My Oregon Trail (Spoiler Alert: no one dies of dysentery)

I’ve got The Bends*, but it’s not in the way you think!

I’m dreaming of frosty trails, mountain vistas and the smell of spruce. I’m remembering starry nights, crispy air and endless bucket holds on my climbs. I’m wanting Ocean Rolls, kombucha and MOAR CURRY (of the campstove variety, or the restaurant variety, either will do). In short, I’m head-over-heels, totally and completely in love with Bend, Oregon. Warning: this post is so long it has footnotes. So jump with caution.



My first trip to Bend was back in February. Someone needed help at work, and I was itching to go out West. Match made in heaven (or Outlook). Bend wasn’t exactly the first town that popped into mind when I thought of snowboarding, in truth I hadn’t even heard of it before the work request. However, a bit of inter-netting told me that Mt. Bachelor was as good a mountain as any to spend a weekend on, especially when comparing my options to the dreary tundra that is Wisconsin in the winter. Unable to convince my roommate, Ace, that a weekend with me was worth over $1K in travel costs, I accepted – nay, embraced – that my personal weekend in Oregon would be spent alone.

Let the selfies commence! (Before you totally judge me on this one, note that 1) I was ALONE and there weren’t many people around to take my photo and 2) all of these were sent to the family back home and/or buddies overseas so it wasn’t like I was only documenting my weirdness for weirdness’ sake…Drew Martin knows what I’m talking about.)

Selfie Overload

I fell in love with that city within a few hours. My first breakfast was at Sparrow Bakery, a charming (read: hipster) little brick building with enchanting smells and five star ratings. Under a cloud-speckled sky, I ate inhaled a bacon breakfast sandwich before I hit the slopes. Crispy, buttery, soft croissant with a bursts of flavor from thick-cut bacon, creamy pesto aioli and a perfectly runny egg. That day, my only regret was that I didn’t eat two. The picture below is actually from my second trip to Bend. The first time around I ate too quickly for photographing. Oops.

Bacon OmNom

My first day on Mt. Bachelor didn’t disappoint either, and it definitely contributed to this love story. For a number of reasons, I didn’t get out on the slopes too much last season. I was traveling a lot for work, which limited the number of days I was even around snow. Add to that the dismal amount of precipitation and general lack of elevation in the Midwest and you get the picture: a sad, snowless, sometimes-homesick Becca. Until I went to Bend, that is. Then we had a very happy, exhausted, snow/sleet/hail/slush covered Becca who wrecked her legs on a wet mountain because she was not in ‘snow-shape.’ Let me tell you: wet snow is HEAVY to carve through. My legs were so tired that the next day I chose to hike through the Deschutes National Forest rather than hit the slopes again. My ‘rest day’ ended up being an 8 mile hike. Oops again. I didn’t mind the extra time in the woods though – everyone knows I was born to run the hidden pine trails.

Deschutes National Forest

Bend trip one was rounded out with more time on Bachelor (with dry pow this time!), more phenomenal meals and a brief visit to the dazzling Bend Rock Gym. I left the city feeling as though I was leaving a piece of myself behind. Great food, sweet-smelling forests, nearby mountains and a climbing gym twice as high as what I was going back to? All I could think was, “Why am I leaving?! When can I come back??”

As it turns out, my return to Bend was just around the corner. While I was in Kathmandu in March (another story that I guess will come later), I got another message asking me if I could go back out to help for another week in May. Again, I jumped at the chance, extending my trip without a second thought. Arriving back in Bend was like coming home for all the reasons I listed above. Even my regular morning runs became opportunities to run-skip-dance on the trails with no one but the deer watching. I know it sounds crazy, but it’s like being closer to the mountains, closer to the cold and closer to the outdoors makes me closer to me. Mix in the outdoor community and climbing haven that surrounds Bend and…I may have found my mountain range, people.**


Anywho, the second trip in Bend was made extra special by the addition of a buddy. Josh, my car-living, rock-crushing, minimalism-inspiring, gem of a friend came up from Yosemite to climb at Smith Rock while I was in town. (He’s still there, in fact, tearing things up and making friends with strangers. Look for the dreads if you’re in the area.)


