Grant's Getaways for August 20, 2011


by Grant McOmie

Bio | Email | Follow: @KGWNews

Posted on August 22, 2011 at 8:51 AM



Spring has certainly arrived! You can see it at every turn; brilliant sunshine, a new flush of green leaves across the Willamette Valley hillsides and at area lakes and ponds, anglers casting their lures or baits for rainbow trout.

If there is a better way to spend the day than fishing with your family or friends, I surely don’t know where or when. You seem trout fishing is contagious!

That’s especially true when the small fry take over a place like St Louis Ponds  near Woodburn and experts like state fishery biologist Tom Murtagh are close at hand to offer advice.

Tom is one of a couple dozen experts and volunteers who recently helped put kids in touch with fishing at the ponds through ODFW’s Youth Fishing Clinic.

“We provide the instruction, the gear to use and the correct bait too, noted Murtagh.  “Plus, we have instructors, volunteers and angler educators onboard here to help us out to help the families and teach the kids how to fish.”

It’s a perfect setting for folks who don’t know much about rods, reels, and the varied lures or baits that trout prefer to bite.

The experts provide all of that and more – they even stock the lakes with legal-sized trout for the young anglers to catch. Tom added, all of it is free!

“Fishing is a great way to get outside, just enjoy the outdoors; it’s a healthy, fun thing to do with family. We get a lot of moms and dads who get a kick out of it too because it really helps them connect with their kids.”

Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife stocks more than one million catchable trout at 96 locations in northwest Oregon. There are scores of area lakes and ponds where the trout fishing is close to home and easy to find.

For example, Canby Pond in Clackamas County is stocked year round and it is open to kids, 17 and under or disabled anglers too.

In Washington County, be sure to check out Bethany Pond, just outside the Beaverton suburbs for another favorite year-round site.

That holds true for Commonwealth Lake in Beaverton too. It offers a neighborhood park that’s kid friendly and ADA-accessible and it is a delightful stop for a picnic lunch as well.

If you’re casting about for larger lakes to wet a line, Henry Hagg Lake and Scoggins Valley Park is a delightful destination where trout fishing along the shore or from a boat is most popular pastime.

“Perfect activity for kids,” noted longtime angler Trey Carskadon. “When you’re trolling along and a trout comes up and grabs it, they (the kids) get hooked. They reel fish in with a smile and it’s so easy to deal with – Hagg Lake is heavily stocked with trout and it’s got some whoppers in here too.”

More than a hundred thousand rainbow trout are planted in Hagg Lake each year according to Carskadon who favors a simple, but effective technique to catch them.

He called it “flat-line trolling.”

“On the end of my line is a snap swivel and I attach the lure to it – either a black rooster tail, a panther martin with a dark body and a bright blade or a crushed orange crippler. Many people like to go out to the middle of the lake and troll for fish, but the trout really congregate and feed along the break lines (drop offs between shallow water and deep water) that are close to shore. I simply let out about 60-feet of line behind the boat and slowly motor along– maybe twenty yards off shore."

Carskadon carried a small crew of anglers on a recent spring day; Ashley Massey and her daughters, Maddy, aged 5, and Sophia Massey, aged 11. Each enjoyed the chance to catch rainbow trout from a boat.

Ashley Massey is a life vest expert with the Oregon State Marine Board who leads her kids by example: she always wears a PFD (Personal Flotation Device) and she reminded parents that kids 12 and under must wear a PFD whenever they’re on the water.

“Conditions can change in an instant,” said Massey. “So, the key is to wear a life vest or jacket at all times. You never know when something’s going to change and there really isn’t time to put one on in an emergency, so find a life jacket that’s comfortable and wear it.”

Massey advised that parents should “read the label” when they shop for life vests and make certain that the ones they choose are marked “US Coast Guard Approved” and that they are suitable for the activities that they choose to do.

Finally, if you choose to visit Henry Hagg Lake, be ready to fall in love with a sprawling parkland where recreation waits at every turns – a place that makes you feel right at home since it’s less than an hour’s drive from Portland.

“We have a number of picnic areas,” noted Chris Wayland, Scoggins Valley Park Manager. He added, “We’ve some covered shelters which are available by reservation for group picnics and get-togethers. We also have 15 miles of master level hiking trail that is multi-use for both hiking and mountain bike use. So, we have a lot of things to here besides fish, although fishing is he number one activity here.”

