Sunday was a beautiful warm and sunny summer day. I believe it reached 98 degrees Fahrenheit / 36.6 Celsius. Earlier this month my friend Anna, a dedicated photographer, and I had made plans to go explore the Laurel farmlands and the Bald Peak area. By the time we arrived, our enthusiasm for being outside had waned. After taking a few photos and walking a short way along dusty paths, we were contemplating our other options. Despite being warm and bright, it was quite hazy in the distance over the Chehalem Valley, but even so, we spotted water out in the valley west of Bald Peak. That lake made us think of Henry Hagg Lake, which is one of the seemingly few outdoor swimming holes in Washington County. The lake is just 25 miles southwest of Portland, at the base of Oregon’s coastal range, and is filled in part by Scoggins Creek, which flows from these mountains. Just thinking about the cool water, combined with the sweat trickling down our temples, prompted us to change plans and head out to Hagg Lake.
What a terrific idea it turned out to be! By time we reached the park it was just after 6 p.m., and the crowds were leaving! Park closing is at sunset (8:41 p.m.), so we had a little more than two hours to swim. This was the first time for both of us to swim at Hagg Lake. While I was surprised at how rocky the lake edge was even at C-Ramp Recreation Area where they have a “sand beach”, it didn’t take long to get beyond the rocks to deep water though. As the lake is a multi-use lake, speedboats cruised further out on the lake, and occasionally slowly cruised through the swimming area. And the water was warm! As the sun lowered, the water temperature cooled down, but it felt so good! Floating on the lake was the perfect way to cool down. As the sun sank behind the coniferous trees, the sky in the south became a gorgeous purple, pink and peachy light orange, while the water took on deep violet and indigo shades. By the time we left, the evening had cooled to a pleasant warmth, and home we drove, relaxed.
To know when you go:
Henry Hagg Lake: 50250 SW Scoggins Valley Road, Gaston, OR 97119
Open dawn to dusk
Parking fee of $7 can be bought at the main gate.
A map of the park can be picked up at the gate as well.
Personal flotation device loaner stations are scattered along the west side of the park for people to borrow life vests.
After a week of snow falling each night and melting away in the day, I looked forward to getting outside in warmer weather. Today the weather reached the mid 40s F in the valley, with white puffy and not stormy clouds overhead, and streamed glimpses of sunshine through my window. I thought, Today – today I am going to see what new growth is springing up with this change in the weather.
For whatever reason, Bald Peak State Park popped in my head as a place to go. As a small State Park in Yamhill county tucked in among family farms in the Chehalem hills, it does not offer much in the way of hiking, but on clear days it offers a beautiful view of Willamette Valley looking west out toward Hillsboro. On those clear days the Pacific Northwest’s volcanoes: Mt. Hood, Mt. Adams, Mt. St. Helens, along with Mt. Rainier can be sighted from here. This was not one of those days.
Sure, I realized it was a cloudy day when I left for the park, but I thought the rise in elevation might put these clouds in a different perspective; and it sure did. What I did not anticipate, nor did I even notice, as I drove up the mountain was the decline in temperate. By the time I reached the park, elevation 1,629 feet, the temperature had dropped by 11 degrees F, down to 35. The wind had also picked up as my little car climbed the mountain, giving that wind chill that gets the cold right down the jacket and past the shirt collar. Snow was all over the ground, while gray storm clouds hovered right above the treetops. Water sporadically rained down in a combination of snow melting from the Douglas fir limbs brought down by the wind and sprinkles from the clouds.
Despite the chill, I decided to walk around. To get a better view, I took a side path down the hillside. I had not walked more than five minutes before I slipped and landed hard in the ice-crusted mud. While I would not go straight to treacherous or unpleasant, my 15-minute meander through the woods was more than enough! Despite being cloud covered, the view was worth trek.
I chuckled to myself as I coasted down the mountain to warmer territory below. Of course it would be colder up the mountain! You know you would have enjoyed it more if you had been better prepared, I chided myself. But I enjoyed it any way!
Stumbling on an adventure. What a great way to start my new year! I am surprised that it is already two weeks into the year and yet, here I am only now sharing my discovery!
While I enjoy a good celebration, I am not a party animal. Going out with friends and strangers, staying out late to party in the New Year just doesn’t do anything for me. At the same time, I didn’t want to just sit home either. Boring!