Josh’s arrival meant happy dances for DAYS! It made my life way better/easier because of a number of things:

  1. I didn’t have to drag my camping gear across the country with me since Josh had enough for both of us. #sharingiscaring
  2. I had a real live human to hang out with and talk to about all of the random things that float through my brain (that I didn’t want to strangle, smoother, or otherwise damage and vise versa. I think. These days this can be a rare thing).
  3. Josh, as his introduction suggested, can crush rocks, and he has lots of toys to crush rocks with, allowing me, the casual-climber to get on things that might otherwise be out of my reach (literally).

The Rock Crusher (Off Belay)


The Golden Hour Approaches

In a word, Smith Rock was a dream (more photos can be found on the Flickr feed). The park is made up of these huge rock formations rising out of the desert, which you can see for miles as you approach the area. Though I was there for the climbing, the trails looked pretty entertaining, too. If I had had more than a few days to spare, I would have done some long trail runs up to the peaks. Some of the switchbacks looked just aggressive enough to feel brutal without actually killing you. God knows I love those uphill climbs. #feeltheburn

Since I’ve bucketed myself in the “I’m not a climber, I just climb” category for now, I’ll forgo the description of why Smith is a climbing mecca (#shyaboutit). I’m not really the expert on the subject, and there are plenty of places you can go for that (like here or here). Suffice it to say, I could get behind climbing where there are bucket holds, endless feet, and beautiful mountains around you all day erry day. I got to practice my leading (yay 5.9 without tears or excessive expletives!***), climb my first multi-pitch up the Monkey Face (this was scary for many reasons, none of which were the height, and it was also really freaking awesome****), and meet people who reminded me that I don’t have to apologize for liking dirt.

Because guess what? Most of the time, I would rather spend my time outside wandering in the woods, dancing in a desert or moving up a mountain than get wasted in that-one-penthouse of that-one-hotel in that-one-huge-city. Don’t get me wrong, I have LOVED the times that I spent exploring cities, wandering about museums, eating at fancy-schmancy Michelin-star restaurants, etc. but sometimes it all starts to blur together and I just need to get away from all of the things. And I really, really need to get outside. And smell the trees. And run for hours with no one talking. And hear no engines. And sleep on the ground. And hug some rocks. And not shower for awhile. And cook over a fire or single-burner stove. And look at the stars.



*I really, truly hope that people from Bend, OR refer to their homesickness, home-love and/or hometown pride as “The Bends.” If they don’t already, they should probably start doing so now.

**For as long as I’ve had an idea of “moving for me” in my head, I’ve wanted to move to the mountains. With all my traveling, I’ve always joked that I was just trying to figure out which mountains I wanted to move to!

***Crying was never really an option, and expletives only count if said loud enough for your belayer to hear them.

****If I list the reasons it was scary here, my mother might never trust me to be on my own again. So maybe I’ll do it all in acronyms or secret sign language. Or hashtags and hope she doesn’t read them. #ididntbringanygear #thankgoodnessforgrigris #iwasntonbelay #checkyourselfbeforeyouwreckyourself #ledgesaremisleading #boltladderproblems #soweak #surprisecrackclimb #letsgoagain #thankyoukristenandjosh

Last foot note (are you still reading this??). Josh and I also went to Crater Lake for a day because I have baby hands and my fingertips needed some time to regenerate. The water was so. FREAKING. blue it was like staring into two skies. At times, it was a bit disorienting. You can see those pictures, and more strange captions and hashtags on the Flickr. This post was getting too long. Love you if you’re still reading this.


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2 thoughts on “My Oregon Trail (Spoiler Alert: no one dies of dysentery)

  1. Ana Lee Hjelm says:

    Sounds like you had so much fun!

  2. […] pretty tunnel visioned into that one activity. By some stroke of good fortune, Kristen told me that my super cool friend Josh still had buddies in the Valley who might 1) want to climb on their rest days and/or 2) be able to […]

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