We packed up at Chehalis, WA by about 10am and we were on our way to Bend, Oregon. The route to Bend passes through the outskirts of Portland, and then onto Rt26 – a secondary highway that passes through the Mt. Hood National Forest and skirts the base of the mountain.
The striking thing about this drive is the stark contrast in both topography and flora as you leave the Cascade Range and descend into the Warm Springs Reservation and central Oregon. There’s practically a demarcation line between the lush forests surrounding Mt. Hood and the suddenly dry, high-desert of central and eastern Oregon.
Bend is a small and prosperous city, with a population of just over 80,000. It’s also the county seat of Deschutes county in Oregon. Bend got it’s name from the ‘Farewell Bend’ on the Deschutes – one of the few fordable points along the river – which is where the city of Bend was constructed starting in 1901.
We first drove through Bend many years ago on our way to see the Newberry National Volcanic Monument, but at that time we didn’t even stop to see the city. This trip would be different!
We camped in the Bend-Sunriver RV Campground (Thousand Trails) and highly recommend it. While this puts you about 25 minutes south of downtown Bend, you’re also smack dab in the middle of the Newberry Volcano – which is perfect if you like to explore volcanoes and lava flows like we do.
The campground itself is massive, heavily treed, and pretty much every site is excellent, offering plenty of privacy. There are no full hookup sites in the campground, but honey wagon service is available during high season. As we were there during off-season, we made a mid-visit trip to the dump station instead.
We loved the privacy in the campground, and really enjoyed star gazing, since central Oregon has very little light pollution. We also enjoyed quite a few locally-brewed beers while sitting out on our patio.
The downtown was bustling when we stopped by on a Saturday. Most of the streets were shut down for a large street fair, and lots of locals and tourists were there. It was a little cold, so we didn’t stay long. We were interested in visiting our first Bend Craft Brewery.
Bend is a fantastic destination for craft beer lovers, as there are more than 20 breweries and dozens of taprooms in the area. We headed to Crux Fermentation Project as they brew several interesting beers including an all-Galaxy Hops IPA, and a Mosaic DIPA (sorry, beer geek!).
We also hit up Deschute’s Brewery Public house for dinner, and really enjoyed their black truffle mac & cheese! Deschute’s is the largest craft brewery in Oregon, and they name their beers after features in and around Bend. Black Butte Porter is named after Black Butte Stratovolcano near Sisters, Mirror Pond Pale is named after Mirror Pond in Drake Park, and their Obsidian Stout is named after the Big Obsidian Lava Flow in nearby Newberry National Volcanic Monument. It’s a good naming scheme and ties the brewery nicely to the area.
We also hear that Bend has a great Beer Tour, but we decided to go it on our own in that department.
Bend is also an outdoor enthusiast’s paradise, with paddling, hiking, mountain biking, and skiing in abundance. We were there too early for skiing on nearby Mt Bachelor, but we hiked around Bend and Newberry pretty extensively.
Newberry National Volcanic Monument
While we enjoyed Bend, the real star of our visit to the area was the Newberry Volcano and it’s many cinder cones and lava flows.
The best place to start a visit to Newberry is at the Lavalands Visitor Center, adjacent to the Lava Butte Cinder Cone visible from hwy 97. Your entry fee gets you a ticket that allows you to drive to the top of Lava Butte (well worth it), and you can hike the mile or so mostly paved path through the impressive lava flow.
The visitor center is also full of useful information and displays, as well as maps of the entire Newberry Volcano and its many points of interest.
The Newberry Volcano is a massive ‘shield’ volcano – a volcano built almost entirely by lava flows. Shield Volcanoes are named for their large footprint and relatively low profile – which is caused by the highly fluid lava that erupts from the, and which travels further than the lava from stratovolcanoes.
From the visitor center, it’s a short drive to the Benham Falls trailhead. The hike to the falls is easy and very scenic, and we were fortunate to be there in perfect 75 degree weather.
We found the falls themselves a bit underwhelming as they’re more whitewater cascading-type falls than the more scenic cataract or plunging waterfalls. Even so, the hike along the Deschutes River is worth it and recommended by both of us.
The Big Obsidian Lava Flow
Obsidian is volcanic glass that only forms from certain types of volcanoes and only specific types of eruptions. The Big Obsidian Lava Flow near Paulina Peak is the best example of an obsidian lava flow in the Bend area, so we headed there early on a Sunday morning.
The flow itself is towering, massive, and very black against the surrounding lighter-colored terrain. Fortunately there are steps to the top of the flow, and then a twisting path through the flow itself.
Obsidian is a really fascinating substance, and it’s everywhere throughout the flow. Look closely and you can see every color in the rainbow reflected in the black glass. Obsidian is also able to hold an incredibly sharp edge. In fact, obsidian scalpels can make cuts that heal with no scarring. As obsidian is very sharp it’s a good idea to wear shoes (vs sandals) and no dogs are allowed on the trail to protect their feet.
From the top of the flow there’s an excellent view of Paulina Peak – the highest remaining point of the Newberry Volcano. You can also see Paulina lake, one of two lakes that currently sits in the Newberry Volcano Caldera.
Just up the road from the Big Obsidian Lava Flow is the trailhead to the stunning Paulina Falls. Paulina is a two section falls that cascades off the edge of a 200 foot cliff. It’s a stunning sight from above and below, and well worth the hike.
Best Breweries & Taphouses in Bend
Bend is known as ‘Beervanna’ with more than 20 breweries – not to mention dozens of taphouses and bars – in a city of about 80K people. We both love to try new and delicious beers, and sampling local beers has become something of a hobby for us. As such, while in Bend we drank (more than) our fair share of beer, and after all that heavy lifting, here’s our top 4 breweries and taphouses in Bend:
Boneyard makes what we consider the best American Pale Ales and IPAs in Bend. If you visit the brewery, be sure to bring a 32oz or 64oz growler so you can bring some beer back to your campsite.
