Paddling Across History
Oregon is blessed with so many different places to enjoy an afternoon paddle adventure; perhaps a favorite pond, lake, estuary or a quiet stretch of slow moving river.
Don Beale and his partner, Joanne Barta, agreed that a paddle is perfect cure for what ails anyone during winter’s short days - especially on a rare, sunny December morning.
“Normally at this time of year, it’s 70% chance of rain,” said Beale as he slid into the comfy confines of his home built kayak. “But today, it’s 70% chance of sunshine! I love it.”
Beale is a longtime kayaker who builds his own kayaks; historic boats that are built upon traditional lines and from favored woods like fir, spruce or cedar. He said that the designs are centuries old.
“I took it up because it was inexpensive, but more than anything I see more critters. I am closer to the water and closer to the wildlife so what’s not to like - no limits that way.”
But his real passion is what that which moves him – really! The paddle!
“The paddle is your connection to the water,” said Beale. “Every stroke you take, you feel the water. There’s a unique connection to the place you’re visiting through the paddle and I think that is special and I like that.”
Beale can turn a cedar 2-by-4 into something truly special in just a couple hours.
In Beale’s Forest Grove workshop, his cuts are square and even but it isn’t long before you see the secret in Beale’s Paddles: the shape is long and skinny.
I have always been into wood working and I got interested in paddles when I realized I could make one better than I could buy it. That’s what really set me on this path.”
He said that his “skinny” paddles mean less “bite” in the water when you stroke them and that means less pressure on the paddler’s wrists, arms and shoulders.
While the idea may seem new and innovative, Beale noted that Native Americans knew this fact hundreds of years ago – and it’s reflected in their designs and that was the source for his own ideas about kayaking paddles.
“We’ve overlooked a lot of the history of kayaking and that’s a shame because the ancient people were very observant. They had to be. They were also very skilled and I think it’s important to acknowledge that fact. Plus, it’s fun to create something you can use.”
Flat-water kayaking is fun! It’s easy to see why it is Oregon’s fastest growing water based recreation.
Not only affordable, but flat water kayaking is relatively easy to master and with proper safety equipment, a kayak can take you into places that larger boats can’t get into.
Harvey Golden is betting more people will have fun ‘paddling across history’ at his new “Lincoln Street Kayak and Canoe Museum” in SE Portland.
It’s a good place to drop in and get grounded in the past.
“There are hundreds of boats in museums,” said Golden. “But only about 15 percent of them are on exhibit. It’s really hard to visit a museum and see kayaks, so I wanted to provide that opportunity to the public.”
Golden spent years traveling the world, visiting museums and researching the oldest original kayak designs on record. Then he built them – 70 of them to date. 40 of those are on display in his new museum.
So is his book, “Kayaks of Greenland;” an amazing text that provides photos and drawings of historic kayak designs and describes the history of kayaking. A history that reaches back 500 years.
Golden even ‘paddles the talk’ too. Once summer, he paddled 800 miles of the Columbia River – in - one of his hand built historic kayaks.
Beale and Golden agreed that flat-water kayaking opens the door to new adventure that’s right at home on Oregon’s diverse waterways.
“There’s something special about being the captain for your own boat,” said Golden. “The paddler can go wherever on Oregon’s rivers or bays and lakes and explore. That feeling is incredible!”
It is easy to find incredible places to explore through the Oregon State Marine Board’s remarkable Oregon Boating Access Map. The interactive map provides detailed facts and directions and critical boating information to hundreds of ramps, launches and marinas. It is a tool that every boater – no matter the level of marine experience – will find useful.
All Things Shiny
As the wintertime surf floods and then ebbs, beachcombers wander...seeking secrets from the tides.
K. Myers insists that the best beach adventures begin down the long staircase at the Moolack Shores Motel where it doesn’t take long and you don’t go far to reach buried treasures.
“Most newcomers usually go down by the waterline because it’s freshly agitated and they can find stuff that’s fresh but they don’t realize that there’s stuff up here too.”
The “stuff” that Myers relishes finding includes opaque white agates and raspberry red jaspers plus clam fossils that date back millions of years.
While the fossils are fun, it’s the rocks that get the twice over with Myers’ handy gem tool that has a scoop on the end to make the searching easy.
“Ah, there’s an agate right under that rock,” noted Myers as she pried loose a lovely stone.
Agates are little rocky nuggets of silica that formed inside ancient rocks or shells millions of years ago and as the outer layer wears away the agate remains.
I was surprised to learn that shoreline agates and jasper don’t come from the sea, but originate high in the watershed.
“They actually wash down the rivers into the ocean where they are tumbled about and then are deposited up on the beach,” noted Myers.
Agates come in varied colors ranging from orange to red or pink to lavender – even black.
In less than an hour, we each located a handful of the gorgeous stones – they were of varied colors and sizes and I wondered aloud, while the agates and jaspers are certainly easy on the eyes, “Was the best yet to come?”
“Oh yes,” noted Myers. “They’ll polish up well to become really nice collectible pieces.”
Myers has been the manager and co-owner of Facets Gem & Mineral Gallery in Newport, Oregon since 1987. The small gem shop is located just off the U.S. Coastal Highway 101 and you can see the stunning possibilities after polishing your agate treasures.
