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.
Why We Love Tryon Creek
Michael Barton helps his kids explore the Oregon outdoors – he brings his son, Patrick, and newest addition to the family, Afton, into the outdoors each week.
They especially enjoy hiking at “Tryon Creek State Natural Area” in Lake Oswego where there’s always something new to see. Michael writes about nature in his blog, Exploring Portland Nature, and he always carries a camera to capture the moments too.
“It’s for the memories! Being able to go back and look at the pictures again!”
In fact, he has captured so many memories at the parkland that Michael decided to enter the recent and first-ever state park video contest.
Seven year old son, Patrick, starred in the minute long video titled, “Why we Love Tryon Creek State Park” and it showed why the family loves Tryon Creek.
“We’re not videographers,” noted Barton. “We don’t have a video camera so a photo slide show seemed appropriate. We picked pictures representative of all our visits and put them together. Added music and that was it”
It was good enough to win too and the family couldn’t be more proud.
“The park is a public place and it is part of what we value about Portland’s natural areas – so why not make use of it and enjoy it.”
Tryon Creek Park Ranger, John Mullen, said that there is much to enjoy about Tryon Creek’s 650 wooded acres – especially its history:
“First off,” noted Mullen, “there has never been a state park in a city.”
That’s right! Tryon Creek SP is Oregon’s first urban state park – established more than forty years ago thanks to local neighbors who didn’t want to see apartments, houses or condos lining Tryon Creek Canyon.
“That really increased the interest in protecting the area,” said Mullen. “Everyone realized at the time that it was a unique piece of property within the city limits.”
People like Lucille Beck and Jean Sidal worked tirelessly for over a year to create the first “Friends” group in state park history and to save the Tryon Creek canyon from development.
“It was hard work but it was easy to see what was at stake,” said Lu Beck. “All of the neighbors understood why it was worth saving and so valuable. It’s a quiet place and as the city grew around it, it was even more valuable. We always told people there will be trails – trails and trees!”
Beck and Sidal marshaled hundreds of volunteers and connected with 1400 families who donated $27,000 for the very first Tryon Creek land purchase in 1970.
In the weeks that followed that initial purchase, the enthusiasm for a designated park grew in the larger community too.
The two volunteers convinced Glenn Jackson, a state civic leader and head of the Oregon Dept of Transportation, that the property was important and the state should buy more land.
“He had the vision and the power to do something – and he did,” added Beck. “Mr Jackson was the man for it.
Jackson provided state support and the first significant land purchase – more than 200 acres – soon followed.
“The fact that the park was created – really – by the community is unusual, and it makes everybody an owner of the park.”
The Tryon Creek Nature Center followed in 1975. It was built and staffed by a growing army of “Friends” and it continues to serve as the centerpiece for the park’s many classes that teach much about the values of the outdoor environment.
Today, the many friends of Tryon Creek agree that the history of the park is as deep and rich as the canyon’s environment. It was a citizen-based management strategy that grew alongside the state park system.
State Park’s Manager, John Mullen, said today there are more than eight miles of trails that provide a little something for each visitor.
“It is a refuge for plants and animals for sure - but it’s also a refuge from that ‘busy-ness’ of city life. That’s really the mission here and a great connection with the outdoors.”
Michael Barton said he admires the folks who made the effort to protect Tryon Creek so many decades ago and he makes sure that his kids learn the park’s story.
He said it will be a place their entire family will love and cherish: “I like to think that the first “Friends of Tryon Creek;” didn’t do it for themselves back then. They did for people like us – for my children and future residents of the area who would enjoy it. That’s important.”
Afoot and Afloat on the Nestucca River
Take a deep breath and savor a place meant for the quiet times along the Little Nestucca River in Tillamook County.
The waterway cuts a beeline thru the Nestucca Bay National Wildlife Refuge and the trip is so easy anyone can try on a river paddle with local guides called “Kayak Tillamook” who cater to beginners.
“The paddle trip flows right next to the forest and through the wildlife refuge,” said guide Marcus Hinz. “As you paddle out toward the bay you quickly forget there’s anything else around you except the wildlife.”
You may see bald eagles, red tail hawks, osprey, deer, elk, beavers, river otters and more – in fact, the bird life is remarkable.
Be sure to dress warm – and in layers to accommodate your level of activity. Avoid cotton – don’t forget a rain jacket cap and gloves.
A PFD is provided and it is mandatory on a trip where safety comes first!
“When you’re paddling in a kayak, you’re much less intrusive than a car,” added Hinz. “You get pretty close to the Canada geese and other waterfowl because – (in a small boat) - they’re not as frightened away from you.”
Nestucca Bay Wildlife Refuge is also a place where you can leave the paddles behind and take a stroll along the refuge trail, just off Cannery Hill Road, that meanders across heart of the refuge.
US Fish and Wildlife Biologist, Roy Lowe, said that NBWR was established in 1991 to protect Canada geese that migrate to coastal Oregon from Alaska.
“You are missing something special if you don’t come up and take a look,” noted Lowe. “While you drive may drive by the site on Coastal Hwy 101 and see this ridge, folks should really take a drive up here. The refuge is spectacular!”
The stunning viewpoint atop the wooden deck offers a breathtaking panorama that reaches from the mountains to the sea.
