33 posts categorized "Outdoor Adventures"

Spring break in the rain

March 26, 2014

Oh! The "opening weekend" of spring break for PPS was gorgeous. Epic. We have put tables and chairs outside and are eating meals there when the weather is good enough, and this weather took "good enough" to extreme. We were planning the summer in all its beauty, the kids were all asking, could we go to the pool? How about tomorrow? No one jumps to the logical extreme like a child with a taste of warm spring sun. Monday, I took a bunch of kids with me to the nursery, and we picked out plants with the glorious excitement that can only come in that sort of beautiful weather. I went for a run with my oldest through the Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden and it just seemed like the most beautiful spring break ever devised.

And then came the rain. I went running yesterday at lunch and the wind had begun to lift all the blossoms off the cherry trees on the waterfront and they were blowing everywhere like, I said, snow or ash or confetti. When we went out with kids it was for errands and we got so wet.

Later I went to the thrift store on bikes with kids and we dodged the rain on the way home and we laughed and brought home our finds to show off with relish but I got back and saw the just-begun garden and was hit with the wow realization that the rest of the break would be like this: little if any opportunities for digging or planting or outside adventure or sipping coffee in the little "cafe."

If you have your children at home for the rest of the break, what are your plans to cope with the downpour that looks pretty constant from here on out? Or if you have them in camps, how are they liking the wet weather? How about this weekend: a rainy visit to the beach or just holing up at home?

Weekend Warriors - July 26-28, 2013

July 24, 2013

Here’s the scoop for the weekend. For more ideas on what to do this weekend, check the Events Calendar on Metro Parent's PDX Kids Calendar and the urbanMamas calendar page.

Enjoy free admission to the Portland Art Museum. Enjoy free and easy bike parking, free Museum admission, and snacks from some of Portland's finest pedal-powered food carts, including Taco Pedalers, Salt & Straw Ice Cream, Moberi-Bike Smoothies, Masala Popcorn, and more. Friday 5-8pm.

Flicks on the Bricks at Pioneer Courthouse Square. The Square will be transformed into Portland's largest outdoor movie theater for the entire community to enjoy. This Friday Finding Nemo. Friday at dusk. Free!

Kids' Discovery Hike. Enjoy the breathtaking beauty of this Northwest forest while learning about native plants, wildlife, and the inspiring history of Portland's Forest Park. Designed for kids ages 4-10 with parent accompaniment, hike is free but space is limited, so reserve your spot now! Saturday 9:30-11:30am.

Continue reading "Weekend Warriors - July 26-28, 2013" »


July 17, 2013

Here’s the scoop for the weekend. For more ideas on what to do this weekend, check the Events Calendar on Metro Parent's PDX Kids Calendar and the urbanMamas calendar page.

This Weekend


Toot Toot Beep Beep Art Adventure at Central Library. Join artist and educator Anya Hankin and participate in an energetic reading of Toot Toot Beep Beep and then get creative with glue, tissue paper, pens and googly eyes as you make your own vibrant vehicle collages come to life. Friday 10:30-11:30am. Free!

Storytime with Olive Rootbeer and Dingo at Open Space Cafe.  Join your favorite story tellers and singers Olive Rootbeer and Dingo for an hour of singing, jumping, bellowing and monkeying. Friday 3:30-4:30pm. $5 donation.

Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum Summer Concert Series. An evening of music with The Folsom Band - a Johnny Cash Tribute Band - on the lawn with wine, beer, and food (for purchase). Friday 5:30-8pm. $3.

Bicycle Big Top at Portland Art Museum. This event combines a traditional bike show with all of the excitement and spectacle of the circus. Saturday 10am-5pm & Sunday noon-5pm. Free with museum admission.

Children's Day at Portland Aerial Tram. Fun children's activities, including face painting, crafts and more. Kids 17 and younger can ride the Tram free of charge with a paying parent from noon to 4 pm. Saturday noon-4pm.

Hillsboro Tour de Parks. Bring the whole family for an enjoyable ride as you explore the hidden treasures of Hillsboro's parks while emphasizing bicyclist awareness and rules of the road. Saturday noon. $5 donation/adult.

Woodstock Farmers Market's Fruit Festival. Live music, delicious food, a cooking demonstration, free kids' activities, and a fruit pie contest. Sunday 10am-2pm. Free to attend.

Alpenrose's Dairyville. A fun pioneer exhibit where visitors can peak into Grandma's Bakery, the Great Western Bank, the Dairyville School, and the post office. Sunday 1-4pm. Free!

ComedySportz 4 Kidz. Join for a show just for kids with games and suggestions focused on the 12-and-under crowd, LOTS of audience volunteers and a rip-roaring good time. Sunday 2-3pm. $8 kids/$10 adults.  Reservations highly recommended.

Weekend Festivals & Fairs


Battle Ground Harvest Days. Carnival, parade, talent show, car cruise, kids activities, Radio Disney, 4H animals, music, shopping, art & wine, food & brew and more. Friday, Saturday & Sunday. Free admission. Food and activities may charge.

Celebrate Hillsboro. Music, free health screenings, arts and crafts, eco-friendly activities. Saturday 9am-4pm. Free!

Glendi Greek Festival in Beaverton. Mouth-watering Greek food, entertainment and children's activities: face painting, crafts, pony rides, bounce house and more! Friday, Saturday & Sunday. Free admission. Food and activities may charge.

Portland Saturday Market. Celebrates 40 Years. Activities, give-a-ways, artist demonstrations, as well as all the Market's artisans selling handcrafted wares, an international food court and a main stage featuring local Pacific Northwest favorites. Friday and Saturday. Free admission. Food and activities may charge.

West Linn Old Time Fair. Great food, musical entertainment, carnival rides, custom car show, games, and activities for the whole family. Friday, Saturday & Sunday. Free admission. Food and activities may charge.

Yoshida's Sand in the City at Pioneer Courthouse Square. fun for all ages with majestic sand sculptures, interactive youth exhibits, live music, entertainment and more. Friday, Saturday & Sunday. Suggested donation $4/individual, $10/family.

Hope this gives you some ideas. Have fun out there! And don't forget to double-check event details by calling or checking the website of the venue, performer, or host organization.

Northeast Sunday Parkways

June 20, 2013

PicFrameCome see us this Sunday, June 23rd, at Fernhill Park (near the playground) as a part of Sunday Parkways- an 8 mile loop that is closed off to cars and wide open to bicyclists, skateboarders, scooter riders, walkers, runners, hula hoopers...!

We have some yummy treats provided by Saint Cupcake and Dry Soda as well as fresh-off-the-press uM stickers and Stealing Time subscriptions, tattoos and stickers!

Be sure to drop off a business card in our raffle jar too- one lucky winner will be drawn at random to get a free month of advertising on uM! 

So... pump up those bike tires, grab your helmet and rally the kids! We cannot wait to meet you! Want to coordinate a group ride? Let's chat about it on our FB page!

