Bend + Central Oregon

I had two scheduled days off without a plan. I knew I needed to get outside and into my tent, and Bend had been on my list for awhile. If you know me at all, you know I am a really good planner.  I can make the perfect itinerary for any event or trip. That being said, you probably also know that I make ridiculous, irrational last minute decisions and rarely follow my plan.

This trip was different. The only thing I planned was to head towards Bend, Oregon. I had no idea where I was going to stay, and made no plans or to-do’s. I decided I wanted to be off the grid and neglected nearly everything on my phone. I used it here and there for navigation but tried to follow signs for the most part.

Monday night after the Blazers game I headed home to my 300 sq ft micro studio to throw some things together for my trip. Honestly I just grabbed my backpack, tent, sleeping bag, and a change of clothes. The rest of my gear was pre-packed in my backpack as I am typically ready for a last minute camping trip.

Tuesday morning my alarm went off at 5:23am and proceed to make awful noises for a good 45 minutes. I am so terrible at mornings. I finally hopped out of bed, showered, and was out the door within 30 minutes. I stopped at Barista on 23rd for an americano. I put Bend in my navigation and looked over the directions then set my phone to “Do Not Disturb”. The drive to Bend is about 3 and half hours. The only way to listen to music in my car is on the radio so I blasted some cheesy Christian radio stations the entire way shouting every dang lyric (with the exception of the moments in the mountains when all you get is the Spanish stations.)

The drive was wild. I got off of the interstate near Salem and felt like I was driving into a place that wasn’t real. Water was shooting off of the bright, moss covered cliffs beside me. Nothing looked real. I passed through tiny little towns. Susie’s Cafe stood out as a slowed down through one of the towns but I kept on driving. As I drove up the mountain the green mossy cliffs were replaced with snow and and trees. It was unreal. I pulled over and grabbed handfuls snow. I felt like a kid, spinning in circles as the snow melted on my face. It was wonderful. I kept on driving and eventually pulled into Sisters, Oregon.

I stopped at Sisters Coffee. I often go to their Portland location and figured I should check out the original. I asked on the young guys behind the counter if I could borrow a pen and began scribbling my thoughts in my journal. I sat for a moment, staring blankly out the window (this was a pretty common occurrence throughout my trip as you’ll soon learn). I snapped out of my trance as a soft spoken old woman tapped my shoulder. “You’ll find treasures in your own life and those treasures will be people. Hold them closely.” I had been so caught off guard in this moment that I didn’t even know what to say. I smirked and before I had a chance to find any words, she winked at me and headed out the door.

I wandered outside and strolled through the streets. I browsed through bookstores and popped in and out of shops. The town was so much smaller than I expected. I decided it was time to get back on the road. Bend isn’t far from Sisters, so it was just a quick drive. Between Salem and Bend I hiked maybe 6 trails I had seen along the road. As I pulled into Bend I was a bit confused. It wasn’t quite what I was expecting.

I saw too many familiar signs, Target, Kohls, Olive Garden, Safeway. I followed the signs to downtown and was a bit more relieved. I found a place to park and wandered around the streets. The downtown is lovely, there are so many little shops placed between the million breweries. I decided I would wander more later – right now I needed to find a trail. I asked someone on the street if they knew a good hike in the area. They told me to check out Pilot Butte. I should have researched a bit but I trusted their judgement. It was nice little couple mile hike on what I believe is an old volcano. I honestly still haven’t really looked into it. It began pouring rain and I turned my hike into a jog. I reached the top and had a 360 degree view of Bend. It was beautiful.

When I got back down off of the trail I drove back into town for another coffee. (I have a problem) I sat at Thump Coffee writing in my journal and reading. I knew what I wanted to be doing was outside. I ended up checking out the OG 10 Barrel Brewery and grabbed a late lunch. That is when I realized I should just go to Smith Rock. It was about a 40 minute drive away and I hit the road. When I arrived at the Bivy I immediately set up camp. I put on my hiking boots, threw my climbing shoes in my bag, and hit the trail. I hiked Misery Ridge and had incredible views.

