Aug. 14 Star Party set for Bates State Park in eastern Oregon

New moon and Perseids meteor shower pair for perfect night sky watching

Eastern Oregon night sky

Dark skies in eastern Oregon are perfect for stargazing. This photo was taken at Wallowa Lake State Park in July.

The night sky over Bates State Park east of John Day will set the scene for a Star Party Aug. 14 at 7:30 p.m. Join local amateur astronomers and volunteers with telescopes to view summer constellations, star clusters and planets.

“We are fortunate in rural eastern Oregon to have incredible dark night skies, with little to no light pollution,” said Park Manager Dennis Bradley. “Add a new moon and the Perseids meteor shower to the mix, and we have the perfect formula for an unforgettable evening.”

The Perseids meteor shower produces up to 60 bright meteors per hour from mid-July through late August, peaking this year Aug. 12-13. The night sky will be darker than usual on Aug. 14 because the new moon will not be visible and thus no moonlight.

The evening includes an old-fashioned campfire and storytelling from folks who lived in Bates when it was still a thriving logging town. You and your family can gather around the campfire for singing, roasting marshmallows and munching on s’mores provided by the park. The event and day-use parking are free.

Saturday morning take a tour of nearby Sumpter Valley Dredge State Heritage Area and the Kam Wah Chung State Heritage Site museum in John Day. Both the dredge and museum are free.

Bates State Park (park information and driving directions) has 28 primitive sites available first-come, first-served. Pitch your tent or sleep under the stars. Bates State Park is 30 miles northeast of John Day located on Middle Fork Lane off Highway 7, one mile north of its intersection with U.S. 26 at Austin Junction.

Celebrate rock festival history at Milo McIver Aug. 8

Exploring Vortex 1-- Aug. 8, 2015

Rock and roll band Steelhead headlines the 45th anniversary celebration of the original Vortex rock concert held August 1970 at Milo McIver State Park. Exploring Vortex I: Music in the Park is set for Aug. 8, 3-8 p.m. in  the Vortex Meadows.

Bring the family for face painting, hula hooping, tie dying and bubble blowing. The celebration also includes a photo display and movie theater, storytelling, and photo and comic vendors. Local author Matt Love will welcome the crowd and lead a guided walking tour. If you’re hungry, Lew’s BBQ will be on-site.

Reminder — Although drinking alcoholic beverages is allowed in the park, using marijuana isn’t. The statute says recreational marijuana is prohibited in parks. See for more information.

Were you at Vortex 1? Bring any photos of the 1970 event and have them scanned and added to the Vortex archive. Your photos will be returned on the spot. Volunteers will also record anyone interested in sharing their Vortex stories, which will be shared with the Estacada Community Library.

Vortex I remains the only state-sponsored rock festival in American history, and was a novel concept in 1970, when both Woodstock and the Kent State shootings were forefront in Americans’ minds. Then Governor Tom McCall made history by partnering with antiwar demonstrators to organize a concert at the park to avoid conflict in downtown Portland during a scheduled visit of President Nixon.

This event is open to the public, and donations will be accepted to fund a permanent monument in Vortex Meadow. Day-use parking is $5.

Milo McIver State Park (park information, map and driving directions)

Join guided hikes on the OC&E Woods Line State Trail

Four-hike series this summer and fall

Sunshine on the OC&E State Trail in the Sprague Valley.

Sunshine on the OC&E State Trail in the Sprague Valley.

The OC&E Woods Line State Trail is Oregon’s longest linear park, built on 100-miles of the  Oregon, California and Eastern Railroad railbed. You can join Saturday guided hikes beginning July 25 that explore sites along the trail between Klamath Falls and Bly.

Park rangers and guest speakers will explain how the area’s geology and climate influenced human settlement, and how humans in turn have affected the environment of the Lost River and Sprague River watersheds.

The hikes will last about two hours and will cover some ground off the main trail. The hikes are free, but parking is limited. Please preregister by calling (541) 783-2471 or (541) 883-5558.

