Our trip home from the southern Oregon coast was very different than our six stop drive that started our long weekend (post). We had only one stop planned at Golden and Silver Falls State Natural Area. Only 24 miles from Highway 101 in Coos Bay the park felt further removed due to the winding back country roads to the trailhead.
We started our morning off by heading for Golden Falls first. The trail led to a footbridge across Silver Creek and then forked.
We took the right hand Lower Trail first which followed Glenn Creek to the base of 254′ Golden Falls.
Rough skinned newt
Wren below Golden Falls
After exploring the area below Golden Falls we returned to the fork and turned onto the Upper Trail. This trail climbed for .4 miles to a switchback below 259′ Silver Falls.
Inside out flower
Beyond the switchback the trail continued to climb along an long abandoned road over half a mile to cliffs at the top of Golden Falls.
Upper portion of Golden Falls.
Glenn Creek above Golden Falls.
The trail petered out after a short distance so we turned back. As we began our hike back down blue skies emerged overhead.
Despite a cloudy morning they stayed high enough to not obstruct the view of the falls.
We returned to the trailhead where another car had joined ours and walked to the west end of the parking area to the Silver Falls Viewpoint Trail.
This .3 mile trail led to the base of Silver Falls across from the switchback.
Epic battle between a rock and a tree.
I was treated to a single ripe salmonberry along this stretch of trail. It didn’t survive long enough for a photo but I found another that was almost ripe.
Ouzel (might be the same one as earlier)
We did some more exploring around the base of the falls before saying goodbye and heading back to our car.
At 4 miles this was a perfect hike to end our trip on, even with 4 more hours of driving we made it home around 1:30pm giving us plenty of time to unpack and get ready for the work week ahead. Happy Trails!
We started our day parking at the closed (stupid COVID) interpretative center at South Slough Reserve.
It looked like it would be full of good info and we’ll have to come back someday post pandemic when we can experience it. For now we settled for the trails walking behind the center and picking up the Ten Minute Loop Trail where we turned right.
After just a tenth of a mile we came to a junction with the Middle Creek Trail where we turned right detouring briefly to check out an opening where in better times talks are given by staff members.
We followed the Middle Creek Trail downhill through a coastal forest to a road crossing where the Hidden Creek Trail continued on the far side.
All the bridges had labels consisting of the first initial of the trail and then the bridge number making this the 4th bridge along the Middle Creek Trail.
That’s a fancy hat for a stump.
The Hidden Creek Trail continued downhill following the creek to Hidden Creek Marsh where a series of boardwalks passed through giant skunk cabbage patches. We stayed to the right each time the boardwalks split (they eventually rejoined along the way).
We saw a lot of rough skinned newts on the trails, but what we were really hopping for was a Pacific Giant Salamander. No luck there this time.
A few trillium still had petals.
We heard a few frogs and we were looking in the skunk cabbage to see if we could spot any. We didn’t see any of the frogs but we did spot several others on the plants.
At the end of Boardwalk 2 the trail became the Tunnel Trail and headed back into the forest.
After a short climb we came to a nice big observation deck. The view was good but there wasn’t much to observe on this morning.
We ignored the Big Cedar Trail to the left when we passed it and continued on the Tunnel Trail passing a couple of more viewpoints out to the South Slough. While we had struck out at the observation deck we now could see movement which turned out to be over a half dozen raccoons crossing the mud flats in search of breakfast.
Tunnel Trail indeed.
This marked the first time we’d seen raccoons on a hike and we had a lot of fun watching them search for snacks. Shortly after passing some restrooms the trail came to a junction where we headed downhill to a shed and another junction.
We turned right by the shed passing under an awning to the Sloughside Trail
We turned right first passing several wooden decks before the trail ended along the slough.
Castilleja ambigua – Estuarine Paintbrush
After watching more raccoons from the end of this spur we returned to the shed and took the left hand fork. This spur was a bit longer (still only .1 miles) and passed along a narrow strip between flats.
>End of the line.
It was interesting to see how this uprooted tree peeled back a layer of the ground.
We again returned to the shed staying to the right and crossing a nice bridge on the North Creek Trail.
A third of a mile along the North Creek Trail we came to the signed .15 mile North Creek Spur.
We decided to check it out and followed the short trail downhill to a different view of the Sloughside Marsh.
We returned to the North Creek Trail and followed it uphill back to the Ten Minute Loop Trail where we turned right for a tenth of a mile to the Interpretive Center.
Bleeding heart, fairy bells, and youth-on-age.
This was an excellent 4 mile hike with 300′ of elevation gain.
From the Interpretive Center we returned to Seven Devils Road and followed it north to Charleston were we turned left onto the Cape Arago Highway to Sunset Bay State Park, a total of 6.7 miles from the center. We parked at Sunset Bay Middle (there is a North, Middle, and South but we didn’t realize that before we parked) which added a tenth of a mile each way to our hike but we had a nice view of Sunset Beach and Bay.
