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Coastal Range Eugene Hiking Oregon Trip report Willamette Valley

Clay Creek Trail and Fern Ridge Wildlife Area – 11/20/2021

A dry forecast on my birthday provided a great excuse to head out on our November hike. We had an unusually loose plan for this outing which consisted of a stop at the Clay Creek Trail followed by a visit to the Fern Ridge Wildlife Area with a third possible stop at Meadowlark Prairie. While the 2 mile hike on the Clay Creek Trail was covered in Sullivan’s “100 Hikes/Travel Guide Oregon Coast & Coast Range” we had very little information on the Fern Ridge Wildlife Area. There was enough information available on line to know that it was open to hiking but it was unclear just how long of a hike was possible which is why we were keeping the option of Meadowlark Prairie on the table. The mostly paved 14 mile long Fern Ridge Path passes along Meadowlark Prairie on its way into Eugene, OR which would have provided some extra hiking time if we’d felt that we needed it.

We started our morning by driving to the BLM managed Clay Creek Recreation Site. The hike here is one of two hike Sullivan lists under his Siuslaw Ridge Trails entry (featured hike #65, 4th edition). We had done the other hike at nearby Whittaker Creek in 2016 (post) and while we considered that earlier hike enough to check off the featured hike from our list completed this second short hike would complete it. We parked at a small pullout on the south side of the Siuslaw River.
IMG_7207The trailhead sign for the Clay Creek Trail is ahead on the opposite side of the road.

It was a foggy morning, much like it had been on our earlier visit to the Wittaker Creek Recreation Area.
IMG_7209Siuslaw River

IMG_7211Clay Creek on the left emptying into the Siuslaw.

A short use trail led down to Clay Creek and a small gravel bench.
IMG_7213Stairs at the Clay Creek Recreation Area across the river.

After checking out the creek we walked the short distance up the road to the start of the trail. Sullivan described the hike as a 2 mile out and back but the map on the sign at the trailhead showed a lollipop loop. (Sullivan does mention the loop in his “Trail Updates” on oregonhiking.com.)
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The existence of the loop at the top was a pleasant surprise. We crossed Clay Creek on a footbridge and began the 600′ climb to the ridge top.
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IMG_7218The Clay Creek Trail climbing above Clay Creek.

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We passed a bench at the second swtichback and continued climbing to a junction 0.6 miles from the parking area.
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IMG_7225It’s hard to tell size here but the diameter of this tree was well over 5′.

IMG_7238The junction for the loop.

We turned right and continued to climb through the fog to the ridge top where the trail turned left.
IMG_7240One of several reroutes we encountered.

IMG_7243On the ridge top.

The trail passed several madrone trees before arriving at a bench at the high point of the ridge.
IMG_7245Madrone trunk and bark, always fascinating.

IMG_7246Lots of mushrooms pushing up through the forest floor.

IMG_7251Good sized trees near the high point.

IMG_7254No idea what you might see on a clear day.

The trail then began to descend to another bench at a switchback where the map indicated there was a view.
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IMG_7258The viewpoint.

The trail continued switchbacking downhill while it wound back to the junction.
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Just before reaching the junction I nearly went head over heals trying to avoid stepping on a rough skinned newt that I spotted at the last minute.
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After having a one sided conversation with said newt we continued downhill to the car.
IMG_7271Nearing the footbridge.

IMG_7275The fog had lifted off the river at least.

While Sullivan indicates in his update that the loop makes this a 3.6 mile hike others still list it as 2 miles and both Heather and my GPS units logged 2 miles for the hike. Despite the fog not allowing for any view it was a pleasant little hike. Sullivan does also mention that the BLM is considering a $5 parking fee for the area in the future so be sure to check the BLM site before heading out.

We spent just over an hour on the Clay Creek Trail after driving over 2 hours to get there so a second stop was a must in order to not break our rule against spending more time driving than hiking. That’s where the Fern Ridge Wildlife Area came in. Located just west of Eugene the area consists of a dozen units broken up around Fern Ridge Reservoir. We had driven by the reservoir numerous times on the way to hike in the Coast Range and around Florence and seen signs for the wildlife area which had piqued at least my curiosity. After some online research it appeared that parking at the end of Royal Avenue between the Royal Amazon and Fisher Butte units was our best bet. The ODFW website mentions possible seasonal closures but finding detailed information on them wasn’t easy. I was eventually able to determine that these two units were open to the public from 10/16 thru 1/30 from until 2pm each day (presumably starting at sunrise). Even with the earlier hike we had arrived before 9:30am so we had plenty of time to explore. There is a $10 daily fee to park in the lots which is typical for ODFW wildlife areas (although it appeared most people simply parked along the shoulder of Royal Ave to avoid the fee).
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IMG_7277Note that Royal Ave and the trail to the viewing platform are open year around with the other restrictions listed below.

20211120_092412We took a picture of this map to assist us with our route.

From the signboard we continued on the gated extension of Royal Avenue. It was a lot foggier than we had expected so the visibility wasn’t good and it was in the mid 30’s so it was chilly too.
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We passed a grassy path leading to the viewing platform at the 0.4 mile mark.
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We opted to pass on the platform for now hoping that visibility would improve as the morning wore on and we could stop by on our way back. We continued on the old road bed watching for birds and any other animals that might be about.

IMG_7285White crowned sparrow

IMG_7289Northern harrier on the hunt.

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IMG_7301Wetlands in the Royal Amazon unit.

As we neared sub-impoundment one a large bird flew up from the reeds. It was our first encounter with an American bittern which was on my bucket list of animals we’d yet to see.
IMG_7302The bittern taking off.

IMG_7304Not the greatest photo but enough to identify it.

We turned right on a levy/old roadbed on the other side of the sub-impoundment and followed it for 0.7 miles to Gibson Island. The highlight of this stretch was a pair of bald eagles hanging out in a snag.
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IMG_7311A hawk on a stump.

IMG_7313American coots

IMG_7317Gibson Island (with the eagles in the snag to the far left)

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A short trail at the end of the levy led onto the island before petering out.
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We turned around and headed back to Royal Avenue where we turned right and continued west just to see how far we could go.
IMG_7351A flock of geese above the coots.

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IMG_7355There were a number of these small birds pecking around in the mud which, with some help from Molly in the comments, are American pipits.

IMG_7357Continuing west.

IMG_7360We used the stones to the right to cross the water here.

IMG_7361Great blue heron (with Highway 126 in the background).

DSCN1182Sandpiper in the roadway.

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IMG_7366End of the line.

We imagined that much of this stretch would be under water by late Winter/early Spring but we had managed to make make it 1.7 miles from the trailhead before being turned back. We headed back past sub-impound one to the grassy path near the viewing platform where we left the road bed.
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DSCN1203Seagull

DSCN1206Perhaps the same northern harrier.

DSCN1211The harrier taking a break.

IMG_7376The path to the platform.

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DSCN1218Dunlins (thanks again to Molly)

DSCN1222The platform.

From the platform dikes led west and south. Since we had just come from the west we decided to go south along a body of water in Field 5.
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IMG_7384The first signs that the fog/clouds might be breaking up.

IMG_7387Looking back at a little blue sky and a visible Gibson Island

We watched a group of shore birds as the alternate between foraging in the mud and performing areal acrobatics.
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A little over three quarters of a mile from the viewing platform we arrived at a 4-way junction.
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We turned left continuing around Field 5 for a third of a mile before arriving at a “T” junction just beyond a ditch.
IMG_7391Fisher Butte is the low hill ahead to the right.

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According to the map we’d taken a picture of at the trailhead continuing straight at the junction would lead us to the area’s boundary near Fisher Butte while the right hand path led past Field 2 to Field 1 and then to a parking area off Highway 126. We turned left walking between the ditch and Field 3.
IMG_7395Gibson Island was now lit by direct sunlight.

In another third of a mile we faced another choice. Another dike headed to the right (east) between Field 3 and Field 4.
IMG_7396The dike running between Fields 3 & 4.

IMG_7398Looking back over the ditch.

We opted to turn right having misread the map for the first time. For some reason we ignored the difference between the symbols for the dikes and boundary lines (although some online sights showed paths along the boundary lines). At first everything was fine as the dike gave way to a cut mowed track wrapping around Field 4 along the boundary. There was a pond in Field 4 where several species of ducks were gathered as well as a great blue heron and a kingfisher.
DSCN1248California scrub jay

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DSCN1262Northern shovelers and a bufflehead.

DSCN1266Buffleheads and two hooded merganser females.

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DSCN1286Kingfisher

DSCN1288American robin

After wrapping around the pond for half a mile the track we were following became increasingly muddy with standing water in areas. We were very close to a gravel road so we hopped onto it for a tenth of a mile where we were able to get back onto a grassy track at a signpost.
IMG_7404The gravel road and another small portion of the wildlife area on the other side.

DSCN1290Noisy geese.

IMG_7405Back on the mowed track.

We went straight here looking for a trail on the right that would leave us back to the parking area. The clouds were really breaking up now and lots of little birds were out enjoying the warmer weather.
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DSCN1291A sparrow

DSCN1295Spotted towhee and friend.

DSCN1300Finch

DSCN1302As of yet unidentified little bird.

We found what we were looking for, at least what we thought we were looking for and turned right on a clear trail that dropped down into a mowed field then mostly disappeared. We skirted along the edge of the field toward the parking area and as we neared the trailhead a clear trail emerged, or more like submerged. We followed the wet trail almost to the signboards near the trailhead where a ditch of standing water stood in our way. Our only choice (aside from backtracking) was to get wet so get wet (or wetter) we did. Luckily our hike was over and we had a change of socks and shoes waiting in the car. We finished hiking just before 1pm and managed to get a full 7 miles in while leaving parts of the area unexplored. It was nice to find another option in the valley that offered a potential destination when getting up into the mountains is possible. While we did hear occasional gun shots from hunters we only saw two duck hunters, but we also saw some families and bird watchers.
IMG_7410This path headed north from the trailhead, something to explore on our next visit.

Track at Fern Ridge Wildlife Area

It was a good birthday hike and we were done early enough for my parents to treat us to a great birthday dinner at The Manilla Fiesta, a restaurant I’d been dying to try. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Clay Creek Trail and Fern Ridge Wildlife Area

Categories
Hiking Oregon Salem/Albany Trip report Willamette Valley

Silver Falls Backcountry Loop – 10/23/2021

The run of sunny Saturdays finally came to an end so we were looking for a good rainy day hike. We turned to Matt Reeder’s “Off the Beaten Trail” (2nd edition) for inspiration. Hike #7 in his book is a 9.3 mile lollipop loop in the backcountry of Silver Falls State Park. He lists Oct-Nov as some of the best months for this hike as well as mentioning that it is a good hike for rainy days so the timing seemed right. Our original plan was to start the hike at Howard Creek Horse Camp just as Reeder describes but to deviate a bit from his description to see more of the backcountry. Our previous visits to the park had all involved hikes on the uber popular Trail of Ten Falls (post). There are no waterfalls in the backcountry and therefore far fewer people. The park opens at 8am so we actually slept in a bit in order to not arrive too early but we still had a couple of minutes to kill when we arrived at the park entrance so we stopped briefly at the South Viewpoint.
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IMG_6547Park map at the viewpoint.

