We are now in the city of Bend, Oregon. Over the past few days we have passed through the towns of Glide, Weed, Talent and Steamboat, so Bend, as a name, is not all that unusual. Bend is located on the eastern edge of the Cascade Range along the Deschutes River. It was originally a crossing point on the river. Settlement began here, quite late, in the early 1900’s. The name Bend was derived from “Farewell Bend”, the designation used by early pioneers to refer to the location along the Deschutes River where there was one of the few fordable points where people could cross. It’s a pretty town, as we found out this morning.
We left Roseburg, yesterday, along Highway 138 which is one of Oregan’s scenic byways. It follows the Nth Umpqua River and certainly lives up to its name. For the first hundred kilometres, there were many places where we could stop for a view. In some spots these stops offered two or three views depending on whichever way you turned your head. It was a very scenic river with cascades, rapids and falls. It took us a lot of time to travel along because we stopped a lot to see the various views and take photos.
We think that by sheer luck, we have chosen a good time to travel here .In a few weeks, the lovely yellow leaves of the Aspens and Birches will have been blown away by the breeze. Some of the higher level roads on which we have driven will be impassible with snow. The roads here are in excellent condition and it is a real pleasure to drive on them. Our car (Ford Explorer) is giving us an average fuel consumption of 20.1 mpg. and we are filling it up every day. Luckily fuel here is quite inexpensive – about $US2.40 per gallon. That equates in Australian dollars to about $A3.34per gallon or about A85c per litre.
By lunchtime yesterday, we arrived at the turn off to one of the most stunning waterfalls along the way – the Toketee Falls. We missed the turn off to the walking track into the falls and we had driven about 5km into the forest before realising that we were in the wrong place. We turned back and found the track just 100 metres in from the main road, right beside a 4 metre diameter wooden flume pipe that carried water to a hydro electric station. It leaked in a few places and we could see where wooden pegs had been driven into the pipe to try and minimise the leakage.
Toketee Falls is one of the most famous waterfalls in all of Oregon. It is renowned for the graceful columnar basalt formation that frames the two-stepped falls. The North Umpqua River has carved a steep gorge out of the lava flow here, resulting in a waterfall of 34 metres iin height – a 9 metre upper tier which plunges into a pool flanked by a deep alcove, followed by a 26 metre plunge into a large pool. It really is a very beautiful waterfall.
It ws well past time for lunch and we were in the middle of nowhere. Fortunately, we came across a resort at Diamond Lake that had not yet closed for the season and we were able to get something to eat in their cafe.
We, perhaps foolishly, decided to take another detour on the last stage of our drive to Bend by taking the Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway. This added another sixty or so kilometres to our trip and although we were knackered by the end of the day, the scenery was very much worth it.
The first main feature that we came across was an enormous lava flow. I have no idea when it as formed, but it was still too new for any deal of vegetation to be growing on it. The road followed it for about ten kilometres and it looked like a continuous 30 metre high rock pile.
There was a controlled burn taking place in the valley and the air was filled with a blue haze. At first, we couldn’t see any lakes – we had expected the road to pass right by them. Half way along the way, we released that we had to take any of the many side roads to get to the lakes. Once we woke up to this, we found some very pretty and peaceful places. The largest mountain in this area was Mt Batchelor. It was obvious from every location and just before reaching Bend, we drove alongside its northern flank containing many ski runs.
We found our hotel which was located about 7 kms north of Bend and on the main highway that runs north to Portland. We were pretty tired after a long drive and found it quite a challenge to drive back towards town to find somewhere for dinner.
We decided that we would take it easy today and just potter around the town. We didn’t get up until late and missed breakfast at the hotel. We chose three places to visit that would enable us to see the main attractions in town and fill in our day.
The first of these was Pilot Butte which is just near downtown. It is a volcanic cone that is perhaps 200 metres high and to get to the top, you follow the road up a spiral until you reach the top. It was little cloudy but we still got to see some good views of the city. Bend is at an elevation of 3600 feet and surrounded by mountains. Its climate is typical of a high desert with cool nights and sunny days. Its annual rainfall is 280 mm with an annual average snowfall of 60 cm.
One of the most scenic spots in Bend is at Drake Park – probably named after the number of ducks and geese that inhabit the lake, rather than Sir Francis. We had a very pleasant hour strolling around the lake and enjoying the view. There are some very nice houses that front onto the lake and I’m sure that every real estate agent in town would like the opportunity to sell one of these prime pieces of real estate
Our final visit was to the very impressive Museum of the High Desert. It is one of the best ‘small town’ museums that I have ever seen. It is set in 150 acres and housed in a beautiful stone and timber building. The cafe served some delicious food and it was great place to spend a couple of hours. It would have been impossible to see it all in any less time.
There are four main areas in the museum, each with a seperate theme. The ‘Hall of Plateau Indians’ traces the history of the indigenous people of the area from early days up to later interactions with westerners. The ‘Desertarium’ houses displays of live and stuffed wildlife of the region and the ‘Spirit of the West’ gallery has some excellent displays illustrating the stages of exploration and development by white peolple. Outside is a recreated pioneer farm and sawmill. I was totally impressed with this museum.