“Sunset is spectacular, sunrise too,” noted Lowe. “In fact, if you come here once that doesn’t mean it’s going to be the same the next time – it can be spectacular anytime depending upon the conditions.”
Back on the river, our paddling party easily glided through the refuge property on the rising tide.
Hinz added, that the Little Nestucca River is a timeless and easygoing adventure.
“It really the best of both worlds because you’re seeing the land from the water as opposed to seeing the water from the land, so it is a much more intimate experience and you really feel like you’re in nature.”
In addition to the NBWR trip, you’ll also be pleased to know that there are more than 800 miles of water trails in Tillamook County that reach across rivers, estuaries and sloughs. There’s even a map to guide your way: “Tillamook County Water Trails.”
Trek Into New Territory
The trails less traveled are the ones that I enjoy the most – especially when there’s a chance that the adventure holds on to Oregon history.
We head to the southern end of the Willamette Valley where three outdoor adventures combine hiking with unique history and the chance to trek into new territory.
The Canada geese come by thousands and fill the sky with urgent cries that seem to celebrate their arrival.
Endless skeins of the big birds are like dark silky threads that weave a fine, feathery mosaic that seem to mesmerize, transfix or just plain confound you.
Geier said that is part of the pleasure of hiking and watching along the Willamette Valley Birding Trail at places like William Finley National Wildlife Refuge that is located 15 miles south of Corvallis.
“Winter is sometimes considered the slow months for many people, but for birders like me it’s not slow at all. In fact, I can come to Finley Refuge any time of year and find birds.”
Geier should know! He’s a member of Oregon’s Field Ornithologists. His group and other organizations, including Oregon’s Division of Tourism, recently joined to identify “Birding Trails” in Oregon.
“If you live in the Portland area or anywhere in the Willamette Valley, the new trails can help you plan your weekend,” said Geier. “Each of the birding loops are unique and special places!”
For example, travel 30 minutes north along state Highway 99 and discover another home for wildlife that was once a practice battlefield for war.
70 years ago, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife’s EE Wilson Wildlife Area was part of historic Camp Adair: a training center for troops bound for battle during World War II.
Nearly 40,000 soldiers trained across 65,000 acres to fight in European and Pacific Theatres.
ndy Fitzpatrick, an ODFW Wildlife Technician, said that Camp Adair seemed to grow up “overnight” to become one of the state’s largest cities in the 1940’s.
“They built nearly 1800 buildings in just a matter of months,” noted Fitzpatrick.
The scale of old Camp Adair is huge and the evidence of those times is easy to see as you hike the roadways. The old concrete foundations for hundreds of the buildings are everywhere.
“The camp’s buildings were built block by block,” said Fitzpatrick. “They were huge buildings 1, 2 and even 3 stories tall. The Historical Society doesn’t want the foundations to be removed either, so they are here to stay.”
The guns of war are long gone from the EE Wilson Wildlife Area and the birds are back and the roadway system makes hiking or biking easy to enjoy.
“Today, you can explore the old paved roads (more than 20 miles) that are open for jogging, cycling or even horseback riding,” said Fitzpatrick. “There are wildlife viewing opportunities; even a view blind where you can see raptor species and song birds species that are present throughout the year.”
Just west of EE Wilson, discover another wonderful place to explore at the Peavy Arboretum; a part of the larger McDonald-Dunn Research Forests, owned and managed by Oregon State University.
Ryan Brown, the Recreation Manager for the Research Forests, said that the Peavy Arboretum is a “gateway” to the 11,000 acre forests. It is a good place to begin your explorations and “get grounded” in the forest landscape.
“Peavy Arboretum began as a collection of varied tree specimens in 1926,” noted Brown. “They are either native northwest tree species or some very interesting tree species from other parts of the West. Each specimen is marked with its name so you can identify it too.”
History runs deep across the forest! It was once the home to a CCC Camp that drew thousands of young men from across the country.
Brown noted that the men joined the Civilian Conservation Corps in the early 30’s and were based at the camp to work varied jobs in the Oregon woods.
“They built 39 permanent buildings, so it was here to stay awhile,” said Brown with a chuckle. “They mostly worked on reforestation and firefighting but they also built roads and trails across the forest.”
Few signs of those days remain. But there are exceptions including one massive two story building that Brown called the “Sign Shop.”
Brown said that men who worked in the sign shop designed and carved large rustic wooden signs for the Oregon Department of Forestry. The signs were used throughout the state.
A handful of other workshops and buildings are scattered across the Peavy Arboretum and continue to be useful today.
In fact, OSU forestry students use the spaces to create products that forest visitors can enjoy too.
Inside one workshop, OSU Senior Sam Dussel was busily cutting, drilling and assembling a log bench to be sold as a “Memorial Bench.”
The bench will be placed along one of the many trails in the McDonald-Dunn Forests.
Dusel added that the research forests were the reasons he chose to attend OSU.
“It’s pretty amazing to come here and see a forest used for recreation and for many other things like timber production, species rehabilitation and all sorts of research projects. It’s been a great opportunity to learn about Oregon forests.”
Brown noted that both the Peavy Arboretum and the McDonald-Dunn Forests trail systems are accessible year round and offer visitors a chance to easily explore a northwest forest.
“We invite people to come and experience nature; especially folks who may not hike in the woods much. This is a place that’s very easy to explore and feel at home in nature.”