A Local's Guide to Bend (but mostly just shenanigans).

A Local's Guide to Bend (but mostly just shenanigans).

Bend is a special place. Though I’ve followed the draw to explore and travel at times, Bend has a certain gravity that’s always tugging at my heart. Maybe it’s the vanilla-scented air that wafts out of the seams of ponderosa bark, or the people that look you in the eye and say hi as you pass them on a trail, or the river that both cuts the town in half and also brings everyone together, or… ah shoot I could just keep going.

Buutttt, the real special sauce lies in the accessibility and openness of Central Oregon’s high desert. Freaking pick a direction, any direction, and you’ll run into something awesome. On a bigger scale you’ll find proud, and spaced out mountains to the west, epically good rock climbing in the form of Smith Rock to the north, open and big-sky country to the east and Newberry Crater to the south (once a mountain, now a crater with two lakes and tons of fun stuff to do). On a smaller scale, you can dash off into the hills just outside of town to find miles and miles of runnable forest, mountain biking trails, and rivers, all with great public access.

five peak/cascade traverse of three sisters outside of bend oregon

Kevin Grove and I get lost in the Three Sisters Wilderness. Spring in the Cascades is pretty much the definition of "the Free Range." Just pick a direction and go.

Having called this place home since I was a lil’ grom running around in the woods, I never knew anything different. But as a sense of awareness developed in my late teens and early twenties, I started to realize the uniqueness of this place I had grown up in. Even while traveling, I’d always be ready and excited for the trip home. Ready for that nostril cleansing blast of desert sage after a rain as the flight attendant opens the cabin door at the Redmond airport.

I’m a firm believer that land shapes its people and have come to the conclusion that Bend’s openness and geography are no exception. With so much space to let the mind and body roam, a natural kind of creativity emerges along with the freedom to express it. A brief visit to Bend makes that pretty obvious. Cue all of the wickedly talented artists, live music flowing out of every hangout on Friday night, sculptures and gnomes that sit alongside the popular mountain biking trails, breweries on every street corner and cafes that loosen the wallet of even the most picky of Portlanders. The creative energy is bursting at the seams and everyone is searching for, or have found their avenue to free it.

Your's truly participating in the July 4th Freedom Ride in full farmer's tan glory. People shaped by the land, eh? Must be some interesting kind of land.

So if you live in Bend, are visiting, or plan to make the pilgrimage at some point, prepare yourself to get swept away by this riptide of energy! And when you do, I suggest you honor the feeling with your own outlets; it can be destructive if you ignore it. If you need ideas or inspiration, then you’ve come to the right place. Here are a few different methods we’ve found to let the energy out.

#daybreakerbend - a morning dance party

If you find yourself in town on a solstice or equinox, please consider joining us to get your early morning groove on. Coffee, chai and treats are provided on the house to help you ease the transition from sleep to dance floor. The location changes every time and will be announced the day before on our instagram. And yes this is in fact a DANCE PARTY. Many newcomers show up not knowing what to expect and are somewhat stunned at the loud music and the mob breaking it down on the dance floor at 7:15 am.

Bre-break-breakin' it down now.

Cappy Hour Affogatos

This activity can be done anytime of the week but Friday after 1pm during Thump’s Cappy Hour is the preferable time. Instructions are as follows:

  1. Get outside for a post-lunch mountain bike, river walk, trail run, etc. Any activity that gets your blood moving will greatly improve your Affogato experience.
  2. Go to Bonta Gelato, sample a couple flavors that you know you aren’t getting just cause you can, and then order a small cup of any flavor that pairs well with espresso.
  3. Walk across the street to Thump, and order a Cappy Hour espresso shot for $1 (please tip because the baristas are awesome). Ask for an 8 oz. For Here cup in addition to espresso shot.
  4. Transfer gelato to For Here cup, pour espresso shot over gelato, consume with a massive grin on your face (that part seems to happen naturally).

thump espressobonta gelato thump espresso affogato

High Altitude BBQ

When choosing a location for this pursuit, ask yourself the following questions.

  1. Would it induce a “Wait… Whaaattt??” from any random bypassers?
  2. How inconvenient is it to haul a BBQ to the particular location? The more inconvenient, the better.
  3. Will you be able to persuade at least 2 other partners in crime into joining you? If you can max out both #2 and #3 then you’ve got some really good, committed friends.
  4. Does it have a good view? Because views are always made better when seen over grilled veggies and Bräts.

