Grant's Getaways - December 11, 2010


by Grant McOmie

Bio | Email | Follow: @KGWNews

Posted on December 11, 2010 at 7:04 PM

Updated Wednesday, Oct 30 at 7:24 AM


No matter the time of year, I refuse to let the grass grow under my feet because there is simply so much to see and do across Oregon.

That’s especially true along a unique section of the Oregon coastline where you’ll find three glorious Oregon State Parks called Sunset Bay, Shore Acres and Cape Arago.

I am thrilled with each visit to this region. You actually get three state parks for the price of one vacation and each is within two miles of the other and all are connected by road, bike trail, and hiking path.

Each park is distinct, easy to reach and offers unique perspectives on the coastal Oregon’s recreation experience.

Sunset Bay is a small overnight campground, with seventy-two tent sites and sixty-three trailer sites. The park also features a hiker/biker camp, plus ten group tent camps. Hot showers and flush toilets are available to all campers and provide a welcome comfort zone.

There’s plenty of elbowroom and trails to explore across the park’s twenty acres, according to park manager, Preson Phillips. Especially along Big Creek, which flows for a half mile through the heart of the forested campground into the namesake bay:

“Suddenly out of a regular coastal highway, you come into a lush, green area where the trees are mature and off to your right is the bay. It’s not an area that gets crowded so it’s very easy – even on a busy day – to come in and find a place to visit.”

He added that you can also “camp light” inside one of the park’s eight yurts:

“All you need to bring is bedding and another method to cook some food on the outside and you’re ready to go. There are bunk beds, futon couch, a table, chairs and lights – and heat and opening sky light as well.”

Thomas Hirst, an early settler in Coos Bay, named Sunset Bay back when fishing boats and other shallow vessels used it as a protective harbor during violent storms.

But I feel the wind-shorn, wave-battered cliffs hint of some far-off shore--say, Polynesia? Or Alaska?

Legend has it Sunset Bay was also used by pirates, and a glance toward the ocean suggests the reason: The small bay is set inside steep sandstone bluffs and has a narrow passage to the sea that’s difficult to discern from the ocean.

A mile away, a much different environment waits for you at Shore Acres State Park. Here, the wildness is tamed at a park land that puts a smile on your face. You see, Shore Acres is the state park system’s only botanical garden.

Shore Acres, built in 1906, was once a private estate famed for gardens of flowering trees, plants, and shrubs brought from around the world aboard the sailing ships of pioneer lumberman and shipbuilder Louis B. Simpson, as well as a one-acre pond and shimmering waterfall.

Simpson developed the summer home into a showplace capped by the towering presence of a three-story mansion. The grounds originally contained five acres of formal gardens, but fire destroyed the mansion in 1921.

Simpson began to build an even larger replacement; however, financial losses caused both house and grounds to fall into disrepair in the 1930s. The State of Oregon purchased Shore Acres as a park in 1942.

The park offers hundreds of different plant species for you to enjoy as you stroll across eight acres of garden. Phillips noted that the park continues to amaze and impress even lifelong Oregon residents:

“Folks come in the gate and they say, ‘What’s that?’ – And they step in and they’re here for hours taking pictures, just oo-ing and ah-ing – and for many it’s ‘we didn’t even know this place was here.’ 

A short but easy one-mile hike south takes you to Cape Arago, famous as a resort for Steller sea lions. Well, perhaps “resort” is a bit of a stretch, but the fact is that Shell Island (adjacent to the cape) is the largest Steller haul-out and calving site along the entire West Coast.

“It is critical habitat for these federally protected, endangered marine mammals that can weigh more than a ton,” noted local eco-tourism guide, Marty Giles, owner/operator of Wavecrest Discoveries.

She said that more than three thousand sea lions will haul out on Simpson Reef and Shell Island and that they put on quite a show.

“Imagine a group of anxious kids in the back seat of a car on a long trip – you’re in my way, you’re over my line, move – you touched me and you can see that kind of behavior going on - they walk over one another and grump at each other and move around.”

Any time is a fine time to visit the many viewpoints along Cape Arago’s main hiking path overlooking Shell Island, but keep in mind that the offshore rocks, islands, and reefs are part of the Oregon Islands National Wildlife Refuge system, which is closed to public access.