You can’t get a full pour at Boneyard (samples are $1/ea), but their beer is so good, and so reasonably priced that it doesn’t matter. When we visited, it was $5 for a 32oz growler fill, and $9 for 64oz of most of their beers – and they’ll fill literally any container, including an empty gatorade bottle. We made a habit of keeping a couple 32oz growlers clean and in the car just in case we drove past.
Beers: Boneyard RPM is a pretty perfect IPA. Citrusy, juicy, and smooth, with good carbonation and mild bitterness. It’s available on tap at many restaurants in the Pacific NW (We first had it in Olympia, WA.) We also loved their Bone-A-Fide Pale, and Hop Venom IIPA.
Crux Fermentation brews a wide variety of beers, and they brew all of them well. They have the APA/IPA thing covered in detail, but also delve into pilsners, marzens, farmhouse ales, barrel aged beers, and more. They have something for just about anyone.
We liked their brewery setup as there are lots of tables and benches both inside and out, and they keep a fire going outside when busy. There are a couple permanent food trailers (good tacos when we were there), and they also serve a limited (mostly munchy food) menu from the brewery itself.
Beers: The Half Hitch Imperial Mosaic IPA was Rich’s favorite, and Kathy loved their Off Leash Session IPA. Many of their beers are sours, barrel aged, or farmhouse ales that are seasonal, rotating, or one-offs, but unfortunately we didn’t have time to try them. Next time!
Deschutes get’s it’s name from the Deschutes River that flows through downtown Bend. Deschutes is the largest craft brewer in Oregon, and they still make some excellent beer.
That said, we recommend a visit to Deschutes in downtown Bend for the food. The black truffle Mac & Cheese is divine and very reasonably priced. Their Kale & Quinoa salad is one of the best we’ve had. In fact, everything we ate at Deschutes was excellent.
Beers: Obsidian Stout is one of the best Stouts we’ve ever had. It’s dark and roasty, with bitter chocolate and coffee notes. I don’t like date or raisin notes in my stouts, and Obsidian thankfully has none. A wonderful beer for drinking around a campfire.
We had an amazing meal at Brother John’s Alehouse almost right across the street from Deschutes. Grilled, Blackened Wild Caught Sockeye Salmon with sauteed veggies and garlic mashed potatoes for $15, plus Boneyard RPM on Tap for $4.50/Pint! Tough to beat that – especially considering Oregon has no sales tax. We loved the atmosphere and the waiter was excellent too.
RV Products Purchased
Our RV still had the factory-installed RV/Marine not-really-deep-cycle 12V batteries that have been chronically undercharged for the past 3.5 years, as our RV has only a single-stage charger / converter. These batteries were holding almost zero charge, and as we were heading to Mt Lassen National Park after Bend (no hookups), we definitely needed batteries that worked.
Enter the Trojan T-105 6V Deep Cycle Golf Cart Battery. Trojan Batteries are popular with RVers as they’re a true deep cycle battery that holds 225AH (amp hours) of charge, plus they last 7+ years when taken care of and properly charged.
There’s too much information to write our reasoning for using these batteries here, but we’ll do a post on it soon. We purchased these batteries from Battery Systems of Bend, and if you’re in the area I recommend you do the same. They treated me well and sold me the batteries for a fair price – $155/ea out the door.
Stay tuned for my post on Batteries. Like us on Facebook for updates, or check back here.
As mentioned, our factory-installed battery charger is a single-stage trickle charge model. These chargers are fine if your RV stays plugged in 99% of the time.
If you plan to camp in state or national parks, or if you like to boondock, you’ll need something better. As we were heading to Mt. Lassen, and as we just purchased new Trojan T-105 batteries, we also ordered the Iota DLS-45 with IQ4 smart battery charger and power converter. amazon.com link
This model has three-stage charging, which means that it initially charges batteries with bulk absorption at High Voltage (up to !4.8V) until the battery is 80 – 85% full, then drops to a 14.2V absorption stage charge for up to 8 hours to top off the batteries. When the batteries are full, the iota maintains their charge with a 13.4V float charge. This is low enough voltage that it won’t boil off the water in your batteries, so they’re less likely to get sulfated and damaged.
If the batteries remain in a “float stage” for a seven-day period, the IQ4 will switch the DLS charger into a pre-programmed Equalization Stage. This protects the life of the batteries by dissolving any sulfate layer on the battery’s internal plates and avoids stratification that can occur when a battery has not been in use for a while. This 4th stage makes the IOTA DLS-45/IQ4 a true Smart Charger Converter.
The Iota also makes an excellent and very quiet converter. The converter takes the 120V power entering your rig and converts it to 12V power to power your RVs lights, TV Antenna, water pump, and other 12V powered systems. That means you can remove your RV’s batteries and still have everything work. The factory converter had a loud cooling fan that would cycle on and off frequently. The IOTA’s fan is whisper quiet. In fact, we can’t hear it at all! We’re thrilled with our new Charger Converter.
As I’m sure you can tell, we really enjoyed our time in Bend! Last but far from least, we met new friends David and Shannon of 2 Wander Away – a couple of similarly minded travelers who also own a Winnebago Aspect.
We got to see their Aspect, along with Dave’s many modifications, and we had a tasty meal at our campground around a campfire. Good times! We’re looking forward to seeing them again in Southern California this winter.
From Bend we headed down to Mt. Lassen Volcanic National Park. We’ve been wanting to get to Lassen forever, but it’s always been just out of the way enough that we haven’t made it. I’m happy to report that we went, and it was fantastic. Our trip report on Lassen will be up soon. Until then, happy trekking!