Click here to view the NE Sunday Parkways map and highlights. The route opens at 11am and closes at 4pm.

Summer faves: What should we do?

August 19, 2012

I love the summer. Heat wave, string of grey days, whatever. The summer is my fave. And August is typically the month in which I seem to do it all; I start the month with the annual Blogher conference somewhere fantastic (this year was New York City), I spend lots of time with the cross country team I volunteer coach for, I can lots of peaches and tomatoes, I run the Hood-to-Coast race. If I'm lucky, I go camping.


The best thing I did this year was camping with my boys and the cross country team. Both Cleveland's and Grant's teams go each year to Silver Falls State Park a few hours to the south of Portland. It was incredible; not only did the boys and I have a glorious time unplugged, with the usual joys of camping -- cooking over a fire, going days without a screen in front of us, climbing and wading and running and making stacks of pine cones and looking at the stars -- plus (for me) the running and (for the kids) the bonding with a bunch of great teenagers. It was a great give-back for the time I give to the team; they were like a big family, embracing my kids and taking responsibility, and my kids' appetites for being a part of the team throughout the season and when THEY are high schoolers was whetted.

My two older boys are doing Trackers Earth camps this week, and then the summer is almost over! I've done so many things I hoped I'd do, but I know I've probably missed some great things, too. What was your favorite thing this summer? What is the one thing you can't go back to school without experiencing? Is there anything you mourn missing out on?

Garden work and the magic of friends

June 03, 2012

"I'm too lazy!" is the answer when I asked my oldest, almost 10, to help with yard work. Occasionally he'll be overcome by a project and lift and dig and plot with me for a while -- maybe a half hour or an hour if I'm crazy-lucky. He's certainly not lazy; his idea of after-school relaxation is to run around and around the house playfighting with his brothers. He once rollerskated seven miles in an afternoon. He can bike anywhere I can.

But, when it comes to repetitive, back-breaking, dirty drudgery, he's just not my guy.

Until, that is, we went over to a friend's house yesterday for a garden remaking. We missed out on the hardest part; slaughtering blackberry vines (though I got to stuff some in the chipper for an hour or so, ridiculously satisfying work), but immediately when he arrived he joined a band of several kids about his age whose task it was to help shovel, carry and distribute wood chips and lay the cardboard beneath it to cover the grass and weeds.

Not only did he work the whole afternoon -- nearly six hours -- he rallied the team uncomplainingly, vigorously leading the effort with an older girl. Oh, he did complain; when we left to take him to a birthday party. "I want to WORK moooorrrrre..." he whined as we biked away.

Continue reading "Garden work and the magic of friends" »

And May Day Flowers Bring...

May 03, 2012

"You made my day!" said the woman at the doctor's office, grinning. I'd brought Monroe with me, carrying a little jar of simple flowers from my garden, tied with twine. I needed a tetanus shot and it was May Day and I was overcome on April 30 with a sudden urge to Do It.

We started with the next-door neighbor and we went bonkers; several neighbors on our block, including a few we've never met. The receptionists at the doctor's office. Truman's teacher. A friend. Drunk on our gratuitous gifting, my two younger boys ran away from two of the houses in full giggle and victory. "This is the best May Day EVER!" said Monroe (and the only one we've ever celebrated, making it a low bar).

It was such a joy to me, even more than the recipients of our random secret gifting. It was so easy; picking a few of the volunteer flowers and tulips from our yard, fill in with mint and herbs, put in old canning jars, tie with kitchen twine and a little May Day greeting, deliver as quietly as possible. To see the faces light up -- not just of the recipients, but my boys in victory after our "missions" -- was a thrill. So much fun, in fact, that I might do it again before next May 1.

Have you celebrated May Day the old-fashioned way? If you haven't, have you found unexpected joy in some simple and secret act of small generosity? Any other ideas? I need another mission.

Run and Bike for Mother's Day

April 05, 2012

Looking for something active to do on Mother’s Day? Check out two great events. First, our friends at Adoption Mosaic are hosting the 4th Annual Run Mama Run 5k and 10k at Mt Tabor. There is a preview walk/run on Saturday, April 7th. Details here.   

More interested in biking? Then check out Cylo Femme at the NE Sunday Parkways.  Addtional information at BikePortland and Sunday Parkways.

Timing is such you might be able to both.


Sock stories: Thinking underthings to keep us cozy

November 18, 2010

On Tuesday, I picked up two boxes filled with treasures beyond imagining from Portland Green Parenting's Rebecca Andersson: over a dozen pairs of Smartwool socks. It's been since Christmas last year that we've done any significant sock purchases for the kids, and we were majorly overdue; each morning, I'd frantically paw through the laundry basket full of clean socks searching for a not-too-holey match for each of my boys. (Why I haven't gotten to the all-important sock organization project is a story for another day.)

I brought the socks home and passed them out like oranges in the Ingalls' sisters stockings. Everett ran around, giddy, in his Outdoor Light Minis. "They're so cozy!" he shouted. Good thing, as I had six pairs. Truman said they were so wonderful "he couldn't feel the floor" and Monroe, in his Wintersport Stripes, joined the other two for a good game of slide-in-the-kitchen. It's a good thing we had them, as the rainstorm yesterday had us soaked through; one thing that wasn't freezing, however, was our collective toes.

As I thrilled over how cozy we all were, a debate ensued on Facebook: are Smartwool socks worth the price? Even with the 30% group buy discount, I spent over $200 for socks (though over half of that was my own socks; adult versions are at least twice the price of the kid sizes). Are they the best option for keeping little children's toes cozy? Another great (and locally-designed) option is Keen Sox; Truman got some for Christmas last year and they're possibly even more cozy than the Smartwool equivalents (although there are a lot fewer styles).

The biggest complaint among the commenting parents was the unfortunate holes that eventually develop; some reported holes in two years; Monroe has managed to get holey in a short nine months, though he's about the tippy-top of the hardwearing spectrum. We decided, in the end, that the price, comfort, warmth and prettiness of both Smartwool and Keen was worth the much-higher-than-Hanes price (ranging from $7 to $10 per pair for most kid versions).

Do you and your kids wear Smartwool, Keen, or another brand you love? Do you think it's worth the money?

PSA: The mosquitos are hungry and we are delicious

July 07, 2010

As I went into my garden this evening for a little therapeutic weed-pulling and, ironically, to pick St. John's wort buds (to make more skin salve good for burns, hives, bruises... and bites), I wasn't that surprised to get a few hungry mosquitoes swarming my yummy arms. After all, I'd been heedless enough to go out with a sleeveless top. And then. I got a bit through my stretchy black cotton pants and my underwear, right on my behind. As I rubbed some of the buds I'd just picked inside my undies, another mosquito landed on my pants and went in for a snack. Ouch!