IMG_6550Willamette Valley

It was rather windy at the viewpoint and it was cold with the wind chill in the mid-30s. We thought we were going to be in for a chilly hike only as soon as we got into the forest in the park the wind was gone and the temperature was near 50 degrees. We picked up a $5 day use permit at a fee booth between the Park Office and campground and continued toward the Howard Creek Trailhead. As we neared we kept seeing signs along the road with pointers for “base camp” and “catering”. We hadn’t seen anything on the park website but it appeared that there might be some sort of event happening. There were a bunch of trailer trucks parked at the Horse Camp and we were flagged down by a Park Ranger? who mentioned that the trailhead was open but there would be a detour to get around the equipment and wires set up on the “horse loop”. We thanked him but didn’t ask any additional questions which we probably should have. We started to park but then decided that if there was an event then it was probably going to get pretty busy/crowded there so we decided instead to start from a different trailhead.

The route that we had settled on was a combination of several trails including the Howard Creek Loop, Buck Mountain Loop, Smith Creek, and 214 Trails. The 214 Trailhead would provide us access to this loop as well as give us a reason to add the Rabbit Hole and Newt Loop Trails to the itinerary. We drove back toward the park’s south entrance and turned left into the large 214 Trailhead. (There is no fee station here so you need to pick up a day use permit elsewhere.)
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From this trailhead is was just over 3/4 of a mile on the 214 Trail to the junction with the Smith Creek Trail where we would have eventually been on our originally planned loop. We followed signs for the 214 Trail at junctions. Signage in the park is hit and miss, having a map of the park is a must to avoid getting confused at unsigned junctions.
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IMG_6561Sign post for the Newt Loop and mountain biking skills station.

IMG_6563As much blue sky as we were going to get on this day.

IMG_6564A massive old growth nursery log. The tree stood for hundreds of years and will spend hundreds more slowly decaying and providing nutrients for younger trees.

IMG_6566Nursery stump. While some old growth exists in the park it was also logged heavily which was the primary reason it was passed over for National Park status.

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IMG_6582The Smith Creek Trail junction.

We stayed left on the 214 Trail at the junction with the Smith Creek Trail following it for another 0.6 miles to a junction with the 1.1 mile Nature Trail Loop.
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20211023_085008Does anyone know their salamanders? Not sure what type this one was.

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IMG_6603The Nature Trail junction.

We called an audible here and decided that a 1.1 mile loop wouldn’t add too much distance onto our day so we turned left and then left again to go clockwise on the Nature Trail.
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In just over half a mile the trail popped us out in the park campground. After consulting our maps we determined we needed to turn left to find the continuation of the trail.
IMG_6619From the spot that we entered the campground you could just see a hiker sign at the far end of the paved campground road.

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At an unlabeled junction with the Racket Ridge Connector Trail we stayed right on the Nature Trail. The Racket Ridge Connector Trail crossed South Fork Silver Creek while the Nature Trail followed the south bank for a short distance.
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It was a half mile from the jct with the Racket Ridge Connector Trail back to the 214 Trail and just before we completed the loop we passed a blind.
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IMG_6631No wildlife to view today.

When we got back to the 214 Trail we turned left to continue on our loop. Just under half a mile later we arrived at a “T” junction with the Howard Creek Loop Trail where we turned left.
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IMG_6639The Howard Creek Loop Trail.

This trail crossed a paved road before crossing Howard Creek on a footbridge.
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IMG_6642Howard Creek

On the far side of Howard Creek the trail turned right along the road we had taken earlier to reach the Howard Creek Horse Camp.
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IMG_6645Sign for the trailhead.

We hiked past the gate in the photo above and encountered the Park Ranger from earlier. He directed us to a trail on the right that would bypass the “wires and equipment”. This time we at least confirmed that the Buck Mountain Loop was open and thanked him before continuing on our way. We still aren’t sure what is/was going on but it wasn’t an event like we had thought. It appeared that they were either upgrading part of the horse camp, repairing the entrance road, or doing some thinning. Whatever they were doing we were able to pick up the Howard Creek/Buck Creek Loop trail at the SE end of the loop at the end of the road.
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In a tenth of a mile we turned right on an old logging road.
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Three tenths of a mile later we arrived at another junction where the Howard Creek Loop split to the right while the Buck Mountain Loop continued straight uphill.
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For the next 2.7 miles we followed this road uphill until it leveled out and came to a large trail junction at the edge of a fire closure. We often turned to the maps along this stretch to ensure we stayed on the correct road.
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IMG_6687Blue appeared to mean Buck Mountain Loop (the posts along the Howard Creek Loop had been red and later the Smith Creek Trail posts were yellow.)

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IMG_6710The mix of tree trunks here caught our eye.

IMG_6719Approaching the trail junction.

The good news at this big junction was there was good signage and a full park map.
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IMG_6724The 2020 Beachie Creek Fire threatened the Park and did in fact burn over nearby Shellburg Falls (post). As it was a small portion of the park was burned causing the very SE portion of the park to remain closed until repairs and removal of hazard trees are completed.

IMG_6723Orange fence marking the closure of the Catamount Trail.

We stuck to the Buck Mountain Loop which descended to a pair of crossings of tributaries of Howard Creek.
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IMG_6727The first footbridge which spans Howard Creek. The creek was obscured by brush.

IMG_6730The second footbridge over a tributary not shown on the topo map.

IMG_6731This stream was a little easier to see.

We took a short break at this bridge before continuing on.
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Just over a mile from the large junction we arrived at a 4-way junction where we turned right to stay on the Buck Mountain Loop.
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IMG_6748A reminder of how close the Beachie Creek Fire was.

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IMG_6760The 4-way junction.

We kept on the Buck Mountain Loop for nearly another mile before arriving at the Smith Creek Trail junction.
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IMG_6780Approaching the Smith Creek Trail junction.

Up until this point other than a few very brief sprinkles we hadn’t seen much actual rainfall during the hike. As we started down the Smith Creek Trail though a steady rain began to fall. We followed this trail downhill for 1.6 miles to a junction near the Silver Falls Conference Center.
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We stayed on the Smith Creek Trail for another 1.3 miles to yet another junction, this time with the Rabbit Hole Trail.
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We faced a choice here. Looking at the map the Rabbit Hole Trail offered a slightly shorter route back to the 214 Trailhead versus the Smith Creek Trail, but it also appeared to climb a steeper hillside, albeit via switchback. The deciding factor for us though was whether or not there appeared to be many mountain bikers coming down the trail. Given the weather and not seeing any bikers or fresh tire tracks we decided to give it a shot.
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There were 13 signed switchbacks in just over half a mile before arriving at the Newt Loop Trail near the mountain bike skills station.
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IMG_6839Ramps in the background at the skills station.

We turned left on the Newt Loop and followed it through the forest ignoring side roads and trails for 0.6 miles to the 214 Trail just two tenths of a mile from the 214 Trailhead.
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IMG_6850The Catamount Trail arriving on the left.

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IMG_6858The 214 Trail from the Newt Loop.

We didn’t encounter any bikers on the Newt Loop or Rabbit Hole trails. In fact we only saw one mountain biker all day and that was on the Buck Mountain Loop. We did see a couple of larger groups of trail runners (or one big group split into smaller groups) on the Nature Trail but otherwise I don’t believe we saw even a half dozen other trail users during our 12.9 mile loop. Reeder had been right, this was a great rainy day hike and the fall colors made it a good time of year to visit. While we managed to spend time on a number of the trails in the backcountry there is still plenty for us to explore and I’m already coming up with other ideas for the future when the fire closure is lifted.

Our 12.9 loop

Our “hiking season” is quickly coming to an end for the year and while it wasn’t an ideal year from a drought and wildfire perspective we’ve been fortunate enough to get some great hikes in while wrapping up a number of our longer term goals which we will be posting about during our off-season. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Silver Falls Backcountry

Categories
Corvallis Hiking Oregon Willamette Valley

McDonald-Dunn Forest via Sulphur Springs – 10/02/2021

Sometimes the main purpose of a hike isn’t to see a sight but rather to step away from things and find a peaceful place in nature to reflect. My Grandmother turned 97 on 9/30/21, her last birthday after suffering a massive stroke just days earlier. We were able to drive up to her home in Portland on her birthday to visit and while she couldn’t speak she was able to respond and interact with her family that had gathered. We would be returning on Saturday afternoon to visit again when my Brother and his family arrived from Missouri but that morning we felt like getting outside and taking a nice long walk would be good. Since we were heading to Portland later we wanted a hike that was close to home to cut down on driving time so we decided to revisit the McDonald-Dunn Research Forest near Corvallis, OR.

This would be our fourth hike in McDonald Forest having previously hiked to McCulloch Peak (post), Dimple Hill (post) and Peavy Arboretum (post). Each of those three hike had been entirely unique with no steps retracing an earlier path. They had also mostly avoided the center and northwestern portions of the forest. For this hike we planned on visiting those two areas and had originally hoped to connect all three of our previous hikes. We were only able to connect two of the three though due to an active logging operation which closed a portion of the loop we’d planned.

We started our hike at a pullout by the Sulphur Springs Trail along Sulphur Springs Road.
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We visited the springs first by following the Sulphur Springs Trail for a tenth of a mile.
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IMG_5535Sulphur Springs

IMG_5536Soap Creek near Sulphur Springs.

We then returned to Sulphur Springs Road and turned left (west) following it for 0.4 miles through some residences to the Sulphur Springs Road Trailhead.
IMG_5539Sulphur Springs Road from the pullout.

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IMG_5542Sulphur Springs Road Trailhead.

Our plan had been to combine a pair of hikes described in the Oregonhikers.org field guide, the McCulloch Peak Loop Hike and the Sulphur Springs via Alpha Trail Hike by connecting them using the gravel roads in the forest.
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We continued on Sulphur Springs Road (Road 700) past an orange gate to the left of the signboard.
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Approximately 1.5 miles beyond the gate we came to an intersection below a clearcut where pointers in both directions were labeled McCulloch Peak.
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We followed the Oregonhikers guide and went right on Road 760. We followed this road for 0.4 miles to an the unmarked, unofficial Rocky Road Trail.
IMG_5559We stayed right at this junction with Road 761.

