On my very first day of my brand-new job, I learned that I would be going to “Sunriver”. A quick google search told me that Sunriver was a resort community in Central Oregon, near Bend and the Cascade Range. I honestly had never thought of Oregon as a “destination”, and I really didn’t know much about what to expect from the terrain or weather in Oregon. I thankfully had a co-worker send me some pieces of advice about what to pack, and soon enough, I was on my way. I was too excited to once again be in the air that I couldn’t rest on the plane. Plus, I had a window seat, so I spent most of my flight staring out into the sky. My layover was in Salt Lake City, and the views from the sky were incredible. And they only got better as the trip continued.
I was upgraded on my flight from Salt Lake City to Redmond, Oregon. It wasn’t first class, but I felt very blessed to have that happen on my very first trip, which I knew wouldn’t happen all the time. When I landed in Redmond, I deplaned on the tarmac and headed inside to baggage claim. The airport was very small, with no physical gates, and I was most definitely overdressed in my business casual. After baggage claim, my coworker picked me up, and we began the drive towards Sunriver.
Wow, did I underestimate Sunriver, Oregon. On the drive, I began to see parts of the Cascade Range appearing in the distance. My coworker taught me about the Three Sisters, Broken Top, and Mt. Bachelor, which are actually volcanic mountains located at the boundary of the Deschutes National Forest. Over the course of the 2 weeks that I was in Sunriver, I learned a lot about these significant peaks, and even explored a few of them.
When I first arrived to the hotel, I was upgraded (just for the night) into the Presidential Suite to accommodate some of their other guests, and I felt like a VIP. The view from the room was incredible, a huge balcony with rocking chairs, I had a double sided fireplace, a rainfall shower, and a beautiful jetted tub. To be completely honest, I was so exhausted from the day of travel, and even a little nervous for my first day “on the road”, that I didn’t enjoy the room as much as I could have. I fell asleep right away.
The next morning, I moved into a different room. It still had a fireplace, a porch out the back door, my own rocking chairs, and a clear view of Mt. Bachelor. Over the next two weeks, it would become my peaceful getaway. The overall programs went very well. I learned a lot about my new job, and had a great teacher. On the small moments of free time that we had while in Central Oregon, we were able to drive to neighboring areas to Sunriver, mostly in a town called Bend.
Bend, Oregon is not far from Sunriver, and according to locals, it has really flourished in recent years. It is home to Mt. Bachelor, and the Cascade range, but even more so is filled with lakes, the Deschutes River, skiing, and more. Bend hosts a significant number of tourists throughout the seasons, and with all there is to do and explore, I can see why. I constantly saw locals paddle boarding, kayaking, biking, hiking, and I even saw some in ski gear. Bend is also home to the newly trendy Hydroflask and Deschutes Brewery, the 8th largest craft brewery in the nation. On one of our free afternoons, we were able to experience Bite of Bend, which was going on in the downtown Bend area in the midst of a marathon. To be honest, Bend reminded me a lot of Fayetteville, Arkansas. It was very local-driven, very proud of its small-town feel while also being proud of its growth. Though Fayetteville doesn’t quite have the scenery that the Cascade Range gives Central Oregon, I feel that Northwest Arkansans would fall in love with Bend and vice versa.
I am very grateful that my first trip with work was to Central Oregon. It was unexpected and beautiful, and it’s a trip that I don’t know if I would have taken on my own. The Pacific Northwest is even more beautiful than I’ve heard, and I can’t wait to go back and explore more of Oregon’s beautiful state.
A few places that I visited…
Sparks Lake: 25 miles west of Bend, Sparks Lake is approximately 370-acres of lake wetland, surrounded by 360-acres of meadow, marsh, or stream wetlands. Breathtaking views of South Sister, Broken Top, and Bachelor butte surround the lake, and trails. The lake was formed about 10,000 years ago, when lavas from the Mt. Bachelor Volcanic Chain blocked the upper Deschutes River. There are small streams (also known as “beaver highways”) throughout the area that are freezing cold, and very slick, so watch where you step! You will need a day pass or forestry pass to park and explore for the day!
Devil’s Lake: 30 miles southwest of Bend, Devil’s Lake is a shallow 23-acre shallow lake with turquoise color and scenic views. The trailhead is located just off the lake, and travels into the Three Sisters Wilderness. You do need to have the $5 Day Pass or a pass off their approved list online, in addition to the free, self-issue permit required Memorial Day – October 31st. This hike was moderate, and after about a mile turned into 4-6 ft. of packed snow.
Newberry National Volcanic Monument: Including 54,000+ acres of lakes, lava flows, and geologic features, this monument was created to view the lava lands of Central Oregon. The highest point in the monument is Paulina Peak (pronounced pawl-eye-nah), at a summit of 7,985 ft. Unfortunately, there was too much snow on Paulina Peak during our visit, but we made the most of it by checking out the Big Obsidian Flow and Paulina Lake. At 1,300 years old, the Big Obsidian Flow is the youngest lava flow in Oregon. A one-mile trail leads through this astounding lava flow of obsidian (black glass) and pumice to overlook Paulina Lake. While not a difficult hike, this path gives history on the Big Obsidian Flow and Newberry National Volcanic Monument as well. Covering an area of 1,531-acres, Paulina Lake is the larger of the 2 twin lakes in the Newberry Caldera. Both Paulina and East Lakes rely solely on rain, snowmelt, and hot springs for water. Paulina Creek drains Paulina Lake, creating a remarkable waterfall by way of a chiseled, narrow gorge through the caldera’s west wall. The hot springs at Paulina Lake are a little more difficult to find than then ones at East Lake, but just as cool. After bathing in the hot springs, it’s a tradition to then plunge into the freezing lake. You will need a day pass or forestry pass to park and explore for the day!
Sunriver Brewing Company: This is actually where I watched the Blues win the 2018-2019 season Stanley Cup. They have great beers and ciders on draft, good food, and a great atmosphere. It’s a seasonal menu, but if they have the Baked Mac ‘n Cheese or the Moroccan Bowl on the menu, those were hard to beat!
The Last Blockbuster: The very last Blockbuster exists in Bend, Oregon and is still functioning as a real Blockbuster today. When I stepped inside, I was filled with nostalgia for going to my own local store and picking out a movie with my parents. I picked up a sticker on my way out, and definitely took a picture inside.
Pilot Butte: A scenic viewpoint located just east of Bend, this butte allows for 360 views of the Cascade Range and more. You can drive, hike, or bike up to the top, just be careful – the roads are windy!
St. Francis School: This 1936 Catholic schoolhouse was transformed in 2004 to a hotel complete with classrooms-turned-lodging rooms, a pump, brewery, a movie theater, private meeting/event space, live music bookings, and a fantastic soaking pool. McMenamins is a hospitality company that is considered a neighborhood gathering spot throughout Oregon and Washington since 1983. Not only do they honor each property’s former life through photos and memorabilia, they create custom artwork, furniture, and light fixtures to honor the history as well.
Mt. Bachelor: I would love to hike around Mt. Bachelor in the summer, or ski during the winter!
Crater Lake: Though not particularly in Bend or Sunriver, this is definitely a place I want to visit. 7,700 years ago, a violent eruption triggered the collapse of a tall peak, forming Crater Lake. Fed by rain and snow, it is the deepest lake in the United States, and one of the most pristine on earth.
XO – MC