What’s the Word?In Washington County, Oregon

Archive for the ‘Nature’ Category

Eco Earth Day

Posted on: April 21st, 2014 by Jackie Luskey No Comments
Reap the rewards of Cooper Mountain Vineyards biodynamic practices: great Oregon wine!

Reap the rewards of Cooper Mountain Vineyards biodynamic practices: great Oregon wine!

With Earth Day on April 22, we hope you’ve been brainstorming how to give your home planet some extra love. Your environmental efforts don’t have to be put on pause when you’re traveling. In fact, Oregon’s Washington County may inspire new ways to bring green into your everyday. See below for a checklist of eco-activities to complete during your upcoming visit.

Earth inspires art and art inspires us to be better to our earth. Example, Art on Broadway’s series “Floating Worlds” by Thomas Eldridge (exhibit runs through May 3). A born-and-bred Oregonian, Eldridge’s paintings are abstract realism that feels simultaneously ethereal and earthy. With works like “Jousting Peacocks” and “Spawning Salmon” it’s easy to see how Eldridge’s dreamlike paintings resonate a deep connection to our terrestrial world.

The Tualatin Valley is home to a magnificent ecological history of volcanic proportions! To see what we mean, visit the Washington County Museum’s exhibit, Rocks and Minerals of the Pacific NW (April 21-April 26). Prepare for a sustainable future by learning about the amazingness of the Earth’s past via thunder eggs, petrified wood, quartz, agate, jasper, metallic ores, and gems.

Updating your spring wardrobe doesn’t have to bring a pang of guilt, especially when the clothes are second-hand ones. The semi-annual event for women Size 14-32, Curvy Chic Closet, is a hotspot for re-purposed and gently used plus size clothing and accessories (April 24-April 27, free to public).

Drinking red can be oh-so green with a jaunt along the Sustainable Wine Trail. Going beyond mere organic practices, Cooper Mountain Vineyards employs biodynamic farming. This approach means that high-quality wine is produced through the utmost respects of the vineyard’s unique ecosystem, from the lunar cycle to the chickens that peck bugs off the vine.

You’ll be wiped after checking all these eco-activities off of your to-do list. Get a good night’s sleep at L.L. Stub Stewart State Park. The campground includes charming cabins that allow you to wake up next to some of the area’s best hiking trails—can’t get much closer to nature than that!

P.S. For even for eco-friendly goodness, check out Earth Mama Musings.

Poetry on Wheels

Posted on: April 18th, 2014 by Jackie Luskey No Comments

Happy National Poetry Month! To celebrate, we have a poem about something that moves us, both metaphorically and physically. Since its opening in August, the Tualatin Valley Scenic Bikeway has become a standout star for Portland area outdoorsy types. It’s easy to see why with the bikeway’s sweeping views that allow cyclists to become engulfed in the air, water, roads, and spirit of the Tualatin Valley. Our very own Allison George captured the heart of the Tualatin Valley in the poem below, which is accompanied by a slideshow (each slide corresponds with a line in the poem!).


Tualatin Valley Scenic Bikeway
By Allison George

Allison George from the Washington County Visitors Association is a cyclists...and poet!

Allison George from the Washington County Visitors Association is a cyclists…and poet!

Tualatin Valley, Twality Plains, hunting-gathering grounds of the Atfalati
Rusted gates and barbed wire, century farms with crumbling barns
Peachy pigs and clucking hens
A triceratops, her name is Breezy
Crimson clover
Honey, apples, blackberries, corn
Railroad trestles, lonesome train cars
Tractors, horses, wheat and hay
Cow poop
Grinding coffee beans
Whispering Pioneer bones
Deep wing beats of the Great Blue Heron
Golden yellow double lines
Meandering Tualatin River
Ancient, roaring Ice Age floods
Cool Coast Range air
Wheels set us free

We’re not the only ones utterly enchanted by the lyrical rhythm of the Tualatin Scenic Bikeway. 1859 Oregon Magazine touted the bikeway and the Northwest Bicycle Safety Council has chosen stretches of it for the Beaverton Banks & Beyond Bicycle Tour.