IMG_5561The Rocky Road Trail.

The sheer number of roads and trails (both official and unofficial) makes it really easy to get turned around in the forest so having plenty of maps and a plan handy helps. Roads and trails come and go as the forest is used for research purposes by Oregon State University. The Rocky Road Trail is an unofficial trail that follows an old road bed half a mile uphill before rejoining Road 760.
IMG_5564A good sized cedar along the trail.

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IMG_5570Road 760 ahead.

We turned left on Road 760 and followed it for another quarter mile to a junction with Road 700 where we again turned left. Road 700 followed a ridge briefly providing views of the surrounding area then wrapped around a hillside and arriving at a junction with Road 7040 which was the first familiar sight to us.
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IMG_5580Interesting patchwork of trees. We would have liked to have been able to see when each section had been harvested and replanted.

IMG_5583We couldn’t see much to the east due to the Sun’s position.

IMG_5589Mary’s Peak (post)

IMG_5594Road 7040 on the left.

We had returned down Road 7040 as part of our previous hike to McCulloch Peak but now we stuck to Road 700 for another quarter mile to a 4-way junction where we turned right on Raod 790.
IMG_5598Pointer for McCulloch Peak at the junction. We had come up from Road 700 on the right.

IMG_5597The rest of the 4-way junction. After visiting the peak we would head downhill following the pointer for Oak Creek.

We followed Road 790 a half mile to its end at the peak.
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It was just a little hazy to get much of a view from the peak so we headed back by following an unofficial trail down from the summit to a spur road not shown on the maps which connected to Road 790 a tenth of a mile from the summit.
IMG_5606Trail to the spur road.

At the 4-way junction we followed Road 700 downhill for a little over three quarters of a mile to a junction with Road 680.
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IMG_5614Fading pearly everlasting.

IMG_5615We stayed left here which was the shorter route.

IMG_5617Madrone

IMG_5619Tree island at the junction with Road 680.

We had originally planned on taking Road 680 from the junction but a short distance up that road there was an unofficial trail showing on the Oregonhikers Field Guide Map which looked like it would cut some distance off our hike. The trail was obvious and had even been recently brushed.
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This trail began with a short climb then headed downhill reaching a junction with the Uproute and Extendo Trail near Road 680.
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IMG_5629Nearing the trail junction.

IMG_5630Poison oak climbing trees.

IMG_5631Signs for the Uproute and Extendo Trails.

IMG_5633Road 680

We turned right onto Road 680 and followed it a half mile to a signboard at Road 600.
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At this signboard was a notice that a portion of Road 600 was closed so we spent some time reviewing the map to come up with an alternate route.
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We had planned on following Road 600 all the way to the Ridge Trail at Lewisberg Saddle which we had visited on our Peavy Arboretum hike but the closure was going to force us onto the Bombs Away Trail which would hook up with the Ridge Trail half a mile from Lewisberg Saddle. We didn’t feel like adding another mile to our hike so we would only be connecting two of our three previous hikes this time. We followed Road 600 uphill for a mile and a half to yet another 4-way junction.
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IMG_5647A few larger trees in the forest.

IMG_5652A sea of green grass.

IMG_5653Horsetails

IMG_5654The 4-way junction.

We had been to this junction during our hike to Dimple Hill and hadn’t originally planned on making the 0.4 mile side trip to that viewpoint but with the upcoming detour and a couple of shortcuts we’d already taken we decided to revisit the hill. We turned right on Road 650.
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After two tenths of a mile we left the road and followed a pointer for Upper Dan’s Trail.
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IMG_5660Summit of Dimple Hill.

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The view here was a bit better than it had been at McCulloch Peak. We could at least see Mary’s Peak by walking just a bit downhill.
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IMG_5666Mary’s Peak

After a short break we followed Road 650 back to the 4-way junction and turned right back onto Road 600. Three quarters of a mile later we arrived at the closure. Along the way the road passed through a clearcut where we could just make out the tops of Mt. Hood, Mt. Jefferson and the Three Sisters.
IMG_5673Approaching the junction on Road 650.

IMG_5675Junco

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IMG_5684Mt. Hood

IMG_5680Mt. Jefferson

IMG_5687The Three Sisters

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We made a hairpin turn at the closure onto the unsigned High Horse Trail.
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Things got a little confusing at this point. The maps on the signboards (we had taken photos with our phones) showed the Bombs Away Trail as a planned trail for 2020. From the placement on the map it appeared that it split off of the High Horse Trail very close to Road 600 but we wound up climbing a series of switchbacks for half a mile before arriving at an unsigned 4-way junction.
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IMG_5697The High Horse Trail and another trail heading uphill at the 4-way junction.

IMG_5698What we assume is the Bombs Away Trail on the left and the High Horse Trail on the right at the 4-way junction.

We took the first trail on the right since it was headed in the correct direction hoping it was indeed the Bombs Away Trail. What we found was a braided mess of trails coming and going on each side. We relied on our GPS to make sure we stayed headed in the right direction and after a confusing 0.6 miles we arrived at Road 640.
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IMG_5706Left or right? More often than not both ended up in the same spot.

IMG_5709Road 640

The trail continued on the far side of the road. This stretch was more straight forward ending at Road 620 after 0.4 miles.
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IMG_5714

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On the far side of Road 620 we found the Ridge Trail which we followed for a tenth of a mile to a junction with the Alpha Trail.
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IMG_5721Junction with the Alpha Trail.

We turned left here onto the Alpha Trail.
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After 0.4 mile the Alpha Trail dropped us out onto Road 810 which we followed downhill 0.6 miles to Road 800.
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IMG_5728

IMG_5730Looking back at the Alpha Trail from Road 810.

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IMG_5735Road 800 below Road 810.

We turned left on Road 800 for three tenths of mile then turned right onto the Baker Creek Trail.
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IMG_5739Baker Creek Trail ahead on the right.

The Baker Creek Trail followed Baker Creek (heard but not seen) for two tenths of mile before crossing Soap Creek on a 1923 Pony Truss Bridge.
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The Baker Creek Trailhead was just on the other side of the bridge as was Sulphur Springs Road. We turned left and walked 100 yards up the road back to our car.

Our 13.1 mile hike with approx 2800′ of elevation gain.

After a brief stop at home to clean up we headed to Portland to say our last goodbyes to Grandma. She always enjoyed hearing about our hikes and looking at the pictures, and she eagerly anticipated the calendar we made each year with them. She passed the following Monday night and is with the Lord now. We’ll think of her often when we’re out exploring. Happy Trails Grandma!

Flickr: McDonald Forest via Sulphur Springs

Categories
Hiking Oregon Salem/Albany Willamette Valley

Luckiamute Landing and Wetlands – 06/26/2021

With a record setting heat wave arriving just in time for the weekend we changed our hiking plans and looked for something close to home and on the shorter side so that we could get a hike in before the temperatures got too ridiculous. A pair of hikes at the Luckiamute Landing State Natural Area matched that criteria and would be new hikes to us. A mere 30 minute drive from our house we were able to reach the first of the two trailheads, the Luckiamute Landing Trailhead by 5:15am. (We actually parked in a pullout 0.4 miles from the trailhead which I blame on not being fully awake yet.)
IMG_9011Private farm along the entrance road from the pullout we parked at.

IMG_9012Osprey nest above the corn field.

IMG_9013Gated road at the trailhead. There was a second gravel road to the right that was blocked with a log. The gravel road appeared to be fairly new and possibly a reroute of the gated road.

We walked around the gate and followed the dirt road a tenth of a mile to what must have once been the trailhead. The road passed near the Luckiamute River and it looked as though the river had been eroding the the embankment under the road which might explain why the trailhead was moved and the newer gravel road.
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IMG_9017Old trailhead?

A loop started at the signboard here.
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We stayed straight and continued following the road which never approached the Luckiamute again.
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The road soon skirted the edge of a large field where a cat was in the middle on a morning hunt.
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IMG_9024Extreme zoom on the kitty.

There was also a coyote out in the field but it disappeared into the grasses too quickly for even a poor photo. We continued on toward the Sun that would soon be scorching the Northwest and away from the Moon and the cool of night.
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On our right was the open field but on the left was a wall of vegetation including some ripe thimbleberries which are Heather’s favorites.
IMG_9032Wild rose

IMG_9039Vetch

IMG_9043Oregon grape

20210626_054759Thimbleberry

A finch appeared to be doing some sort of dance in the road.
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A half mile after starting the loop we came to spur trail to the left with a hiker symbol for an interpretive sign. We of course took the bait and followed the path 50 yards to the sign at the end of the spur.
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After reading the sign we returned to the loop and continued to the end of the field.
IMG_9056We both initially thought that this was the start of an out and back to campsites along the Willamette River and that the loop continued around the field to the right. In fact there was a blue awning set up at the edge of the field in that direction and at least 3 vehicles (not sure why they were there or how they got through the gate). This was not the case and fortunately for us we were planning on doing the out and back which meant we didn’t make the mistake of turning here. The continuation of the loop was actually 0.2 miles further along the road in the forest.
IMG_9060The correct right turn for the loop.

We ignored the loop for now continuing on the road through a mixed forest.
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IMG_9063Cottonwood on the road.

IMG_9059Red elderberry, a favorite of the birds.

IMG_9066This wren was taking a dirt bath, perhaps an attempt to stay cool?

IMG_9067A lot of invasive daisies in an opening.

IMG_9073Native elegant brodiaea

IMG_9074Egg shell

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IMG_9078More ripe berries.

The road curved to the north as it neared the Willamette and led to an open flat with a couple of picnic tables and campsites for boaters traveling the 187 mile long Willamette Water Trail.
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IMG_9080Poppies

IMG_9086Mostly non-natives – chicory and clovers.

IMG_9088More non-natives – Moth mullein and cultivated radish

IMG_9083Slug

IMG_9089Douglas spirea (native)

Beyond the campsites a narrow use trail led to a view across the Willamette River to the Santiam River as it joined the Willamette.
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IMG_9092The mouth of the Luckiamute on the left was hidden by trees.

I tried following the use trail to the Luckiamute but it ended (or at least my attempt did) in thick vegetation.
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We returned to the campsites and followed a path down to the river landing.
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To be honest neither of us had heard of the Willamette Water Trail until then but it was interesting to learn of its existence.
IMG_9105Willamette River at the landing.

IMG_9104Not sure what type of birds these were.

IMG_9102Bindweed at the landing.

We headed back along the road, which was still busy with wildlife, and then turned left to continue the loop when we reached that junction.
IMG_9112Bunny and a bird (not pictured is the chipmunk that raced across the road here).

