Think of Oregon, and a hazy green vista comes to mind, a valley of evergreens behind a veil of perpetual rain. It's easy to forget that half of the state is desert. It's the other Oregon, and Bend is its bustling metropolis.
A former logging town on the edge of the Cascade Range, where dense pine forest gives way to desert junipers and sagebrush, Bend is sunny and mild all year round. It's connected to millions of acres of wilderness by a network of running, hiking, biking, and ski trails that range from the Deschutes River, through town, up onto Mount Bachelor, and out into the wild, arid plateau of Central Oregon along the Oregon Desert Trail. There's world-class climbing in the canyon at Smith Rock Park, Class V whitewater, and abundant trout, steelhead, and salmon, all close to town.
The thing is, and this is key, the people who live in Bend actually do all these things — getting outside is built into the routine of daily life, along with work, family, and community. "You can do it all here," says pro cyclist Chris Horner, who's lived in Bend since 2000. "I just hop on my bike and go. You're always close to downtown, but you can get out of town in five minutes."
The job market is limited; tourism, a nearby medical center, and Les Schwab Tires are the major employers. But there's a vibrant entrepreneurial spirit, from outdoor-oriented start-ups like HydroFlask to the micro-artisanal, with athletes, artists, and craftspeople finding ways to get by in paradise. At McKay's, a beloved local restaurant tucked into a 1916-era bungalow, you're as likely to find yourself elbow to elbow with a blacksmith, a surgeon, a musician, an ultramarathoner, or a microbrewer. "We're really creating a unique culture," says Paul Arney, a refugee from Seattle and founder of Paul Arney's Ale Apothecary, a tiny sour-beer lab half-hidden in pine forest a few minutes outside of town. "Where I'm from was just work, work, work. In Bend, your job and career are important, but there are all these other things — creativity, family, getting outside — that are equally important."