“The polishing techniques enhance the stones, make them smooth and finish them out. Usually, nature has done a good job of rounding off the hard edges of the agates but polishing brings a high luster to them – plus, you can make jewelry or whatever you want with each one.”
Myers knows much about where and when to go rock hounding along the coast. She’s even written a couple of popular booklets (Agates of the Oregon Coast) on Oregon’s fascinating geology that will set you on the right track to your own adventures.
“It’s relaxing, it’s fun and I enjoy doing it. Ever since first grade ‘show and tell’ I’ve been interested and have never lost that zest for it. It’s always exciting to find a new treasure and we’re trying to help everyone enjoy all that Oregon has to offer.”
Beach Safety is a must!
Robert Smith, Oregon State Park’s Beach Safety Manager, said that when you head to the beach in winter it’s critical to stay alert because huge logs are often washed ashore. He said that just 5 inches of water can move a five-ton log.
“It’s such a big powerful ocean and we enjoy looking at that power, but people have to recognize that power can also prove dangerous and turn a log into a weapon.”
Smith added that rocky jetties might seem inviting because they offer a front row seat to the ocean’s action, but people should stay in their cars to enjoy the show and not walk out on the jetty rocks.
“The jetties are designed to protect the channels for safe shipping traffic and not designed for pedestrian use. The rocks – as large as they are – shift and can have caverns and sinkholes that you never see. Plus, you’ve got poor footing because it’s slippery. It’s just a recipe for disaster.”
Smith added that even the popular coastal hiking trails require caution:“The amount of water and rain that we get here – coupled with the amount of sea spray adds up to increased erosion on our trails.”
But there’s no shortage of Oregon State Park Beach Waysides to enjoy winter storms,and Smith noted that some of his state park favorites include overlooks like Cape Meares or Heceta Head State Parks because both are fine vantage points that have lighthouses too.
Off Road Riders
It’s a cool and cloudy winter morning at Roger’s Camp in the Tillamook State Forest; key staging area for folks who like to travel “off-road.”
I’ve traveled into the heart of the forest at the invitation of a familiar face and avid off-roader: my brother, Mark McOmie.
My brother’s off-road recreation is more than a hobby – it’s a passion that has shaped much his outdoor travel and recreation plans. It’s also been something that he’s shared with his entire family for nearly twenty years.
“Atv-ing is a great family sport,” explained Mark. “A super opportunity to get together and explore the outdoors. I think most of the fellows in our party probably have multiple uses for their machines – part workhorse, part recreation vehicle. In fact, I started riding in the early ‘90’s while on hunting trips and it’s taken off from there.”
Several of his friends joined him for a ride across designated trails in the state forest.
They certainly have plenty of trails to choose from for our day’s adventure.
Jahmaal Rebb, ATV Specialist with Oregon Department of Forestry, said that there are more than 130 miles of trails across the Tillamook State Forest.
Rebb manages the trails and the riders who travel in the forest and he noted that there’s a “dedicated following” of riders who come to play on the state forestland.
“This is a community that’s been very active since the 1930’s – really, since the first Tillamook Burn. Motorized recreation is a big deal here and the folks still come here, put in time on varied projects to improve trails and improve access – they really have a passion for play.”
There are three primary OHV riding areas available on the forest including Browns Camp, Jordan Creek and Diamond Mill.
A wide variety of trails provide access into some of the more remote and scenic parts of the forest and provide challenge and excitement for both beginners and experts.
“We offer a very extensive network of trails, said Rebb. “Scores of off-road trails are a part of a multi-use recreation system. So, you must expect to encounter quads, motor bikes and full-sized four-wheel drives out here.”
So, what it’s like to climb aboard and grab on to the steering of a powerful ATV four wheel-drive quad?
In a word – amazing! They are quick to respond, easy to steer and surprisingly comfortable too.
Steve Lewis, a veteran rider with close to thirty years of riding experience in the state forest, said, “For those who like to go to an amusement park and ride a roller coaster - well, that’s what it’s like only you are in the woods and you’re in total control of the machine.”
It is also recreation where risk and danger wait at every turn, so safety and common sense and controlling your speed are critical.
That’s where recently adopted rules come in. For example, young riders must carry an “ATV Safety Education” card – that shows the rider has passed a mandatory on-line test.
The Oregon Department of Parks and Recreation manages the “ATV On-Line Safety Education Course” and John Lane, OPRD ATV Safety Program Manager, said that by 2014, every ATV rider in Oregon most pass the test and carry the card.
“It’s free…takes just a couple of hours to complete, and when you’re all done we’ll send you a safety education card that’s required to be with you when you go out and ride.”
There are more changes coming to enhance the safety aspects of Oregon’s off-road riding: a new “Hands On ATV Training Class” is required for all riders aged 15 and under.
Lane added that there are 35,000 Oregon youth riders will have to take the course, so now is the time to do it.”
“If you have kids that are thinking about getting into the sport or are already in the sport – get them into a training class right away. Get them in now – don’t wait for the last minute rush!”
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.”