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Hiking Oregon Salem/Albany Trip report Willamette Valley

Silver Falls Perimeter Loop – 10/29/2022

With October and our official hiking season coming to an end I was hoping to go out with a bang by doing a long loop around Silver Falls State Park. I had gotten the idea during our 2021 hike in the backcountry of the park (post). While looking at the map for that hike I had started doing the math for the loop and it appeared to be a little over 20 miles which would be a long day but doable. Heather was not as enthused as I was about the possibility, so I had originally planned on attempting the loop on a day off while she was working. With her knee ending her season early it seemed like a good way to put an exclamation on the end of mine.

As the day neared I started second guessing myself. Some much need wet weather had moved in, and Friday was the wettest day we’ve had in months. The forecast for Saturday was for more rain in the morning, a 70% chance, followed by several hours of patchy fog then mostly cloudy skies. Twenty plus miles with wet feet wasn’t my ideal way to spend a hike but I decided to give it a try figuring I could cut the loop short by using one of the many trails running through the park. I packed some extra pairs of socks in a dry sack and had my rain gear ready as I made the 40-minute drive to the South Falls Trailhead.

It was a dark and raining when I left home but shortly after turning onto Highway 214 I popped out of the low clouds and left the rain behind. Things were trending positive. When I got to the South Falls Day Use Area entrance I was reminded that by the gate that the Park opens at 8am and not 7am from October through March and it was only 7:30am. I needed to purchase a pass so I drove to the North Falls Trailhead where I knew there was a pay kiosk, only I had forgotten that the station there only accepts cash which I didn’t have. After using the restroom there I drove back through the park to the campground entrance remembering that there was a station along the entrance road that did take cards. I decided that I would get a pass there and then park at the 214 Trailhead like we had in 2021 since there was no gate blocking that one. At the kiosk I immediately inserted my card into the cash slot. Things were trending down. I managed to retrieve the card using a pair of travel nail clippers and finally got my pass. It was nearly 8am as I came to the turn into the trailhead at Lookout Mountain Road. Given the time I changed my mind here and decided to revert back to my original plan and drove back to the now ungated South Falls Day Use Area.
IMG_3949A lot more blue in the sky than I had expected to see.

The route I had penciled out was to take the paved bike path from the parking lot to the campground where I would pick up the Nature Trail. I could take that trail to the 214 Trail followed by a portion of the Newt Loop to the Catamount Trail. I hoped to take that trail up to Buck Mountain then take the Perimeter Trail down to the Trail of Ten Falls near the North Falls Trailhead. I planned on visiting all ten falls and returning to the parking area via the Canyon Trail portion of the Trail of Ten Falls. I crossed South Fork Silver Creek on a footbridge to pick up the Bike Path on the far side where I turned left.
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IMG_3964Crossing Highway 214 to the campground.

IMG_3965I detoured left to check out this bridge over Howard Creek.

IMG_3967Howard Creek

With the Nature Trail being a loop I could have gone either direction from the campground to reach the 214 Trail. Going left was a tenth of a mile shorter but I really wanted to make the loop as wide as possible so I went right at a pointer for the trail and Ampitheater.
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We had been on the Nature Trail in 2021 so it was familiar surroundings as I made my way to the 214 Trail where I turned right.
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IMG_3977Sign at the 214 Trail junction to let people know that there are no waterfalls in the backcountry.

I followed the 214 Trail for 1.3 miles to the Newt Loop.
IMG_3986Just a little fog but no rain.

IMG_3987Passing the Smith Creek Trail (left) after 0.6 miles on the 214 Trail.

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IMG_3992Rough skinned newt on the 214 Trail. (Probably headed for the Newt Loop too.)

IMG_3994Big nursery tree along the 214 Trail.

IMG_3996The trail post at the junction shows the Catamount Trail instead of the Newt Loop but the map at the junction labels it the Newt Loop.

IMG_3997Map check.

I turned right onto the Newt Loop and arrived at a junction with the Catamount Trail after 0.4 level miles.
IMG_4000This second post included the Newt Loop along with a pointer for the Catamount Trail.

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IMG_4005Crossing a CAT road along the Newt Loop.

IMG_4008Turning onto the Catamount Trail.

The Catamount Trail was new trail for me having not used it on our loop in 2021. The park map showed this trail extending 4.6 miles to a junction with the Lost Creek Trail then continuing another 0.9 miles to Buck Mountain. As a mountain bike trail the Catamount wound steadily uphill through the forest.
IMG_4016Lots of nursery stumps along the trail.

IMG_4020Another nursery stump.

IMG_4023Side trails were well marked.

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IMG_4034Did not expect to see that overhead today.

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IMG_4065I believe this short section of fire scar was from the 2020 Beachie Fire.

After 3.8 miles on the Catamount Trail I came to a 4-way junction with a maintenance road.
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The Catamount Trail continued on the far side the road only there was a “Do Not Enter One-Way” sign on the post.
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This was the first I’d heard of the trail here being one-way and I haven’t had a lot of luck since my hike in finding that information online or maps, but I honored the sign and turned left on the maintenance road following a Catamount Trail pointer.
IMG_4069Turning onto the road.

IMG_4070The opposite side of the post had a pointer for the Lost Creek Trail.

I followed the road for half a mile to the Lost Creek/Buck Mountain Trail junction.
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IMG_4074I veered uphill to the right here.

IMG_4075The Lost Creek/Buck Mountain junction.

On our previous visit we had arrived at this same junction having come down the Buck Mountain Trail. To make this hike as different as possible (and to remain as far to the outside of the park as possible) I turned right on the Lost Creek Trail.
IMG_4077The Lost Creek Trail doubles as a fire road.

