Outdoors with Kids in Chehalem Valley: Champoeg Nature Play Area

This summer, I’ve invited others to join me on Friday “hikes” or nature excursions around our small region. Part of this has to do with my church’s current emphasis on getting to know our watershed so that we can better take care of the space around us. We can only love places that we know, and so we’re getting to know our region better. Also, I’ve invited other friends who have expressed interest in these posts about “outdoors with kids in Chehalem Valley.” I definitely want to give kids the opportunity to get outside this summer and explore our region!

Last week, school got out at lunch time, so we left for Champoeg shortly thereafter. It was a great way to kick off the summer. I met my friends in the Oak Grove parking lot and we walked over to the new nature play area. Having thrown out this invitation to everyone at my church, I got to meet new friends, got to know some others better. It was fun to have an excuse to stand around chatting while our kids played.

Our kids LOVED this play area! There is a large sand pit for digging and creating waterways, a water pump that pumps water through the logs you see in the photos (below), and lots of elements to climb on. There are cute little stick huts made from living branches, so eventually they will leaf out and form enclosed, living huts.

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Here are some details:

  • Champoeg costs $5/car for a day pass, so it’s a little expensive in terms of visiting a playground. Instead, you can purchase a 12-month pass for all Oregon State Parks for $30, or a 24-month pass for $50, so if you really like the play area and think you’ll visit more than six times a year, get an annual pass! Then you can go to other state parks for “free,” too.
  • There’s no parking near the nature play area because it’s in the RV camping section of the park, so unless you’re camping there, you’re not supposed to park there. We parked in the Oak Grove parking lot (over by the disc golf course), which gave us a nice half-mile walk over to the play area. The walk is mainly on the paved bike trail (or across parking lots), so you can bring a stroller. My kids brought their scooters, or you could bring bikes. There are also many trails for walking and biking, so you can make a day of it and do more than just visit the play area.
  • Since the nature play area is so new, it’s not yet on the map, so see the map below for the location of play area and the path we took to get there.
  • There’s sand and water, so you’ll want to bring a towel, have your kids wear swim clothes, and/or bring a change of clothes.

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Outdoors with Kids in Chehalem Valley: Magness Tree Farm

IMG_20160610_114030391Well, sometimes when you go hiking with kids, you have to admit your failures…at least if you’re me! So, we went hiking with my friend Lotus and K’s friend N to Magness Memorial Tree Farm (which, by the way, is not a tree farm, but is a demonstration forest with hiking trails, a covered picnic area, and several cabins, in addition to some great trails). Magness is about 15-20 minutes from Newberg, just east of town on Parrett Mountain.

IMG_20160610_112829669_HDRSince I’d been there several times before, I thought, “Piece of cake,” and didn’t really worry too much about maps. It was just the four of us, and we were happily wandering through the woods, exploring every side trail to the creek, some of us throwing rocks and sticks (guess which ones?), munching on wild berries, and eating snacks we brought.

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IMG_20160610_112729847Usually when we’ve gone to Magness before, we’ve gotten to the bridge along the Nagel Loop and gone left and done the Woods Tour and/or the Archibald Hike, including the fire lookout, but the boys wanted to go right because it went by the stream. I thought, “Sure, it loops around, so we’ll just do it in the opposite direction.”

Well, somehow we missed that important juncture where we would have stayed on the Woods Tour, and instead chose the Heater Trail. We kept thinking it would just loop around eventually, but then we finally found ourselves coming out on a road. IMG_20160610_122751033Thank goodness for GPS on my phone, because it told me which road we were on and which way to go to get back! We did eventually find the trail again, but not until after it poured on us while we were “hiking” along a paved road, five-year-olds not particularly happy about the whole thing.

IMG_20160610_115505548The Heater Trail is apparently not very well used, and was somewhat overgrown in places. The trail was clearly evident, but for kids, there were tall grasses and blackberry vines swinging into their faces.