So, December 30th – that last Saturday before – I was on the Internet looking into renting a State Park cabin or yurt for New Year’s Eve. No such luck. Every one within a couple hours drive from my house was booked. There were several open for Monday night… but! Low and behold! I came across a promotion called: First Day Hike.
Apparently across the U.S. on New Year’s Day select State Parks waive any parking or entry fees and offer free guided hikes with a Park Ranger. The First Day Hikes have been going on for seven years now and seem to be very popular.
After browsing the 22 listed here in Oregon, I decided on the Banks-Vernonia State Trail. It is “the first “rails-to-trails” linear state park built in Oregon” and follows the 22 miles of an abandoned train track between the small rural towns of Banks and Vernonia, with rail tracks now replaced with asphalt. The trail features a paved eight-foot wide trail for hikers and bicyclists along with a parallel gravel and woodchip horse trail.
The hiking group met at the Buxton Trailhead. At the picnic shelter Friends of the State Park had complimentary hot drinks, fruit and breakfast cookies. By 9 a.m. when the hike started, at least 60 people of all ages had gathered. (According to the State Parks stats, 75 people showed up!) The herd of us walked about a mile north into L.L. “Stub” Stewart State Park. At couple of points along the way, Ranger Betsy stopped the group to show off points of interest and talk about what we were seeing in the forest.
After turning back, we walked a short distance south of where we started and crossed the Buxton Trestle. It is 700 feet long and runs 80 feet above Mendenhall Creek. Built in 1920, the over one hundred year old train trestle still stands on the original supports. The top portion was converted to a pedestrian bridge a number of years back. It was impressive! I was in awe that train conductors once had the nerve to drive a train across it. After going across with the group, I went back over the trestle again, it was that impressive.
The day was cold, but the sun shone and with layers, the walking warmed me right up. The forest was beautiful with the sun piercing the dense woods. The camaraderie among the hikers was great, and you could tell that Ranger Betsy and her assistants were enjoying the first day of 2018 as much as anyone else. I highly recommend looking to see if there is a First Day Hike in your area! It turned out to be a great way to kick start a new adventure year!
That’s what it has been here in this part of Oregon lately.
Last week we saw temperatures of over 105 degrees Fahrenheit here in Washington County. On top of that we were seeing our air pollution levels rise from smoke coming down from the wild fires 350+ miles north in British Columbia. It made for a hot, muggy, hazy and rather bleak couple of days. While the heat wave and the hazy air are still here, it has cooled and cleared considerably.
Because this part of Oregon does not usually see such temperatures, many homes do not have air conditioning nor are people ready or accustomed to such elements. I have a friend who moved here from Texas a few years ago who was shocked to discover that many cars do not have air conditioning here in Oregon!
A small rustic campground about 15 miles from Banks and Highway 26, it is a no reservation and low amenity (it has trash pick up and out-houses, but no showers) campground. It is first come, first served, and once the 23 campsites are filled, they are filled. Our friends got lucky and got a site right on Gale’s Creek.
The creek isn’t very large, but in places people have dug out rocks and have hand built rock and log dams to make for small, but deeper “swimming” holes. My young friends (ages 6 & 7 ½) think they are the best!
As we sat on boulders in the creek, the younger kids swimming while the older kids threw rocks and Frisbees, we could see the haze above the cedars and pines. Thankfully the air in the forest, especially by the water, was cool and clear.
I love traveling. I love finding new places, experiencing new tastes, sounds and sights, and learning new things. Generally I find these things are even better when I experience them with friends who appreciate the traveling experiences as well. Some of my best friends are those who see each day as an opportunity to explore – to go down new side streets, never fearing “getting lost”, to eat at new restaurants and find new favorite dishes, to stop to take a photo or to drive down a country back road, eager to see where it leads. Unless you are a hard-core solo traveler, I hope you have found a few travel friends as well!
One group of my friends in particular really enjoys traveling and exploring. The five of us jokingly refer to ourselves as “the Fabulous Five.” These are friends with whom I have shared in person many of the adventures I’ve shared here on this blog. Seattle, Columbia Hills State Park, and the Saint Paul Rodeo are just a few of the adventures we’ve taken together.
Well, the cookie crumbled and two of the Fabulous Five split off for the summer. One traveled up into Canada for a summer semester studying linguistics, while the other journeyed to the Czech Republic teaching English. Honestly, I’m a little jealous. The remaining three of us, balancing work and other responsibilities, are facing a summer of local adventuring. We determined we would enjoy it anyway.