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I followed this trail for 0.8 miles to a junction with the Catamount Trail at the edge of a clear cut.
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IMG_4083Here is where I would have come up had the Catamount Trail did not have the on-way section. (Note that on some mountain biking maps the one-way section is labeled “Upper Catamount Trail.)

I turned left onto the Catatmount Trail at the junction and quickly found myself walking through the clear cut.
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IMG_4085The treeless section wasn’t long. It appeared to have been an area impacted by the 2020 Beachie Fire.

IMG_4088Still some bleeding heart blooming.

IMG_4089There wasn’t a lot of bright Fall colors in the backcountry, but this maple stood out.

IMG_4090Was a bit surprised to see a few violets along this section.

IMG_4091Nearing the end of the logged area.

At the tree line the trail split unexpectedly (another feature not shown on the park map) into two one-way trails. The right hand fork (in this direction) was one-way uphill while the left down. I was going down at this point so I stayed to the left.
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It wasn’t long before the two trails rejoined. The trail continued downhill to the Buck Mountain Loop near its crossing of Howard Creek.
IMG_4095The rejoining of the trails.

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IMG_4099There were several bridges along this section of the trail. I also ran into the only mountain bikers that I would encounter all day in this area, a group of five.

IMG_4105The Buck Mountain Loop junction.

I turned right at the junction and crossed Howard Creek then turned right again back onto the Catamount Trail.
IMG_4107Bridge over Howard Creek.

IMG_4108The continuation of the Catamount Trail on the right.

The trail now climbed uphill for 0.2 miles to the large trail junction on Buck Mountain, a total of 1.1 miles from the Lost Creek Trail junction.
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IMG_4113The map showed the section I had just done as 0.9 miles, but my track was a bit more twisty than the map.

From the junction I took the Perimeter Trail.
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The park map lists this trail as 5.9 miles in length and has a “Steep” warning not far from the Buck Mountain junction. The trail was in good shape and although it lost over 350′ of elevation in just under a mile to a crossing of South Fork Silver Creek the grade was reasonable. Compared to some of the other trails we’d been on this year it didn’t seem all that steep.
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IMG_4123A small opening on the way down.

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IMG_4128Footbridge over South Fork Silver Creek.

IMG_4134South Fork Silver Creek

If I had paid better attention to the elevation numbers shown on the park map I might not have been so surprised when the trail began to climb on the other side of the creek. Over the next 2.1 miles the trail gained over 650′ before arriving at junction with the Rackett Ridge Trail. Up until the Rackett Ridge junction I had only encountered 8 people, the group of 5 mountain bikers and three trail runners (one solo and two together). The number of people seen doubled at this junction.
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IMG_4143I’m a hiker so I went right here.

IMG_4146Big fungus on the tree ahead.

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IMG_4155Map at the Rackett Ridge junction.

I continued on the Perimeter Trail which now began a nearly 3-mile descent that was at least as steep as the section before with the warning. The use of switchbacks allowed the grade to stay reasonable though.
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IMG_4159Another impressive nursery log.

IMG_4161I stopped in this area to change out of my sweaty socks and into one of the extra pairs I’d brought expecting rain.

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IMG_4163The vegetation went through several changes as the trail lost elevation.

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IMG_4169This was a big tree in the midst of much smaller ones.

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IMG_4174Roemer’s Meadow Trail (left) isn’t shown on the park maps yet, but it was completed in 2021 with help from the Salem Area Trails Alliance. (They do a lot of good work in the park and the area.) The trail is approximately 1.7 miles from the Rackett Ridge junction.

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IMG_4185The Trail of Ten Falls junction near Highway 214.

IMG_4184Looking back up the Perimeter Trail.

For the hike to be a true loop I would have turned left onto the Trail of Ten Falls, but in order to see Upper North Falls I needed go right for 0.3 miles so that’s what I did.
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IMG_4196Upper North Falls

After visiting the falls I headed back and passed under the highway to a large map at a “T” junction.
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IMG_4208A left would have taken me to the North Falls Trailhead.

I turned right at the signboard then veered right onto the Canyon Trail at a congested fork in the trail.
IMG_4209The Rim Trail to the left and Canyon Trail to the right, both part of the Trail of Ten Falls.

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The Canyon Trail descended some stairs then wound its way behind North Falls in approximately a tenth of a mile.
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The trail followed the creek arriving at Twin Falls a little over three-quarters of a mile from North Falls.
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IMG_4240I’m always impressed by the size of this rock in the creek.

IMG_4244Not Twin Falls, but a nice little cascade nonetheless.

IMG_4247This post could be a little confusing without a map. The Twin Falls Trail climbs uphill to a group camp and does not lead to Twin Falls. The falls are the opposite side along a very short spur trail that connects at either end to the Canyon Trail.

IMG_4248Twin Falls isn’t very easy to see from the spur trail either even though you’re right next to it.

I was able to find a better viewpoint of Twin Falls further along the Canyon Trail.
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IMG_4254Twin Falls

My next detour came 0.3 miles beyond Twin Falls when I turned left onto the Winter Falls Trail.
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The Winter Falls Trail crosses the creek on a footbridge then climbs gradually to the base of Winter Falls before steepening to climb up to the Rim Trail. I turned around before the steep part.
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IMG_4261North Fork Silver Creek

IMG_4263Winter Falls, as the name suggests it’s not much of a waterfall outside of Winter when rain and snowmelt provide more water.