We walked over to Sunset Bay South and picked up the Oregon Coast Trail at a bridge over Big Creek.
The trail climbed to the top of the cliffs overlooking the Pacific as it looped around a large grass clearing that in non-pandemic times acts as a group camp.
Cape Arago Lighthouse (not on Cape Arago) on Chiefs Island.
The group campsite.
We followed pointers for the Oregon Coast Trail which briefly followed the shoulder of Cape Arago Highway as it passed Norton Gulch.
On the far side of the gulch the trail veered away from the highway and by staying right at junctions soon got back to the cliffs above the ocean providing some excellent views.
A long pause in our hike came when we stopped to watch some harbor seals on the rocks below us.
Harbor seals in the lower right hand corner on the rocks.
Drama was unfolding in front of us as one pup repeatedly attempted to follow its mother up onto the rocks only to slide back into the water. It finally found success and then back into the water they went. Apparently it was just a practice run.
After tearing ourselves away from the seal show we continued south along the cliffs.
Just over two miles into the hike we came to the first noticeable remnants of the 1906 estate of timber baron Louis Simpson.
Former tennis courts.
It was windy on the plateau and I couldn’t help but wonder how anyone could play tennis in the windy conditions that are often present on the coast.
View near the tennis courts.
These roots explain how some of the trees that look like they should be plunging into the ocean don’t.
Observation Building ahead on the cliff.
The rocks along the coastline here had been pounded and carved by the ocean into some interesting shapes and designs.
We walked past the Observation Building (closed due to COVID) to a viewpoint overlooking Simpson Cove.
The Oregon Coast Trail dropped down to the cove before climbing again and continuing onto Cape Arago State Park but before we headed down we wanted to check out the Shore Acres Gardens which were open (limit of 75 persons at a time).
It was a little early yet for many of the flowers, especially the rose garden, but there was still a lot to see. The most impressive specimens to us were a plant and tree from South America.
Prickly Rhubarb from Chile
Monkey Puzzle Tree from South America
The yet to bloom rose garden.
After winding our way through the gardens we returned to the Oregon Coast Trail and followed it down to Simpson Beach.
After climbing up from the beach we came to an unsigned junction where we turned right continuing to follow the cliff south for .9 miles to an overlook along the Cape Arago Highway of Simpson Reef.
Looking back across Simpson Cove to the Observation Building.
Simpson Reef extending into the Pacific.
There was a lot of action going on out on the reef, in particular on Shell Island where sea lions barked and eagles engaged in aerial combat.
Shell Island in the middle of Simpson Reef.
Sea lions and juvenile bald eagles on Shell Island.
Harbor seals on the reef.
After watching the action for awhile we continued on our trek by crossing the Highway onto a hiking trail marked by a post.
After a half mile on this trail we arrived at the Cape Arago Pack Trail.
Left would loop us back to Shore Acres State Park while heading right would drop us into the main part of Cape Arago State Park. We turned right to check out more of the park and popped out near the South Cove of Cape Arago.
Woolly bear caterpillar
Looking back up the Pack Trail.
A short trail led down to the beach in the South Cove (and possible tidepools) but we were starting to feel the effects of 3 straight days of hiking and having to climb back up from the cove just didn’t sound appealing so we opted to take a break at bench overlooking the cove in a picnic area.
Plaque near the bench commermorating Sir Frances Drake’s visit to the area in 1579.
Our stalker while we sat at the bench hoping we would leave some food behind (we didn’t).
After the break we continued to follow the parking area around Cape Arago passing Middle Cove and then arriving at the North Cove Trail.
We thought we might be hearing things, but no it was a rooster crowing.
We decided to take this trail as it only lost a little elevation on its way to a ridgeend viewpoint with a view of a different side of Shell Island.
North Cove (A trail down to that beach was closed for the season.)
From the North Cove Trail it was shorter to continue around the parking loop to reach the Pack Trail instead of backtracking so that’s what we did. The Cape Arago Pack Trail gained approximately 300′ in just under a mile to reach its high point at 530′. There had been caution signs regarding storm damage which we found near the high point where a clearcut had left trees overly exposed to winds causing several large ones to be uprooted. Luckily crews had cleared the trail beacuse the size and amount of trees down here would have been very problematic to get past.
The trail then descended to a small stream crossing before climbing again to a ridgetop.
On the ridge we turned left at a junction on an old roadbed which followed the ridge down to the highway passing an old WWII radar installation bunker near the highway.
The Cape Arago Pack Trail at the highway.
We recrossed the highway here into Shore Acres State Park.
