to Central Oregon say it looks like nowhere else they’ve visited. Sure, there are the mountain vistas and the Ponderosa pines, the picturesque rivers and the deep blue lakes. But to many, the most astonishing aspect is the lunarscape — the lava rocks, cinder cones and lava tubes that dot the region, betraying its geologic history.