After Christmas my parents came to Bend for a visit. With all the snow and freezing cold temperatures, we needed something to do other than stay at home with two stir-crazy little kids and a 5-month-old baby who doesn't believe in sleeping. When my husband suggested staying a couple of nights at Lake Creek Lodge, the idea of packing everyone up and heading to a tiny cabin with no wifi sounded a little daunting to me...but then again, so did entertaining my parents for a whole week at home. We loaded everyone up on a Wednesday and drove the scenic 40 minutes or so towards the cabins near the Metolius River in Camp Sherman. We would have stopped for lunch in Sisters but the sleeping baby naturally took precedence. Once we'd arrived at Camp Sherman, we checked into our little cabin. My 5-year-old daughter immediately began exploring every room and exclaiming things like, "I love cabins!" and "Oh, I feel so at home!". She was right; it was homey and cozy. Cabin #8 was decorated with Christmas lights for the holidays and has three rooms, two bathrooms, a kitchen and a front room with a wood fireplace. It fit the four adults and three kids perfectly (we brought our own bassinet). They even had a nice wooden rocking chair for me to feed the baby at night. Also, each day that you stay you get a free bundle of firewood to burn (much to the delight of my pyromaniac husband). We all loved having a warm fire going the whole time. We ate at the Lake Creek Lodge restaurant for breakfast and dinner every day and had lunch while out and about. The servers were so nice and accommodating. They made us feel like VIPs (even with our absurdly noisy children). Oh, and kids under 4 eat free with the purchase of an entree! Breakfast, lunch and dinner are served at scheduled times with a set menu for dinner, which makes it feel more like a family meal you would have at home, only you don't have to do the cooking or the dishes! Every meal was incredibly delicious, but my favorite menu item was the homemade cinnamon roll with cream cheese frosting. Hello! It was huge. If I could only eat one thing for the rest of my life, it would be this. I have no regrets. There is an awesome common room next to the restaurant with ping-pong, foosball and pool tables. It was so nice to be able to have some adult conversation while the kids played in the room next to us. And much to my dad's relief, there was a TV in the lobby where he was able to check the score of the college football game every now and then. The lobby had a beautiful Christmas tree and a warm fire going. We had fun looking at all the old vintage photographs and guest books. In the morning, we drove the short 20 minutes to Hoodoo ski resort. Hoodoo is a really family friendly place with a laid-back atmosphere. They have something for all ages and for us that was the $5 perfectly groomed sled hill. They even have child-care! I can't wait to take advantage of that. My kids were in heaven. After a great time at Hoodoo, we had so much fun back at Camp Sherman just hanging out in the cabin without wifi! We played games and talked by the fire and just laughed. I haven't felt so relaxed in ages. I'm hoping we can come back in the summer time, too. There is an outdoor playground that would have been fun for the kids if it were warmer. Even walking around in the wintertime, the tall trees and creek running through the cabins make for a magical ambiance. All in all, it was a relaxing and therapeutic two days and I'm sincerely hoping Lake Creek Lodge will become a family tradition for us.
Here in Central Oregon, we live in a frozen playground in the wintertime, and the scenic beauty of the region while the weather is frosty provides an ideal backdrop for the pursuit of romance. This winter, I ditched the quintessential date-night standard of dinner and a movie for something more adventurous––a snowshoeing expedition along the Metolius River followed by dinner at Lake Creek Lodge. Not all couples are up for adventuring in snow-smothered forests, but snowshoeing is an incredible way to enjoy beautiful winter scenery. And what could be more romantic than trekking through the woods while a gentle snow falls around you, snuggling with your honey next to an ice-capped river? My date and I started our walk at the Camp Sherman Store, just up the road from Lake Creek Lodge. After exploring the eclectic wares of the store, we strapped on our snowshoes and embarked down a marked trail along the Metolius River. The day was clear and sunny, the trail flat and easy. Tree boughs sat heavy with snow, occasionally casting arctic white confetti in the air around us. We followed the winding river, watching the steam rise off its surface, enjoying the fresh air and good conversation. Snowshoeing summons you to slow down and tune in to nature’s gentle harmony, and the peaceful quiet of the woods amplified the picturesque setting we found ourselves in. Aside from a solitary duck floating down the river beside us, we had the area to ourselves. We hiked around for about two hours before fatigue and the cold got the best of us. Eagerly anticipating our dinner (Snowshoeing works up an appetite!), we swapped our snowshoes for snow boots and drove the short distance back to Lake Creek Lodge. The Restaurant at Lake Creek is open year round for brunch and dinner. Dinner is served promptly at 6 p.m., requires reservations and consists of a pre-set menu. We arrived at the lodge 30 minutes before dinner service, so we killed time by exploring the grounds. The perfect combination of rustic charm and cozy comfort, the lodge is guaranteed to inspire warm feelings and get the heartstrings stirring. A roaring fire in the sitting room enhances choice cuddling real estate while the game room at the back of the lodge provides opportunities for playful (or ruthless) competition. My date and I immediately gravitated to the pool table, racking and rolling until