Just five hundred feet after crossing the road we came to the unsigned junction where we had turned right earlier after climbing up from Simpson Beach only we both missed it. Luckily we realized our mistake less than fifty yards later and got onto the right path. At this point we had hiked 12.5 miles on the day and it was closing in on 3pm due to all our extended breaks and we were getting tired. We decided to take the straightest path back to our car instead of following the Oregon Coast Trail as we had done earlier. We followed the entrance road in Shore Acres to the fee booth where we turned left on an old roadbed that now acts as a trail.
Going this way shortened our return trip by nearly 3/4 of a mile but it meant missing the views along the cliffs where we had watched the seals earlier. When we reached the Oregon Coast Trail we turned right and followed it back to the group camp at Sunset Bay State Park. We shortened our hike even further here by cutting through the empty camp, a move that shaved another 1/2 mile off the hike. It was a good thing too because our feet were not happy with us when we finally made it back to our car.
It had been a great day though with the two hikes combining for a 14.3 mile day. Happy Trails!
Day two of our Southern Oregon Coast extended weekend had us visiting the Rogue River Trail for the first time. We were admittedly a bit apprehensive about this hike as we had hiked another river trail (the Illinois) in the area around the same time of year in 2016 and had been overrun with ticks on that outing. This turned out to be a much more pleasant outing with just a single tick needing to be flicked off Heather which she promptly flicked straight at me.
It was a beautiful morning as we set off on the trail in the forest skirting a pasture.
Near the half mile mark the trail passed below the Illahe Lodge where a couple of deer had their eyes on us.
The trail passed through a fence that was booby trapped with poison oak.
The poison oak trap in the afternoon.
While the relative absence of ticks was great we still aren’t accustomed to hiking with the amount of poison oak that tends to be present in the southern part of the State but we’re working on that. This hike was a good test as the majority of the first 4.5 miles of the trail passed through quite a bit of vegetation that more often than not included poison oak. We weren’t entirely sure what to make of the hikers we saw in shorts or pants that left open skin near the calves and ankles, were we being too paranoid or are they crazy? The first four miles also included a couple of climbs to bypass private land which limited the views of the river quite a bit.
Bridge over Billings Creek.
Del Norte iris
Tolmie’s mariposa lily
Douglas iris with insect.
More mariposa lilies (with a poison oak background)
The Rogue River from the trail during one of the climbs.
One of dozens of lizards we saw (or heard).
We watched a number of rafts float by and later learned that it was the last weekend to float the river without needing a permit so it was an extra busy weekend.
We had honestly been a little underwhelmed with the trail as we reached the bridge over Flea Creek at the 4.5 mile mark. We had equated the Rogue River Trail with the dramatic views we’d seen in others photos but the section of trail up to now was short on those.
Footbridge over Flea Creek
Things changed in a hurry beyond Flea Creek though as the views opened up a bit before the trail arrived at Flora Del Falls less than a quarter mile later.
We took an extended break at the falls before continuing on another 1.75 miles to the Clay Hill Lodge where we decided to turn around. The scenery was now excellent, exactly what we had been hoping for but it was warmer than we were used to and we had more hiking to do over the next couple of days so as tempting as continuing on was, the lodge made for a good turnaround point.
Clay Hill Lodge
Rafts in Clay Hill Rapids
We saw our only snake of the day on our return trip when we spotted our first ring-necked snake in the trail.
The rafts seemed to have given way to Jet Boats which we could hear coming well before we saw them.
We stopped again at Flora Del Falls where I was tormented by a swallow tail that just wouldn’t land.
One of the dozens of photos I took trying to get the swallow tail in flight.
After the break we headed back to the trailhead. We were trying to come up with markers to break up the 4.5 mile section and Heather remembered that Sullivan had said that there were 5 bridge crossings over named creeks. We ignored the “named creeks” detail and began counting bridges down from 5. There were well more than 5 bridge, closer to a dozen but only 5 crossed “named creeks”. Either way we made it back to the car (and past a few cows) finishing a very nice 12.9 mile hike just after 2:15pm.
After staying in Gold Beach the night before we were now headed north to Bandon for a couple of nights. We stopped for dinner in Port Orford at the Crazy Norwegian on a recommendation from Heather’s Dad. We shared a clam chowder and split the fish and chips. They were wonderful, a perfect ending to our day.
We found out a couple of days later that we had missed running into the folks from Boots on the Trail, one of our favorite hiking blogs. They had been hiking the entire trail one way and would be doing this section on Saturday the 15th, one day after our hike. We have wondered if that might happen sometime when we are down in that area and it almost did. Maybe next trip. Happy Trails!