There are two outstanding resource guides that are published by the Oregon Dept of Fish and Wildlife for folks who want to learn more about trout fishing that’s close to the Portland area:

ODFW’s “50 Places to Go Fishing 60 Minutes From Portland” is a superb resource that provides directions to all of the local lakes and ponds where trout fishing is available. You can pick up a free copy of each at any ODFW District Office or visitor center or online too.

In addition, be sure to go to Boat Oregon for all of the details and information about boating resources across Oregon.


One of the most intriguing and exciting story was born in the forest just off Portland’s front step – the Tillamook State Forest.

That’s where four successive and devastating fires – collectively called the Tillamook Burn – destroyed over 400,00 thousand acres of ancient forest in the last century.

You can see and hear and get a real hands-on flavor for that story at a place you may have missed along State Highway 6 at the Tillamook Forest Center.

As seasons change, the signs are clear and close at hand – at long last, spring has arrived to the Oregon outdoors!

Recently, I journeyed to experience the early signs of spring in the nearby Tillamook State Forest, about an hour’s drive from Portland to reach the sprawling Tillamook Forest Center.

The center’s education specialist, Kristin Babbs, joined me for a walk through of the stunning $11-million complex that opened two years ago along the banks of the Wilson River.

As we strolled across the grounds, Kristin noted, “Oh yes, as soon as the warm weather hits, there’s just a ton of things to do out on the forest. It’s always putting on a show in any season, but right now, this is the peak for our wildflowers – it’s just a spectacular show of color.”

When you step inside the center, history roars to life – literally!

You are greeted with an invitation to sit and enjoy an 18-minute film titled, “A Legacy of Fire,” that was produced for the center and tells the story of the forest’s destruction and rebirth.

It is compelling stuff for sure, but the film is only a part of the center’s mission to tell the history of the region.

A topographic "land-sat" map also greets visitors inside the timbered hall and gives perspective on how the many fires changed the Tillamook:“You can’t really understand the future until you understand the past and this forest is rooted in fire. That’s our story here.”

It’s the story of how four devastating fires in the 1930’s, 40’s and 50’s claimed hundreds of thousands of acres of old growth forest, how thousands of men battled the flames to protect what they could and how an army of volunteers brought the forest back to life.

Kristin explained to me how many interactive lessons teach the forest's natural and cultural histories.
For example, inside the "Four Corners" exhibit area, you will see and touch what life was like during varied periods of the past 120 years. Photographs, clothing and even household items are right at home at the different vignettes.

"From homesteading to early logging, to railroading and the stagecoach era, the stories are very personal through personal journal entries. It really comes to life in here; even the stove gets hot!"

Kristin added that one of the goals of the Tillamook Forest Center is to find a balance between taking the visitor by the hand and allowing them to find stuff on their own: "The discovery, of interaction, of playfulness and of learning is something that was core to the whole design process here. We have programs and events and great hands-on activities inside that will help people learn more about the forest and then serve as a gateway to the forest and more exploration.”

When you’re ready, you can leave the center’s main exhibit hall and climb up into the clouds – in fact, 72 steps up – to the top (40-feet high) of a replica fire lookout tower that is adjacent to the center.

“Not a lot of people get to see a fire tower,” noted Kristin. “This is really the only one between Astoria and Florence that you can actually drive up to, get out, climb up and explore.”

Back in the 1950's fire lookout towers were common. In fact, 15 of them dotted the high country in Oregon's north coast range. The towers were manned - not by men - but by women looking for a different sort of adventure. They were called “The Cloud Girls.”

"Well, it was a lonely job,” said Kristin. “ But there were a lot of college women who worked in lookout towers in the Tillamook forest at that time. They were basically working all of the time too. I mean, you're in your office, you're in your bedroom, and you're in your kitchen. Each life was lived right here in this small 14x14-foot space.”

The fear of fire was constantly there too. Especially in hot, dry summers that kept crews on their toes and their eyes on the sky.

"If they would see smoke, they would use the fire finder to find the area. They would triangulate it, get on the radio, report it in and then the fire crew would come out to put it out."

The fire lookout tower stands at one end of the complex, a spectacular wooden bridge rests at the other - like bookends, with two 200-foot long exhibit halls in between.

Once I learned my history lessons inside the Tillamook Forest Center, I decided to head out onto a network of nearby trails – many of them with wonderful overlooks to the Wilson River.