IMG_4267With the dry Summer it isn’t a great Fall color year but there was a decent display along this trail.

After saying hi to Winter Falls I returned to the Canyon Trail and continued toward the South Falls Day Use Area. Next up was Middle North Falls and another detour to go behind this one as well.
IMG_4270I turned left here on the spur trail behind Middle North Falls.

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I again returned to the Canyon Trail and quickly arrived at the Drake Falls viewing platform.
IMG_4298Middle North Falls from the Canyon Trail.

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IMG_4301The 27′ Drake Falls.

Approximately a quarter mile beyond Drake Falls I turned right onto the Double Falls Trail.
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Much like Winter Falls, Double Falls is on a side creek which has a low flow much of the year.
IMG_4313The hiker at the base gives a good idea of the fall’s height, you just have to use your imagination to add water.

On my way back to the Canyon Trail I ran into one of Heather’s friends which allowed me to pause for a moment to talk and update her on our new kittens. Just beyond the Double Falls Trail I passed the eighth waterfall of my hike, Lower North Falls.
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It was about here that my feet started to let me know that this was a long hike. It was almost a mile from Lower North Falls to my next marker, a junction with the Maple Ridge Trail.
IMG_4330The Canyon Trail crosses the creek just downstream from Lower North Falls then makes a short climb to get above the canyon cliffs.

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A quarter mile from the Maple Ridge junction was Lower South Falls, another that the trail passes behind.
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After passing behind the falls the trail climbs a number of stairs which at this point of the hike was a mean trick.
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After conquering the stairs it was another 0.6 miles level miles to a footbridge at a fork in the trial within sight of the tenth and final waterfall, South Falls.
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IMG_4376I walked out onto the bridge for the view then returned to the junction to take the right hand fork and go behind this fall as well.

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I stayed right at junctions as I climbed to the top of South Falls then followed a paved path to a footbridge where I crossed the creek.
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IMG_4410View toward South Falls from the footbridge.

I followed the paved path to the Bike Path where I recrossed the creek then made my way along the parking lot to the car.
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IMG_4412Not sure what this old building was, possibly restrooms by the doors.

IMG_4413One of several picnic shelters in the park.

IMG_4414Approaching the Bike Path where I recrossed the creek.

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IMG_4417I can see the car!

The hike turned out to be close to 22 miles with somewhere around 2900′ of cumulative elevation gain. The GPS originally said 22.4 miles but that was partly due to it jumping around when I was behind the different falls and it didn’t have a good connection to the satellites. Removing some of the points put the total down to 21.5 miles but doing that lost the out-and back behind Middle North Falls and some of the switchbacks up from South Falls. Whatever the actual distance it was a lot for me but overall everything held up pretty well. A couple of small blisters on one heel were the worst consequence. The fact that it hadn’t rained surely helped with the feet.

Track prior to trying to remove some of the jumps in data points.

The lack of people in the backcountry is almost a shame as the forest is lovely and the trails well maintained. I say almost a shame because for those of us who do take the time to explore it, the solitude only adds to the beauty. The Trail of Ten Falls was busy comparatively, but it wasn’t the zoo that it would have been on a Summer weekend which was nice. Doing the loop in reverse would have resulted in less folks at the falls but we’d been to the falls in the morning on all our other visits so this gave me a chance to see them with the Sun at a different angle. The only minor bummer was not being able to hike the full Catamount Trail due to the one-way section. If I were to do it over I would probably start at the North Falls Trailhead and go clockwise so that I would have been going the right way for that section and still would have ended with most of the Trail of Ten Falls. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Silver Falls Perimeter Loop

Categories
Hiking Oregon Salem/Albany Trip report Willamette Valley

Spring Valley Greenway – 09/10/2022

September has always been a bit tricky for planning hikes. Historically it seemed there was always at least one weekend where snow returned to the mountains while other weekends might see rain or 90 degree temperatures. In recent years extreme wildfire behavior has entered into the mix resulting in some devastating fires and some very unhealthy air quality as was the case with the Labor Day fires in 2020. A rare east wind event that year caused a number of wildfires to explode.

A similar, but not nearly as strong, wind event was forecast for Friday & Saturday which coincided with our third attempt at using a Central Cascade Overnight Wilderness Permit. We had planned on trying to reach Goat Peak in the Mt. Jefferson Wilderness after having failed to do so in September 2018 (post) but the combination of extreme fire danger and forecast for wide spread smoke resulted in our once again deciding not to utilize the permit we’d obtained. (An early snowstorm in 2021 and thunderstorms in July of this year were the reasons we’d changed our permit plans.)

We were still hoping to sneak some sort of hike in so I started looking for another idea. We didn’t want to go too far from home due to the potential for fast spreading fires but at the same time the Saturday forecast for Salem was a high in the mid-90’s and widespread haze/smoke. I turned to the Oregon Hikers Field Guide for inspiration and noticed the Spring Valley Loop in the Willamette Valley State Parks section. It was less than a 20 minute drive from home and at less than four miles would allow us to be done hiking by mid-morning and avoid the warmer part of the day.

Prior to leaving in the morning I checked up on a fire that had started the day before in South Salem along Vitae Springs Road and stuck my head outside to see if the air smelled of smoke. Everything seemed okay so we proceeded to get ready and headed out at about a quarter to 7am. While the air didn’t smell of smoke the sky had a familiar hauntingly orange hue to it. As we prepared to set off on the first of three short loops from the Spring Valley Trailhead we remarked at how dark it still was due to the layer of smoke overhead. (The majority of the smoke was likely from the Cedar Creek Fire near Waldo Lake (post) which had grown rapidly overnight toward Oakridge and Westfir prompting evacuations although there was also a new fire to the NE at Milo McIver State Park (post).)
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For the first loop we walked back up the park entrance road approximately 400 feet to the Rook Trail on the left.
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We followed this trail as it wound through the woods for nearly a mile before ending at the entrance road a short way from Highway 221 (Wallace Rd NW).
IMG_1426The combination of low light and orange hue made for some poor photography conditions.

