Learn to Climb: Chockstone Guides

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Smith Rock State ParkWhat’s to Love:  The picture featured above is Jim Ablao of Chockstone Climbing Guides.  Our family has climbed with him in the past at Smith Rock State Park. When Jim is working, it’s a sure bet that he’ll be sporting a big smile on his face. Right before I took the aforementioned picture, I asked him, “Another great day at the office, huh?”  Jim obviously loves his work as a climbing guide, but he also has a love for climbing, which shows in his enthusiasm (and competence) as a a guide.  If you’re looking to take your family out, or you want to give rock climbing at try at one of the world’s premier climbing areas, get in contact with Jim as soon as possible.  The fall is a great time to climb at Smith.

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Beacon Rock State Park

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Beacon Rock State ParkWhat’s to Love:  Being a climber, I’ve always been fascinated, and a bit intimidated, by the 848 foot high monolith – “Beacon Rock.” So intimidated that my first trip to the top was along the mile-long paved walkway and not roped-up hanging off the side of the rock. While the hike (1.8 miles round trip) to the top and back is exhilerating, the volcanic core is just a small piece of the whole picture.  Upon further exploration, you’ll see that Beacon Rock has much to offer the whole family.

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Horsethief Lake State Park

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Horsethief ButteWhat’s to Love:  Horsethief Lake State Park and Horsethief Butte provide a nice one-two-punch for a full-day family outing.  Located about 90 miles east (via WA 14 or OR 84), you might try these two destinations for an adventurous combination of camping, technical rock climbing, rock scrambling, bouldering, hiking, boating, and fishing. For reviews on outdoor gear, visit GearWeAre.com. This link covers family tents.

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Dabney State Park

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Dabney State ParkWhat’s to Love:  An overcrowded beach along the Sandy River filled with people throwing cigarette butts, trash, and being obnoxiously loud and rude?  Is that the Dabney State Park you know and love?  My expectations were pretty low going in, especially on a busy summer weekend.  However, similar to Oxbow State Park, the rangers and clean-up crew do an excellent job of keeping Dabney clean, under control, and a great place for families. 

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Wapato Access Greenway

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Wapato Access GreenwayWhat’s to Love:  Don’t know exactly what it is about Sauvie Island, but every time I go, I feel like I’m on vacation.  I think it has something to due with the fact that when I’m there, I actually feel like I’m getting away from some of the inevitable craziness of living in a big city.  Windy country roads, farms, bike riders, pleasant hikes, beach, etc. – it all feels like a dream some days.  Some of my favorite stops are on the island and the Wapato Access Greenway (State Park system) is a worthy diversion from the more common destinations.

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Driftwood Beach State Park

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Just take a look at some of the pictures I posted in this article – this beach speaks for itself. Of course, many amazing beaches can be found throughout the area from Newport to Yahacts. However, Driftwood beach resides close to a beach rental we’ve frequented over the past few years, and it holds sentimental value along with stunning natural beauty. I recommend a visit to this beach whenever you’re in the area.

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Champoeg State Park

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What’s to Love: If you want to experience some great biking on safe, paved-paths, or play 15 holes of frisbee golf, then by all means head to Champoeg State Park. It’s well worth the 30 mile drive from Portland, even with gas being $4+ per gallon. It is also the perfect destination for a family camping trip, especially for first timers.

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Tryon Creek State Park

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What’s to Love: The fact that Tryon Creek State Park exists is practically a miracle. It’s hard to imagine a state park existing within an urban setting. The actual miracle is that Tryon Creek is a still a healthy stream with migrating fish, which helps support an abundance of wildlife. Visitors are encouraged to learn more about the history of Tryon through various exhibits inside the visitor’s center, which also offers a plethora of activities for keeping kids busy.

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Oswald State Park

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What’s to Love:

This could easily be a unappealing place to bring your kids – it’s overcrowded with terrible parking issues along a very busy highway. However, Oswald State Park does not disappoint! This is an amazingly well-kept beach with plenty of room for all, despite too many people and difficult parking. What makes this particularly appealing to families is the spring-fed, shallow river that feeds into the ocean. This is a great place for kids to play! They can skip rocks, swim, or just splash around in a relatively-safe area. Take a beautiful hike along the beach – there are plenty of tide pools to explore!

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Cape Lookout State Park

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What’s to Love: After a beautiful, 1 mile, all downhill hike you’ll end-up on one of the most breathtaking beaches on the Oregon coast. Plus, the hike back uphill is just enough to deter large crowds of people from visiting this spot. With the large cliffs, sweeping views of low dunes, and a totally wooded backdrop, this beach has it all, except 80 degree+ water. This may look like a beach right out of a Hawaiian guidebook, but the water temperature will definitely tell you it’s all Oregon. There will be plenty of room to find a lunch spot in the perfect white sand. On my first visit, my son Rhys (3 years old) and his little friend Jasmine (2 1/2 at the time) took off running all over this beach buck naked – they loved it!

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