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Archive for the ‘Nature’ Category

New Year’s Eve Itinerary

Posted on: December 19th, 2014 by Jackie Luskey No Comments
The kitschy, yet regal McMenamins Grand Lodge is a perfect mix for New Year's Eve dancing.

The kitschy, yet regal McMenamins Grand Lodge is a perfect mix for New Year’s Eve dancing.

Let the countdown begin—we’re mere days away from saying hello to 2015. With all the holiday hullabaloo going on, it’s easy to let New Year’s Eve plans fall through the cracks. But not this year, friends! We’ve taken the busy work out of the equation—you can simply use our New Year’s itinerary for a sure-fire good time and good New Year.

First, check into a room at the McMenamins Grand Lodge or one of our other standout hotel options. Just be sure to make reservations ahead of time!

Afternoon Bubbly Excursion
Before the sun sets, hop in the car to search for some sparkling wine to pop open come midnight. Though, you won’t have to search very hard—simply head to Shafer Vineyard Cellars for the Shafer Cuveé. Open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., the winery produces its sparkling wine in the traditional French champagne method, Methode Champenoise. Very classy, indeed.

Dinner: Small Plates on a Big Night
We’re looking into your future—near future that is—and we see dancing. Lots and lots of dancing. So make dinner light, yet delicious at small plates at 1910 Main. As the name would suggest, you and your dinner companions can share delicious morsels of creative cuisine. It’s a celebratory meal that doesn’t require a post-feast nap!

Party Time!
Back at the McMenamins Grand Lodge, a night of good music and revelry will kick off at 9 p.m. with  New Year’s Eve at the Grand Lodge. Boogie to live music from three different bands. Choose from Americana, rock or Motown beats.

Welcome to 2015!
Start the year off on the right foot, literally, with the ranger-led America’s State Parks First Day Hike at beautiful Stub Stewart State Park. Here, you’ll find fresh air and a fresh perspective.

Now that you’ve properly worked up an appetite from your hike, chow down at the Ironwork Grill. Using seasonal ingredients from local growers, your meal will fill you with meaningful sustenance for the first day of the New Year.

Find places to stay. | Create a personalized itinerary. | Find places to eat. | View the digital visitor guide.

Winners of the Focus on Autumn Nature Photo Contest

Posted on: December 15th, 2014 by Jackie Luskey No Comments

We’re on the final countdown to the winter solstice, which means it’s time to soak up the last few days of the official fall season. It has been a gorgeous few months of bright leaves, birds and skies—and we have the pictures to prove it! As entries for the Focus on Autumn Nature Photo Contest came rolling in, we were continuously reminded of how beautiful the Tualatin Valley really is.

After much deliberation, the judges weighed in and the crème de la crème of the photo contest have now been placed and awarded. Though it’s worth mentioning that each entry was standout in its own way. See all of the entries on our Flickr page.

First place: Larry Chow, David Hill Vineyard & Winery

second place_Batmobile_88
Second Place: Corey Rudolph, Autumn’s Pass at Bald Peak

Third place_Corey Rudolph
Third place: Alec Haskard, Solitary Egret in the fog at Fernhill Wetlands

Honorable Mention_Alec Frank
Honorable Mention: Jason Lindseth, Buxton Trestles over the Banks-Vernonia State Trail

Buxton Trestle
The winning photos of the Focus on Autumn Nature Photo Contest showcase a cross-section of the Tualatin Valley outdoor experience. Each location is easily accessible and utterly gorgeous. While the Bald Peak State Scenic Viewpoint is a thing of wonder with its wide view of mountains and valleys, the drive to it on its own—as Corey Rudolph’s photography proves—is well worth it on its own. Use a complimentary copy of our Nature Passport to learn more about the lovely birdwatching at Fernhill Wetlands, as well as smooth cycling jaunts down the Banks-Vernonia State Trail. And, of course, striking outdoor vistas include vineyard views, too. This is the case with David Hill Vineyard & Winery, whose vines gracefully exemplify the best of every season. Use these winning photos—and the places where they were photographed—as inspiration for your own itinerary to Oregon’s Washington County: The Tualatin Valley.

