Practice Vacation

It’s been a long time since N and I have had a proper week-plus vacation together. Sure, we’ve stolen some long weekends this year, to Utah, to Yosemite and to Mammoth. But those in the travel biz would call those “short breaks”, which in my book doesn’t qualify as a ‘real’ vacation.

So I’m really looking forward to the two week trip we’ve got planned to France later this year. It’s been a long time since I took that much time off, so I figured a training vacation was in order. Nothing special, just a week away somewhere that wasn’t Tahoe. Bend’s a close enough drive, and offers much of what we love (outdoor recreation, good coffee and food), plus, N’s parent’s live there. And they have a dog that wears out our old lady – built in doggie day care!

It was a most relaxing week despite the unusually warm weather that was apparently my fault (karma really is a bitch). Our days consisted of mountain biking, hanging out with his parents, and reading, with the odd jaunt into town for coffee or lunch. It was blissfully unscheduled.

One area of my practice vacation that I didn’t do so well on was the photography. Sure, the trails in Bend are swoopy singletrack fun, but I didn’t stop much to take photos (or when I did, I would inevitably get N in the shadow). So, the pickings were slim from the trip.

riding without a seatpost

it's more fun riding *with* a seat. trust me on this.

About the only photo I have is from the last day, when the screw that held my seat to the post shattered at the beginning of the final descent. N takes such good care of the bikes that we never have the typical maintenance issues on the trail…just the extreme ones, like a 10 year old screw disintegrating. So, seatless, I was forced to channel my ‘inner Marla’ and stand up in the pedals for the remaining 7 miles, most of which was downhill, some of which was pump-track like with the jumps and turns. I did make it to the trailhead in one piece, which admittedly is more than my bike could say.

Overall, practice vacation went well, even though it didn’t involve TSA, passports, another language, and a different currency. I’m feeling like I’m ready for the real thing at this point. Time for real vacation.

Winter Break


We spent last week feting the holidays in Bend, where our impeccable timing meant we found fresh powder on Tuesday, and saw the sun and powder on the summit of Mt. Bachelor on Thursday.  While I’ve skied here numerous times, it has always been during storms, so I’ve never seen the top of the mountain, let alone skied it.

The top was fun, albeit a mix of hardpack glare ice where winds had blown the snow off and kneedeep powder where said snow had collected.  There were a few steeper pitches, but overall it was pretty gentle terrain – with great views of the Sisters.  I found it amusing that there was an employee at the bottom of the Summit chair warning people that there was no groomed runs and it was for experts only.  I realize there’s a punter factor at every resort, especially at this time of year, but this seemed excessively cautious.

But that might be because I’m a proponent of the Darwin school of thought, letting only the smartest survive.

A Civilized Ski

We’re in Bend this week, spending time with N’s parents and enjoying the snow that fell the past few days.  Since substantial winds accompanied the weather, it meant that in addition to watching the BBQ roll past the picture window, lift operations at Mt. Bachelor were substantially limited.  So we broke out the phat cross country skis, picked up a Sno-Park permit, and headed up to Swampy Lakes Sno-Park.

Outdoor winter recreation is pretty well organized in Central Oregon.  Different sno-parks cater to different user groups, including skiers, snowshoers, snow players, dog owners and snowmobiles.  Skiers who want to take their dogs with them are relegated to the trails that sledders and snowshoers use, so we left the mutt behind with her sheltie-mini australian shepherd playmate in order to enjoy some dedicated xc trails.

At the crack of 10 am on a Friday there was nobody out, so we had first tracks on the trails, which was a beautiful sight. We headed first to the Swampy Lakes Shelter, which was well stacked with split wood, all set for a group of skiers to enjoy.

Swampy Lakes shelter

As it was early and we had more trail to break, we continued, and circled around the Flagline trail meeting two women trail breaking the other direction.  Their generosity made the rest of the loop a bit quicker, though our last mile was slowed by the many groups of people coming the other direction.  Apparently an alpine start in this part of the world is before noon.  This is not a bad thing, as it let us sleep in a bit, and enjoy the tranquility before the hordes arrived.

Benderific

We’ve been in Bend this week visiting with N’s parents.  While it’s been more work focused than past visits, we did make it to Waldo Lake on our drive up.  Our timing was good, as the next day a fire broke out not far from this part of Willamette Pass, closing the road and leaving the area very smoky.

Of course the day we rode it was gorgeous.  I took some photos of the burn area at the north east end of the lake, which is starting to show signs of life.  My camera doesn’t do it justice but the color contrast was very dramatic.

Burn area at Waldo Lake

Tree skeletons

N’s parents live on top of a hill in West Bend, and the views – both sunsets and sunrises – are fantastic.  This one was taken the morning after the fire had broken out.