Find even more R&R, pedal by pedal.
Join the Tualatin Valley Scenic Bikeway Facebook Page

Nature Passport: Banks-Vernonia State Trail

Posted on: April 16th, 2014 by Jackie Luskey No Comments
After spotting the Pileated Woodpecker on the Banks-Vernonia State Trail, get a matching stamp of the bird in your Nature Passport.

After spotting the Pileated Woodpecker on the Banks-Vernonia State Trail, get a matching stamp of the bird in your Nature Passport. Photo by B. Fredrickson

As we enter the height of Oregon birding season, there’s never been a better time to get your hands on a Nature Passport. No visa need!—the passport simply presents a friendly quest for wildlife watchers to experience the beauty of our prime parks, wetlands, refuges and forests. Each month, we’ll showcase one page of the Nature Passport and the stamp you’ll receive when you visit that specific locale. First up, the Banks-Vernonia State Trail!

Once a bustling train route between urban areas and the last virgin Douglas-fir forest in Northwest Oregon, the Banks-Vernonia State Trail has undergone a massive transformation since its 1920s locomotive days. For over the past two decades, the only steam blowing along the 16 trestle bridges has been from the breath of the hikers, cyclists, and horseback riders who recreationally use it. Only 26 miles from Portland—and a full 21 miles of trails to enjoy—the Banks Vernonia State Trail is a gorgeous stop in your Nature Passport journey. How could it not be with the flora that has reclaimed the forest since its train days? While on the trail, keep an eye out for western red cedar, lupine and red huckleberry.

And of course, your experience here wouldn’t be complete without a Pileated Woodpecker sighting, as well as a stamp of one in the Banks-Vernonia State Trail page of your Nature Passport. The Pileated Woodpecker’s striking appearance is made from its bold white stripes and flaming red crest. In addition to sighting the bird, look for the unique, rectangular holes that the Pileated Woodpecker makes when searching for ants.

Below, learn even more about the trail from Oregon’s resident travel expert, Grant McOmbie:

Banks-Vernonia State Trail
Location: 30380 NW Highway 47, Buxton, OR 97109
Phone: (503) 324-0606
Hours: Day use areas open dawn to dusk, year-round

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

Quirky Roadside Attraction: Venomous Reptile Museum

Posted on: March 28th, 2014 by Jackie Luskey No Comments
"Billy" is an albino western diamondback rattlesnake in the Venomous Reptile Museum.

“Billy” is an albino western diamondback rattlesnake in the Venomous Reptile Museum.

Driving down Tigard’s SW Pacific Highway, it’s easy to zoom along, not realizing there’s an astounding array of snakes, lizards, turtles, frogs, tarantulas, scorpions, and centipedes mere feet away from the busy street. Pull into the House of Reptiles and Venomous Reptile Museum for a dose of reptile education (11507 SW Pacific Highway, Tigard; open Monday-Friday 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday noon to 5 p.m.).

There’s a certain beauty walking into the door, feeling the buzz of the aquariums in the low-lit space. The House of Reptiles is so much more than a pet store and its employees are so much more than pet sellers. Any sense of intimidation is immediately melted by the warm, smart, and welcoming staff.

The $3 entry price into the store’s attached Venomous Reptile Museum is a must. The museum is simply a snug nook, but it provides an opportunity to see dozens of venomous creatures at once—and for those creatures to see you, too. Walking calmly by the black mamba, king cobra, diamondback rattlesnake, and deathstalker scorpion—with only glass walls as separation—is a rare and exhilarating treat. You’ll be wowed by each reptiles majestic scales, inquisitive stare, and graceful movements.

True reptile enthusiasts can make a weekend of scaled adventures, attending the Pacific NW Reptile & Exotic Animal Expo (March 29 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and March 30 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Washington County Fair Complex, $7 admission). Here, exotic animals from around the world will be showcased and celebrated.

If reptiles make you nervous, visit an inanimate one first. Beaverton’s new Pietro’s Pizza includes a glow-in-the-dark mini-golf course, peppered with pirate-themed obstacles. You’ll know you’re toward the end when you have to swing your golf ball past the fluorescent—and totally not real—alligator.

