BOOK REVIEW: Best Outdoor Adventures Near Portland

NOTE: Sawyer will give a talk about his book at the Canby Public Library on Tuesday, October 11, from 6:30-7:30pm.

Portland’s “Professional Gentleman of Leisure” Adam Sawyer published in 2014 Hiking Waterfalls in Oregon: A Guide to the State’s Best Waterfall Hikes (I’ve used it many times since, and so have our Airbnb guests). He’s been back out exploring around the Portland region for his new guide, also from FalconGuides:


Adam Sawyer, Best Outdoor Adventures Near Portland, Oregon: A Guide to the City’s Greatest Hiking, Paddling, and Cycling (Helena, MT: FalconGuides, 2016), 232 pp.

Most outdoor recreation guide books are devoted to single activities, such as hiking or paddling. This new guide aims to provide lovers of nature information for a variety of activities all in one place. Known for its great trails, waterways, and natural areas, the Portland region is a great place to try different types of recreation. The guide book first covers cycling, separating routes between Road Rides, Bike Paths, and Singletrack Trail Rides. Hiking is next, divided between In Town (such as the 4T Trail and Tryon Creek State Park, our personal favorite) and Out of Town trails (a majority of these being in the Columbia River Gorge).* The paddling section is next, split between Flat Water (mostly in the metro area) and Whitewater (farther out river adventures).

Each adventure includes all the necessary before-you-go/need-to-know information, a detailed description of the ride/hike/paddle, and beautiful color photographs by Sawyer himself (if you’d like a regular dose of beautiful Portland/Oregon nature photos everyday, then like his Facebook page). The sections for cycling and paddling also list some recommended outfitters/guides to get the gear you need and perhaps take a lesson or two if you’re a novice. Pages at the front of the book provide information on safety and first aid, the ten essentials to take with you, trail etiquette, and advice on hiking with kids or dogs. Also, Sawyer summarizes those adventures (and others not included in this book) that provide stunning views.

This book would be a welcome addition to your bookshelf or backpack – or a gift for a family member or friend (the holiday season will soon be upon us, you know). If you’re looking to get off your own two feet and get moving a little faster or experience the city from the water, get a copy of Best Outdoor Adventures Near Portland, Oregon.

*If you’re sole interest in exploring around Portland is by hiking, then you could check out FalconGuides’ new second edition of Best Hikes Near Portland, Oregon (just published this last Spring), which covers hikes in the coast region, around Mt. Hood and Mt. St. Helens, and in the Gorge; or their pocket-sized guide to hikes in the city, Best Easy Day Hikes Portland, Oregon. Also, if you want to be able to identify animal tracks while you’re out exploring, they have published a second edition of the pocked-sized Scats and Tracks of the Pacific Coast: A Field Guide to the Signs of 70 Wildlife Species.


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Wednesday photo of the week: out on a limb


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Monday thought of the week: brooks not books

A thought:

Teach your children to bring them in for themselves. Take your text from the brooks, not from the booksellers.

– naturalist Louis Agassiz on how children should collect natural history specimens, quoted in David Starr Jordan‘s Science Sketches (Chicago: A. C. McClurg and Company, 1896), pp. 146-7

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BOOK: Woodland Adventure Handbook

If you run a nature camp or family nature group and have access to a wooded area near you, this just might be a book you need on your shelf.


Adam Dove, Woodland Adventure Handbook (London: Frances Lincoln Limited, 2015), 128 pp. 

Publisher’s description Here are ten recipes for woodland adventures, with ten stories to capture the imagination of younger children. Each recipe provides parents and carers with a list of the kit required (generally, simple household objects) and step by step instructions for setting up and leading the adventure. You might be building a fairy village, unearthing pirate treasure or even setting off rainbow volcanoes. Drawing on the fast-growing Forest School movement, the Woodland Adventure Handbook is perfect for introducing children to the magic of playing among the trees, while learning useful skills and gaining an appreciation of nature.

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Wednesday photo of the week: among giants


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BOOK REVIEW: 59 Illustrated National Parks: 100th Anniversary of the National Park Service

National parks played a big part in my family’s summer this year. We visited Mount Rainier NP twice, Olympic National Park, and Lassen Volcanic National Park. And to gain entry into those parks we had my son’s Every Kid In A Park 4th grader pass. We made memories in those parks, and we will surely visit them again for new experiences.


Mount Rainier NP with my kids, July 2016

Visiting national parks this year felt like a duty we had to complete since 2017 is the National Park Service’s centennial. One hundred years ago, the United States formed an agency to oversee national parks (predominantly in the West) that you could count on your two hands. Of those ten, we’ve been to six: Yellowstone, Mount Rainier, Crater Lake, Glacier, and Lassen Volcanic (the others are Sequoia, Wind Cave, Mesa Verde, and Rocky Mountain). While in national park gift shops this summer, we saw products showing vintage-style artwork depicting parks. This artwork graced a series of posters put out in the late 1930s and early 1940s as a way to encourage American citizens to travel and see their country. Long forgotten, only 11 of 14 WPA posters have been rediscovered (and new designs created for other parks) and have become popular depictions of notable landscapes. I purchased a bunch of postcards this summer. Beautiful, no?


