• Elisabeth Brentano


I drove through Bend, Oregon last fall, but I didn’t have much time to explore the surrounding areas, so I promised myself I’d spend a few days here on my next northwest road trip. From the views of the Cascade range to an abundance of amazing eateries, it's official: I’ve fallen madly in love with yet another charming mountain town. As much as I love discovering new spots, there is something to be said for those old favorites, and Bend has now joined the ranks of Kanab, Lone Pine, Stanley and Tahoe as places I need to visit at least once a year for the rest of my life.

After a last-minute backpacking trip outside of Sisters, I wanted some modern comforts, so I spent two nights relaxing at the Pine Ridge Inn. From fast wifi to a fireplace (and a complimentary glass of wine upon arrival!) I felt right at home, and being able to walk across the street to grab dinner at Cascade Lakes Brewing Company was a huge bonus. While in town, I made a point of checking out Spork (the NY Times is right, it is indeed “culinary magic”), and I really liked the morning vibe at Spoken Moto (great lattes — and a great place to have a meeting). I also had breakfast at The Victorian Cafe, and I was lucky enough to time my visit around one of their incredible daily specials: Almond biscotti crusted French toast stuffed with agave, basil and strawberry mascarpone.

After cramming in a mini food tour, I wanted to burn off the carbs and take advantage of the gorgeous weather, so I hit the Todd Lake and Green Lakes trails. I wasn’t in the mood to do anything super challenging, so this was perfect, and it was also great to be able to enjoy these spots with my friend and her dog. In addition to a wide range of hikes, Bend has a wealth of roadside spots, like Tumalo Falls and the sweeping vistas at Newberry National Volcanic Monument (pictured above), which is where I caught sunset on my first night.

I also spent a night at Sparks Lake, and while I didn’t get the sunrise I was hoping for, it was a lovely, quiet place to car camp. However, it should be noted that the only legal places to pitch a tent at Sparks are either a) in the designated campground, half a mile from the lake, or b) in pullouts along the side of the forest road, before you approach the parking lot. Sadly, most of the “camp” shots I’ve seen from this location on Instagram are right on the water’s edge, and while they are stunning images, it’s incredibly disrespectful to locals — and to the planet. Not only does this behavior show a blatant disregard for Leave No Trace Principles (camping too close to lakes can cause contamination and destroy fragile ecosystems), but it’s a violation of National Forest laws. There are a number of signs in the area that clearly state, “No Camping,” and “Day Use Area Only,” so it’s ultimately on visitors to understand the impact their actions can have on a place.

If my job is to inspire thousands of people to visit these places, how can I ensure that they’ll be respectful? It’s not easy, but I hope that using social media to educate and share personal experiences can help me accomplish both of those goals. When we develop an attachment to places, people and wildlife, aren’t we going to be more motivated to protect them? I believe the answer is yes. When I heard about the Bend Pledge, which asks visitors to be mindful of their actions while visiting this charming town, I was thrilled to share that with my audience online. The Bend Pledge goes far beyond sticking to LNT principles and being courteous to others. It means taking a step back and thinking about the people who call this place home — and the people who will visit in the years to come. Wouldn’t you like to feel welcomed by a likeminded community — and like you can contribute to the preservation of an area? And why not apply this philosophy to all the places we visit?

Just something to think about, whether you’re planning a trip to Bend...or Bolivia.