Find places to stay. | Create a personalized itinerary. | Find places to eat. | View the digital visitor guide.

Ask a Local: Lee Farms’ Annie Lee-Bartelamia

Posted on: December 1st, 2014 by Jackie Luskey No Comments
The Lee siblings prep for the holiday season. From  left to right: Erika, Kara, Annie, Teagan and Tommy.

The Lee siblings prep for the holiday season. From left to right: Erika, Kara, Annie, Teagan and Tommy.

When it comes to vacation planning, nothing is more valuable than the local scoop. So, we turned to Anne Lee-Bartelamia, Farm Manager of the charming tree farm Lee Farms. Born and raised in Oregon’s Washington County, she has the ultimate tips!

What makes Lee Farms so special?
We are a family-run business that is a seven-generation farm! Our ancestors planted their roots in Tualatin in 1869 and we have been here since.

What do you love most about interacting with visitors?
In addition to our farm store and operations we are a kid-friendly attraction. We get to see excited kids come out and enjoy the animals all year! We have an amazing customers that we have grown up with and who are now bringing the next generation to our farm.

What’s your favorite part of the holidays?
During the holidays I feel like I get to connect with our guests on a more personal level. For each person that comes, I feel like I get to be a part of their holiday tradition, which gives me those warm fuzzy feelings that I’m sure a lot of people also get around the holidays.

What’s one can’t-miss attraction?
Well, now we have Cabela’s World Forestry Outfitter; that is a pretty exciting given for a lot of people coming into Tualatin.

Describe a perfect day in Washington County with them.
When we have guests, the first thing we do is tour some of the amazing wineries. We are big fan of Blakeslee Vineyard Estate!

What’s a favorite “hidden gem” of the area?
When we are looking for a break from farm, we love to head out to Hagg Lake and go fishing.

Where do you go when you want some seriously good grub?
Whenever we can’t settle on a restaurant, we head down to Bridgeport Village and see which smell pulls us in. I also vote for Pastini Pastaria so that I can some tortellini gorgonzola.

What should every visitor take home as a souvenir?
Every visitor should go home with an amazing bottle of wine, hazelnuts (covered in chocolate, preferably), Marionberry jam and honey.

Describe Oregon’s Washington County in 5 words or less.
Four seasons of paradise.

Other tips from locals:
Curiosities Vintage Mall’s Travis Diskin
Maggie Buns’ Maggie Pike
Clean Water Service’s Sheri Wantland
SakéOne’s Steve Vuylsteke
Bag&Baggage’s Scott Palmer
Vine Gogh’s Jenny Schildan
Cooper Mountain Vineyards’ Barbara Gross
Abbey Creek Vineyard’s Bertony Faustin
Urban Decanter’s Rebecca Kramer

Photograph Gratitude in the Tualatin Valley

Posted on: November 19th, 2014 by Jackie Luskey No Comments

What are you thankful for this year? Here in the Tualatin Valley, we’re oozing with gratitude for our rolling mountain ranges, bountiful farms and the way in which this fertile land creates some of the best food and wine in the country. That’s a lot of gratitude right there and we think it’s worth expressing in more than words. In fact, show us why you’re thankful for the Tualatin Valley by entering the Focus on Autumn Nature Photo Contest

Thanksgiving weekend is also the last weekend to enter the contest (submissions close November 30!). With so much festive hullabaloo happening throughout Oregon’s Washington County, there will be last-minute photo inspiration everywhere you look:

A good turkey gobble is best followed by vineyard views at the Thanksgiving Wine Weekend. Wineries open their doors for wine tastings overlooking post-harvest vineyards. With your camera in tow, try and capture the fog twirling around the vines or dew drops dangling off the fence posts.

