It is considerably smaller than either Madison or Austin, but feels the same: outdoorsy and/or sporty, upper middle class with an underbelly of decidedly poor, families, students, liberal, a bit (more than a bit...) granola, (over) educated populace, etc.
Several of these factors combine to create the current social climate: poverty with a view. Bend is small - 80k - and everyone wants to live here due to the proximity to awesome things, but there aren't enough jobs for everyone. So PhDs serve you dinner at the Deschutes Brewery and "urban outdoorsman" panhandle at every major intersection.
Yet, many consider those downsides worth it because of Bend and what it puts them close to. Mt. Bachelor is a 20 min drive for both great alpine and nordic skiing, and the Deschutes and Willamette Forests offer literally endless hikes, plus mountain biking, kayaking, SUPing, running, and on and on. There is a "multi-sport" event held in May - the Pole Pedal Paddle - which consists of SIX events: downhill skiing, cross-country skiing, biking, trail running, kayaking, and a short road run. That's a lot of sports to master and equipment to own - and 3,000(!) adults participate, not including teams.
|Mt. Bachelor, 20 miles from town with a snow base of 10 ft|
The best part about Mt. Bachelor is that sits in a completely different weather pattern: on Friday town was 50 deg and snow free, but the mountain received a few inches of fresh snow overnight and sat right around freezing. The best of both worlds! So I decided to act like a local - I skipped work and went cross-country skiing. 9 am on Friday and the trails were bustling.
A great day for snow sports. I've got the sunburn to prove it.
|Looking east, up at Mt Bachelor|
|Looking west while climbing back up to Mt. Bachelor's base|
Onward and upward
Some Recommendations For Those Visiting Bend
While in town I swam with Central Oregon Masters Association (COMA) at both the Athletic Club of Bend and Juniper Aquatic Center. These sub-groups (and they have other practices in Redmond) were welcoming and friendly and cost-effective (drop-ins were ~$7), although be warned that the longest/fastest workouts are the lunch time practices Monday through Friday. Everything else is shorter and/or less serious, at least compared to what I am used to and prefer.
To better grasp the feel of Bend, I worked out of several local coffee shops. Jackson's Corner and Strictly Organic were both exactly what I needed, plus some nice bells and whistles. Jackson's Corner has local kombucha on tap and a full food menu, and Strictly Organic has food adhering to practically every strict dietary standard out there.
The basic run in town is along the Deschutes River as it winds its way through Old Town and the old mill area south of Simpson Ave. Parking is available along Reed Market Road, and in Riverbend Park off Century Ave. Like Austin or Boston, many different length loops are available; just cross the river at the footbridge of your choice.
|Deschutes by the old mill|
To get a taste of local hiking without crossing the Cascades, head to trail heads in Tumalo or Sisters, or drive out Century Ave toward Mt. Bachelor and start walking from any of the little pull-outs once you pass the Deschutes National Forest sign. Or you can snow shoe at the Nordic center at Mt. Bachelor, or drive down to Crater Lake.
|Cascade range, including Mts. Bachelor and Washington, with Bend in the lower left|