ELKHORN WILDLIFE AREA
It may be dead of winter, but Grant McOmie says if you know where to look in Eastern Oregon, life is in full swing – the wildlife that is.
This week, he takes us into snow country near Baker City where you can go along for the ride and help feed hundreds of elk at Oregon’s Elkhorn Wildlife Area.
Winter rules the distant Elkhorn Mountains where the ice floes stack streamside and snow drifts line roadways and a sea of white spans the horizon.
It is bone-chilling cold that shows little sign of thawing!
But at Anthony Creek in Baker County, a Saturday morning warming fire chases the 20-degree chill away before you step aboard “T&T Wildlife Tours.”
Alice Trindle shares the reins of the operation with partner Susan Triplett while local horseman Mike Moore lends a hand.
“For 20 years,” noted Moore, “They’ve been taking people up and down this hill and get you up close to Rocky Mountain Elk as you will ever get in your life – a unique experience.”
It is the only horse drawn wildlife tour in Oregon…and Jed and Waylen, a pair of Percheron draft horses, are the heavy pullers.
“This is their third winter they’ve been here helping us out,” said Trindle. “Part of it is their temperament; they are probably the most petted horses in the county. They are our equal partners.”
Each weekend, all of the partners pitch in to feed the elk that make Anthony Creek a winter home from mid-December thru February; they will spread up to a dozen alfalfa bales to feed 150 elk.
“Scoop-loop is our biggest elk; a bull elk and he’s a seven by seven. That means he has seven points (the antler points) on one side and seven points on the other. Antlers are quite amazing – the fastest growing bone in the animal kingdom…They can grow as much as an inch in a day and weigh up to 35 pounds on these rocky mountain elk.”
T&T Wildlife Tours is an asset to Oregon’s Fish and Wildlife Department that maintain nine other feeding stations across the 12,000 acres that make up the Elkhorn Wildlife Area.
For Ed Miguez and the other wildlife area staff it means traveling 145 miles each day.
The Elkhorn winter feeding program started in 1971 and today the feeding crew keeps 1200 hungry elk up in the forest rather than down on nearby ranchlands that are scattered across the valley floor.
Miguez is the Wildlife Area Manager and said that they will feed 850 tons of alfalfa hay each winter and the elk must be fed each day.
“We don’t miss a day! These elk know that there’s feed available on ranches for feeding the cattle in winter, so if we miss a day, there’s a good chance we’ll lose them. If that happens, it’s extremely hard for us to get them back, so we don’t miss a day.”
Most of the Elkhorn Wildlife Area is closed to the public in winter – except Anthony Creek, so it’s a rare and wonderful learning opportunity.
An open viewing area allows you a chance to see the herd anytime or bring the family and spend a few bucks to see Oregon’s largest game animal – up close.
“The younger bulls start some play fighting,” said Trindle. “Some sparring – but really isn’t too serious…pushing and pulling on each other really hard. They’ll also make that noise you just heard – that “mewing” sort of sound. That’s kind of his signal that ‘I’ll give up and you’ve won this round this time, but just wait until next time and another round.”
Triplet added that after twenty years, they continue to learn as much as the visitors. “I think it’s being able to do something you really enjoy! Alice and I joke that we’re going to call it quits when it’s not fun, but here it is 20 years later – we’re still having fun.”
“There’s always something to be observed with these elk,” added Trindle. “To be this close to these magnificent animals and to learn more about them is a real treat for everyone. That’s a real special thing that we can offer folks who visit.”
NESTUCCA RIVER STEELHEAD
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.
On this week’s “Grant’s Getaway,” we enjoy a whitewater rafting trip that offered a unique spin: we also went fishing for the premier Oregon game fish called Winter Steelhead.
We gathered to run the Nestucca River’s whitewater rapids with guide John Krauthoefer, (Firefighter’s Guide Service) 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 new 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.
So grab your rod and reel, don’t forget the waders as we go fishing for wild winter steelhead – not to keep – but to keep them alive for a fishery future.
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.
For more information on purchasing an Oregon Angling License and located an Oregon Fishing Guide.