Fall vineyard views by Joel Zak

Fall vineyard views by Joel Zak

For photographers with a sense of humor, head to Alpacas of Oregon for the annual Alpaca Open Barn & Holiday Sale (November 28-29 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.). Here, you’ll find goofy subjects—alpacas!—who are always curious for cameras.  

Alpacas are the best photo subjects. Photo by Joel Zak.

Alpacas are the best photo subjects. Photo by Joel Zak.

The autumn-themed photo contest can still have some wintertime flair with entries from one of our holiday tree farms or at the Helvetia Christmas Festival (November 28-30 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.). Noble and Grand firs stand majestic, ready to be photographed in their green glory.  

Holiday Tree Farm by John Gaudette.

Holiday Tree Farm by John Gaudette.

As if these attractions aren’t reason enough to hit the town with your camera, then maybe the photo contest prizes will nudge you of the door:

Drool-worthy photography gear are the prizes for the photo contest.

Drool-worthy photography gear are the prizes for the photo contest.

 

1st Place:  Canon EOS 70D DSLR Camera, plus UV filter, camera bag, Canon Pixma Pro-100 printer and more (provided by The Shutterbug), plus onOne Perfect Photo Suite 8 Premium Edition software (total value $2,500)
2nd Place:  Binoculars from Leupold Optics and onOne Perfect Photo Suite 8 Premium Edition software (total value $555)
3rd Place:  $100 Visa Gift Card and onOne Perfect Photo Suite 8 Premium Edition software (total value $280)
Honorable Mention:  onOne Perfect Photo Suite 8 Premium Edition software (total value $180)

Enter the Focus on Autumn Nature Photo Contest now!

Nature Passport: Rood Bridge Park

Posted on: November 17th, 2014 by Jackie Luskey No Comments
Rood Bridge Park is perfect for a tranquil stroll or as the jumping off point for a exhilarating adventure.

Rood Bridge Park is perfect for a tranquil stroll or as the jumping off point for a exhilarating adventure.

Tuck the Nature Passport into your camera bag for an easy guide to all-things wildlife in the Tualatin Valley. Knowing what flora and fauna makes each park and refuge its home will help your camera focus on the right subjects—and aid in capturing beautiful photos for the Focus on Autumn Nature Photo Contest. Who knows? Your picture could win you a prize package of pro-photography loot worth $2,500!

This week, we’re zooming into Rood Bridge Park & Rhododendron Garden. As the largest and most diverse park in Hillsboro, Rood Bridge Park is an oasis for nature lovers, outdoor enthusiasts, gardeners and photographers alike. The 61 acres of walking paths weave through wetlands adjacent to the Tualatin River—home to happy ducks and western pond turtles—and enchanting wooded areas—the perfect resting grounds for pacific dogwood and native wildflowers.

And then, of course, there are the rhododendrons. While we’ll have to wait until spring for the big, bold colors of their bloom, rhododendron leaves are evergreen, creating an ever-lush visitor experience in the garden.

If you’re more of an adventurer than a wanderer, then make Rood Bridge Park the launching pad for your next on-the-go photography mission as there is boat access to the Tualatin River and the entry point to the Tualatin Valley Scenic Bikeway!

Rood Bridge Park
Location: 4000 SE Rood Bridge Road, Hillsboro, OR 97123
Phone: (503) 681-6120
Hours: Dawn to dusk daily

Past Nature Passport Blog Posts:
Banks-Vernonia State Trail
Cook Park
Cooper Mountain Nature Park
Fernhill Wetlands
Jackson Bottom Wetlands Loop
L.L. “Stub” Stewart State Park
Magness Memorial Tree Farm

Order your Nature Passport and share your pictures with us on Twitter and Instagram. Tag your photos with #WaCoNature and the #tualatinvalley.

Last Month of Focus on Autumn Nature Photo Contest

Posted on: November 5th, 2014 by Jackie Luskey 4 Comments

Fall is fleeting—and so is your chance to enter the Focus on Autumn Nature Photo Contest!

