Like many of you, I have lived in Central Oregon long enough to know that we cannot count on consistently warm, sunny weather until (at least) the middle of June. I've spent too many Memorial Day weekends bundled up at an outdoor event to be fooled by a mild stretch in March or April.

Sure enough, it has been another chilly spring, and this one has felt particularly rainy, too. Happy hunting, mushroom enthusiasts!

According to the forecast, it looks like temperatures will soon rise into the 70s and 80s and they'll mostly stay there for the next few months. For many of us, that means it's time to get outside for walking, running, hiking, biking, rock climbing and other fun activities on Central Oregon's trails, rivers, lakes and backcountry.

No one likes a killjoy, but as the leader of the region's largest health care provider, it is my duty to tell you this: Summer is the busy season at St. Charles' Urgent Care clinics and the Emergency Departments in Bend, Madras, Prineville and Redmond. And the folks who manage those facilities tell me we are already seeing high volumes of patients, even before the weather has really turned.

This is not like the past two summers, when I asked you to stay home in hopes of reducing strain on our clinics and ERs as they took care of COVID-19 patients. I am not asking you to skip that ascent up Smith Rock or the ATV ride through the Ochocos this year.

What I do want to do is encourage you to recreate safely and responsibly so you don't have to come see us at St. Charles. Wherever you’re going and whatever you're doing, please slow down, be patient and courteous, wear protective gear (including a helmet) if appropriate and follow all applicable laws and regulations. I'd rather you head home after having fun – not to one of our facilities.

If you do need care, by all means, visit one of our clinics or, in an emergency, your nearest ER. We'll be here if you need us and we will take care of you.

Have fun and be safe out there this summer!