IMG_9114Slug also “racing” across the road. Speed is relative.

IMG_9116Back on the loop.

Instead of skirting the filed this portion of the loop stayed in the “gallery forest”, a narrow strip of trees that grows along a waterway in an open landscape. (Learned that term from an interpretive sign along this section.)
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IMG_9150Near the end of the loop the trail passed back along the field.

IMG_9141White crowned sparrow

IMG_9147Possibly nelson’s checkermallow.

IMG_9149Meadow checkermallow

IMG_9155Completing the loop.

IMG_9156Lupine that is just about finished.

Before we headed back to the car we followed a path on the other side of the road a tenth of a mile to the Luckiamute River.
IMG_9159Old bus

IMG_9163Tree frog

IMG_9165Luckiamute River

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After visiting this river we hiked back to our car via the newer gravel road. One of the osprey had just left the nest to presumably find some food when it came back into view.
IMG_9173Waiting for food.

Our hike here came to 5.5 miles. Had we parked at the actual trailhead and not taken all of the side trails it would have been between 4.5 and 5 miles and if they reopen the road to the old trailhead the hike would be approximately 4 miles.

From the pullout we’d parked in we returned to Buena Vista Road and turned left (south) for a mile to the South Luckiamute Trailhead.
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This was supposed to be a 1.1 mile out and back to visit the West Pond where we might just spot a western pond turtle. We followed a gravel path south for 0.2 miles before it turning east at the edge of the park boundary.
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An old road bed dipped down to a flower filled field which it skirted eventually curving north and arriving at West Pond after half a mile. (West Pond is an old gravel pit.)
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IMG_9183Old farm equipment with poison oak in the background.

IMG_9184One of several birdhouses along the road.

You can go down to the pond at the south end but a couple had just headed down there in front of us so we decided to keep going and possibly visit that spot on the way back. The turtles, if we were to spot any, are primarily located at the northern end of the pond and we had left our binoculars in the cars so spotting them from the southern end wasn’t likely anyway.
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IMG_9190North end of the pond.

Except for the southern end the area around the pond is closed for turtle habitat.
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There was a good view of the pond from the road at the north end though. Unfortunately we didn’t spot any turtles although there were a couple of disruptions in the water that very well could have been their work. We did however see a few birds.
IMG_9198We are both pretty sure a turtle swam off from this area when we came into view.

IMG_9193Spotted towhee

IMG_9204Swallow

The entry on the Oregonhikers.org field guide showed the trail extending a bit to the north of the pond before ending which is why we had planned for a 1.1 mile out and back. The field guide did mention future plans to expand the trail network here though. We continued north along the road which turned into more of a grassy track but it never petered out. Instead it curved west then south wrapping around the field eventually leading back to the roadbed near where it had dropped to the field.
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IMG_9210European centaury

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IMG_9218Oyster plant

IMG_9221Creeping jenny

IMG_9222Arrowleaf clover

IMG_9223Scrub jay

IMG_9224Corn Chamomile

IMG_9226Northern flicker

IMG_9229Great blue heron

IMG_9234American kestral

After completing this unexpected loop we returned to our car. The hike here came in at 1.9 miles, still short but quite a bit further than the 1.1 miles we expected. We finished just before 9am but it was already in the high-70’s. The plan had worked though, we’d managed to get 7.4 miles of hiking in before 9am and were back home with the A/C on by 9:30am. During our hike we discussed the very real possibility that these types of heat waves will become more and more common in the future and pondered what that would look like. Something to think about and be prepared for but for now we’d had a nice morning on the trails and found a new local option to revisit. Happy Trails!

Top track – Luckiamute Landing
Lower track – Luckiamute Wetlands

Flickr: Luckiamute Landing and Wetlands

Categories
Corvallis Hiking Oregon Willamette Valley

Finley Wildlife Refuge Loop – 4/14/2021

A day after visiting the Ankeny National Wildlife Refuge (post) I headed out to the William L. Finely National Wildlife Refuge for another attempt at spotting wildlife. Heather once again was working so I was on my own again. We had done two previous hikes here, one in 2017 visiting the Cabell Marsh and hiking the Woodpecker and Mill Hill Loops and the other in 2020 starting near Pigeon Butte. My plan was to combine most of those two hikes and add a few new short stretches to make a big loop through the refuge starting from the Woodpecker Loop Trailhead. One item to note is that some of the refuge is closed from November 1st through March 31st making this loop impossible during the seasonal closure.

The refuge is open from dawn to dusk and I arrived at the trailhead just as the Sun was beginning to rise behind Mt. Jefferson.
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From the Woodpecker Loop Trailhead I walked down to the refuge road and followed it to the left back to the Cabell Barn then turned right on a road at a season trail sign for the Cabell Marsh Overlook. I followed the roadbed to the Cabell Lodge and past the overlook down to Cabell Marsh.
IMG_1824Mt. Hood from the refuge road

IMG_1826The Three Sisters from the road

IMG_1832Yellow paintbrush

IMG_1841Cabell Barn

img src=”https://live.staticflickr.com/65535/51116225393_9feb61f994_c.jpg&#8221; width=”800″ height=”600″ alt=”IMG_1860″>Cabell Lodge

IMG_1852Rabbit at the lodge

IMG_1865Cabell Marsh Overlook

IMG_1871White crowned sparrows

IMG_1878Deer in a field near Cabell Marsh

IMG_1879Cabell Marsh (the marsh had been drained when we visited in 2020)

I slowly walked along the dike at the marsh using binoculars to try and identify how many different ducks were out on the water.
IMG_1880Norther shovelers

IMG_1887American coots

IMG_1889Ring-necked ducks

IMG_1892Buffleheads

IMG_1908Black pheobe

IMG_1910American wigeons

IMG_1915_stitchCabell Marsh

IMG_1921Canada geese

Wood duck, ring-necked ducks and a pie billed grebeWood duck, ring-necked ducks and a pied billed grebe

IMG_1951More northern shovelers

IMG_1953Ring-necked ducks

IMG_1955Green winged teal

IMG_1956Robin

At a junction on the SW end of the Marsh I stayed left following a roadbed past a huge flock of geese and some ponds to a junction with the Pigeon Butte Trail.
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IMG_1970

IMG_1983Killdeer

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IMG_1991Red-winged blackbird

IMG_2003Junction with the Pigeon Butte Trail (grassy track heading uphill)

Originally I had planned on skipping the half mile trail to the top of Pigeon Butte but it was a beautiful morning and it had been too cloudy to see much on our hike in 2020 so I turned uphill an tagged the summit before returning to my originally planned loop.
IMG_2004Tortoiseshell butterfly

IMG_2012Spotted towhee serenade

IMG_2020Bewick’s wren

IMG_2022Madrone

IMG_2027Mourning dove

IMG_2029Camas blooming near the summit

IMG_2034View from Pigeon Butte

IMG_2036Scrub jay spotted on the way down.

IMG_2038One of the “blue” butterflies, maybe a silvery blue

IMG_2043Acorn woodpecker

When I got back down to the junction I continued south on the Pigeon Butte Trail to a junction at a pond below Cheadle Barn.
IMG_2050Looking back at Pigeon Butte, the yellow paintbrush was starting its bloom on the hillside.

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Instead of heading for the barn and the Cheadle Marsh Trail which we had used on our 2020 visit I went right following a roadbed to Bruce Road across from the Field 12 Overlook.
IMG_2068Looking back at Pigeon Butte and the Cheadle Barn

IMG_2066Western bluebird

IMG_2070Bruce Rd and a sign for the overlook.

IMG_2071Swallows at the overlook

IMG_2075Mary’s Peak and Pigeon Butte from the overlook.

IMG_2076Mary’s Peak (post)

I then walked west on Bruce Road to the trailhead for the Beaver Pond and Cattail Pond Trails passing the Mitigation Wetland along the way. I paused at the wetland to watch a great blue heron and egret along with a number of ducks in.
IMG_2083Ground squirrel on Bruce Rd.

IMG_2080Sparrows

IMG_2085Western bluebird

IMG_2088Mitigation Wetland

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IMG_2103Egret

IMG_2098heron flying by the egret

IMG_2125Northern shoveler

IMG_2126Green winged teals

IMG_2129Trailhead off of Bruce Road

I turned off of Bruce Road at the trailhead and followed the grassy track to a fork where I veered left on the Beaver Pond Trail. This trail led briefly through the woods before arriving at the Beaver Pond where I startled a heron and a few ducks but an egret and a few other ducks stuck around.
IMG_2132Ground squirrel

IMG_2136Entering the woods

IMG_2142Giant white wakerobin

IMG_2144Fairybells

IMG_2162Startled heron

IMG_2169Egret and a cinnamon teal pair and maybe an American wigeon

As I was watching the egret I noticed something else in the water but I wasn’t sure if it was an animal or a log/rock in disguise. Even with binoculars I could decide but after looking at the pictures it was in fact a nutria that appeared to be napping.
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The egret finally flew off and I continued on to a junction just beyond the pond where I turned left heading slightly uphill toward the Refuge Headquarters and the Mill Hill Loop.
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IMG_2181Candyflower

At a signed 4-way junction I followed a pointer for the Mill Hill Trail to the left but not before I checked out a patch of pink along the trail straight ahead.
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IMG_2188The pink turned out to be shooting stars.

I hiked the Mill Hill Loop (which led back to the junction right past the shooting stars) and then turned left on the Intertie Trail. The Mill Hill Loop was full of surprises with a number of different wildflowers blooming and a turtle sighting. The turtle was on a log in a wetland quite a bit below a bench along the trail and I only spotted it with the help of the binoculars but that counts.
IMG_2196Iris

IMG_2201Bleeding heart

IMG_2220One of many fairy slippers

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IMG_2218It took some work to get the camera to stop focusing on the brush in the foreground.

IMG_2230Buttercups

IMG_2232Violets

IMG_2238Fawn lilies

IMG_2244Back at the junction and onto the Intertie Trail

I followed the Intertie Trail to the Woodpecker Loop ignoring side trails to the Refuge Headquarters.
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IMG_2256Service berry

IMG_2257The Woodpecker Loop

I turned left opting to head uphill on a slightly longer route back to my car so that I could check out the view from a hilltop viewing structure.
IMG_2259Norther flicker along the Woodpecker Loop

IMG_2263Amphibian pond and interpretive kiosk.

IMG_2267Viewing structure

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IMG_2272Mt. Jefferson

IMG_2273The Three Sisters

I watched a pair of raptors chase each other around but couldn’t get a clear enough view to tell what kind they were (maybe Cooper’s hawks?).
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IMG_2279This was the best shot I could get at 40x zoom with the sun in front of me.