Past Quirky Roadside Attractions:
World’s Tallest Barber Pole
Breezy the Triceratops
Chief Kno-Tah
Bomb Crater at Rock Creek Tavern
What’s Up, Harvey
A&W Burger Family
Dress like a Quirky Roadside Attraction

Nature Passport for Intrepid Trekkers

Posted on: March 24th, 2014 by Jackie Luskey 2 Comments
Birding, wildlife watching, and outdoor adventure with the Nature Passport.

Birding, wildlife watching, and outdoor adventure with the Nature Passport.

With the more than 200 species of birds who make Oregon’s Washington County their home, it can be a bit overwhelming to figure out where to start your birding vacation in the area. What’s a birder to do? Enter the Nature Passport, which gorgeously organizes our 727 square miles of wetlands, parks, refuges, forests, and waters into a user-friendly and page-by-page guidebook. Here, wildlife and botanical aficionados are invited to check-off species from their “life-list,” as well as engage in the interactive elements of the Nature Passport.

These interactive elements include finding specific flora and fauna at each destination in the passport. As you visit each breathtaking locale, ask a park employee to stamp your passport with the park’s very own emblem. Anyone who collects every park’s stamp will have filled their passport, earning the ultimate bragging rights. With each stamp in your passport, don’t miss the chance to ask each park’s resident expert questions about the habitat and its dwellers, too. In addition to collecting stamps, the passport also details directions for bark rubbings, effectively creating your own one-of-a-kind stamp for two locations.

Of course, the Nature Passport is not meant to have wildlife watchers in a frenzy, running all over Oregon’s Washington County as they try to complete the Nature Passport in one afternoon. Instead, move at your own pace, whether you’re completing the passport as a bona fide birder or a family with curious kids. Each stop on the Nature Passport journey welcomes more than just watching. While exploring, you’ll find opportunities for hiking, cycling, paddling, fishing and a plethora of other outdoor odysseys.

Have we piqued your interest? Order your very own (and free!) Nature Passport. We’ll also be profiling each of the Nature Passport’s location on the blog—so stay tuned!


Pi Day in the Pi-cific Northwest

Posted on: March 14th, 2014 by Jackie Luskey No Comments
For Pi Day, take a 3.14 mile hike through Oregon's Washington County.

For Pi Day, take a 3.14 mile hike through Oregon’s Washington County.

It’s everyone’s favorite nerd holiday: Pi Day! Oregon’s Washington County is part of the Pacific Northwest’s high-tech country. The engineering powerhouses and innovative start-ups throughout our region have rightly earned our nickname of “Silicon Forrest.” With so many smarties calling here home—and visiting on business and pleasure—the day of 3.14 is a pretty big deal. See below, for some fun ways to celebrate.

Who knew math would give us an excuse to eat pie? That’s just what we’re going to do at Banning’s Restaurant and Pie House (11477 SW Pacific Highway, Tigard). The family run 24-hour diner makes homemade pies around the clock. Each of the diner’s 20 pies and cakes are made from scratch, seven days a week. From cream pies to fruit pies to chocolate pies, it’s hard to stick to just one kind. So, go ahead—have 3.14 slices.

If you think a pocket protector is geek-chic, then you’re going to love the VintageTek Museum (4620 SW Beaverton Hillsdale Hwy., Portland; open Fridays and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.). The museum is dedicated to preserving vintage memorabilia from Tektronix, the local electronics company founded in 1945 that helped launch the development of today’s thriving “Silicon Forest.” Curious what an Oscilloscope looks like in person? Here’s your chance.

Are you ready for a Pi Day activity? The Cooper Mountain Nature Park has 3 ½ miles of trails (18892 SW Kemmer Road, Beaverton; open dawn to dusk). Now, we know that’s not 3.14 miles, but a little navigating could create a hike-length honoring the mighty Pi. With views of the Chehalem Mountains in front of you, wander through white oak, madrone woodlands, and a conifer forest.

Just like the mathematical constant of Pi, there are infinite ways to explore Oregon’s Washington County.

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

Girl Scout Vacation

Posted on: March 12th, 2014 by Jackie Luskey No Comments
Camp like a Girl Scout at L.L. "Stub" Stewart Park with many badge worthy activities at your fingertips.

Camp like a Girl Scout at L.L. “Stub” Stewart Park with many badge worthy activities at your fingertips.