In fact, the Wilson River Trail is now a work in progress. So far, crews have completed more than 20 miles of trail that you can access from the center and the nearby Jones Creek Campground.

“You can either walk along the river to the west and have that kind of experience or you can hit the trail on the east side and that takes you into the forest a little bit more…more of a quiet experience that way,” noted Kristin.

The Tillamook Forest Center is a perfect base camp for a day’s adventure – or during the summer, a longer stay at the nearby Jones Creek Campground.

“The Tillamook State Forest is a gem,” said Kristin. “That’s what we want people to remember. Hopefully, they’ll come back and enjoy the forest and take it in again and again. Learn something inside - get your curiosity peaked - and take it outside and see what it's all about."


There are lions, tigers and bears – plus another 1,000 animals that roam free while visitors are in the cages at Winston, Oregon’s “Wildlife Safari.”

It’s like a zoo except you are in the cage.

Wildlife Safari stretches across more than six hundred acres of rolling, oak-studded hills and savannah-like grasslands in southern Oregon’s Douglas County.

Wildlife curator, Sarah Roy, said, “It’s the opposite of a zoo because you drive through in your car, and a giraffe can walk right up to your car, rhinos can walk right up to your car, the zebra herd will run across the road. It’s amazing!”

Sarah’s Roy is right! Just like that – our interview came to a halt as “JT,” a towering 12-year old giraffe stopped, stooped and zoomed in for a closer look.

Actually, there were many similar incidents and that’s not surprising when you consider there are 300 different species…close to 1,000 animals “in charge” at a park that’s unlike any you’ve visited before.

Our visit offered something new that visitors can experience called “Wildlife Encounters.” It’s a new program that puts you in closer proximity to many species – a bit of what Roy called, “behind the scenes opportunities.”

We visited the Brown Bear area and found ourselves just feet away from a trio of 6-year old brown bears – separated by half a dozen electrically charged so-called “hot wires.”

Roy explained, “ The boys just woke up from hibernation a week ago and we come out here several times a day to do training. Bears are so smart and mentally active – even simple fruit juice that’s frozen like Popsicles – fruit trays and nuts – hide berries in boxes – get a chance to rip it apart and play with it a little bit We scatter treats around the area – throw frozen fruit in the pond, like a popsicle for them to enjoy – and they love it.”

There’s nearly four miles roadway that wind through the complex on a route that takes you through several distinct animal communities including Asia, Africa and the Americas.

Each area is home to scores of species you rarely get to see this close. Flamingos, cougars, emus, tigers – and each is fascinating.

Nearby, we stopped in for a rare encounter with a pair of animals that have grown up together.

“Ellie” is an “Anatolian Shepherd” dog breed and her enclosure friend is a cheetah named “Sonora.” Each is four years old and they have grown up together.

“The dog breed is quite protective, loyal and dedicated,” explained Roy. “To whatever they are raised with, so basically Sonora is Ellie’s herd of sheep. “We wanted to bring this breed in as a companion animal to teach more about saving Cheetahs in the wild.”

In fact, that remains the number one conservation mission for Wildlife Safari – one that began in 1973 when the park opened to the public.

The cheetah captive breeding program has been a fixture at Wildlife Safari for nearly forty years.

In fact, we met two newcomers to that program: “Chimba” and “Mohawk” are two male cubs to “Liz,” a fourteen-year-old cheetah. The two boys were born in September of 2010 and they will stay with their mom for one year.

Roy noted that in the wild, cheetahs remain critically endangered; there are less than ten thousand cheetahs living in the wild worldwide.

But it’s the “King of the Animal Kingdom” that you may remember the most. I will certainly remember our “encounter” with “Tao,” a three-year-old African lion. You see, we played tug of war with “Tao.”

“It’s great exercise,” said Roy. “It’s also good enrichment that keeps him and the other three lions mentally stimulated, so we do this each day and we thought it would be fun and educational to pull our visitors into the game too.”

Two towering fences separate the lion from humans – each grabs hold of the 40-foot long rope – humans with their hands, Tao with claws and powerful jaws and sharp teeth.

We then pulled back and forth on the long rope – or rather we held our ground while Tao pulled on us - it was a remarkable experience as the 400-pound lion showed his amazing strength and easily pulled on the rope that six of us held onto.

