Once you drive east of Bend, you're in what we Oregonians call the Outback: an immense desert that's home to a half-dozen mountain ranges, surreal hot springs, towns named after salt flats, and little else. Set up shop at the Ranch House at the Summer Lake Hot Springs, two hours southeast of Bend (doubles, $150; summerlakehotsprings.com). By day, explore the surrounding landscape—Fort Rock, a 4,430-foot volcanic formation 70 miles north of the springs, makes for a great day trip. (Bring down: it probably won't snow, but temps hover near freezing.) Then head for the Cowboy Dinner Tree, a woodstove-heated joint 30 minutes south of the Rock. Your meal options consist of a whole roast chicken or a 30-ounce steak ($24, prix fixe; reservations required; 541-576-2426). By night it's all about the hot springs—mineral-fed artesian waters that the lodge has captured in a barn-covered pool and private rock tubs. Bring some Oregon pinot. And your favorite travel partner.
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