It’s been just over a month since we embarked on our annual camping trip to Oregon. This year we decided on only two locations — Bend and Seaside. I have been meaning to write about the trip, but as soon as we returned, I had two kids start high school and the calendar exploded with two different sports practices, meets and matches, club enrollments, marching band practice, driver’s ed, etc. Instead of writing, I have spent a great deal of time running Mom’s Taxi Service. Now a month into school, life has sort of settled into a routine and allowed me a bit of free time to write again!
A short stay in Bend in 2014 during torrential summer rains gave us just enough of a taste of the city to know that we wanted to come back and stay longer when the weather was better. The thing about camping in Oregon is that you have to make plans well in advance of the summer season – nine months in advance. So, while we were holed up in our cheap hotel down slum alley… on Christmas… with no heat (it does get cold in India)… recovering from Delhi belly… we were also making camping reservations a world away in Bend, Oregon. Thank goodness for the Internet!
Newberry National Volcanic Monument
One of our stops in 2014 was the mile-long Lava River Cave — the longest known lava tube in Oregon. A great place to visit once, but not necessarily one that warrants a repeat visit. However, the Newberry National Volcanic Monument is a preserve that covers 30 miles of the Deschutes National Forest and has a wide range of areas to explore beyond the Lava River Cave.
On this visit, our first stop was the Lava Lands Visitor Center where we started with a film detailing the history of the area. We followed this up with a self-guided walk through The Trail of Molten Land which winds through the 7,000 year-old lava field just beyond the visitor center. There are placards all along the way describing everything you ever wanted to know about the lava field. It’s a fascinating glimpse into the history and current state of the landscape.
Next was a $2 shuttle ride up to the rim of Lava Butte crater. Once at the top, we walked the 1/4 mile trail around the rim of the 150-foot deep crater. On this brilliant summer day, the snowy peaks of the central Cascade Range were visible as well as the town of Bend and surrounding hills, not to mention the miles and miles of lava fields that surround the crater.
Our final stop was a 4-mile drive from the visitor center to a trail head along the Deschutes Paddle Trail. Following the trail for a 1/2 mile led us to the Benham Falls Overlook. There are a few areas along the trail where you can view the raging river that are just as impressive as the actual falls.
Another stop worth a visit in the area is the Paulina Peak Observation Site. Paulina Peak is the highest point on the Newberry Volcano at 7,984 feet. From Paulina Peak on a clear day you can see Mt. Shasta in California and Mt. Adams in Washington.
Overall, our day at the Newberry National Volcanic Monument was really fun and educational. This is a definite stop for anyone interested in the geology around Bend.
Tubing the Deschutes through Bend
If you tell 10 people that you are going to Bend, Oregon, nine will ask you if you are going to tube the river. We had observed river tubing on our first visit and it was definitely on our list of things to do this time around.
You start your tubing journey at Riverbend Park, where you can rent a tube if you don’t have one or a PFD if you need one (required if you’re under 12). Once you have a flotation device, you just hop in the river and go. A short distance past the Old Mill District, there is a conservation area and a “rapids” area. You must decide whether to shoot the rapids or take your tube out and walk around. I was told that some time back this was a true rapids and people got hurt (maybe died?) going through this section. Rather than banning tubing altogether, Bend split the river leaving a natural habitat for wildlife, a middle channel for natural rapids, and a third channel of engineered rapids for tubing. Bend has also built up the area around the rapids into a very nice park. If you choose the portage path, you simply rejoin your party at the end of the rapids. If you really like the rapids, you can walk your tube back to the beginning of the rapids and do it again… and again… and again.
Once you’ve had your fill of the rapids, you continue down the river a bit more until you eventually reach a park where everyone is exiting the water. You can then hop on a shuttle for $3 per person back to Riverbend Park. It was definintely a fun adventure. My biggest recommendation is to go when the weather is hot, because the water is definitely not.
Getting Away from Bend
Looking for a little more adventure in and around Bend, we happened upon a book called, “Bend, Overall.” This book breaks down hikes/adventures by when to visit, kids’ favorites, and even by categories such as rock collecting, worth-it waterfalls, and get naked! It even includes an “obscurometer” to give you an idea of how many people you might encounter on your journey. It is a great book for those looking to explore the Bend area.
Because the weather was quite hot during our trip, we all wanted to find a lake to jump into. This book pointed us to a fairly obscure little lake called Lucky Lake – “the most swimmable Cascade lake.” There are many other lakes in the area that are packed with people looking to cool off, but the parking lot at Lucky Lake was nearly empty. The reason for the obscurity is that it is a 1 mile hike with a 400 ft elevation gain to get to the lake – just far enough to turn away those seeking instant gratification. But we were game. We even hauled several tubes with us to the lake and cooled off in the crystal clear, blue water. While I wouldn’t call the water warm, it was warmer than the Deschutes by far.
2017 Total Eclipse of the Sun
There is so much to do in Bend, that it will continue to be a camping destination for us at least every couple of years for a while. We will definitely be headed back that way next year, however, to witness a total eclipse of the sun. 2017 marks the first year that a total eclipse can be seen from the U.S. since 1945, although if you ask Ray, he will tell you the year was 1774. Either way, neither of us has ever witnessed a total eclipse of the sun. Madras is our actual destination for the eclipse, which is just 20 miles north of Bend. So, next summer we will be having a few more summertime adventures in Bend and wrapping it up in Madras with an event that will probably be a once in a lifetime occurrence. Booking starts in November!