Rockridge Park, in northeast Bend, is a nice place for walks and more. Bend Park and Recreation preserved features of High Desert habitat in this 36-acre park and added a few unique activities. It’s one of 82 parks in the city.
You’ll see a “forest” of juniper tree trunks near the small parking area. This play area for kids includes black “talk tubes” that connect underground. Primitive cell phones. 😉
I’ve been keeping an eye out for fall foliage and this park had several colorful trees. The maple trees are beginning to turn red and the paper birch leaves are turning a lovely shade of gold.
The trails in this park include a paved one-mile+ trail and more than a mile of unpaved bike trails. The beginner and intermediate bike trails include boardwalks and other obstacles.
There are several comfortable benches along the trails.
The playground is located along the southern edge of the park. There’s a 9-hole disc golf course in another section.
This park also has an 11,000-square foot skatepark with a curving “lunar -landscape” design.
For those of you with canine companions, Rockridge Park is a good place for a SASS walk. Stop And Smell Stuff!
Did that get your attention? I went to the Oregon WinterFest event here in Bend this weekend and took some pictures of the Fire Pit Competition that I wanted to share with you. This is the 17th year of the festival so it has a long history in the area. This is the fourth year for the fire pit competition and there are more entries every year.
The dragon and a fire pit with the flag bridge and Deschutes River in the background.
The fire pits came in many shapes and sizes.
This one had an enclosure with mirrors.
This one was like a huge globe.
Flowers of flame and a burning stump.
This one tied everything together into a nice package.
Some were tall and others were closer to the ground.
Visitors were glad to have many places to warm up.
Some of the pieces were very intricate.
Would you prefer steaming hot espresso or a roasted garlic?
This one provided shelter from the breezy conditions on Saturday night.
You could tell that the artists put a lot of heart into their work.
When you go outside into parts of the 135-acre property, you will be able to visit various exhibits. The Autzen Otter area is being renovated and won’t be open again until sometime in the spring of 2016. Be sure to stop by to see the entertaining otters once the exhibit reopens.
Keep going around the trail and make a brief stop at the wildlife viewing area. Here you might get a glimpse of woodpeckers, nuthatches, chickadees, squirrels, and chipmunks. You might get lucky and spot a hawk or owl waiting to get a snack.
The Wind, Earth, and Fire Trail is nearby and it shows how fire plays an important role in forest development. Keep following the trail and stop into the Changing Forests exhibit to learn about forests in the area.
Looking back in time
Next you will see the Miller Family Ranch. The buildings there are built to show what a farm in 1904 would have looked like. Peek inside the cabin to see how a family lived and watch interpreters demonstrate life in those times. There’s also a barn, corral, chicken coop, saw mill, and even an outhouse. The woven wood corral is practical but also a work of art. You may see horses, donkeys, and chickens at the ranch.
Continue on the trail and you will come to an overlook at a small pond. You’ll get a great look at the native Redband trout from there.
Keep walking on the trail and you’ll get to the Donald M. Kerr Birds of Prey Center. See the porcupines in their enclosure just outside the door? The Museum has bald and golden eagles, a turkey vulture, a barn owl, a great horned owl, and other birds in their collection. Most of the animals at the Museum were injured or kept as pets so they would not be able to make it in the wild.
The store and more
Head back to the main building and be sure to stop at the Silver Sage Trading store. There are books, artwork, clothing, toys, and many other items related to the high desert and current exhibits at the Museum. You might be able to find a piece of unique jewelry or something kind of quirky like dog treats containing beer byproducts.
Near the store, there’s a Whose Home? area for young children to climb and play in. They can pretend they are a baby bird in a huge nest. The outside play area, Dig, Crawl, Climb! offers more opportunities for play. Kids can pretend like they are a giant spider or some kind of burrowing creature hiding in a hole.
As you leave the building through the main entrance, be sure to look up. There is a metal sculpture of a sagebrush plant that shows just how big their root system really is. This icon of the Wild West has adapted to the harsh environment of the high desert. A visit to the High Desert Museum will teach you how plants and animals have adapted to the environment and how people, past and present, have learned to thrive there.