ROMANCE OF WATERFALLS
Valentine’s Day is just around the corner and you may wish to take someone special on this “Grant’s Getaway.”
The time is right to travel down treasured trails in Oregon State Parks to discover the romance of waterfalls.
While the Columbia River Gorge has long impressed us with its gigantic size, I cherish its nooks and crannies even more – especially where the water flows and famous falls whirl and shimmer and ripple and where you can leave all distractions behind.
“This really is a place where you can shut your cell phone off, turn the lap top off and re-connect with each other and with the past,” noted Diane McClay, Oregon State Park’s Ranger.
At 125 feet, Shepperd’s Dell is small in size as Gorge falls go. It rolls out of Young’s Creek to become a foamy moment that resembles a bowtie turned on its side.
The water boils and roils, then slips and slides down forty feet of smooth rock face before it twists and shoots up high to celebrate its freedom and falls into a rocky cradle.
George Shepperd opened Shepperd’s Dell to the public in 1915 as a tribute to his wife.
What a romantic!
One mile east of Shepperd’s Dell is Bridal Veil Falls State Park, a day-use site for a picnic or a stroll down a half-mile trail to a stairway and viewing platform.
The park’s namesake drops in two tiers and it is best enjoyed with someone special.
You’ll see why when you stand on the viewing platform and gaze up at the 160-foot waterfall plunging twice in a wide, steep slide.
Diane added, “It looks the veil of a bride’s gown coming down and across the back. In fact, a lot of people get their wedding invitations stamped at the Bridal Veil Post Office, so there is a lot of nostalgia and a connection to history.”
If time is of the essence and you’re ready to head back toward Portland, travel west on the scenic highway past Shepperd’s Dell Falls a mile and a half to Latourell Falls, where an incredible show speaks for itself.
Latourell Falls hisses and bellows and shouts for attention as it falls 249 feet. It’s the second-highest falls in the Gorge and seems to take on a life of its own you can’t help but appreciate.
The falls was named for Joseph Latourell, an early settler of the area, and donated to the state of Oregon in 1929 by Guy W. Talbot.
A paved trail allows you to hike to the base of this falls and continues across a bridge to a picnic area.
Diane cautioned to keep safety close to heart when you trek this way: “One can get lost in the beauty of this area and we strongly suggest that people have their feet grounded when they start looking around – you can get overwhelmed with both the height and the massive nature of the rocks in the area.”
Ninety miles to the west, photographer Don Best likes to say he hasn’t met a waterfall he doesn’t love: “to shoot with a camera.”
Best is a lifelong local in Tillamook County – his grandfather arrived by horse and wagon and his father told tales of old growth timber, giant elk and waterfalls galore.
So, Best looks up at Munson Falls, (the tallest waterfall in the Oregon Coast Range), with a nostalgic nod to a somewhat romanticized past and offered us a tip or two that might help you capture the best that falling water offers.
“The secret to shooting a waterfall is to get as slow a shutter speed as you can so that the water looks silky. To do that dial that shutter speed to 25th of a second or even 15th of a second. All of that water will have a real silky look to it.”
Best added that there are many waterfalls in the Tillamook State Forest that go unvisited and are under appreciated.
He called it a “treasure hunt for nature’s beauty” and he added: “The fun part of it all is discovering them but I always tell people that God is better at the posing part than I am at taking pictures. Waterfalls are spectacular.”
You’ve many spectacular waterfalls to choose from when you visit the 9,000-acre state parkland called Silver Falls State Park.
It offers a gorgeous Trail of Ten Falls plus the rustic South Falls Lodge that stands large from rock and timber construction.
Dorothy Brown-Kwaiser, a Park Ranger at Silver Falls said, “ The lodge is gorgeous and I think it’s one of the highlights in Oregon. Natural materials, timbers, big stonework and a huge, open room with big beams and a rustic feeling. There’s a fire going and it has that smell; just feels like a lodge, like you’re in a wilderness feeling surrounded by nature.”
Campers can let the romance last longer inside rental cabins that offer many of the comforts of home. (Reservations are advised.)
