There’s a charm offensive at work on the trails around Bend, Oregon.
Every spring, we try to hold a trail shoe photo shoot near Mountain headquarters in Boulder, Colorado. And then the trails turn to mud and late-season squalls move in. So this year, after a dozen Front Range testers spent six weeks piling miles on the latest trail shoes, we took our favorite kicks on a victory tour to Bend, Oregon.
For 2015 Trail Test results and more on the Bend running scene, watch for the Early Summer 2015 gear guide. Here’s a preview: The town of 80,000 feels like a guileless Pleasantville, liberally dosed with all the locally sourced foodstuffs and artisanal flair you’d find on a Portlandia set. Even better, Bend’s growing population of craft beer makers can nearly fill a pick-and-mix 24-pack. The western horizon features the Cascades, a rugged chain of volcanoes. The snowy alpine gives way to Ponderosa pine forests and then high desert. I was told that whether you want whitewater, mountain biking, fly fishing, or rock climbing, Bend delivers. And that’s especially true for trail runners—a quick look at a map shows 51 miles of trail inside the city limits alone.
Which brought me to a loamy path dusted with ochre pine needles on a chilly morning in early April, where I paused to eye a knee-high wooden signpost on the Deschutes River Trail. Below the beige-on-green trail marker a sticker offered a glimpse into the psyche of the Central Oregon mountain town. “Be nice, you’re in Bend!” I read. The trail propaganda caught me off guard, but I quickly realized it’s everywhere. On the way to Tumalo Falls, cheerful trail markings exhort you to “Look, Listen, Smile!” The guerilla campaign for sunny attitudes spills into downtown, where coffee shop windows and bumper stickers sport variations on the theme: “Be nice… you’re in Oregon!”
But the ubiquitous reminders work—or maybe it’s a side effect of those potent microbrews. The people of Bend are unabashedly friendly. When I chased a group of local ultrarunners back up the Deschutes River Trail on a weekly lunch run, they gave every passerby a hello or a high five without breaking stride. Toothy grins and spontaneous conversations waited on every trail from Smith Rock State Park to Pilot Butte. Call it radical kindness or old-fashioned hospitality. Just know that Bend is pretty nice in every way. —Olivia Dwyer | Photos by Dave Cox
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