Oregon Trip Planner: High Desert

An Escape to the High Dessert; All Planned Out

written by Stephanie Boyle Mays | photos by Talia Galvin

Overshadowed by their trendy cousin, Bend, the Central Oregon communities of Redmond, Terrebonne and Madras bask in their more traditional agrarian heritage, relying on ranching and farming to fuel their economies. Redmond hosts one of the largest county fairs in the country—Deschutes County Fair, while Madras supplies much of the country’s carrot seed crop. Situated between them, tiny Terrebonne is a center of agritourism. Behind this hardworking façade hides world-class climbing and hiking, serious antiquing and whimsy.

Incorporated in 1910, Redmond was named after Frank T. Redmond, who settled here in 1905. Originally dubbed Hub City because it was a day’s horseback ride from here to Bend, Madras, Prineville and Sisters, Redmond remains a pivot point with the area’s only commercial airport at Robert’s Field.

As it is still a hub, Redmond is a good base for your explorations. Depending on your required level of luxury or your approach to the area, you can find accommodations at Eagle Crest Resort west of Redmond, or Comfort Suites or Sleep Inn at the southern and northern edges of town, respectively.

Oregon Trip Planner Day 1

Start your day with a run or bike on the Dry Canyon Trail, Redmond’s network of parks and preserved spaces that stretches north to south through the city. With your appetite whetted, jog or pedal to One Street Down Cafe on 7th Street for the fancy eggs benedict or the equally delicious biscuits and gravy.

After breakfast, head to Petersen Rock Garden on Southwest 77th. Built between 1937 and 1952 by Dane Rasmus Petersen, the four-acre exhibit is an embodiment of his imagination and patriotism. Petersen collected shells, pieces of glass, rocks and other bits that caught his eye, mixed them with concrete and then built models of the Statue of Liberty, U.S. Capitol, Independence Hall and other buildings in homage to his adopted homeland. Still run by Petersen’s family, the site was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2013.

Back downtown, it doesn’t take an overly observant eye to notice the preponderance of antique stores. Many, such as Redmond Antique Mall and Farmers Cooperative Antiques, are organized on the booth system through which independent vendors ply their specialties— from furniture and vintage clothing to technical gear such as manual typewriters and Victrolas. Beyond the Ranch Antiques departs from the vendor-booth format and was built by Rob and Karen Anderson in the former Tum- A-Lum Lumber building. Originally a stable and livery, the building has come full circle with an astounding array of vintage cowboy boots, clothing, saddles and other accessories of the Western ranch life. In what was the lumber storage area, the Tum-A-Lum Western town replica showcases retail items such as vintage sporting goods.

Take a break for lunch at the Pig and Pound Public House (try the fish and chips) or Soup 2 Nuts (order the Thai chicken salad or anything on their homemade bread) before resuming your treasure hunt. As you explore downtown, don’t forget to visit Paulina Springs Books. The independent bookstore offers New York Times bestsellers, staff picks and plenty of shelves for perusing. Afterward, you can curl up with your new book at Green Plow Coffee Roasters down the street, or you could head to the Redmond skating rink over on 7th behind the chamber of commerce offices on Evergreen. It’s open daily (weather permitting) and offers rental skates.

Finish the day at Diego’s Spirited Kitchen, which is known for its halibut tacos and seafood chile rellenos.

Oregon Trip Planner Day 2

Before pointing the car north toward Terrebonne on Highway 97, head to Rocket Coffee in the VFW parking lot on Redmond’s Veteran’s Way for a latte and a togo breakfast.

Alpaca purveyors Scott and Debbie Miller recently moved their Crescent Moon Ranch to the south end of Terrebonne. Its greatest surprise is the ranch store, in what looks like a generic outbuilding. It is actually a wood potato barn built in 1911 that has since been encased in metal siding.

In Terrebonne proper you’ll find the Quilters Attic, which offers fabrics and quilts in every hue. It also sells antiques, so you may come away with a bigger purchase than you anticipated.