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IMG_1440Approaching the entrance road. The gate is for the road which is only open during daylight hours.

We turned right onto the road and followed it for a tenth of a mile to the unsigned Generator Trail (there was some pink flagging present) and took a left onto this one-way trail.
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IMG_1449The Generator Trail.

The 0.4 mile Generator Trail brought us back down to the entrance road between the trailhead and where we had turned onto the Rook Trail.
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As we followed the road back to the trailhead we were discussing which loop to try next. That decision was made by the couple having an intimate moment in the back of a pickup parked at the start of the Perimeter Trail. We turned right, away from the show, and cut across the mowed field surrounding the vault toilet to pick up the also unsigned Upper Spring Valley Trail.
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IMG_1466Spring Valley Creek passing under the entrance road.

IMG_1467The mowed field.

IMG_1472Upper Spring Valley Creek Trail.

The 0.7 mile Upper Spring Valley Creek Trail simply loops back to the trailhead so we hopped that by the time we had finished the short loop the couple was finished as well.
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IMG_1475A few Autumn colors starting to show, now we just need some Fall rain.

IMG_1476Brief glimpse of the Willamette River.

IMG_1477The tailgate was up on the pickup, a good sign for us.

IMG_1478Some of the various non-native wildflowers in the area.

Before setting off on the Perimeter Trail we decided to make the quick detour down to the Willamette.
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IMG_1480Mile 74.2 of the Willamette Water Trail.

We didn’t quite make it to the river though as the couple had apparently decided to switch locations, but at least they were taking turns. We made a hasty retreat and set off on the Perimeter Trail.
IMG_1484The Perimeter Trail begins to the right of the gate.

The Perimeter Trail loops around another mowed field but after 0.2 miles the signed TCC Trail splits off to the right into the woods (assuming you are hiking counter-clockwise).
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IMG_1487Invasive common tansy but the beetle was cool looking.

IMG_1488We were initially fooled by this side-trail at the 0.1 mile mark which was not the TCC Trail, but did provide access to the Willamette.
IMG_1491Willamette Mission State Park (post) is located on the opposite side down river.

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IMG_1494There’s the TCC Trail.

After just a tenth of a mile on the TCC Trail it appeared that we were going to be led right back out to the field but the TCC Trail made a hard right and stayed in the woods for an additional four tenths of a mile.
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IMG_1500Back to the field after half a mile.

At the field we turned right onto what in theory was the Perimeter Trail following it another 0.4 miles back to the trailhead.
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Canada thistleInvasive Canadad thistle.

IMG_1504Common toadflax – non-native.

IMG_1505Moth mullein – you guessed it, non-native.

IMG_1506The Sun behind a layer of smoke.

IMG_1509Pigeons (or doves) in a snag.

The three loops came to a grand total of 3.5 miles with a little over 200′ of elevation gain.

While the conditions weren’t ideal there was a cool (mostly) breeze and it never smelt like smoke. Early Spring would be a much better time to visit or maybe a little later once more of the leaves have had time to change color but given the circumstances it was a suitable destination. It was nice to find another option so close to home too. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Spring Valley Greenway

Categories
Hiking Oregon Salem/Albany Trip report Willamette Valley

Ankeny Wildlife Refuge – 04/23/2022

For the last six months we’ve been having projects done around the house and while everything at home has seemed to be in a state of upheaval work has felt just as chaotic. The end of our projects is in sight just barely overlapping with our hiking season. This is the most I’ve looked forward to a hiking season yet. I am a very introverted person and while hiking can be physically exhausting, for me it provides a mental recharge. Spending time relaxing at home is typically another way that I recharge but with all the projects going on I haven’t been able to get that same relaxed feeling this off-season.

Part of being an introvert is that socializing, especially in larger groups, is draining. It’s not that it isn’t enjoyable, it certainly can be, but it is exhausting and I haven’t been in a place where I’ve felt like I had the energy to interact with people beyond work recently (close family excluded). Heather on the other hand is more extroverted than I am. She still has some introvert traits but on a scale of introvert to extrovert she is closer to the extrovert than where I land. Before hiking season started she wanted to have a few friends over to see the progress thus far on the home. I thought it was a great idea but I also didn’t personally feel up to it despite how much I enjoy the group she was planning on inviting. To Heather’s credit she understood so in the interest of mental health I got an early jump on hiking season.

After doing a few last minute chores to help get the house ready for guests I headed out the door a little before 6am to make the 25 minute drive to Ankeny Wildlife Refuge. I had made a solo trip here last April (post) during a vacation week that Heather didn’t share. While I (we) typically don’t revisit places/hikes that close together the opening of the Ankeny Hill Nature Center in February was a good excuse for another visit. The website for the Nature Center listed “dawn to dusk” as the hours but I arrived just minutes before sunrise (6:14am) to find the gate still closed. A lower parking lot along Buena Vista Rd S was also gated closed with a sign stating it was due to ongoing construction. After reading the sign I wasn’t sure if I was too early or if the center was actually closed even though the website indicated it was open. A mystery that I would solve later though as I had some hiking to do.

