The A-to-Zs of Central Oregon: P is for the PACIFIC CREST TRAIL


One of the best-known, most-romanticized west coast hiking routes is the Pacific Crest Trail. Well, did you know that the PCT runs right through Central Oregon? 



The Pacific Crest Trail traverses the entire span of the west coast in the United States, with starting points at both the Canadian and Mexican borders. It passes through the states of California, Oregon, and Washington. Hikers are welcome to hike smaller portions of the trail on day-hikes, but there are thousands of hikers that make the full 2,650-mile-long journey. The trail features some of the best features of the western landscape: gorgeous desert, the glaciated expanses of the Sierra Nevada, deep forests, and the breathtaking views and volcanic peaks in the Cascade Range. 

  Mount Hood, from the Pacific Crest Trail

Mount Hood, from the Pacific Crest Trail


  Catherine Montgomery, the "Mother of the Pacific Crest Trail" 

Catherine Montgomery, the "Mother of the Pacific Crest Trail" 

  Clinton Clarke surveying the early trail

Clinton Clarke surveying the early trail

In August of 1920, Fred Cleator wrote "I am beginning to think that a Skyline Trail the full length of the Cascades in Washington & Oregon joining a similar trail in the Sierras of California would be a great tourist advertisement.  For that matter it might be continued thru British Columbia and up the Alaska highlands.  This is a future work but it would be fine to plan upon."

Fred went on to map the route of the "Oregon Skyline Trail," which would be the first iteration of the PCT. 

In 1926, Catherine Brown (an avid hiker and one of the founding faculty members of Western Washington University) was the first to propose a hiking trail running through California, Oregon, and Washington. Washington State Forest preserve and with it they built the Catherine Montgomery Nature Interpretive Center. 


If Catherine Montgomery is the mother of the PCT, then Clinton Clarke is definitely the father. This private, reserved man took up the cause of the PCT in 1932 at the ripe old age of 59-- that was pretty darn old back then! He was responsible for the first physical maps related to the PCT's route. He planned and executed the trail's meandering path through peaks, valleys, desert, forests, and plains.

Throughout the next decade, the PCT was fully routed and explored. In 1935, Clarke planned and executed the first Pacific Crest Trail System Conference in order to both plan the trail, and to lobby the federal government to protect the trail.

After years of lobbying, physical toil towards the trail, and with lots of interruptions due to war and economic strife, the Pacific Crest Trail was designated at a National Scenic Trail in 1968. 


  Three-Fingered Jack

Three-Fingered Jack

  Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument

Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument

The Central Oregon stretch of the Pacific Crest Trail is often a favorite for thru-hikers. We actually have the Pacific Crest Trail to thank for two of our guides: Courtney and Jason! These two Naturalist Guides loved the Central Oregon stretch of the PCT so much, they decided to move to Bend solely based on the beauty of the landscape. If you join them on a tour, be sure to ask them about their hiking experience! 

There are some pretty amazing trails running through the wilderness of Jefferson Park, and along the striking features of Three Fingered Jack (fun fact: it's a shield volcano!). There are definitely some amazing options for day hikes in the area. In fact, we just lead a custom hike for a group that wanted to hike a portion of the PCT near Odell Lake!

If you think you might be interested in incorporating the PCT into one of your adventures, definitely reach out to Courtney-- who happens to also be our group tour coordinator! 


The A-to-Zs of Central Oregon: O is for OLD MILL DISTRICT

  Courtesy of the  Oregon History Project

Courtesy of the Oregon History Project

  Photo by Jenny Furniss

Photo by Jenny Furniss


This week we're talking about the Old Mill District. This is one of Bend's most well-preserved historic sites, and one of the most popular tourist destinations for shopping and eating in Bend. You can stroll along the idyllic Deschutes River while purchasing a pair of hiking boots from REI, enjoying a coffee at Strictly Organic, sitting down to sip wine at Naked Winery, or tucking into dinner at Level 2

Next door at the Les Schwab Amphitheater, there are a host of excellent performances all summer long! What's better than listening to live music next to a river, with a sweeping mountain background? Check out their great outdoor lineup for the rest of the season


We talked a bit about Bend's rich logging history in a previous post. The Old Mill District is indeed the site of two previous lumber mills: the Shevlin-Hixon Lumber Company and the Brooks-Scanlon Lumber Company. Both of these mills opened in the early 20th century, and shut down by the early 1950s due to unsustainable forestry practices. 


