Enjoying Bend

Bend, OR

We’ve kept pretty busy enjoying the Bend area during our time here.  Early in our stay we drove up to nearby Mt. Bachelor to check out the snow at the ski slope.

They had a winter of heavy snow so the facility stayed open until the end of May.  They intend to open limited runs for the Fourth of July weekend.

As we pulled out of the parking area we had to wait a moment while a local resident crossed in front of us.

A Sierra Nevada Red Fox!

Returning to Bend we decided to take a short hike up nearby Bessie’s Butte.  But as we drove the narrow road toward the Butte we ran into a little obstacle.

Oh no, a wildfire!

OK, it wasn’t a wildfire but a controlled burn supervised by the Forest Service.  But it created enough smoke that we couldn’t see the road in front of us so we decided to visit Bessie’s Butte another day and turned around.

About 30 miles south of Bend is a section of the Newberry National Volcano Monument called the Newberry Caldera.  The Caldera was formed when a magma chamber collapsed a few years back. Over time the Caldera filled up with water that created two lakes, Paulina Lake and East Lake.  We drove down to see the lakes a week ago but the road was not open due to heavy snow.  They recently opened the road so we drove back down to visit the lakes.

Snow covered parking area at East Lake

There is still quite a bit of snow around the lakes

East Lake

Driving back toward Bend we decided to make another try at hiking Bessie’s Butte.

Bessie’s Butte

The trail is only about a mile but it is all up hill.  At the top you get a great view of the surrounding area.  The look to the west at the snow covered mountains is especially nice.

Just a short distance from Bessie’s Butte is Boyd’s Cave.  Estimated to have been formed roughly 10,000 years ago by Newberry Volcano, Boyd Cave is an 1,880 foot long lava tube. The cave is accessed by a 6 foot diameter opening in the cave’s ceiling.  A 20 foot set of steel stairs leads down into the chilly (42 degrees) underground setting.

We went down into the cave but didn’t hike very far.  We like to hike where there is interesting scenery around to look at so a dark lava tube isn’t for us.

Belly of the Beast

The city of Bend has the highest number of micro-breweries per capita in the nation and claims the title of ‘Beer City USA.’  Deschutes Brewery is the largest brewery in town.  As of 2016, it was the eighth-largest craft brewery and fifteenth-largest overall brewery in the U.S.  One afternoon we drove over to take a tour of their facilities.

Our tour guide, Andy, was very enthusiastic about the brewery and knowledgeable about the brewing process.

Deschutes Brewery is very concerned with the needs of its employees.  It has a nice break area that even has a full time chef on duty.  One of the interesting rooms next to the break area is the “restroom.”

Turns out it is not a restroom at all, but a refreshment center for workers on break, complete with beer taps.

The bottling machine moves at hyper speed!

At the end of the tour is the tasting room, where each person on the tour is allowed to choose four sample beers from a list of available brews.  It turns out that we don’t care for Deschutes Beer as we didn’t even finish our samples.  But we did enjoy the tour, and somebody must like their beer because they sell a lot of it!


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Flatiron Rock Trail and Smith Rocks SP

Bend, OR

The weather was very nice last week so we were able to get out for a couple of hikes.  The first was on the Flatiron Rock Trail.  To get to the trailhead we drove east of Bend on US-20 to mm-16.  There is a sign for the trailhead along the highway and a small parking area.

One hiking website described this trail in glowing terms.

When you venture out to the Badlands just 16 miles east of Bend, you’ll be treated to a harmonious blend of ancient juniper trees, vibrant lichen growing on contorted lava rocks, and a geological history that makes even the dirt under your feet seem interesting.

We found the trail to be interesting but a bit monotonous as we hiked the sand through some cool ancient Juniper trees.

The sign at the trailhead stated that the distance to the formation known as Flatiron Rock was 3.5 miles.  After looking at Google Maps it appeared (to us) that the trail ended there.  So when we came to a sign that said the trail continued straight in front of us we thought we needed to keep hiking.

But we should have known something was up when we had to step over a narrow tree limb blocking the trail, a well-recognized sign by hikers to not proceed.

