Grant's Getaways for September 29, 2012


by Grant McOmie

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Posted on September 30, 2012 at 8:55 PM

Beaver Creek State Park

The Oregon coastline can be a rough and tumble sort of place but Grant McOmie has found a much quieter and calmer environment at a new Oregon State Park.

He recently joined Mike Rivers – a twenty-year Oregon State Park veteran, on an adventure that provided a sneak peak to the new parkland that you can visit too.

Some getaways offer peace of mind with each stroke of a paddle and all you needs is a paddle, a life vest and a spirit of adventure at the new Beaver Creek State Park Natural Area near Newport.

It is unlike any state park you’ve ever visited before!

Beaver Creek is a relatively small 30-mile long coastal stream that is born in the Oregon coat range mountains and enters the ocean at another parkland called Ona Beach State Park, just south of Newport, Oregon.

We paddled stable, flat-bottomed kayaks through a stretch of the creek where the freshwater mixes with the salt.

Rivers told me that the creek is never more than six feet deep throughout its length, but it does rise and fall a bit with the tidal change

The new State Park Natural Area is nearly 400 acres of freshwater marsh and uplands and a place where the creek’s namesake animal – also the Oregon state animal - has made a remarkable comeback over the past forty years.

Their signs were everywhere, from chewed up alder sticks scattered on shore to large semi-submerged logs where beaver teeth appeared like double chisel-type marks on the wood to several large lodges.
“This time of year, the lodges are overgrown with brush and other vegetation,” noted Rivers. “They’re pretty impossible to see from a distance, but in a kayak you can sneak up and check them out pretty close. It’s pretty neat!”

In fact, our paddling was highlighted with close up views to varied birds rarely seen so close and included hawks, eagles and egrets.

Rivers added that the parkland includes seven miles of boat-accessible hiking trails leading through meadows and forests.

At the top of a nearby knoll, the new Beaver Creek Visitor Center - accessible by land or water - will offer maps, photos and information about the wildlife in the area when the park officially opens to the public on October 1.

Mike Rivers added, “This is really a first for Oregon State parks and yet there’s a demand for this kind of recreation that doesn’t really involve any kind of development at all; just a minimum impact, a minimum footprint on the landscape.”

For folks who wish to make their visit a longer stay, South Beach State Park Campground is just six miles away:

“At South Beach,” noted Rivers, “we often find ourselves as a hub for recreation and overnight stays. We have over 250 campsites – all full service campsites with electricity and water at each site. We’ve 27 yurts with electricity, water and indoor sleeping facilities: a futon couch and bunk bed.”

But it’s out on the water where you’ll likely find me – where nature’s touch soothes the soul at an Oregon State Park unlike any I’ve been before.

“It’s basically wilderness in the state park system and we’re thrilled with it, said Rivers. “We’re thinking of our children and their children who will come here too. This is a fabulous area.”

”Visitors can sign up for Beaver Creek guided tours at South Beach State and these tours are led by a state park guide. The tours are offered daily between the 4th of July and Labor Day but special arrangements for group tours can be made at other times of the year.

Wildwood Recreation Area

Many parts of the Cascade Mountains demand a slower pace. You simply see more when you leave busy campgrounds behind and let quieter, wilder moments surround you.

Those moments are easy to come by down the many trails inside the Wildwood Recreation Site near Welches, Oregon.  A site that may have you wondering, “How is it I’ve never heard of this place or visited it before?”

After all, the Salmon River is born from glaciers atop Mt Hood and it is Oregon’s last undimmed river that flows unhindered from the mountains to the sea. It cuts a beeline through more than five hundred acres of designated public recreation land at Wildwood.

Adam Milnor, a BLM Recreation Specialist, said that most people who are in a big hurry to reach Mt Hood or Central Oregon and overlook Wildwood.

“Mt Hood beckons to everyone who lives in the Portland area and that’s understandable; it’s a hugely popular draw. But – it’s also a mistake not to pull in and see what this site has to offer. We have such a great place for families to introduce their children to the outdoors with a rushing river, salmon and fantastic trees in a beautiful forest.”

The trails that wind through Wildwood are marvelous opportunities to explore the parkland.