I look forward to a book in the future that showcases all of the WPA designs (old and new) that stem from the passion of former park ranger Doug Leen (you can order posters and other products through his website). Until then, I can enjoy a book that presents newly-commissioned poster art for all 59 national parks from a group of artists working with designer Joel Anderson.


Joel Anderson and Nathan Anderson, 59 Illustrated National Parks: 100th Anniversary of the National Park Service (Nashville, TN: Anderson Design Group, 2015), 160 pp.

The 70+ poster images show the wondrous variety of natural features that grace the American landscape, from Cascadian peaks in the Pacific Northwest to the swamps of Everglades National Park in Florida (presented chronologically from when each park was established, starting with Yellowstone National Park in 1872 and ending with Pinnacles National Park, established in 2013 by President Barack Obama). And while this large coffee table book is a visual treat whether you check it out because of your love for national parks or of art in general, the authors provide plenty of detailed historical information about each park. Here are the poster images for the three national parks we visited this summer:

asa-np-mt-ranier_rgb asa_olympic_rgb asa_lassenvolcanicnp_xl

Whether for yourself or as a gift to a national park-loving friend, reading and enjoying the images in 59 Illustrated National Parks is a great way to celebrate the NPS centennial. Also prints of these posters are available for purchase, as well as postcard sets, from the Anderson Design Group website.

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Monday thought of the week: all meant to be naturalists

A thought:

We were all meant to be naturalists, each in his degree, and it is inexcusable to live in a world so full of the marvels of plant and animal life and to care for none of these things.

Charlotte Mason, Home Education (1886)

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Wednesday photo of the week: under the bridge


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Monday thought of the week: hope

A thought:

I fear I will always be a poor and bumbling naturalist, forever in the awkward early stages of a relationship with nature. But perhaps there’s hope for the next generation.

– Nathanael Johnson, reflecting on exploring nature with his young daughter in Unseen City: The Majesty of Pigeons, the Discreet Charm of Snails, & Other Wonders of the Urban Wilderness (New York: Rodale Books, 2016), p. 205.

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Where to go: to visit a nature center

This is the first in a new series of posts on the 2nd and 4th Fridays of each month that will highlight great places to go in the Portland region for a particular nature activity.


Where to go: to visit a nature center

Portland and its surrounding region have so much to offer in the way of natural areas to bring your kids to explore and play in nature. From up in the mountains down through through urban parks and all the way to the Pacific coast, those of us living here are truly fortunate at the variety of outdoor experiences we can have. The region also has many great places to go for nature interpretation, where we can learn more about what we see on the trails. This post will share about the region’s nature centers and other facilities with environmental education opportunities. The provided links will go to their websites where you can find basic visitor information such as hours of operations and directions.

In the Portland metro region:


My son reading about local birds at the Audubon Society of Portland

Audubon Society of Portland – Located off of NW Cornell Rd. and nestled next to Forest Park, the Audubon Society of Portland offers a unique nature experience in the city. While the nature store is fun to peruse whether or not you have extra cash to spend , the bulk of your visit should be spent on the trails in the 150-acre nature sanctuary looking for birds and wildlife around Balch Creek and visiting their various education birds at the Wildlife Care Center. From Julio the Great Horned Owl and Ruby the Turkey Vulture to Aristophanes the Raven and Jack and Lillie, a pair of American Kestrels, kids will love the opportunity to get a close-up look at some striking native birds. Also, through the windows of the care center, you might have a chance at seeing Audubon volunteers helping other birds that have been brought in for care. The Audubon Society of Portland offers nature programming throughout the year, including summer, winter, and spring break camps, nature nights featuring talks by local authors, volunteer-led bird outings around the region, and special education events. Sign up for their email newsletter and like their Facebook page. Better join, become a member!


A salvaged bald eagle nest on display at the Jackson Bottom Wetlands Education Center

Jackson Bottom Wetlands Education Center – The Jackson Bottom Wetlands Education Center in Hillsboro offers a wealth of learning about the flora and fauna of its namesake natural area, the Jackson Bottom Wetlands Preserve. Visitors to the preserve pass by the Education Center as they access the trails. It’s worth a bit of time to step in to look at the nature exhibits, including a beautiful display showcasing a full bald eagle’s nest that was saved when a tree at Fernhill Wetlands in Forest Grove had to come down. The interactive exhibits are great for kids, and the center also has a small nature store. A large covered deck overlooks the preserve, and is a perfect spot for a picnic lunch. The Education Center offers a variety of nature programs throughout the year.