We three decided and planned to “do something together“. We had ideas, but nothing set. Over a homemade lunch we tossed around ideas and finally decided to drive into Portland, try Wailua Shave Ice and visit Powell’s City of Books – something new and something old.
Wailua Shave Ice is located in a small pedestrian only mall, Union Way, across West Burnside Street from Powell’s City of Books bookstore. Among the handful of small neighboring shops, Wailua was definitely the most popular spot. We joined close to 20 people in line and tried to decide which delicious sounding shave ice to buy. Eventually I decided on the Almond Joy.
As we slowly shifted down the line, I got a bit bored, so leaving Anna as a delegate in line, Tina and I set out down the corridor and out the other end of the mall. We made our way around the block and across the street to Powell’s. I sure love that store! Living outside of Portland, I dread going in to the city, but I’ll go if we’re going to Powell’s. The huge bookstore with its warm charm, mixed shelves of new and used books, concrete split-level floors, color-coded rooms, coffee infused air and absolutely necessary information desk, always offers an enjoyable experience.
Planning on coming back after eating the shave ice, we made our way in one entrance, skipped through one level and up to another and out a different exit. We then made our way back to Wailua where we discovered our held place in line had not made as much of an advancement as we had hoped. Even so, everyone seemed in good spirits and the three of us speculated about the treat we would soon try.
Once we got to the counter and ordered, I saw why they call it “shave ice” and not simply “snow cones”. The light fine ice base reminded me of powder snow; it was not the pebbly ice of your typical snow cone. The drizzled full flavored coconut syrup left no question of its good quality; it was not the typical snow cone cheap sugary artificial color and flavor. It turned out to be one of those treats you can justify and feel good about indulging. The Nutella, toasted coconuts and almonds popped with the coconut ice and fully justified the $6.
By the time we got the shave ice, our paid time for parking was almost up. We decided to forgo Powell’s to instead stop at Scrap PDX. The shop, resembling a thrift store and a discount store merged into one, sells only goods geared for art projects. In a rather over whelming fashion, bins of yarn, cloth and sewing filled one corner, chests and drawers full of beads filled another, along with poster board, plastic of random shapes and colors, paints and all sorts of other things filling in the middle. It made me think of my aunt, an elementary school art teacher of 40 years, and her house. Materials to make all kinds of fun art projects along with half finished demos of the projects lie strewn all over her house. This store was like that. I could see this store as being a go-to spot to find random material you may need for this or that project, but then again, you might just want to go with an open mind…
With dinner and evening time constraints, about this time we headed home. However – we didn’t quite make to a few places, and Tina and I decided to extend the adventure to the next afternoon after work.
At the end of last month, the end of May, I spent a Sunday out at Henry Hagg Lake with a friend. With all the early warm weather we had here in Oregon, the park was busy with boaters, fishers, swimmers, hikers, dog walkers and those generally looking to enjoy the outdoors. It was such a nice warm day, with blue sky and everything.
Partly because I didn’t take many photos or explore the park much, I realized I failed to post and share the location. Instead of using my camera, I read a book, ate food and dozed in comfy camp chair, all while in the warm shade of an old large tree, within earshot of Scoggins Creek and the shrieks and laughter of the children playing in it.
The 1,113 acre man-made lake is part of the Washington County Parks system. Being out in the county, just outside of the towns of Forest Grove and Gaston, there is only one road in to the park, Highway 47. The day access cost is $6, which can be paid for at the Ranger’s station and self-serve kiosks as you enter the park. From there the road loops around the lake, with side roads taking you to various recreation spots and lake access points.
With the northern half of the lake designated a “No Wake Zone”, along with motorboats, many kayaks, canoes and SUPs share the lake. At the Sain Creek Recreation Area there is even a nice open beach area for swimming, which on that particular Sunday was a little on the crowded side. It was along the northern shore of the lake, at the Scoggins Creek Recreations Area, that my friend and I found our “chill” spot – right beneath the sprawling limbs of an old coniferous tree, by a sturdy all-season picnic table and benches. Despite the park being quite popular and well visited, I appreciated the layout of the recreation areas. They made it easy for a large number of people to be there and be able to enjoy their own space.
On the way home, we drove through Aloha, and that is where I got this shot
of Mount Hood. Looking at the photos later, I realized I really should have asked my friend to pull over so I could take a better shot and should not have taken it through the glass. (*sigh* Live and learn…) Nevertheless, Mount Hood was out and certainly breath-taking.