For the next 45 minutes, I proceeded to pull weeds with dozens of mini-breaks to wildly swing at the mosquitoes. Never since I lived in Montana when I was a tween have I seen so many mosquitoes in such a short time. I ended up with so many bites I was afraid to look; I went inside and slathered myself with St. John's wort oil (thankfully, I have lots already steeped).

As I have a sister who lives in Panama and gets regular governmental notifications of such things, I realized quickly that our recent weather has been perfect mosquito breeding weather. Lots of recent rain, with a few cloudy cool days following, means lots of standing water for mosquitoes to lay their little eggies. The warm weather we're moving into now is pitocin to these biological processes! Zow!

Thanks to those weeds growing in my backyard, many of them medicinal, I was hoping I'd find the perfect concoction for a natural herbacious mosquito repellent (I've always been sensitive to the smell of bug spray and I finally decided it couldn't be good for me; I've foresworn). Sadly, I may have to suffer through. I found these recipes for catnip and rosemary repellent... lovely, but you need to let 'em steep two weeks. Also, I hve no catnip. I may try to spray myself with a rosemary tea tomorrow, it's worth a shot. If you have other ideas for more instant herbal repellents, send them my way! And dump any standing water you have around, pronto.

The cult of spring: Perspectives on mamas' need for nature

March 29, 2010

I have just negotiated a new quasi-peace in the house -- Monroe, I declare, is no longer allowed to use the iPod touch to play fruit matching games due to tearful angry meltdowns when he gets even a taste, while depriving him wholly keeps relative calm -- when I open the newest issue of Brain, Child. The cover story takes me several hours to begin; honestly, it sounds as bent for artificial controversy ("let's get mommies talking!") as any of the other mommy war-type content that has lately been flooding the journal's pages. Titled "Guilt Trip into the Woods," it starts as all long essays in mothering magazines do: with a little anecdote. Family, consisting of blogging journalist mama, dad and seven-year-old son adopted from Asia (this seems relevant to the writer), must decide where to go on vacation: nature, or New York? They pick New York, kid loves it, can't get enough of Times Square and the 10-story movie ads. He's just not a nature guy, says mama.

She's feeling bad about it, after all; she's been reading and seeing stuff online about getting kids out to nature. The focus of much of her ire is the echo of the headline, Richard Louv's Last Child in the Woods, with generous distaste left for the National Wildlife Foundation's Green Hour (for which, incidentally, I wrote a blog post last year). But writer Martha Nichols is not a believer. "...perhaps most disturbing for environmentalist moms and dads, I’m discovering that the nature movement—green and forward-thinking as it appears at first blush—looks an awful lot like a conservative message cloaked with some liberal fig leaves." She goes on to explain that she's feeling guilty, in the "morning when there’s barely enough caffeine in my system to cope, NPR seems to pummel me with stories about why our multi-tasking, Internet-chained pace isn’t good for kids..." but "whether nature is the only solution is the question," and though she connects with the concept of loving nature herself -- remember that pine tree I used to climb when I was a kid? she asks -- " long before I finished Last Child in the Woods, I wanted to chuck it across the room."

What comes down to it is this: her son isn't the nature journaling type. "He’s never been one to draw daisies in a journal if I suggest it. Instead he’d sketch a jousting tournament or a new comic strip, no matter how much I burble about the veins of a leaf. Or he’d rip the leaf apart—which for Louv might be just the ticket for a young naturalist—except that what fascinates Nick is the landscape inside his own head." She begins to describe the "fellow believers" of Louv as sectarians, they "present themselves as valiant nature warriors facing a horde of technology Visigoths," they're "nature evangelists," they're "polemical."

Continue reading "The cult of spring: Perspectives on mamas' need for nature" »

Seeking Spring Warmth: A journey from Seattle, WA to Warm Springs, OR

March 26, 2010

We love when we hear that non-PDX mamas are reading!  A Seattle urbanMama recently emailed, seeking your suggestions on an excursion their family is planning:

I am Seattle mama who subscribes to PDX's urbanMamas. We (family with 2 young boys, ages 2 & 5) are going to Kahneeta (Warm Springs, OR) for Spring Break, making the 5 hour trek from Seattle to Warm Springs, OR. [After extensive research it's the warmest place within driving distance at this time of year, we want a vacation, to be warmer but are on a budget so plane travel is out].
Any recommendations on fun things to do en route-- good for car breaks? I was thinking Multnomah Falls but don't really want to head 20 miles off the road. Maybe there is something to do/see/we shouldn't miss off of Hwy 26 in the Mt. Hood area?  It's been surprisingly hard to find any helpful info on the internets via Google searches. Lots of reviews of Kahneeta (we are doing 1 night teepee, 2 nights hotel room, since it will be April) but not so much about the road to and from! Or even things THERE, although it looks like R&R is really the point (pool, mini golf, a few hikes).
Also maybe fellow readers have advice about Kahneeta?

Seeking more summer-esque getaways?  Consider these suggestions from Tony at Milagros.

temperate parents, dealing with cold weather, whoa!

December 10, 2009

Tuesday was the first day I'd had to take the kids out on the bike in this cold, cold weather and I did a great job of bundling. Hats, scarves, double layers of pants and socks, mittens... I was so proud of myself! I sat Monroe and Truman on the back of my mamabikeorama and headed off to preschool. Luckily the road was open, because a few blocks away from school my load suddenly got much lighter and my bike wobbled. Monroe, trying to hold on with his fat slippery mittens, had fallen off.

So that was the first bloody face of the cold snap. His lip and chin were scraped, but he'd recovered enough to be put back on the bike (in the bike seat between my handlebars for good until the weather changes, I decided) after about 10 minutes. Our second bloody face came Wednesday, when Truman decided to check to see what his dad meant, exactly, by "that spot that looks wet is actually icy." He came home to me with the worst bloody nose I've seen in years.

It must be easier for parents of more regularly frozen climes; are they born with an innate knowledge of how to adjust to the cold? I feel so inept. I'm glad I've learned these lessons (no slippery mittens on the back of the Xtracycle, hold a kid's hand the first time he discovers an ice hazard) without permanent injury. I've been scouring thrift stores for snow boots and kids' ski pants and wishing I was more prepared. How have you been dealing with the cold weather? Are you finding any of your regular rhythms awkwardly (or delightfully) changed? Is there any gear you love and can't do without? Have you been surprised with any bloody lessons?

One thing I love is how thrilled the boys are every day when they go outside to ice crystals and frost in the shadows, it's magic to them and I confess to longing for last year's snowy quiet.

Outside time, all the time?

May 03, 2009

As I type this, my two older boys run around outside in our (blessedly) big back yard. The youngest was outside, too, until naptime overtook him with a thunderstorm of neediness. Everett asks, "could you bring me something to eat out here?" and I unhesitatingly say, sure.

I've just been reading this about a U.K. preschool whose students spend nearly every moment out-of-doors. And I've been "studying" my kids' behavior and finding an unsurprising result: the more time outside, running, jumping, digging, collecting worms, fighting all those bad guys who seem to inhabit our block, or just lying in the dirt with a serious expression and a dump truck; the happier everyone is. Everett's therapist asks, "what do good days look like?" My answer is "plenty of intense outdoors play" and I immediately wonder what I'm doing with him in public school at all.


