Archive for the ‘Travel Section’ Category

Wasco Railroad Depot & Museum

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Historic railroad depot and museum. Open Fridays and Saturdays, 1pm to 4pm from April 15 to October 15 and by appointment.

LTOB’s Haunted House

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Who better to “act” like vampires, ghosts and ghouls than community actors? Costumes pulled from Little Theatre on the Bay’s own costume room, lighting specials and wicked music effects and mazes that would fool a rat. The price is $5 for adults and $3 for those under 13 for one trip through the theater.  Second trips are half price, and then it’s back to full price for those who are brave enough to keep going back. Theater staff suggests that no very young children attend as the performances are scarily realistic!

Open 7pm – 10pm on weeknights and open later on weekends if needed.

Economy Inn

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Inn at the Convention Center

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Conveniently located across from the Oregon Convention Center.

Grant’s Getaways: Backyard Bird Watching in Oregon

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When is a birdhouse a ‘home?” Oh, that’s easy! It’s when feathered residents move in and build a nest.

“Birding” is a popular outdoor recreational activity for many Oregonians– whether it’s watching for varied species, filling a feeder or even building the songbirds a home! Today, I visit a man who makes sure native songbirds get more than a simple roof over their heads: they get a backyard resort for a home.

There’s quite an outdoor show for those in the know as Oregon’s wild places are prime at this time of year  – rain or shine – places like Sauvie Island Wildlife Area are at their showy best.  ”No better time of year,” I like to say as eagles soar or waterfowl dive and it gets even better at places like Smith–Bybee Wetlands when you’ve an expert who shows the way for a walk on the wild side:

“It t may be wet, it may be cool but it’s not freezing and there’s lots of food for the birds,” noted James Davis, wildlife author and teacher. Davis works for Metro and he is a an accomplished wildlife expert who wrote the comprehensive “Northwest Nature Guide.”

He said folks don’t have to travel far to find wildlife at this time of year.

“There are hundreds of thousands of ducks, geese and swans and hundreds of raptors coming to and thru the heart of the Willamette Valley.”  It’s hard to imagine a better place to watch the show, but Davis added that there are many easy to reach sites that could be considered “close to home,” like the Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge in Sherwood.

It offers a wonderful visitor center and two miles of easy trail that combine to put you in touch with wildlife that’s practically as close as your own backyard.  “This is ‘the south’ for half a million birds. We have a warm, mild, wet climate that is great for them. But many people think, ‘Well it’s cold here, why would they come here?’ Well, just imagine what it’s like in northern Manitoba right now? Brrrrr!”

Don’t forget Ankeny Wildlife Refuge near Salem. It offers visitor friendly boardwalks and viewing platforms that give you a front row seat to wetlands and feeding waterfowl that also keeps you out of foul weather.  US Fish and Wildlife Service Biologist, Molly Monroe, keeps a sharp eye for the many wildlife species that use the refuge and said it’s a perfect place for newcomers to “stop in and visit and hike the varied trails.”

“It is a wonderful thing when you can sit somewhere, observe the finest little things, and enjoy an outdoor spectacle – a great way to come out and enjoy the refuges.”

Spectacular shows are easy to come by in winter; not just the huge flocks of waterfowl or solo raptors like hawks and eagles, but also the smaller songbird species.  In fact, consider attracting wildlife species like songbirds into your own backyard.

Hillsboro resident, Dennis Frame, loves the sights and sounds of the wild – so he builds feeders and houses for native songbirds.  Frame’s structures aren’t really homes – but his elaborate wooden abodes are more akin to – well, bird resorts.

Washington County resident, Irene Dickson, has two of Frame’s beautiful yet functional – feeders and each is firmly planted in the ground on fence posts – 6 feet off the ground in her yard. She said that they “really work.”

“They add such pleasure and peace,” said the avid bird fan. “They’re real de-stressers too. Plus, the resort detail is fabulous and impressive with the little rock walls, benches and other details. It looks like a little cabin by a lake.”

