Our Own Oregon Trail

Originally, the plan was to get to Salt Lake City from the lava beds in northern California. We thought we would drive across the northern part of Nevada, but in looking at the map noticed very few roads and even fewer interesting places to stop along the way. Instead, we headed north to Bend, OR. While we have visited many national parks and monuments so far on this trip, we have not been to a single brewery. Since Bend boasts the largest number of breweries per capita, it seemed like a good place to correct this issue.

There is a Bend Ale Trail that includes 16 of the local breweries in Bend and the surrounding area. We ended up visiting 8 of the 16 during our time around Bend. For the Ale Trail all you need to do is show up at the brewery and get your ale trail passport stamp, but what’s the fun in that? We sampled their beer flights and food in the breweries we visited over the weekend to appreciate their craft.

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All the breweries had a different vibe and distinct tasting beers. Luckily, Pam and I have opposite tastes in beer so splitting the flights always works for us. She likes the lighter and fruitier beers. I like the darker porters and stouts. We typically have to share the ales, unless it’s a Scottish Ale like Four Peaks’ Kiltlifter, then she gets those since that is her favorite.

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Bend itself was a nice town with a Summer Festival going in the downtown section that made parking challenging with the Roamer, but doable if you didn’t mind walking.

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As with many nice, small western towns, rich Californians descended, drove up the prices and increased the traffic so that all of the original locals that helped to make it a great place now want to leave. There are a lot of outdoors activities around Bend, and with national forests to the north and south of Bend, we camped one night to the north in the woods outside of Sisters, OR….

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… and camped the next night to the south of Bend near the Newberry Volcanic National Monument.

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We visited the nearby High Desert Museum and the National Monument. The museum had some interesting exhibits, many sculptures around the grounds and live animals and birds. This was one of the sculptures made of barbed-wire.

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We drove up to Paulina Peak, just south of Bend, which is now part of the Newberry National Monument. The area had two beautiful lakes in the caldera of the old volcano, and an obsidian mountain, which was a result of the most recent volcanic flow a few thousand years ago.

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Obsidian and pumice are nearly the same rock differing in the amount of silica. The mountain was a mixture of both where silica rich veins created beautiful obsidian rock, or volcanic glass formations for hundreds of yards.

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Obsidian rock can be sharpened to a single atom thickness, much sharper than steel, so it’s no wonder early knives and arrow heads were made of the rock.

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You all should now realize that Pam and I will be unbeatable in trivia contests from now on – lol.

On our way out of Bend we hit the best Ale Trail brewery (in my opinion), located just north of Bend in Redmond, OR. Wild Ride Brewery had the best assortment of really good beers.

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We ended up two brewery passport stamps short of getting a commemorative Ale Trail glass so we’ll have to head back to Bend sometime in the future. We also need to return for Atlas Cider, which is also in Bend. While not on the Ale Trail I had one of Atlas’ blackberry ciders at one of our stops that put a lot of the beers we tasted to shame, especially the weak pilsners, pale ales and saisons.

We then headed towards eastern Oregon on a two-lane rural road, Route 26, through some beautiful country. We ran into the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument along the way and had to stop. It had a little of everything to see: colorful landscapes in the painted hills…

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… along with fossils uncovered in the local area.

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Since it was closing time when we were done hiking and looking around, we asked the rangers for camping spots nearby. There was one close, but it was explained to us as being “five miles up a nasty dirt road into the mountains”, to which Pam and I both replied – “Perfect”.

The place is called Lands End and it’s a family owned homestead with its own hangar and grass runway situated on a beautiful mountain meadow. Being there mid-week we were the only guests, but it’s typically packed on the weekends. They are already booked with 50-some campers during the Aug 2017 solar eclipse. It would be a great place to see the eclipse.

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The couple who now own and run the place moved back to the family homestead from Seattle about 30 years ago. He brought the old wood and sheet metal hangar from the Seattle area. He said he was going for the rustic look. Pam jokingly told him he nailed it. The hangar housed three planes, fifties style diner seating and much more. As the sun rose and set the sheet metal hangar creaked and groaned as if trying to move across the field.

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The next day we took off for the Snake River and the Idaho border. We drove through more beautiful farm country and camped along the Snake River for the night.

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We followed the Snake River through Idaho farm country along route 30. At one Snake River overlook was the path of the old Oregon Trail. The seven month wagon train trail ran from Kansas City, Missouri, through Salt Lake City to Oregon. We wondered how many folks became Mormons along the trail and stopped at SLC just to end the trip.

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Just east of the overlook was Thousand Springs, where amazing amounts a water come gushing out of the rock wall of the Snake River in waterfall cascades. It is not what someone would expect for such a dry area (away from the river), but really beautiful. We should have taken a picture of the area, but we didn’t. So you’ll have to see it for yourselves.

We finally made it Pam’s brother’s place in SLC. We had our tires rotated, completed a Ford recall software upgrade for the truck and just relaxed for a few days with Nali and Maizy (Allan’s two dogs).

The North American blacksmith convention was in SLC so we went there to check out some of the pieces. A couple of the Phoenix area blacksmiths that I’ve worked with were there and I introduced them to Pam and Allan. Their forge is where I’ve been known to disappear for a weekend or two.

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We also checked out the Red Butte gardens at the University of Utah, where Allan’s girlfriend works. The grounds were beautiful and we could have stayed in the herb garden forever it smelled so good.

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We’ll be leaving SLC and heading into Wyoming on the next leg of our trip.

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