After accepting that a clearer picture wasn’t possible I left the shelter and hiked downhill to my waiting car. While I only passed two other hikers on the trails there were a number of folks at the trailhead either just arriving or getting ready to leave. My loop with the mile detour up and down Pigeon Butte came in at 11.3 miles. The great thing about Finley is the diversity it offers with forest, woodlands, marshes and fields each supporting different plants and wildlife. The possibility of long, medium and short hikes is also nice. The one drawback is that there is a lot of poison oak in the area but they keep the trails wide enough that it really isn’t much of a problem.

Happy Trails!

Flickr: Finley Wildlife Refuge Loop

Categories
Hiking Oregon Salem/Albany Willamette Valley

Ankeny Wildlife Refuge – 04/13/2021

I found myself with some time off that Heather does not and after spending the first day getting the car serviced and receiving my first dose of COVID vaccine (YAY) I spent the next morning exploring the Ankeny Wildlife Refuge. We had visited once before in 2014 for a short hike described by Sullivan in his “100 Hikes in the Central Oregon Cascades” guidebook (post). This time I hoped to explore more of the refuge by hiking some of the dike trails that are open from April 1st to September 30th. I started my morning at the Eagle Marsh parking area on Buena Vista Road.
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There is a nice kiosk there overlooking the marsh from which quite a few ducks and geese were visible.
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IMG_1362Buffleheads

IMG_1370Canada goose and mallards

IMG_1373American coot

IMG_1375Ring-necked ducks (I’m not sure all the females are the same.)

IMG_1392Geese flying over Eagle Marsh as the Sun rises.

There was more vegetation at the southern end of the marsh where robins and blackbirds were singing.
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At the end of Eagle Marsh the dike split and I had intended to stay straight (the Refuge trail map appeared to show a possible loop around Willow Marsh but other maps do not show a dike at the southern end) but a sign there announced that dike was closed due to active nesting so I turned left instead.
IMG_1415Willow Marsh

There were a lot of ducks in Willow Marsh but they were keeping a safe distance from me.
IMG_1429A bufflehead and mallards

IMG_1432Mallards and ring-necked ducks

I then turned right along a dike passing between Willow and Teal Marshes.
IMG_1435Teal Marsh to the left of the dike.

It was more of the same treatment from the ducks in Teal Marsh.
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IMG_1454Mallards an northern shovelers

IMG_1457Buffleheads

While the ducks stayed away I had better luck with the smaller birds.
IMG_1468Spotted towhee

IMG_1473Red-winged blackbird

IMG_1476Female red-winged blackbird

IMG_1482Sparrow

IMG_1506Yellow-rumped warbler

At the end of Teal Marsh I turned around and headed back past the ducks.
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IMG_1507Geese coming in for a landing on Teal Marsh

IMG_1516Northern flicker

IMG_1517Green-winged teal

IMG_1520Ring-necked ducks and a bufflehead pair

IMG_1524Scrub jay

IMG_1541Pie billed grebe at Eagle Marsh

The out-and-back was a nice, albeit windy, 3.2 mile walk with no elevation gain. From Eagle Marsh I turned left (SW) onto Buena Vista Road and drove a quarter mile to a small pullout at a green gate.
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From here I planned on following another dike past Mohoff Pond and Pintail Marsh to Wintel Road and then follow that road briefly to the Rail Trail Loop Area which is where we had been on our first visit. A bald eagle flew over Mohoff Pond just as I set off.
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Mohoff Pond was busy with a number of different ducks but primarily they seemed to be northern shovelers.
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IMG_1580I didn’t see it when I took the picture but it appears there is an eagle on the ground in the distance here.

The activity wasn’t only at Mohoff Pond though as a handful of egrets were mostly out of view in a field on the other side of the railroad tracks.
IMG_1559One of the egrets taking off.

IMG_1589Brewer’s blackbird on a tree along the railroad tracks.

I stayed right at a junction with a dike running between Mohoff Pond and Pintail Marsh.
IMG_1591Pintail Marsh ahead on the left.

IMG_1761The dike between Mohoff Pond and Pintail Marsh.

IMG_1592Ducks at Pintail Marsh

There was a gravel parking area at the southern end of Pintail Marsh where I hopped onto Wintel Road and headed left following the narrow shoulder for .3 miles to another green gate on the right hand side of the road.
IMG_1596Pintail Marsh

IMG_1736Looking back at the gate and Wintel Road

I followed a grassy track which split 100 feet from the gate and turned right (left would have led me to the Rail Trail Parking area). The path led past a little standing water before leading onto a dike along Wood Duck Pond.
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IMG_1601Yellow legs

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I passed the Rail Trail Boardwalk and stayed on the dike now retracing our steps from our first visit.
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The dike turned south wrapping around Dunlin Pond.
IMG_1613The boardwalk across Dunlin Pond from the dike.

IMG_1639Ring-necked ducks

IMG_1634Ring-necked ducks taking off.

IMG_1626Sparrow

IMG_1646Common yellowthroat

IMG_1641Hawk and a sparrow

At the far end of Dunlin Pond the dike split again at Killdeer Marsh. Here I turned right and looped around Killdeer Marsh.
IMG_1653Killdeer Marsh

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IMG_1660Another yellow legs?

IMG_1663Mustard along Killdeer Marsh

IMG_1669A killdeer amid ducks at Killdeer Marsh

The dike didn’t quite go all the way around the marsh but it was easy walking along the edge of a field to get back to the dike on the north side of the marsh. The only issue was a 5 foot wide wet area between the field and dike where try as I might my shoes wound up wet. Once I was back on the dike I had the choice to go left back along Killdeer Marsh or a different dike veering off to the right along South Pond. I chose right and followed this dike around the end of South Pond.
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IMG_1683South Pond

IMG_1688Cinnamon Teal in South Pond

The dike led me to one of two actual trails in the Refuge, the Rail Trail.
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IMG_1711Damaged trees from the ice storm earlier this year.

IMG_1712Turkey vulture

IMG_1718Candyflower

I turned right at the boardwalk and followed it over the water to the dike on the far side.
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IMG_1728American coots

IMG_1731I think this is a ring-necked duck and a lesser scaup.

At the dike I turned right and retraced my steps back to Witnel Road and headed back toward Pintail Marsh. Instead of going to the gravel parking lot that I had been at earlier I left the road at the Pintail/Egret Marsh Boardwalk Trailhead.
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I followed this short boardwalk along and over Bashaw Creek to a bird blind.
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Again on the trail map it appeared that the boardwalk connect to a dike at Egret Marsh but it instead it dead ended at the blind.
IMG_1742The dike from the blind.

I turned around and headed back to Witnel Road a little dissapointed but then I spotted a little green frog on a log and all was good.
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When I got back to the lot a Pintail Marsh I turned right thinking I would follow the dike on the other side Pintail Marsh and Mohoff Pond.
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I stayed right when I passed another dike that allowed for a loop around Frog Marsh and stopped at a photo blind (reservable from 10/1-3/31).
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At the junction with the other end of the Frog Marsh Loop I ran into another obstacle, more active nesting had closed the dike along Pintail Marsh so I did the loop around Frog Marsh and back to the gravel lot I went.
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I retraced my steps on the dike along the west side of Pintail Marsh before turning right on the dike between the marsh and Mohoff Pond.
IMG_1756Killdeer on the dike.

IMG_1759A whole lot of geese in the air ahead.

I turned left at a four way junction where the closed dike joined from between Pintail and Egret Marshes.
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I was now on a dike between Mohoff Pond (left) and Mallard Marsh (right).
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Ducks and geese were everywhere as I trudged directly into the wind along the dike.
IMG_1776Green-winged teals

IMG_1784Northern shovelers

IMG_1781Canada geese

IMG_1788Another green-winged teal

IMG_1790Various ducks

IMG_1796Northern pintails

IMG_1803Crow

IMG_1806A green-winged teal and a yellow legs

My second stop wound up coming to 7.5 miles making for a 10.7 mile day. I only passed two people all day and saw a lot of different birds which made for a great hike. If I were a more patient person I would have sat at a blind or two and waited for some closer encounters but I prefer to keep moving so I have to settle for the long distance shots more often than not. Either way Ankeny is a great place to visit. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Ankeny Wildlife Refuge

Categories
Hiking Oregon Portland Trip report Willamette Valley

Forest Park Loop (Leif Erikson, Wild Cherry, Wildwood and Nature Trails) – 10/24/2020

With Heather’s foot still a little sore from her fall at Abbott Butte we wanted to find a hike that wasn’t too strenuous for her to test it out on. An 8.8 mile loop in Portland’s Forest Park fit the bill, especially since there would be several shorter loop options available in case her foot didn’t respond well. The loop we had chosen is the longer of two options given by Sullivan for the Balch Creek hike in his “100 Hikes/Travel Guide Northwest Oregon & Southwest Washington” guidebook (hike #4 in the 4th & 5th editions). The shorter loop option involves Balch Creek itself while the longer 8.8 mile loop never comes near the creek. For this hike we parked at the end of NW Thurman St. at the gated Leif Erikson Drive.
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In August 2020 Portland Parks and Recreation began a pilot program of one-way loops in an attempt to reduced visitor interaction and possibly help reduce the spread of COVID-19. Parts of our loop were included in one of the one-way pilots.
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We followed the paved Leif Erikson Drive for .3 miles to the Wild Cherry Trail (near a set of outhouses).
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We turned up the dirt Wild Cherry Trail (following the one-way signs) and quickly encountered people coming down the wrong way (so much for the signs). The Wild Cherry Trail gained about 400′ as it climbed to a junction with the Wildwood Trail in .6 miles.
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IMG_7986Switchback along the Wild Cherry Trail.

We turned right onto the Wildwood Trail at the junction and remained on it when the Wild Cherry Trail continued uphill to the left a few yards later.
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This was our fourth hike involving the 30.2 mile Wildwood Trail having hiked portions of it on our Washington Park (post), Maple Trail (post), and Northern Forest Park (post) outings.
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After .6 miles on the Wildwood Trail we arrived at a 4-way junction with the Dogwood Trail, part of the 2.75 mile one-way loop.
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Heather’s foot was doing well so we continued on the Wildwood Trail. In another .6 miles we arrived at parking area along NW 53rd.
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IMG_8011This was the first slug we recall seeing of this color.

IMG_8014Interpretive sign at the NW 53rd parking area.

In another .3 miles we ignored the Alder Trail on the right (another option to shorten the loop) continuing on the Wildwood Trail.
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The next loop option came almost 2 miles from the Alder Trail when the Wildwood Trail crossed Firelane 1. There were some nice clumps of mushrooms along this stretch. There was also a damaged bridge near the middle of this section which there were several warnings posted for.
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IMG_8037The bridge damage was not an issue.

