The Central Oregon Adventure 6-Pack
“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 glorius each spring in Central Oregon.
The Central Oregon Adventure 6-Pack. (OK, so that’s the best we could come up with..but hey, it’s got a beer theme, right?)
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.
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?”
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 from 2005 to 2010 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.”
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 the Flaming Chicken 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.
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.
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. Sixteen breweries!! 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 all 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. until we had just one stamp left to get.
We ended the day with a beer, our final stamp 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.)