For a lot of complicated reasons, I've been considering home schooling him. With what will I fill his days? I wonder, imagining dozens of mini-power struggles over adjective worksheets. And then discarding all that wonder with the thought that maybe, we'll just have math, reading and outside time. Lots, and lots, of outside time.

Out there, we have a hundred lessons in science, math, social studies, vocabulary, agriculture; it's the Green Hour supercharged. I wonder if we'll have enough for him to build the skills in which he's lagging while at the same time protecting him from the often too-stressful, too-troubled environment of the school he's attending. Unschoolers have already been convinced, I know. For those of you who do homeschool, unschool, free school, or some variant thereof -- even just for preschool -- tell me how you've balanced "curriculum" and teaching children the parts of speech, multiplication tables, and all that with a sufficient amount of outside time. Have any of you considered changing your child's schooling to allow more time outside? How has the thought process gone for you? Have you tried it and gone back to the way of the formal schoolroom? Have you just longed for more untrammeled running, free-range kid raising time? I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Will they *ever* go back to school?

December 16, 2008


It wasn't even midnight before day one of snow days when I looked at the forecast for the week and had to ask: will they have any school before January? Portland Public Schools isn't known for making children and staff get to school when there is any ice on the roads or sidewalks, and I know from long experience that snow + frozen temperatures + Portland, Oregon means zero relief from icy conditions. (I am just old enough to remember the great ice storm of 1979, which kept my Taylor Street home sparkly and slick and kept me home -- though my elementary school was only a block-and-a-half away).

So I worried over the forecast, freezing temperatures all week, more snow on Wednesday and Thursday, and expect that our kids won't go back to school until school's out for the holiday. This had me frantic with rather inconsequential anxiety. What about those last-week-before-Christmas craft fairs and art projects and holiday concerts? How will I get the teachers the brilliant gifts I'd planned? (A few tokens for the Portland Farmer's Market along with a card listing my favorite vendors and the schedule for 2009.) Will the last farmer's market of the year even happen? (I know, nothing to do with school, but it's my fear nonetheless.)

Then last night, a surprise: the east-siders were going to school today, so my little one was packed off on his very early bus (no west-siders to pick up). Of course, my teacher gifts weren't yet ready so I'm now hoping for beautiful (cold) weather on Friday. [Update: PPS announced no school tomorrow, Wednesday, December 17.] One of the teachers on my Twitter stream announced only about half of her students were in class today; so many parents are calling this week a snow week, regardless of PPS openings. Do you dread or yearn for an extra whole week of vacation? What do you think of the east side / west side division (as if we weren't already divided enough)? What silly anxieties are you harboring? And are you as tired of bundling and un-bundling as me? (I have a blog post going on about that topic in my head...)

Outdoor Autumn Fun: What's Your Fave?

October 12, 2008


I did not plan this weekend with three excellent outdoor autumnal activities on the calendar.  In fact, when was the last time I planned any weekend ahead of time?  Just not my nature.  And were I a planner, I would never had agreed to hit Kruger's for pumpkins and hay rides, Portland Nursery for music, apples galore and pumpkin painting, and and the Salmon Festival at the amazing Oxbow Park in one weekend.  But we did, and it was super fun.  And all in the sun, no less.  Feeling the love for Stumptown.

What is your family's just-can't-miss fall event or fun family activity in the Metro area?  While I feel lucky and satisfied to have enjoyed these three, I know there are loads more, not to mention fun at-home activities like making apple sauce, collecting and pressing leaves, the list goes on (sour apple dolls, anyone?) 

Camping at Cove Palisades

May 17, 2008

Camping I've been perusing the Campfire Cuisine recommended previously on the camping gourmet post in excited anticipation of our first camping trip this year.  I'll be one of those filling up the tank with $4/gallon gas (ugh!) next weekend for our first time camping east of the Cascades.  I should probably rethink packing the dutch oven (thanks for the tip, Sunny) to lighten the load but eating well is a priority.  Searching through the archives The Cove Palisades the campground I've reserved for Memorial weekend, did not make the list on our previous discussion on family-friendly campgrounds.  Have you been there?  Did you like it?  I'm sure we will pack the fishing poles and do some hiking, but any must-not-miss activities?

See the Swifts at Chapman Elementary

September 10, 2007

We had a surprise picnic on Saturday to see the birds - Vaux's Swifts to be exact- at Chapman Elementary.

The Swift Watch happens every night this time of year until about the end of the month. As dusk nears the sky fills with hundreds and then THOUSANDS of birds. They dart this way and that and fall into formation, creating a huge funnel cloud of wings that pivots around Chapman Elementary's enormous chimney. Then, without warning, ALL of swifts fly INTO the chimney! The flock is so dense that from a distance it must look like smoke is flowing back to its source.

Pack a picnic, brings a big sheet of cardboard  - yes, you heard me right :), dress for the weather and get out there soon because this odd evening dance typically ends by September 26. Find out more about the Chapman Swift Watch on the Audubon Society website.

Camping Gourmet: Dining Al Fresco

September 05, 2007

Dsc_0285_2 When I spotted the Lauro Kitchen’s recipe for Mussels in Cataplana in FoodDay this summer, I knew it had all of the ingredients for the perfect camping meal.  I clipped out the recipe hoping to use it on our second camping expedition this summer, but it wasn’t in the cards.  Meal prep for camping doesn’t require all that much preparation, but I wasn’t organized enough to create the meal on the fly.  We settled for salmon and pork chops instead.

Fast forward to this past weekend, and I seized the opportunity to test it out.  The night before our trip to Nehalem Bay, I cooked up the chorizo and veggies to make the sauce hoping that letting it sit overnight would give the flavors some time meld together.  That, and the fact that assembly at dinner time would be much easier.  At camp the next evening, I layered the sauce and some steamer clams in an aluminum pan, wrapped it in more foil and placed it over our fire.  We used steamer clams since it was the only thing available on the coast.  The result?  We paired it with a loaf of bread, a salad and some wine, and were amazed at how delicious and ridiculously easy it was to cook over the campfire.

Who cares that your tent is full of dirt and sand, or that the kids are covered in from head to toe in the great outdoors?  Eating and drinking under a canopy of trees in the fresh air cannot be beat, and when you’re eating well, it makes camping that much better.  The next evening JJ and I used our spare aluminum pan for sausages, peppers and onions.  We chopped up two packages of mango chicken sausage from Trader Joes, a couple of bell peppers, and a medium sized onion.  We wrapped it in more foil, and cooked it over the grill until the onions and peppers reduced down nicely.  Voila!  We had a second incredible meal that took little effort.