I continued hiking around some of the lower trails and watching all of the climbers on the walls. As I passed by some of the high ball boulders a couple of people called me over. Jake and Matt were visiting from North Virginia. They were on a week long climbing trip and invited me to boulder with them. I don’t have a ton of experience with bouldering outside but I decided to take the opportunity. It was so much fun. Matt was climbing at about my level and Jake was much, much better. It was fun to watch them. They were about to go climb the Picnic Lunch Wall. I walked away with cut up hands and could not stop smiling. I went back to camp and grabbed my camera and wandered back down to where they were climbing.

It was so inspiring to watch so many talented climbers. I watched as people shouted with excitement as they clipped into the top, as people yelled with fright as they took whippers, and as their climber partners laughed with words of encouragement. It was so wonderful. The weather started to turn and I pulled my the strings on my hood tight. I sat on top of a boulder, peering out at the river. I decided I should head back to camp before the sun went down.

I sat against a rock under a tree reading my book when I met three Swedish backpackers. They were traveling the West Coast for a month. I shared some of my favorite hikes around the area and we laughed over some of the many ridiculous traits about America. Everyone started to head into their tents early, as a storm was coming in and it was so, so cold. I bundled up in my sleeping bag and fell asleep while reading. I woke up a couple of times in the middle of the night. At one point I just laid there as the wind pulled my tent from side to side. I love storms, and love them even more when I get to be in my tent during them. I fell back asleep after what had felt like forever. I woke up at first light and laid there listening to the raindrops hit my tent. It was lovely.

When there was a break in the rain I packed up my camp and tossed everything in the car. I put on my rain jacket and headed down toward to the river. I wandered along the trail for about 30 minutes with the rain pouring before finally deciding I would head back to Bend. I pulled into Bend and saw a little diner. I walked in and the gentleman working told me to sit wherever I would like. I sat in a booth by the window. He poured me a cup of coffee and sat down to chat. I really don’t like morning conversations. I am typically not alive yet. This was nice though. He talked about his life and his background and trials he had faced, I could tell he needed someone to listen. His story was interrupted when three young guys walked in. I stared out the window all morning.

Still sleepy as heck I got back in my car and headed to Sisters again. I sat in the coffee shop for one last time. I wrote in my journal “I love the silence of the morning before people have to start their day. The sound of rain drops, the smell of a fresh pot of coffee, and the stillness around me as I scribble in my journal. In the midst of a town of people waking up before their daily routine begins, I get to be here. I get to present. I have a choice on what I want to do in my life starting today and so do they – they just don’t realize it yet. I want to help people realize they have a choice.”

I continued on the road with no idea of what the day would have in store for me. I knew I needed to eventually make it back to Portland. I completely forgot to get gas and was almost on empty. I stopped at the first place I saw which ended up being a terrifying little station. It was something you see in a horror film. I walked in and looked around – there was no one to be found.  Finally a woman came in from the back porch and I asked if the gas pumps worked (they looked 100 years old). She grabbed my card out of my hand and filled up my car. I waited inside and saw as she peeked her head in the window. Truly terrifying.

I continued on, stopping at so many wonderful little trails and streams and bridges. I passed by Susie’s Cafe again and decided to turn around at go inside. It was exactly what you’d expect. A table of old people playing cards, drinking coffee. I ordered a coffee and peered around the room. It was an adorable local place that I think my Grandma Arlene would have loved.

I took some back roads towards Portland and passed through so many towns I had heard of but knew nothing about. I only stopped a couple of times but cannot wait to go back and check them out. These are the types of towns where you see signs all along the road reading “eggs $2.00”. Felt just a little like home.

I saw a sign for a tulip farm and decided I should stop. Keep in mind it was still so rainy and the sky was dark grey. I got out of my car in my tennis shoes and wandered into the field. It was beautiful. The best thing about being there on a stormy day is that I had almost the entire farm to myself. It was so lovely.

I stood in the middle of all of these beautiful flowers in the pouring rain and couldn’t help but laugh. Everything that had taken place over the last 32 hours was a ridiculous adventure and in that moment I was full of joy.

These little solo trips are so important for me but I get to be reminded how much I cherish the people in my life who make my days so wonderful.

This 32 hour getaway reminded me that my life is truly full of joy.

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