Our first big trip of the year was an extended weekend visit to the southern Oregon coast area to finish the remaining featured hikes from Sullivan’s “100 Hikes Oregon Coast & Coast Range” (3rd ed.) as well as a couple from his additional hikes section. For the first day of the trip we had set an ambitious goal of stopping at five different trailheads on the way to our motel in Gold Beach and after checking in continuing almost to the California border for a sixth hike on the Oregon Redwoods Trail. We got our typical early start driving from Salem to Eugene to take Highway 126 toward the coast and our first stop at the Mapleton Hill Pioneer Trailhead .
The short loop (0.6 miles) on the Pioneer Trail here follows portions of the historic North Fork Trail and Mapleton Hill Road which were early routes connecting Florence and Eugene.
The trail was in good shape and there were a some wildflowers in bloom to go along with the numerous interpretive signs along the loop.
One of the sharp turns.
Star flower solomonseal
Wren – We heard lots of birds but didn’t see many of them.
After completing the loop we drove west from the trailhead on Road 5070/North Fork Siuslaw Road to Road 5084 which we followed 5 miles to the Pawn Trailhead.
This was another short loop hike (0.8 miles) which combined with the Pioneer Trail make up featured hike #57 in the 3rd edition (they were moved to the additional hikes section in the 4th edition). This trail suffered some storm damage over the Winter and as of our hike had only been 80% cleared. It is also an interpretive trail but instead of signs there are markers which correspond to information on a brochure that can be downloaded from the Forest Service here. The name “Pawn” was derived from the last names of four families that settled in the area in the early 1900’s – the Pooles, Akerleys, Worthingtons, and Nolans.
While this trail was relatively close to the Pioneer Trail the presence of the old growth trees gave the hike a different feel.
Marker for a fire scarred Douglas fir. According to the brochure the last major fire in the area was in the 1860s.
The storm damage proved to be a bit tricky but it appeared the Forest Service had started a reroute of the trail which we were able to follow.
We had to climb over this big tree.
We lost the reroute after climbing over the big trunk and had to bushwack our way through some debris before climbing up on a second downed trunk and walking along it to the resumption of the trail. At one point Heather bumped a limb and pine needles exploded over her head like confetti giving us both a good laugh.
The loop ended shortly beyond the damage and we were soon back at the trailhead. From there we drove west on North Fork Siuslaw Road into Florence. From Florence we took Highway 101 south toward Coos Bay. We turned off a little north of North Bend at a sign for Horsefall Dune and Beach. Our next stop was yet another short loop trail, this time at Bluebill Lake. We parked at the Bluebill Trailhead and set off on the wide trail.
We went clockwise around the loop. The water level of the lake varies throughout the year but there was a good amount of water now but no flooding which can be an issue in late Winter/early Spring.
Looking at the bridge at the north end of the lake.
Cormorants flying above the lake.
Ring necked ducks
Boardwalk at the south end of the lake.
Coming up on the bridge at the north end.
Yellow rumped warbler
After completing the 1.5 mile hike here we returned to Highway 101 and continued south into Coos Bay where we detoured to our fourth stop of the day at Millicoma Marsh. This was an interesting trailhead given that it was right next to a middle school track and field.
The trail on the far side of the track.
We followed the posted directions and kept to the outside of the grass as we walked around the track to the trail.
One of three panels on a signboard at the start of the trails.
Two tenths of a mile from the signboard the grassy track came to a junction. The loop continued to the left but a quarter mile spur trail to the right led to an observation bench. We hiked out to the end of the spur trail before continuing on the loop.
This bench is at the junction.
Sparrow near the junction.
Heading to the observation structure.
Looking toward Coos Bay along the Coos River.
McCullough Memorial Bridge spanning Coos Bay.
Wetlands from the end of the spur.
We returned to the loop and continued counterclockwise around. There wasn’t much wildlife activity which was probably a matter of timing as it looked like an area where we might see quite a bit. In any case the hike was pleasant with nice scenery.
Canada goose with goslings
Arriving back at the field.
Up to this point we had only passed one other hiker all day (at Bluebill Lake) but this area was popular and we ran into over a half dozen other users on this 1.8 mile jaunt.
From Coos Bay we continued south on Hwy 101 for 14.6 miles before turning right onto West Beaver Hill Road at a sign for the Seven Devils Wayside, our next stop. We parked in the large lot where only one other vehicle sat and promptly headed down to the beach.
Ground squirrel enjoying the view.
Our plan here was to hike south along the beach at least as far as Fivemile Point to complete another of Sullivan’s featured hikes. We hopped across the creek using rocks and logs and set off on what is considered possibly the windiest beach along the Oregon coast (it was windy).
Shore bird in the creek.
The occupant of the other vehicle had headed north so we had this stretch of beach to ourselves, and a few feathered friends.
The hillside was covered with yellow gorse, an invasive but colorful shrub.
The gorse wasn’t the only yellow flowers present though.
Brass buttons (another non-native)
We were looking for a side trail up to a viewpoint bench that Sullivan showed as .7 miles from the trailhead just beyond a brown outcrop.
