Zen On Dirt

A week near Bend

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We had somewhere on the order of a week to kill before our next trip. After a somewhat stressful afternoon coming off of the Hot Sisters route with the car misbehaving and there being no cheap open rooms available in Bend, we finally pointed to the National Forest land south of town, found a pull out, set our tent up, and collapsed.

With the smoke supposedly in Idaho as well, we didn’t really have a clear vision of what we wanted to do. Go scout a better route for Hot Sisters? Head towards Idaho and dork around there for a few days? Go to a town with a cheap motel and work for a week?

Both of us being a little tired didn’t help the decision making process.

We spent one morning scrambling around two caves near our campsite, because really, who’s in a hurry to get to town with power outlets and reliable internet in order to get to work.


After a second night at our campsite where a swarm of bees (wasps?) didn’t want to leave us alone, we knew it was time to do something.

Drive to Crescent Lake. Let’s go scout the route.

At the very least, it would get us out of the heat.

Day one of scouting took us north from Crescent Lake to the north end of Odell Lake where a dirt road would connect to Gold Lake Camp on our route. It was a mess of snowmobile trails and jeep roads next to a railroad, but it went, with minimal BS. Plus, we got to ride a backcountry landing strip straight to a resupply.


Winning. Now, if only it went to the south.

Back at camp, we went for a swim in the lake. Daily swims are required to get the thick layer of dust off the skin after every ride around here.


Later in the evening, two PCT thru-hikers stumbled into our camp. We knew that they were bailing off of the actual PCT to go to Shelter Cove, and their maps advertised free camping with running water and toilets somewhere in the area. We fed them sodas and brownies and had a good chat with Farmer before he went to the other side of the parking lot we were camped in and set up his tent.


Our second day of scouting involved climbing the Metolious-Windigo trail up to Windigo Pass. In the seven miles of trail, we ran into no fewer than a dozen PCT hikers. Seemed like all of them wanted to hike 10 fewer miles and get to their next resupply more directly, so they were bailing off the PCT. All were friendly. Some were in a hurry. Most didn’t seem bothered in the slightest that they had to share a non-PCT trail with bikes.


At the pass, we met a Trail Angel, Burk, who had some friends on the trail and thought it would be fun to spend three days up there handing out sodas, candies, and beers.

Eventually, we got on our way, down a questionable horse trail that would take us to the top of the North Umpqua trail, and hook us back up with Hot Sisters. Thanks to it being a popular equestrian trail, it was beautifully cleared of trees. We met two horsey riders, one with a horse with minimal bike experience, and the rider thanked us profusely for letting her horse take a good look at both our bikes and us as we stood there talking for a little bit.

Turns out, we can all get along.


We coasted the rest of the way down to Lemolo, met a group of four cycle-tourists riding the 4-pannier Surly Long-Haul Trucker setups who were also going around the Three Sisters Wilderness via dirt and paved roads. Their next stop was Crater Lake, just like us three weeks ago. We gave them some beta on food and camping before starting up the road back to Windigo, satisfied that our Hot Springs Alternate was viable.

This time through the trail angel camp, he twisted my arm enough to take a beer from him. It was pretty ideal at the top of the climb. I can’t turn down a Black Butte Porter. It’s my go-to beer.

We passed a few more hikers on the way down, including one that told us we had a ‘thru-hiker vibe’ and another that said she wished she had a bike right then and went swimming again, meeting two south bound hikers at the campground who were professors at Rutgers and making good use of their sabbatical.

We needed to start making our way back towards Bend, but the smoke had cleared, so we made the quick jaunt up to Tumalo Mountain in the shadow of Mt Bachelor. It was great views of the Sisters…without the smoke this time.


Breakfast with my brother and his girlfriend who happened be passing through town. A quick ‘let’s reconnect and share a hug and beta on trails in Idaho and hot springs in Oregon’ with Kimberly from Salida who was also passing through town, and lunch with Triple Crown finisher Alice Drobna, who is one bad-ass woman.

And then we got to work.

We spent two more nights at a campsite out by the Deschutes River, working till we drained the power from computers and phones, going for a ride to see the waterfalls on the river, and then heading to town where we found a plaza with a Barnes and Noble with reliable internet, a Jamba Juice for daily vitamins, a Hawaiian BBQ place, and a Safeway, all within walking distance. It sort of became our daytime home base.


We finally left Bend yesterday afternoon and drove to our standard midway spot, the Horseshoe Bend hotsprings on the OR/ID border. We had a good pre-bed soak.

This morning, we detoured down to the Snively Hotspring for a quick morning soak on the way to Ketchum, where we’ll meet up with Alexis and Denny sometime tomorrow and start the Idaho Hot Springs route. There will be riding. There will be soaking. There will be fly fishing.


Summer rolls on.


One thought on “A week near Bend

  1. Hi, Eszter…there IS a south route on dirt from Crescent Lake…it cuts out at the south end and goes around Summit Lake and connects to the gravel near Timpanogas. An absolute gorgeous gem is Indigo Lake, just under Cowhorn Peak and it’s a bike trail in one of my fave spots to bikecamp. You can connect by crossing the PCT again and head back toward Summit or cut down toward the Middle Fork and reconnect with your first route. That route you took by the railroad is an awesome xski route in winter. There are 2 backcountry shelters which are hidden, so you probably missed them. It’s an awesome area overall. Jo

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