The trail system at the Nature Center is less than a mile so I had planned on re-hiking some of my routes from the previous year and any areas that had been closed on that visit that might be open this time around. It had been a clear morning at our house and remained that way all the way to the Nature Center but as soon as I passed the lower parking lot I entered a fog bank which covered my first stop at Eagle Marsh.
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I could hear geese and ducks on the water but seeing much let alone taking pictures would require the fog to relent a bit. I set off along the dike road around the marsh hoping that the rising Sun would simultaneously take care of the fog and raise the temperature from the mid-30’s.
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IMG_8745Camas

IMG_8748Black phoebe in the fog. It’s the only one seen all day so despite the poor quality I kept the photo.

IMG_8761Wet spider webs are the best.

IMG_8758There was a brief respite in the fog before it rolled in again.

IMG_8765The fog bank waiting to move back in.

The section of the Eagle Marsh Trail on the SE side of Willow Marsh had been closed last year making the lollipop loop showed on the Refuge Map impossible but this year there were no signs indicating it’s closure. Like last year I headed clockwise around Willow Marsh passing between it and Teal Marsh.
IMG_8764Teal Marsh

The grassy track here was very damp and my feet and lower legs were soon soaked (and cold!) but I distracted myself by watching for birds.

IMG_8771Northern flicker

IMG_8772A very grumpy looking spotted towhee

IMG_8775I have a hard time identifying some of these little birds. This one may be an orange-crowned warbler.

DSCN1310A bald eagle that was across Willow Marsh.

DSCN1317Female red-winged blackbird

DSCN1313Buffleheads

DSCN1324A less grumpy looking spotted towhee

As I came around Willow Marsh I took a very short detour to check out the Sidney Power Ditch before continuing around the marsh.
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DSCN1331Here comes the fog again.

DSCN1335Black capped chickadee

Yellow-rumped warbler (Audubon's)Yellow-rumped warbler (Audubon’s)

DSCN1342Red-winged blackbird

Marsh wrenWrens can be tricky too, I think this is a marsh wren.

DSCN1349White-crowned sparrow

DSCN1360Song sparrow

IMG_8779Eagle Marsh, still can’t see much.

I had considered driving back to the Nature Center to see if it was open but in the end decided to make that my last stop and instead drove to the Pintail and Egret Marshes Trailhead.
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I started by taking the 0.13 mile boardwalk to the blind overlooking Egret Marsh where there wasn’t anything to see at the moment.
IMG_8783Bashaw Creek

DSCN1369Egret Marsh from the blind.

After the obligatory boardwalk I walked west along the shoulder of Wintel Road just over 150 yards to a small pullout on its south side where I passed through a green gate to find another damp grassy track. I had passed through the same gate on my prior visit and taken the right hand fork away from the road. This time I went left following the track along the road for three tenths of a mile to the entrance road for the Rail Trailhead.
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Up to this point I had encountered a total of 3 people but at this trailhead there were several cars and a half dozen people milling about. I headed out on the rail trail and skipped the boardwalk portion where most of the people were headed and continued straight through more wet grass to the dike near Killdeer Marsh.
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DSCN1375Lots of fringecup along the trail.

DSCN1376Purple deadnettle and field mustard

DSCN1377Common yellow-throat

I looped counter-clockwise around Killdeer Marsh forgetting how muddy it was on the western side.
DSCN1380Looking back along the eastern side of the marsh. There was a lot less water this year.

Killdeer MarshWater level on 4/13/21.

There were also fewer birds than on either of my previous two visits but I did see the only norther pintails of the day here.
DSCN1385Seeing them was a lot easier than getting photos.

After looping around that marsh I headed east along the dike where again there was a lot less water in Dunlin Pond this year compared to last.
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I followed the dike around what was left of Dunlin Pond to the eastern end of the boardwalk.
DSCN1397Canada flamingo?

DSCN1399American robin

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DSCN1403Dunlin Pond from the boardwalk.

I could hear people approaching on the boardwalk so after a quick stop I continued north on the grassy track returning to the gate at Wintel Road and followed it back past the Pintail and Egret Marshes Trailhead to the Pintail Marsh Overlook.
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I turned right from the parking area following a sign for the seasonal photo blind. On last years hike I had attempted to go around Egret Marsh but had been turned back by a closure sign just beyond the blind and had to return to the parking area via a short loop around Frog Pond. There were no closure signs this time so I continued on past the short loop passing the blind at the end of the boardwalk trail.
DSCN1424Egret Marsh

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DSCN1436Ring-necked ducks.

DSCN1433Anyone know if this is a female cinnamon or blue-winged teal?

DSCN1432Another yellow-rumped warbler (Audubon’s) showing off its yellow rump.

DSCN1430Egret Marsh

DSCN1431The trail around Egret Marsh.

When I arrived at the service road between Egret and Mallard Marshes I passed a sign saying the area was indeed closed. I don’t know if that sign was left over or if the sign at the other end had gone missing. In my defense the refuge map shows it as part of the trail system and there is nothing online or posted at Pintail Marsh stating that there is a closure but had I been coming from this end I would have respected the sign. This is not the first time that we’ve been on a trail with no indications of any closure only to pass a closure sign at the other end. For the land managers out there could you please post at both ends of closed sections (or remove the signs from both ends if it has been lifted)? It would sure help those of us that are trying to do the right thing.

Back to the hike though. The service road ended a short distance away to the right in a flooded field.
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There was a lot of activity near the end of the road.
DSCN1441I think these might be long-billed dowichters. Please correct me if I’m wrong.