Remember – rain gear and hiking boots will make your hiking adventures more comfortable in winter.
“It’s a bit quieter this time of year,” noted Kwaiser. “You experience things differently – more on your own without the crowds and so the sounds in the park are different. There are so many reasons to be here – but really, the waterfalls are at the center of everything at Silver Falls State Park.”
HOT LAKE SPRINGS
Oregonians are proud of the pioneering past when families faced terrible hardships, endured long journeys and risked it all with no guarantees.
Grant takes us to northeast Oregon in this week’s “Grant’s Getaway” and visits a family who risked it all for the promise of a new start at a place you can visit called ‘Hot Lake Springs.’
Outdoor moments in Northeast Oregon’s Grande Ronde Valley are stunning and spacious with scenery that takes your breath away –
When you step inside David Manuel’s art studio, it’s clear that it’s the little things that keep the past alive.
Manuel is an artist who owns a love affair with Oregon’s past – like his latest sculpture of the ‘William Price Hunt Expedition.’
Hunt led a group of rugged explorers through this part of Oregon 200 years ago. They were on assignment for John Astor and determined to bring an American presence to the British-dominated region at the mouth of the Columbia River.
“I want to make sure everything that I do tells a story – it’s so important that way – that’s what keeps me interested.”
For Manuel, the journey’s truth is etched in short strokes with a sharp blade across soft clay.
“I spend a lot of time on each buffalo hair too. I don’t like the sharp edges because you can cut your hand on some bronzes with sharp edges. So I create them to overlap and it’ll really shine that way too.”
You may have seen Manuel’s work before – at Portland’s Chapman Square where “The Promised Land” shines as a monumental bronze statue.
Now, his new gallery and studio provide a glimpse to his genius as one of America’s finest artists.
“I love history and that’s what keeps me going! That is why it’s so hard to go home at night too because I get so involved in these pieces.”
But Manuel doesn’t have to go far when he goes home. That’s because he works where he and his family have lived for nearly a decade: Hot Lake Springs.
It is a 60,000 square foot hospital turned hotel that rose above the Grande Ronde Valley floor more than a century ago.
In fact, at one time Hot Lake was center of a ‘good health movement’ that drew people from across the country.
They came by train seeking cures for what ailed them in the mineral hot springs that bubbled up from deep in the earth.
But the place hit hard times - capped by a devastating fire in 1934.
By turn of the last century, the building was ready to fall: holes in ceilings reached to where there should have been a roof, all but two of the 350 windows were broken out and floors falling down and the locals thought it was only a matter of time:
“Everybody thought it was dead,” said John Lamoreau, a former Union County Commissioner. “There was no hope, no chance and some people were skeptical because so many had tried to restore it before and failed. To me, the Manuel family looked like the best hope.”
It wasn’t just a mess, it was dangerous and bulldozers waited in the wings to tear it all down.
It was against this dramatic backdrop that the Manuel family bought Hot Lake in 2003.
Despite a personal cost that would rise to more than $10 million, the Manuel family was ‘all in’ for the enterprise.
David’s wife, Lee Manuel, explained that they risked everything because ‘holding on to Oregon history’ was something they could not let go.
“It was as though this ol’ lady, this ol’ building, this history rose from the ground and spoke to us and then it took on a life of its own. We were drawn into that.”
Today – the transformation is nothing short of magnificent!
The successful Hot Lake Springs Bed and Breakfast boasts 22 stunning rooms, a restaurant and the new Restore Spa that is sure to please any woman interested in rest and relaxation.
Plus, there’s David’s gallery and the bronze foundry where you can watch artisans transform his work into lasting bronze art. Plus, David’s uniquely impressive collection of American Indian artifacts and US Military memorabilia that date to the war of 1812.
Still – for many people it is the promise of rest and relaxation in the “Valley of Peace” while enjoying the mineral hot springs. It is all so hard to resist.
Lamoreau observed that it is a place to soak up one of the most remarkable Oregon pioneering stories of the 21st century.
“Not only do we in Union County give thanks to Dave and Lee, but I think the whole state needs to give thanks for what they did here. They brought this place back to life.”