If we had looked to our left, we would have seen a trail leading up into some rocks.  Turns out this is Flatiron Rock and that trail leads up into the formation.

But we followed the sign and kept hiking.  After almost a mile it became apparent that something was wrong.  We held a brief meeting and came up with a brilliant strategy to address our concern – turn around.  Once back at the sign we spotted the side trail and headed up into the rocks.

It was only a short hike up to the top of the formation where we had a nice view of the mountains to the west.

But we found the best view of the mountains was on the ride back to Bend on US-20.

A couple days later we drove about 25 miles north of Bend on US-97 to the small town of Terrebone for a visit to Smith Rock State Park.  The park is famous in the world of rock climbing for the many high rock formations located on a narrow peninsula formed by the Crooked River as it makes an almost 360 degree bend.  The park also has a number of interesting hiking trails at various levels of difficulty.

Once in the park we paid our $5 day use fee and walked over to the small visitor center located inside a Yurt.

A nice lady in the visitor center gave us a map of the park and described some of the trails available for hiking.  We decided to hike the Misery Ridge Loop, a four mile hike that combines three trails: the River Trail, Mesa Verde Trail, and Misery Ridge Trail.  To access any of the trails in this park the first thing you do is hike steeply down to the river.

First part of the trail heading down to the river

Once down the hill we crossed a bridge over the river and headed south on the River Trail for a little over two miles.

As we said, Smith Rock State Park is a world class climbing area and it seemed that every time we looked up at the rocks we spotted someone.  In the picture below are two climbers who caught our attention.

We could hear them talking so we zoomed in on each of them.  The man on top was calling out encouragement to the girl below him

We don’t know if she was new at climbing and a bit frightened, or just tired.  But she just hung there the few minutes we watched them.

The woman at the visitor center alerted us to a Bald Eagle nest high up in a tall pine across the river from the trail.  Just as we spotted the nest, the male took off before we could get a photo.  We watched for quite a while and were able to spot the female, but couldn’t see the young eight week old eaglet she was watching over.

As we rounded the sharp bend in the river and headed back to the north, the rock formation called Monkey Face came into view.

We sat on some rocks near the water and enjoyed lunch with a nice view of the river below us and Monkey Face above us.

Lunch with a view

A short distance north of our lunch spot the trail split.  We took the right fork and headed steeply up a half mile on the Mesa Verde Trail.  Monkey Face loomed large in front of us.

Looking back to the south on the Mesa Verde Trail

After a half mile we again took a right at a fork and began the steep climb up a series of switchbacks going around the other side of Monkey Face on the Misery Ridge Trail.

The dot on the top of Monkey Face is a climber

The view looking back down at the switchbacks

It was a long and very steep climb, but the views from the top were impressive.

Once at the top we hiked about a quarter mile before the trail headed back down another series of switchbacks on the other side.  Our hiking poles came in real handy as both the trail up and the trail down are on loose gravel, making for some tricky footing.

Our return trail

As we made our way down the Misery Ridge Trail the river crossing came into view, along with the trail on the other side leading back up to the visitor center.

It seemed a bit strange to be hiking down the steep trail and look over to the right to see someone perched on the sheer rock.

As we made our way down to the bottom a sign alerted us to use caution on the Misery Ridge Trail.  We appreciated the warning!

We crossed the bridge over the river and made our way back up the other side.  As we looked back across the river we could see the bottom set of switchbacks we had just hiked on the Misery Ridge Trail.

We really enjoyed this hike through Smith Rocks.  We may even return to do the Summit Loop, a seven mile hike that combines four different trails within the park.  More on that later . . .

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Hiking to Benham and Dillon Falls – Bend, OR

Bend, OR

Spring time in central Oregon is also “bug” time, which means the front of your vehicle becomes covered with them if you drive any distance.  We were especially impressed with the motorhome pictured below after it was driven from Klamath Falls, about 135 miles south of Bend.

One Saturday evening we met friends, Vic and Pam, at Craft Kitchen and Brewery, located in the Old Mill District overlooking the Deschutes River.  We first met them in Florida when they were still full-timing.  Since then they sold the motorhome and bought a home in Bend, where they are now enjoying life.  We enjoyed a delicious craft beer, some good food, and a couple of hours of great conversation.

