This entry is being written somewhat out of order. We initially reserved a one night stopover at La Pine to get from here to there on our way back southward. However, once we got there, two things caused us to go, “Aw, I wish we were staying here longer.” One was a Facebook post from a good buddy showing an idyllic looking kayaking adventure out of nearby Sunriver. The other was a brown National Park sign spotted from the road that led to a bike ride Richard wanted to do. So I looked online and found an open site for the next week.
As this is the Summer of Inefficient Route Planning, the return trip took us back up the same stretch of Highway 97 we’d followed to go to Diamond Lake. After we left La Pine, we again took that very same stretch of road. If you looked at how we’ve traveled this summer, you’d see lots and lots of zigzagging and backtracking. But, no matter, it was only about 80 miles to come back, and was well worth it.
But let’s rewind to the first day of travel from the Columbia River Gorge, to La Pine. We opted to go a more remote way, down through eastern Oregon, via Highway 197. This path took us across mostly dry, rolling land whose only real oasis resembling a town was a cute little river valley called Maupin. It is clearly a hot spot for boaters wanting to do runs along the Deschutes River. Leaving that behind, there was a whole lot of nothing besides an interesting turnout that had little pointers embedded into the ground to tell you what snow capped mountains you could see in the distance. We’ve pretty much decided every mountain is probably Mt. Jefferson, regardless of where we are in the world.
We then descended rapidly back onto 97 south, and back to the Cascade Lakes area. La Pine State Park is nicely situated not too far off the freeway, but also not too close. Our site had full hookups, but limited cell service, even with a booster. What makes the park special is its proximity to not only the Deschutes River, but also the Cascade Lakes Highway. None of the sites I saw have a direct river view, but most of them had short little trails through the woods that will get you to a place where you can look down on it from above. It’s an awesome launching place for an endless number of outdoor activities and is even not too far from Bend, if you need ‘big city’ stuff.
We first stayed on a Wednesday and came back on a Monday, for a two night stay. Our first order of business on Monday was to get Richard’s bike fixed. A cable had jammed and it needed some good professional attention, given all the wear and tear it endures. We give a huge shout out to Four Seasons Recreational Outfitters. This was the place that squeezed in an emergency spoke repair during a massive triathlon/century/bicycle fest when we stayed at Elk Lake. They were there for us again to do the cable repair and had him all fixed up in a couple hours from when we called. They are awesome and if you are ever in Sunriver and need bicycle anything, please do find them. They’re a little off the main drag, but right next door to a Blondie’s Pizza, which makes an excellent place to wait while your bike is being fixed.
My plan for Tuesday was to do a shuttled kayak trip down the Deschutes River. Someone in the campground told us about a place called Tumalo Creek Kayak and Canoe, which runs shuttles that take you to a put in spot on the river and then pick you up about three hours later downstream. This turned out to be my very favorite kayaking experience ever. For $15 they put your boat on a trailer (or they can rent you one of theirs) and drive you to La Pine. That was a little funny because I had to drive from the state park to their place, only to have them drive me and my boat right on back to the state park. But what I got besides the shuttle was a map and a pick up location after about nine miles of effortless floating.
There were no rapids at all, nothing remotely scary to navigate. This was a super peaceful float, where all you have to do is follow the current. I will admit, there was one place where I was trying to be fancy and not go with the current, and that brought me head on into a pylon for the first of only two bridges on this stretch of water. I don’t think anyone saw me though, and the boat is unscathed, so let’s say I was product testing.
Of the ten people who took the shuttle with me, I saw almost none during the float. It was just insanely peaceful. There are houses along the river in places, but mostly stretches of water grass and steep river banks. I spotted an American marten on the shore, and following several minutes of sudden and furious upstream paddling, it for some reason, got scared off. I snapped where it was though and I’m absolutely sure it was a marten. Dang, it was cute! I also saw a Bald Eagle, just sitting casually on a log in the water, like ya do. And there were plenty of geese and deer to greet me as I floated by. I imagine they are all paid to be there as part of the ambiance.
I came out of the water, fully blissed out, and more than a little relieved I did not have to pee the entire three and a half hours I was on the water. If you recall, I’ve been upping my hydration in order to deal with altitude, so this was more than a minor concern I had. You’d better believe I made sure to go right before launching.
Meanwhile, Richard was working until he figured he could get in bike ride. He rode out from the campground to Newberry National Volcanic Monument. There’s a killer ride you can do up to the top of a caldera, so we planned to make that a meet up point in the afternoon. I was able to pee, pack up my boat, change, and get there all before the last shuttle to the top. You can only bike, hike, or take a shuttle, and they stop running at 4:30. Good timing there!
After a very full day, we topped it all off with dinner out at the Sunriver Brewing Company. I lived on the edge and had a beer (I mean, come on!), and thoroughly enjoyed the pulled pork tacos. Sunriver is a very fun little town. It is the most bike friendly place I think I’ve ever seen and there are enough outdoor bike/boat/whatever rental places that you’d be covered no matter what you like to do. After dinner, it was off to shopping and bed, after a very long and very satisfying day.
So glad we returned, as the floaty boaty has been one of the highlights of this trip for me. Now that I know where to put in and take out, we could even do it ourselves next time we’re up here.
Total miles from Diamond Lake: 77 miles, 17.5 mpg. Sites 83 and then 72 in the Middle Loop. Nice bathrooms, showers, full hookups, shady sites. Dump in campground, but we preferred the sewer hookup at the site. Not much privacy, not much cell service.