Cycling McKenzie Pass, Oregon

McKenzie Pass, OR - scottileona.com

Greetings!  Last weekend I took a glorious break from the never-ending Portland house hunt and headed out to Sisters, Oregon with a friend.  We went to ride our bikes over McKenzie Pass, which is a scenic bikeway in Central Oregon.  The road is closed during the winter and in spring it first opens just to cyclists, providing a car-free exploration of this beautiful region.  The forest varies from one side of the pass to the other, from high desert ponderosa pines through 2,000 year old lava fields and a finale through lush green forests with waterfalls.  Here’s a promotional video about the bikeway from the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department 🙂

We left Portland Friday afternoon after work and camped at the Olallie at McKenzie Bridge campground, which is located off McKenzie Highway 126.  The campground was really nice and the site we stayed in with some friends is located right next to where the Olallie Creek meets the McKenzie River.  There are few things better than sleeping in a tent next to a rushing river!  ❤

Olallie Campground at McKenzie Bridge, OR - scottileona.com

We started the ride around 12pm from Eurosports bike shop in Sisters – I had some brake issues that needed to be addressed before hitting the 4,000 foot descent.  Note to self: don’t rush out of town for a long ride without checking over my bike for needed repairs!  Despite my last minute repair needs, the guys at Eurosports were super helpful and replaced my back brakes, fixed my front ones, and cleaned out the gunk that had built up from rainy rides to work for a very reasonable price.  🙂

The initial ride up to the Dee Wright Observatory gives you a 2,000 foot gain in elevation, but provides epic views of the surrounding mountains.  We made a pit stop at Windy Point to check out Mt Washington and lava flow that leaves you feeling like you are standing on another planet.  Dee Wright Observatory is a castle-like structure that sits at the summit of McKenzie Pass and is made of lava rock.  From the top, you can see Mount Jefferson, Cache Mountain, Dugout Butte, Black Butte, Bluegrass Butte, Black Crater, North Sister, Middle Sister, Little Brother, Condon Butte, Scott Mountain, Belknap Crater, and Mount Washington.  In clear weather, you can also see Mount Hood and a few other peaks, however it wasn’t quite clear enough for us to clearly make out Hood.  Still, that is quite an impressive list of mountains!

Windy Point, McKenzie Pass, OR - scottileona.com

McKenzie Pass, OR - scottileona.com

Dee Wright Observatory, McKenzie Pass, OR - scottileona.com

Dee Wright Observatory, McKenzie Pass, OR - scottileona.com

After taking in the views and munching on a snack at Dee Wright, we began the trip down the pass.  We passed more lava fields before hitting the really exhilarating part of the ride – steep declines and switchback turns!  We barreled down the mountain on a road flanked by dense trees and the shade was a relief from the sun exposure we had on our way up.  We made a pit stop at Proxy Falls.  Proxy Falls is a beautiful waterfall that is 226 feet tall and doesn’t feed into a stream.  The water from the falls pools at the bottom and sinks through porous lava at the foot of the pool – pretty neat!

Proxy Falls, OR - scottileona.com

Proxy Falls, OR  - scottileona.com

According to MapMyRun, we rode a little over 41 miles and the falls added about 1.5 miles of hiking.  Not too shabby 🙂  I am stoked I checked out that part of this part of Central Oregon and was left with an even longer list of places I’d like to return to!

XoXo,

Scotti Leona ❤

Get Outside!: The Health Benefits of Hiking

The drive from Portland to Bend

The drive from Portland to Bend

Hey hey!  We are two days into our recovery from Memorial Day Weekend and I hope you had a relaxing weekend filled with friends, food, and fun.  Nick, Reymie (the dog), and I headed out to Bend, OR for the first time.  Bend is known for its high desert climate and its close proximity to the Cascade Mountain range, as well as its many craft breweries and its dog friendliness!  In fact, Dog Fancy Magazine named Bend “DogTown USA” in 2012!  When we heard amazing hiking, a huge cycling community, craft beer and a love for dogs, we knew this was a city we needed to visit!

IMG_4449On Sunday we hiked around Tumalo Falls in Deschutes National Forest and managed to find some of the last bits of snow.  Snow makes Reymie super hyper and she had a blast catching snow balls!

Reymie catching snowballs!

Reymie catching snowballs!

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On our way back to Portland on Monday, we stopped at Smith Rock State Park and hiked around there.  Wanting a good workout, we chose the trail named “Misery Ridge Trail” and it did not disappoint!  We left with that calm feeling you get after spending time in natural spaces and sore legs and glutes!

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That evening I was reading the latest Fitness Magazine and came across this fun fact:

“Being physically active in green space outdoors improves mood and strengthens self-esteem, both of which are major motivators, according to research from the University of Essex in the United Kingdom.  Even better: It takes only five minutes to reap the feel-good benefits, so do a lap around a park.”  – Fitness Magazine, June 2013.

Hiking and many other outdoor activities can be a regular part of your cardio workouts and exercise routine.  Regular aerobic exercise (defined as “exercise that increases the need for oxygen,” so it gets your heart rate up) has many many health benefits including:

Family portrait :-)

Family portrait 🙂

  • Reduced depression
  • Better quality of sleep
  • Improved muscular fitness
  • Lower risk of coronary heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, osteoporosis, and colon and breast cancer
  • Improves arthritis
  • Relieves back pain

Doing “moderate-intensity” aerobic exercise, where you can talk but you can’t sing during the activity, for 2.5 hours a week leads to most of the benefits listed above.  You can spread that 2.5 hours throughout the week or dedicate one weekend morning to a brisk walk through your neighborhood or out in the nearest natural area. Of course, the more time you spend doing aerobic exercise, the more health benefits you will reap.

Hiking can burn 370 calories an hour (more or less depending on how quick you are walking and your age/weight/height/etc) and makes you work almost every part of your body, including your legs, core, arms, and back, and improves your balance.  In addition to the physical health benefits of hiking, it also promotes a general sense of well-being and can have a huge impact on your mental health.

Walking and hiking causes the release of endorphins, which are natural tranquilizers and “feel good” calming chemicals.  It also releases adrenaline from the body.  If adrenaline isn’t released, it accumulates and causes muscle tension and feelings of anxiety.  Studies of walkers have shown immediate decreases in tension, anxiety and blood pressure, regardless of how fast or slow the participants walked.  In the University of Essex study mentioned above, 75% of the people that engaged in outdoor activities such as hiking saw reduced feelings of tension, anger and depression and 68% of study participants reported increased levels of self-esteem.

Now that it is almost summer (in many parts of the country, it already IS summer!), get outside!  Go for daily walks with your kids, pets, partners or friends.  Take your lunch break at work outside and find a grassy area to sit and eat.  Look up nearby hiking areas here and explore on the weekends.  Seek out vacations and get-aways that offer a lot of outdoor activities.  Going camping is way cheaper than staying in hotels in far away cities, so its a great way to get out of town on a budget.  Not only will your mind thank you, but your work out routine will have an added boost of excitement and newness which will keep you engaged and motivated.  ❤

For more information, see: The Good Hiker, American Hiking Society, and Live Strong.

All SMILES in the park!

All SMILES in the park!