Oregon 2014: Just around the river, Bend

(Author pre-warning: the Internet is abysmal at my current place of lodging. As such, I was not able to post any pictures into this entry yet. Regardless, you can still check out my photos from today on my Flickr photostream at http://www.flickr.com/photos/haleyobryan/. Fellow accounting nerds might find it easy to view the words on one monitor and pictures on the other. In any event, pictures will be embedded tomorrow. Thank you for your patience!)

SO…SORE…CAN’T…MOVE!

That’s how you know it’s been a real adventure so far.

I looked out this morning and saw the primeval forestry that surrounded my hotel. No doubt, the gorge-ous (heh) Columbia Gorge and Mt. Hood National Forest are spectacles to be seen and are the places to be during winter in Oregon. But at that point, I realized that I had been looking at green things for five straight days. From the both-literally-and-figuratively-green Portland, to the woodsy Coast, to this endless forest that had now swallowed me up, my inner compass was pointing south – and south I headed.

I set course for today’s main event, the Smith Rock State Park, around 9:00 am and made my way down highway 26. About 20 minutes into my drive, I hit light snow that gradually become a bit more of a driving obstacle. Honestly, today was the first time I felt genuinely nervous on the road. I held onto the confidence of my tire chains and cat litter stuff and stayed strong, despite truly not being able to freaking see at times.

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It wasn’t long before the frosty, tree lined mountains turned into a dry, grassy, high-desert climate. I breathed a sigh of relief at this and stopped to take pictures of the incredible white-capped Cascades juxtaposed with this comparatively summery landscape. It was pretty breathtaking.

I stopped in the tiny town of Warm Springs to get myself caffeinated at the Eagle Crossing Restaurant, but ended up leaving with way more than I intended. I feel this establishment, of all that I’ve experienced on my trip, probably deserves the most special mention – not just for the delicious food, but for the absolutely incredible couple working there.

As I walked inside, I was immediately greeted by Brenda, who had me choose a seat in the spacious dining room surrounded by windows. Let me start by saying that any restaurant that gives me an entire carafe of coffee automatically gets at least 4 out of 5 stars in my book.

As the menu choices were vast, ranging from huckleberry pancakes to elk steak, I knew that I was in for a special treat. I ended up going with eggs and buffalo (my entry yesterday was only half-sarcastic – I really am a fan of unusual meats) and was not disappointed. When I overheard Brenda telling another customer that her husband and co-owner, Randy, homemade the delectable-looking cinnamon rolls at the front counter, I knew I had to jump on that immediately. When reviewing a restaurant, I normally take pictures of the food I eat, but my elation and excitement got the best of me. Rest assured, it was delicious, and I am enormously tempted to stop by again on my way back to Portland tomorrow.

Aside from the delicious eats, my favorite part about Eagle Crossing was getting to talk with Brenda. To put things into perspective, Brenda and her husband run the restaurant, a water sporting business, a farm, and a tax preparation business, essentially by themselves. Brenda also has a degree in fashion and has helped teach girls form underprivileged families make prom dresses. Okay, okay…I’m being a complete weirdo and telling someone’s like story whom I met 12 hours ago. That should tell you how much of an impression was made on me today!

Please – if you are EVER in the vicinity of central Oregon, or anywhere in Oregon, I implore you to come here. Great food, awesome people, and a little bit of central Oregon history in reading the newspaper clippings on the tables. You will not be disappointed.

I made it to SRSP shortly thereafter and spent about 2.5 hours hiking the cardio-blasting Misery Ridge and the leisurely River Trail. I don’t think I could have picked a better time to visit, because the scenery was absolutely gorgeous and the weather was PERFECT for some slightly strenuous hiking. I don’t necessarily recommend doing this, but I made it the entire time without a bottle of water in my hand and never feeling too hot or too cold. The hike itself was vaguely reminiscent of Arizona, but with a different treescape and far less sand.

All in all, this place is true to its reviews in that it has something to offer to everyone in terms of hiking length/difficulty. What’s most notable about the park is not necessarily the hikes, though, but the mountain climbing – mon Dieu! This is truly a rappeller’s paradise. There are unbelievable amount of smooth, red rock faces just prime for climbing, and climb people did. I managed to snap a quick shot of one such climber, below.

After my fun in the park, I finally made my way over to Bend – but not before at least attempting to stop by two local attractions that were alas, closed: Newberry Volcanic Monument and Tumalo Falls. While I had simply failed to Internet correctly while researching Newberry, Tumalo’s closing was completely out of nowhere. I was bummed, and had even trekked through a super-muddy path to try and get there, so I almost felt cheated. Nonetheless, all was not lost, as I was able to take a short segue from my would-be Newberry excursion later on to visit the awesome Benham Falls! While not necessarily as dramatic as Tumalo, I still felt that the brief hiker over (about a half-mile from where I parked) was well worth it.

My day ended with a trip to Bend’s Main Street for the best sushi in town and arguable central Oregon, 5 Fusion. Recommended to me by my cousin, Corey (thanks, cuz), I once again had an outstanding dining experience. The decor wasn’t terrible, either. I have to say that from what little I saw of Bend, it seemed pretty dang cool. Almost like a smaller, warmer, slower-paced Portland. It’s definitely on my list to explore on my next journey back to this great state.

I ordered the Spider roll, the chocolate cake, and approximately three pots of green tea. Since I sat at the bar, I met a few colorful characters and enjoyed the atmosphere immensely. I was at the restaurant for over two hours, chatting it up with Jim, the architect; Jane, the bartender; and occasionally Ian, the eccentric young man who introduced himself by offering me a piece of spicy edamame. The bar-sat populace seemed generally perplexed that I had recently celebrated my 24th birthday. For some reason, the fact that I was venturing out into the world alone at this age was shocking to them. I responded by telling them that this was my own personal method of “finding myself”, as every other 20-something that ever existed is constantly trying to do. I then posed a pivotal, serious question to my bar-neighbors, two of whom were around mid-forties and one of whom was in her late-twenties:

“Does it ever get easier?”

To sum up the responses, not at all – but you get a whole lot tougher.

Thought of the day: See above. Get back to me in 20 years RE above.

– H

p.s. My legs still hurt.

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