It’s a long drive to and from La Pine, Oregon, but after a fun-packed weekend like this one, we are reminded that it’s certainly a trip worth taking.  We rolled up to my mom and dad’s house late Thursday night and quickly fell into bed, weary from more than seven hours on the road, but looking forward to a couple of solid days of family time, relaxation, and life in the great outdoors.

Our hopes for this little getaway were met on all counts, starting with a leisurely jog through La Pine State Park on Friday morning.  It felt good to be so far removed from the city for awhile, to hear the whoosh of the wind through the treetops and breathe in the cool, fresh air.  It felt equally good to hole up indoors for the afternoon, reading and dozing and playing Uno and ping-pong while the rain fell outside.  This is the stuff of a perfect day off.

We had reservations on Friday evening for dinner at the Cowboy Dinner Tree – a super-rustic, super-charming little restaurant known for their home-cooked, family-style meals.  We made the drive waaaaay out there (seriously, this place is rural) and were seated in the cozy dining room, where horse saddles line the walls and the mis-matched tablewear reminds you of something from your grandmother’s kitchen.  We started off with a big bowl of salad and quart-size mason jars of lemonade, and things quickly spiraled out of control from there.  A tray full of dinner rolls, a pot of beef barley soup, and then, as if we weren’t already well on our way to being stuffed, the main course of chicken or steak (they keep their menu simple).  And they aren’t messing around – when you say chicken, you end up with an entire roasted bird on your plate, paired with a huge baked potato.  Ask for steak, and you’ll be given a juicy 30-ounce hunk of meat.  Follow that with triple-berry shortcake for dessert and pray that you’ve worn your pants with the elastic waistband, ’cause you’ll be leaving there with a couple of extra pounds in your belly…  And enough leftovers for lunch and dinner the next day.

The sun did us a huge favor and broke through the clouds as we headed back to La Pine, bathing the brush-covered plains in a warm, beautiful glow.  This is indeed the Oregon Outback – wide-open, kind of scrubby, and (it seems) relatively unchanged from when the first settlers made their way here over one hundred years ago.

We awoke on Saturday to the sound of raindrops on the roof and I feared our plans for a little fishing escapade would be foiled.  But that fickle high desert weather did us another kudos and by 10:00 we were standing in the sun at the edge of Twin Lake, rods in hand.  The fish weren’t biting at the lake, so we packed up after a couple of hours and decided to try our luck on the grassy banks of the Deschutes River.  This proved equally unfruitful and we ended up heading home empty-handed, but the morning wasn’t a total loss – it was a lot of fun to share in one of my dad’s favorite hobbies.  He gave me my first-ever fly-fishing lesson, showed me how to use a worm blower (equally useful and disgusting!), and reminisced with me about the first fish I ever caught when I just a wee five year-old.  It was one of those mornings that the credit card commercials would have deemed “priceless”.

We ate lunch and freshened up back at the house, then drove up to Bend to do some bumming around the “big city”.  We shopped a little, did some beer tasting at the Deschutes Brewery, indulged in nachos and fried zucchini at the Bend Brewing Company, and then walked along the banks of the lazy river where it runs through town.  We wound our back to the car through the booth-lined streets of the “Bite of Bend” fair – I wish I’d saved room for the barbecue and tacos and dumplings being served by the vendors.  I was full stuffed with our pub fare, until I saw the giant helpings of marionberry shortcake topped with whipped cream.  Suddenly, my appetite had returned!

We made one final stop before calling it a day, detouring to the Paulina Peak lookout to take in more of those gorgeous cloudy evening skies.  I like city-living, but life among the pine trees certainly has its merits.

A pancake breakfast this morning, a few more snuggles with Bernie, and then it was time to hit the long dusty trail back to Seattle.  I think I say this every time we visit La Pine, but that may have been the best weekend we’ve ever spent there, as it was such a perfect mix of sight-seeing and resting and quality family time.  Thanks, Mom and Dad (and Bernie)!  It’s been real.


  1. Mom says:

    We were all tired when we made the detour to the Paulina Peak lookout, but that is a cool photo. I see several that I plan on framing! Bernie misses you. Love you so, so much.

  2. Pat says:

    Sounds like a good time. What awesome pictures. I agree with your Mom these are frameable!!