IMG_8038Another bunch of musrhooms.

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Approximately a half mile before reaching Firelane 1 we passed the Morak Trail on the left (a 100 yard connector to Firelane 1 that is not shown on all maps).
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IMG_8050Firelane 1 junction.

With Heather still going strong we stuck to the Wildwood Trail arriving at the Nature Trail in another half mile.
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We turned right and when the trail split a tenth of a mile later we stayed left (the right hand fork would have taken us to Firelane 1).
IMG_8056The fork, left was downhill right up.

The Nature Trail followed Rockingchair Creek downhill to Leif Erikson Drive in just over a quarter mile where we turned right back toward our car.
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It had been busy when we had started our hike with the parking already nearly full but things had picked up even more since then. Even with it being busy there were moments where no one else was present along the 3.5 miles back to NW Thurman Street.
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IMG_8078Firelane 1

IMG_8081Somewhere along Leif Erikson there was supposed to be a view of Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Adams and Mt. Hood along the way but the clouds never burned off like the forecast had called for.

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IMG_8091The Alder Trail at Leif Erikson Dr.

IMG_8093An orange one-way marker along Leif Erikson Drive between the Dogwood and Wild Cherry Trail junctions.

For the most part people appeared to be doing a pretty good job of covering their faces and maintaining social distancing (at least better than following the one-way trail designations). It was another enjoyable hike in Forest Park and an encouraging outing for Heather’s foot. At some point we plan on returning to see Balch Creek and explore more of the park. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Forest Park 10/24/2020

Categories
Corvallis Hiking Oregon Willamette Valley

Pigeon Butte – 05/31/2020

A cloudy weekend forecast had us looking for a hike that was not only open with the ability to properly social distance, and was also not view dependent. This led us to revisit the William L. Finley National Wildlife Refuge which is open except for the main entrance road, Finley Refuge Rd; was closed to vehicles. We had hiked some of the trails at the refuge in October 2017 (post), but left others unexplored. For this hike we planned to start at the Cheadle Marsh Trailhead located .9 miles along Bruce Road and hike up Pigeon Butte and then continue on a loop that had yet to be determined. We had a few possible options and were playing it by ear based on the weather and how we were feeling as we were still recovering from our first backpacking trip of the year the over Memorial Day weekend.

We had downloaded copies of the refuge map which we learned pretty quickly didn’t show everything present at the refuge. The map showed two parking areas prior to the Cheadle Marsh Trailhead so after passing two parking areas we pulled into the third small gravel lot.
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If I had been paying more attention I would have realized that this couldn’t be the right trailhead based on a marsh being on our right instead of Muddy Creek and there not being a view of Pigeon Butte from here. Maybe it was because I was distracted by a heron that flew by right as I was getting out the car which disturbed an egret on the opposite side of the road. I grabbed the camera and was trying to get to a spot where I could see the egret or where the heron might have landed. I couldn’t make anything out through the reeds in that direction but then I looked at the marsh on the side of the road we had parked on and there was another blue heron just about right in front of me.
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There was also a rough-skinned newt on the bridge and a duck leading her ducklings away through the marsh.
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It also may have had something to do with it having been just before 6 am when we’d arrived but in the excitement of seeing all the wildlife my critical thinking had no chance and we set off on the grassy path which was not leading by Cheadle Marsh but rather McFadden’s Marsh.
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We hiked through the wet grass for .6 miles before starting to think we might be on the wrong path. It was here that we crossed a drainage ditch coming from Muddy Creek and feeding into the marsh. That prompted a look at the GPS which seemed to indicate that we were in the wrong spot, but I didn’t believe it at first because we’d parked at the third parking area and the map showed that Cheadle Marsh was the third.
IMG_4726Lupine along McFadden’s Marsh

IMG_4727Small bird in the grass.

IMG_4731I am almost never sure on yellow flowers like these which one it actually is.

IMG_4733Mallard at McFadden’s Marsh.

IMG_4738Ditch draining into the marsh.

Wood duck and ducklingWood duck and duckling speeding away down the ditch.

IMG_4743Watch your step in the grass!

IMG_4747Another heron standing in the marsh.

We went another quarter mile before I was able to convince myself that we were indeed on the wrong path and that I shouldn’t have trusted the map. It’s a love hate relationship with maps. You should always have at least one map of the area with you but they aren’t always accurate so sometimes you have to use other available information to get the full picture. We walked back to the parking area and decided to just leave our car there and walk up Bruce Rd. to the correct trailhead which was a little less than a quarter mile away.
IMG_4751Walking over Muddy Creek on Bruce Road.

IMG_4759A pair of California quail and a rabbit on Bruce Road near the Cheadle Marsh Trailhead.

Now that we were at the correct trailhead we did indeed have a view of Pigeon Butte.
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We passed a gate and followed another grassy track between Cheadle Marsh on the left and the hidden (thick vegetation) Muddy Creek on the right.
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There wasn’t as much activity at the smaller Cheadle Marsh but there was a lone duck paddling about in an apparent effort to unveil breakfast.
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There were also numerous smaller birds which was a theme throughout the whole visit. Most were so busy flying from tree to tree or reed to reed that only quick glimpses could be had while hiking, but we could see that settling down in one spot to bird watch would likely be productive.
IMG_4769Red-winged blackbird that did pose for a moment.

We followed this grassy path for almost a mile as it headed north past the marsh then turned west toward Pigeon Butte.
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Just before the mile mark we came to a junction where a short grassy track headed uphill to the right just over 100 yards to the historic Cheadle Barn. Originally constructed in 1900 the barn is now on the Benton County Reister of Historic Places and the National Register of Historic Places.
IMG_4783Note the rabbit in the foreground, this was a theme on the day.

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After visiting the barn we returned to the junction and continued what was now south on the grassy track for another 110 yards to another junction near a pond. Continuing south would lead us back to Bruce Road not far from the Cheadle Marsh Trailhead allowing for a short (around 2 mile) loop. We turned right passing by the pond on what was now a gravel track.
IMG_4808The pond and Cheadle Barn.

Pied-billed grebe familyPied-billed grebe family at the pond.

20200531_072839Ookow

IMG_4809Heading toward Pigeon Butte.

We followed this path to the edge of Pigeon Butte where it turned north again and climbed a bit along the butte’s shoulder.
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We turned left on another grassy track at the edge of the tree line and headed up the 543′ butte. The road was fairly busy but not with other hikers.
IMG_4814Snail on a stick.

IMG_4820Rough-skinned newt

IMG_4825Spotted towhee that wouldn’t look at us.

IMG_4836Quail on the road near the quarry.

This old road bed led past a quarry to a viewpoint on the SW side of the butte.
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With all the clouds it wasn’t the greatest view and Mary’s Peak (post), the highest point in the Coast Range, was completely hidden by those clouds.
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There was a very overgrown trail leading up toward the summit from the viewpoint.
IMG_4832The trail is on the right of the mass of vetch blooming.

IMG_4842Checkermallow

After checking for any hidden poison oak, the trail was deemed clear and we climbed to the wooded summit.
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The trees obscured any view and thoughts of looping back down along the summit ridge were abandoned when we noticed the increasing presence of poison oak so after tagging the summit we returned to the viewpoint and headed back down the way we’d come. The side trip up Pigeon Butte was just a mile round trip with 180′ of elevation gain. When we arrived back at the junction on the buttes shoulder we turned left and continued north descending past some fields .
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Amid the fields to the left we passed a shallow pond where we spotted an American Coot and her young.
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Just under a mile from the path up Pigeon Butte we came to another intersection. This one had a big sign with pointers for various refuge features.
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From here the loop hike described in the Oregonhikers Field Guide would have us turn left (west) toward the Cattail and Beaver Ponds. We wanted to revisit Cabell Marsh and the Homer Campbell Boardwalk though so we continued north passing some big lupine plants.
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When we reached Cabell Marsh a half mile from the sign we were surprised by the lack of water.
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Later after returning home a little research revealed that the marsh had been drained to try and deal with some invasive species. We turned right at the Homer Campbell Boardwalk which was still as impressive as it had been on our first visit.
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IMG_4879With so little water there wasn’t really a reason to visit the blind.

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We arrived at the parking lot on the far end of the .4 mile boardwalk to find that despite no vehicles being allowed to the trailhead it was still busy.
Three rabbits along the side of the parking areaThree rabbits at the parking area.

IMG_4884Rabbit #1

IMG_4885Rabbit #2

IMG_4886Rabbit #3

IMG_4887Finley Refuge Rd from the parking area (the dark spot in the mowed grass along the far side of the road was another rabbit).

We had left open the possibility of doing a long loop by following this road left to the Woodpecker Loop and retracing much of our 2017 hike but better judgement (and tired feet) prevailed so we returned to Cabell Marsh via a gated grassy roadbed located at the SW corner of the parking area.
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While the lack of water had an impact on the number of birds at the marsh we did manage to spot a few (and a muddy rough-skinned newt).
Band-tailed pigeonsBand-tailed pigeons

IMG_4897Killdeer

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When we arrived back at the signed juction we turned right (west) and headed for the ponds.
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The roadbed headed west for a little over half a mile, passing a nice wooden bench with a view back to Cabell Marsh, before turning south for just under a half mile to a sign for the Cattail Pond.
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IMG_4920One of several male American goldfinches we spotted along this stretch.

IMG_4926Vegetation along Gray Creek.

IMG_4929Mushrooms

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IMG_4941Roses along the roadbed.

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IMG_4951Slug

IMG_4954Yep, another rabbit.

IMG_4956We started to think this rabbit wasn’t going to hop into the brush like all the others had.

IMG_4957Sign for the Cattail Pond.

A left turn here was one option for the loop but we wanted to see the Beaver Pond so we stayed on the roadbed for just a little longer to a sign for the Beaver Pond.
IMG_4959Cattail Pond from the roadbed.

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Common YellowthroatCommon yellowthroat

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We turned left onto a grassy track at the Beaver Pond sign and were soon passing by the pond.
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At the far end of the pond we found ourselves on an actual trail.
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The trail led us around the forested base of Maple Knoll a quarter of a mile to an unsigned junction.
IMG_4981The junction.

Here the maps failed us for a second time. We had expected to come to a junction with the path that had passed by the Cattail Pond at which point we would turn right and head back out to Bruce Road. The maps we had showed no other junctions so we turned right at this junction and followed it along the base of Maple Knoll.
IMG_4982Forest on Maple Knoll’s hillside.

IMG_4983Pinesap

The track we were on was sticking to Maple Knoll though and as it wrapped around the base we were quickly heading west again instead of due south to Bruce Road. After .4 miles we decided we had been fooled again and turned around. The detour hadn’t been a total waste as we got to see a hawk fly over and a group of ground squirrels plotting something nefarious from a stump.
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IMG_5000It’s the one peaking out from behind the stump that had us the most concerned.