Nature table fun in the nature center at Tryon Creek State Natural Area

Tryon Creek State Natural Area – The Friends of Tryon Creek operate a charming Nature Center in the largely forested, 645-acre Tryon Creek State Natural Area in SW Portland. Stop in to the center before or after a hike in the many miles of trails (many crossing Tryon or other creeks – kids just love bridges! Perfect places to play “Poohsticks”) to learn about the park’s plants, animals, and habitats in which they live. The center has many interpretive displays, including hands-on ones for kids. A library and coloring area are great for more quiet time, and a store provides nature items, the purchase of which will benefit the park’s mission to connect people to nature. The Friends offer a variety of nature programming throughout the year, including regular ranger programs, story times, and summer, winter, and spring break camps. And kids ages 6-12 can become junior rangers here through the Oregon State Parks program. Families can enjoy the annual Trillium Festival and Owl Fest. They also have a variety of self-guided activities on their website you can print out and bring with you. Sign up for their email newsletter and like their Facebook page.


Tualatin Hills Nature Center and the Nature Mobile

Tualatin Hills Nature Center – The Nature Center at Tualatin Hills Nature Park provides interpretation of urban natural history for visitors to this 220-acre forested and wetland park in the middle of Beaverton (near Nike). Before or after hitting the kid-friendly trails in the park, kids will enjoy checking out some exhibits, including an awesome digital screen microscope and a nature kaleidoscope just outside the center in the native plant garden. Inside there is a library for taking a break (with a gas fireplace for the winter) and a nature store. Tualatin Hills Nature Center offers nature programming throughout the year, including summer, winter, and spring break camps, preschool and family programs, the Nature Mobile, and special events such as Newt Day every October. Checking the seasonal activity guide for THPRD is the best way to learn the full details of current programs. You can also print out seasonal nature scavenger hunt sheets to bring to the park (find those here, in the right column). Like their Facebook page.


Nature on display in the Wildlife Center at the Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge

Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge – Visitors to the Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge in Sherwood can devote part of their time away from the trails to the beautiful diorama displays in the Wildlife Center – there are animal models throughout making a fun activity for kids to spot them all. The displays also tell of the history of the land and about the national wildlife refuge system. Run by the Friends of the Refuge, families can get their questions answered by volunteers, check out the large nature store Nature’s Overlook, and see what is to be spotted from a birder’s scope that looks out onto the refuge. The Friends of the Refuge offer nature programming throughout the year, such as guided morning or evening nature walks, summer camps, and the Tualatin River Bird Festival every May. Sign up for their email newsletter and like their Facebook page.


The World Forestry Center in Washington Park

World Forestry Center – Located in Washington Square next to the Oregon Zoo and Portland Children’s Museum, the admission-based World Forestry Center‘s Discovery Museum offers hands-on exhibits and displays about the importance of trees to humans and sustainable forestry in the Pacific Northwest and beyond. Highlights include having your photo taken in a river rafting simulation, a chairlift that takes you vertically up to a tree canopy, and a forest machine to sit in and pretend to be controlling. The Museum also has an art gallery, film theater, and nature store. Sign up for their email newsletter and like their Facebook page. Admission is discounted to $3 on the first Thursday of every month.

In Vancouver, WA:

Columbia Springs – On SE Evergreen Hwy just east of I-205, Columbia Springs has trout hatcheries, a natural area with trails, and an education center which offers “events, programs, and workshops to teach people of all ages surprising, amazing things about nature, and the practical ways we can protect this shared treasure.” There are guided nature walks on the third Thursday of most months, an annual Kids Fishing Festival in May, and an annual Family Nature Fest in October. Learn about all of their programming here. Sign up for their email newsletter and like their Facebook page.

Water Resources Education Center – On SE Columbia Hwy just east of I-5, the City of Vancouver’s Water Resources Education Center provides opportunities for “exploring and experiencing water, nature and the environment” through interactive exhibit and hands-on activities. Children can see aquaria swimming with fish and little ones can play in the toddler-friendly Puddles Place. Outside the center there are native plant gardens and a wetland to explore. Second Saturday programs explore different topics each month, and there is an annual celebration in September to celebrate sturgeons. Like their Facebook page.

A little farther out:

L.L. Stub Stewart State Park in Buxton has a Discovery Depot to learn about the park’s flora, fauna, and history; the Tillamook Forest Center in the Tillamook National Forest interprets forest natural history and forestry management in the region, and includes a 40-ft lookout tower; the Columbia Gorge Discovery Center & Museum in The Dalles is a museum, not a nature center, but if you have kids interested in prehistoric mammals, this is a must; and the Avery House Nature Center in Corvallis provides broad-based environmental education programs.


nature center is proposed for Forest Park, an education center will open in the near future at the Oregon Zoo, a visitor center at Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge in Washington is in the early stages of planning, and an education center at West Eugene Wetlands in Eugene is in the works.

* If I have missed any places you think should be included in this post, comment below or contact me at michaeldavidbarton AT gmail DOT com. Thank you.

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