So here’s a tip: Bring binoculars or a spotting scope so you’ll have a front-row seat into the refuge proper and a chance to view fascinating wildlife behaviors.

Giles added that the three Oregon destinations – linked by hiking trail are so close together and they offer visitors something new to see each day:

“A rocky shoreline and a sandy beach, we have dunes, we have nearby wilderness areas, we have forest – a huge variety of publicly accessible recreational opportunities in a very small area.”

Phillips agreed and added, “It is so easy to get yourself lost in nature a little bit. Please come visit us and you’ll see why.”

I try to make this collection of wonderful parks a three- or four-day stay--I like to linger and just loaf around the trails, viewpoints, and colorful gardens that this unique Oregon destination offers.


A wintertime sunrise arrives cold, clear and early; especially when the “fishing” is your thing.

“Perfect water for this type of fishing - it's just perfect. And what a gorgeous day – not a cloud in the sky, noted our guide, John Krauthoefer.

As the first sun-streams meet a river's rapids, three lucky anglers met an Oregon outdoor adventure on Tillamook County’s Nestucca River.

We gathered to run the Nestucca River’s whitewater rapids with guide John Krauthoefer, (Firefighter’s Guide Service: 503-812-1414) who casts baits for king sized steelhead from aboard his fifteen-foot inflatable raft.

The Nestucca River is a fabulous coastal stream located in southern Tillamook County and is famous for its runs of salmon and steelhead.

Krauthoefer is hooked on a plan that’s supported by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

In fact, Chris Knutsen, a fishery biologist with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, took a day off work so he could join us on our adventure too.

“These rafts are designed for whitewater. I’ve just adapted them to fishing.If I hit a rock, I just bounce off of them – it’s no big deal.”

We cast into secret spots where John had caught steelhead before and we used bobbers and brightly colored yarn flies and jigs for bait.

“I can take people fishing that have never fished before in their lives and within thirty minutes they're fishing for steelhead - you watch the bobber - if the bobber goes down, you set the hook and you've got him.”

Knutsen said the Nestucca River brood stock program needs 60 adult fish each season; that’s about one percent of the run  - the fish provide 90,000 eggs for a hatchery program that will eventually provide steelhead that angler’s can keep.

“It’s a great way to get anglers involved in and participating in - the development of their fisheries, noted Knutsen. “Anglers provide the brood stock fish for our program and so a great way to engage the public.”

John and Chris’s rafts were set up to handle the fish with holding tanks that circulated water and produced oxygen.

“We fill the tanks full of water and we have a small 12-volt battery powering an inside water system to provide fresh circulating water for the fish. They do very nicely in there,” noted the biologist.

The angler-caught steelhead have a new home at ODFW’S Cedar Creek Hatchery. The fish will be live spawned later and then returned to the river

Anglers are encouraged to participate in the brood stock program, but they must register at the Tillamook-based North Coast Watershed District Office.

You can also visit the Cedar Creek Hatchery to observe the brood stock steelhead and learn more about the Nestucca River program.

Fore more information on purchasing an Oregon Angling License and locate an Oregon Fishing Guide.


It’s called the HUB - Hopworks Urban Brewery and it is a popular neighborhood destination where on most nights, standing room only is the rule.

Folks come from all over travel to SE Portland’s 29th and Powell to sip a brew, dine with friends and relax in the knowledge that things are different in the newest neighborhood eco-pub.

Keri Rose, a neighbor and regular customer, explained: “It’s amazing beer that’s organically brewed, plus really friendly people and I think you get something uniquely Portland. I think the HUB speaks to all of us who are really oriented toward that way of life.”

The HUB is an eco-Pub and it’s a first on the SE Portland brew scene that’s built upon the practices of sustainability, organic ingredients and eco-friendly ideas.

The business is the brainchild of Christian Ettinger, the HUB’s Brewmaster (he has fifteen years experience brewing beer,) and alongside his dad, Roy Ettinger, (a veteran architect of forty years experience) the team co-designed the nearly 17,000 square foot eco-pub.

Both agree, the 1948 building that they selected for the HUB, once a diesel fuel depot and a former Caterpillar Tractor showroom, wasn’t always warm or inviting.

