For more outdoors columns by Mark Morical, visit bendbulletin.com/outdoors . Follow on Twitter @MarkMorical.

As many of us gather around the table for a Thanksgiving meal, I figured this day is the right time to mention some things for which we should be truly thankful here in Central Oregon.

Yes, friends, family and good food are obvious staples of this holiday and they should always be appreciated.

But sitting around and watching football in your sweatpants after possibly overeating does not seem like the Central Oregon way. (Yet I certainly have nothing against it.)

No, many of us outdoors enthusiasts — some, fitness freaks — will want to get outside after eating, and we should be thankful for our bountiful options to do just that here on the High Desert.

After 16 years of exploring and writing about the outdoors in Central Oregon, I have developed a unique appreciation for getting outside in all seasons. So here is a short list of some outdoors opportunities to which we can toast, and a few options for venturing out into the snow, rain and wind this holiday season. And if you want to watch football today, you can always do these later:

Skiing and snowboarding

Yes, Mt. Bachelor ski area opened this past weekend and conditions were excellent Saturday and Sunday. But a quick warming trend and heavy rain forced Bachelor officials into a hasty change of plans. The resort was closed Tuesday through Thursday, and it tentatively plans to reopen Friday, conditions permitting.

Bachelor is great, but let’s not forget all the backcountry we have here in the Central Oregon Cascades. Tumalo Mountain, Todd Ridge and Vista Butte are just a few of the easily accessible areas to hike and ride close to Bend once the snowpack allows.

Cross-country skiing also provides a chance for us to get outside during the winter, and Central Oregon is home to many sno-parks and other areas with groomed cross-country trails. Meissner Sno-park, just a few miles west of Bend, is tentatively scheduled to open in early December based on snow conditions.

Mountain biking

The High Desert has no shortage of trails that often remain ridable throughout the winter, including Horse Ridge east of Bend, and Smith Rock State Park and Maston near Redmond.

But if this winter is anything like last winter, fatbiking might be the best option. And Central Oregon is such a bike-friendly place that we have folks dedicated to grooming snowy trails for fatbikes.

At Wanoga Sno-park southwest of Bend, snowy singletrack is scheduled to be groomed specifically for fatbikes once again this winter, giving mountain bikers a place to ride even if the High Desert is again covered in snow for much of the winter.

Places to fish

Fishing season also does not end in Central Oregon with the onset of cold weather. Several rivers still offer anglers places to wet their flies.

The Crooked River near Prineville, the Fall River south of Sunriver, the Metolius near Sisters, and the Deschutes are all rivers where anglers can land trout and whitefish in the winter. The Upper Deschutes above Bend can be particularly good this time of year, and the Deschutes River Trail offers an incredibly scenic hike for anglers as they search for fishing holes. (See next week’s column for more on wintertime fishing.)

Hiking trails

Just as we should be thankful for our bounty of beautiful hiking trails deep in the Cascade Mountains during the summer, we should not forget how lucky we have it in the winter.

Hiking east of Bend in the Badlands Wilderness offers a chance to explore a serene desert filled with interesting rock formations, juniper trees stripped and gnarled by time, and trails that often stay dry and hikable well into winter.

The Badlands offer an example of the enormous variety of hiking terrain in Central Oregon. Go west of Bend in the summertime and hikers are treated to panoramic peak views, surging waterfalls and deep forest. Go east of town and we can find almost the opposite: a desert landscape that on the surface appears bleak but is actually filled with wonder for those who venture there.

Paddling

The Bend Whitewater Park is perhaps the crown jewel of paddling opportunities in Central Oregon. In the heart of Bend, whitewater kayakers, surfers and paddleboarders can take on man-made waves designed for varying skill levels.

The hardy — and those with dry suits — continue to surf or kayak in the park through the winter months.

And simply paddling down the Deschutes through Bend’s Old Mill District is an option even in the winter for those who prefer flat water.

Skiing, snowboarding, mountain biking, fishing, hiking and paddling are just a few of our popular outdoor activities during a Central Oregon winter, as the list is seemingly endless.

We should not ignore the fact that the opportunities mentioned here are all supported by a community of experts who are willing to volunteer their time to maintain trails or introduce children and beginners to our amazing array of outdoor activities. Just a few of these organizations — for which we certainly should be thankful, on this day and year-round — include the Central Oregon Trail Alliance, the Meissner Nordic Club, the Bend Paddle Trail Alliance and the Central Oregon Flyfishers. Our outdoor options would not be the same without these people.

So make sure to get outside with your family this holiday season, and try not to take for granted how good we have it here in the Central Oregon outdoors.

— Reporter: 541-383-0318,

mmorical@bendbulletin.com

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