Another day we drove south of Bend for a hike on the Deschutes River Trail.  After driving about ten miles south of Bend on US-97, we turned west at the exit for the Newberry National Volcanic Monument.  The road goes by the monument and led us to the parking area for the trail (called the Benham Falls East Trailhead on Google maps).

True to its name, the Deschutes River Trail runs along side the river.  At times the river is very tranquil, but the trail passes by two interesting points where the water goes through narrow passages in the surrounding rocks, Benham Falls and Dillon Falls.  We found both to be more aptly called “rapids” rather than “falls,” as there is no steep drop off at either site.

Benham Falls

Old tree makes a good catapult (what strength!)

Tranquil spot between the rapids

Dillon Falls

Lunch with a view

At times the trail is right next to the water

Bridge back to the trailhead

This was a very nice, easy hike that turned out to be a bit longer than we had anticipated.  The sign at the trailhead states that it is 3.5 miles to Dillon Falls.  We found the distance to actually be 4.6 miles one way, adding over two miles to the hike.  Fortunately, the trail follows the river so it is fairly flat with no energy sapping elevation changes.

Next up, a hike in Smith Rocks State Park!  More on that later…

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First Week in Bend, OR

Bend, OR

We arrived in Bend to sunny skies and warm temperatures.  After getting set up in our beautiful site at Crown Villa RV Resort, we spent some time sitting outside enjoying a cold adult beverage.

But the next morning things changed dramatically, with cloudy skies and cold temperatures covering the area.  We needed a little exercise so we drove down to Riverbend Park for a walk along the beautiful Deschutes River.

It was a bit cool with a strong wind in our faces as we started out.  The walk was proceeding nicely when suddenly we became aware of little flakes of white coming down out of the trees.  OK, time to turn around and head back!

The storm passed and things quickly began to improve.

As we headed back to the north the sun appeared and things warmed a bit.  We crossed the river and passed a nice metal sculpture of two horses pulling a log. The scene was to honoring Bend’s history as a lumber mill center

East Side Pedestrian Tunnel under Columbia Street

Three tall smoke stacks are all that remain of two large lumber mills that straddled the river a hundred years ago.

West Side Pedestrian Tunnel under Columbia Street

The weather remained cold and windy for the next few days.  One morning we looked out the window to the scene below.  That night the ski resort on nearby Mt. Bachelor was expecting 8.5 inches of new snow!

We finally got some sunshine on Monday, although it was still cold and windy.  We took advantage of the clear skies to visit the Newberry National Volcanic Monument, located about ten miles south of Bend.  The ranger at the gate recommended we begin our visit with a ride up to the top of Lava Butte.  Lava Butte is a cinder cone volcano that rises 500 feet above the entrance and nearby visitor center.   It can be accessed by either vehicle or hiking up a paved road. Interpretive signs, views of the surrounding lava flow and mountains, and an active fire lookout are found on top.

Lava Butte

The fire lookout on the top

Mt. Bachelor in the distance

Returning to the visitor center we met a volunteer ranger who also lives full time in an RV.  Since he and his wife are also retired educators, we spend some time exchanging stories.  One of the places in the monument he told us about is the Lava Cast Forest.  To get to that section of the monument we drove about five miles south on US-97, then nine miles east on a dirt road that ended in a small parking area.

Not too crowded today

Lava Cast Forest contains a 6,000-year-old lava flow that created casts of ancient trees.

A one mile paved loop trail takes you through the lava cast area.

What’s up with this?

A typical lava cast

Flowing lava, like any liquid, takes the path of least resistance.  When it runs into high ground it will try to go around it, creating an island in the forest.  These islands are known by their Hawaiian name, Kipukas.

A kipuka across the lava flow

At one time some of the lava casts were quite high, but the elements of nature and human abuse have caused many to lose their high tops.

Returning to the Jeep we drove about a mile back down the dirt road to take a short, two mile round trip hike on the Hoffman Island Trail.

The trail was an easy hike on what appeared to be an old logging road.

Apparently the rangers haven’t been out to check this trail yet, as we encountered a number of newly fallen trees across our path.

Be dainty now!

