After sniffing every square inch of our cabin, Pippin found a spot by the fireplace and nestled in for a well-deserved nap. My husband and I put away groceries and gear, and then found our books and our own cushy spots on the couch. The cabin we picked at the Lodge at Suttle Lake is pet-friendly and as accommodating to couch potatoes as to hardcore recreationalists. And while the three of us looked more like vegetables than outdoorsy folk at that moment, there was plenty of recreation to come. We had exactly 41 consecutive hours to spend at Suttle Lake, and a plan to let it unfold moment by moment: the Plan Without a Plan.

Someone got married at Suttle Lake the day of our arrival. Pippin sniffed out remnants of the nuptials scattered in yellow and white petals across the lawn, the only tracks remaining of an enthusiastic flower girl. The decorated gazebo looks over Suttle Lake and into the eye of the setting sun, creating the perfect venue to begin Happily Ever After.

Those of us with less weighty pursuits, however, also gather at this same lake for its beauty, recreational quests, seclusion, and happy proximity to Sisters, Redmond, and Bend; just 45 minutes from the latter, yet a million light years away. (From Portland: 1 hour, 45 minutes.)

Speaking of time, Suttle Lake appeared on the land 10,000 years ago, when a 25,000-year-old glacier melted itself into a mile-an-a-half long, 75-foot deep, ice-cold puddle. Since then it has been a gathering place for Native Americans, trappers, wanderers and escape artists – like us.

Our headquarters this sunny weekend is The Lodge at Suttle Lake, tucked into the Central Cascades, near Mt. Washington, Mt. Jefferson and Three Fingered Jack. The lodge is a stunning affair – especially considering it sits in the middle of a forest – built in the Grand Canadian craftsman style with high ceilings, exposed wood and commanding bay window.

Visitors have four types of accommodations to choose from: luxurious lodge rooms, rustic cabins, historic cabins, and waterfront cabins, with several pet-friendly options. Summer prices for cabins range from $99 to $499 per night. Lodge rooms range from $199 to $299 per night. Pet fees: $25 per night.

If camping is more your style, try the Suttle Lake Area Campgrounds at Blue Bay, Link Creek or South Shore. These three lakeside campgrounds offer a total of about 100 campsites, with restrooms and potable water.

On Friday and Saturday nights the good folks at the Lodge serve complimentary house wine and international cheeses in an informal mix-and-mingle setting overlooking the lake. Niiiice. This tides us over between lunch and dinner, when the Boathouse Restaurant makes the menu transition and guests must fend for themselves for a whole hour.

The Boathouse Restaurant wears its name well, sitting smack dab on the marina, where you might just see a mother goose and her six fluffy, mohawked goslings threading their way by. Or an eagle might soar overhead from its nest on the south shore. Near dusk, fish will most assuredly be splashing to the surface in pursuit of their own meals.

Next Day: time to play. Best choices include a walk around the lake (3.5 miles) which takes you west from the lodge, to the far end of the lake, passing a magnificent view of Mt. Washington, fishermen in small pockets of open space, at least one dog retrieving sticks, and wild roses growing along the bank. After making the turn at the west-end boat launch, you’ll cut past some campgrounds attached to folks fishing, kids splashing, grownups relaxing and groups of pretty happy people. A mountain biker or two may pass your way with a friendly wave. People are simply pleased to be here. On through a column of tall grasses and native shrubs, and you’ll be back at your cabin for a snack. Then it’s time to chat, read or nap – each to their own preference and style.

Motorboats and jet skis are allowed on Suttle Lake, so if you feel the need for speed, you can mix it up with the fishing boats (each to their own preference and style). Native fish found in the lake include German Brown Trout, Brook Trout, and Kokanee (land locked) Salmon.

We brought mountain bikes, so we headed east to Camp Sherman on the new Lake Creek Trail. Easy, family-friendly, and fun, this pretty little trail takes you along Lake Creek, then through the Metolius Preserve and eventually onto an old double-track Forest Service Road, dumping you out in Camp Sherman, just north of the Community Center.

Camp Sherman has another whole slate of fun things to do, but I’ll save that for another day. Ride back the 4.5 miles to Suttle Lake and start all over again. It must be time to eat again.

Suttle Lake Area Campgrounds
Lake Creek Trail

Pippin’s Rules to Live By:
Play often, sniff everything, and expect something good to happen.

Kyla Merwin Cheney publishes Oregon Lakes & Rivers – the website, Road Tripper E-Report, and online magazine. www.oregonlakesandrivers.com

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