Frame is a builder of human homes by trade, but in his cozy and well organized carpentry shop, he said his greatest pleasure comes from crafting the elaborate “bird resorts.”  “This is my little getaway and I can come in here and get away from it all and get creative too.”

He’s always been a fan of simple, rustic log cabin homes and will often scour the countryside for “models” that he can reproduce on a small scale for the birds.  “I’ll drive and spot one and ‘Oh, that’s cool.’ Maybe snap a photos or make a mental note and then recreate it in a bird house.”

Frame has been ‘chippin’ away’ at his hobby for 15 years and said it ‘s the tiny details that impress most people.

The resorts sport stone and mortar chimneys, decks with handrails and small pieces of character that set them apart from ordinary store-bought models – including a wooden front door.

“The door actually opens. I do that because you must clean out the resort following each nesting year. In fact, the birds seldom return the following year unless you do that. I try to make it an easier job.”

Frame also trades, barters and salvages for everything – recycling for the birds!  On top of that – he rarely sells a house; instead, through the years he has given them away to non-profits like his local Rotary Club and the Jackson Bottom Wetlands Education Center. The groups then sell Frame’s bird resorts and raise hundreds of dollars to support their educational programs.

“This is my way of giving back to the community. I believe in community; they help me out so I help them out. And getting people out of their houses and learning more about the outdoors is a positive way to go in my book.”

Many people must agree with Dennis! His wildlife work is “red hot” popular and he can’t make them fast enough.  In fact, Dennis created a special edition that’s a one of a kind dandy home that he has named the “Grant’s Getaways Bird Resort.”

He has donated the avian abode to one of my favorite non-profits: the Banks Community Auction.  The popular and annual Washington County event raises money to support programs in the local schools.  In addition, I’ll contribute two of my “Grant’s Getaways” books to go with Frame’s wonderful bird resort.

So, consider attending and bidding on the package to help the birds and local children. This year the auction will be held at the Banks High School on April 28.

Chocolate and cheese, please

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Cheese and chocolate lovers mark your calendars for a sweet and savory March!

The Oregon Chocolate Festival takes place March 2-4 at the Ashland Springs Hotel and will showcase the sweet creations of more than 50 Oregon chocolate makers and other specialty food vendors. From traditional candies, to chocolate-covered bacon and lavender-infused truffles, the festival has a taste for every palette ($20). Southern Oregon winemakers will be on hand to provide wine pairings, and a Chocolate Makers dinner will be held on Friday ($59) along with other special events through the weekend.

March 16-17, members of the Oregon Cheese Guild and select cheesemakers from surrounding states will gather for the Oregon Cheese Festival. A Cheesemakers Dinner will be held on Friday at the Ashland Springs Hotel (limited seating), where diners can visit with cheesemakers and enjoy cheese-centered courses paired with wine from Southern Oregon wineries ($90). Margo True, Food Editor of Sunset Magazine, will emcee. On March 17, visitors can sample the goods of 80 cheesemakers, artisan food vendors, wineries and breweries in a farmers market setting at Rogue Creamery in Central Point ($15).

Extra slice: There’s a new face in the Oregon cheese world: Portland Creamery, the newest licensed creamery in the state, will be on hand at the Oregon Cheese Festival with fresh goat cheeses. Look for Sweetfire (with habañero and marionberry puree), tarragon mustard (a spring offering) and herbes de provence (elegant!). If you’re lucky, owner Liz Alvis might bring some of her coveted cajeta — goat’s milk caramel.

Grant’s Getaways: Celebrating Oregon’s Birthday!

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Just ask your Oregon neighbors and you’ll find out: “What’s so special about Oregon’s Birthday?”

When you reach 153 years of age, there are plenty of reasons to celebrate.  With Oregon celebrating its birthday this week (Valentine’s Day), I checked out a few local sites that offer lively lessons linked to the Oregon celebration dating to the U.S. Congress approval of Oregon’s statehood in 1859.