We found one tall cast along this trail

Mt. Bachelor

Another view of Mt. Bachelor as we returned to the highway

The forecast is for a couple more cold, wet days ahead, but then things should improve.  Once that happens we’ll be able to get out a bit more and explore this beautiful area.

More on that later . . .

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Kam Wah Chung Interpretive Center

Dayville, OR

After reading Jodee’s post (On the Road Abode) about an interesting spot in the town of John Day, we just had to check it out for ourselves.  The Kam Wah Chung Interpretive Center seemed to be a bit out of place in this small community, especially when we found that no Chinese people live in the town.  In fact, they don’t even have a Chinese restaurant.

The story begins in the second half of the 1800s when gold was discovered near John Day, bringing Chinese immigrants to the area to work in the mines.  In the mid-1880s John Day was home to nearly 1,000 Chinese immigrants who lived in an area of the town called Tiger Town.  A trading post built in the area in the 1860s was purchased in 1887 by two Chinese immigrants, Lung On and Ing Hay. They converted the trading post into a clinic, general store, and social center for the community.

The two men were very different individuals.  Ing Hay was a quiet man who was a gifted “pulsologist” and herbal healer.

Lung On was an outgoing businessman.

Once the mines closed almost all of the Chinese moved out of the area.  But Lung On and Ing Hay remained in John Day and became well-respected members of the community.  Lung On died in 1940.  When Ing Hay broke his hip in 1948 he was moved to a nursing home in Portland.  He intended to return once healed, so the door of the store was just closed and locked.  Unfortunately, he never recovered sufficiently to return and died in 1952.  Ing Hay asked that the building be deeded to the city of John Day with the provision it be turned into a museum.  His wish, and the ownership of the building, were forgotten until 1967.  While surveying for a new park, the city discovered its ownership of the building and began to restore it as it was in the 1940s.  The inside of the store today is exactly the way it was when Ing had the door locked in 1948.

The building today

The building in 1909

“Doc” Hay in his later days

A visit to Kam Wah Chung begins in the Interpretive Center,  a room filled with displays and two videos about life in the Chinese community in John Day.  In the Interpretive Center we signed up for a free tour of the nearby store.  A volunteer guide lead us (and one other person) the short distance down the road to the store where she unlocked the door and escorted us inside.  There she shared information about each area of the building.  She had some very fascinating stories.

The “general store” area just inside the entrance door

Chair where “Doc” Hay evaluated patients

Cigar boxes and tins containing “Doc” Hay’s drugs and treatments

Small kitchen and dining area

A place to sleep for 25 cents – up to 4 slept in each bunk

The loft area of the store is a small cabin that was placed up on top of the stone walls.  No one knows how the cabin was lifted up on top.  A view from the back of the building shows the cabin sitting up on top of the building.

While most Chinese immigrants left instructions to send their bones back to their ancestral homes when they died, Ing Hay and Lung On each chose to be buried in their adopted country.  We visited their gravesites in the city cemetery.

Ing Hay’s gravestone

After three nights at the Fish House Inn and RV Park in Dayville, we continued moving west on US-26.  After a drive of about 150 miles we are now in Crown Villa RV Resort in Bend, OR.  We will be here for the next month, allowing plenty of time for exploring central Oregon.

More on that later . . .

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John Day Fossil Beds National Monument

Dayville, OR

Dayville is a tiny little town with less than 150 residents.  But they do have a sense of humor.

We came to Dayville because of its proximity to two of the three separate units of the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument.  Dayville and John Day National Monument are named for the John Day River, which flows through both.  The river was named for John Day, but you probably figured that out.  Day was a member of the Pacific Fur Company’s overland expedition to the mouth of the Columbia River in 1810.  While descending the Columbia River in April 1812, he and another trapper were robbed and stripped naked by Native Americans at the mouth of the river that now bears his name, forcing them to hike 80 miles back to friendly Indians under extreme conditions.  It is interesting that his name is used so often in this area despite the fact that he did nothing significant to deserve the recognition, nor did he ever visit the area.