I turned left and then quickly turned right on the dike between Mallard Marsh and Mohoff Pond. There were lots of geese, ducks and coots here but they did there best to keep plenty of distance between themselves and me.
DSCN1460Heading to the right turn. Egret Marsh is on the left and Mallard Marsh on the right. A huge flock of geese had just taken to the sky.

DSCN1466Killdeer

Yellow-rumped warbler (Myrtle)Today I realized that there are two yellow-rumped warblers, this one is a Myrtle, note the white throat compared to the yellow throat of the Audubon’s above.

DSCN1473Northern shoveler

DSCN1477Mohoff Pond and Mallard Marsh

DSCN1479Canada goose with various ducks in the background. At least one of the ducks is a ruddy duck which is one I hadn’t seen yet (that I know of). They were too far to get clear photos of though.

DSCN1482Canada geese and northern shovelers giving a good size comparison.

DSCN1486The black dots in the sky here aren’t geese, they are little insects that followed me along the dike.

DSCN1483Not Canada geese flying over.

DSCN1489Immature bald eagle.

DSCN1498Sandpiper

When I reached the end of Mohoff Pond I turned left around it and headed back toward the Pintail Marsh Overlook.
DSCN1510Greater white-fronted geese, another first.

DSCN1513Bushtit. Several flew in here but I couldn’t make them out once inside so I took a few pictures hoping to get lucky.

On my way back a hawk and an immature bald eagle put on an areal display.
DSCN1517Can anyone ID the hawk? Another thing that I find difficult.

DSCN1534Swimming lessons, Canada goose style.

From the overlook I walked back along Wintel Road to the Pintail and Egret Marshes Trailhead to retrieve my car then drove back to the Nature Center where I had attempted to start my day. The lower trailhead was still gated but the entrance road along Ankeny Hill Road was no longer gated. There were just a handful of cars here as I set off on the short loop trail.
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The loop offered nice views, interpretive signs, and a surprising variety of flowers. As a bonus a pair of great blue herons where stalking the hillside in search of snacks.
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DSCN1540Buttercups

DSCN1543Meadow checker-mallow

DSCN1547Columbine

DSCN1550Yarrow

DSCN1552Possibly Nelson’s checker-mallow

IMG_8810Lupine that will be blooming soon.

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DSCN1573Iris

DSCN1575Swallows

DSCN1578Mary’s Peak (post) in the distance, the highest peak in the Oregon Coast Range.

The Nature Center is a really nice addition to the Refuge providing a great opportunity for kids to get out on a short educational trail. The rest of the refuge as usual did not disappoint, plenty of wildlife and a great variety to boot. The three stop, 11.3 mile day was just what I needed and Heather had a great time entertaining. With any luck the home improvements will be over in a couple of weeks and we will both have started our official hiking seasons. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Ankeny Wildlife Refuge 2022

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
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
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 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

Categories
Hiking Oregon Portland Salem/Albany Trip report Willamette Valley

Tualatin HIlls Nature Park, Tualatin River NWR, and Willamette Mission State Park

For our March outing we decided to stick relatively close to home and visit three nearby hikeable areas. Our first stop, and furthest from Salem at just under an hour away, was at the Tualatin Hills Nature Park in Beaverton.

We started from the large parking lot at the Tualatin Hills Nature Center on SW Millikan Way.
Tualatin Hills Nature Center

The Nature Center is currently open from 8:30am-5pm M-F and 9am-5pm Sat. & Sun. while the park itself is open everyday from dawn to dusk. We arrived at dawn and set off on the paved Vine Maple Trail between the Nature Center and restrooms.
Vine Maple Trail

We quickly turned right onto the signed Oak Trail which was also paved.
Oak Trail

In a third of a mile we detoured briefly at a sign for the Tadpole Ponds.
Tadpole Pond

Although we didn’t see any tadpoles, or other wildlife here, the sounds of birds had not stopped all morning so we knew there were plenty of animals around. We returned to the Oak Trail which passed by Cattail Marsh on the second of three boardwalks.
Oak Trail

Cattail Marsh

Beyond the marsh we soon came to the third boardwalk which crossed over Cedar Mill Creek.
Boardwalk and viewing platforms along the Oak Trail

Cedar Mill Creek

One of the many birds that we’d been listening to was kind enough to pose for a moment as we stood on the boardwalk.
Sparrow

On the far side of the boardwalk was a trail junction where the Oak Trail veered right to the Merlo Rd/158th Ave Max light rail station. To the left was the Old Wagon Trail, a dirt path closed to bikes.
Old Wagon Trail

We followed this trail through a forest that was starting to show signs of Spring for a third of a mile to a junction with the Mink Path.
Old Wagon Trail

Blossoms along the Old Wagon Trail

Old Wagon Trail

Old Wagon Trail junction with the Mink PathTrail pointer at the Mink Path junction. We appreciated the fact that all of the junctions were signed and those signs were easy to read but placed in such a way that they were unobtrusive.

The Mink Path is a .1 mile connector between the Old Wagon Trail and Vine Maple Trail allowing for a shorter loop back to the Nature Center. We opted to stay on the Old Wagon Trail though and continued to the start of another boardwalk where we stopped so I could try and take a photo of a robin that was hopping around on the trail. As I was working on getting a picture Heather spotted a deer just a bit off the trail.
Deer along the Old Wagon Trail (there really is one out ther)Can you see the deer?

I thought she was seeing things but then I noticed it move.
Doe along the Old Wagon Trail (again it is there)How about now?