When we got back to the unsigned junction we turned right and in 175′ came to a second unsigned junction. We turned right (south) here and this time it was nearly a straight shot along a roadbed for a half mile to Bruce Road and the Beaver and Cattail Ponds Trailhead.
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IMG_5007Northern flicker

IMG_5011Sparrow

It was a mile road walk back to the Cheadle Marsh Trailhead (one and a quarter back to where we had parked). After the 4 mile paved road walk the weekend before (post) this one gravel wasn’t too bad. There were nice views of Pigeon Butte and quite a few flowers and birds to look at. We were especially excited to see a couple of yellow headed blackbirds, a bird we’d only seen one other time at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge (post).
IMG_5018Pigeon Butte

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IMG_5028Red-winged blackbird

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IMG_5066Pollinators in a poppy.

IMG_5070Turkey vulture

IMG_5074Douglas spirea

IMG_5076Grand collomia

Our excursion (with the two accidental out and backs came in at 11.8 miles so we were more than happy that we hadn’t tried to do the longer loop along Finley Refuge Rd. For a cloudy day this was a great hike with a lot of wildlife sightings and a few flowers. The paths were wide enough that the poison oak was rarely an issue (there was a lot of it starting on the path along the base of Maple Knoll that we had mistakenly taken). The wide paths also would have been useful for social distancing, but we only passed one other hiker all day even though there were a lot of cars parked and driving along Bruce Road.

As we were preparing to leave I mentioned that the only bummer was having not gotten a good look at the egret that morning. When we started to drive across the marsh on Bruce Road I looked over to see if there might be an egret there now and sure enough there was.
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We are looking forward to some of the higher country opening up and melting out so that we can take some poison oak free hikes. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Pigeon Butte

Categories
Hiking Oregon Salem/Albany Trip report Willamette Valley

Baskett Slough Wildlife Refuge – 05/03/2020

Our “hiking season” has typically coincided with the start of May. This has been a unique year and the current situation with COVID-19 meant that if we were going to stick with our normal starting date we needed to scrap our plans (at least for the first part of our season) and find hikes that are open, nearby, and allow us to recreate responsibly. For our April outing that had meant a long walk around Salem to visit various parks (post). To officially kick off our 2020 season though we opted for a more traditional hike.

Despite living nearby, it had been nearly 10 years since we had done our one and only hike at Baskett Slough Wildlife Refuge. The previous visit was our second hike in July of 2010 which is the year in which we started to get serious about hiking. To change things up from our first visit we chose to start our hike from the Smithfield Road Trailhead (we had started our 2010 from the Baskett Butte Trailhead). Please note that the Smithfield Road Trailhead is closed from October 1 – March 31 to protect wintering wildlife.
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We set off straight ahead from the trailhead and soon were passing Morgan Lake. A couple of heavy rain showers had passed over between 5 and 6:30am but there was some encouraging blue sky overhead as we passed the lake.
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There wasn’t a lot of activity on the lake this morning, just a few mallards, but there were plenty of other birds singing and flying between the trees along the lake, most of which wouldn’t sit still long enough to be photographed.
IMG_2909Mallards

IMG_2905Crow

IMG_2914Sparrow

IMG_2916Guessing some sort of warbler

IMG_2919California quail scattering

After passing Moran Lake the trail headed toward a saddle between two hills. Heather noticed something up on the hillside to our left.
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The camera confirmed it to be a pair of elk.
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She had actually pointed out an area in some grass just a bit earlier that appeared to have been used as beds but we weren’t really expecting to see elk on this hike.

The grassy path that we were on seemed to be a popular breakfast spot for the wildlife. We spotted a couple of rabbits, several quail, and many small birds.
IMG_2941Rabbit with sparrows behind.

IMG_2945Rabbit with a quail behind.

Golden-crowned sparrowsGolden-crowned sparrows

IMG_2955Most of the rabbits we see run off right away but this little guy was pretty brave.

A little before reaching the saddle (a little over 1 1/4 miles from the trailhead) the trail made a nearly 180 degree turn turning from the grassy track to a dirt path that climbed along a wooded hillside. Near the turn we started seeing a few wildflowers.
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Meadow checker-mallowMeadow checker-mallow

IMG_2961Tough-leaved iris

IMG_2969Columbine

IMG_2974Morgan Lake from the trail.

IMG_2975Heading into the woods.

We met another trail user in the woods when we spotted a rough skinned newt.
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IMG_2981Spotted towhee

I had just mentioned to Heather to be on the lookout for Tolmie’s mariposa lilies when we noticed a patch of them on the hillside.
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They were a little watered down but still pretty.
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We came to a signed junction 1.6 miles from the trailhead. A right turn here would keep us on the 3 mile Moffiti Marsh – Morgan Lake Loop while a left turn would lead us .2 miles to the start of another loop and eventually a viewpoint atop Baskett Butte. We went left and headed uphill to a meadow in a saddle.
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In the meadow were a few more types of flowers including lupine and plectritis.
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We were busy looking at the flowers and nearly missed a pair of deer passing through the meadow ahead of us.
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At the far end of the meadow the trail split. Here we turned right and entered a denser wood with lots of underbrush and a few more newts.
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IMG_3041Old tree trunk

IMG_3042Ferns

IMG_3033Woodland stars

Thin-leaf peaThin-leaf pea (and a spider behind the blossoms)

IMG_3043Fringecup

IMG_3030Given their size we believe this was proper social distancing for rough-skinned newts.

The trail left the woods after four tenths of a mile and entered another meadow.
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We spotted several additional types of wildflowers in this meadow all while being serenaded by a western meadowlark.
IMG_3053Western meadowlark

Tomcat cloverTomcat clover

IMG_3056Giant blue-eyed Mary

IMG_3057A checker-mallow surrounded by pale flax

IMG_3059Camas

A tenth of a mile later we arrived at a junction near a signboard.
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The loop continued to the left but we headed right to visit the viewpoint on Baskett Butte and to enjoy the display of wildflowers that lined this stretch of trail.
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IMG_3065Plectritis

Castilleja levisecta - Golden PaintbrushCastilleja levisecta – Golden Paintbrush which historically occurred in the grasslands and prairies of the Willamette Valley. The species had been extirpated from the valley with the last sighting in Oregon occurring in Linn County in 1938. It was reintroduced to various areas starting in 2010 including here at Baskett Slough. In the wetter areas it failed to take but the plant has managed to take hold on Baskett Butte.

There appeared to be at least a couple of different flowers from the mallow family present.
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IMG_3079Larkspur

IMG_3089Biscuitroot

IMG_3083The white patch in the foreground is coastal manroot while the red patch uphill is columbine.

IMG_3091Some of the mass of columbine.

IMG_3104Tolmie’s mariposa lilies

We took a break at the viewpoint listening to ducks and geese in the wetland below.
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Before heading back to the loop we followed a small path east (left) from the viewpoint. The path appeared to go all the way down to one of the refuge roads but it would have taken us out of the way (and left us with even more of a climb back up) so after about 450 feet we turned around. In that little distance though we spotted two more flower types that we hadn’t noticed yet.
IMG_3118Meadow death camas

IMG_3120Oregon sunshine

There was also another nice patch of columbine mixed with some cow parsnip.
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We headed down from Baskett Butte to the junction where we found a swallow sitting on the signboard.
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We turned right back onto the loop and descended for a tenth of a mile to another junction spotting yet another couple of different flowers along the way.

Hairy vetchHairy vetch

IMG_3153Purple sanicle

There was another signboard at this junction where we turned left (the right hand trail led down to the Baskett Butte Trailhead.
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We followed this path three tenths of a mile to the junction where we had started the loop and turned right passing back through the meadow where we’d seen the deer.
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IMG_3162Yarrow starting to bloom.

We didn’t see the deer this time but we did spot the red head of a house finch.
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After passing back through the meadow we came to the signed junction for the Moffiti Marsh – Morgan Lake Loop and veered left down a grassy track.
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There were a few nice flowers along here, nothing that we hadn’t seen already during the hike though. We did however spot some new widlife.
IMG_3175A pair of American goldfinches

IMG_3184Silvery blue butterfly

IMG_3194Common yellowthroat

The grass gave way to gravel as we approached Moffiti Marsh. This time of year the marsh has a pretty good amount of water and judging by the number of ducks, swallows and other birds in the area is much preferred over Morgan Lake by those with feathers. There was also a loud chorus of frogs signing along this path.
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IMG_3197Moffiti Marsh

IMG_3200Great blue heron flying over

IMG_3214Ducks on the water and swallows in the air.

IMG_3215Northern shoveler on the left.

IMG_3219A couple different types of ducks.

The gravel path ended at a gate along Smithfield Road where we turned right on another grassy track.
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It was just a little under a quarter mile back to the trailhead which gave us plenty of time to spot more flowers and wildlife.
IMG_3222Western bluebird

IMG_3229Female western bluebird gathering items for a nest.

IMG_3230Wild rose

IMG_3235Canada geese flying over.

IMG_3236Two pairs of American goldfinches.

IMG_3242Cinnamon teal

IMG_3248Bald eagle flying overhead

IMG_3250Red-winged blackbird

Our route on this day covered a similar area as that of our first visit although we started at a different trailhead and wound up being just a tad under 5 miles. That is where the similarities ended. Our photo album from 2010 consists of a total of 10 photos. There are a few deer, a dragon fly, and a couple of photos from the viewpoint atop Baskett Butte. The album for this hike ended up having 208 photos. The number of different flowers and types of wildlife that we were lucky enough to see exceeded our expectations. We were also lucky enough to escape all but a brief sprinkle of rain.

One caution for the area is that there is a decent amount of poison oak off trail which at this time of year was also looking rather nice even though we wanted nothing to do with it.
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Even though we were only doing this hike due to COVID-19 it wound up being a wonderful morning and a great start to what looks to be a really different hiking season.
IMG_3243Moffiti Marsh

Happy (socially distanced) Trails!

Flickr: Baskett Slough

Categories
Hiking Oregon Salem/Albany Trip report Willamette Valley

Salem Parks – 4/26/2020

With COVID-19 still affecting every day life we decided to get a little creative with our April hike. We wanted to get outside and do our best to see some of the typical Spring sights that we have been missing while still following responsible stay-at-home guidelines. Our solution was to set off on an urban hike from our house to visit a number of area parks and natural areas. We grabbed our smallest day packs and some face masks (just in case) and headed out our front door.
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Living in the hills of West Salem we are often greeted with blue sky when the city below is shrouded in fog and this was one of those mornings.
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In addition to a few less mornings of fog, living up in the hills also provides us views of several Cascade mountains from various spots in the neighborhood. At one intersection we always look for Mt. Jefferson (Jeffry as we refer to the mountain). It’s become a kind of running joke that even if it’s pouring rain one of us will ask if Jeffry is visible. We were lucky enough this morning to be able to make out the mountain through a thin layer of fog.
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Our hope for the outing was to spot some wildlife and enjoy some flowers. Being an urban hike through neighborhoods there were plenty of flowers to see in different yards but what we were really looking for were the ones growing wild.

