McOmie speaks Tuesday at the Forest Grove UCC

by: COURTESY PHOTO - Grant McOmie is releasing a new book, Grant's Getaways: 101 Oregon Adventures, which he will talk about Tuesday at the Forest Grove United Church of Christ.As the sun came up over Oregon’s Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, Grant McOmie’s heart started to sink. Except for falling snow, the desert was still.

He and his crew had traveled more than 300 miles from Forest Grove hoping to capture one of the most unusual spectacles on earth: the mating ritual of the sage grouse.

“It was the most beautiful snow I’d ever seen,” McOmie said, “but there was no movement. I thought we’d missed it.

“And then we were right in among them.”

McOmie watched as more than two dozen birds made their way into their communal breeding ground. Cameras rolled as male sage grouse strutted through the sage, puffing out their chests and fanning their tails for the handful of females among them.

McOmie has been producing “Grant’s Getaways” in one form or another for 26 years and, in the process, has traveled to every corner of Oregon to “take people places where they’ve never been,” he says.

Now, having whittled 26 years worth of adventure down to 101 of his favorites, he’s trying his hand at a medium other than television. Saturday at Hopworks Brewery in Portland, he and his team celebrated the release of “Grant’s Getaways: 101 Oregon Adventures.” The month-by-month guide features Jeff Kastner’s photographs and McOmie’s writing and travel tips.

McOmie said the book is a “natural extension” of the television series. “It’s a great chance for us to cross media platforms.”

People will be able to download the book online and click links to video versions of each story.

Though McOmie said the sage grouse mating ritual was one of his favorites, not all of the book’s destinations require readers to drive to the farthest reaches of Oregon. Adventure-seekers will also find several locations in and around Washington County.

At the very top of the list, for example, McOmie included the Forest Grove-based nonprofit Adventures Without Limits. Led by guide Keith Mussallem, AWL finds a way for people facing physical, developmental and financial challenges to get out and enjoy the wealth of outdoor experiences Oregon has to offer.

But it’s wildlife in general McOmie gets most excited about. And much closer to home than Malheur, Forest Grove boasts its own spectacular bird-watching opportunity at the 250-acre Fernhill Wetlands. With nothing more than a pair of binoculars, people can watch parades of ducks and geese making their way south, as well as hungry bald eagles close behind.

Though he has reached a new pinnacle for Grant’s Getaways with the book release, McOmie isn’t even close to calling it quits. “There are more books in the works,” he said. “The goal is a book a year.”

McOmie is currently writing a work of historical nonfiction on the women who worked in fire-lookouts for the U.S. Forest Service. It’s clear he’s excited about the book, tentatively titled “Cloud Girls,” but he says he will also continue with the guide-book theme.

“I never get tired of it,” he said. “We work around the clock, sometimes in dangerous settings, but it’s like going to school every day. It’s just fascinating.”

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