Tucked away in the pines south of Bend, you will find a magical place. The High Desert Museum may not be what you expect when you see the word “Museum” in its name. Yes, it does have artifacts in permanent and rotating exhibits but they are beautifully displayed in buildings that blend into the environment. There is much more to this place than traditional exhibits.
Sage Grouse exhibit
Tough By Nature exhibit
What to see at the High Desert Museum
The rotating exhibits cover many facets of the high desert. In December of 2015, these included one on weather, one on sage grouse, and another on women of the American West. There are daily talks and demonstrations about nature and history related to exhibits at the Museum. The Museum also has people dressed in period clothing interpreting history and a small collection of desert wildlife.
One of the first things you see as you drive up the long driveway is the small High Desert Ranger Station. This was an actual station and it was built in 1933 and moved here in the 1980’s. It’s only open during the summer months.
History before your eyes
Inside the main building in the Spirit of the West section, you’ll see a typical encampment of Native Americans, part of a Hudson’s Bay Company fort, and then walk past a wagon travelling on the Oregon Trail. You will wind your way through a mine and then come out into a re-created town. If you’re lucky, you may see one of the miners trying to strike it rich. One of the shopkeepers or bankers may be busy going about their business.
The By Hand Through Memory exhibit focuses on local tribes including the Nez Perce, Umatilla, Warm Springs, Yakama, Spokane, and Colville. The exhibit includes modern conveniences in some of the displays to show how tribal members adjusted to change. The path through this exhibit winds past displays showing native people collecting food, a large collection of beaded bags and other items, a tepee, a small house representing life in the mid-1900’s, and a display of fishing in a river. Outside the exhibit, a volunteer may explain some of the older and modern artifacts from local tribes.
Creatures of the desert
The Desertarium exhibit lets you get up close and personal with some desert wildlife. No, these are not stuffed specimens – they are live animals. This part of the Museum has insects, fish, amphibians, reptiles, and birds. Check out some of the wildlife of the high desert such as the burrowing owl. There’s also a bobcat in an enclosure in a nearby hallway.
A walk along the mile-long trail of the Lava Cast Forest gives you a glimpse of how recent volcanic activity has affected the local environment. The trail is located several miles directly west of Sunriver, Oregon in part of the Newberry National Volcanic Monument.
Newberry National Volcanic Monument
The Newberry National Volcanic Monument, established in 1990, preserves unique features created in the recent geological past. Newberry volcano erupted 7,000 years ago and smooth textured pahoehoe lava flowed through a series of fissures along its northwest flank. This is the Northwest Rift Zone. The lava enveloped the forest creating lava trees and tree molds that are still visible today.
The most recent activity related to the Newberry volcano occurred 1,300 years ago. You can see the results of that activity by visiting the Big Obsidian Flow nearby.
There is evidence of three distinct lava flows in this area of the Newberry National Volcanic Monument. These include the Lava Cast Forest Flow, the Cascade Flow, and the Forest Road Flow.
The current landscape
The area is slowly recovering from the past volcanic activity and healthy plant communities can be seen along the trail. Ponderosa pine, lodgepole pine, white fir, and a variety of shrubs, grasses, and wildflowers are present. At certain times of the year, flowers such as Indian paintbrush and purple penstemon display a marked contrast against the grayish-black volcanic rock. Many plants have established themselves in the wind-blown ash that settled on the soil.
You may also catch a glimpse of some of the wildlife living in the area. The small mammal called a pika prefers to live in rocky habitats and you may hear its whistling call. Red-breasted nuthatch birds work down the sides of trees, calling in short nasal tones. Golden-mantled ground squirrels and yellow-pine chipmunks may scurry across the trail in front of you. A red-tailed hawk may drift over you carried by the warm thermals.
Remnants of a lava lake can be seen along the trail. Pahoehoe lava poured through a series of vents and settled into a depression.
Lava Cast Forest tree casts
Tree molds are present in many places along the trail. As lava flowed through the forest, it piled up along the upstream side of the trees burning them out but leaving a “mold” of the tree’s form. Some of the trees snapped off and were carried away by the lava; others fell to the ground and were hollowed out by the flows.
At one point along the trail you can see an island of trees surrounded by a rocky landscape. This tree island feature is a “kipuka”. In this particular spot, younger lava encircles older cinder cones.