I’m sure there are many camping gourmets out there.  We want to know what are some of your favorite camping recipes?  Any meals that are sure to please and impress fellow campers? Anyone with a homey stew recipe that will sure to warm our bellies on our next camping trip?

Seasons changing, what's a mama to do in the dark?

August 31, 2007

Every year in late August I start looking at the sky fearfully each night, as the dark comes a few minutes earlier than the day before. There in the heat, I can feel the seasons changing, I can already sense the dark closing in around me, trapping me inside the way it will come November, December, January... ack! I am afraid of the dark. So is Debby, and she wonders just what she will do with her outdoor-loving two-year-old once the winter comes? And has anyone ever joined an evening playgroup for single mamas or those whose partners work at night? Last year we made a few suggestions for getting out in the dreary days: surely you have more!

I am not looking forward to the days getting shorter. My 2 year old daughter and I have spent almost every waking moment together at a park, zoo or other outside gathering place. She barely touches her toys anymore when we are home and is constantly running to the door and asking, "Outside now, Mommy?" I am worried sick about what will happen in the fall, when it is too dangerous to be walking home from the park in the dark, and then the winter, when it is dark before I even pick her up from day care.

Continue reading "Seasons changing, what's a mama to do in the dark?" »

Summer Sun Seeking

August 15, 2007

The weather this summer has been, well...a little disappointing. There have been many more cloudy days than we have been used to. Normally our summer trips include excursions to the mountains and the coast to escape the hot days of Portland - including occasional triple digit temp days. This year we have been escaping TO the sun.

Here is what we have discovered within a couple hours of Portland. Beyond escaping dreary summer days these will be potential sun escape options for fall and spring:

Kah Nee Ta Resort

This resort/casino on the Warm Springs Reservation is pretty family friendly. We stayed in the lodge and although there is a casino, the entrance is separate from other accommodations so you don't even need to know the casino exists - unless you WANT to know...

Pluses: 20 miles from ANYTHING with sweeping desert views from every lodge room. The lodge has a sauna, steam room, work out room and pool for guests and wifi access by the dramatic fireplace. The Village area of the resort has an enormous pool that is spring-fed and great for kids. Other amenities include a spa, kayak rentals/outings, horseback excursions, golfing (and mini-golf for kids), and nearby hiking trails.

Minuses: 20 miles from ANYTHING which limits your food options to what is on-site.  The food is fine and reasonably priced (breakfast was included as part of the High Desert Escape Package that we booked) BUT there are limited options for vegetarians - vegans may be completely out of luck. The Chinook Room has a kid's menu.

Tips: Bring a cooler with items for lunches and snacks. Do NOT forget the sunscreen and use it liberally. For a little vegetarian variety when dining in The Chinook Room, ask to have the Longhouse Salad which is on the menu for The Juniper Room next door (they share a kitchen). At breakfast ask to substitute fry bread for toast. Rooms are 50 percent off August 26 - 30 and September 3 - 6!

A few family camping options east of the mountains we have visited - within a couple hours of Portland:

Columbia Hills State Park

Pluses: Swim. kayak, and fish in Horsethief Lake, enjoy boat access to the Columbia, hike and climb at Horsethief Butte, and see the petroglyphs and pictographs saved from Petroglyph Canyon (which disappeared under water when The Dalles Dam was built). Few day-use folks and small, comfortable campground makes for a relaxed time. Very close to The Dalles if you forgot something.

Minuses: Camping is first come, first serve but the campground is small - less than 20 sites, the only restrooms are porta-potties (they are building a new bath/shower house), you need to drive to trail heads, and like all camping in the Gorge itself train noise is a nightly occurrence and it can get VERY windy.

Tips: Try to get there around "check-out" (noon-1 pm) to secure a camping spot. Bring earplugs for sleeping (although I recommend this for ALL campgrounds). Stretch your legs in Hood River on the way there or back.

Maryhill State Park

Pluses: Sites may be reserved in advance, you can enjoy the bizarre juxtaposition of enjoying a view of Mt. Hood and of Stonehenge, easy access to the Maryhill Art Museum, swimming and fishing on the Columbia, tour farms and vineyards in the area, showers and restrooms on site (bring quarters for the showers!).

Minuses: The swimming area is small and not that appealing, the wind protection is limited, and there is no real hiking to speak of on site. As noted, all camping in the Gorge itself means train noise at night and possible high winds. Same Tips as Columbia Hills.

Cove Palisades State Park

Pluses: Sites - including cabins - may be reserved in advance, great swimming, boating and fishing on Lake Billy Chinook, 10 miles of hiking trails in the area and plenty of boulders to climb on.

Minuses: Very popular day use area so the number of people and level of boat traffic on the weekends can be significant, weekdays are more subdued. Longer drive from PDX than the above options.

Tips: Take a break on the banks of the Deschutes River on the way there (there is access near Warm Springs). If you want a significant break, spend a couple of hours at The Museum at Warm Springs and learn about the cultural, traditional and artistic heritage of the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs.

Let us know your local sun-seeking suggestions as well!

Summer Fun is Here!

July 12, 2007

Not only has it been over 100 degrees outside to remind us that it's *summertime* in Portland, but the all the other summer fun is now in full effect.  We've updated the urbanMamas calendar with as much info as possible, the highlights being offerings from Portland Parks & Rec:

  • Summer Concert Series - of course! - you can be guaranteed to find a free summer concert almost every single night of the week in the next two months. 
  • Pool fun days feature games, contests, music, "Itty Bitty Beach Parties", and Dive-In movies.
  • Movies in the Park run from July 20th through August 31st on Friday and Saturdays (and a few Thursdays in between!)
  • Rec 'n' Roll - the kids love this big green bus that rolls from park to park, sets up shop with all sorts of crafts and games.  Lots of neighborhood parks have drop in games and fun throughout the summer, from now until August 16th.
  • Wading Pools are officially open for business and will definitely be filled on "hot weather days" (days over 70 degrees. ...  that's today!)

New State Park = More Camping and Hiking

July 07, 2007

Sstewart_entrance_2 There have been a few posts about family camping in the Portland-area and beyond. Beginning this Sunday, there will be a brand new camping option that is an easy drive from Portland: L.L. "Stub" Stewart State Park. 

The campground at this brand new park will include walk-in and hike-in tent sites, sites for RV and Trailers, and 15 cabins.  The park will also feature some 15 miles of new trails, including access to the Banks-Vernonia Trail.

All of this is less than an hour from Portland!  See you there!

Recommendations for backpack carriers?

July 05, 2007

With so many outdoor adventures that await us and our little ones, a backpack carrier can really help make sure that our little ones can share in the joys of the Gorge or other favorite jaunts.  Rebecca is looking for the the pros and cons of the popular models out there - the Kelty, the REI tagalong, any other favorite ones?
We're on the market for a frame backpack carrier for hiking with our 15 month old.  We've gone to REI and done some internet research & we're feeling overwhelmed by the choices so I thought I'd turn to the real experts (urbanMamas of course).  We're looking for good support, light weight, comfortable for baby for for leisurely hiking - nothing longer than a couple hours.  Any recommendations out there?  Also - based on our try out stint at REI - how do you deal with the hair pulling??

