Latest in Portland Travel: Dinosaurs, Tree Adventures, Meteor Showers and Northern Lights

for Those Traveling to and from Oregon; Space Travel

Latest in Portland Travel: Dinosaurs, Tree Adventures, Meteor Showers and Northern Lights

Published 08/03/2010

By Andre Hagestedt

Portland's rainy skies give way to a rainbow earlier this year.

(Portland, Oregon) - As if I really needed to notice one more unexpected angle to this time of year in northwest Oregon, I practically get hit by a shooting star tonight. Walking from my pad to my car after dark, with the distant lights of this SW Portland neighborhood flickering on the secret pond tucked away here, something reddish comes streaking down the sky and fizzles out in a fuzzy pinpoint of flame.

There are some clouds on this summer night, but not enough to block this reminder of yet another wild and weird bullet point to the fun and funky aspects of the season in these parts. The Perseids meteor showers can be especially monstrous in rural parts of the state, even more so on the Oregon coast. There are dinosaurs running amok at the Oregon Zoo. A tree adventure park has opened up in nearby Washington County. And if that wasn’t enough – we could get a nice helping of the northern lights on Tuesday night.

Thanks to a massive solar storm that shot out tons of plasma towards the Earth on Sunday, those of us this far from the north pole (which includes the U.K.) may get to see the aurora borealis at the end of the Oregon trail. Weathercasters here have talked about it for the last 24 hours, and while it’s not for sure by any means, if it happens, it’ll happen just after midnight on Tuesday evening.

Earlier this year, a partial lunar eclipse made a splash in the wee hours of the morning.

The Perseids are actually happening right now, continuing through August 22. You may see up to 60 meteors per hour at the peak of the events, which happens August 12 and 13. Scientists tell us to look northeast after midnight.

 In Portland and other towns, city lights will interfere with the show somewhat, but plenty of spots in the Columbia Gorge will be great for viewing, as will any rural spot away, really. The best spot of all will be the Oregon coast, but that is dependant on cloud cover. If there is no cloud cover or wispy sea air, conditions are always extra spectacular for seeing shooting stars. My favorite spot is up on the Neahkahnie overlooks above Manzanita, where I seem to see major shooting star action whatever time of the year – as long as it’s clear.

Believe it or not, I encounter more of these crystal clear nights on the coast during winter, but just as many in the famed “second summer” months of September and early October.
For the kidlets, dinosaurs again walk the Earth - well at least this patch of it. The Oregon Zoo in Portland is hosting the Prehistoric Predators exhibit until Labor Day Weekend, where animatronic monsters roar, growl and move a bit in a startlingly real manner. You’ll find 17 different dino types, or species, from the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods.

The other cool thing is they leave no massive piles of dino poo, like in those movies.

The setting is a rain forest-like trail, which eventually leads to a spot where the little ones can dig up their own fossils. $3.50 admission, in addition to the regular zoo admission of $10.50; $7.50 for children. 4001 SW Canyon Road, Portland, Ore.

In rural Washington County, you can live the dream of hopping from tree to tree – in the air. Tree to Tree Adventure Park opened this summer, near Hagg Lake, in Gaston (southwest of Hillsboro and just south of Forest Grove).

There are four increasingly difficult courses of tree-top jump spots, as you move around on rope swings, tight ropes, tunnels, bridges, and even zip lines – all 20 or more feet from the ground. It’s like playing Tarzan just outside of Oregon wine country.

It’s open until November, from 10 a.m. until two hours before dusk. Adults: $39, per person, and children $25. 2975 SW Nelson Road. Gaston, Oregon. (503) 357-0109.



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