High Life Adventures
From 70 feet above the ground, it’s easy to see that the high life provides a bird’s eye view that takes your breath away.
Dale Larson, a zip-line guide with High Life Adventures said, “As soon as we clip you in, you are playing with gravity as you head downhill along an awesome fun ride. Folks just love it.”
You will too when you ride the new zip line course called ‘High Life Adventures,’ near Warrenton, Oregon.
The remarkable outdoor experience is the brainchild of H-L-A owner, Dave Larson, who created the new adventure playground on his 30-acre timbered homestead in rural Clatsop County.
The recreation mecca offers 8 distinct zip-line routes with a grand total of more than a mile of steel cables that are anchored in the hillsides by big timbers and steel beams.
Each of the eight zip lines is connected with easy to moderate graveled trails that provide a fun three hour hiking and zip-lining getaway that entices and challenges thrill seekers of all ages.
“The challenge is measured by the height of the starting point relative to the end,” noted Larson. “That drop helps build the speed and it goes faster as you proceed.”
Some zip lines are short – just a few hundred feet, while others range to more than a thousand feet long, and so many different zip lines are certainly exciting to ride.
“Some people who visit us have zip-lined before, but for most it is first time affair,” said Shane Dean, the manager for High Life Adventures. ”Most folks come here looking for a good time and they are here for three hours or more. As they fly through our forest, they find the thrill of their lifetimes.”
It’s that thrill that enticed Crystal and Joe Neher to spend the afternoon on the zip lines - neither had done anything like it before and she enthusiastically agreed it was special: “I’d be happy to ride one zip line, but here you get to ride eight. You fly along, listening to the sound of the zip line trolley on the cable and it’s so much fun – exhilarating!”
Feel like taking a cool dip on a warm day? You can. There’s a 7-acre lake below Zip-Line #7 called “Maple.”
“We can actually lengthen your lanyard out a little so you can do a hand-drag or a foot-drag in the lake,” said guide Dale Larson. He added with a chuckle, “For the more adventurous we can even bounce the cable a bit and let you do a bottom drag into the water.”
The cable rating is for more than 26,000 pounds, noted Dave Larson. Plus, the harness and lanyard and trolley specs all exceed 5,000 pounds.
So, you’re perfectly safe going downhill on the cable. “We want absolute safety and the way our harness is designed and worn, it’s virtually impossible to get out of it when you’re on a zip line.”
That’s good to know when you step up on the tall tower to hook up to the twin 1200 foot cables called “Spruce” and “Willow.” It’s a side by side chance to race to the course’s finish on a unique adventure that’ll bring you back for more.
Dale Larson noted with a mile wide grin, “It’s pretty tough not to smile on a zip line.”
He’s right! High Life Adventures is a fine memory maker for a special family activity day. The unique recreation destination operates zip line tours by reservation only each Friday thru Tuesday @ 11am, 1pm and 3pm through the winter.
Cascades Raptor Center
There’s goose ‘song’ in the air – have you heard the excited sound? It’s hard to miss as the flocks seem seem to shout: “We’re here – in Oregon - at last!”
It’s especially loud and strong at places like William Finley National Wildlife Refuge near Corvallis along the Homer Campbell Memorial Boardwalk.
“The refuge is a magnet for wildlife we’ll have thousands upon thousands of ducks and geese and swans here within the next few months,” noted US Fish and Wildlife Biologist, Molly Monroe.
The 1700 feet of elevated, wheelchair accessible boardwalk leads to an observation blind and it is a fine choice to duck in and escape foul weather because there’s so much wildlife here.
“We’re kind of a little known secret right now,” added Sallie Gentry, spokesperson for US Fish and Wildlife. “But I think we’re going to become more well-known.”
Fast on the tail feathers of the abundant waterfowl flocks are the raptors – the hundreds of hawks and eagles that pass through or winter over in Oregon.
You’ll want to stop in and winter awhile at the Cascades Raptor Center near Eugene. It’s a wildlife rehabilitation clinic that helps the sick and injured birds of prey.
Scores of birds, most of them seldom seen so close, like a red-tailed hawk, a barn owl, a white tailed kyte, arrive at the Center each winter thanks to well-intentioned folks who often recover the hurt birds in the field.
“I wanted to create a nature center that helped raptors,” said the Center’s Director, Louise Shimmel. “My goal for the past thirty years has been to have representatives from each northwest species of raptors for the public to see and learn from and now we’re very close to that goal.”
In fact, the Cascades Raptor Center has been in operation since 1990 as a wildlife hospital and education site. You can see and learn about 34 different raptor species across the three acre site.
Shimmel says education about raptors has made a big difference to our understanding and appreciation of the birds.
“Absolutely! Raptors have had a huge perception shift from vermin and bounties to majestic and beautiful! Back in the 1950’s, there were bounties on hawks and eagles and today we understand the value of the predator-prey cycle.
Still – thoughtless injuries persist! Shimmel showed off a Swainson’s Hawk that was shot by a poacher. Its pelvis shattered, the young raptor will never fly again. So, it has become an ambassador of sorts – in schools and at the Center - teaching people more about raptors.