Camping Virgin

June 20, 2007

Last year, we had a great thread on Family Friendly Campgrounds. Heather emails with a twist to the family camping adventure, seeking suggestions for places to rent a trailer and great places to take it:

I am a mother of a very active three year old son. My husband and I would like to attempt our first camping trip. We are far from being outdoorsy. My idea of a vacation is staying in a five star hotel with room service! But I think it would be a great getaway for our family and I would like to start some traditions on our own. Ideally, we would like to tow or drive a smallish camper somewhere not to far out of Portland. Does anyone have any suggestions of where to rent a trailer and great places to take it? Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

Bike for uMamas & uPapas

June 14, 2007

When it comes to the family bike ride, there are bike trailers, there are bike tag-alongs, but - of course - there are also the adult bikes that pull them!  Can you give Meliah some tips on what sorts of bikes would be good for an urbanMama and urbanPapa?  Any advice on where to get them?
One of the things I love about living in Portland is the vast array of transportation options. I am fortunate enough to live in a great downtown location where we don't have to drive to much at all. With the summer setting in and our oldest one getting to that age where bike riding is a feasible thing for him on his own, we've been talking about purchasing bikes for the family.   Here's the thing: I am a total novice when it comes to this field! I sold my bike when I was 14 and haven't been on one since (not even the stationaries at the gym). I obviously have no interest in putting myself or my family at risk of any kind so I'm wondering if there are some urbanMamas out there who can help me out.
  • WHAT KIND OF BIKE/S AM I LOOKING FOR?  We are buying mostly for pleasure riding (along the waterfront/sauvies island/mt. hood trails, etc). I know NOTHING about bicycles and don't want to get ripped off or end up buying something inappropriate for what we need. Just something functional, basic and reliable.
  • BUYING.  When it comes to actually purchasing a bike, where can we go to get what we need for a bargain price? The pocketbook will dictate a lot of what we can and cannot do on this matter.

Toddler-Friendly Hikes

June 05, 2007

Nikki's looking for some suggestions on hikes that even toddlers can enjoy.  Do you have any suggestions?

Prior to having my son we were quite into outdoor adventures.  With a toddler I feel like my in town exploring has been limited to local parks, farmers markets, trips to feed the geese...  I would love to find a guide book or resource that could outline local area hiking spots appropriate for a toddler to walk along with you as well as be carried.  Places that are good for a day hike and still able to get home in time for a nap!  I did find a book online at Amazon "Best Hikes with Children in Western and Central Oregon", has anyone read this?  Would love to hear any suggestions you can share!

Hike The Coast!

May 24, 2007

A while back we posted a list of some of our favorite Gorge Hikes. Here is another quick reference list for family hiking on the Oregon Coast. There are PLENTY more to choose from but hopefully this provides a few ideas. Listed from North to South:

Tillamook Head: This trail gains quite a bit of elevation (about 900 feet) so it can be challenging for the kids but you will be following in the footsteps of the Lewis and Clark expedition! You can access this trail from the north in Seaside (parking is free) or from the south in Cannon Beach at Ecola Park (day use fee). Really a great trail but be prepared for many rest stops and it is recommended for older kids who may enjoy the historical connection as well as the natural beauty.

Cape Falcon and Neahkahnie Mountain Trails: Both of these hikes can be accessed from Oswald West State Park. The hike to Cape Falcon leads through a coastal forest and ends at the top of the cape. It is about 3 miles round-trip.

Neahkahnie Mountain is the only peak on the north coast that rises directly above the sea. You can travel on the trail through the woods and past the Devil’s Caldron back to the highway. If you make the return trip from this point the total hike is about 2.5 miles. If you want to continue up the mountain, cross the highway and be prepared for an elevation gain of about 1200 feet over the two miles to the top. But you will enjoy spectacular views of the ocean when you get to the summit (do it on a clear day!). Take US 101 to Oswald West State Park (about 10 miles south of Cannon Beach). No fee.

Munson Creek Falls: Not right on the coast but only about 8 miles from Tillamook this is the highest waterfall in the Coast Range. Dropping over 300 feet, the falls are a dramatic sight and the hike is an easy ½ mile each way. Take US 101 about six miles South of Tillamook and then head east on Munson Creek Road for 2 miles. No fee. If you like waterfall hikes, check out this recent article in Oregon Coast Today.

Cape Lookout: Cape Lookout is one of the best whale-watching sites on the Oregon Coast. The ideal whale watch season is winter but there are hundreds of gray whales that stay off the Oregon Coast in the summer, so you may still see one this time of year. The hike is about 5 miles round-trip. Go to Cape Lookout State Park  located off of US 101, 11 miles southwest of Tillamook to access the trail head. Day use fee.

Cascade Head Trail: This one is on our to-do list. Mainly because it offers access to an area that is home to the threatened Oregon silverspot butterfly as well as a variety of rare wildflowers. The trail is six miles one way and can be accessed from the north or south. Both trail heads are off of US 101 a little south of Neskowin, Oregon.

804 Trail: This is an old road that is now part of the Oregon Coast Trail. It starts at Smelt Sands Park in Yachats. It passes a lovely rocky coastline that is great for exploring – especially at low tide – and ends at a seemingly endless sandy beach. Level, easy and about 1.5 miles round trip. Turn west on Lemwick Street just after you enter Yachats on US 101. No fee.

Cape Perpetua Hikes: There are many to choose from in the area. All are perfect for kids. Take the St. Perpetua Trail up to the lookout (about 3 miles round trip). Although up hill there are plenty of views early on to keep the motivation going.

Other trails in the area include provide access to the blowhole near Cooks Chasm (plan your trip for high tide) and to a giant sitka spruce. Both of these hikes are level and easy and only about two miles round trip. All of these trails can be started from the Cape Perpetua Visitor Center located 2 miles south of Yachats on US 101. Day use fee.

Heceta Head Lighthouse: This area is just a little north of the Sea Lion Caves. The beach next to the parking area is a great spot for a picnic, wading in the water, and kite flying. The trail to the lighthouse is only ½ mile (1 mile roundtrip) and you may be able to enjoy a tour of the lighthouse at the top. On US 101 about 13 miles north of Florence. Day use fee.

Happy trails!


Exploring Oregon Coast Tidepools

May 20, 2007

Img_0378Oregon's coastline provides a mix of sandy beaches and rocky headlands. This mix creates a lot of opportunity to see a rich mix of sea life in coastal tidepools. Tidepools are found all along the 350+ mile coastline but many great viewing areas are easily accessible from state park and public scenic areas.