  Courtesy of  TrainWeb

Courtesy of TrainWeb

  Courtesy of the  Old Mill District

Courtesy of the Old Mill District

The shops and restaurants in the Old Mill District are more than meets the eye. In fact, there are nine restored buildings in the Old Mill! For example, Bend's REI is housed in a building made up of two historic buildings: the Brooks-Scanlon powerhouse and fuel building. This is the building that supports the iconic triple smokestacks!



According to the Old Mill District, two of the three smokestacks were originally erected in 1922, at a towering (pun intended) 206 feet from the ground. The third stack was added in 1933, standing at 201 feet tall.

These smokestacks stood on the original Powerhouse building that-- after a renovation and remodeling in 2004 and 2005-- houses REI today. 


  Courtesy of the  Old Mill   District

Courtesy of the Old Mill District

The oldest preserved building in the Old Mill District is the "Little Red Shed," which used to house the mill's fire equipment. Today, it houses the fine art business DeWilde Art Glass. Fun fact: DeWilde is responsible for the stained glass circular "Bend" logos you'll see hanging in dozens of windows around town! 


This project is simply stunning, and should definitely be visited in order to be appreciated! For their attention to detail and immense efforts in preservation, the Old Mill District is the only project on the west of the United State to win a national 2017 Excellent on the Waterfront Award from the Waterfront Center, which seeks to commend designs that are sensitive to local bodies of water.

The Old Mill District was also a finalist for the Urban Land Institute's 2016 Global Awards for Excellence. Since 1936, the Urban Land Institute aims to commend designs that use land responsibly and create sustainable, thriving communities worldwide.

Bill Smith, the developer responsible for much of the current Old Mill District (as well as Black Butte Ranch) earned a Lifetime Achievement Award in the 2014 Building a Better Central Oregon Awards for his efforts to restore the old lumber mills. 

The A-to-Zs of Central Oregon: N is for NEWBERRY CALDERA


Ah, that iconic image: The Newberry Caldera. This is the volcano that lies just 20 miles south of Bend! Did you know our little city was situated on the edge of a volcano the size of Rhode Island? And did you know that we lead daily Volcano Tours in the summer? It's a must-see when visiting Central Oregon. 


Is It Active?

The Newberry Volcano is technically still active, but there's been little cause for worry at this point. The US Geological Survey's Cascades Volcano Observatory have real-time monitoring systems in place, and they receive updates on any seismic activity, or changes in formations under and above ground. Thank goodness for scientists! 

The Volcano

This is an active volcano! The last eruption was only 1,300 years ago-- not that long ago in terms of volcanic history! 

Newberry Volcano is a shield-shaped stratovolcano, about 75 miles long, and 27 miles wide-- but when you factor in the lava flows, the caldera covers over 1,200 square miles! Because of its enormous size and prominence, the caldera is often confused for a full mountain range. 

This is the largest volcano in a series of volcanoes called the Cascade Volcanic Arc. This arc of volcanoes stretches over 700 miles, from British Columbia, through Washington and Oregon down to Northern California. These volcanoes were formed along the Cascadia subduction zone, which is the same convergent plate boundary scientists predict will cause the impending massive earthquake and subsequent tsunami dubbed "The Big One." 


The ground is lava! 

On our Volcano Tours, we make sure to take you through the amazing lava flows to highlight the power and scope of a volcanic eruption. You'll see shards of black, volcanic glass called "Obsidian," which we talked about in a previous blog post on our local geology. These gorgeous rocks have a smooth, glassy black surface that can be super sharp to the touch. They're quite a sight to behold. 


As if the volcano weren't stunning enough, there are two gorgeous crater lakes in the Newberry Volcano: Paulina and East Lake. We actually include Paulina in the possible lakes we visit for our Cascade Lakes Canoe and Kayak Tours. These lakes are filled only by precipitation, and percolation of ground water. Paulina is the larger of the two lakes at 1,530 acres and a depth of 250 feet, while East Lake is 1,050 acres and has a depth of 180 feet. The two lakes are separated by a narrow piece of land (or an "isthmus").