The last blog update left off with Eric and I settling into Stanley after withstanding an abundance of road blocks and detours. At this point, our journey had lead us 262.12 miles with over 14,000 feet of elevation gain. Little did we know at the start of the day, those would be our final numbers in what has become the Idaho Hot Springs Loop Saga.
There’s switching gears and then there is total derailment. The God’s have spoken and this trip is over.
The day started off wonderfully.
- A gourmet breakfast at the revered Stanley Baking Company & Cafe (a must if in town).
- We picked up our first food drop at the post office and got everything organized for the next leg of our trip to Yellow Pine.
- I had a soak at the Mountain Village Resort. I’m not usually one for commercial hot springs, but we had it to ourselves. Nice!
That evening we walked up to Papa Brunos. Big mistake! Don’t get me wrong the calzones were amazing but my gut reminded me of the massive breakfast it consumed earlier that day. I’m not sure I’d ever eaten that much at one time, not even at Thanksgiving. Still, I went, I ate, and I was merry (and very very full). It was then, after dinner, that the news came. A four letter word worse than BEAR…
Eric and I were walking to a nearby picnic bench to review our route when we spotted a plume of smoke rising up, waging war on the clear blue sky. The takeover was inevitable and the air soon became filled with various hues of grey. Below is a photo of the original plume we spotted. It may not look like much, but we both agreed that before moving on we needed to learn more.
The wind was not helping the situation as there were gusts over 30 mph coming through. It was only a matter of time that the sky darkened and our hearts sank as we realized this may be the end of our trip.
Forest fires are to be respected because in a moment’s notice, winds can shift and on the bikes that means we’d be toast—Burnt Toast. There was a slim chance we’d actually be devoured by the fire but were were at a high risk of being forced to breathe in thick, ashy, smoke-filled air. It just didn’t make sense to risk it.
We talked to a few locals that said the fire had spread from roughly 1-2,000 acres to over 6 thousand acres in less than 1 day with no end in sight. A combination of a dry year, breezy conditions, and irresponsible humans equals prime conditions for fires. There we sat, on that lone bench, desperately looking for another route. Immersed in my work, I was startled when the wood beneath my arse began to vibrate. I quickly turned to see 2 ginormous helicopters towing large buckets (?) of water off in the distance. Oh boy. This wasn’t looking good.
Quickly, I did an online search for forest fires in the area. The Prospect fire, NO! This one was on my radar when first researching the trip, but it had been small and tame. Now, it was blazing out of control. The authorities closed off the road we were about to take and our only option at this point was to ride home via Hwy 21 and hope the winds didn’t shift south with the incoming cold front pushing through.
We went back to the motel and after much deliberation we decided that since this was our vacation, we didn’t want to waste it doing something we didn’t want to do. Hopping on the asphalt and dodging speeding cars failed to peak our interest after being graced by the silence and harmony offered by the Idaho wilds thus far.
I could use many words to describe my emotional state at this point: devastated, melancholy, dispirited, heartbroken, disgruntled, sullen…the list goes on. Ultimately, it was just sheer disappointment. It didn’t last long, but it was there. We had to move on as this was completely out of our control. The bigger problem at this point was, how the hell were we going to get home???
We found a few transportation/shuttle services and sent off some emails. Initially, we thought the easiest thing to do would be to get back to Ketchum, ride our bikes to Hailey, get another rental car from the airport and then drive back home. A lengthy and expensive endeavor, yay. Brian from Sawtooth Transportation just happened to be coming up that day (from Meridian) to pick up his last shuttle van and was willing to take us to Ketchum. Really nice guy by the way! We got to talking and when he heard what we were ultimately trying to do (get back to Boise) he offered us to the van at a super discounted price and we drove ourselves home! Simple as that. Sometimes, things just work out.
We unloaded our bikes and gear then dropped the van off at Brian’s house in Meridian. On the way home, another wave of emotions hit. Possibly a little stronger this time because we were no longer in ‘figure it out’ mode. What was done was done and there really was no turning back this time. We threw out a few ideas about taking the truck back up with the bikes and doing some sections of the trail we could access but….the desire had faded away. I didn’t want to see the things we did over the past 2 weeks from a truck! I know Eric didn’t either. Plus, if the fire was becoming worse, the area would be inundated with smoke or at minimum hazy skies. Nah, maybe next time.
We took a few days off, sitting around the house pondering what we should do for the last 9 days of our vacation when an idea was born. The Ale Trail in Bend, Oregon. Yeah, we could drink our sorrows away (wait! who thought this was a good idea again?) We joked of our confidence in being able to conquer this particular trail, no problem. Just like that we were hopping trails.
The next morning, we set off for Bend, bikes in tow.
