By Branden Andersen
For the Oregon Beer Growler
When it comes to summer in Bend, beer and outdoors are near-synonymous; practically every outdoor activity is accompanied with a can, bottle or growler of Bend’s award-winning beers.
Once winter comes around, though, it becomes a little more difficult. The opportunity to enjoy the great outdoors is severely minimized as roads turn to ice, snow piles on trails and frigid temperatures make going outside a 20 minute jacket-and-pants-layering ordeal.
But, many Bendites experience cabin fever halfway through December. Sitting around for one weekend is relaxing and all, but there has got to be more to winter than hiding out on your couch, waiting to see the sun.
The obvious choice is to head up to Mount Bachelor ski resort and play on the slopes. But without all of the gear necessary to ride the lift, it becomes an expensive afternoon. Instead, stop at one of the local ski shops and rent yourself a pair of snowshoes, throw a sixer of your favorite beer in your backpack and stop at any of the Sno-Parks to go for a wander in the woods.
Wanderlust Tours, a Bend company that leads outdoor tours around Central Oregon, aims to make that experience easier for tourists and locals alike. Their “Shoes, Views and Brews” tour makes experiencing Central Oregon winter easy with a guided tour through the snow-covered firs at the tree line of the Cascade Lakes.
Don’t think this is a walk in the park. Snowshoeing, while easier than walking around without any special gear, is still quite the workout. The shoes don’t float on top of the snow, like I imagined going into it. Rather, your feet still sink in a couple of inches (a couple instances I was up to mid-shin) and your legs are suddenly a little heavier.
During our tour at Kapka Butte, guides Courtney and Nick stopped every 10 minutes or so, pulling the group together for a well-deserved break. While snowshoers caught their breath and took photos of the stunning landscape, Courtney and Nick explained what the beauty was surrounding the hikers. Courtney pulled needles off of a nearby tree while Nick explained those needles, which smelled deliciously of bright citrus similar to hops, are a great source of vitamin C and can be used to make tea. After more walking, the group stopped in a circle, where Nick proceeded to pull an edible moss off of the tree limbs and ate it for its fiber. Shortly after this, one of the hikers yelled, “I thought we were supposed to get beer on this thing!”
Nick and Courtney pulled out a cooler filled with Cascade Lakes’ finest beers, starting with Blonde Bombshell and working through 20” Brown, Paddleboard Porter and Hopsmack IPA. With each beer, the two explained the ingredients and flavors of the brew, and why there are so many great breweries in Central Oregon.
I had never been snowshoeing before this experience and found it one of the most rewarding hikes I’d been on. While not overly strenuous, stepping through pristine snow knowing that no one else is seeing what you’re seeing or going where you’re going was rewarding. With a couple cans of craft in my bag – no cooler required, just use nature’s cooler around you – I’ll be heading back out and enjoying the silence and serenity of the Central Oregon winter soon.
Stories from the print edition of the Oregon Beer Growler.