A weekend getaway may be common for some people, but my husband and I have had very few opportunities to spend more than a few hours together since we got married 12 years ago.
As we were getting ready for our long weekend away, I asked when was the last time it was just the two of us for more than one day. The conclusion was that it was the summer of 2010.
So to say that it was long overdue is perhaps an understatement.
We were married young and had children right away, and getting away together never seemed like a priority, but when the opportunity presented itself we jumped at it.
I’m not very good at sitting by a pool all weekend or getting spa treatments, so we did our “romantic” getaway the way we would enjoy it most and headed to Central Oregon.
Our first night we would spend at a yurt at Tumalo State Park in Bend.
On the way there we drove on Ashton Eaton Boulevard in La Pine where we stopped to buy some flashlights to bring into the Lava River Cave upon learning the amount the park charges for rental lanterns.
When we finally got to the Lava River Cave in the Deschutes National Forest about halfway between La Pine and Bend, the parking lot was much busier than expected, although we were told it gets so packed in the summer that you sometimes have to wait to enter the cave.
We were able to go right in using our flashlights to light the way. We followed stairs and rails into the Collapse Corridor, where piles of volcanic rock have fallen from the roof and sides to line the bottom. Icicles still cling to the roof and patches of ice can be seen among the volcanic rock on the cave floor as well.
After going all the way down into the caves through several sets of stairs we entered Echo Hall where the ceiling reaches 58 feet, and for most of the milelong trek the cave was quite wide. In fact at Echo Hall it is said to be 50-feet wide.
Evidence of lava flows can be seen all along the cave walls. As the ceiling and floor started to become closer together, the rocks seemed to sparkle as they refracted the lights we brought into the cave.
As we got farther into the cave, the amount of people we encountered started to subside and at one point we were in one of the massive chambers by ourselves. I asked my husband to hold my hand and turn off our flashlights.
For just a moment we were in pure darkness.
We continued to walk deeper into the cave. Sand started to cover the cave floor, brought there by an ancient river that once flowed through the cave.
The amount of sand continued to increase and the distance between floor and ceiling became smaller and smaller, and even I had to duck, something that doesn’t happen often when you’re 5-foot-5. When it finally became too narrow, there was a sign that indicated we had reached the end and it was time to turn around.
As we emerged from the cave into the daylight, we were greeted by ground squirrels. The outside temperature we thought was cool when we entered the cave now seemed to be sweltering as we had just walked in a 42-degree environment.
After the cave trip, we checked into our yurt, made our bed and changed before we headed into Bend.
My husband made dinner reservations for the evening at Bistro 28. He doesn’t make dinner reservations often, or ever, and I was a bit curious about what he had chosen.
Since we got to Bend a little early we opted to go to Atlas Cider Company first and indulge in some of the hard cider they created. We tried a tester tray and were surprised by several of the flavors.
After trying out the cider, we headed to the restaurant and although I was a little confused by the fact that it was inside an athletic club, the food was delicious.
My salmon came with squash, my least favorite side dish, and somehow they managed to make it taste great. In fact, it was so great I may have to rethink my previous stance on squash and start adding it to some more of my cooking.
It was a nice surprise to be treated to a great dinner, and it’s good to know that sometimes my husband can still surprise me after 12 years.
After dinner we returned to the state park and walked around, touched the Deschutes River and enjoyed the cool spring air.
The following day, we started the morning with some pancakes before we went to a movie and to do some shopping.
After lunch we headed south, as we had dinner reservations at the Cowboy Dinner Tree just outside of Silver Lake.
On the way there I wanted to stop by Crack in the Ground in Christmas Valley, a small detour on our way to the restaurant.
My husband has been on a few hikes with me, but most of them are just off the main road and he hasn’t had the pleasure of taking gravel roads and taking our little car through mud pits to get to a hike.
So he was surprised when the road to Crack in the Ground had all of this and a lot of sand and washboard roads.
It wouldn’t have been so bad if we had a truck or perhaps just a big SUV with 4-wheel drive, but we don’t and we got to feel every little bump along the way.
When we came upon our first mud puddle on a dusty gravel road in the middle of sage brush country, my husband stopped and asked me if I was sure. I responded with “the car’s been through worse. You should’ve seen the road to Golden Falls. Remember when I came back and the car was covered in mud? It’s not a problem.”
He looked at me and I thought, ‘That’s not the answer he wanted to hear,’ but we only have one car, so I drive it, and sometimes I probably drive it where I shouldn’t. If you have a 4-wheel-drive vehicle I would suggest taking it, but if all you have is a 2-wheel-drive car and a sense of adventure, it’ll do just fine.
The bumps and puddles did slow us down quite a bit and we didn’t have as much time at the volcanic feature as we would’ve liked but the fact that we got to see a huge crevice in the earth in the middle of a desert was fascinating.
We walked a few yards into the opening and if we would’ve had time we would’ve walked the entire one-mile length of the crack.
But even a few steps in the volcanic rock was mesmerizing. With holes and a smooth surface, it looked more like a moon landscape than something you would find on Earth. The tall walls made for a cool shaded walk that I hope to return to during a hot summer day.
Unfortunately we didn’t have enough time and had to race to make our dinner reservation.
I had heard of the Cowboy Dinner Tree a few years ago and had been waiting for an excuse to go. As we walked into the log cabin we were seated at a large table, and despite being in what seemed like the middle of nowhere, the place was packed.
To eat at the restaurant you need reservations and you have a choice to eat either chicken or steak. But you won’t get just a chicken breast; instead I got an entire chicken while my husband attempted to eat a 30-ounce top sirloin steak.
Before we got our big hunks of meat we started with a salad and a bean soup with some yeast rolls. The meat itself was served with a baked potato on the side and you can’t help but feel like a cowboy in the Wild West when looking at the interior, exterior and food you’re being served.
For dessert we had a moist pound cake served with berries and ice cream.
The restaurant doesn’t serve alcohol, so if you enjoy a beer or wine with dinner, you’ll have to substitute for coffee, iced tea or pink lemonade.
Neither one of us was able to finish all the meat we were given, but it tasted great. I was afraid it might be dry from being on a barbecue for a while, but the chicken was tender and perfectly seasoned.
We made reservations for a cabin on the same property and were surprised that the two of us were given the “big” cabin. The cabin slept five, but it may be a little crowded in the spring for five people, as it didn’t have a living room. In the summertime the vast outdoors would be a great area and the small cabin would be plenty of room for five people.
After we took a little rest to recover from our gargantuan dinners, we went outside and walked around the property.
We played some horseshoes until it got too dark to see and we walked to a nearby hill where we could see the wildlife.
As the sun was setting on the desert the stars came out and we strolled back to our cabin.
The next day it was time to go home, but on the way back to Roseburg we made two more stops.
The first one was at Fort Rock where rock walls rise up from the flat desert ground. It’s an old tuff ring set in what was a shallow sea in prehistoric times. As you walk around you can see how it could’ve been used for protection from storms.
Wildlife is abundant on the rock formation with various birds, including birds of prey, and rabbits, lizards and snakes making the area their home.
The quiet morning hours made for a cool secluded walk with plenty of sights to see.
After a hike along the inside of the ring we returned to the car and headed toward Douglas County.
We stopped at the Diamond Lake Lodge for some lunch, walked around the snow and touched the ice before heading back to the warmer, lower elevation.
It was a busy weekend, but a great way to reconnect and spend our anniversary exploring.