McMenamins Brewery. Bend, OR
After waking to misty blue skies, the fiery orange sun peaks over Broken Top Mountain, turning the low clouds into cotton candy. It takes a few hours to drag ourselves from this alpine paradise and finally hit the trail. Our route out of the high country descends through wildflower meadows taking us passed crystal clear streams and cascading waterfall after cascading waterfall. The entire hike down is like this, but as beautiful as it all is, our minds are already back in town. Thinking of the ice-cold draft beer we will have at Deschutes Brewery, Ten Barrel, or any one of the other dozen or so microbreweries back in Bend. Along with a shower, maybe some hot springs, music, and our comfy bed. All the pleasures that come with life in the front country. Pleasures the we take for granted but always have a new appreciation for when coming out of the woods. Of course these fine pleasures will be short-lived. It will just be a matter of time before the mountains, deserts, canyons, and rainforests will be calling for us to return. But for now, nothing sounds better than Bend Oregon.
And let me tell you, it didn’t disappoint. Bend never disappoints! After a six-dollar shower at the local recreation center, we make our way over the McMenamins Old Saint Francis Schoolhouse. This is of course an old schoolhouse transformed into a brewery, restaurant, music venue, pub, and, the best part, Turkish soaking pools. Just another reason that Bend is such an awesome town.
Now this is a place I would expect to see in a dark corner of New York City, down some secret alley, among the ultra-hip crowd who are in the know of such a place. Or perhaps in Vegas, obnoxiously overpriced, and in some ritzy casino filled with overweight tourists from Texas. But no, this place is in Bend Oregon, so the vibe is laid back, easy-going.
Upon entering, we each order a brew from the bar. Valerie goes with the Terminator Stout and I order a Hammerhead, described as a classic Northwest Pale Ale. Classic or not, this Northwest Pale Ale is among the best beers I’ve ever tasted. Starting with a slightly spicy amber sweetness, it settles into its Cascade hops, then it finishes with a zing that holds not a trace of bitterness. Perfection in a glass. We then make our way over to a dimly lit table in a cozy dark corner of the pub. Small lamps adorn the corners of the room and an oldschool jukebox plays carefully selected cuts from artists such as Son Volt, Beach Fossils, The Grateful Dead, Widespread Panic, and Bob Dylan. As the beer is working its magic, the carnitas nachos arrive, followed by seared ahi tacos. To die for. We order another beer and let the vibe linger a while longer as the high notes of Jerry Garcia’s Franklin’s Tower bounce around the room, painting smiles on faces throughout. When we are finished enjoying our meal, we go ahead and pay our bill of $33, gather our towels, and head to the Turkish pools.
The Turkish soaking pools are located down a long, winding, dimly lit hallway in an ornately decorated room of blue artesian tiles. This room is filled with the sounds of cascading water, distant music, and it is open to the night sky. As I relax into the hot water, I can see the big dipper and other constellations overhead. The same ones I recognize from our previous three nights spent lying on our backs high up in the Deschutes National Forest and the Three Sisters Wilderness. I learn that this room is open to the sky all year-long and I imagine what it must be like soaking here in the winter as a light snowfall descends through the opening in the ceiling and onto my face, beer in hand. I imagine soaking here in a light rain, or during a thunderstorm. What an asset McMenamins is to Bend. What an asset indeed.
After an undetermined amount of time, we finally make it back to the truck camper, slide under our down comforter, open up the skylight above to expose the night sky once more, and drift off into delicious dreams of decadent abundance.