The Wildwood Wetlands Trail is a one-mile loop of gravel and paved foot- paths plus more than a thousand feet of elevated boardwalk that gives you access to the heart of a vast wetland area where many different wildlife species live.  Observation decks extend into the wetland at a number of locations and allow closer inspection.

Don’t be surprised while hiking the boardwalk to see blue herons, mallards, teals, turtles, or any number of small songbirds.

Pay special attention to the many interpretive signs that describe the wetland habitat and the critters that live there.  “A wetland eco-system is something you have to really see up close to get really fascinated with it,” noted Milnor. “Building this structure really allows you to get up close and personal to it in a way that you wouldn’t otherwise.”

There are more than 1,000 feet to the boardwalk on the Wildwood Wetlands Trail that was built four feet off the ground to keep hiker’s feet dry and limit access onto the sensitive wetlands.

Beginning in mid-October, the boardwalk area explodes to life with a colorful show of brilliant reds, oranges and yellows from vine maple, big leaf maple trees and alder trees.

The Cascade Streamwatch Trail is a barrier-free and paved, three-quarter-mile trail adjacent to the Wild and Scenic Salmon River. Interpretive displays describe points of interest.

The most remarkable highlight of this trail is a stream-profile viewing chamber where you gain an underwater “fish-eye” view of a small stream and salmon habitat.

The chamber--ten years in the making--drops twelve feet below the water surface and allows you to see through two large windows more than twelve feet across and seven feet high where ‘baby’ salmon live.

I enjoy just watching the behavior of the three- to four-inch salmon fry and how they use logs, branches, and even rocks to hide. As a bug floats on the current, a fish jets out and picks it off, then retreats back to its shelter.

“We love the fish and we want to protect the fish,” noted Donna Hansen, Wildwood Park Ranger. “If visitors go to the river and they come at the right time of year, they actually get to see fish too. The salmon spawn throughout the Salmon River from October through November. People like to see that.”
he park is open from 8:00 A.M. to sunset from mid-May to early November. However, during the off-season, you may park at the gate and access Wildwood and Cascade Streamwatch by foot, walking the entrance road to the trailhead or other facilities.

Off Road in Wine Country

Oregon is famous as hiking country and noted for its delicious wines too. In his week’s Grant’s Getaway, think of it as outdoor adventure with a delicious payoff; a new combination of off the main road hiking, travel adventure and wine tasting.

Six hundred feet off the ground, a hot air balloon provides a breath-taking view to Oregon wine country near Newberg. Pilot Roger Anderson likes to say the Willamette Valley is ringed by hills – hills that grow grapes – wine grapes!

“The Dundee Hills, Chehalem Ridge, Eola Hills; some of the best wine in the world comes from there.”

It is the sort of travel that puts a smile on your face and brings joy to your heart, but there’s another exciting and unique way to see wine country that’s closer to the ground on board an extra large ATV with Alex Sokol Blosser, co-owner of Sokol Blosser Wines.

Alex proudly showed off his family’s vineyards from one end to the other: “We farm 85 acres of grapes and all of it is certified organic by Oregon Dept of Agriculture and we’ve been farming here since 1971.”

The “Kubota RTV” is an off road vehicle seats up to 6 passengers for off road riding. It gets folks out to where the action is: across the grape-lined hillsides quickly and easier than on foot.

“Not everyone wants to walk!” noted Alex Sokol Blosser. “85 acres is a lot of land so the ATV Tours give folks an up close chance to see and learn where the wine comes from and how it grows on the vine.”

Sokol Blosser’s tasting room has been serving visitors really nice wines every day since 1978. The room and the grounds are worth the time to explore and learn how the winery has been walking the talk of sustainability for more than three decades: from the massive solar panels that provide 25% of the winery’s electricity to the bio-diesel fueled ATV.

“Seeing is believing so go out and visit the vineyard and then enjoy a sense of the place. We’re really trying to share what we do here and give people to a deeper level of understanding of grape growing and wine making and it’s fun.”

Forty miles away at Left Coast Cellars, you’ll discover a deeper understanding of the great outdoors and enjoy awesome scenery too.

Taylor Pfaff’s family grows wine grapes across 300-acres of rolling hills, studded by stands of oak trees in Polk County.

