Thursday, December 26, 2013

A Wintry Exploration of Central Oregon

December 21 - 25, 2013
Crater Lake National Park, Bend and Eugene, OR

As Scott had both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day off from work, we took the opportunity for a brief holiday road trip up to central Oregon. What a hidden gem of a region! It's so stunningly beautiful (if a bit gloomy at times) and yet it's not commonly mentioned as a travel destination, in particular the mountainous area between Bend and Eugene, among Californians anyway. 

Crater Lake National Park, OR
And as luck would have it, we did not even encounter any bad weather (I was especially thankful for the dry roads since we don't have chains in the car, which we should probably get since we're bound to be back in Tahoe or other snow-country before long).  

It was smooth sailing on scenic Hwy 126 between Bend and Eugene
 It was however, quite cold and snowy on some of the trails - suitably Christmas-y but without the holiday air travel!  Our route took us up through Redding, CA and on to Crater Lake National Park in Oregon, where we took an exhilarating walk on the knee-deep, but iced-over snow (largely eliminating the need for snowshoes, a bit to Scott's chagrin) of the Rim Trail with full lake views.  Simply lovely. 

Crater Lake on a clear winter day
From Crater Lake, we drove on to Bend, where we spent  two nights at a nondescript 
extended-stay hotel, the main priority being reliable internet and ample desk space for Scott's workday (Scott had to work from the hotel on Monday, Dec. 23).  A charming town, Bend is located on the picturesque Deschutes River, where we hiked and even saw two muskrats swimming in the river.  

The Deschutes River in December
After leaving Bend on Christmas Eve morning, we drove the scenic Hwy 126 west through the mountains to Eugene, stopping off to see a couple of stunning waterfalls.  We got a pleasant five miles in on the  damp and chilly but snow-free McKenzie River National Recreational Trail there.  

Once in Eugene, our final stop of the trip, we checked into the luxe boutique hotel Inn at the 5th, where we had a cozy fireplace room - perfect for enjoying Christmas Eve and Christmas morning.  

Inn at the 5th in downtown Eugene
Oh, and did I mention that our room had a fabulous view of the parking lot?!
Although only a handful of the downtown restaurants were open and serving dinner, we stumbled upon the charming and dimly lit Belly, where we enjoyed an incredible Christmas Eve meal of foie gras, goose breast (our first and it was delicious), chestnuts, pearl onions and stuffing, great seasonal cocktails and local wine. 

Seasonal cocktails at Belly in downtown Eugene
The food and drink in central Oregon was simply superb and largely decadent, almost without exception.  It's probably a good thing we don't live there, for the sake of our waistlines and livers!

More photos:
Crater Lake
The iced over snow at Crater Lake National Park made for easy(ish) snowshoe-free walking
Crater Lake Rim Trail
Crater Lake
Natural ice cubes at Crater Lake
Crater Lake Rim Trail - no crowds in December!
Crater Lake
Enjoying delicious beer and wine at Deschutes Brewery in Bend
The gourmet brew-pub fare at Dechutes Brewery was superb.  We sampled (from front to back) the poutine, boar meatloaf and a soft pretzel served with a melted white cheddar and mustard "dip."
The Deschutes River in Bend provided a tranquil respite from the holiday hustle and bustle

The Deschutes River in Bend, a popular locals' hiking spot 
Sahalie Falls, McKenzie River National Recreation Trail
McKenzie River National Recreation Trail
Fog on the McKenzier River 
Getting a little holiday exercise on the McKenzie River National Recreation Trail
McKenzie River National Recreation Trail
McKenzie River National Recreation Trail
Evergreen reflections in Tamolitch Pool on the McKenzie River National Recreation Trail

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