Posted by: bkivey | 23 May 2017

The Highs and Lows of Hillsboro

A couple of weeks ago we had a sunny day. There was still daylight left after work, so I took it into my head to visit Bald Peak State Scenic Viewpoint. I’d passed the road to the viewpoint many times crossing the Chehalam Hills between Hillsboro and Newburg, but never actually been to the park. Bald Peak Road provides interesting driving and scenic views, and is one of my favorite drives in the area. 30 minutes from the house brought me to the overlook at 1600 feet.

Curiously, the only photos on the official website are of an empty parking lot and a picnic table. There are other views:

Looking Northeast just down from the parking area. Mt. Adams on the left and Mt. Hood on the right. St. Helens is just visible to left of the light pole above the shed. On a really clear day Mt. Rainier would be visible between Adams and St. Helens. There’s maybe a couple of days a year when that happens.

The view Southwest looking down the Yamhill valley. There are several trails winding down the hillside with areas to sit and admire the view. Mary’s Peak is just visible to right of the middle-left trees. It’s southwest of Corvallis and about 65 miles away. At 4100 feet it’s the highest point on the Oregon Coast Range, and you can drive to the top.

There are facilities at the park but no running water or camping provisions. It might be a great place to watch the sunset after a winery tour; it’s certainly a nice place to go close to home.

On the way home I passed another roadside attraction I’d seen many times but never looked at: the Jackson Bottom Wetlands Preserve. Located at the southwest corner of Hillsboro and adjacent to the water company headquarters, the Preserve staff keep hours but the park is open from sun to sun. There’s a waterfowl hunt club located conveniently (ironically?) across the street.

There are signs cautioning visitors not to leave trash. Parks and Rec is serious about this: there aren’t any trash receptacles around. There are places to plug in your car:

From the pavilion:

It looks boring but is actually rather peaceful and relaxing. I can’t say what the experience would be like with twenty other people around, but on the day it was nice to look and listen to nature.

About a mile down the road there’s the main administrative/interpretive center. They were closed when I visited, but not a problem. One of the interpretive trails:

I thought the quote on this sign was curious. I wouldn’t have thought a nature preservation organization would condone such behavior. There are also sprinklers, which seemed odd:

We’re coming off one of the coldest, wettest Winter’s in living memory; nothing in this state will burn. And shouldn’t natural areas be, um, natural? It can be very dry here, and the sprinklers all seem to be in the vicinity of the buildings, but it still looks a little strange. Out in the viewing area, there’s something stranger still:

I do not know why there is an eye chart here. No placards, signs, or any other explanation is offered. There are plaques along the rail describing the various birds in the area, and the Preserve is very popular with birders. Perhaps the chart is used to settle disputes among bird watchers. (“I told you you couldn’t see”) There’s a nesting pair of Bald Eagles and some Peregrine Falcons, neither of which I saw. I settled for some robins and nuthatches.

Or as folks who don’t write grant applications call it: a beehive. There was bee activity. I had this image of government providing inducements to displace migrant bees doing jobs native pollinators wouldn’t do.

So that was a fun couple of hours finding interesting places close to home.

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