  • July 25 – “Finding a Way through Lost River Gap.” Meet at the Olene trailhead at 10 a.m.  Learn how the OC&E, Highway 140 and irrigation canals all pass through the gap at Olene. Distance: 2 miles round trip.
  • Aug. 8 – “Nothing Tougher than a Juniper.” Meet at Rice’s Feed Store in Dairy at 10 a.m. Why is western juniper ideally suited to the Klamath Basin’s semi-arid climate? An optional hike will explore Bureau of Land Management rangeland near the trail. Distance: 3-4 miles.
  • Sept. 19 – “Boom and Bust on the Sprague.” Meet at the Sprague community hall at 10 a.m. Learn about the history of the town’s sawmill and how humans have influenced the Sprague River. Distance: 2 miles round trip.
  • Oct. 3 – “Of Aspens and Maars.” Meet at the Switchbacks trailhead at 10 a.m. Explore how region’s forests are affected by topography and logging. Distance: 2-3 miles.

OC&E Woods Line State Trail (park information and driving directions)

OC&E trail history and map (includes trailhead locations)

Making the most of Oregon’s central coast

Diane Navarrete

Diane Navarrete and her husband recently set out from Salem with the goal to see every state park and wayside from Lincoln City to the California boarder—some 60-plus sites—all detailed in the Oregon State Parks Guide. Here are their top picks for the 40-mile section between Lincoln City and Waldport.

Devil's Punchbowl

Stormy seas shaped Devil’s Punchbowl.

Geology — Devil’s Punchbowl State Natural Area at Otter Crest is a nifty cavernous rock formation churning with wild surf. The punch bowl was probably created by the collapse of the roof over two sea caves and carved by years of wave action. Enjoy a picnic atop a rocky shoreline. After checking out the views along a short path, head from the lower parking lot down to the beach to watch the surfers take advantage of robust waves.

Yes, it’s quaint, but the Yaquina Bay Lighthouse offers a unique look into the life of a light keeper’s family.

Yes, it’s quaint, but the Yaquina Bay Lighthouse offers a unique look into the life of a lighthouse keeper’s family.

Beaver Creek is wide near the ocean and gradually becomes narrower as you paddle upstream.

Beaver Creek narrows as you paddle upstream.

A tale of two lighthouses — In Newport, the majestic clifftop Yaquina Head Lighthouse often steals attention from its predecessor, the Yaquina Bay Lighthouse. The latter operated only three years before Yaquina Head replaced it. But I like Yaquina Bay for its window into the past: It’s the only Oregon lighthouse with living quarters attached; what fun to walk through the period-decorated rooms and imagine the isolated life of a light keeper and his family. It’s also the only historic wooden Oregon lighthouse still standing, so it looks completely distinct from Oregon’s other lighthouses. Both lighthouses have daily tours.

Nature at Brian Booth — Just inland from Ona Beach, you’ll find a marshland oasis teeming with birds and wildlife. Paddle Beaver Creek or take a walk on the park’s many trails to explore the marsh, which is prime habitat for coho salmon, cutthroat trout, winter steelhead, waterfowl, coyote, elk, deer and more. Visit the Welcome Center a mile inland to learn about the area and start your hike.

Seal Rock seagulls

Sea gulls cavort in the tidepools at Seal Rock.

Exploring Seal RockHead down a steep, mostly-paved trail to tidepools brimming with anemones, crabs, barnacles, sea stars and more. The offshore rock formations are home to seals, sea lions, seabirds and other marine life. You can look down on this beautiful section of coast from an ADA-accessible viewing platform.

Make it a weekend — Beverly Beach and South Beach campgrounds are both good options for an overnight getaway that’s central to all of the attractions listed here, as well as the Oregon Coast Aquarium. The campgrounds are popular on weekends, so be sure to reserve your spot by calling 800-452-5687.

View from Otter Crest State Scenic Area

The view from Otter Crest.