dinnertime. The restaurant offers a homey and intimate dining experience, with breathtaking views of sunsets dipping over snow-capped mountains––an ideal place to enjoy a romantic meal with your sweetie. Our three-course meal consisted of cranberry and pear salad, filet mignon with a caramelized onion demi-glace, sautéed broccoli, roasted mashed potatoes and a walnut apple crumble for dessert. I’m not going to lie, it was one of the best meals I’ve ever had. Ravenous, we devoured our salads before the other diners had even unfolded their napkins and eagerly awaited our entrées. The filet mignon was epic, melting in our mouths like the snow from our boots next to the crepitating fire. As my date put it, “It’s like eating a meaty cloud.” The dessert was warm and delicious, striking a perfect balance between sweet and tart, and the perfect conclusion to our meal. At day’s end, we found ourselves thoroughly wore out and exquisitely content. There’s no shortage of potential date activities in Central Oregon, even in the wintertime. Treat your sugar muffin to a romantic evening snowshoeing and dining in the mountains; the scenic beauty will create wonderful memories, and the cold air will result in some extra snuggles. Additional Info: Snowshoe rentals are available at Eurosports in Sisters for $12 a day. To make reservations at Lake Creek Lodge or to preview the menu, visit their website at lakecreeklodge.com. Lake Creek Lodge 13375 S.W. Forest Service Road #1419, Camp Sherman 800-797-6331
Exploring the Metolius Basin from Lake Creek Lodge As a longtime Central Oregon resident and horse enthusiast, I’ve done some fabulous riding in the Metolius Basin. I’ve camped with my horse many times at Sheep Springs Horse Camp, about 8 miles from Camp Sherman. Horse camping is great fun, but after a couple of days, you sure do miss having a hot shower. So, when I learned that the Camp Sherman resort Lake Creek Lodge had added equestrian facilities, I had to check it out. The idea of riding my horse all day and then returning to a nice resort, staying in a charming cabin, taking hot showers, sleeping in a real bed, and enjoying chef-prepared meals while my horse relaxed nearby in a sturdy corral—well, that was positively tantalizing! I called my friend, Debbie, and we made a reservation. We arrived at the Lodge the morning of our reservation, parked our trailers next to the horse corrals and saddled up. The nearby trail network travels beneath majestic ponderosa pines to the Metolius River, which gushes out of huge springs about a mile upstream from the trail’s river crossing. The trails also connect with the Metolius-Windigo Trail, a 150-mile trail that passes just 0.6 mile from the Lodge. All are open to horses, and you can also ride cross-country. When you stay at Lake Creek Lodge, the riding is practically unlimited. After a beautiful ride, we came back to the Lodge and settled our horses in their sturdy steel pipe corrals and checked ourselves into our cabin. In addition to its cabins and restaurant, the Lodge offers a swimming pool, tennis courts, bicycles, a stocked trout pond, a big-screen TV, and a game room with a pool table, ping-pong, and foosball. Plus, the Metolius River offers world-class fly-fishing nearby. If you stay at Lake Creek Lodge with non-riding family members, they’ll be having so much fun that they’ll hardly notice you’ve gone riding. Our cabin, situated on the bank of meandering Lake Creek, had a fun 1940s-vintage feeling despite its modern conveniences. It featured a knotty pine kitchen (complete with a microwave, coffee maker, dishes, and silverware), an inviting living room, two bedrooms with a shared bathroom, a screened sleeping porch, a gas barbecue, and a deck where we could sit and watch the creek flow by. At the appointed hour for dinner, we headed to the Lodge restaurant. In summer, guests may enjoy dinner on the patio, but since we were there on a chilly spring day, we opted to eat in the dining room. Our first course was a tasty salad of greens, blueberries, strawberries, and feta, drizzled with a raspberry vinaigrette. Next came tender parmesan chicken on a bed of house-made fettuccine. And for dessert, a pear poached in red wine. The food was delicious, and the portions were large. Nobody goes home hungry after a dinner at Lake Creek Lodge! When we returned to our cabin, we relaxed for a while before being lulled to sleep by the murmuring of the creek and the rustling of the pines. The next morning, we enjoyed the Lodge’s brunch menu, which features everything from eggs Benedict to sandwiches. I couldn’t stop exclaiming as I enjoyed my hash browns: crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside, they were the best hash browns I’ve ever eaten. After breakfast, we went out for another ride. This time our friend Laurie, who lives nearby, joined us. We traveled a 5-mile loop that took us across the Metolius River and along its bank, past a neat row of summer homes, to the Camp Sherman Store. The store, a local landmark, has been in existence for nearly 100 years. Where else can you enjoy a gourmet sandwich, beer, or ice cream, and pick up a souvenir t-shirt while you’re on a horseback ride? We left the store, crossed the river on the road bridge, skirted around the north side of the tiny community of Camp Sherman, then linked up with the Metolius-Windigo Trail for the return leg of our loop. We arrived at the Lake Creek Lodge corrals and began unsaddling the horses and stowing our gear for the trip home. Debbie walked around the corner of her trailer, bridle in hand, and said wistfully, “We should stay a few more days. I’m not ready to go home yet!” Not to worry, Debbie. We’ll be back! Lake Creek Lodge cabins range from $180 to $385 per night, double occupancy, and horse corrals are $40 per horse. Minimum 2-night stay on weekends, and 3-night stay during the summer season. For reservations call 1-800-797-6331.