The first park that we passed was 5.5 acre Eola Ridge Park. The neighborhood park is thin on development other than some picnic tables and short paved path between Eola Dr. and Dan Ave NW. Wetlands on the western end of the park attract birds and other wildlife.
IMG_2631Wetlands near Eola Ridge Park

IMG_2633Red-winged blackbird

IMG_2635Madrone in Eola Ridge Park

Continuing east on Eola Dr the next natural area we came to was the Salem Audubon Nature Reserve. This seven acre reserve has a few trails and interpretive signs.
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We drive by the reserve daily and often see volunteers working on the area and their dedication showed as we made our way through the area.
IMG_2643Bleeding heart and miners lettuce around a small bench.

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IMG_2650Possibly forget-me-nots.

IMG_2653Fringecup

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IMG_2655Giant white wakerobbin

IMG_2657Coastal manroot and annual honesty

IMG_2659Blue-bells

IMG_2661Plummed solomon’s seal

IMG_2664I think this is a checker-mallow but I’m never sure between the checker-mallows and checkerblooms.

After leaving the Audubon Nature Reserve we made our way down to Edgwater Street where we turned left eventually passing the old West Salem City Hall.
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From 1913 to 1949, when it merged with the city of Salem, West Salem was it’s own incorporated city. The old city hall building was opened in 1935 and functioned as city hall until the merger.

We could have followed Edgwater east to Wallace Road (Highway 221) and from that intersection crossed the Willamette River on the Center Street Bridge, but that is a noisy walk along the busy Highway 22 so instead we opted for a slightly longer route to the bicycle and pedestrian only Union Street Bridge. To reach the Union Street Bridge we wound through some neighborhoods eventually making our way to Wallace Road on Taggert Drive and then heading south along Wallace to the now paved former rail line leading to the bridge.
IMG_2672 The city has put up a number of these direction pointers all over Salem which are actually really helpful.

We’d heard a lot of birds in the nature reserve but couldn’t see most of them in the woods there but in the neighborhoods they were easier to spot.
IMG_2667Scrub jay

IMG_2668Starlings

IMG_2673Spotted Towhee

The morning fog was burning off quickly save for a little lingering over the Willamette here and there as we approached the bridge.
IMG_2674Path leading to the Union Street Bridge

This bridge showed up in one of our other hikes back in 2018 when we toured Wallace Marine, Riverfront, and Minto-Brown Island Parks (post). The bridge connects Wallace Marine and Riverfront Parks by spanning the Willamette River and is always a good place from which to spot ducks and geese.
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IMG_2676Family of geese

IMG_2682A very light colored mallard

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As we reached the eastern end of the bridge near Riverfront Park we started to see a lot of squirrels.
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IMG_2687Two squirrels on a tree.

IMG_2693This squirrels was vigoursly attacking this bush.

As we neared the Willamette Queen Heather spotted a rabbit in the grass.
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There were a few people out and about, some of which were wearing masks.
IMG_2692 (We hope this mask was no longer usable because we’d hate to see them wasted, but it did make us chuckle.)

Since we covered Riverfront Park during our 2018 hike we walked through the park and crossed into downtown at State and Front Streets. We then walked a block down State Street to Commercial Street where we turned right (south) and passed the Salem Convention Center on the way to The Mirror Pond in front of the Salem City Hall.
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IMG_2698Pringle Creek from Commercial Street with City Hall in the distance.

IMG_2699The Mirror Pond

We’d seen blue herons in the water here (in addition to the statute of one that is in the pond) but as we neared the pond today it was two sets of eyes that caught my attention. I wasn’t sure what I was seeing until one set disappeared and then I realized they were frogs.
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IMG_2705The heron statue

IMG_2707Mallards

We passed The Mirror Pond and followed a path beneath Liberty Street and over Pringle Creek.
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We then made our way to High Street crossing it in front of the SAIF building where another small green space and water feature tends to attract ducks.
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We passed through the green space and then turned right on Church Street (south again). We crossed over Pringle Creek again and took a quick detour down to the George Arthur Powell Meditation Garden.
IMG_2718Pringle Creek at Church Street.

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The small garden had a small bench and lots of flowers.
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On the opposite side of Church Street is Pringle Park and the Pringle Community Hall. When we both worked near the hospital we would often walk through this park during lunches.
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We skipped Pringle Park today though and continued south on Church Street toward Bush’s Pasture Park.
IMG_2725 Passing the Let’s All Play Park. part of the Salem Hospital Campus on Church Street.

IMG_2726Sign at Bush Park

IMG_2728Bush House Museum

At 90.5 acres Bush’s Pasture Park is one of the larger parks in Salem and may provide the most diverse set of activites. Along with the Bush House Musuem and Rose Garden there are picnic areas, playgrounds, tennis courts, ball fields, woods, and open swaths of grass. There is also a soap box derby track and some of Willamette University’s sports fields.
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Our main motivation for getting to Bush Park though was to check out the camas bloom. For years I’d been wanting to see the camas bloom at Bush Park up close instead of from the car while driving by on Mission Street. COVID-19 had at least provided the right situation to prompt us to finally get here. We made our way to the NE end of the park and turned into the woods at the interpretive signs for the camas.
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IMG_2774A white camas

While camas was the predominate flower there were a few others present.
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IMG_2776Western buttercups

IMG_2765Buscuitroot

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We emerged from the woods near the SE end of the park at a large open field.
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IMG_2778Ground squirrel

We headed SW along the field to a newer flower garden along a hillside.
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After climbing the hill we passed through a grassy picnic area (the tables weren’t out due to COVID-19) and exited the park at its SW corner.
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Our plan from here was not very well thought out. The rough plan was to make our way up to Fairmount Park in the foothills of South Salem. We hadn’t laid out a route though so after recrossing Liberty and Commercial Streets we simply zigzaged our way through neighborhoods up to the park. On on occassion we had to back track when the street we had chosen had no outlets.
IMG_2792Neat old carraige in a yard.

IMG_2794Stellars Jay

After wandering for a little over a mile we finally arrived at Fairmount Park.
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This neighborhood park is just under 17 acres with a picnic shelter, playground, a half-court basketball hoop and is next to the Fairmount Reservoir.
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Our reason for coming here though was the Fairmount Park Trail which we could theoretically follow down to the River Road entrance to Minto-Brown Island Park.
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I said we could theoretically follow the trail down becuase we knew from other people that it was possible, but we had never tried it and we quickly discovered that there were a number of spur trails, none of which were marked to let us know if we were following the correct one. The muddy sufrace and presence of poison oak along the trail made it a bit more of an adventure than anywhere else we’d been in the morning.
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We had been behind a couple and their dog but lost them when we stopped for a quick break at one of the unmarked intersections. We decided that we would simply choose downhill trails to the right whenever possible knowing that River Road was in that general direction. This worked fine for the first three tenths of a mile or so but just after spotting River Road the trail we were on began deteriorating quickly on the steep hillside.
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We weren’t all that high up, but the poison oak had become much more abundant so we didn’t want to get off the trail at all. Some fancy footwork and a lot of luck at the bottom got us onto the shoulder of River Road less than a quarter mile NE of the entrance to Minto-Brown. As we arrived at the entrance we spotted the couple that we had briefly followed on the Fairmount Trail approaching form the opposite direction. Clearly they had known a safer route down than we had and must have kept left at one of the junctions where we had gone right.
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At this point we were approximately 8.5 miles into our hike and given that most of it had been paved our feet were starting to feel it so we took the most direct route through Minto-Brown to the Peter Courtney Bridge which brought us back to Riverfront Park. We did of course stop for birds and flowers along the way.
IMG_2805Another scrub jay

IMG_2806We risked the caution for mud and high water since this was the shortest way to the bridge.

IMG_2808Tree blossoms

IMG_2812The high water wasn’t an issue, but it was really muddy around that puddle.

IMG_2817Sparrow

IMG_2820I mistook this small bird for a hummingbird but after looking at the photo it might just be a baby?

IMG_2823We tried to take our first sit down break of the day here but the bench was still wet from the morning. On to Riverfront it is.

IMG_2824Riverfront Park and the Peter Courtney Bridge in the distance. (We had found a dry bench by this time, thank you Gallagher Fitness Resources)

IMG_2825Looking across a field to West Salem and its green water tower in the hills.

IMG_2827California poppy

IMG_2830Red flowering currant

IMG_2831Sparrow

IMG_2834Western service berry

IMG_2835Crossing the Peter Courtney Bridge.

We then headed back through Riverfront Park to the Union Street Bridge and took a slightly modified route back to the Audubon Nature Reserve.
IMG_2836Willamette River from the Union Street Bridge

IMG_2839More geese

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Having taken the Hillside Trail that morning we followed the Upper Trail uphill through the reserve.
IMG_2849Perriwinkle

IMG_2850Pacific waterleaf

IMG_2857Camas

IMG_2860Another checker-mallow(or checkerbloom)

IMG_2861California poppy

IMG_2863Haven’t figured this one out yet.

One of the things that we look forward to every year is the return of osprey to a nesting platform at the reserve. The platform had been replaced earlier this year and Heather had noticed some new sticks showing up recently. We hadn’t noticed any activity earlier when we passed by but now there were osprey flying around overhead.
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We watched as one landed with another stick for the nest. It was soon followed by a second.
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Hopefully there will be young osprey to watch later this year.

After watching the osprey we trudged uphill (and down and back up) past Eola Ridge Park and back into our neighborhood. By this point we were both dealing with blisters and generally sore feet. Jeffry was still visible, although the positioning of the Sun made it difficult to see. In addition we were able to see both Mt. Hood and Mt. Adams briefly as we limped our way back to our house.
IMG_2878Mt. Hood beyond the green water tower.

IMG_2882Mt. Adams through a little haze.

I had used Google to map out a potential route a week before our outing and it had led me to believe that it would be around 13 miles to hit these different parks. Our Garmin 62s and watch had us in the 15 mile range though which made us feel a little better about how we were feeling at the end.

As long as things stay locked down we’re planning on heading out from home to check out what’s close by (definitely not 15 miles worth though). Hopefully everyone reading this has stayed healthy and things will start getting back to normal sooner rather than later. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Salem Parks Tour