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Three kinds of ripe berries: salmon berries, blackberries, and thimble berries

We found a small garter snake, and K and I stopped to look at it while Lotus and N walked on across a little bridge. Then, when K and I went to follow them across the bridge, we heard a bunch of angry bees. K stopped and started freaking out about the bees, and I said, “Keep going! Keep going!” I finally picked him up and carried him past the bees and couldn’t figure out why he was still crying, until I realized he’d gotten stung. Ouch! We later found some nice, cool, creek mud to put on it, and Lotus, being a nurse, helpfully had a full first aid kit with her.

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You can’t see it very well, but there’s a tiny garter snake.

This is probably something I should carry with me from now on, now that I think about it! She whipped it out and put on a Band-aid.

IMG_20160610_124426128Drama also ensued regarding special sticks. (Note sticks in hand in the majority of these photos.) We had to go back several times after the boys forgot their sticks and refused to go on without them. This was after the bee incident, and during the walking-on-the-road incident, so we humored them.

After we finally made it back to our car and drove home, the boys had apparently forgotten the more negative parts of the journey, and were saying they’d had a great time. I hope I didn’t ruin hiking forever for N!IMG_20160610_125305362

Magness Tree Farm is a beautiful location, and you should definitely go there. It is (usually) very kid-friendly and a wonderful place to hike and explore. They also do outdoor education, and they have little cabins, and it looks like you can book them and/or the picnic area for events, even weddings. (I went to a lovely wedding there once!) I’m not sure if you can just rent a cabin as a family, but it could be a fun alternative to Champoeg’s yurts if you want to stay in an outdoorsy location in the area.

 

 

 

Outdoors with Kids in Chehalem Valley: Trappist Abbey

IMG_20160603_125017907I got a little behind in posting anything, but K and I have still been doing our weekly hikes in the area! We’ve been hiking with other people lately, which has been fun.

I’d always heard about the trails at the Trappist Abbey of Our Lady of Guadalupe, and I’ve driven by there countless times, but I hadn’t been there. We decided to try it out. Angelina and her kids, M and L, joined us. It only takes about 15 minutes to drive there from Newberg, out highway 240 and then cutting over on Kuehne Rd and Abbey Rd like you’re going to Lafayette.

IMG_20160603_124235061I probably would NOT highly recommend this site for young kids, although if you were just out there as an adult on a nice, contemplative retreat, it is lovely. Although the people we checked in with were very welcoming and nice, we felt like we had to be kind of quiet in parts of the trail (there’s a sign asking people to be quiet until they’re farther away from the main area), so we felt kind of nervous the whole time, like maybe we were ruining people’s quiet time.

They gave us a map (I couldn’t find any online before we went), but it was kind of confusing, so we thought we were on a different trail for most of the hike. Also, there was a TON of poison oak, so we had to keep to the middle of every trail and make sure the kids didn’t brush up against any. We made it, though! No outbreaks in subsequent days.

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We did the trail I’ve marked in a blue line, in a counter-clockwise direction. (I believe the top of the map is east.) There are some trail markers at places, but not at every intersection. Also, we found that the place that says “¶12,” “Quarry,” and has a circle with squiggly lines, is in fact a pond, not a quarry. The quarry must be elsewhere along those dotted-line trails. The map has lots of A, B, C, and other markings that one would think would refer to a key or legend of some sort, but the other half of this paper didn’t have a key, it just had some info about the abbey.

IMG_20160603_115914860That said, the network of trails was very nice. There were some areas that were like small gravel roads, and some that were more like forest trails. There were different types of scenery, from agricultural fields to forests, oak savannah to creek beds. IMG_20160603_121237879I would definitely recommend going there as an adult, or with kids who are older and wouldn’t be quite so drawn to throwing rocks and sticks in the nice, contemplative water features and yelling at the top of their lungs, like my five-year-old is prone to do! We only explored a fraction of the trails available, so eventually I’d like to go back, once my kids are bigger or just with adults, and get farther into the back 40.

Despite the imperfections, we had a fun time! It was great to be outside on a warm day, smelling the smells of the late spring, hearing the birds and insects, feeling the different temperatures as we traversed different types of ecosystems, and enjoying the wonder of exploring a new place.

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