So, we've now been in Bend, Oregon for almost a month. I have a hard time coming up with words to call this place. It is by far the coolest place that I've ever decided to call home. So maybe we'll call it Spectacular!! It is quite interesting to be in the Cascade Mountains, which on the west side are a rainforest just like Brevard, NC, and then be in the sandy desert all in the same day. And both only a short drive from your house!! The mountains and the desert are so different geographically, but yet share a very similar volcanic history. The entire region of Central and even eastern Oregon have a long volcanic history. Which makes for a beautiful place to live that has a wide variety of geography!!!
What do most people think of when Oregon is mentioned in conversation? Most people think of rain, fog and cool weather. Well, Bend sits on the eastern side of the Cascades which is also the dry side. This area becomes High Desert and is also known as the Cool or Cold Desert, as snow does fall here. The sun shines for 300+ days a year even on the cold days of winter and it is dry. Being dry is a good thing for those that dislike rain and those that love to play in powdery snow in the winter :). The downside is that in the warmer months it is prime time for forest fires and they do have them. However, when most people think of Oregon they don't picture this part of Oregon. Central Oregon has old volcanoes(and some remain active), old lava fields, lava tubes that you can hike through, canyons and cool rock formations, the sand, ash and rock of the desert. And lots of different looking mountains. The mountains of the Cascades are green and fluffy looking. The mountains of the desert are giant and yellow/brown with occasional trees on them. We have flat plains and flat pine forests all in the mix also. And of course there are the rivers and creeks that flow from the Cascades and yes there are beautiful waterfalls. Now do you get the picture? This area is like taking a rainforest and a desert and placing them right next to each other. It creates an outdoor adventurers paradise!!!!
So, Sunday we did an 11 mile run in the High Desert or the Oregon Badlands Wilderness. This is east of Bend and heading away from the Cascades. We started the trail run on a trail named the "Ancient Juniper Trail". We ran through wet sand and over the occasional volcanic rocks. The most amazing part of this trail was the 1000yr old Juniper Trees. These trees appear as if someone has come and twisted there bark around the tree and left them that way. They are quite fascinating to look at and photograph :). In the mix of Juniper Trees is tons and tons of Sagebrush and of course sand. And I pictured cowboys riding off through the desert. Ha!! This is not what most people think of when they picture the desert. Most people picture sand, sand, and more sand. and of course hot!! After running for a few miles we came to a very large rock formation that was climbable. This one was called Flatiron Rock and we also came to Castle Rock and Badlands Rock on this run. All of these rock formations were created by volcanic "burps". We played around and explored each of these for quite awhile before continuing on to the final 6 miles of desert running on that chilly Sunday. I have lots of pictures to share but iphoto is being goofy and not letting me find my last imported pictures :-/.
2 days later we ran a 6 mile loop on the west side of towm. We started off by crossing a bridge over the Tumalo Creek and immediately taking switchbacks up toward a ridge that appeared to have had a fire sometime ago. Before we knew it we came into a forest of towering Ponderosa Trees and more of an Alpine like setting. The Aspen Trees still had bright yellow leaves on them :). The forest was littered with pine needles and the occasional roots and rocks. At one place there were huge boulders strewn along the side of the trail. It looked as though someone was angry and had thrown them there. Ha!! We soon crossed over Tumalo Creek again and passed other trails that would lead one all the way into the Cascade Mountains and further. We then crossed the Old Historic Shevlin Railroad Trail, which even had a few remaining railroad ties present. This old railroad turned into trail will take one 27 miles to Sisters, Oregon along an old logging railroad grade used back when Bend was a mill town. We soon came into a flat area that was loaded with Ponderosa Pines everywhere and full of beauty. Too soon we arrived back at the parking lot. Boo!!! This trail is brought to the public by Bend Parks and Recreation, which is pretty freaking awesome. The trail system butts up with national forest land and there are endless numbers of trails to run, hike, or bike!! We loved it!!!
So, there is an accurate description of the variety one can experience in Central Oregon. And we are just beginning. I think we could live here a year and not visit the same trail twice!! So, I'm excited to continue to share our adventures here in the Wild West!! Hopefully I can get iPhoto working so I can share pictures :)