Monday, January 2, 2012

Deschutes River Hike

Post-Christmas I have a tradition of visiting my brother Dale and his family in nearby Bend, Oregon.  This year was no exception.  December 26th found Cody and I packing up my Subie for a trip over the Cascades.  Normally these visits are accompanied by a couple of ski days at nearby Mt. Bachelor.  But December was such a dry month, the snow on the slopes was looking mighty thin.  Not wanting to pay $74 to ski on ice and dodge rocks, I asked Dale if we could go hiking instead.

The Deschutes River showing it's calm side

There are many wonderful places to hike around Bend.  Dale suggested we explore a section of the Deschutes River.  Bend has a magnificent trail system that parallels the Deschutes.  Both hikers and mountain bikes can use these riverside paths.

Posing on the river bank

Dale likes to get outside as much as I do, and his dogs needed some exercise.  We loaded up the car with five people and two dogs, heading for the trailhead.

Dale points down into the rapids

We picked a middle section of the Deschutes for our hike.  At the trailhead, the river banks were at trail level, the river smooth and glassy.  But that didn't last for long!

Ice has formed around the river's edge

A short distance down the trail the river dropped into a narrow canyon.  The water lost its smooth veneer and began to boil and roll into frothy white rapids.  The trail, now much higer, provided lofty views of the Deschutes far below us.

View down into the churning water

It was a chilly day.  You could see where ice had formed along the river's banks.  The overcast sky soon began to spit intermittent raindrops.  Although it was near freezing, the temps weren't quite low enough to produce snow.   Even so, I was glad I'd thought to wear a hat and bring gloves.

Water rushing through a narrow spot

As we followed the trail though the rocks and manzanita bushes, side paths led us to breathtaking overlooks to the river below.  The Deschutes was hemmed in by tall basalt cliffs.  The rock formations were very scenic and interesting.  Ponderosa pine trees and remnants of summer vegetation clung to the tops of the walls.

The trail is now high above the Deschutes

The Bend area, being on the eastern side of the Cascades, has a drier climate than Portland.  The vegetation is radically different.  Ponderosa pines, sagebrush and manzanita bushes dominated the landscape.  Instead of the green I'm used to at home, most everything was a rusty shade of brown.  The green needles of the ponderosa pines did provide a little color relief.

Hiking party group photo

After hiking a short distance down the trail, we can upon a bend in the river. Some men in a boat could be seen far below, fishing in the frigid waters.  A beautiful meadow, in several different tints of rust and gold, spread out on the opposite shore.

The post marks the trail

We continued a little bit farther past the fisherman until the trail began to wind down the canyon.  One person in our party had a bum knee, and downhills were not particularly good for it.  So it was decided to make this our turnaround point.  The rain was starting to come down harder anyway.

Domino ready to fetch a pinecone

Dale's dogs, Domino and T-Bone had a great time, bounding through the woods.  Domino especially loved running back and forth along the trail.  But her favorite activity was fetching thrown sticks and pine cones.

Scenic meadow near a bend in the river

While it wasn't quite a comparable substitute for skiing, I still enjoyed getting outside on a chilly day and exploring a new trail.  Who says you can't find nice scenery in winter?


  1. A pretty area I have not seen before. Nice pictures and narrative.

  2. Beautiful hike! Skiing is supposed to be among the best in the nation at Red Lodge here in Montana, but I don't ski :)

  3. What a beautiful area. I'd love to visit that sometime.

  4. I love Bend. We have been there 3 times for vacation and it is one of our favorite places. Unfortunately it is a really long drive for us otherwise we would go more often. Glad you were able to get outside and enjoy your hike!


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