If a community’s wealth can be measured by its wealth of wildness, Washington County may be on of the riches places around with wildlife at every turn at Jackson Bottom Wetlands in Hillsboro.

If you time your visit during the week, you may cross paths with volunteers Tina and Rose Engelfried. The mother and daughter due have been volunteers at the 800-acre wildlife reserve for the past three years.

Each agree that the best part of their efforts is educating the public about a place so wild yet so close.

Tina Englefried told me that Jackson Bottom’s convenient location is what she enjoys most of all, “It’s right here in Hillsboro and it is a jewel; just a fantastic place to come and de-stress and learn about bird life. We provide the binoculars and spotting scopes and books and help identify different species. If you want to have wildlife around you, you have to make people feel like it’s theirs and part of their backyards.”

Less than 20 miles to the south, just off Highway 219, take Laurelwood Road and climb high atop the spine of a ridgeline to reach one of the quietest state parks in our region called “Bald Peak.”

While there’s no overnight camping, picnic tables are scattered across the landscape under towering doug fir trees – it’s a site that invites you to linger longer and perhaps wander trails that offer stunning views.

What I really like about a stop in at Bald Peak State Park are the two views for the price of one getaway: to the east enjoy the broad expanse of the Willamette Valley and the Cascade Mountains; you will spy Mt St Helens, Mt Adams, Mt Hood and even Mt Jefferson on a sun-kissed day.

Your view to the west offers a spacious perspective to the Tualatin River Valley with its many farms and vineyards, the coast range mountains and even Henry Hagg Lake.

Henry Hagg Lake is less than five miles as the crow flies but your driving route through Laurelwood and then Gaston will take you more time.

But that’s alright on a fall afternoon when sun beams light up the leaves and a lone motor boat trolls across the lake that summer’s passed by.

Not far from the lake, near the village of Dilley, look for Montinore Vineyard and Winery – a tour of the site will impress you for the scale of the operation.

There are picnic tables across the beautiful manicured property and it’s an inviting way to spend a lunch hour.

It’s a gas tank getaway with variety and easy travel that will have you coming back for more.

about author Grant McOmie

Grant McOmie is a Pacific Northwest broadcast journalist, teacher and author who writes and produces stories and special programs about the people, places, outdoor activities and environmental issues of the Pacific Northwest. A fifth generation Oregon native, Grant’s roots run deepest in the central Oregon region near Prineville and Redmond where his family continues to live.

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