We’ve managed to make the trek over the Cascade Mountains, pushing nearly twenty tons of Allegro Bus and Jeep Cherokee up through the mountains from the town of Sweet Home and down into the valley beyond to Bend Oregon. What surely would have taken early pioneers weeks, we cover easily in a little over two hours, scaling steep grades along the Santiam River, surrounded by towering fir trees and craggy snow capped peaks bearing intriguing names like Finn rock and Three Fingered Jack. In fact Highway 20 is also known as the Santiam Highway, after the river which tumbles down the mountain passes paralleling much of the road to eventually end in and fill Foster Lake on the outskirts of Sweet Home.
As we crest the Cascades and begin to coast down to the valley, the geography begins changing dramatically. Thick, deep cool shadowed forests, with soft spongy floors, covered with bright green ferns, give way to hot sandy pine needled floors and little else but widely spaced and thinly bowed fir trees on wide open scrub lands.
This side of the Cascades you are struck by a landscape defined by evidence of a violent volcanic past. Surrounded by old overgrown lava flows and high sharp peaks frosted with snow, you can’t help but be struck by the contrast in weather and geology. We have definitely left the rain shade behind us and are moving into what appears to be high desert.
Roughly twenty miles northwest of Bend we descend into Sisters Oregon, a little town of under 2000 people that was founded near Camp Polk and a former Indian wars outpost. Soldiers had been stationed there to protect settlers traveling along Santiam Wagon Road, along our present route on the Santiam Highway.
The town was renamed Sisters after the prominent three volcanic peaks that frame the southwestern horizon twenty miles to the southwest – North Sister, Middle Sister and the only semi-active volcano of the three, South Sister.
Continuing on down to Bend we come into what many characterize as a California-ized boom town. The original site of the town was known as Farewell Bend by early pioneers who considered it one of the few fordable locations on the Deschutes River.
Early Bend was a burgeoning logging town and home to two competing mills until they virtually deforested the surrounding hills and finally closed in 1950. The town’s economy never really recovered until rejuvenated by it’s proximity to the Mount Bachelor ski resort and nearby vacation havens around Cascade Lakes.
Today the old saw mills have been reinvented as the trendy Old Mill District. Food and shopping options abound, with new aspen-like housing shooting up everywhere and million dollar homes on the riverbanks.
Downtown Bend has gotten a terrific face lift as well and we decide to try a referred restaurant for some dinner. We are definitely not disappointed.
Downtown Bend Deschutes Brewery & Public House
Our dinner spot in downtown Bend came highly recommended by our friends Scot and Kathy who are now locals, transplanted from California. They were right! We enjoyed two tasty meals and ate off each others plates! Grilled Alaskan Coho Salmon ~ Wild Alaskan Coho salmon fillet was pan seared with harissa spice, served with tzatziki sauce to cool things down a bit, lemony tabouli salad and grilled asparagus. Baby Back Ribs! Duroc pork ribs that were smoked for hours making them tender were slathered in a rich and spicy house barbecue sauce and serve with Cajun-spiced mac & cheese.
I have some wonderful childhood memories of visiting family friends whose backyard lawn rolled down to the Deschutes River’s edge. I would spends hours in the wooden lawn swing, swinging and watching for Freddie the Swan to glide down the river.
These memories make me so happy when I think of them that I wanted to find the spot, or something near it, to relive the feelings again. We chatted with our waiter Corbett about where this might be.
A lot has changed, homes have been torn down, larger homes built in their places but I can get the feeling of where the bridge was, how the lawn sloped and the river flowed. Drake Park that now sits across the river has a wall with swans. This must be it….and it’s good enough for now.
Old Mill District
Today’s Old Mill District was yesterday’s lumber mills. Today it is aesthetically designed with some of the most popular clothing shops, restaurants and art galleries, all set against the stunning backdrop of the Cascade Mountains and the Deschutes River. Beautifully laid out along the river’s edge, most of the restaurants offer a view of the river and an interpretive trail explains how the past meets up with modern times.The three-chimney powerhouse that once fueled the sawmill’s belts and blades now houses REI.
Crown Villa RV Resort
We decided to stay at Crown Villas Resort while here in Bend. It’s a spacious and well maintained RV Park that attracts the big rigs like ours and only minutes from downtown Bend. The sites are large and covered in pavers. People around us are there to relax, make new friends around campfires and their favorite adult beverage.
The park has a central clubhouse with showers and stream rooms, a hot tub, fitness room, and a room with a fireplace and pool table. For outdoor fun there is a large grass area where we watched several families with enough boys to create a baseball team, play a very amusing game! There’s also pickle ball, disc golf and a tennis court!
If you don’t want to clean your own BBQ grill then head on over to the clubhouse and use theirs! It was so relaxing and next time we will stay longer!