Explore Oregon

Courtney Explores Bend, OR (with kids!)

For myself, Bend and central Oregon are synonymous with epic adventures: long runs up Broken Top, high first bolts at Smith, deep snowfields awaiting first tracks on South Sister, century rides, and all the things that make my lungs hurt but my heart happy. This past week I was able to realize the lure of central Oregon as the total package.

It all started with a visit from my family- a 9 year old baseball star, a 5 year old super gymnast, and my older sister who all live in New York. I had some planning to do to show them as much as I could in the week they were here. The ensuing days were full of things that I now call adventures and made me appreciate all that central Oregon can offer a family.

Here were the highlights:

We drove out to Village Bike and Ski in Sunriver to rent gear for the kids. Their amazing staff helped us outfit the kids with great looking skis and boots before we headed up to the mountain. We started the kids on Carousel to see where their skills had progressed since their last visit.  Having a free lift is such an incredible offer from Mt. Bachelor. It wasn't long before we were buying lift tickets and heading up Sunrise. New trails and great groomers kept the smiles plastered on all of our faces.

A journey into one of over 600 lava tubes helped give the kids the chance to explore, crawl, squeeze, get dirty, but also learn about the volcanic history that shaped this cool state.  Illuminating the rock by headlamp and squeezing into the unknown is a memory that will stay with them for a long time.

Smith Rock State Park brought wide eyes and big dreams as the kids looked up at the huge towers of volcanic tuff and watched the silhouettes of climbers high above them.  A nice hike and sunny lunch spot on a rock gave them the opportunity to get excited about trying to climb. A nice 5.5 climb called Night Flight was an almost 35 meter journey that allowed the kids to safety sit on top of a great block of rock and look at how far up the wall they traveled. Kids have such intuitive movements that climbing comes naturally. No matter how many times you climb in a gym, the feel of the rock is enough to hook anyone!  The rest of the week they looked at rocks differently. Each rock they saw, they looked at, and wondered if it was climbable....the power of wonder leads to big things!

A porcupine walking on a log while snacking on veggies, and a walk through the Spirit of the West exhibit with one of the amazing volunteers at the High Desert Museum was another highlight. The presentations at the museum are incredible because they incorporate live animals to keep the kids' attention, but also throw in fascinating information about their adaptations and ecological importance!  The eldest loves American history. For him to be able to walk through the Spirit of the West and follow 100 years of Great Basin history was great for him to compare and contrast Eastern and Western US history. After leaving the museum, all they wanted to do was take down notes to later share all the cool stuff they had learned with their classmates. 

As they boarded the plane on the last day, I realized that even after a full week exploring all over central Oregon, we could have filled another 2 weeks of constant exploration, learning and wandering. We are so very lucky to call a place like this home. I learned that not all adventures have to be epic...sometimes belly laughs, inquisitive minds, and awe at the natural world is enough to satisfy the soul.

So much more...

We did so much more while they were here. Check out these places if you're planning your own adventure! 

Movies at McMenamins            Breakfast at Sparrow Bakery

Indoor Rock Climbing              WinterFest at the Old Mill District

Disc Golf at Pine Nursery 

A Brief History

Dave Nissen, Founder of Wanderlust Tours

Over the next weeks and months we hope to share with you a glimpse into the life of Wanderlust Tours. This will be a place to get to know our staff, visit the places we love, hear from our guests and partners, and get connected with what's going on in the outdoor world. But first, a brief history:

Wanderlust Tours started twenty-three years ago in Bend, Oregon. The world (and Bend) has changed quite a bit since then. In 1993 the population of Bend was 27,415. Deschutes was the only brewery in town and Cascade Lakes would start their operation the following year. Owner Dave Nissen was the dream behind the design of Wanderlust Tours. He had a vision and he and his wife, Aleta, worked tirelessly to make it a reality. To this day Dave continues to inspire people of all ages and abilities to get outside, to pause and breathe, and to reconnect with the natural world because it's so good for the soul (and fun too!). 

In that first year Wanderlust operated 6 itineraries. Most of them were hikes through the forest or snowshoe trips, and one was a canoe tour. The company owned one van (Van Buren) and took 87 guests out on tour. When asked whether or not he expected to still be doing this 20+ years later, he responded emphatically, "Yes." And then added that his expectations of success have absolutely been blown away. 

Dave Nissen on Volcano Tour at Newberry
Dave Nissen Snowshoeing in Bend Oregon

Milestones in Wanderlust History: 

September 1993: Wanderlust is born as a one man and one van operation. 

September 1995: Dave and Aleta, who dreamed up the company together, got hitched.

1996: The first Wanderlust employee is hired.

1998: Aleta Nissen joined the operation full time.

2000: Wanderlust received the Governor's Tourism Award from Governor Kitzhaber in recognition of their leadership, cooperation, and support for building sustainable tourism in Oregon. 

2005: The Gene Leo Award "Carpe Noctum" was presented to Wanderlust for inspiring and creative efforts in outdoor recreation.

2006: Dave and Aleta's daughter Annika was born.

2007: Awarded the "Excellence in Family Business" Award from the Austin Family Business Program at OSU for bringing people into the natural world and for promoting understanding of natural, cultural, and environmental issues in Central Oregon.

2012: Wanderlust moved into their current office location.

2016: There are currently numerous amazing staff and vans in operation (come on our tours to learn all their names- both the staff and the vans!) 

We hope you'll join us for an incredible adventure. Next week on the blog, Guide Courtney shares her week in Bend with visiting family!