Like many Bend locals, I've covered most of the Deschutes River Trail from The Old Mill upstream to Lava Butte at one time or another.
Fall, with its earthy palette of red and orange, is a wonderful time to reacquaint yourself with this section of trail so close to Bend.
Or you might try a section to the north (downstream) of Bend, a less crowded alternative to the showier waterfall stretch on the other side of town.
Hiking the trail from Mount Washington Drive north was a first for me.
It slices through a more suburban section of Bend, sliding through a golf course and by custom hillside homes without giving you the feeling you're interrupting someone's cocktail hour on the lanai.
You may feel a bit vulnerable when you traipse across a fairway of the River's Edge Golf Course, agonizingly close to the third tee, but sometimes it's good to confront your fears.
The river, always over there to the east of the trail, is a different animal down here during spring, summer and part of fall. It's depleted for irrigation just upstream, making for a smaller, meeker river.
But the big ponderosa pines, the quail and the ubiquitous chipmunks threw me off. It felt a lot more remote than it really is.
In a few hours' trail time on two separate days, I crossed paths with only a handful of people. Barry Namm, of Seattle, was in town for an art exhibit opening and was snatching a little time to run. He said he liked the feel of the trail. It does speak volumes of a Bend that's growing but trying to retain that High Desert cachet.
Dave Boynton lives here and walks the River Trail regularly. He's covered most of it with a GPS and pedometer and can recite the distances between landmarks. We chatted briefly about different spots along the path and how lucky we are to live in Central Oregon.
Kudos to the Bend Metro Park and Recreation District and the supporters who had the foresight to set aside this wooded right-of-way.
Fifteen years ago, the Deschutes River Trail ran from NW First Street north to Archie Briggs Road. Today, following a flurry of expansions, connections and strategic property acquisitions, the trail covers far more ground. The goal is one continuous path from Sunriver on the south to Tumalo State Park on the north. The Deschutes River Trail is open to hikers and bikers. Dogs must be on a leash and owners must clean up after their canine counterparts.
File the lower section of the Deschutes River Trail away in your bag of hiking tricks for winter. It's often snow-free when higher elevation trails are clogged with powder. It's a fine place to get four or five miles in.