For Katie Daisy and Karen Eland, exploring the sweeping high-desert plateaus and awe-inspiring mountainscapes of Central Oregon is pure bliss. But it’s also research.
In 2021 Visit Central Oregon approached these talented local artists about developing a series of vibrant murals inspired by the retro-fun “Greetings From…” postcards, which were a huge hit with vacationers in the mid-20th century. They jumped at the opportunity. “We are so honored to be creating the mural trail throughout our beloved Central Oregon,” says Eland. For visitors, enjoying the artwork at each mural site is the perfect way to get inspired by the diverse culinary offerings, cultural diversions and outdoor experiences each community has to offer.
After creating the first two murals in Maupin and La Pine, Eland and Daisy painted a spectacular mural portraying the Redmond area’s abundant flora and fauna, from sagebrush buttercups and ponderosa pines to mountain lions and American bald eagles set against a pink sunset. See the mural off Evergreen Ave between SW 5th and SW 6th street in Redmond. It’s just steps from downtown’s many inviting restaurants, shops and night spots, and close to the bustling farmers market, held on Thursday afternoons at Centennial Park.
Redmond is also a music-lover’s paradise. It’s home to some of the region’s most celebrated concert venues, including General Duffy’s Waterhole, a 1.5-acre indoor-outdoor space with a craft-beer taphouse and food trucks dispensing tasty international fare; there’s also High Desert Music Hall, a stunning wood-frame performance space with incredible acoustics. You can tap your toes to rock, soul, country and hip-hop at downtown’s free Music on the Green summer concerts, as well as on the cheerful back patio of Eqwine Wine Bar while noshing on charcuterie and light tapas. Fans of fine spirits should stop by Gompers Distillery to sample the fragrant juniper- and lavender-infused gins and velvety-smooth vodkas.
Within a short drive, you’ll find countless ways to explore the natural scenery that inspired Daisy and Eland. Float serenely above the fantastic geological formations of Smith Rock State Park in a hot-air balloon. Or make the moderately steep but rewarding 4-mile loop hike to Steelhead Falls, where you can splash around in the crystal-clear Deschutes River. Thrill seekers can safely plunge 250 feet from the historic 1926 High Bridge into the dramatic Crooked River Gorge with the highest commercial bungee jump in North America. At nearby Crooked River Ranch, enjoy the 18-hole golf course, equestrian trails and rugged hiking trails through dramatic Crooked River Canyon.
From Redmond it’s an easy 30-mile drive south through Bend to reach picturesque Sunriver Resort. “This is such a gorgeous place to spend the day or long weekend,” says Daisy. To create this mural, which is behind the resort’s Main Lodge, Daisy says “I gathered inspiration from green meadows, clear-blue sky and colorful wildflowers. I’ve depicted quite a few of my favorites here: California poppy, western mountain aster, western columbine and paintbrush.”
At this family-friendly high-desert oasis, there’s plenty to get your adrenaline flowing — kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding on the pristine Deschutes River at Sunriver Marina, golfing on two world-class courses, cruising along 34 miles of paved bike trails, and frolicking in the indoor and outdoor pools and water slides at the SHARC aquatic center. But this is also an idyllic place for rest and relaxation. “I have great memories of a long day floating the river and sharing family dinners in the Sunriver lodge,” Eland recalls, while Daisy says one of her favorite ways to spend an afternoon here is by “spreading out a blanket near the river with a picnic and [her] sketchbook.”
However you pass your time, end your day with an earthy IPA or a crisp glass of rosé at the convivial Backyard Cafe and Bar. At this food truck–style venue, snag a seat by one of the fire pits or out on the lawn, and watch musicians perform on the outdoor stage while the sun sets slowly over the Cascades.
“I’m always drawn to stare at the beautiful red-orange bark of ponderosa pines. Painting it was so fun,” says Eland, referring to the lush and flowery mural they unveiled in mid-June 2022 in the historic center of Sisters in Barclay Park at 211 West Cascade Avenue. Bluish-purple lupine and Peck’s penstemon wildflowers, a handsome stag and stately northern spotted owl, and the soaring snowcapped Three Sisters volcanic peaks capture the town’s verdant setting on the eastern flank of the Cascade Range.
“Sisters is such a quaint and charming little town,” says Daisy. “I’m a huge fan of Paulina Springs Books and C&C Nursery. Grabbing dinner and a cocktail on the patio at The Open Door is a perfect end to a dreamy day.”
Funky Fauna, a “hyper-small” brewery, opened in 2021 and has developed a cult following for its distinctive ales, from refreshing blood-orange witbier to a wild yeast–fermented wild saison with peach, lemon and raspberry leaf. Eland also recommends Sisters Coffee Co.: “It fueled me during the painting of this mural, and for many outdoor adventures, it’s where my friends and I meet for a proper start to the day.”
Sure enough, opportunities to play in nature abound in this Old West town. Black Butte Ranch offers horseback riding for all experience levels and access to some of the most exhilarating mountain biking in the state, including the celebrated Peterson Ridge Trail System. You can also bike or hike from Black Butte Ranch to The Suttle Lodge, with its stylish digs and myriad lakeside activities, including kayaking, hiking and the waterfront Boathouse restaurant.
More murals are slated for fall or winter 2022. “Madras, Bend and Prineville are in the sketch phases now,” says Eland, adding that Madras will be the next mural location unveiled. “You’ll see yellow balsam, a jackrabbit, a red-tailed hawk and more set against a deep-red background.”
As you explore the lively downtowns and breathtaking landscapes of Central Oregon, be sure to visit each of these cheerful murals on the Mural Trail. They make alluring photo backdrops, which means you can create your own digital postcard by snapping a selfie and sharing it with your friends back home.