Colorado is our home state, and it is one of the BEST places to see fall colors. Even though we both grew up in Colorado, and we've each seen 20+ Colorado falls already in our lives, this year we got extreme FOMO by having been away from Colorado the past three years during its prime fall season. In our three years of full timing, we've screwed up our fall plans 3/3 years. By this, ...
Well we picked a fantastic time to head to Bend, Oregon, right in the middle of the July PNW heat wave. Record temps of up to 115 were forecasted in Portland, Seattle and Vancouver. Bend was only supposed to get to 108.
As we left California, we drove all the way to Klamath Falls because we needed better internet, and the small town of Mt. Shasta wasn’t going to cut it. We’d previously had a fun week hiking in Northern California, so now we needed to get some work done. We alternated between the Walmart and the Planet Fitness parking lots for getting some work done, works outs, showers, and where to park overnight. But then the heat wave came. The only real way to survive this heat: making friends with someone in Bend, and make even better friends with their air conditioning. Luckily, Blake knew a guy in Bend that had previously offered for us to stay with them anytime we were in the area. Score! People are always reaching out and offering us places to stay, and normally we don’t want to impose or the timing doesn’t work out, but this was the perfect time to take someone up on their gracious offer. Blake knew Tim from one of the Baja 1000 race teams he’d filmed in 2017. Although they’d only met once and kept up on social media, Tim and his wife Shawn offered for us to stay in their guest room to get out of the heat, work at their kitchen table, and even brought us around downtown Bend to show us all their favorite restaurants. They even had the perfect space for us to park out front with the trailer. We stayed with them for four days since the insane heat wasn’t dying down. We got to meet their family, continuously pet their dog, and tried several fun restaurants.
Bend is a total foodie town, so many breweries, tap houses, food trucks, etc. Here’s where we tried:
Brother John’s Public House– they have a rotating specials menu that our friends raved about and a good variety of food, local drinks, and everything made in house.
Monkless Belgian Ales– a fun brewpub with river views. We had the Moscow Mule with their house made hibiscus ginger ale. Highly recommend!
River Pig Saloon – Wings and cilantro buffalo drumksticks that our friends loved.
McMenamins – This is the old historic St. Francis Catholic School turned into a brewpub. The main building of the school was turned into the restuarant, and other areas are now a hotel with spa and pool. You can even go to a speakeasy in an old broom closet. This was fun to check out, but we weren’t super impressed with the food, but this was our own fault because we’d already had appetizers and drinks and two other places!
Wild Rose– Thai food voted best takeout in Bend! We had the Street Noodles and Drunken Noodles and loved both!
Bend has a fun vibe with the Deschutes river running right through town, and a nice central park grassy area. The locals tube and SUP and kayak down this section of flatwater river and on weekends the river gets absolutely packed, especially during this heat wave.
We wanted to take Tim out on the jetboat while we visited, and decided to try a section of the Deschutes that was south of town. So what we’re learning is that it’s still really hard to try to find consolidated and correct information regarding river designation and usage. We thought we had found a great resource from the Oregon Marine Board showing all motorized and non motorized river ways, and it was color coded if there were speed restrictions. So we found a section of skinny flatwater on the upper Deschutes River to take Tim, but when we got there we learned there was a 5 MPH speed limit designated by the Forest Service to protect the riverbanks, which we didn’t even think the FS had jurisdiction to implement a speed limit. It turned out that the speed limit didn’t even matter because the river was so crowded with tubers that we wouldn’t have even been able to get on step without having to put the boat down again for more floaters. There were more tubers, kayakers, SUPers than I’d ever seen in my life; probably thousands, and that’s not an exaggeration. Since we made the effort to get there, we slowly went a couple miles upriver anyway. We got up on step in between a couple sets of rafters, but mostly had to set it back down right away and ended up just trolling most of the way. The section of river was so green and forested, and quite peaceful. It goes past a bunch of homes too. The amount of tubers got crazier throughout the day, so after eating lunch we just turned around and pretty much floated back. So the day turned out to be kind of a bust in terms of showing Tim the boat, but Tim insisted it was still fun for him to get outside. The water was super refreshing.
Farther downstream this section of river is the Benham Falls, which you can hike to in .7 miles. We did this at the end of the day just to make the trip more worth it.
There’s a lot more to do in Bend, but our friends were leaving for a July 4th trip, so we left their house after 4 days of AC, and made our way to south of Portland to meet another guy from Instagram that has a mini jetboat and invited us to come run a couple rivers. We ran two different rivers with him and two other guys with 10 foot minijetboats. It was good experience for us because we did a little bit more whitewater at the end of the second river, but mostly the rivers were just skinny flatwater with some shallow sections and some rocks to look out for. It was still pretty hot, and since we went on a weekend, we got started early enough to beat some of the tubers on these rivers. We also ran up to the Willamette Falls which I had never heard of but are great big wide falls on the Willamette River. Summer is the dry season for the PNW, so the rivers fill up in the rainy season in the winter, which is the opposite of what we’re used to in Colorado. The last section of one of the rivers goes through this fun cliff jump and swimming hole spot with really pretty emerald green water. It was July 4th so it got really crowded and we got off the river before experiencing anyone too drunk, but not before some kayaker plowed into our boat trailer at the ramp, flipped and spilled the contents of his kayak. Don’t worry, he was okay.
We had zero reason to stay in the Portland area, and with so many riots happening there these days, we left right after running those rivers. Since it was still so hot, and we had some work to get done, we needed to find some higher elevation. The crazy thing about the PNW to us is seeing the forests at such low elevation because we are used to our forests being at 5k feet or higher in Colorado, which means our Colorado mountains don’t get so hot. We were just melting in the heat in our camper, so we went up to Mount Hood where the base is 6,000 feet. Honestly it only cooled down a little bit during the day, but the nights it definitely cooled off more. We parked at the base of Mt. Hood at the Timberline Lodge.I didn’t know that you can ski on Mt. Hood all year long! The parking lot was packed with people, even on weekdays, who were up there to ski. This spot was on iOverlander, but we learned you are technically only supposed to park there overnight if you are hiking the PCT or Mt. Hood overnight. There were lots of other ski bums parking there overnight. We got away with it for two nights, but then had a notice on our truck stating these rules, so we headed back down the mountain. We were able to get some work done and also hiked a short stretch of the PCT starting from the parking lot.
We hiked from Timberline Lodge to Zig Zag Canyon overlook. It was less than a 5 mile hike, with a few steep sections. Even on a very hot day in July there is still snow on part of the trail. You get views of Mt. Hood pretty much along the entire trail, but the view at the end is really the best part and made those steep sections worth it. The canyon is deep, jagged and zig zagged just like the name implies, and there were little yellow wildflowers popping off that contrasted with the snow up on the mountain, and made the view look so pretty. This is a perfect short hike from Mt. Hood. We started at 4 pm since we had long hot days, and it took us two hours.
On our way out of Oregon, we camped for a night along the Columbia River by the John Day Dam, where there was tons of easy camping right on the riverbanks. We couldn’t believe how choppy the river looked and how windy it gets in the gorge, but we got a great sunset for our last day in Oregon.