If you decide to learn more about Oregon’s road to statehood 153 years ago, start your adventure at Champoeg State Park near Wilsonville and discover that Oregon’s early pioneers felt exactly the same way:

Champoeg is where the first provisional state government formed in 1843 and it set the stage for statehood that followed on February 14, 1859.  Oregon State Park Ranger, Dennis Wiley, said the Champoeg State Park holds on to the Oregon story that began in the 1840’s. He added that the park’s visitor center can show you how it happened:

“The early arrivals started the “Oregon way.” Those folks wanted to do things a little bit differently and they built the townsite with their own hands because they knew this was remarkable place.”

The nearby Robert Newell house has been standing just as long and while it’s a private museum now, it’s interior furnishings arrived on the Oregon Trail and reflect the success that Newell found in Oregon.  “You can see the wealth in the formal layout of the rooms,” noted Park Ranger Mike Niss. “The clothing, the bedding – everything was a little better quality than the average citizen would have had at that time.”

Fifteen miles away, there’s a bigger than average reason to stop in at Willamette Mission State Park where Jason Lee built the first Methodist mission in 1834.

The park is also home to a gigantic cottonwood tree that was here long before the church was built according to Park Manager Ryan Sparks:  “We believe this tree was here before the mission was built, so this tree has seen some of the earliest settlers come to the Willamette Valley.

Wilson Park, Capitol Park and the Capitol Mall are all part of the Capitol State Park in Salem.

“You can see statues here of Jason Lee, Dr John McLoughlin (the Father of Oregon) and the Circuit Rider statue – we even have a replica of the Liberty Bell on the mall outside the capitol building as well.”

Several water fountains and a gorgeous show of flowering cherry trees that bloom each spring compliment the State Capitol State Park’s statues.  Ryan Sparks added that a visit is perfect cap to your day’s adventure, so consider it a journey of discovery to learn more about the place you call home.

“It’s really important for all of use to know where we came from and I think it helps put perspective on what it was like for the early settlers. When you travel between these parks you begin to see how they compliment each other.”

Grant’s Getaways: Storm Watching on the Oregon Coast

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Wintertime in Oregon offers a weather roller coaster ride of sorts when the gray shaded days of wind and rain are quickly followed by breaks of soothing warmth and sunshine. There’s never a dull moment this time of year.  Winter is the perfect time to check out the powerful natural drama that is found along Oregon’s coastline when he heads outdoors for a winter storm watch.

As winter surf floods and ebbs, beachcombers wander…seeking secrets from the tides.  Along the beach near Cape Meares, Don Best uses his camera to find the secrets that many of the beach strollers miss.  The longtime local has a passion for pulling out the best in a winter scene and his Best Impressions prove it.

“Sometimes it takes quite a few pictures to get the right one,” said Best. “There’s a lot of dynamic action; wave movement, breakers hitting the rocks or logs. Shooting the wind and the waves with a camera is exciting.”

That much is true on a day when sparkling sunshine clears away the gloomy gray as a powerful east wind stirs up a show on the ocean.

Best says those are the days to watch for “Spindrift” or “King Neptune’s Horses:”  “The wind blows the tops of the breakers back out to sea,” said Best. “It is stunning and the spray is like a white sheet that even has rainbows if you get the right angle.”

His photo collection of stormy coastal moments provides a unique angle to Oregon coastal life that many people never get a chance to see.  Many shots from Best’s collection of coastal photographs date back nearly a century and show that winter storms weren’t always so nice. In fact, they were terrible.

Like the winter of 1915, shortly after the Tillamook North Jetty was built and the Barview community was flooded by giant ocean waves.  Best’s album shows off images of railroad wreckage and homes that were lost as people watched helplessly when sweeping waves wiped out the town during a disastrous storm.

What were folks thinking about at the time?

“An escape route, where to run!” noted Best with a chuckle. “That’s what I would do too.”  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.

“These sites are a little higher up, a little further away and definitely safer,” noted Smith. “You get a bird’s eye view of the power of the ocean. Perhaps the premier location for storm watching along the entire coast is Shore Acres State Park. It’s simply amazing when the surf crashes along that shoreline.”