“Oh no, not at all,” noted the elder Ettinger. “ It was full of dust, you couldn’t lean on anything because you’d get black soot on you. There were
tons of  wires strung on the ceiling …just 43 years of decay and dust and it was that greasy, grime.”

Christian quickly added, “We turned what was 60 years of a business into piles of material that were to be either recycled or shredded into fuel or reused.”

The deconstruction took over a year an a half to complete - but they salvaged every bit of material from the old building – the first step in walking the talk of creating a sustainable brewery and restaurant where reduce, reuse and recycle is an everyday business.
Christian noted that the bones of the building, the old growth doug fir posts, beams and planks were solid, substantial and deserved new life.

So, the old wood became the booths, bar and other varied pieces of furnishings in the HUB.

And then there is Christian’s signature statement; scores of bike frames and old wheel rims that were incorporated above the bar and the booths of his pub.

“Every one of these frames was recycled and I’m only about 300 bucks into this – and it really sets the bar apart from anyplace around.”

Downstairs, you could say the same thing about the HUB’s brewery where pesticide-free and fertilizer-free ingredients are staples of the 10 crafted organic beers that the HUB produces each week.

In the kitchen, organic ingredients take center stage too – from pizza dough to the sauces to the sandwiches with all the trimmings and more.

In fact, even the heat from the pizza oven is recycled and circulated to heat the heat the pub’s water.

“That’s free heat,” said Christian. “Free heat is free energy and lowers our bills but it also lowers our needs to bring in fossil fuels.”

Lionne Decker, the HUB’s General Manager, is quick to point out that the entire HUB team walks the talk of taking care of the environment and making customers smile at the same time.

It starts with a commitment to the environment, a commitment to what you’re putting on the plate, what you’re putting in the pint. Really, it’s a commitment to leaving the world a better place than we found it. It’s amazing! It really is.”

It’s amazing adventure that may keep you coming back for more – built upon a philosophy worth living.

The Hub is one of just three Oregon breweries that have made the move to produce all organic beer.

The folks who work at the HUB are eager to share and explain all of the different ways that they walk the talk of sustainability.

So, stop in and enjoy a beer and strike up a conversation! The folks at HUB will be pleased to tell their story - it's that sort of a friendly, neighborhood place.


Tucked into a corner of the Willamette Valley, the art of wine making merges with art of the season just off the Gales Creek Highway.

The Shafer Winery and Christmas Shop is the sort of place that makes you feel good and makes you smile. Not just from the fruit of the vine!

In fact, you won’t need a sip to enjoy Harvey and Miki Shafer’s spirit of the season:

“In the beginning we never really knew if we’d sell anything,” noted Miki who started selling varied holiday glass ornaments as a part of the winery more than twenty years ago. “But it made us feel good - we had absolutely no idea that so many people would buy Christmas and wine together…now we are the only Christmas shop with a winery and it’s been fabulous.”

The Shafer’s wine business has been fabulous for nearly forty years.

You can sample and buy their Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay and more, but it’s the Christmas room that sets Shafer’s apart.

It’s a room where thousands of gorgeous glass ornaments from across the world are ready for your inspection as prized gifts for your home, your family or friends.

“Perhaps you have a wedding or important dates - the birth of a child,” said Harvey Shafer. “Or just about any other holiday events – we have something for every significant event. Most aren’t terribly expensive, but they are unique and beautiful.”

Uniquely prized gifts that are worth your time for a visit.

The Shafer Winery and Christmas Shop is open (March-December) Thursday-Sunday, 11am-5pm.

Oregon is blessed with abundant rivers that offer countless whitewater rapids. In fact, many of the state’s rivers provide thrilling settings for exciting outdoor adventures.


When you prep for the holidays, it helps to have good friends to share the work. People who go the extra mile and make the event fun because the holidays are special just like Silver Falls State Park.

Lou Nelson, President of the Friends of Silver Falls State Park, said that the upcoming Christmas Festival gives back to the community.

It’s a gathering of the “Friends of Silver Falls,” and for the past 23 years, they have pitched in to decorate South Falls Lodge for visitors who come to play.

South Falls Lodge is the flagship building of the park and it is the only lodge in the Oregon State Park system.

The Civilian Conservation Corps built the lodge in the 1930’s and it stands large with rugged rock and timber construction and rare myrtlewood furniture.