The Oregon Coast – far enough away that I don’t get there as often as I would like, but close enough to get there every so often.
This particular spring day was warm enough that I, along with many other beach-combers, felt comfortable walking barefoot in the surf! It was amazing. I forget how the lovely the salt breeze, the sparkling soft tan sand and cool glittering water revives me. I forget that is, until I get there. Then I am surprised I don’t make the short trek more often.
While traveling, what do you not want to do? One of the worst things to do is to blatantly ignore local lingo and sound like an obnoxious outsider. No one enjoys a visitor whose accent prevents clear communication or one who doesn’t try to learn basic words in the local language or a visitor who expects everyone to speak his or her language. It is especially annoying when that visitor doesn’t even try to help you understand what he or she is trying to say. There is nothing wrong with being from elsewhere and, if you are respectful and understandable, speaking with your native accent is perfectly fine. I personally take pleasure in hearing foreign accents and seeing out-of-towners enjoying my hometown. It helps me stop and notice the unique and special parts that may have become common place.
But sometimes we travelers have reasons for not wanting to sound like foreigners. If you want to sound like a local or like you belong there, you pay attention to how locals say things. If you don’t want to call attention to the fact you are from elsewhere, you want to blend and experience the location and culture without alerting others to the fact that you are new to the area, you try to imitate the locals. If you are nervous about being taken advantage as a stranger, you keep your ears and eyes wide open, your mouth shut and when you do open it, you really try to sound like a confident local. If you want to be better understood, you try to assimilate some of the local accent. If you want to show respect to the people and customs of a culture, pronouncing things as the locals do can show that desire.
Through my own travels and by hosting visitors, I have noticed a few things that are different here at home. For whatever reason you might have, here are fifteen tips for sounding and coming across like a local here in Oregon, USA, particularly the Northwest corner.
- Call Interstate 5: “I-5”. The letter “I” and the number “5”. Don’t refer to it as “Route 5” as my mom’s cousins from the East Coast did.
- Highway 26 is referred to as “The Sunset Highway,” “The Sunset” or simply “26”.
- Pacific Highway is called either “99” or “99-W”.
- While Oregon has golden sandy beaches and we do “go to the beach”, we more often “go to the coast”. We never “go to the seaside,” because Seaside is a coastal town.
- When you see Mount Hood (or any of the other elusive snow capped Cascades), you note it by saying, “Look, the mountain is out!” There are days when it is not out, and you can’t see it, despite it being a relatively clear day.
- Oregon is pronounced “Or-uh-gun,” and if you can’t manage that, “Organ,” like the musical instrument, will do.
- People from Oregon are called Oregonians, pronounced, “Or-uh-go-knee-ens.”
- Willamette, as in the ‘Willamette River’ and the ‘Willamette Valley,’ is pronounced “Will-lamb-it,” not “Will-uh-met.”
- We refer to the state of Washington as simply “Washington”. We refer to the U.S. Capital as either “D.C.” or “Washington D.C.”
- The drinks of choice around here are coffee, micro-brew beer, tea, kombucha and water. If you want the fizzy, non-alcoholic soft drink ask for a “pop,” but if you happen to ask for “soda,” no one will notice if you keep the other lingo correct.
- Distance is gauged in time more often than actual miles. It is very common to say something along the lines of, “I live like 5 minutes from here” rather than estimate miles as in, “I live like 2 miles from here,” even though both may be true.
- There is no state sales tax. What the price sticker says is the item’s price is what you will pay for the item. You don’t have to be surprised and ask, “That’s all it is?” They get our tax money other ways.
- Most Oregonians go to the coast rain or shine. Granted, more people go in late spring through early fall, and it is busier with more things to do. Thankfully however, we have Mo’s restaurants – a local chain started in Newport, Oregon. Mo’s restaurants have the best clam chowder, and it tastes even better on a raw, rainy day after a good long walk in the sand. If you think rain is a reason for not going to the beach, people might wonder where you’re from. (California?)
- We have coffee shops and drive through coffee shops all over the place. One time when I was traveling with friends, we hit the road, and we consciously decided to pass about four coffee shops within 10-minutes of driving. Why? We wanted a particular coffee shop, and we wanted to drive up. This is not uncommon.