Volunteer Dan Gleason said that the Cascades Raptor Center is a fine place to visit and learn what the varied raptors look like before heading out to see them in the wild.
“That’s one way – to see them up close and then go out and see them in their natural habitat. That helps folks understand what they see especially since you can see them up close here.
Gleason added that bald eagles are a favorite for many birders because the big birds are more common – even abundant in some parts of Oregon and because they are easy to spot – especially sporting the tell-tale white head and tail feathers that mark a mature bald eagle.
“We have reached a point in the Willamette Valley – particularly throughout Lane County where people see bald eagles more often than other raptor species. We really get a big influx of the birds moving thru here in the winter.”
One of the best places to spot a bald eagle or two or three is the nearby Fern Ridge Wildlife Area that’s managed by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.
It is made up of more than 5000 acres of wetlands, ponds and sloughs and upland areas according to Kevin Roth, the wildlife area’s Assistant Manager.
“We are a fine place to start --- not just to view the waterfowl that use the wetlands and ponds but the raptors too. Our number one goal is to provide food, water, sanctuary for wintering birds and at times we’re like a magnet. You will see several species in just one visit.”
Gleason added that his best tip to spot birds of prey is to simply “drive around.”
“Especially the back roads of farmland - stop and look often too – especially scan the trees – chances are you will see an eagle or a hawk – they are that common and without leaves on the trees, easier to spot this time of year.”
The Cascades Raptor Center is also a perfect place to begin your raptor watching adventures. The center offers “handler talks” each Saturday and Sunday at 1pm sharp. It’s a great chance to get a close up view of many raptor species and the handler will teach you much about the species too.
You can also find additional places to watche for waterfowl and raptors at the new ODFW Wildlife Viewing Map. It’s a fine resource for locating the best wildlife viewing sites across Oregon.
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.”
Astoria’s Backdoor Byway
Little trails often lead to big discoveries and that’s when a camera comes in handy for Oregon’s premier landscape photographer, Steve Terrill.
We strolled along the short graveled trail at Lee Wooden County Park – just off State Highway 202 - and spotted the numerous little signs of the seasonal change; mostly measured by the colorful maple and alder leaves that were in a state of free fall.
Terrill called the blizzard of leaves the “little parts that make a bigger, better picture.”
“I’ve been here a few times, but not since this new trail was completed. Nice and easy, isn’t it? And the creek has a nice flow to it right now – this will be fun.”
Terrill likes to have fun along the little known backdoor byway that connects the valley with the coast through the heart of the Oregon coast range.
Helikes to hook up with Highway 202 just off Highway 26 – and slowly wind through the mountains. Lee Wooden Park is one of many “photo opps” that Terrill likes to explore on this backroad byway.
He is especially drawn to the stunning and gorgeous Fishhawk Falls that races across the exposed and jagged ancient basalt.
“I capture what nature puts out in front of me,” said the famed photographer. “That is really all I do. Anyone can. Just open your eyes and look at the different things that really make this a natural backdrop for my photography.”
Just a couple miles down the road, really big elk lounged across the grassy meadows of the Jewell Wildlife Area. Terrill makes the many easy-to-reach viewing sites a “must stop” on his trip.
He scanned the scene, searched for movement and soon found the life in the landscape.”
“Well, it takes patience for sure – that’s number one!” he said – and with an excited chuckle, he added: ”There – there – see that? That’s what I’m looking for!”
Two yearling elk rose up on hind legs and boxed at each with their front legs – it was an elk sparring match as the two youngsters tested each other.
“These are really large animals,” noted Terrill. “And it’s just interesting to see something like this that you don’t see every day.”
It‘s interesting to see one of Oregon’s premier landscape photographers - now on his chosen path for more than three decades - working a favored haunt that anyone can visit.
It’s also fun to pick out the little things that he does to make his photos special.
“First, a tripod – it’s an absolute must and so is the cable release,” said Terrill. “Just for vibration and to be on the safe side because if I’m cold, I could shake the scene and ruin the shot. That’s how I shoot.”
Does he ever! Here’s proof: it is year nine for Steve Terrill’s “All Oregon” Calendar in 2013. His annual project pays homage to his home state – shot entirely in Oregon by the native son who has it printed here too.
"Well, I was born and raised in Portland and I just absolutely love Oregon! If I can keep the money and the jobs – even just a little bit because we’re not a huge company by any means, but if I can keep that in Oregon then I think I’m helping a little bit.”
A half hour down the byway, Terrill helps himself to all the scenery surrounding one of his favorite waterfalls in all of the state: Youngs River Falls.
“There is this band of water pouring out and then it fans out in spellbinding fashion to drop more than sixty feet. It is beautiful and I love it.”
Don’t forget to peer into the shallows just below the falls; mottled black and grey, several 30-pound salmon have muscled their way back to Youngs River and here it is end of the line. It is also their birthplace and now they continued their cycle of life.
This byway unwinds along Youngs Bay at Astoria and Terrill finds that each mile of the trip is terrific and wonderful and that so much beauty is so close to so many people.
“If folks only take the time to look – they’ll see what I see too! In my heart, I love to capture images of Oregon and I like to share them with people. I am really blessed to make a living at it too.”