The brown outcrop a little way ahead with Fivemile Point further on.
We couldn’t pick out any trail just several stream beds and seeps so we kept going coming next to a rock spire a short distance from Fivemile Point.
We passed the spire and continued to Fivemile Point where the ocean was coming up to the rocks effectively creating our turn around point.
Whiskey Run Beach lay on the other side of the rocks with another parking area 0.8 further south.
A cormorant off Fivemile Point
We turned back and headed north past the spire.
We were now walking into the stiff wind but from this direction Heather was able to spot some stairs in the vegetation marking the side trail to the bench.
We followed a good trail .2 miles to said bench.
View from the bench.
After a short break at the viewpoint we descended to the beach and returned to our car.
We returned to Highway 101 and drove south into Gold Beach where we checked into our motel and dropped our stuff off before hitting the road again. Our final stop of the day had us driving south of Brookings to the Oregon Redwoods Trailhead.
A 1.2 mile barrier free lollipop loop trail starts at the trailhead.
We were once again the only people on this trail which was especially nice given the setting amid the giant trees. Although the trees here aren’t as big as those found in California we were once again awestruck by them. We stayed right where the barrier free loop started which brought us to a hollowed out trunk with room for several people.
Coming up on the hollow trunk straight ahead.
Approximately a half mile into the loop portion of the trail the Oregon Redwoods Trail split off allowing for a longer (2.5 miles total) hike.
We set off on the Pioneer Trail at 7:19am and stepped off the Oregon Redwood Trail at 5:51pm. We logged 9.8 miles of hiking but nearly 147 miles (as the crow flies) separated the Oregon Redwoods Trailhead from the Pawn Trailhead (and another 70 miles home) making for a long but great day. We had gotten to see a great variety of scenery all in one day. To top it off we could now check three more featured hikes off our yet-to-do list. The only thing that could have made the day better would have been an actual knob on the cold water handle in the motel shower. Happy Trails!
For the third hike in a row we found ourselves headed to Washington. Our destination this time was Beacon Rock State Park for a hike to Hardy Ridge. We’d been to the park twice before with Hamilton Mountain being our goal each time (on our second visit we also hiked up Beacon Rock (post)). For each of our hikes to Hamilton Mountain we had started at the Hamilton Mountain Trailhead but for today’s hike we parked at the Equestrian Trailhead.
There is a gated road and a trail that begin at the far end of the parking area which meet after a few hundred feet.
Equestrian Trail at the trailhead.
On the old roadbed/Equestrian Trail.
We followed the Equestrian Trail uphill through the forest and past a number of wildflowers for 1.2 miles to a 4-way junction.
Star-flowered false solomon seal
Possibly a cinquefoil
At the 4-way jct the Equestrian Trial continued straight with the West Hardy Trail to the left and Lower Loop Trail to the right.
We turned left on the West Hardy Trail which followed an overgrown road bed along the west flank of Hardy Ridge. A brief appearance of blue sky gave us a moment of hope that the mostly cloudy forecast might have been wrong but the blue was quickly replaced with gray clouds.
False solomon seal
Here come the clouds.
After 1.3 miles on the West Hardy Trail we turned right onto the Hardy Ridge Trail.
This hiker only trail climbed approximately 800′ in 0.8 miles to a junction at a saddle on Hardy Ridge.
At the junction we turned left onto a well worn trail (not shown on maps) that led north along Hardy Ridge. This trail followed the spine of the ridge 0.8 miles to the ridge’s highest point at an elevation a little under 3000′. On a clear day Mt. Hood and the tops of Mt. Adams and Mt. Rainier would have been visible from the high point, but on this day the sights were limited to the various flowers blooming along the ridge. As we approached the high point we were greeted with a few snowflakes.
Glacier lilies along the trail.
Another hiker caught up to us at this rock field not far from the high point. It looked like the trail was going across the rocks for a bit and she decided to turn around but after just a few feet the trail resumed behind a bush.
Paintbrush and glacier lilies.
The high point.
Glacier lilies at the high point.
We didn’t stay long at the top, while we were fortunate to not be dealing with any of the winds the Columbia Gorge is known for it was chilly (as evidenced by the snowflakes) so we headed back down. Along the way we met a spotted towhee that wasn’t the least bit bothered by the weather.
As we made our way down the clouds began to lift a bit and by the time we were approaching the junction we were under them which gave us a nice view of Hamilton Mountain.
Hamilton Mountain (high point to the right) and the Columbia River.
Bonneville Dam and the Hamilton Mountain Trail crossing The Saddle.
Upper McCord Creek Falls (post-partially closed due to fire damage as of writing)
The only snowy peak we could see though was Larch Mountain (post) to the SW.
When we reached the junction we turned left onto the East Hardy Trail and began a mile long descent to another junction.