We were recently in Yachats and spent a few mornings exploring tide pools in the area. We enjoyed seeing chitons, snails, limpets, barnacles, sea stars, mussels, anemones, crabs and more!  But there are many tidepool areas even closer to Portland including:

1) Ecola State Park - About two miles north of Cannon Beach. This area also offers access to the Clatsop Loop Trail which connects with the Tillamook Head Trail that we explored this February - a good trail for older children due to the elevation gain and length.

2) Oswald West State Park - About 10 miles south of Cannon Beach just off the 101. This is also one of our favorite camping spots and there is some great hiking in the area including a hike to Cape Falcon (about 3.5 miles round trip, uphill getting to the top but still a nice family hike).

3) Cape Meares Lighthouse and Wildlife Refuge - 10 miles west of Tillamook on the Three Capes Loop. Added bonuses are touring the lighthouse and the vistas in the area.

4) Cape Lookout - About 18 miles south of Tillamook also on the Three Capes Loop. There is a family-friendly campground at this park as well.

If you are going to explore tide pools, be ready to get wet, wear some sensible shoes - maybe even some gloves, and be ready to do some scrambling on rocks to find some wonderful surprises!

Consult a tide table and plan your exploration to coincide with low tide - which means being on the coast in the morning. Watch out for exposed animals as you walk along. For the best viewing, head for the lowest tide pools that are closest to the ocean. In the lowest pools, you are likely to see the most activity as well as the greatest variety of animals. But be mindful of the tide location and of the ocean at all times - don’t let yourself get stranded or surprised by a rogue wave.

When viewing the pools, tread lightly and be respectful of the animals. Don’t pry any animals from their locations. A gentle touch on a sea star by a curious little girl (or excited adult) is not entirely out of line but try to avoid touching of the animals as much as possible.

Also, these are great areas for a picnic, so pack a meal to enjoy once your exploring is over. When you are ready to go, leave everything where you find it - except for garbage! Pack out any trash that you find (or any trash that you brought). It is never too early to instill some outdoor ethics in your kids.

One final practical item to keep in mind, many - but not all - parks require a day use fee. If you are going to hit more than a couple of parks/areas that require a fee, consider getting an Oregon Pacific Coast Passport which will give you unlimited access for 5 days for only $10. Have fun!


Get Yer Boots On!

April 01, 2007

There are many wonderful hiking options in the Columbia Gorge, here is a quick list of some of our favorite Gorge trails that are within an hour drive of Portland. We have included options that should work for families of any variety of ability and experience. FYI- we are hosting another "Family Adventuring 101" discussion at the store on April 25:

Bridal Veil Falls: Bridal Veil Falls State Park has a nature trail and a trail to the falls. Both are short and easy - less than a mile. The trail to the falls is steep in parts but still fine for kids of any age. Getting There: Exit 28 off I-84, head west on the Historic Columbia Highway for about 1 mile, the park will be on the right hand side.

Latourell Falls: A couple miles west of Bridal Veil on the Historic Columbia Highway is Latourell Falls. These falls plunge from a height of 250 feet. An easy 2 mile loop trail is accessible from the parking lot on the at Guy W. Talbot State Park. Fine for kids of any age. The loop ends on the road so be careful of cars when you finish up. Getting There: Exit 28 off I-84 head 3.4 miles west on the Historic Columbia Highway. The park will be on the left hand side.

Angels Rest: This one is for older kids. It is quite steep and the “pay-off” isn’t until the end, so younger ones may get a little restless. I hiked it with a friend’s six year-old and he held up great and was very proud of his accomplishment. Bring a lunch to enjoy at the top while taking in the incredible view. 4.6 miles roundtrip. Getting There: Exit 28 off I-84, the parking lot for the trailhead is right at the junction for the Historic Columbia Highway shortly after you get off the I-84.

Multnomah Falls - Wahkeena Falls Loop: I have hiked this loop countless times. I have hiked it many times with Mila on my back but she hasn’t pulled off the whole thing under her own power yet. She has made the hike up to Multnomah Falls and I hope to try this loop with her again this summer. Overall I think this hike should be fine for a five or six year old with some hiking experience.

It is a nice hike with views of the Gorge along the way. The steepest section being the hike up to the top of Multnomah (about a mile). From there you go over a stone bridge. Don’t go on the closed Perdition Trail. Head up the Larch Mountain Trail (441) to the junction with the Wahkeena Falls Trail (420). Once you hit the Wahkeena Trail, head east past a junction with trail 419 (you can take that trail to the north to shorten the hike slightly) and then downhill past Fairy Falls (a lovely sight) to Wahkeena Falls. Once you are at the base of Wahkeena Falls, take the Gorge Trail (400) back to the Multnomah Falls parking area. The total hike is about 5 miles. Getting There: I-84 East to Exit 30 Multnomah Falls.

Horsetail Falls to Ponytail Falls: The neat part of this hike is going behind the falls. This is an easy hike although the initial section is steep. From the base of Horsetail Falls head up to Ponytail Falls (also known as Upper Horsetail Falls). The trail goes into a basalt cave behind Ponytail. The trip to Ponytail and back is only 1 mile and an east trek for young hikers. Fine for kids of any age. You can continue on the lovely Oneonta Trail from Ponytail if you would like a longer hike. Getting There: I-84 East to Exit 35 head west on the Historic Columbia Highway about 1.5 miles. The parking lot is on the right, the trailhead will be on the left.

Wahcella Falls: This is a family favorite. The trail follows Tanner Creek and although it has a couple steep parts, it stays relatively level. The falls at the end of the trail are lovely and the trip is only 1 mile each way. Mila has been walking this one by herself since she was 2. We combine this hike with checking out the fish at Bonneville Dam. Getting There: I-84 to Exit 40. Take a right off of the exit, the trailhead is right there. A Northwest Forest Pass is required or a day pass may be purchased at the trailhead.

Eagle Creek - Punchbowl Falls: Whenever friends come to visit Oregon for the first time and want to take a hike, I take them to Eagle Creek. It is a spectacular trail that passes countless waterfalls and offers stunning canyon views.The trail itself is a unique piece of work with expansive bridges, ledges carved into cliffs, and a tunnel behind “Tunnel Falls” (about 6 miles down the trail).

Parts of this trail requires some surefooted work. The more precarious sections have a cable handrail. Definitely not a trail for a large group of kids, individual kids not in a listening mood, or anytime the trail is wet. The trip from the trail head to Punchbowl Falls and back (4.2 miles roundtrip) has one section of trail with a cable handrail and with the right little hiking companion, it is a great experience.

Getting There:  I-84 East to Exit 41. A Northwest Forest Pass is required or a day pass may be purchased at the trailhead.

Now there's a nice to-do list for the sunny weather! Happy Trails!

Old Salmon River Trail

December 30, 2006

j0407532.jpgOur plan was to head to the Barlow Trail or Trillium Lake for some snow play but decided to bail in Welches when mountain traffic suddenly backed up. So what to do when you aren’t quite up the mountain? We headed to one of our favorite family hikes: Old Salmon River Trail.