She turned and watched us as I attempted to get the camera to focus on her and not the branches in the foreground.
Doe in the Tualatin Hills Nature Park

Not far from the deer we spotted a squirrel trying to become one with a limb.
Squirrel

At a “Y” in the boardwalk we veered left keeping on the Old Wagon Trail until we reached a junction with the Vine Maple Trail a total of .4 miles beyond the Mink Path junction. We turned left onto the Vine Maple Trail and then took a right at a pointer for the Lily Pond.

A short path led down to the pond but before we had reached it a pair of wood ducks took flight and landed in a nearby tree.
Wood Ducks

As we were admiring the wood ducks a pileated woodpecker was busy with its breakfast.
Pileated woodpecker

We eventually made it down to the pond where a few ducks remained in the water including what appeared to be a pair of gadwalls.
Interpretive sign at the Lily Pond

Lily Pond

Gadwalls

There were also signs of beaver activity but we’ve yet to actually see one in the wild.
Beaver work

After visiting the pond we returned to the Vine Maple Trail which was now paved and followed it past its junction with the Mink Path and across Cedar Mill Creek.
Vine Maple Trail

Vine Maple Trail crossing Cedar Mill Creek

Shortly after crossing the creek we faced another choice. The Nature Center lay a third of a mile away via the Vine Maple Trail but more loop options were available by taking the Elliot Path.
Trail sign in the Tualatin Hills Nature Park

We took the .1 mile Elliot Path to a “T” shaped junction with the Big Fir Trail. Here again was a choice. Left headed back toward the Nature Center while right would take us to the Chickadee and Ash Loops and a short spur to Big Pond. We headed right and then turned left onto the spur to Big Pond.
Big Pond

Big Pond

There were plenty of ducks here as well. It appeared that most were mallards and green-winged teals.
Mallard and Green-winged teals

We returned to the Big Fir Trail and continued on crossing Beaverton Creek before arriving at a four way junction.
Beaverton CreekBeaverton Creek

More choices! The Big Fir Trail kept straight while the Chickadee Loop was to the right and the Ash Loop to the left. We began by heading right on the quarter mile Chickadee Loop which had a nice long section of boardwalk.
Chickadee Loop

After the quarter mile we were back at the Big Fir Trail where we turned right briefly before making a left onto the Ash Loop. The Ash Loop passed some wetlands where a pair of Canada Geese were enjoying the morning.
Wetlands along the Ash Loop

Canada geese

After .3 miles on the Ash Loop we found ourselves back at the four way junction where we turned right and recrossed Beaverton Creek and returned to the junction with the Elliot Path. Staying straight on the Big Fir Trail for just .05 miles we then turned right onto the .2 mile Trillium Loop. Oddly we didn’t see many of signs of trilliums along this short loop but we had seen several beginning to bloom along other trails. After completing the Trillium Loop we turned right again onto the Big Fir Trail for another .1 miles to the start of the half mile Ponderosa Loop.

We took the Ponderosa Loop where we spotted more trillium and our first wood violets of the year.
Trillium

Wood violet

At the end of the Ponderosa Loop we were once again turning right onto the Big Fir Trail. This time it was for less than a tenth of mile and then we were back at the Vine Maple Trail. Several spotted towhees and a couple of chickadees were foraging near this junction. The chickadees wouldn’t sit still but the towhees were a little more cooperative.
Spotted towhee

Spotted towhee

A right turn onto the Vine Maple Trail followed by another .2 miles of hiking brought us back to the parking lot at the Nature Center. The total distance for our hike with all the extra loops was still just 4.2 miles. When we had arrived we were only the second car but the lot was now full as it was just a bit after 9am. We had passed the first volunteer led tour as we were finishing up the along the Ponderosa Trail and another group was preparing to set off shortly.

One of the reasons we had chosen to start our day with this hike was that we knew the park would get busy as the morning progressed which isn’t a bad thing but we always prefer to avoid the crowds when possible. It really was a first rate park though so the popularity is warranted.

We left the nature park and headed for our next stop, the Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge. I’d found this hike in the Oregon Hikers Field Guide and decided to give it a try.

We parked at the Visitor Center along Highway 99W. The majority of hikeable paths in the refuge are closed from October 1st trough April 30th but the one mile River Trail and the very short Ridge Trail are open year round so we made those the target of this visit.
Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge Trailhead

We set off on the River Trail and immediately spotted a hummingbird perched atop a tree.
River Trail

Hummingbird

The trail led downhill between a pair of small ponds.
Tualatin River Natioal Wildlife Refuge

The trail passes through a restored oak savannah before arriving at an observation deck above the Tualatin River a half mile from the parking lot.
River Trail

Viewing Deck along the River Trail

Tualatin River

Beyond the deck the trail continues briefly though the restored savannah before entering a forest.
River Trail

The trail splits in the trees with the Ridge Trail leading left to a viewpoint and the River Trail continuing right to the Wetlands Observation Deck.
River Trail junction with the Ridgetop Trail

We stayed right visiting the observation deck first.
Wetlands observation deck

View from the Wetlands Observation Deck

There were a few geese and ducks visible in the distance and a few robins closer by.
Canada geese in the wetlands

Robin

We returned to the junction with the Ridge Trail and turned right onto it to climb to the viewpoint. The Visitor Center was visible across the refuge and a number of ducks and other birds could be seen in the water below. At least some of the ducks looked to be northern shovelers.
RIdgetop Trail

View from the Ridgetop Overlook

Northern Shovelers

We returned to the parking lot after an easy 2.1 mile hike. We plan on returning in the future when the other trails are open to explore more of the refuge and check out the Visitor Center.

We left the refuge and headed south toward our last stop of the day at Willamette Mission State Park.