- Pumping your own gas is illegal here in Oregon. Trying to pump your own gas immediately tells everyone that you’re not from around here. (Again, California?) There are gas attendants who pump it for you. After you greet him or her, you say which (regular, plus or premium), how much (fill, so many dollars or so many gallons) and how you’re paying (sometimes with cash you have to walk in to the gas station to pay). It was so awkward for me the first time I had to put gas in a car; Clucker’s gas station in Wilmore, Kentucky will forever be memorable to me for it.
Orenco Woods Nature Park, the newest park in Hillsboro, Oregon, is a place locals need to visit and visit often. Situated across the street from Orenco Elementary school on the west side NE 71st Ave, it meets its eastern boundary of NW Cornelius Pass Road with a .4-mile section of the Rock Creek Trail.
Within its boundaries this park has ample car parking, restrooms, a playground, a covered picnic area, the historic McDonald House (built in 1912 for the owner, Mr. McDonald, of the Oregon Nursery Company), and both paved paths and soft surface loop trails. As the Nature Park is located on the same spot along Rock Creek where part of the old Oregon Nursery Company once existed, a weeping Deodar Cedar and apple trees remain as vestiges among large Douglas firs and oak. Along with people, you may meet deer, coyote, beavers, fish, squirrels and many birds.
As the flyer-map passed out at the Grand Opening on February 4th says, “As you explore the park you will see relics from its past, great things in the present and hints of an even more amazing future.” Speaking of the Grand Opening, it was fun! The energy was great and spirits were happy. There were doughnuts and apples to munch, speakers addressing a busy audience, Metro and Parks & Recreation booths, and lots and lots of children. If you have the chance to attend a park opening – take the opportunity! It could prove an enjoyable experience!
After receiving a map-flyer with the Orenco Time Machine scavenger hunt on the back, I set out to see what I could see. Preferring loop-walks to destination-walks, I enjoyed being able to see different parts of the park with an easy figure-8 looping walk along the paved and soft surface (mostly fine loose gravel) paths. It turned out to be about 1.2 miles, and I covered most of the 42-acre park in a short time. With paved paths, wheelchairs and strollers have options for exploration as well. Before you go, you may want to check out the Field Guide put out by Metro.
One uniquely interesting feature of this Nature Park is its interactive public art – a half apple sculpture painted bright green. “The Orenco Apple” and “Seeds of Orenco” I have heard it called. During the Grand Opening, kids and parents were standing and sitting in it and having their pictures taken.
On a side note, have you ever wondered about the name “Orenco” as I have? A weird sounding name, I always thought it derived from a local Native American language. Well, I was wrong! It apparently derives from the OREgon Nursery COmpany, which at one time included a town for employees!
Orenco Woods Nature Park
7100 NE Birch Street
Happy New Year everyone!
Living in the Willamette Valley of Oregon means living in a very moderate climate. While we have four seasons, they are not as harshly distinct as in other parts of America. Each winter we usually see some snow (at least one dusting) and about every 6 years we get a mess of 6+ inches.
This winter has been a mess year. Between December and January we have had four separate and distinct snows. It has snowed, melted, and a few days later, snowed again. The last episode of snow was an unusually nice load of it too. The weather was dry for days after keeping the deep powder soft and fluffy for a full week. It was great! Sure, there were icy places in the road where cars had melted the snow, and it had frozen, but when you’re jobless (as I currently am), that doesn’t matter. I completely enjoyed the obligated chill time.
I’ve wanted to get up to Mount Hood or travel to Bend or another snow destination this winter, but I lucked out and the snow came to me. Snow changes absolutely everything -in the best ways possible. An area you once knew becomes suddenly new covered in snow. So I explored my own backyard in all its newness. With the powdery snow, I had no problems keeping traction as I adventured to the local park and around the neighborhood.
Walking in a winter land…
Toward the end of the week, when I heard we were about to get some freezing rain, I scrambled and found a few enthusiastic assistants. I had seen on Pinterest.com some fun photos created with unique light, and I didn’t want to miss this unique opportunity with all the glorious snow. So after dark I took them out to a snowy open space, along with a handful of 4th of July leftover sparklers. Boy I wish I had had more! More sparklers and more time to experiment…
On a side note, with the reflection off the bright white snow, even after dark, I learned that my camera’s aperture did not need to be wide open and the shutter speed did not have to be too long to get a decent shot. I set the aperture about halfway open and the shutter speed to 10 seconds to get these shots. Oh and I learned that the person running around with the sparkler needs to move fast and keep the light away from her face! (The ghost you might make out is me…)