“It is good exercise and the animals seem to have fun. So do the people,” noted Roy. “Each looks forward to this exercise – in fact, our lions come running over anytime it is rope time. It’s pretty impressive when you feel him pulling – you can really feel that power in the rope – it’s amazing!”

It is all of that – and more and contributes to a remarkable outdoor experience across fascinating parkland that will entertain and teach you much about wildlife across the planet.


There’s an outdoor party underway and you are invited!

The gorgeous Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area turns 25 this year so let the celebration begin!

The Columbia River Gorge is a place where views are never twice the same and moments of beauty found along easy trails to walk, bike and leisurely drive.

It is a timeless place that’s easy on the eyes and easy to explore and provides each visitor enough memories to last a lifetime.

The milestone anniversary officially arrives in November and dates back 25 years ago when President Ronald Reagan signed the Columbia Gorge National Scenic Area Act into law.

It remains the country’s only National Scenic Area! What makes it so special?

Ask famed Oregon landscape photographer, Steve Terrill , who makes a living capturing the state’s many splendid pleasures.

“The gorge is really on it’s own. You can start up at Vista House and drive the old Columbia River Highway to all the beautiful waterfalls that are all so different: Shepherd’s Dell sits in a little pocket, Latourell Falls is right next to the road and Wahkeena Falls sweeps and terraces down a rocky way.”

And then there are places where a real riot breaks out each spring. Places like Rowena Crest at the Tom McCall Preserve; the landscape hosts a riot of colorful wildflowers!

“That’s a stunner,” noted Terrill. “Probably the most dramatic wildflower display in the gorge. You head there early in the morning so to photograph with that golden light; bright beautiful yellow balsamroot; red paintbrush, blue and purple lupine. It’s all so breath taking.”

There are nearly 300,000 acres within the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area. It is not a wilderness but you can escape into wilderness. It isn’t a park, but you can enjoy camping and hiking. It is protected for its scenery yet allows growth and development inside existing communities.

Simply put, the Columbia Gorge Scenic Area isn’t like anywhere else in the country.

“We have a combination of state, federal and private lands in the Scenic Area,” said Jen Kevil, a Recreation Specialist with the US Forest Service. “It spans both states – Oregon and Washington – it’s about 80 miles long and we have the mighty Columbia right in the middle of it.”

Kevin Gorman, Executive Director of the Friends of the Columbia River Gorge, said that recognition of the gorge’s special qualities much, much earlier than the Scenic Act designation date.

“It started in the early 1900’s – when the National Park Service considered the gorge as a potential national park. Over the years, a number of people had the idea and the vision top protect the place, but it was always a question of fortitude to carry it out.”

One person who did have the fortitude was Nancy Russell. She founded “Friends” organization in 1980 and worked tirelessly to make it a reality.

“She would do anything to protect the gorge,” added Gorman. “She was fierce and protective and she cared quite a bit about this area.  It took Nancy’s perseverance, the political will of people like Senator Mark Hatfield and an army of citizens in Oregon and Washington – Democrat and Republican – to make it happen.”

What did happen with the passage and signing of the federal law was creating a new way to purchase land from willing sellers and protect it for all to enjoy.

Today, there are 40,000 public acres within the scenic area that are managed by the US Forest Service.

“It is protected for its scenic resources,” added Kevil. “ But not only is the scenery amazing, the gorge communities offer wonderful things for people to do too.”

Nearby, The Dalles boasts that it is a community “Gateway to the Gorge.”

In fact, since 1997 the Columbia Gorge National Discovery Center has been the official interpretive setting for the National Scenic Area.

“The awesome entrance will captivate you and leave you wanting to learn more,” said Executive Director, Carolyn Purcell.

“We show and tell all about the early geology of the region, the ice ages when there were Columbian Mammoths living here at the same time as people were here. Our five acres has been restored with native vegetation, so it helps people visualize what the gorge looked like when the pioneers came through here.”

The Discovery Center is home to important stories that link us to Oregon’s rich natural and cultural histories.

Through summer and into fall, the center will also link you to the many celebrations centered on the National Scenic Area’s 25th Anniversary.

“We have partnered with many organizations for varied arts and cultural events that are scheduled through the year. Many children’s activities are slated, plus lots of outdoor recreation opportunities are slated in different locations of the gorge. We think visitors will be pleased with their options to learn more about this place and we want to help them discover the secrets of the gorge.”