Okay, that was a bit dramatic. You still have a solid few weeks, as submissions are open through November 30. So why not plan a last-minute getaway with some photography buddies? Doing so is easy and affordable with chic hotels a short drive away from some of the best nature spots. The Century Hotel even overlooks the serene Lake of the Commons, and the McMenamins Grand Lodge hosts an impressive, whimsical garden of its own.

When we say “Focus on Autumn,” we really mean that in whatever way is authentic to you and your passions. If you’re wild for wildlife, then wake up early to catch the sunrise at one of the refuges listed in our Nature Passport. Oenophiles can hold a wine glass in one hand and a camera in the other while visiting vineyards throughout the northern Willamette Valley. Oregon’s bounty is full of all its rustic charm along the scenic tour route in the autumn—snap a picture of a friendly alpaca or a filbert farm. And of course, cyclists and hikers agree that some of the prettiest photo-ops come when you least expect it when trekking local trails.

Wondrous Wildlife

photo by Bruce Lee

photo by Bruce Lee

 

Vineyard Views

photo by Tina Collins

photo by Tina Collins

 

Fertile Farms

photo by John Gaudette

photo by John Gaudette

 

Tantalizing Trails 

photo by Larry Andreasen

photo by Larry Andreasen

 

From the beauty of these photographs, we hope that when we say don’t miss out on the Focus on Autumn Nature Photo Contest, that we also mean that you simply shouldn’t miss out on the wonders of fall in the Tualatin Valley, period. Come experience Oregon’s best spots for fall—and bring your camera with you. Who knows? Your skills could earn the first prize, which includes $2,500 worth of photography gear!

Find more nature photo contest inspiration.


Find places to stay. | Create a personalized itinerary. | Find places to eat. | View the digital visitor guide.

Nature Passport: Magness Memorial Tree Farm

Posted on: October 27th, 2014 by Jackie Luskey No Comments

 

Enter an enchanted world at Magness Memorial Tree Farm, which is just minutes away from Portland.

Enter an enchanted world at Magness Memorial Tree Farm, which is just minutes away from Portland.

The Nature Passport is a treasure trove of Tualatin Valley’s nature hot spots, leading outdoor enthusiasts to the locations that look like they came straight out of a fairytale. For example, Magness Memorial Tree Farm is nestled in the woods via a tranquil nature walk that will lead you to the rustic log cabins that—if you have the right imagination—seem like they might belong to Hansel and Gretel (don’t worry, no witches here!).

Just 23 miles south of Portland, it’s easy to escape city life in favor of something a bit more earthy. Try and spot the more than 30 different species of trees. At the very least, it won’t be hard to identify the Giant Sequoia and Douglas Firs linking the 2.5 miles of hiking paths, as well as the flying squirrels jetting between them. For a little more help, take the free guided tour that is offered every Sunday at 2 p.m. Ask your guide to point out some stinging nettle, which is edible and taste like spinach!

On a dry day, Magness Memorial Tree Farm offers choice options for a picnic. Whether you’re going for a blown-out meal or simply an along-the-way snack, stop in downtown Sherwood on your way to your woodsy adventure. Symposium Coffee will give early-risers a jolt with a Stumptown coffee buzz and Sweet Story Bakery will provide a sugar rush to match.

Watch this segment from Grant’s Getaways explore the Magness Memorial Tree Farm:

Magness Memorial Tree Farm
Location: 31195 SW Ladd Hill Road, Sherwood, OR 97140
Phone: (503) 625-7471
Hours: Daily 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. September-May; Daily 9 .a. – 7 p.m. Memorial Day to Labor Day

With so much eye candy around you, don’t forget to pack that camera. Whether it’s capturing a deer having breakfast in the morning light, the breathtaking view of the Coast Range or an artful stargazing time-lapse, share the best pictures from your visit with us via the Focus on Autumn Nature Photo Contest. Who knows? Your picture could win you a prize package of pro-photography loot worth $2,500!

