Best of Winter

December 21, 2012

As the year winds down, here’s a look back at a few favorite winter trips  to consider during the upcoming holiday break.


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.

The remarkable outdoor experience called ‘High Life Adventures,’ in Warrenton, Oregon 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. 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 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. “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 through Tuesday at 11:00 a.m., 1:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m. through the winter.


Astoria’s Backdoor Byway

Now it’s time to head to Oregon’s Coast Range and hike with a pro whose camera captures just the right scene. Little trails often lead to big discoveries and that’s when a camera comes in handy for Oregon’s premier landscape photographer, Steve Terrill.

We strolled along the short graveled trail at Lee Wooden County Park and spotted the numerous little signs of the seasonal change; mostly measured by the colorful maple and alder leaves that were in a state of free fall. He is especially drawn to the stunning and gorgeous Fishhawk Falls that races across the exposed and jagged ancient basalt.

“I capture what nature puts out in front of me,” said the famed photographer. “That is really all I do. Anyone can. Just open your eyes and look at the different things that really make this a natural backdrop for my photography.”

Just a couple miles down the road, really big elk lounged across the grassy meadows of the Jewell Wildlife Area. Terrill makes the many easy-to-reach viewing sites a “must stop” on his trip. It‘s interesting to see one of Oregon’s premier landscape photographers – now on his chosen path for more than three decades – working a favored haunt that anyone can visit.

A half hour down the byway, Terrill helps himself to all the scenery surrounding one of his favorite waterfalls in all of the state: Youngs River Falls. “There is this band of water pouring out and then it fans out in spellbinding fashion to drop more than sixty feet. It is beautiful and I love it.”

Don’t forget to peer into the shallows just below the falls; mottled black and grey, several 30-pound salmon have muscled their way back to Youngs River and here it is end of the line. It is also their birthplace and now they continued their cycle of life.


Cape Perpetua National Scenic Area
The ‘rugged edge of the Oregon Coast’ is worth sharing with family or friends – it’s a wild stretch of shoreline called Cape Perpetua National Scenic Area.

It’s more than forty miles of central Oregon coastline, beginning at Waldport and continuing along a southerly stretch of Coastal Highway 101 marked by steep headlands, jagged volcanic outcrops and jaw-dropping scenic drama.

Oregon State Parks Ranger, David Weisenback, said that the sheer beauty of the place surprises many first timers.“It is such a beautiful and unique area – you can hike to the overlooks, the viewpoints, across the rocky shorelines. No matter where you travel in the world, this is still one of the most scenic areas.”

In fact, it is so significant and prized a place that 2700 acres of massive Cape Perpetua is designated a National Scenic Area.

The Captain Cook Trail is wheelchair accessible and leads you from the Visitor Center to skirt the shoreline. At low tide, the trail puts on quite a show as waves crash into rocky crevices and cracks at a place called “Spouting Horn.”

If you wish to wander longer, consider the astounding collection of Oregon State Park Waysides with names like Neptune, Ponsler or Strawberry Hill, where tide pools invite closer inspection during the ebbing tide.

Nearby, Washburne State Park Campground invites you for an overnight stay where winter campers are welcome in a tent, trailer or RV. For those who love to camp, but lack the right gear, Park Ranger Deborah Edwards said to consider renting a yurt. “Camping in winter can be just as exciting as the summertime, you just have to deal with a bit more rain and a yurt is perfect. You get a bunk bed which sleeps two on the bottom and one on the top, a futon, table and a couple of chairs, plus heat and light,” she said.

David Thompson said that it is a remarkable scene and one that is often overlooked in winter: “Without a doubt, it’s the most gorgeous stretch of the Oregon Coast with the collection of rocky shores, so the geology, the geography and certainly the forest add up to a wonderful place to relax and wonder and wander if you want a place to decompress.”


Hot Lake Springs

You may choose to wander east of the Cascade Mountains to connect with Oregon’s past on a getaway to Eastern Oregon.

Manuel is an artist who owns a love affair with Oregon’s past. When you step inside David Manuel’s art studio, it’s clear that it’s the little things that keep the past alive. “I want to make sure everything that I do tell a story – it’s so important that way – that’s what keeps me interested.”

For Manuel, the journey’s truth is etched in short strokes with a sharp blade across soft clay. But Manuel doesn’t have to go far when he goes home. That’s because he works where he and his family have lived for nearly a decade: Hot Lake Springs.

The successful Hot Lake Springs Bed and Breakfast boasts 22 stunning rooms, a restaurant and the new Restore Spa that is sure to please any woman interested in rest and relaxation. Plus, there’s David’s gallery and the bronze foundry where you can watch artisans transform his work into lasting bronze art.

“It’s some of Oregon’s earliest history coming back to life,” noted John Lamoreau, a local resident and former Union County Commissioner. He watched Hot Lake Springs come back to life thanks to the David, his wife Lee and the rest of the Manuel family.  “Combining it with David’s world class art museum, the soaking tubs, the spa, the rooms; you’re stepping back in time and that’s wonderful.”

Still – for many people it is the promise of rest and relaxation in the “Valley of Peace” while enjoying the mineral hot springs. It is all so hard to resist and a place to soak up one of the most remarkable pioneering stories of the 21st century.

“It’s like the Golden Gate Bridge,” said Manuel with a chuckle. “You start painting one end of it and by the time you get to the other, it’s time to start over, but we do see light at the end of the tunnel now and it’s just wonderful. I absolutely love this place.”

About The

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.