Now go do it. Extra points if you bring a charcoal BBQ and if you do, remember the lighter fluid. Always more lighter fluid because fireballs are kinda cool.

monkey face bbq smith rock bend oregon

"We have ignition!" Quebecois and grill master Delano Lavigne warms up the charcoals on top of the iconic Monkey Face at Smith Rock.

Multi-sport Bonanza Day

Bend probably isn’t world-class for any one sport, but it’s really freaking awesome for pretty much everything. If you’re looking for some structure, then we suggest you just sign yourself up as an individual for the Pole Pedal Paddle and race your little heart out. If you’re more of the free-flying type, here are some suggestions.

  1. Skin Tumalo and ski the bowl.
  2. Mountain bike up Storm King and Tiddlywinks, across on Larsen’s, down Tyler’s Traverse, and back on Catch and Release.
  3. Run/walk the river trail pretty much anywhere between the Good Dog Park and Benham Falls or Sunriver (extra points if you bring a packraft and hike up and float back down, extra extra points if you throw your dog in the packraft with you).
  4. Park at Meadow Camp and boulder, top rope or climb on gear on some sweet cracks and pockets galore.
  5. Surf the river wave at McKay Park.
  6. Finish with a soak in McMenamin's salt water bath (wading with beer is a sport right?).

April or May is probably the ideal time for this particular pursuit. You’ll reach legend status if you can link all of these with a bike, or dirtbag status if you can hitchhike the whole thing.

cascade lakes highway ski roller ski packraft trip

Getting creative on an 80 mile ski-rollerski-packraft-hike link up from Mt. Bachelor to Wickiup to Pringle Falls and back to Bend.

We find the following restaurants taste pretty amazing after a day like this. For the hollow leg types (really really hungry) try these out.

  • Pilot Butte Burger - order the 18 oz. (no joke) Burger and split it or eat the whole thing.
  • If on the westside, the Hollenbeck at Longboard Louie's (generally referred to as LBL) is a hefty bang for your buck. At the eastside LBL, we suggest the “Build Your Own” burrito and put everything in it.
  • Cibelli’s - holy heck they make a big pizza. And it tastes as good as it looks. If you can’t commit to the whole thing, they’ll sell ya a slice too.
  • I’d like to make an honorable mention to the Taco Stand (R.I.P) - If they were still open, their Boswell Challenge would be at the top of the list. The thing weighed 3.5 lbs, and required two large tortillas to wrap every. single. ingredient. that the Taco Stand used. Eat it in under 5 minutes and you get it for free. Under normal circumstances, the Boswell Burrito would last for about 4 meals. Ian Boswell, Tom Smith and I all attempted the first challenge - I sucked at it (ate about half in like 10 minutes), Tom Smith finished it in about 9 minutes, and Ian killed it in just under 5 minutes, and then ate a salad cause why not. Hence the Boswell Challenge.

sausage egg mcmuffin for the win on the deschutes river

A mid-float Sausage Egg McMuffin is a pretty good option if you can't make it back to town in time for dinner.

If you’re feeling classy, these are no brainers

  • Barrio - Ask for chef’s choice tapas, share among the whole table and keep ‘em coming till your stuffed.
  • Jackson’s Corner - Maybe the best pizza in town?? Mostly comfort type food but all really well done and the best feng shui in town. Cafe drinks are wickedly good.
  • Joolz - Middle eastern food on lockdown. Best smoked baba ganoush ever.
  • Kebaba - More middle eastern, a little chiller than Joolz. The best hummus in town. Straight up.
  • Spork - The lomo saltado is kind of famous, but everything is good, including the mix drinks. Go to Spork if you want to hang with the cool cats.
  • Global Fusion - really fun and interesting combinations of stuff you never knew existed. The fried avocado taco, salad, or bowl is epic. Order the homemade coconut limeade to boot, nuff said.
  • El Sancho - really, really good tacos but you might have to order like a dozen to fill yourself up.

Round-a-Bout Tea Party

Since the introduction of round-a-bouts in Bend, there’s been a significant increase in both licensed chiropractors and people walking around with kinked necks leaning slightly to the right. Actually I totally made that up but I wouldn’t be surprised. In all seriousness, the round-a-bouts are pretty awesome, especially on a bike, and provide a perfect location for all kinds of different sculptures and art. A lesser known benefit of this under-utilized real estate? Tea parties, duh.

bend oregon round-a-bout tea party

These are a few ideas but please understand that these are just jumping points, guidelines, and shenanigan inspirers. So when you feel the whim of creativity or just plain silliness coming on, refer to this page to get you started and then let the energy act of its own accord. Remember to take pictures and come and tell us your story afterward. Or even better, invite us along for the ride. Please and thank you.

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