That night, we hit the ground running. We picked up an Ale Trail Map and off we went! Goal: hit at least 10 of the 16 breweries listed on the map to win a special prize. Ooooo…you had me at special prize! Read on to get the 411 on the Ale Trail and our rating of each craft brew.
First stop, Deschutes Brewery for dinner and beer of course! The service here was subpar, but the thinly sliced steak sandwich was to die for! I had the Fresh Squeezed (4 stars) and Eric the Hazey IPA (3.5 stars).
Next we hit the Bend Brewing Company. With a super friendly staff and enjoyable outdoor seating area along the Deschutes River, we thoroughly enjoyed this stop. I had the Killer Stasche (3.5 stars) and Eric had the Tropic Pines (3.5 stars).
While wandering around downtown on foot, we ran across a bar with pool tables and darts—Had to make a pit stop!
Call me crazy, but I think this guy is really having fun! 🙂
Last stop of the night, Silver Moon Brewing who gets the trophy for coolest tap. Eric had the Mango Daze (4 stars) and I had the Simon Says (3 stars).
We were off to a good start with a 30% completion rate on day 1.
It was just like that we went from dirtbags to ravenous consumers. We were treading in dark waters. What had we become?
We weren’t about to give up this trail. We had a mission. Who needs a healthy liver anyways?
The next day, I plotted our course and we headed out into Bend to see what the day had in store for us. It was a blissful start as the first brewery ended up being our absolute favorite of the entire trip: Sunriver Brewing Co. Smoothest, most delicious citrus IPA of the decade. Eric and I both had a few of the Zero Hour (5 stars!!!) The one and only 5 star beer out of 11 breweries we hit on the trip. Sadly, this was one of their temporary brews that will never see the inside of a bottle or can. I knew we should have brought our growler! Would it seem to eager if we bought the entire keg? Yeah, it was THAT good. We would have gladly stayed all day drinking this golden liquid from the gods, but we didn’t plan to fail the Ale Trail. Onward Ho!
The Good Life Brewing Company didn’t have the best beer, but they did have a nice outdoor seating area where I kicked Eric’s butt at Cornhole. I never said I wasn’t competitive. Plus, Eric usually beats me at everything so sometimes, I’m aloud to gloat! Since we didn’t care much for their selection of citrus IPAs, we shared the Sippy Cup (2.5 stars).
Originally we decided to skip 10 Barrel Brewing since we have one of these in Boise. I’m so glad we didn’t! First of all, the outdoor seating area was wonderful. The fires were going and the mix between the heat flickering off the flames while breathing in the crisp outdoor air was both refreshing and relaxing as we sipped our Passionate Envy (3.75 stars). Bonus, I snagged this excellent photo of my handsome husband <3.
We sat, drank, and talked of our Idaho adventures. It was crazy that just 4 short days prior we were in the middle of nowhere with a great understanding and appreciation of silence and serenity. Now, we were in Bend, Oregon. We laughed to drown the sorrow in our hearts as we knew without saying a word where we’d both rather be.
Next stop: Immersion Brewing to absorb our agony.
This place had a cool vibe and I enjoyed the artwork and shiny tanks that towered over the bar. Eric had the Patio Pounder (3 stars) and I enjoyed the Epic Bender (3.5 stars).
While strolling around I found this painting of a crow (maybe a raven, but for the purposes of this story, we’ll call it a crow!). I had to laugh and again, my mind brought me back to our bikepacking trip through Idaho. Ah, the old crow. Several times during the trip we would encounter what we felt like was the same old crow following us, mocking our efforts with his hoarse ramblings. It seemed he would always appear out of nowhere, always during the most difficult sections of the trail, and then just like that, after making his presence known, he would vanish into thin air. At times, it was quite unnerving. I was convinced he was plotting our demise. Come to find out, crows are not always a symbol of bad luck and death. Crows also represent the magic and mysteries of life as well as intelligence, flexibility, and destiny. Despite how our trip turned out, I choose to believe the crow was on our side. We were immersed in the magic of life and mysteries of the wilds. We were flexible in our approach and tackled the trip with a subtle emotional intelligence. Bike touring is our destiny, and soon, it will be our way of life. I can feel it in my bones! From now on, I welcome the crow as a loyal companion.
After my astute, mildly drunken observation I rushed back to the table to share my thoughts with Eric. Before we left, I went back and toasted the old crow and snagged this photo.
Crux. Here we come.