At this 3-way junction we faced a choice. Most descriptions of the Hardy Ridge Loop (including Sullivan’s) would have sent us straight on the East Hardy Trail for 0.8 miles to the Equestrian Trail then right on that trail 1.7 miles back to the trailhead for an 8.5 mile hike. We opted to extend our hike by turning left instead on the Bridge Trail.
Bleeding heart along a little stream.
False lily-of-the-valley getting ready to bloom.
Possibly a Dictyoptera aurora (Golden net-winged beetle)
A little over three quarters of a mile we arrived at the trail’s namesake bridge over Hardy Creek.
After crossing the creek the trail climbed for a tenth of a mile to the Upper Hardy Trail (another old roadbed).
Here again we could have shortened our hike by turning right following a pointer for the Equestrian Trail but we wanted to revisit The Saddle north of Hamilton Mountain. We turned left on the Upper Hardy Trail climbing approximately 300′ in 0.6 miles to yet another junction.
Hardy Ridge from the Upper Hardy Trail.
We once again faced a choice at this junction.
The left fork would have been slightly longer by leading us around the back side of a knoll and making a 180 degree turn following the east side of the ridge toward The Saddle.
We turned right opting for the slightly shorter route to The Saddle.
Just under three quarters of a mile after turning right we were rejoined by the the left hand fork of the Upper Hardy Trail.
Southern junction of the two forks of the Upper Hardy Trail.
The Upper Hardy Trail then descended for .2 miles to The Saddle and a junction with the Hamilton Mountain Trail.
Hikers coming down from Hamilton Mountain.
For the first time on this hike were at a familiar spot. We turned right onto the Equestrian Trail following it for 150 yards to a sign for Dons Cutoff Trail.
On both of our previous visits we had stayed on the Equestrian Trail following it downhill for a mile to a 3-way junction at Hardy Creek. This time we took Dons Cutoff which would bring us to the same junction in just a tenth of a mile more. Dons Cutoff headed steeply downhill arriving at the Upper Hardy Trail after half a mile.
Dons Cutoff Trail nearing the Upper Hardy Trail.
We turned left on the old roadbed following the Upper Hardy Trail for .4 miles to a junction with the Equestrian Trail and then arrived at Hardy Creek after another tenth of a mile.
Upper Hardy Trail
We crossed Hardy Creek on the Equestrian Trail following it for a half mile to the 4-way junction.
Had we opted for the described hike we would have arrived at this junction on the East Hardy Trail. We faced another choice here, keep on the Equestrian Trail for 1.7 miles or turn left onto the Lower Loop Trail and add approximately 0.4 miles to the hike. You guessed it we turned left and took the Lower Loop Trail which popped us out onto the Equestrian Trail at the 4-way junction where we had turned up the West Hardy Trail that morning.
We turned left and followed the Equestrian Trail downhill for the final 1.2 miles of what turned out to be 13 mile hike that gained approximately 2700′ of elevation. Slugs were out in force along the final stretch including a number of small black specimens.
Spotted this guy while I was photographing the slug above. Not sure if it’s a crane fly or ?
There are some hikes where missing out on the mountain views is a real bummer but this wasn’t one of those for us. It was just a great day in the forest with flowers, creeks, critters, and a good deal of solitude despite the park being popular. The number of trails and options provided in the park allow for people to spread out a bit with Hamilton Mountain being the busiest area which we pretty much avoided (other than The Saddle) on this day. Happy Trails!
We kicked off our official 2021 hiking season with a bit of an obscure hike from Matt Reeder’s “Off the Beaten Trail” (2nd edition) guidebook. The hike to the summit of Grayback Mountain is a gated dirt road walk through mostly private lands to a view of Mt. Adams, Mt. Rainier and Goat Rocks. Because the road to the summit passes through private land it is important to respect the landowners rights, Leave No Trace and be aware that access could be closed at anytime. The hike starts on Washington Department of Natural Resources Land (A Discover Pass is required to park) at a parking area at a gate.
To reach the trailhead we took Washington Highway 142 north from Lyle, WA 23.3 miles to a junction with the Glenwood-Goldendale Road where we turned left for an additional 5.6 miles to an unmarked junction with Grayback Road on the right. (The road crests just beyond this junction and begins to descend into the Klickitat River Canyon.) We followed Grayback Road for 0.6 miles to the parking area at the end of a meadow.
Looking back toward the meadow.
After checking out the various wildflowers around the trailhead we set off past the gate on Grayback Road.
Western white groundsel
Mahala Mat (Prostrate ceanothus)
We then just followed this road for 5.6 miles to a radio tower atop Grayback Mountain. There were several junctions with other roads along the way but by keeping more or less straight and uphill it was easy enough to follow the correct road.