Woe is me! The Girl Scout cookie season is over. No more Thin Mints. Where did I hide my secret stash of Somoas? What I love most about Girl Scout cookie season, though, is asking the girls at the cookie stand about the colorful insignia peppering their sashes. Oregon’s Washington County is the perfect badge-earning Girl Scouts getaway. If you’re too old for a troop, then come here for a kitschy Girl-Scouts themed bachelorette party or girls’ trip!

Folklore Badge
An original Girl Scout badge was Folklore, where girls learned how American folk culture played into the country’s history. The Vineyard and Valley Scenic Tour Route is dotted with historical sites like the Old Scotch Church. Here, learn about the Kalapuya Native Americans, as well as early Oregon Trail settlers.

Painting Badge
The Vine Gogh Artist Bar & Studio takes groups step-by-step through the painting process. The studio’s kids schedule includes cute pandas and an educational interpretation of Van Gogh’s “Starry Night.”

Amphibians and Reptiles Badge
The House of Reptiles and Venomous Reptile Museum has a passionate staff for Reptile Parties. Ask about Pago and Priscilla, the Argentine black and white tegu lizard pair who are smart and social!

Triple Threat: Cyclist, Hiker, Sports Badges
Earn a sweep of badges at L.L. “Stub” Stewart State Park, which offers 21 miles of paved and multi-use trails for biking, hiking, and disc-golf. Spend the night in the park’s adorable cabins.

Naturalist Badge
Explore the environment with the interactive Nature Passport, which leads curious minds through nature walks in rural wetlands, refuges, river banks, and forests.

Locavore Badge
Girl Scouts created a slew of amazing, modern-minded badges like this one. Become a locavore pro at our farmers markets, u-pick farms, and the kid-friendly Sweet Story Bakery (who sources its blueberries from the farm co-op Our Table). Discuss art and food together at the nobleONI Café at the Oregon College of Art and Craft.  Chef Leather Storrs is a locavore crusader, bringing his passion for local food to the art school his father built.

You’re going to love Oregon’s Washington County—Scout’s Honor!

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

Fuel Your Hobbies

Posted on: January 17th, 2014 by Jackie Luskey No Comments
What's your hobby. From bowling to antiquing, we can help you enjoy your hobbies to the fullest.

What’s your hobby. From bowling to antiquing, we can help you enjoy your hobbies to the fullest.

When it comes to New Year’s resolutions, the best ones reignite an existing passion rather than try to force a new one. Your resolutions should honor what you love. Fittingly, January is National Hobby Month and we have tons of ways for you to indulge in your favorite pastimes in Oregon’s Washington County.

Pedaling the 50 mile stretch of the Tualatin Valley Scenic Bikeway is one of the best ways to clear one’s head for 2014. The bikeway is best for intermediate and advanced cyclists, but newbies can enjoy the 21-mile sweep along the Banks-Vernonia State Trail.

Be the kingpin of your bowling team by practicing on vacation. The 42 state-of-the-art lanes at Big Al’s could be the home of your 300-game. Hobbyists of the gamer or sports variety go ga-ga for the big screens and exceptional arcade.

Dust off that box in the attic—it’s time to revitalize your favorite collection! How can you not with two amazing and MAX-accessible markets rolling through the Washington County Fair Complex. First hit up Portland’s Rain of Glass Show and Sale (January 25-26, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., $7 admission) for all things glass: glass appraisals, displays, and glass repairs.

The Funky Junk Sisters Vintage Flea Market (January 31-February 1, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., $7 admission) is a favorite of Flea Market Style Magazine, Romantic Homes Magazine, and Flea Market Décor Magazine for upcycled treasures.

Take in amazing views by boat or canoe. Hagg Lake has tranquil waters and (of course) beautiful fishing from March to November. Get ready to reel in crappie, bluegill, trout, largemouth bass, rainbow trout, and yellow perch. Angler’s licenses can be obtained from the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife for $33.

Al’s Garden Center helps gardeners keep their love of flora thriving through the winter with free or affordable weekend workshops for succulent bowls, indoor herb gardens, and orchids.

