Bend Oregon activities have given it the nickname of the “outdoor playground of the West,” is the perfect destination for women traveling solo. With outdoor pursuits like dogsledding and snowshoeing, to touring microbreweries, and boutique hotels with staff that cannot do enough for you, the friendliness of the residents is second to none.
When, Where, Why
After a February business trip in Portland, I thought, “Why not see what else there is to do in Oregon?” So I set off driving across the Cascades via the scenic Mt. Hood pass to the city of Bend, often called the “outdoor playground” of the west.
Highlights and Highpoints
I stared open-mouthed as I approached the base of Mt. Bachelor, capped in snow, surrounded by snow-dusted pines set against the clear, electric-blue sky. Waiting at the base was Jeff, my guide from Wanderlust Tours with my snowshoes in tow. It was my first time snowshoeing, and I wasn’t sure I’d be much good at it, but it turned out to be more fun than expected – especially running down the hills which were blanketed in more than a foot of snow, clad in the aforementioned snowshoes. But the pièce de résistance was when we emerged from blazing our own trail into a clearing revealing a postcard-worthy vista of the Cascade Mountain Range.
Dog sledding through the towering, snow-frosted hemlock pines with Mt. Bachelor as a backdrop was nothing short of magical. The Trail of Dreams sled dogs, directed by tour guide, Jerry Scdoris, whisked me away on a thrilling journey. As the team of Alaskan Huskies bounded along the twists and turns with me bundled under blankets inside the Iditarod sled, Jerry steered and chatted amicably with me about his 35-year career as a trainer and racer, and how his high-energy dogs love the chilly weather and being out on the open trails. No whips or “motivational” instruments of any kind needed (or wanted); the dogs respond solely to various vocal inflections of Jerry’s “Hey!” The one-hour ride was the highlight of my visit to Bend. The Trail of Dreams also offers half-day trips which I’d love to go back and do.
Biggest Laugh and/or Giggles
Across from my downtown room in the Oxford Hotel was “Let It Ride,” an outfit offering tours of downtown while driving electric bikes. I hadn’t planned on including this in my itinerary, but with a couple of free hours to fill, I signed up and moments later was seated on my own motor-powered bike. I’d never operated a hand-throttle before, so perhaps I was a little too eager. The bike jolted and off I went, squealing with delight as the ice-cold air blasted across my face! The electric bike was a lot of fun – although I think a second run – in the summer – might be in order.
I’m not a beer drinker; in fact, beer hasn’t touched my lips since my early 20’s. But Bend is renowned for its twelve world-class microbreweries, so while lunching at Crux, a small brewery which opens into a casual lodge-style restaurant, I decided I’d try their “Freakcake” craft beer. You know, when in Rome….
Momento or Memory
I was surprised and delighted not only with the stunning beauty of Bend, but how solo-friendly it was to a woman traveling alone. The tour guides, shop owners, and restaurant staff could not have been nicer. But it was the Oxford Hotel that was clinched it… Not only was this upscale, eco-friendly hotel strategically situated smack in the middle of everything downtown Bend has to offer, but the staff went out of their way to assist me at every turn – even to the point of the bellman, Todd, walking me to my late-night dinner reservation at Barrio, about a block away from the hotel!
On my last day, a card left in my room by the hotel staff said, “An involuntary return to the point of departure is, without doubt, the most disturbing of all journeys.” (Iain Sinclair). And so it was, I reluctantly left Bend thinking I had not had enough time –the telltale mark of a successful adventure.
How a woman can travel solo to Bend and love it first published in the Sunday Travel Section of the Washington Post, February 13, 2014.
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