Ranging in elevation from just over 2000′ to approximately 3700′ the scenery varied from oak and ponderosa pines interspersed with meadows to mixed conifers and then to open hillsides filled with wildflowers (mostly parsleys). The views were spectacular and we were fortunate to not only have relatively clear skies but little wind making our time at the summit quite pleasant. We saw no other people during the hike and I don’t think a minute went by that we didn’t hear at least one bird signing. Butterflies came out later in the morning and I spent much of the return hike trying to catch them at rest for pictures.
Showy phlox among the oaks.
Grayback Mountain from Grayback Road. The first 2.5 miles of the hike only gained 400′ while the next 3.1 gained 1400′.
The real climb started at about the 4 mile mark at a junction below Grayback Mountain.
Sagebrush false dandelion
Climbing up Grayback Mountain
Red breasted nuthatch
First view of Mt. Hood since the trailhead.
Mt. Hood beyond the Klickitat River Canyon
Entering the meadows on Grayback Mountain.
Approaching the first view of Mt. Adams.
Mt. Adams, Mt. Rainier and Goat Rocks
Mt. Rainier and Goat Rocks
In the meadows.
A balsamroot surrounded by parsley.
Western meadowlark in a patch of Columbia desert parsley.
Radio equipment atop Grayback Mountain with Mt. Adams beyond.
Mt. Hood (we could just barely make out the top of Mt. Jefferson too.) from the summit.
The Klickitat River
Mt. Adams, Mt. Rainier and Goat Rocks
Mt. Rainier and Goat Rocks (the Klickitat River originates from Goat Rocks.)
Obligatory survey marker photo.
Looking east across the summit to the long ridge of Indian Rock. The boundary of the Yakima Indian Reservation is just on the north side of the summit.
A few gold stars still had petals.
A hairstreak but I’m not sure which type.
At least 4 ants on a large head clover.
Looking back south down Grayback Mountain.
There was a lot of white-stemmed frasera in the area but this was the closest one to blooming (and it’s a ways off).
Maybe a brown elfin. I couldn’t get a clear picture of this one.
Erynnis propertius – Propertius Duskywing (aka Western Oak Dustywing). There were lots of these duskywings flying about, it turns out that oaks are their host plants.
Another Erynnis propertius
Juba skippers caught in the act.
Anise swallowtail coming in for a landing on showy phlox.
Alligator lizard on a log.
Western fence lizard
I believe these to be Mylitta crescents.
After our relatively crowded previous outing at Columbia Hills State Park (post) the hike to Grayback Mountain was a welcome dose of solitude. While the flower display wasn’t as plentiful here it was still nice and there appeared to be plenty more to come. The view from the summit was worth the visit on its own and the near constant bird song made for a perfect soundtrack for the day. Happy Trails!
We joined the masses of people heading to the eastern end of the Columbia River Gorge to catch the wildflower display which may be brief this year due to a combination of a lack of moisture and higher than normal (what is normal anymore?) temperatures. While we try to avoid crowds the hikes in Columbia Hills State Park are a featured hike in William L. Sullivan’s “100 Hikes/Travel Guide Eastern Oregon” (Hike #2 in the 3rd edition) and one that Heather had missed out on in 2015 when I was joined by my parents (post). Knowing that word was out on social media that the bloom was on, we left even a little earlier than typical in hopes of minimizing the number of encounters with others. We followed the same order that I had done the hikes in during my first visit stopping first at the Horsethief Butte Trailhead.
Mt. Hood from the trailhead.
We followed the trail .3 miles to a junction where, unlike the first visit, we went right first following the trail around to the south side of Horsethief Butte where a fence announced the area beyond was closed.
Mt. Hood beyond Horsethief Lake
Standing at the fence looking east.
We then walked back about a quarter of a mile to a sign at an opening in the rock formation.
Here we turned and headed up into the rocks.
There is an optional side trail to a viewpoint inside the formation but we wanted to save the time and get to our second stop sooner rather than later. We had been the only car at the trailhead but half an hour later there were another half dozen cars (mostly rock climbers) with more arriving.
We descended from Horsethief Butte and after a short detour due to a wrong turn at a junction we arrived back at our and drove east on SR 14 for 0.7 miles to the Crawford Oaks Trailhead. While the trailhead opened in May of 2014 my parents I had not parked here opting instead to park at the Dalles Mountain Ranch making this a primarily new hike for me too.
There was a small handful of cars here but not bad (it was a different story later). We followed the Entry (Access) Road Trail uphill form the parking lot past the Ice Aged Floods Viewpoint.
Horsethief Butte and Mt. Hood from the viewpoint.
After a 180 degree turn the Entry Road approached Eightmile Creek near Eightmile Creek Falls.
Purple cushion fleabane
The road turned uphill along the creek where several Lewis’s woodpeckers were flying from oak to oak.