Is cooking your hobby? Get inspiration for new recipes with our soup roundup, combining National Hobby Month with National Soup Month!

An Unexpected Journey: Hobbit Itinerary

Posted on: January 9th, 2014 by Jackie Luskey No Comments
You have to admit, our vineyards, valleys, and farms look rather shire-esque.

You have to admit, our vineyards, valleys, and farms look rather shire-esque.

“I am looking for someone to share in an adventure that I am arranging, and it’s very difficult to find anyone.”

In J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit, this is what Gandalf says to the at-first lackadaisical Bilbo Baggins. Gandalf cajoles Bilbo into a high-stakes journey through Middle-earth, but we tease that they should’ve embarked on a stress-free adventure in Oregon’s Washington County. Tolkien fans can fill an entire weekend in the spirit of The Hobbit.

Friday: Prep for the Journey
You can never read Tolkien’s work or watch Peter Jackson’s adaptations too many times. Catch the second installment of The Hobbit movie series at Cinetopia Progress Ridge 14 “living room theater.” The Desolation of Smaug is intense, but the reclined seats and craft beers make the saga easier to bear.

Or catch the flick at Regal Cinemas Stadium 18 & IMAX, which is smack-dab in the middle of Bridgeport Village shopping center. After the movie, hunt for the “one ring.” Though, the ring you choose will make you stand out instead of—like in The Hobbit—invisible.

Saturday: A Hobbit’s Life
As they enjoyed a bucolic life, hobbits would feel a kinship with the sweeping pastoral beauty that can be found in Oregon’s Washington County. Live by the values of the shire for a day by touring or volunteering at Heart 2 Heart Farms. You’ll learn about agricultural practices, herbal remedies, and raising livestock. To feel as short as a hobbit, sit on the gargantuan and beautiful wood furniture around the farm’s bonfire pit.

After a day of shire-esque living, unwind with family-friendly (and Tolkien-friendly!) live performance of Theatre in the Grove’s The Hobbit (January 17-26, Friday-Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2:30 p.m., $14 admission).

Sunday: Long Trek Home
Aficionados of The Hobbit know that the ending of the saga includes the long trek back to the shire. Before heading home yourself, pay homage to the Hobbit’s footslog with a lush hike along the Banks-Vernonia State Trail. The walk is magical in its own right with 12 bridges, railroad trestles, and amazing views.

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

Redefining “Snowbird”

Posted on: January 7th, 2014 by Jackie Luskey No Comments
The Blue Heron nest in Oregon's Washington County's beautiful refuges and wetlands.

The Blue Heron nest in Oregon’s Washington County’s beautiful refuges and wetlands.

Turn a shivering Brrr! into an exclamation, Birds! While much of the nation is making its way through harsh winter storms, Oregon’s Washington County is staying true to its temperate weather. While the area experiences winter via rainy days, foggy mornings, nighttime chills, and occasional flurries, the geography generally offers a balmy and pleasant wintertime for visitors of both the human and fowl variety.  Winter is indeed a spectacular time to go birding in Oregon’s Washington County.

Reasons to Winter Bird Watch Here:

  1. With less foliage, it is easier not only to spot birds, but also tracks leading to foraging spots.
  2. As resources are less plentiful, it’s more common for several species of birds to congregate in a mixed flock during the colder months. Seeing many species together is a special experience, as well as a chance to check multiple birds off of your “must-see” list at once.
  3. At the Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge alone, an average of 20,000 waterfowl—including Canada Geese, northern pintails, and mallards—can be observed in one day. And Bald Eagles are counted as a commonly seen species. At the Jackson Bottom Wetlands and Fernhill Wetlands, catch a glimpse of the round-headed American Wigeon bobbing in the water. It truly is magic to see the Great Blue Heron nesting amidst the winter marshes, as well.

Winter Birding Tips:

  1. Check the weather report before you go! Dress right for the adventure and you’ll be happy and cozy whether it’s rainy, snowy, or foggy.
  2. Just because it’s not the dead heat of summer, doesn’t mean you can’t get dehydrated! Bring water, snacks, and sunscreen for your day in the refuges.
  3. Keep any valuable gear in check against unexpected winter elements. We suggest a harness or neck strap attached to a pair of water-resistant binoculars.


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