For avid trail runner Lucas Alberg, half the fun of an adventure on the trails is the anticipation and planning. His ideal Saturday morning is sitting down with a cup of coffee and a couple of maps, pondering to what scenic, majestic terrain his feet might lead him that day.
“And just kind of trace contours of some sort of loop possibility that I could run up in the mountains,” Alberg said. “I always loved looking for things to explore, and I was constantly searching around online as well, and looking at hiking books and trying to piece things together. I realized pretty quickly that there really wasn’t a resource for trail runners, specifically, in Bend.”
That realization motivated him to research and write what is apparently the first guide book for Central Oregon trail running. Three years and many miles in the making, “Trail Running Bend and Central Oregon” was released last month by Wilderness Press.
The book includes 50 loop options for trail running, all of them within 65 miles of Bend. The routes range from 3 to 17 miles and average about 6 to 8 miles, and all are targeted to the typical trail runner.
Alberg, 37, says his goals for the book were to provide that first-of-a-kind resource for area trail runners, make them feel safe and comfortable running outside of their typical spots, and lastly, motivate runners to explore and enjoy all the special places that Central Oregon offers.
A public relations and communications manager for Hydro Flask who has lived in Bend for five years, Alberg said he was able to narrow down the selection to 50 routes by eliminating areas that had no loop possibilities, were too rocky or steep, and/or had inadequate signs.
“I would think of my wife,” Alberg said. “Would she feel safe doing this? Would she be comfortable in finding the trailhead and the turns? Because she’s not a map person. Fifty just seemed like the right number. I realized 50 would be attainable, and I could hit that number without sacrificing the quality of runs.”
Unlike many hiking guidebooks that are organized by geography, Alberg’s trail running book is organized by seasons. That makes sense in a region where running west of Bend in the Cascade foothills is mostly impossible during the winter and spring, and running east of Bend in the High Desert is pretty undesirable in the summer.
Alberg mentions the Badlands east of Bend and Smith Rock State Park near Terrebonne as some of his favorite areas to run during the winter. But as the snow melts this time of year, many of the high-alpine options in Central Oregon become accessible.
The author says some of his favorite loop runs in Central Oregon during the summer months are the 12-mile Green Lakes/Soda Creek Loop near Broken Top and the Obsidian Trailhead area near McKenzie Pass on the flanks of North Sister and Middle Sister.
“Everybody knows about Green Lakes, but so many people go up and back Green Lakes, and Soda Creek, to me, is just as pretty,” Alberg said. “Along Soda Creek, sometime in the summer, all the wildflowers pop over there and it’s just awesome.”
Alberg said he also made several discoveries of lesser-known trail-running routes that he never knew existed, including the Tumalo Canal area near Eagle Crest Resort and the Otter Bench trail system near Crooked River Ranch.
“Trail Running Bend and Central Oregon” includes specific driving directions and turn-by-turn directions for the running routes, as well as maps and elevation profiles. Alberg also incorporated some interesting historical tidbits, including one about the trail up Black Butte near Sisters.
“Back in the day people at Camp Sherman would have these community gatherings and parties, and afterward they would pack their mules and hike to the top of Black Butte to watch the sunrise,” Alberg said. “I thought that was a really cool story. This was like in 1910. Stuff like that I tried to highlight in the book.”
Growing up in the small town of Pratt, Kansas, Alberg took to running competitively in middle school and continued through high school.
“In high school my old cross-country coach would just drop us off outside of town and that would be our workout, just running into town,” Alberg recalled with a noticeable sense of nostalgia. “I was no state champ or anything, but I was pretty fast back in the day.”
After college at the University of Kansas, Alberg moved to Portland in 2001, trading the flat plains of the Midwest for the mountains and forests of the Pacific Northwest. He got into trail running while living in Portland, and he also started a band with two friends in 2007, the Beautiful Train Wrecks. Alberg handles lead vocals and guitar, and he has written and recorded two albums with the roots rock/Americana band.
He moved to Bend five years ago and quickly took to the trails in Central Oregon. Researching and writing the guidebook cut into some of his touring time with the band, but he did not mind logging more miles on the trails.
“I was running a lot more while writing the book, because most of the runs I ran about two or three times,” Alberg said. “Even when I was running all those miles I probably wasn’t in that great of shape, because I would run a quarter mile, stop, takes notes, take pictures … I was constantly stopping, so the runs took a lot longer and it was more anaerobic exercise versus aerobic.”
Outside of running and playing music, Alberg enjoys mountain biking, hiking, backpacking, cross-country skiing and camping with his wife, Rae, and their 13-month-old son, Loren.
“That’s the thing with Central Oregon, you’re constantly exploring,” Alberg said. “You just never exhaust the possibilities.”
— Reporter: 541-383-0318,