Travel east from town on B Street/Smith Rock Way to DD Ranch where you can buy grass-fed beef, while the kids in your troupe can visit the petting zoo. Just north of DD Ranch is Terrebonne’s majestic main draw: Smith Rock State Park. Known worldwide by climbers for its towering cliff faces, it also hosts those new to the sport. (Arrange for a lesson ahead of time through Redpoint Climbers Supply in Terrebonne.) The park is not just for climbers, though. There are stunning trails for hikers. One of the most popular routes is a loop composed of the Misery Ridge and Mesa Verde trails. It offers an up-close look at the park’s well photographed Monkey Face spire and expansive views of the Cascade mountain range. The almost four-mile long loop has an elevation gain of 1,000 feet.

After all the climbing and hiking, head to Terrebonne Depot for lunch. Choose the buffalo burger and don’t forget the well-seasoned french fries. While you’re here, you might as well quaff a Monkey Face Porter from Cascade Lakes brewery. Lunch finished, head west across 97 on the quest for alpacas, fish and wine.

On Lower Bridge Road at Buckhorn Road is Alpaca Country Estates. Nancy and Ron Chapel bought the 134-acre property last April and moved in with their 500 alpacas. Check out the boutique for a selection of alpaca products. They also offer ranch tours for those who want to get up close and personal with the alpacas.

Continuing along Lower Bridge, fishermen will want to stop at the lower bridge parking area to cast for rainbow or brown trout. Put all of this behind you and enjoy the virtues of Faith, Hope and Charity Vineyards, where you can enjoy a glass of wine and, if it’s a Thursday or Friday night, live music and dancing.

Head back to Redmond for dinner and the Seventh Street Brew House, the original brewpub of Cascade Lakes Brewing Co., and eat your dinner by the outside fire pit.

Oregon Trip Planner Day 3

Head north again on 97, pass through Terrebonne and then turn east on U.S. 26. Look for the gravel road labeled Laurel Lane and follow the signs to Gray Butte Trailhead in the Crooked River National Grassland. It’s a steep mile-and-a-half climb to the 5,000-foot summit, but worth gaining elevation to the best views of Central Oregon and up into Washington if the day is crystal clear.

On the main road again, you’ll soon reach Madras. Established in 1910 as a service community for surrounding ranches, it still plays that central role and, in the past few decades, the area has attracted a large Hispanic population. These days, though, it may be most famous as the hometown of New York Yankees’ star Jacoby Ellsbury.

For lunch, stop at Great Earth Natural Foods on Southwest D Street, where the mantra is “Eat well. Live better.” To get into the flavor of the community, visit Rio Distinctive Mexican Cuisine on Southwest 5th, where the emphasis is on the preparation of favorite family recipes with local ingredients. Sated and restored, head out of Madras on 97 to milepost 81 and Richardson Rock Ranch. If the ground isn’t frozen, you can dig for thunder eggs and other stones and, whatever the weather, you can explore their museum- like lapidary shop.

Also north of Madras is the Museum at Warm Springs on Highway 26. The museum celebrates the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs and details the history of American Indians in Central and Eastern Oregon. While the museum’s collections are rotated throughout the year, the facility is well known for its exhibits of masks, beadwork, and historic photographs and documents. (It’s closed on Sundays during the winter.) If that’s the case, stop at Indian Head Casino for a quick pull. It’s never closed.

Heading back through Madras, turn west toward two parks on Lake Billy Chinook—Round Butte Overlook and Cove Palisades State Park. Round Butte overlooks the dam that created the lake and has a visitor building from which you can take in local wildlife and scenery. Cove Palisades is at water level, which makes it easier to explore the landscape. Don’t miss the annual Eagle Watch held in February at each park.

As you head out 97 and home, no matter which direction, you’ll drive through rolling farm hills and ranch lands that are a bucolic invitation to explore more in Central Oregon.


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