“Wine is more than the product in the bottle,” noted Pfaff, a self proclaimed jack-of-all-trades “Cellar Rat” in the winery operation. “It’s the landscape, the vines, the grape – that’s all part of the experience.”

While the family has their hands full with tending the vines, making the wines and catering to guests who want to sample the product, they believed it’s important to open the land to visitors who like to hike and learn more about the grapes. So, they are developing miles of hiking trails through parts of their property.

“We want to open up all this great wilderness to the public! We have oak woodlands that won’t grow vines, but offer trails so why not provide that to folks who enjoy hiking and combine that with wine?”

Byron Williams calls it “Wiking” and the Oregon entrepreneur is building a new wine guiding business called Grand Cru Wine Tours that combines Left Coast Cellars lands with other area wineries and proved visitors with miles of trails for off the main road hiking.

“Much of this area is old oak savannah and there are still good chunks of it left in oak trees and so we’ve carved some nice, tight trails.”

And there’s more! One of the trails also reaches into the nearby Baskett Slough Wildlife Refuge near Dallas, Oregon.

“You’ll see tons of migratory birds out there and even the occasional deer,” added Williams.” On any given day from large animals down to small ones and it’s amazing to get out and see how mother nature shows off what’s she’s got.”

Fall is fine time to visit Oregon wineries because you can see a range of activities in the wine making process that only happens once a year.

Plus, there’s even more “Foodie” Oregon adventures available this time of year that’s worth your time to explore, so be sure to visit

Coastal Coho Salmon Fishing

When daylight’s a glimmer on the eastern horizon, three generations of the Mill’s family agree that salmon fishing in the Nehalem River estuary is full of promise.

David Mills grew up angling across Oregon and said it provided him with positive alternatives when he was young: “The world is so full of video games and quick satisfaction, but going out with family or friends and ending the day in beautiful part of Oregon, it just doesn’t get much better than that.”

His dad, Eldon Mills is a longtime Hillsboro resident who made fishing trips a regular part of his family’s travels. He added that it never gets much better after a big Coho salmon grabbed a spinner: “Oh, I love that first part of the fish battle – the take down – that is the best part.”

Longtime fishing guide, John Krauthoefer, (Firefighter’s Guide Service) said that estuary salmon fishing tactics are simple: “Speed, presentation and keeping it in the zone where the fish are swimming. If you are going with the tide, go a bite faster to get the spinner to spin and if you are going against the current, slow down. If you feel anything, you set the hook.”

Eldon’s grandson, Matt Mills, set the hook hard against a gleaming Coho that immediately shot across the calm surface – it spun around and shot directly at the boat and then crashed atop the water three times.

“Big wild coho I’ll bet,” noted Krauthoefer, who slid the net under the gleaming but exhausted salmon.

“Now lift straight up Matt. Oh, that’s a big one. That is a big coho! Really special”

There was some something special about the Coho salmon: it was a wild fish that was born in the gravel. You could tell it was wild because it had an adipose fin – a half moon shaped fin in front of the tail. Hatchery salmon have that particular fin removed when they’re babies.

Wild coho salmon have made a turn around and anglers are fortunate that they can catch and keep them this season.

Nehalem River estuary anglers are allowed to keep 1 wild Coho a day – 2 for the season until a quota of 1200 wild fish is reached. Anglers are also allowed to keep one additional hatchery Coho or a Chinook.

It’s the first time in 20 years that anglers have been allowed to harvest wild Coho and it signals a remarkable recovery that the state and federal fish and wildlife agencies began in the early 90’s.

Mills noted, ”These fish are a northwest heritage and the opportunity to actually catch and keep these fish kind connects us with our region. Salmon have such a rich heritage to us.”

John added the best was yet to come: “Yes, we can take them home and eat them and boy oh boy, they are a good eating fish!”

Cooking the Catch

Steve Fick and his older brother Cliff Fick enjoy cooking salmon as much as they enjoy catching them.

Steve is a commercial fisherman and Cliss is an accomplished chef for nearly forty years. The brothers are native Astorians who love salmon recipes that are different from the crowd.

Today, we’re going to prepare “salmon cheeks,” salmon chowder and a raspberry better salmon. I grew up with each of these recipes and they are great.”

