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In Search of a Silver Lining: You don't need snow to celebrate the solstice 

Getting the most out of your winter solstice.

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Happy winter solstice, girls and boys. Time to decide how (and when) to celebrate the longest night of the year. Back in 46 BC, Julius Caesar arbitrarily picked December 25 as the Roman winter solstice. These days we know the beginning of longer days arrives Dec. 21 or 22. Although if you listen to country music, you know the longest night can occur any time of year, but namely when a deep voiced, tight-jean-wearing cowboy gets jilted by a lover.

While its original importance rested in a community's ability to survive the winter, these days I see solstice as a reason to celebrate the arrival of winter. While times have changed, some traditions endure. Once upon a time, cattle were slaughtered as beer and wine were fermented and made ready to be consumed. And with the recent onslaught of breweries and butcher shops in town, Bend has aligned itself nicely with the, "last feast celebration" theme.

While I may not head to Stonehenge for a sunrise observance, I like to take this opportunity to enjoy all that winter offers. Previous outings have included backcountry bonfires and late-night ski trips. This year, I will probably have to substitute a hike or snowshoe for the ski, but the sentiment will be the same.

2011's winter solstice has brought to an end the notion that Mother Nature was awaiting the so-called first day of winter to actually bring us some, ah, winter. Looks like we'll all be dreaming of a white Christmas. So, slice off a piece of meat, crack open a Jubelale at 5:30 a.m., Thursday and take solace in the fact we are now moving toward the possibility of after-work recreation in daylight.

Donde esta La Nina?

Last week, I decided to brave the cold weather and friendly German folk for a ride at Phil's Trail. This marks the tenth time I have declared a bike ride to be my last of the year. Knowing the lack of snow is making for some epic mountain bike conditions is bittersweet. I could almost hear Mick Jagger singing, "You can't always get what you want" as I dreamt of these trail conditions sans finger - crippling cold.

But Phil's Trail did give me what I needed, as did the River Trail, on consecutive days this weekend. Saturday saw me riding my single speed to Benham Falls and back. The last bit of the ride included some intermittent snow and ice closer to my final destination. Sunday included a short meander from Big Eddy to Aspen for some picture taking. Both days, I encountered only a few other River Trail revelers. As is usually the case, I saw more cars than people.

I particularly enjoyed the sly looks at the Phil's Trail parking lot. The smiles seemed to convey a mix of, "The trails are ridiculous," and "If I can't ski, I'll ride," along with, "Good to see you; now don't tell anyone."

While I didn't see any ice at Phil's Trail, word has it that the ice and snow begin to show within a few miles of the 300 Road. I am able to confirm both the trail and road to Tumalo Falls are hard-packed snow. It's solid enough for hiking boots and good balance. The snow illuminates the trail, providing for excellent night hikes.

U.S. Cyclocross Gran Prix Results

Congrats to cyclocross racer Jeremy Powers besting nearest competitor James Driscoll by ten seconds to win The Deschutes Brewery Cup. Jeremy took the overall crown by winning the last five races, including both Saturday's and Sunday's elite category.

On the elite women's side, Katerina Nash also won both Saturday's and Sunday's races to dominate not only The Deschutes Brewery Cup, but the overall U.S. Gran Prix title as well. While the mud may not have been as prevalent this year, the mood was festive as ever.

Dirksen Derby

Those of you brave enough to battle the pleasantly warm weather at Mt. Bachelor last weekend were treated to the fifth annual Dirksen Derby. Professional snowboarder Josh Dirksen rounded up some friends to put on this multi-event, derby course race. More than 300 snowboarders from around the globe, as well as around town, maneuvered through Mt. Bachelor's course on Saturday for the qualifying and final on Sunday.

As if the spirit of competition weren't enough to bring people up Cascade Lakes Highway, proceeds from the event, along with sales from the Derby store, went to Tyler Eklund, a local rider who was paralyzed while snowboarding in 2007. This year they raised over $18,000 to help with Tyler's medical bills. It's always good to see solid support for one of your own.

In a battle of Bendites, Curtis Ciszek edged Austin Smith in the elite category. Other winners included Knut Eliasson (men 14-49), Ryland Bell (splitboard), Maria Debari (women), Van Allen (groms), Ravi, Drugan (sit ski), and Gerry Lopez (older and wiser).


If you want a chance to vote on the logo for Bend's premier outdoor event, the Pole Pedal Paddle, the submissions are available for viewing at US Bank's downtown branch, 1025 NW Bond St.


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