This trail is less than 5 miles round trip from the trailhead to a close Forest Service campground. The trail remains mostly flat for its entire length and follows the Salmon River through an ancient forest with huge Doug firs. There are plenty of places to rest along the way.

We recommend it for any time of year for a family hike and have explored it in the Spring, Summer, and Winter. This time of year the river is decked out in dramatic whitewater and the forest is a lovely mossy, green delight with frost and snow here and there.

Getting There:  Head east on Highway 26 from Portland to Welches. Take a right on Salmon River Road (just before the Subway and shortly past the Union 76 gas station, if you get to the ZigZag ranger station, you have gone a little too far). Follow Salmon River Road for about 2.7 miles. The trailhead is on the right hand side shortly past the boundary sign for the National Forest. A Northwest Forest Pass is required for parking.

Return to Audubon

November 26, 2006

We have a house full of people waiting for a baby to be born, which is a little stressful. So when the sun made a special guest appearance yesterday, my Pop and I took off for a hike. Not wanting to be too far from the house, we went stomping on the Wildwood Trail.

During that trek, we took a break at the Audubon Society of Portland and I spent every minute there mumbling to myself..."Why has it been a year since I brought Mila here?" Not only are there plenty of kid-friendly trails, you can view birds that have been rescued by the Society.  This menagerie includes Julio the Great Horned Owl and Finnegan the Peregrine Falcon. You will also find a natural history display and The Nature Store.

The Nature Store has plenty of educational and whimsical items for young and old alike. PLUS you can save $10 off your purchase of $30 or more if you have a CHINOOK BOOK!  To top it all off the Society has guided hikes, kid camps, and other educational activities all year round - including a performance by children’s musician David Hall on December 9 at 1:30 pm.

One of my New Year resolutions will be to get my family there more often (this joins Tryon Creek State Park  on an always expanding list), I hope to see you there:

Audubon Society of Portland
5151 NW Cornell Road, Portland OR 97210
Off-street Parking on site

*Another option is to park at Macleay Park and hike the Lower Macleay Trail to the Wildwood Trail (the junction is at the Stone House, continue straight at that point - don't go up the hill). The trail stays level as it follows Balch Creek and briefly heads uphill before reaching a parking lot. Head west 1/10 mile from the parking lot to the Audubon Center. This scenic hike is approximately 1 1/2 miles each way and is definitely kid-friendly.

Sauvie Island

June 13, 2006

Thanks to Tony for this wonderful and detailed description of Sauvie Island.  We couldn't have written it better ourselves.

Summer is a great time to explore Sauvie Island.  The Sauvie Island Wildlife Area boasts more than 12,000 acres of land, so a variety of outdoor activities may be enjoyed. Much of the island that is not preserved for wildlife consists of family farms, many of which open their doors to the public for produce and special activities. Basically there is no shortage of family-friendly activities on the island and its proximity to Portland  - 20 to 30 minutes - ensures limited "are we there yet?" moments in the car.Farm Fun:  Berry season has begun and there is no shortage u-pick berry options on the island.  Right now strawberries are abundant but raspberry, blueberry, and blackberry picking will all come into season during the summer.  Kruger's Farm is perhaps the most visible and well known of the local farms.

We picked strawberries at Kruger's this weekend. There was no shortage of strawberries when we arrived even though 1-ton of berries had already been sold that day! Kruger's provides the option of taking a FREE tractor-driven hayride out to its strawberry fields. They are hosting a special Berry Jam with music and more on Father's Day weekend and they begin their outdoor Thursday night concert series ($5 per car) on July 6th.

Paddling: The obvious padding idea is floating on either Multnomah Channel or the Columbia River  - the waters which border the island.  However both of those options have lots of boat traffic  - including barges and container ships on the Columbia - so I only recommend them for experienced paddlers. A great family paddling option is Sturgeon Lake.

Sturgeon Lake is located on the northern end of the island. It also connects with Steelman Lake and Mud Lake, so you can easily spend all day exploring on the water if you would like to.  Right now the water is high so there is no need to worry about tides but when the water lowers later in the summer, try to avoid low tide since you can find yourself stranded in the mud flats near shore. Motor boats are allowed on the lake but are very rare encounters - speeds are low and wakes are minimal.

On a clear day you can enjoy views of Mt. Hood, Mt. Adams, and Mt. St. Helens on the lake. Seeing fish jump, herons, and falcons is common. There is no significant current on the lake but paddling on windy days is not recommended. Remember that every member of the family should always wear a PFD regardless of conditions.

Hiking: The good family hike on the island is the Oak Island Nature Trail.  This is a 2.5-mile loop trail around the Oak Island peninsula. The trail is actually a mowed path through the tall grass.  You can stick to the path or wander cross-country through the tall grass fields to a quiet spot on Sturgeon Lake or Steelman Lake - make sure you remember how to get back onto the main path. We haven't been on this trail this year yet but saw a few cars at the trailhead this weekend, so it appears to be accessible.

Beaches: There are actual beaches for sunbathing, sand play, and swimming.  The main beach area, Walton Beach, is accessed via Reeder Road and is about 9 miles from the Sauvie Island Bridge. Please note that there are no lifeguards on duty and the shore line often has sudden drop-offs - 3 feet of water becomes 9 feet or more within a couple of steps. Watch your kids very closely and consider having them wear a PFD when they are in or near the water.

Biking:  The most popular ride is a 12-mile loop around the lower end of the island  - Sauvie Island Road to Reeder Road to Gillihan Loop Road however any mix of routes can be created by consulting a local map. Bikes need to share the road with cars and shoulders aren't especially wide on the island.  Although most drivers in the area expect to encounter bicyclists, be cautious, courteous, and prepared when riding on the roads - speed limits in the area are 30 - 45 mph.

Getting there: From Portland, take route 30 toward St. Helens. Take the Sauvie Island Bridge onto the island and go North on Sauvie Island Rd. Kruger's will be 1 1/2 miles ahead on the right.

To get to Sturgeon Lake or the Nature Hike, continue North on Sauvie Island Road and take a right onto Reeder Road.

Follow Reeder Road and, after a mile or so, take the left fork onto Oak Island Road.  The road will eventually become gravel follow it to the junction at Webster Pond.

To access the Hike continue straight at the junction to the end of the road. To access Sturgeon Lake, take a right at the junction and go around Webster Pond - the road will dead end at the launch for Sturgeon Lake. Don't be afraid to consult a map.

Things to Remember:

  • There are no gas stations on the island. You can fuel up in Linnton on the way to the island.
  • If you are accessing any of the Wildlife Areas you will need a parking permit. These are available at the convenience store just North of the bridge when you get on the island ($3.50 per day or $11 for the calendar year).
  • Food options on the island are limited. There are no real grocery stores, packing snacks and a lunch is recommended.
  • Bathrooms are limited. There are port-a-potties in the wildlife areas  - they are cleaned weekly. Kruger's has bathroom facilities open to the public.