There are many amazing places to watch nature’s drama play out along the northern Oregon coastline too – and if you’d like to enjoy a guided tour with a knowledgeable guide to show the way, check out Oregon Storm Tours in Seaside.

Darren Gooch and Patricia Murphy joined an ‘Oregon Storm Tour’ because it’s a safe and educational option and importantly; they “weren’t sure where to go.” OST’s David Posalski said that his driving tours stop at many north coast sites, but the Columbia River South Jetty viewing tower at Ft Stevens State Park is a favorite among the visitors who join him each winter.

“Usually it’ll be a single couple, like Darren and Patricia, and we decide what they want to see, what they want to do depending on their time and how active they want to be.

The wonderful thing about the tour is that David can present varied location options and you can tailor the trip to suit your time and budget and interests.

“We are the least touristy tour anyone has ever been on,” noted David.

Celebrate Celtic Pride

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St. Patrick’s Day rolls around just once a year, but Celtic pride reigns around the state during all seasons.

If you are looking for a special St. Patrick’s Day celebration, take part in the 30th annual “A Wee Bit O’ Ireland” in Heppner, Oregon. Located southwest of Hermiston, Heppner doesn’t look like the Old Country, but the Irish spirit will be alive and well at the March 15-18 event. Enjoy food, drink, music, arts and crafts, sheep dog trials and amateur boxing. “The Gothard Sisters,” a popular Pacific Northwest fiddle and dance trio, will perform Saturday night. Visitors will enjoy the welly toss, the Great Green parade and road bowling.

March 16-17, the town of Lakeview in southern Oregon remembers the history and heritage of its 19th Irish immigrants with the annual Irish Days Festival. Friday evening features a corn beef and cabbage dinner along with traditional Irish step dancing. Saturday will see unique competitions like potato hockey, a bartenders race and outhouse races, along with various food competitions and a parade, music and a barbeque.

Portland Highland Games celebrates its 60th anniversary on July 21, 2012, at Mt. Hood Community College in Gresham. The event showcases world-class pipe bands, Celtic entertainment, and top competition in heavy athletics, Highland dancing, solo fiddling, piping and drumming. The kilted mile run, sheepdog demonstrations, caber toss, and parade of massed bands are among traditional favorites. Bring the kids for games, a fun run and a tug-o-war.

Head to the village of Yachats on the central Oregon Coast for the Yachats Celtic Music Festival Nov. 9-11. In its 11th year, the festival features Celtic music from world-class musicians from Ireland, Scotland, Asturias and Galicia as well as dancing, food and spirits. The weekend usually includes whiskey and beer tasting, Irish step dance classes, and fiddle, flute and whistle workshops.

Bring on the Bard

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Fittingly close to Valentine’s Day, the Oregon Shakespeare Festival (OSF) opens this month with plays about star-crossed lovers, unrequited passion and magical romance.

Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” takes the stage on Feb. 17. Director Laird Williamson offers the familiar and timeless tale of two young lovers and their feuding families in a new setting — California in the 1840s. Bringing this tumultuous period in American to the foreground adds a modern twist to a beloved story.

Feb. 18 will see the world premier of “The White Snake,” a play by Tony-award winning director Mary Zimmerman. Based on a classic Chinese fable, this is the story of a snake spirit disguised as a beautiful woman who falls in love with a young scholar. She must use magical powers to defeat dark forces and win her lover.

Libby Appel’s adaptation of Anton Chekhov’s, “Seagull,” opens Feb 23. Set in 19th-century Russia at a lakeside estate, “Seagull” tells the tale of four passionate artists each in love with someone who does not return the affection. “Seagull” is a story about theater, art and unfulfilled desire.

Making room on the dramatic stage for comedy, OSF opens “Animal Crackers” on Feb. 19. Originally created for the Marx Brothers, this slapstick musical recounts the adventures of Captain Spaulding, African adventurer and wise-cracker, at a posh Long Island party. High jinks meet high society and mayhem ensues.

These four rich plays are just the beginning of a packed season for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, which runs through early November.

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