Izaak Walton penned The Compleat Angler in 1653, a book which formed the basis for all fly-fishing that came after. In his book, he wrote this description with a quill dipped in an inkwell: “Then his wings stand high, and clos’d exact upon his back, like the Butterfly, and his motion in flying is the same. His body is in some of a paler, in others of a darker yellow (for they are not all exactly of a colour) rib’d with rows of green, long, slender, and growing sharp towards the tail, at the end of which he has three long small whisks of a very dark colour, almost black, and his tail turns up toward his back like a Mallard, from whence questionless he has his name of the green-Drake.” Today any angler could go to the stream and find and identify such an insect and know it as the mayfly Izaak Walton knew. We in Central Oregon find them on the Metolius River in about the same time frame Walton found them on the chalk streams of England—in the month of June. “From the first to the four and twentieth.” The Compleat Angler was published in 1653. It still informs and inspires fishermen today. Photo by Gary Lewis It was the two and twentieth of June when Merrilee and I checked in at Lake Creek Lodge in Camp Sherman. Making our reservation a month earlier, I’d hoped for Cabin 1 and got it, a short stroll from the dining room, at the other end of the bridge over Lake Creek. We set down our bags in the front room and went back outside to the porch where Merrilee sat with a book in the Adirondack chair and I sat at a table to tie tippets to leaders and clinch dry flies to tippets. That accomplished, I sat back and opened The Compleat Angler, a book I hadn’t read in more than three decades. The pages fell open to a discussion of the “quick Flie” and the “artificial Flie” and when they are both best employed. In Walton’s day, anglers were apt to impale a real insect upon the hook to dap it over the surface of the water. An angler fishes a quiet run on the upper Metolius. Photo by Gary Lewis Soon the bell rang across the creek and we passed over the stone bridge to dine beneath the evening sky. Dinner was prime rib, mashed potatoes and asparagus. Dessert, chocolate cake with cream. We were steps away from Lake Creek, a few hundred yards from the Metolius or a short walk to Lake Creek’s pond, which is stocked annually with rainbow trout. It was there we would go first, when the sun was off the water. Midges danced atop the water and the trout (their swirls gave them away) fed on something below the surface. As I tried to divine what had captured their attention, we were joined by family friends who happened to have chosen Lake Creek Lodge for their weekend getaway as well. I spent the evening in the close company of 13-year-old Payton and his 11-year-old sister Jillian, instructing them in fly-fishing. In the morning I awoke at dawn and went to the river and worked up and down the bank with a wet fly, the verses of the ancient text in my head. When the sun was well up and when no green drakes were in evidence, I made my way back to the quiet pond in the tall pines where I tied on a dry fly and watched for rise rings. Walton gave me hope. “It is now nine of the Clock, and Fish will begin to rise, if they will rise to day.” Instead of a green drake, this mayfly was smaller and yellow. Walton might have prescribed its imitation thus: “A very little one, and of as bright a yellow as can be seen; which is made of a bright yellow Camlet, and the wings of a white grey feather died yellow.” A dragonfly perched in the tall grass over the water. Photo by Gary Lewis From my box of dries, I picked a fly I tied from a porcupine quill with wings from a wood duck. The hollow body keeps it afloat and its twin tails keep it aright. I made a long cast to a rise ring and a minute later, a trout struck. It was a fine fish, dappled with spots and lit with rainbow along its flanks. Unhooked, it rested for a moment then kicked away into the dark water. “And to fish fine, and far off is the first and principal Rule for Trout Angling.” Releasing a rainbow that took a mayfly imitation. Photo by Gary Lewis