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Exploring Oregon with Grant McOmie

The host of TVs Grants Getaways has seen a lot of his native Oregon but theres still more for him to explore


Hiking, fishing, surfing, spelunking and kayaking your way around Oregon is a heck of a way to make a living, but somebody's gotta do it. In this case, that somebody is Grant McOmie, producer and host of "Grant's Getaways," a weekly news segment and half-hour feature program that airs on KGW-TV.

McOmie and his "Grant's Getaways" partner, videographer Jeff Kastner, are on the road every week, crisscrossing the state and chronicling their adventures exploring Oregon's beaches, deserts, forests and valleys for their audiences.

A sample itinerary: In early June the duo headed to the coast to check out Sand Lake at Pacific City, popular for its sand dunes; and Whalen Island, the state park system's only island park – "a little pocket of wildness," McOmie says. "Most people don't even know it's there."

The next day they were at St. Louis Ponds, on the west side of Interstate 5 just south of Woodburn. The day after that, they were back at the coast fishing for spring salmon on Tillamook Bay. The following week the duo drove to the Summer Lake Wildlife Area near Paisley in Lake County and from there headed to Burns and Frenchglen.

Wherever McOmie goes, "I look forward to discovering something I didn't know," he says.

His job is like going to school every day, he says. "A work day doesn't go by that I don't learn something I didn't know before."

The 60-year-old longtime broadcaster, who lives in Forest Grove, is a fifth-generation Oregonian whose mother's family has roots in the Prineville/Redmond area of Central Oregon, where he grew up. He was well-traveled as a youngster –"my family camped, hit all the usual spots," he says. "My mom and I talked about why we didn't go to Yellowstone – because we didn't have any money."

His parents eventually split up, and his mother moved to California, where McOmie attended three years of high school in Santa Barbara County, graduating from there in 1970. Without that Santa Barbara experience, "I never would have scuba dived or surfed or fished for all kinds of ocean critters," he says.

McOmie returned to Oregon and attended Pacific University in Forest Grove, majoring in speech, communications and English while dabbling in marine biology. Grass never did grow under his feet, he says: "My wife (Christine, a teacher in Banks) and I explored lots of Oregon when we were young."

He got his start in broadcasting as a KGW news intern in 1981. "At the time there was a sportscaster named Doug LaMear, who was phasing out of his career and doing outdoor stories. I thought, man, that's the ticket, I want to do that. But I want to do it in a way we haven't seen before."

McOmie then worked at KOMO-TV in Seattle before returning to Portland and starting with KATU-TV in 1985. "I was their outdoor reporter, covering places, people and environmental issues," he says. In 2008, KATU cut him loose – "they wanted more crime news," he says – and he went back to KGW.

McOmie produces Grant's Getaways" with KGW and Travel Oregon, the state's travel and tourism commission, which posts segments of the show on its website. The program reaches nearly 3 million households every year, McOmie says.

Despite all his travels, McOmie still hasn't seen everything in his native state. Last month he visited the Oregon Caves for the first time.

"It's one of the coolest places in Oregon," he says. "I don't know why I never went there as a kid. It is remote, true. But the lodge there rivals everything I've ever seen in Oregon, – it's on the same level as Timberline or Crater Lake Lodge."

Another future getaway on his radar: "I'm looking forward to a trip to Jordan Valley – in my own mind I want to go there. I just have to show folks that part of their world; it's so different," he says.

"I'd say my favorite places are the wide open spaces of the east side."

McOmie has written a pair of books chronicling his travels – "Grant's Getaways I and II" – and he's writing a new edition of the series called "101 Grant's Getaways," which will be published in May 2013.

He also teaches at Pacific University in the media arts and environmental sciences departments. Three of his Pacific students recently produced segments for his show as part of a class.

He says he will continue his show as long as his bosses allow him. "All I really want is a Chevron card. If you give me this, I'll give you Oregon ... As long as I have a gas card, I'm happy."

Get away with Grant

"Grant's Getaways" segments, running about 2-1/2 minutes long, air at noon Thursdays and 7 p.m. Saturdays on KGW. The half-hour program of "Grant's Getaways" airs Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. on KGW and throughout Saturday and Sunday on the station's regional broadcast partner, Northwest Cable News. Web-only segments are on TravelOregon.com and as podcasts on iTunes.