John Day Fossil Beds National Monument is known for its well-preserved layers of fossil plants and mammals that lived in the region millions years ago. The monument consists of three geographically separate units: Sheep Rock, Painted Hills, and Clarno.   We visited two of the units, Sheep Rock and Painted Hills, that are reasonably close to Dayville.  The Sheep Rock unit is only ten miles from town and is the location of the monument’s visitor center, the Thomas Condon Paleontology Center.

Thomas Condon Paleontology Center

After arriving in Dayville and setting up at Fish House Inn and RV Park, we drove over to the visitor center to view their video, check out the many displays, and talk to the ranger about hiking in the monument.

Sheep Rock across from the visitor center

The next day we returned to the Sheep Rock unit to hike in an area called the Blue Basin.

There are two trails in the Blue Basin.  We began by hiking the Overlook Trail, a 3.25 mile loop trail that goes steeply up 760 feet of elevation for a great view down in the Blue Basin.

Once up on the top of the mesa we could see some beautifully colored formations just to the north.

We crossed the mesa and came to an overlook with a great view down into the Blue Basin.

As the trail went down the other side of the formation we were able to view the basin from many different angles.

Colorful flowers along the trail

As we descended the Overlook Trail we could see the second trail, the Island in Time Trail, below us.

At the bottom of the loop trail we turned and headed into the basin on the Island in Time trail.  This trail is 1.3 miles round trip and has 13 open grate bridges that pass a shallow stream.

The next day we drove west on US-26 about 45 miles to visit the Painted Hills unit of the monument.  As we drove up the entrance road, but before we passed the park sign, we quickly saw why this area is called Painted Hills.

We parked across the road from the trailhead for the Carroll Rim Trail.  This 1.6 mile round trip trail climbs over 400 feet to a panoramic overlook of the Painted Hills.

The trail ends at the top of this hill

The views from the top of the hill were fantastic!


We also completed a quarter mile loop trail around a formation called the Painted Cove.

Looking down at the Painted Cove

While we don’t think there is enough to do or see in John Day Fossil Beds National Monuments for it to be a destination location, it’s a great place to visit if you are passing through the area.

We have one more blog post about our visit to the Dayville area before we move on.  More on that later . . .

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A Stop in Boise, then On to Oregon

Dayville, OR

After leaving Twin Falls, ID we continued northwest on I-84  about 20 miles past Boise, where we had two nights reserved at Ambassador RV Resort outside the town of Caldwell.  We booked two nights to give us a day to look around the city.  We intended to ride our bikes around the downtown area and nearby Boise State University.  But a cold, windy day with occasional showers limited our touring.

State Capitol Building in downtown Boise

Laurel (Raven and Chickadee) had suggested that we stop at Basque Market in the downtown area and try some of their Paella.  We stopped there in mid-afternoon and found they had one serving remaining.  We decided to split the serving , which turned out to be a good move as we found it to be large enough to feed two people.  Lauren was definitely correct, the Paella was delicious.

We really enjoy touring college campuses on our bikes, so we were disappointed with the rainy weather.  But we did get to drive through Boise State to see some of the campus.

Their mascot is the bronco

Graduation was being held the next day outside in their football stadium so people were busy setting up for the event, but we managed to talk one volunteer into letting us inside the gate for a couple of quick photos.  The facility is named Albertsons Stadium, as Boise is the corporate headquarters for the supermarket chain of the same name.

Boise State has a very successful football program and the stadium is well-known for its blue turf field.

After staying in Caldwell an extra day due to high winds and thunderstorms, we continued our journey to the west.  About 30 miles up I-84 we crossed the Snake River into Oregon.

Just a few miles into Oregon we left the interstate and headed west on US-26.  This is a nice, two lane road that winds its way through a number of small towns then up through Malheur National Forest.

The Strawberry Mountains

Coming out of the Malheur National Forest US-26 follows the John Day River past several more small towns.  We drove to the little community of Dayville (pop. 150) where we had a reservation at the Fish House Inn and RV Park.  Jodee and Bill (On the Road Abode) stayed here last year and recommended it to us.  This beautiful little facility has a few small rooms for rent and a six site RV park.  The park is immaculate, with level sites and nicely trimmed grass.

We will be here in Dayville for the next three nights as we tour parts of the nearby John Day Fossil Beds National Monument.  More on that later . . .

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