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7 things to make you feel good about humankind in Bend, Oregon

Bend Farmers Market

You know those heart-tugging stories on the evening news that make you feel happy to be a member of the human race?

While I won’t claim the folks in Bend are shiny-happy people 24/7, most of us spend a fair amount of time feeling darn grateful to be here. If the following 7 examples don’t make you smile at least a little, you might be dead inside.


We take care of our toys

Recreation lovers flock to Bend in droves, so our outdoor spaces need a little extra tending to keep them healthy. Thankfully, folks here are good about stepping up to the plate.

Interested in "voluntourism?" You'll find plenty of opportunities, including the annual Smith Rock Spring Thing.

Interested in “voluntourism?” You’ll find plenty of opportunities, including the annual Smith Rock Spring Thing.

The Upper Deschutes Watershed Council has held an annual river cleanup for 20 years. Their most recent one in July resulted in more than 200 volunteers removing 1,400 pounds of garbage from the Deschutes River and its banks. Keep an eye on their website to learn how you can participate next year.

The Annual Smith Rock Spring Thing has also been going strong for more than two decades at Smith Rock State Park, with volunteers pitching in on cleanup efforts, special projects, and trail maintenance.  The burrito supper afterward makes it even sweeter!

If fighting invasive weeds is your passion, join a Let’s Pull Together event in May or June to help eradicate those noxious plants.

Wanderlust Tours organizes a cave cleanup effort the first Saturday in May, so mark your calendar if you’d like to make Central Oregon’s lava tubes your personal “voluntourism” project.

And speaking of that . . .


It’s a team effort

When I reached out to Wanderlust Tours owner Dave Nissen for details on his company’s efforts to preserve our outdoor spaces, he wrote such a lovely response about Bend’s spirit of collaboration and corporate responsibility that I asked to share it with you. Take it away, Dave!

Wanderlust Tours cave cleanup sml

Volunteers turn out to clean up Central Oregon’s caves with Wanderlust Tours.

“A massive smile comes to my face knowing the volunteer efforts that take place in Bend.  Bendites find a passion to take part in, and once this happens, they give of their time to improve the circumstances surrounding that passion.  I see this made manifest in innumerable ways.  One event that I am passionate about is Wanderlust Tours’ cave cleanup day.  We simply clean up the environment around our cave systems.  The sweetest thing about this is witnessing disassociated locals coming to be a part of this event.  What used to be just Wanderlust Tours staff caring for the environment spread to passionate people at our local REI who jump on board to go “play” underground with us. Then a local restaurant, Jimmy Johns, got involved by asking if they could provide food for hungry volunteers, and their staff have joined in the day of community service.  A local realtor, John Furrow with Fred Realty, got wind of our efforts and not only do John and his family join in, but he brings his associates and personal friends along to help foster Bend as a shining star of community fulfilling its passion through local service.  Through a volunteer effort like this, relationships are built and our community is stronger for it.  This infectiously makes me smile.”

Now I’m not just smiling. There might be a little something in my eye.


Dog lovers unite!

There’s a camaraderie among dog owners in Bend, and it’s part of the reason we were named the nation’s dog-friendliest city by Dog Fancy magazine.

The abundance of wagging tails in Bend will make you smile even if you're not a dog person.

The abundance of wagging tails in Bend will make you smile even if you’re not a dog person.

Dog owners smile at each other whether they’re strolling the Old Mill District with their pooches on-leash, or visiting one of Bend’s eight dog parks.

Since I live near the city’s largest off-leash area, I’ve come to rely on it as my go-to mood brightener. If I’m having a crummy day, I grab my pup and head over there for an instant infusion of wagging tails and smiles from dog owners who always offer friendly pooch-related chatter.

Another bonus? Folks are serious about picking up after Fido, which you can see from the abundance of free doody bags in most Bend parks. The Downtown Bend Business Association recently added several doody bag dispensers around Downtown.

Make sure you grab one on your way into the Bend Visitor Center (which is dog-friendly, of course). While you’re here, you and Rover can snag a free dog biscuit donated by Mud Bay and a free collapsible dog bowl donated by Bend Pet Express.


Bend keeps you young

On Wednesday, a 98-year-old gentleman stopped by the Bend Visitor Center and mentioned how excited he was about purchasing his Mt. Bachelor season pass this year.

This was as he was on his way out to go jet-boating.

Oh, and have you ever looked at the results of the annual Pole, Pedal, Paddle and noticed how many competitors there are in the 70-74 age category or even 80+?

Few places are more joyful than the Bend Farmers Market on a summer afternoon.

Few places are more joyful than the Bend Farmers Market on a summer afternoon.

Think about that the next time you catch yourself muttering that you’re too old to do something.


Fresh from the garden

From May to October, I make it a point to stroll over to the Bend Farmers Market every Wednesday afternoon. It’s not because I desperately want fresh fruits, veggies, locally-sourced meats, cheeses, flowers, and jams (though there’s that, too).

But half the time I don’t even buy anything. I go because everyone there is smiling. There’s live music and cheerful mothers pushing strollers and the smell of fresh herbs in the air.

If you could bottle the vibe at the Bend Farmer’s Market, you could make millions selling it as an antidepressant.


So much free stuff

Of course we want you to stimulate Bend’s economy by spending money with locally-owned retailers who rely on it. But one of the cool things about Bend is how many amazing experiences don’t cost a dime.

Love art? You’ll dig the plethora of public art in Bend, ranging from the Roundabout Art Route to the Tin Pan Alley Art Collection. If music is your scene, check out the wide range of free summertime concerts including Free Summer Sundays in the Les Schwab Amphitheater and Munch & Music in Drake Park (which segues into Munch & Movies as summer comes to a close).

The High Desert Museum routinely offers free admission days, so keep an eye on their Facebook page to know when those are coming.

Sun Country Tours offers free rental life jackets to anyone floating the river from Riverbend Park—even if you don’t rent gear from them!

Goody’s Chocolate and Ice Cream (a Bend staple for more than 30 years) offers free factory tours, which include a free sample of chocolate.

Smile. You're in Bend.

Smile. You’re in Bend.

And of course, there’s the great outdoors. Hiking, swimming, and exploring in Bend are all totally free, and the return-on-investment is immeasurable.


The smiles . . .

Do something for me, okay?

The next time you’re out on the trail or strolling around Downtown Bend, pick a random stranger and smile.

This is assuming the random stranger hasn’t already smiled at you first, which isn’t a safe assumption.

If the recipient of your unsolicited grin doesn’t smile back, consult your Smartphone’s location tracker. You are not in Bend.

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