Mountains beyond mountains in Central Oregon

Highway 197 South out of The Dalles, Oregon crosses 60 miles of high desert sage country east of the Cascades.   A plateau of sage sprinkled with colorful spring wildflowers, cut with river canyon gorges and backed by snowcapped mountains is scenery to savor in a sparsely populated landscape.

Highway 197 view of Mt. Hood

I had a feeling of being the sole traveler on a long empty road. For the most part of the sixty mile drive I was the only car on the road, considering the number of times I stopped in the road and snapped photos for a minute or two with no other vehicle passing.

Deschutes River at Maupin, Oregon

Maupin is a small town where Highway 197 crosses the Deschutes River in a steep canyon gorge with perhaps recently built houses on the high canyon edge.

Houses built on the edge of gorge cliffs at Maupin, Oregon

The remoteness of Maupin, about 40 miles south of The Dalles, reminded me of one store, too many churches towns where I taught school during the past couple decades.

U.S. Post Office, Maupin, Oregon 97037

Rafting the Deschutes seemed like the popular pastime activity as I saw several young adults in bathing suits walking around town during my slow cruise through Maupin as the road winds down to the canyon floor and crosses the Deschutes River, then back up the canyon wall again into the wildflowers, green spring grasses and sage of the desert plateau.

Highway 197 Oregon desert flowers and sage

Criterion Summit is the high point of Highway 197 at 3,360 ft. There is a mountain marker viewpoint at this location on the west side of the road.

Criterion Summit Highway 197 with Mt. Hood

Mt. Jefferson in center photo is 10,445 ft. and probably about 50 miles away.

Highway 197 Criterion Summit view of Mt. Jefferson

The view across the grasslands to the mountains was filled with bird songs.

Central Oregon fence post

“Miles from nowhere, guess I’ll take my time, oh yeah, to reach there.” – Cat Stevens –Yusuf Islam.

Highway 197 Criterion Summit view

Madras is the first real city I drove through after driving 90 miles south of  The Dalles on Highway 197 and then rejoining Highway 97 after Criterion Summit. Madras has a Safeway market where I discovered there an incredible 4-day sale with great food discounts. The signs were everywhere in the store. Unfortunately, I was walking the aisles the day before the sale started and seeing all the much higher prices in effect.

Across the street from the Safeway Market is the Meet Market Pub. This could be a potential authentic Central Oregon cultural experience for the admission price of a beer. At least a clever name.

Meet Market Pub in Madras, Oregon

Down the road some miles I stopped the car and soon found myself walking on a road to nowhere.

Hwy 97 Old Crooked River Gorge Bridge

This Crooked River Bridge spans the gorge at 295 feet above the river.

Hwy 97 Crooked River Bridge

This deserted bridge was the only automobile bridge across the Crooked River Gorge from 1926 until replaced with an adjacent bridge for Highway 97 in the late 1990s. This old bridge now leads into sagebrush. The old Crooked River Bridge is open to pedestrians from the Peter Skene Ogden State Scenic Viewpoint 25 miles south of Madras.

Old Hwy 97 bridge over Crooked River Gorge, Terrebonne Oregon and new bridge to east.

This is a remote area 11 miles north of Redmond, Oregon, the nearest city.

Crooked River Gorge pines and mountain views

Take care when traveling out here to be safe.

Hwy 97 Crooked River Gorge 300 ft. canyon walls

Bend, Oregon

My first impression of Bend, Oregon was that it was perhaps close to the most beautiful part of Oregon. I drove through miles of suburbs, business parks and malls before finding the downtown area in this city of about 80,000. The city of  Bend’s population grew 50% from 2000 to 2010.

The real joy was a perfectly clear morning atop the summit of Pilot Butte. Too many people around Bend I fear will likely make the clear days like this less frequent.

Bend, Oregon view of Mt. Bachelor from Pilot Butte

The city of Bend was incorporated in 1905 with about 250 residents and 80 buildings soon after Alexander M. Drake arrived in the Central Oregon area in 1900 and purchased land as a real estate investment opportunity. This was a land of old growth trees.  By 1909 the Bend area had a real estate boom from buyers in the eastern U.S. and the city grew with irrigation and electricity by 1910.

Drake Park beside Deschutes River in Bend Oregon

In 1920 the women of Bend gathered signatures for creation of a Bend city park. The tax measure passed and 10 acres were purchased for $20,000 and Drake Park was established with community effort to beautify the land for public use.

Drake Park river homes in central Bend, Oregon

Drake Park sits adjacent to downtown restaurant and shops in Bend.

Drake Park river view in downtown Bend, Oregon

Second impression of Bend is this place is loaded with athletes. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many people running downtown without a formal race or riot happening.

View of Three Sisters Mountains (10,000+ ft.) from Pilot Butte, Bend Oregon

This is part of a series of Loyalty Traveler posts describing a road trip from Monterey to Vancouver, British Columbia for Travel Blog Exchange June 11-12, 2011. This post describes the high desert road through Central Oregon on Highway 197 and Highway 97 along the eastern side of the Cascade Mountains Range from The Dalles to Bend, Oregon.

About Ric Garrido

Ric Garrido of Monterey, California started Loyalty Traveler in 2006 for traveler education on hotel and air travel, primarily using frequent flyer and frequent guest loyalty programs for bargain travel. Loyalty Traveler joined BoardingArea.com in 2008.

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  1. Amazing trip report. Very nice description of the history of Bend. It makes me want to jump in the car and drive there as well. Keep the reports coming!

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