The site of the former Willamette Mission the 1600 acre park offers a number of activities besides hiking. The mission was established in 1834 by Rev. Jason Lee and marked the first organized religious enterprise in Oregon.

We had originally intended on a 2.7 mile hike here as described by William L. Sullivan in his “100 Hikes in Northwest Oregon & Southwest Washington” 3rd edition guidebook. Heather had put the book in her pack for the Tualatin Hills Nature Park hike as it was also featured in the guidebook. We hadn’t taken it back out of her pack so we weren’t exactly sure where we were supposed to park for the described hike so after paying the $5 day use fee at the entrance booth we immediately turned right into a parking area with a hiker symbol.

The lot serves as a trailhead for the Willamette Vision Education Trail, which was not where our book called for us to start but we were already parked so we decided to improvise.
Willamette Mission State Park Trailhead

We followed a bark path .1 miles to the start of a loop where we turned right.
Willamette Vision Educational Trail

Interpretive sign along the Willamette Vision Educational Trail

The trail followed a road bed for half a mile around a field before arriving at Mission Lake. Along the way we spotted a coyote that quickly disappeared back into the vegetation.
Mission Lake

A little over a mile from the trailhead we arrived at the nations largest black cottonwood.
Willamette Mission Cottonwood

Interpretive sign for the Willamette Mission Cottonwood

While we were admiring the tree an osprey landed in it and while we were watching the osprey we noticed a squirrel in the upper branches as well.
Osprey in the Willamette Mission Cottonwood

Squirrel in the Willamette Mission Cottonwood

Osprey and a squirrel sharing the Willamette Mission CottonwoodThe osprey and the squirrel (upper right hand corner).

A short distance from the cottonwood the loop crossed the park entrance road. In order to do the hike that we had originally intended to do we turned right and walked along the shoulder of the road for a quarter of a mile to a boat launch and pet exercise area where we picked up the Mission Trail.
Mission Trail

The Mission Trail followed the bank of Mission Lake for .6 miles to the Mission View Site, an observation deck looking across the lake to the site of the former mission.
Mission Trail

Mission Site viewing platform

Marker for the Willamette Mission

The former Mission Site across Mission Lake

We continued on past the Mission Site for another quarter mile before arriving at a the end of the Mission Trail at a paved bike path. We turned right detouring a quarter mile off the loop to visit the Wheatland Ferry crossing on the Willamette River.
Wheatland Ferry

After watching the ferry cross once we headed back along the bike path and followed it along the Willamette River for almost a mile and a half before veering right onto an equestrian trail. Although the bike path paralleled the river there were no real views to speak of due to a strip of trees and vegetation between the path and the water.
Bike path in Willamette Mission State Park

Bike path in Willamette Mission State Park

We opted to follow the multi-use dirt path instead of the paved bike path since pavement seems to be a lot harder on the feet. Despite being a bit muddy in spots the equestrian trail did finally provide a nice view up and down the Willamette.
Equestrian trail in Willamette Mission State Park

Willamette River

Willamette River

Just prior to reaching the high water channel the equestrian trail came near to the bike path. Staying on the equestrian trail would have taken us to the start of a three mile loop with no opportunity to get back to our car so we hopped back onto the bike path here.
Equestrian trail and the bike path in Willamette Mission State Park

We then followed the bike path back to the park entrance road.
Willamette Mission State Park

On our way back to the car we did complete the Willamette Vision Education Trail loop but that final 1.4 mile segment was fairly uneventful. The trail loops around a field with views back toward the center of the park. By that time we were passing the 13 mile mark for the day (we had planned on doing 9.2) and I was more focused on my feet than taking pictures. Not only had we started at the wrong spot but the guidebook would have had us cut out some of the bike path and all of the equestrian trail. Instead of 2.7 miles for this stop we had flipped the numbers and done 7.2.

We enjoyed all three stops but the Tualatin Hills Nature Park was definitely our favorite. With that being said they all would be suitable for hikers of all ages and abilities and each offers something unique. We’re lucky to have so many options within an hour of Salem and there are many more that we have yet to visit. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Tualatin Hills NP, Tualatin River NWR, Willamette Mission SP

Categories
Hiking Oregon Salem/Albany Throwback Thursday Trip report Willamette Valley

Throwback Thursday – Baskett Slough Wildlife Refuge

This will be a brief entry for a short hike we completed in July of 2010. Basket Slough Wildlife Refuge is located less than 15 miles from Salem between Highways 22 and 99W. From April 1 thru September all the trails are open in the refuge otherwise only some are hikeable.

For our visit we parked at the Coville Road parking area and set off on the Rich Guadagno Memorial Loop Trail.
Rich Guadagno memorial plaque in Basket Slough National Wildlife Refuge

We kept right at junctions and after half a mile left the loop trail staying right onto the Morgan Lake Trail. We followed this trail for much of it’s 1.6 mile length before turning left on a path that connected us up to the Moffitti Marsh Trail which was an old roadbed. We followed this trail back up to the Rich Guadagno Loop and again kept right. The loop trail climbed gently up Baskett Butte to a viewing platform. We had seen a couple of deer already and as we headed up to the platform a third deer crossed the trail.
Deer in a meadow at Basket Slough National Wildlife Refuge

Deer

Buck crossing the trail

View from the Basket Slough National Wildlife Refuge

After completing the loop we returned to our car. The total distance was a little under 5 miles. It was only the third hike we’d done since we decided to try out this hiking thing and I had not yet become the crazy picture taking hiker that I am today. Never the less it was a nice place to take a leisurely hike and watch for wildlife. Happy Trails!