The Ficks called their homespun recipes, “simple and delicious.”

“The salmon cheeks are a delicacy that most folks don’t even know about,” noted the younger Fick.

He took a small, sharp knife and deftly filleted two silver dollar sized muscles from either side of the salmon’s head; just behind and above the jaw line.

“These cheeks are really mild in flavor,” he added. “They do not taste fishy at all!”

He floured each silver dollar size filet, dipped each into an egg wash and then covered them with a soda cracker coating. The hot vegetable oil sizzled as each bite-sized piece of salmon was dropped into the frying pan.

Fick noted that cooking time is only a moment because overcooked salmon “tastes like cardboard.”

Recipe number two makes even more use of salmon pieces that most anglers toss aside. Fick placed salmon carcass pieces into boiling water to boil and then simmer for no more than 15 minutes.

He then “picked the bones clean.”

“This makes the finest chowder ever,” he added with a smile.

Salmon chowder is easy to prepare with one quart each of milk or half and half. Fick added a couple cups of bacon, celery, onion and dill to the mixture. He then added a couple cups of frozen peas and four cups of cooked potatoes.

The chowder mixture rose to a rolling boil. Fick turned off the heat and the chowder was ready to eat.

He noted, “So many people – they toss out the salmon leftovers when they could be cooked and used. You are really missing an opportunity for some good meals when you overlook these pieces.

Finally, recipe number three was easy as can be: a salmon filet on the barbeque. The elder Fick removed the skin from a small coho filet and added two tablespoons of lemon juice inside a foil wrapped package. He placed the fish on the hot coals where it cooked for no more than ten minutes.

Meanwhile, Steve prepared a topping he called “the perfect cap to the fish.”

He mixed two tablespoons each of raspberry jam and butter, then heated the mixture and then thoroughly stirred the mixture and drizzled it across the cooked filet.

“This adds a delicious hot and tart and tangy taste,” noted Cliff, “ I like to make a hot salad out of it – so I’ve placed the filet in a bed of greens with cooked prawns as an added surprise across the top. Beautiful isn’t it?”

Each of the Fick’s recipes was so easy that anyone can try them. They provide a fine way to round out a day’s adventure of catching and cooking Oregon fresh caught salmon.

“I enjoy harvesting and preparing the catch – it’s rewarding for people who take it their fishing trip to that next step really. Cooking your catch provides a more enjoyable experience to the whole adventure.”



Salmon Cheeks
Saltine cracker crumbs
Cooking oil

Roll salmon cheeks in flour. (This helps the egg batter and cracker crumbs stick).
Beat eggs.  Dip cheeks in egg wash and roll in cracker crumbs. (Don’t salt crackers as they have plenty.
Cover the bottom of a frying pan with cooking oil heat to 375°- 400°.  The oil must be hot before placing the breaded cheeks into the pan or the cheeks will become soggy.
Fry the cheeks until brown on both sides then place on a plate with paper towels to remove excess oil before serving.


1 lb. Salmon Frames or Chunked Salmon
5-6 Strips Bacon
½ c. Celery
½ c. Onion
3 lg. Potatoes cooked and chopped.
Salt and pepper to taste
1 c. peas
1 Qt. Half & Half or other less creamy milk
Dill and or Thyme to taste

Boil water.  Cook salmon then drain and separate meat from bones.

In a soup kettle cook bacon, celery and onion until done.  Lower heat to (250° - 275°).  Place half & half into kettle then add remaining ingredients.  Stir occasionally until hot.  It is important not to warm ingredients to fast as this can cause milk to curdle.


1 – Skinless Salmon Fillet
1 lb. Lg. Prawns (21-25 count)
Raspberry Jam
Salad Greens

Place salmon on foil.  Salt and pepper to your taste.  Wrap foil up around fish to keep moist.  Place on barbeque and cook until done about 7-10 minutes.

Peel prawns.  Place on barbeque and cook for 2-3 minutes until done.

For Raspberry butter combine a 50/50 mixture of butter and raspberry jam in a bowl and melt.

Once the salmon is done place on a bed of greens and garnish with prawns. 

Drizzle Raspberry Butter over fish and serve.