Bend sunrise

Sadly, that’s been the extent of the adventures this week.  Between work, prepping for the two classes I begin teaching next week and helping out with house chores (like helping N move a tremendously heavy stone sculpture from the back of the house to the front), it’s kept us busy.  Lest I come across as a total martyr I should admit that I have made it a point to catch up with friends who now live here as well as enjoy Bend’s fabulous municipal pool.  Just no 25 mile mountain bike rides as such.

Ranger Dick & the Three Sisters Wilderness

Yesterday N and I decided to head up to the Three Sisters Wilderness for a short but scenic hike to Green Lake.  This portion of the wilderness area requires dogs to be on leash, so we brought the extendable one for extra fun, seeing how challenged Soleil is on one.  N had just read the Dog Whisperer’s book, and had been parroting all the things that ‘Cesar says’, and was eager to show me how alpha he was with our mutt on a leash.

The trail itself is wide and gentle, not like most of the trails I’m used to hiking at Lake Tahoe.  It followed a creek up for about 4 miles, with log bridge crossings at various points.  It being Sunday afternoon, we passed a ton of people  descending, most with dogs on leashes, though a few were openly scoffing the leash law.  When we arrived at Green Lake, the dog was panting and hot, and we figured a swim would do her good.  However, for her to swim comfortably, we unleashed her.  Not thirty seconds after the first splash, who should arrive but Ranger Dick, looking crisp in his Forest Service uniform, and trying to maintain a stern, a**hat demeanor while surreptitiously hiding his chocolate pudding cup snack.  He asked us why the dog was off leash and N explained, which didn’t appease him at all. He read us his riot act, and I let N deal with this, since I would have probably said something snarky and borderline rude.  It took some skillful mediation on the part of my boyfriend to appease Mr. Pudding Cup, but in the end the ranger relented.  Ironically enough he recommended that we leave the ‘overused’ area where we were and instead go off trail to use another underused shoreline.  I don’t think he saw the inherent contradiction here – perhaps he just wanted us out so he could finish eating in peace?

Despite my teasing about the Dog Whisperer, I was impressed that N could keep the dog on a heel for most of the 4+ mile hike back.  Maybe he’s got something here, but no way am I going to massage her kibble so my scent is on her food.  Ick.

8 Things I love about Bend

We’ve been in Bend the past few days, enjoying the cool desert climate, a comfortable bed and time with N’s parents.  Since top 10 lists are so yesterday, I figured a top 8 list would be different – and easier for me to come up with ideas.  In no particular order:

1. Mountain biking – The trails around Bend are smooth, buff and have a lot of flow.  For someone like me who’s still struggling to master many of the technical sections on trails in Tahoe, I love these trails, for they make me feel like a rock star.

2. Juniper PoolBend Parks and Rec makes South Lake Tahoe’s Parks and Rec look like amateurs, especially when using Juniper Pool as a comparison.  Not only does this facility have an awesome new 50 meter outdoor pool, multiple Masters swim team workouts that anyone can attend, and a hot tub, but it also boasts an impressive fitness center/gym, and the most amazing children’s pool area I’ve seen at a public facility.  Water slides, fountains and other gizmos makes me envious of the kids who spend summers here.

3. Deschutes River Trail – Whether you hike it, mountain bike it or trail run it, this trail, which follows the Deschutes River near Bend for about 10 miles, is a fantastic way to both see Bend’s natural scenery as well as its locals.   Unlike the trails that I tend to run at home, this one is consistently gentle, and often shaded, and not sandy.

4. Downtown Bend– N’s parents used to have an art gallery here, and while I know that the new Mill area is now the shopping mecca, I prefer this 4 block square area for its organic assortment of restaurants, shops, offices and coffeehouses.

5. The Village Baker – N’s parents get *all* their daily bread here, making sandwiches all the more tasty.  They do a fab nut and raisin (currant) loaf that, when topped with honey, is a dessert unto itself.

6. Newport Market – I love this little market, if only because it’s everything the supermarkets in Tahoe aren’t.  And yes, I know that Bend has its fair share of Safeways and bigger shops, but this place was the first food emporium I encountered here, and I thus identify it with Bend…the westside, anyhow.

7. Mt. Bachelor – While ski season is but a memory right now, the few times I’ve skied at Bachelor I’ve been really impressed by the great snow and lack of crowds.  There’s no feeling of aggro locals on a powder day like I see in Tahoe, which results in less anxiety about how fast to ski.  I can’t attest to it as a local though – I hear they’re not so great with season pass pricing.

8. Roundabouts – Yes, I love these.  In South Lake Tahoe, admitting this is akin to heresy, but on Bend’s Westside, the numerous roundabouts we encounter to go anywhere really keep traffic moving.  And there’s usually some cool sculpture or landscaping on them as well – utility and aesthetics combined.