Past Nature Passport Blog Posts:
Banks-Vernonia State Trail
Cook Park
Cooper Mountain Nature Park
Fernhill Wetlands
Jackson Bottom Wetlands Loop
L.L. “Stub” Stewart State Park

Order your Nature Passport and share your pictures with us on Twitter and Instagram. Tag your photos with #WaCoNature and the #tualatinvalley.

Tualatin Valley Scenic Bikeway: Wheel Turn 8

Posted on: October 20th, 2014 by Jackie Luskey No Comments
A late fall ride on the Banks-Vernonia State Trail shows off the changing colors of the season.

A late fall ride on the Banks-Vernonia State Trail shows off the changing colors of the season.

It seems fitting that just after the Tualatin Valley Scenic Bikeway celebrated its first birthday that we’d come to the end of our wheel turn series. As much as we’ve loved talking about the bikeway over the last few months, we know that you’ll love actually riding it even more.

The last leg of the Tualatin Valley Scenic Bikeway is a much-beloved one: the Banks-Vernonia State Trail. Novice cyclists and those riding with families often choose to simply do the Banks-Vernonia State Trail as its 21-miles of paved paths are ideal for smooth rides that don’t sacrifice a beautiful view. As for the more advanced cyclists who have just completed the 29 miles that preceded it, the Banks-Vernonia State Trails is a soothing finale to your accomplished ride.

Beyond the paved paths, what makes the Banks-Vernonia State Trail so gosh-darn wonderful? For starters, there are the 13 wooden trestles serving as beautiful bridges that connect you not only to your next part of the trail, but also to the trail’s past. Where hikers, cyclists and even horseback riders now enjoy the old wooden bridges, imagine the trestles’ first life as a bustling railway for the lumber industry that made Portland known as “Stumptown.” Thankfully, the nature surrounding the path is far from stumpy. Instead, the Banks-Vernonia State Trail is alive with dense forest, clear streams and the whistling of migratory birds. The scene is truly serene—it’s hard to believe you’re just 26 miles west of Portland, experiencing such natural splendor!

If you would like refresh your mind on the bikeway as a whole, then you can cycle backwards and read the previous Wheel Turn blog posts:

Now that you’ve read about the Tualatin Valley Scenic Bikeway, turn-by-turn, it’s time to experience its path on your own two wheels. Request a free bike map! Not only is it easy to use, but it’s waterproof, too, for a ride day that comes with a slight drizzle!

Find places to stay. | Create a personalized itinerary. | Find places to eat. | View the digital visitor guide.

Focus on Autumn with Fall Harvest

Posted on: October 15th, 2014 by Jackie Luskey No Comments

To focus on autumn means to focus on Oregon’s bounty. Focus on the gentle breeze whistling between the Tualatin Valley’s apple trees. Focus on the bright flavor of a just-picked pear. Focus on the gleeful expression of a child finding that perfect pumpkin in the patch. Focus on the sun setting in the hazelnut orchard. And don’t just focus on these precious moments—take a picture of it for the Focus on Autumn Nature Photo Contest!

 

A filbert farm sunset along the Vineyard and Valley Scenic Tour Route. Photo by Karl Samson.

A filbert farm sunset along the Vineyard and Valley Scenic Tour Route. Photo by Karl Samson.

The Focus on Autumn Nature Photo Contest is our way of celebrating all the ways people experience autumn in the Tualatin Valley. In addition to capturing beautiful moments, photographers are also encouraged to enter their photos for a chance at the prize package that is worth $2,500! With a first, second and third place prize (as well as an honorable mention), you could win premium and professional photography gear like a Canon EOS 70D DSLR camera and amazing editing software.

