Relax and recreate with style—in the middle of nowhere. Photo courtesy of Visit Bend.
You've heard of the middle of nowhere?
This is it. Bend is a town of less than 100,000 people smack in the middle of Oregon. On the other hand, it’s so close to so many outdoor delights that it’s known as “Gateway Country.” And somehow, this little city has become a craft beer mecca, and a thriving artisanal food scene has grown up along with it.
It’s a 16-mile drive from Bend, the nearest town, to Pronghorn’s (an Auberge Resort) main clubhouse—almost half that drive is on the resort’s own property. This isn’t the lush rainforest of Western Oregon; the central and eastern part of the state is a high desert at the base of the Cascades, a gently rolling land dotted with junipers and sagebrush. With the snowcapped mountains in the distance, the vista is a perfect pattern of western landscape. Pronghorn Resort is an oasis in the middle—an ideal base for exploring that wild country, for fishing, hiking, rock climbing, whitewater rafting and mountain biking. And Pronghorn itself is perfect for more urbane pursuits. Like golfing. And dining. And luxe chilling out.
Play it as it Lays
Bend is famous for golf courses and Pronghorn’s 7,379-yard, par-72, 18-hole signature course, designed by master golfer Jack Nicklaus, welcomes players at all skill levels. The Tom Fazio course—a first in Oregon—is a challenging- 7,456-yard, par-72, 18-hole course incorporating water features and lava outcroppings. And you know the old joke about the golfer who played in the mid-eighties? (He wouldn’t play if it got any hotter than that.) He could play every day at Pronghorn.
The Lava Tube Hole
The par-three eighth hole on Pronghorn’s Fazio course has been called the most unique hole in the world: It includes a 45-foot canyon and an exposed lava tube, discovered when the course was being built. Lava tubes are series of caves formed by ancient lava flows and the Horse Lava Tube System in Deschutes County is a favorite destination for spelunkers and explorers.
Big Chill Out
While the golfers “chase their quinine pill through the cow pasture,” to paraphrase Winston Churchill, the rest of the family can enjoy the pool, fitness center, full-service 5,000-square-foot spa and all the amenities of the new $20 million Huntington Lodge (finish date: 2015), named after a historic wagon trail that ran through Deschutes County.
With nearly 3,700 acres of lift-accessible terrain just 22 miles from Bend, Mt. Bachelor ski season lasts from November to May. Many of the hotels in Bend and area resorts like Pronghorn offer shuttle service to and from the mountain.
Every summer, Pronghorn hosts a chef’s series featuring the stars of other Auberge Resort kitchens—like Hotel Jerome in Aspen, Esperanza in Cabo San Lucas and Auberge du Soleil in Napa Valley. The visiting chef teaches cooking classes and serves a dinner of specialties from his or her home kitchen, giving Pronghorn visitors a chance to get up close and personal with culinary greatness.
Downtown Bend is small, quaint and walkable. One of the best ways to see it is on the Art Walk, held the first Friday of each month. Shops, restaurants, bars and galleries in the historic center blocks around the old Tower Theatre stay open late, featuring local musicians, food and wine for browsing shoppers
Bend has over 300 miles of mountain bike trails and is the home to the Cascade Cycling Classic, the nation’s longest running stage race for road bicycle racing. Bend was recently named the top mountain bike city in Mountain Bike Action magazine. And Bend’s Pole Pedal Paddle—a relay race held each spring with six legs that include alpine skiing/snowboarding, cross-country skiing, biking, running, canoeing/kayaking and sprinting—is one of the Pacific Northwest’s premier athletic events.
Beer Town, USA
Yes, it’s called this too. Bend’s Deschutes Brewery is the 5th largest microbrewery in the nation and the largest in this city, but there are over a dozen craft breweries in Bend and the city hosts many annual events celebrating its brewing culture including: The Bend Oktoberfest, The Little Woody Barrel Aged Brew and Whiskey Fest, Bend Brewfest, and Central Oregon Beer Week. Beer aficionados will also want to tour The Bend Ale Trail.
The city of Bend was named for a fordable place in the Deschutes River early pioneers called “Farewell Bend.” In 1910, the Bend Water, Light & Power Company dammed the river to form Mirror Pond, now the centerpiece of Drake Park. The park is a community gathering place, hosting summer concerts, balloon launches and festivals. Sun Country Tours offers standup paddleboard and float rentals Memorial Day to Labor Day. bendparksandrec.org, Sun Country Tours, 541-382-6277
We didn’t come up with the sobriquet—Dog Fancy magazine named Bend “Dogtown.” It’s hard to tell which Benders love most: their beer or their dogs. Besides one of the highest per capita dog populations anywhere, Bend has 40 restaurants that accommodate you and Fido together, plus lots of dog-friendly businesses, 51 miles of urban trails, 13 off-leash areas and several dog-friendly breweries. There’s even an organic, non-alcoholic brew called Dawg Grog available from Boneyard Beer.
The Fork in Bend
Beside its brew culture, Bend has a terrific local food culture—bakeries, butchers, food trucks, artisanal food products, small farms, chef-run restaurants—the works. A great way to see it all is to take a guided food tour organized by The Well Travelled Fork.