At the rate technology is advancing, I like to think I’ll someday be able to offer you a scratch-and-sniff blog post.
While I can’t do that yet, I can tell you Bend, Oregon, is one of the most deliciously fragrant places I’ve ever been. Sure, it looks beautiful, but here are five things you absolutely, positively must smell in Bend and Central Oregon.
Pine needles in the sun
There’s a deliciously nutty, piney fragrance you’ll notice when you hike the ponderosa-lined trails around Bend. The sun-soaked high desert earth bakes the needles to aromatic perfection, and I find myself wanting to press my nose against the red-barked trunks. I notice it most prominently along the Deschutes River Trail in the summer months when the sun shines particularly bright, but since it’s sunny year ‘round in Bend, you can pick up the scent nearly any day of the year. To find it for yourself, head up Century Drive and pick a trail that looks appealing. Then close your eyes and breathe deeply. Try not to run into any trees.
Festivals and Farmers Markets
I suppose you could just call this “food smells” and be done with it, but the fragrance enveloping Bend’s many festivals and Farmers Markets is so much more than that. It’s layer upon layer of delicious culinary scents like pungent leafy greens, grilled onions, and batter-dipped corndogs. Add in a dash of sunscreen, spilled beer, and the fragrance of poly-vinyl bouncy houses warming in the sun, plus a subtle undertone of river water and pine. The result is an indescribable perfume that’s actually not all that indescribable at all—it’s the fragrance of fun. To find a festival that fits your vacation schedule, check Visit Bend’s event calendar.
Juniper and sage in the rain
While I love this medley of fragrances in the sunshine, too, there’s something especially mesmerizing about the way these two scents mingle on our rare rainy days in the high desert. Imagine the woodsy, floral aroma of sage rinsed clean with the green botanical notes of juniper. I recently made saltimbocca (thin pieces of chicken breast wrapped in sage leaves and prosciutto) and served it with a Sauvignon blanc from New Zealand’s Marlborough region, and that was pretty much the culinary equivalent of this fragrance. The Oregon Badlands Wilderness is a particularly lovely place to breathe in this intoxicating blend, with the added bonus of uncrowded trails and raw, scenic beauty.
Grassy lake shores
I’m not sure if it’s the tangle of reeds and grasses, the musk of damp earth, or the bright scent of the river water itself that produces this deliciously clean fragrance. It’s probably a mix of all three, and there’s something about it that instantly lowers my blood pressure. Sometimes I like to take off my shoes and squish my toes in the mud to fully embrace this fragrance. There are a few spots on the shore of Elk Lake where this is an option, and nearby Hosmer Lake is another great spot to wade in and experience it. There are also a number of spots along the Deschutes River with deliciously muddy banks, so take off your shoes and start sniffing. Wait…that came out wrong.
The cornucopia of food smells in Downtown Bend
Anytime between lunch and late-evening, you can walk the streets of Downtown Bend and breathe in the most heady blend of food smells imaginable. There’s a mix of exotic spices from Toomie’s Thai Cuisine, Taj Palace, and Five Fusion wafting on the breeze as you stroll from Minnesota Avenue toward Wall Street. Near 900 Wall and Brickhouse, you’ll breathe in the scents of peppery grilled meats and garlicky pizzas bubbling in wood-fired ovens. Don’t try this when you’re hungry, as there’s no possible way to resist ducking into one of the restaurants for a bite. On second thought, a state of hunger is precisely when you want to do this.
So that’s my roundup of five of my favorite fragrances in Bend. What’s yours? Please share in the comments!