So, hang your camera strap around your neck and be ready to snap the magical moments you catch at our farms and markets, as well as on the Vineyard and Valley Scenic Tour Route. In case you want a creative sparkplug, we’ve included a few photography ideas below:

From Halloween jack-o-lanterns to Thanksgiving pumpkin pie, pumpkins are a big deal in the Tualatin Valley. Our pumpkin patches are a photographer’s dream with punchy-orange gourds resting below the mountain-scape views and barrels of hay.

The ever-photogenic poinsettias will be waiting to be photographed at the Evening of Lights (November 6 from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m.; Al’s Garden Center in Sherwood; free). Here, stroll through designer-decorated holiday trees and freshly grown poinsettias as one way to usher in the upcoming holidays.

Photo contest procrastinators can rally at the Thanksgiving Wine Weekend (November 28-November 30; varying times, locations and tasting fees). Tour some of Oregon’s best wineries for stellar wines, as well as beautiful photo-ops. Just don’t forget to submit your photos by November 30.

 

A winery along the Vineyard and Valley Scenic Tour Route in fall. Photo by Wayne Flynn.

A winery along the Vineyard and Valley Scenic Tour Route in fall. Photo by Wayne Flynn.

Find even more Tualatin Valley photography examples and inspiration!

Find places to stay. | Create a personalized itinerary. | Find places to eat. | View the digital visitor guide.

Ask a Local: Urban Decanter’s Rebecca Kramer

Posted on: October 10th, 2014 by Jackie Luskey No Comments
Rebecca Kramer, owner of Forest Grove's Urban Decanter, shares her local tips.

Rebecca Kramer, owner of Forest Grove’s Urban Decanter, shares her local tips.

When it comes to vacation planning, nothing is more valuable than the local scoop. So, we turned to Rebecca Kramer, owner of the Forest Grove wine bar Urban Decanter. Having grown up and then started her own business in Oregon’s Washington County, she has the ultimate tips.
 
What makes Urban Decanter so special?
The cozy wine bar offers guests a comfortable atmosphere with a great selection of northwest wines, craft beer and cocktails. We also have homemade soups, panini and small plates. We have created what our guests refer to as a “Cheers” like place to gather.
 
What do you love most about interacting with visitors?
I love connecting with visitors and finding out their stories. So many of my regular guests are like family that it creates a great community around us.
 
From where do you get your cooking inspiration?
Two places: When I go out to eat and Pinterest. I am on Pinterest A LOT to keep my imagination in the kitchen fresh and creative.
 
What’s one can’t-miss attraction for visitors to the area?
You have to go see Forest Grove’s newest tap room, Waltz Brewing…Tell them I sent you!
 
Describe a perfect day in Oregon’s Washington County.
We are the gateway to wine country, so wine tasting is a MUST! I would also be sure to stop and eat at one of the local restaurants such as 1910 Main before finishing up the evening with a bottle of sparkling wine around a fire pit!
 
What’s a favorite “hidden gem” of the area?
The Wilson River. I love that river. It is so relaxing to just drive into the forest and explore.
 
Where do you go when you want some seriously good grub?
Pac Thai doesn’t have one stand out dish, but five: spicy crispy chicken basil, pad thai, pumpkin curry, crab fried rice and tom yum soup!
 
What should visitors to take home as a souvenir?
This is easy! Wine!

Describe the Tualatin Valley in five words or less.
Outdoors, libations, family, farms and picturesque!

The welcoming Urban Decanter is filled with top-notch Oregon wines and Rebecca's soul-satisfying cuisine.

The welcoming Urban Decanter is filled with top-notch Oregon wines and Rebecca’s soul-satisfying cuisine.

 
Other tips from locals:
Curiosities Vintage Mall’s Travis Diskin
Maggie Buns’ Maggie Pike
Clean Water Service’s Sheri Wantland
SakéOne’s Steve Vuylsteke
Bag&Baggage’s Scott Palmer
Vine Gogh’s Jenny Schildan
Cooper Mountain Vineyards’ Barbara Gross
Abbey Creek Vineyard’s Bertony Faustin