Dorothy Brown-Kwaiser, Silver Falls Park Ranger, called the event an “all-Oregon atmosphere.”

“When the CCC was here so many years ago, they didn’t have many machines, so all the work was done by hand. Look up at the beams, you can see the hand-hewn marks – that wasn’t done in a mill so it’s irreplaceable.  That’s a tribute to the CCC and all of their early park work.”

The Silver Falls Christmas Festival is a gift from the Friends and the park’s staff and it is held during the second weekend in December each year.

“Kids can make gingerbread houses,” noted Nelson. They can also make Christmas cards, various Christmas decorations and birdhouses. We even have singers and a volunteer performs the bagpipes. It’s great entertainment.”

South Falls Christmas Festival is also a great bargain: no admission fee and open top everyone. There is a $5 for a parking fee at the state park.

It is a fine holiday gift for the family!

Speaking of holiday gifts, Robert Campbell, store manger at Fisherman’s Marine and Outdoor says holiday “gadgets and gear” that are made in Oregon are easy to come by at his story.

Many of the possible gift items in the well-known store sport familiar names– like Columbia, Danner and Traeger.

For example, Campbell pointed out the latest in wading boots made by “Korker,” a local wading boot manufacturer that offers a “convertible” boot with interchangeable soles that suit the territory.

“Whether it’s pea gravel or mud bottom, large slimy substrate, boulders and that sort of thing. This boot can suit the conditions the angler meets anywhere they go fishing.”

When it comes to seeing clearly, Oregon’s Leopold binoculars can bring the great outdoors into focus.

“They’re for hikers, hunters, birders, fishermen,” noted Campbell. “Anyone with an outdoor pursuit who wants to see things up close and personal.”

He noted that homegrown, Portland-based, Leatherman Tools makes a toolbox for your pocket:

“You’ll have a million uses for it; once you have one in your pocket, you realize you shouldn’t have been without it.”

When it comes to reading more about the outdoors, Oregon’s “Frank Amato Publishing” based in Milwaukee, produces hundreds of book titles with an Oregon outdoor theme:

“All Oregon products and they’ve been publishing for nearly fifty years so Amato Publishing has something for every outdoorsman; hunting, fishing, history. It’s in our blood for sure.”

Folks who like to float a boat will have no trouble finding a gift that’s made in Oregon, noted longtime boating expert Trey Carskadon.

As Chairman of the Oregon State Marine Board, Carksadon’s been an advocate for the marine world for decades. He said it’s the homegrown nature of Oregon marine-related ‘supply and demand’ recreation that’s led to a variety of marine products that boat owners will enjoy and use.

For example, he pointed out a rod holder that keeps fishing rods safe, secure and out of the way in the boat.

“It’s a great little gadget designed so that it will straddle a boat transom or the back of a pickup. You can store your rods there for secure, safe storage when you’re running from spot to spot.”

He also showed off a handy tiller extension made by Ironwood Pacific in Lake Oswego.

“You simply fasten it on to your outboard motor and makes it real easy to steer.”

Tightline is a company based in Aloha, Oregon and produces an electric warmer that helps to keep the wet out of your boat.

“Basically, it’s a de-humidifier that keeps the boat dry and free of condensation. Water is just a killer on marine products during the winter months, so this is a handy product.”

Trey added that the best gift of all for the mariner in your life could also be the most affordable: free on-line information at He called it the best bargain in the boating world!

“You will find all of the regulations and rules of the water and there’s a wealth of other publications too. For example, boating in the Columbia River, the Willamette River, at the Oregon coast. There are plenty of maps and charts – and it’s all free. It is the first place I go when I plan to take my boat to new territory in Oregon.”

That brings us back to South Falls Lodge where you can visit anytime – enjoy the lodge fire, the holiday decorations and a spirit of the season across a vast parkland that is open for hiking and camping seven days a week.

You can also enjoy a bargain in that parking pass purchase this month. Oregon Parks and Recreation offers a five-dollar discount on an annual parking pass purchase.

Another holiday gift idea that’s sure to being a smile: purchase an Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife hunting or fishing license for a friend or family member.

Simply visit any sporting goods store that sells license and provide a person’s basic information: name and birth date and you can buy the license for them as a gift.

It’s a great idea and the sort of gift they’ll remember all year long.