The Crux Fermentation Project. Very cool, hip place to hang if in Bend. A cross between catalog shoppers with perfect outdoor outfits and hipsters with decked out Westfalias. Yeah, I liked this place for some reason. Maybe it was the panoramic views of the Cascade Mountains and the most magnificent grilled cheese sandwich I’ve ever had. Yum. They had a TON of citrus IPAs so we went with the taster sampler here. We tried the Gimme Mo, FM Static, Cast Out, Way 2 Fresh, The Breezely, and Play Wave. All in all, to make it simple, nothing really stood out and the highest score we gave was a 3.5 star (Way 2 Fresh and Gimme Mo). After discovering the Zero Hour first thing this morning, everything else just tastes like….beer.
By now, the Ale Trail was doing it’s job quite nicely by providing the right amount of distraction to help us temporarily forget about Idaho. What it really ended up being was a small band-aid on a gushing, open wound.
Where to next? Ah yes, number 9 on our list….The Boneyard where we shared an Incredible Pulp (3 stars).
The picture says it all.
This is where we realized that we had swept all of our feelings about the Hot Springs Loop under a large rug and sold our souls to the devil. Now, here we sat, 319 miles from home drinking beer and staring at this fire. Don’t get me wrong, I’m being mildly dramatic to create a better story. We were and weren’t sulking all at the same time. Eric and I spent a lot of time planning that bike trip, setting our bikes up, and I took a month without pay! It would be abnormal if we weren’t a bit disappointed with the ultimate outcome.
Literally and figuratively.
Our purposeful last stop: McMenamins Old Saint Francis School. A former Catholic school turned restaurant, bar, hotel, and movie theater. It was a tourist destination must if I’d ever heard of one. We learned of McMenamins while on my traveling OT assignment in Eugene, Oregon. Our 2 month long, gracious Airbnb hosts Matty and Cali gave us the scoop but we didn’t make it to any of their locations while there. They were huge fans and I can now see why. Super cool, historical, intriguing, and fun. They have unique locations all over, I highly recommend checking them out. Even if you don’t stay at the hotel, you can do self guided tours of their facilities.
That night they were having a huge fundraiser for a local charity so they were packed! Fortunately, we did score some outdoor seating next to a fire pit as we each polished off another beer for the night. I had the White Tiger (3 stars) and Eric enjoyed a Thundercone (3 stars). We decided to do a tour the next day to avoid the crowds.
This trip was turning into quite the BEND-er. Ha. I’m sure I’m not the only person who has failed at making that joke funny. Bad jokes aside, we’ve decided that drinking is the sole purpose of Bend, Oregon. Consumerism at it’s finest. This is not a Bend bash, I mean, it’s a cool, hip town close to everything the great outdoors has to offer. But the town itself is made for indulgence. It lures you in, bathes you in its sweet blend of juices, then when you come to your senses you’re left feeling somehow violated by your own doing. It was fun. It was an overkill. It was what we needed at the time (I guess).
The next afternoon, we hit up Riverbend Brewing Company on the way to turn in our fully stamped atlas and complete our McMinamins tour. Eric really wanted to be an over achiever and hit 11 breweries instead of the bare minimum of 10. I’m so glad we stopped because this turned out to be our second favorite spot! They only had a few citrus IPAs but they were spot on! I had the Hawaiian Crunk (4.75 stars) and Eric had the best beer name of all time—Man-Go Fluff Yourself (4.75 stars). Delicious. We were just about over this whole drinking extravaganza when these beers lured us back into the spiraling web of darkness.
After indulging ourselves, we hopped back on the bikes and headed for the Visitor Center. Heads held high, we marched with shameless pride into the building and collected our prize. Yes, we are winners.
McMinimins was waiting for us with open arms. Unfortunately, they failed to tell us that nothing would open until 4pm. It was not even 2 yet. Trickery I proclaim! We did exactly what they were hoping we would do….wait. Why? I absolutely have no idea. I suppose Eric and I really wanted to find that hidden, broom closet bar (which we never ended up doing by the way!). I’ll spare you all the details, but here are a few photos of the grounds. It really was interesting.
Overall, Bend is a really nice place and a foodie/beer lovers dream. I highly recommend evening strolls in the fall.
Self indulgence often catches up to you. We knew it would, and it did. By that evening we were done. Our bodies and our minds were checked out. It was time for us to leave.
We had come this far. I had a list of outdoorsy things that I really wanted to do while in the area. Smith Rock, the Deschutes National Forest, Tumalo Falls, and the Painted Hills were just a few on my wish list. I picked one. Smith Rock. It was close and on the way home.
Here are a few photos from our 2 hour hike. Seriously beautiful place.
Spectacular, panoramic views. A mountain climbers paradise. I’m glad we stopped to admire the landscape before heading back home.
Bend was made for drinking.
Idaho was meant for adventure.
and life is better with this guy.
Happy adventuring friends. May your vacations be ever evolving like ours. When you open your mind, you never know where the path will lead!
Until next time.