The longer this "pandamnic," as author Rick Steber has called it, goes on, the more this reporter becomes convinced of the need for outdoor relief from the strains of present-day life. Grab that sunshine-induced solace when and where you can, whether it's a bluebird day spent gliding down Mt. Bachelor with friends, a lunch-hour walk or 5 serene minutes on your front porch. For a nearby, often less crowded section of the Deschutes River Trail, look no further, or closer, than Lava Island Falls, one of several trailheads off of Forest Road 41 southwest of Bend. Here you can connect to downstream Meadow Day Use Area or head upstream toward Aspen Day Use and Dillon Falls, among other spots. You may glimpse an otter, pet a friendly dog, trod along till a unique outcropping or snag catches your eye or find your own rocky perch from which to gaze at the river. You rarely regret time spent outside, but to make sure that remains true, use caution stepping through snowy and icy portions among the more snow-covered sections.

Getting there: From Bend, take Cascade Lakes Highway west and turn left on Forest Road 41 and continue .3 miles. Turn left at the sign to Lava Island Falls and continue another .7 miles.

David Jasper: 541-383-0349,

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