Less than 24 hours after a great weekend camping with friends at Lake Sonoma, we packed up the car and drove 500 miles north to Bend, Oregon, to visit dear friends we see only once in a while but who are definitely of the "friends for a lifetime" variety.
A word of warning to those attempting this trip: You may be tempted to stop a the Taco Shop in Redding when you gas up. But you'd be better off going across the street to Del Taco or around the corner to Taco Bell. Remember the movie "Coming to America" with Eddie Murphy? How his future father-in-law runs a restaurant called "MacDougall's" or something like that, and he literally stole the McDonald's handbook? Yeah, this place was essentially that place, only a white guy stole the Taco Bell handbook. It passed as sustenance. That's about the highest praise I can offer.
We rolled into Bend in the early evening. I love Bend. I could move here and not look back. The Deschutes River is beautiful, and you can see Mount Bachelor and the other peaks from most of the town. The downtown is charming, with a ton of art and coffee shops without the self-righteous elitism of some outdoorsy liberal granola type places. It feels welcoming, even if it lacks much diversity. Neighborhoods near downtown or west of the river sport elegant charm in their layout and architecture, with pertly maintained yards and kids zipping around on bicycles. Haven't been much on the Wal-Mart side of the highway, but I get the sense it turns more deserty and ranch housey and gun racky in the back of pickup trucky. Ish.
So Wednesday I took the boys to the Lava River Cave just south of town about 30 minutes. It's this very cool pipeline cave originally carved or formed by lava millions of years ago. We took our flashlights and hiked the mile or so to the very end, where you have to crawl on hands and knees the last 60 yards or so. No photos except this one at the entrance to the cave:
In the afternoon we visited the Bend farmers market and bought some of the most luscious blackberries I've ever had. In a "welcome to Oregon" moment, there was a real hippy looking family there with a naked three year old boy, and they bought some fruit and sat right in the middle of the grass smack in the center of the market and had their picnic. No one seemed to care much.
Besides the amazing scenery, the lake offered two special treats. Below are a select few photos from the hike. I couldn't put too many of them here because I was always the last hiker, which meant most of my photos of my companions were from the rear, which I have learned in 20 years of marriage does not make for a good suite of photos of your wife to post to a public forum.
The other big treat along the hike was an area of hot springs at the northern end of the lake. It's not quite three miles from the campground to the hot springs. The boys sat and had a hot soak before lunch, and Ethan especially enjoyed the warm water. The "beach" comprised an impressive collection of pebbles without a single grain of sand, so some mile splashing was accompanied by a chorus of "ow! ow! ow!" when Sam tried to wade into the lake itself.