We followed the road down and across Eightmile Creek to an interpretive sign at a junction.
This was the start of a couple different loop options. We chose to take the left fork which was the Military Road Trail. Going this direction is the shortest route to the Crawford Ranch Complex plus it would mean that we would be heading toward Mt. Hood as we looped around on the Vista Loop Trail (the right hand fork here). The Military Road Trail climbed away from the creek reaching another junction after .3 miles. Here we forked left again leaving the Military Road for the Eightmile Trail. (Sticking to the Military Road would have led us to the Vista Loop Trail in .4 miles.)
Lupine, balsamroot and parsley
The Crawford Ranch Complex ahead to the left.
The Eightmile trail dropped to cross a smaller stream before finally returning to Eightmile Creek near a fence line.
Approaching the fence line.
While there was a bit of a break in the flowers at this fence line there was no shortage of birds.
Back of a scrub jay
The trail then veered away from the creek and came to another junction after passing through a fence. The flowers here were spectacular and both Mt. Hood and Mt. Jefferson were visible.
At the junction we went right on the Ranch Route Trail eschewing a visit to what looked like a very busy Crawford Ranch Complex. The Ranch Route meandered for 1.4 miles through the flowered covered hillsides before arriving at a junction with the Vista Loop and Military Road Trails.
We turned left on the Vista Loop Trail following it a total of 1.8 miles back to the the junction near Eightmile Creek.
The Columbia River, Horsethief Butte, and Mt. Hood
Large head clover
Approaching the junction.
We followed the Entry/Access Road back down to the now packed trailhead.
Hawk watching all the hikers.
A different hawk? watching the goings on.
Western fence lizard watching everything.
Poppy, manroot, and red-stemmed storksbill
The crowded trailhead
This stop clocked in at 6.9 miles and 900′ of elevation gain.
We opened up a spot here and drove west on SR-14 to Dalles Mountain Road where we turned north (right) and drove 3.5 miles to a fork near the Crawford Ranch Complex. Here we turned left heading uphill for another 1.4 miles (passing a number of hikers walking up along the road) to the Stacker Butte Trailhead. There were a fair number of cars but a few spots were open.
While both were part of the Crawford Ranch, Stacker Butte is not part of the Columbia Hills State Park but is part of the Columbia Hills Natural Area Preserve.
The hike here is pretty straight forward following the gravel road approximately 2.6 miles to some towers on the 3220′ summit of the butte. The flowers were thickest along the lower section of the hike with some that we had not seen down lower including paintbrush, daggerpod and some sicklepod rockcress.
Paintbrush amid the balsamroot.
Sagebrush false dandelions
Shooting stars in front of a little blue-eyed Mary
Large head clover
At the summit we were treated to a clear view of Mt. Adams, Mt. Rainier, and Goat Rocks to the north.
After a little rest on top we headed down admiring the flowers along the way and watching for wildlife too.
Western fence lizards
White crowned sparrow
Mt. Jefferson and Mt. Hood as we neared the trailhead.
The three hikes came to a combined 13.2 miles and 2240′ of elevation gain which is why we didn’t just hike up the road from the ranch complex. It’s a little too early in the season for a 16 mile, 3000′ hiking day. Maybe in a couple more months. Happy Trails!
Having visited the Ankeny and William L. Finley National Wildlife Refuges on Tuesday (post) and Wednesday (post) respectively I visited the third refuge comprising the Willamette Valley Complex, Baskett Slough on Thursday. For the final in this trifecta I had the chance to hike with my Father so I picked him up just after 6am and off we went. Like the other two refuges in the complex I had visited Baskett Slough before, most recently in May of last year (post) during the initial COVID lock down when many places weren’t open and we were trying to stay close to home. We began our hike at the Baskett Butte Trailhead.
Mt. Jefferson from the trailhead.
The Rich Guadagno Memorial Loop Trail begins here and we followed it uphill to the start of the loop where we forked left continuing uphill to a second junction with the side trail to the Rich Guadagno Viewing Platform. We were just a couple of weeks earlier than Heather and my visit from last year but it made a big difference. The hill had been covered with wildflowers during that hike but there were just a few out now.
A few lupine and buttercups
Castilleja levisecta – Golden Paintbrush
A few little flowers starting to open up.
View from the deck.
We returned to the loop and continued into the woods on the side of Baskett Butte where we kept a streak of mine alive by spotting deer in this area.
There weren’t nearly as many flowers here as there had been in the woods at Finley NWR but a few fawn lilies and toothworts were blooming.
The rangers had been busy cleaning up after the ice storm based on some large piles of debris but it also appeared there was more work to do.
We turned left at a sign for the Moffiti/Morgan Loop Trail and headed downhill toward Moffiti Marsh.
Camas pretending to be part of a lupine plant.
White crowned sparrow
Pied billed grebe
We turned right along a path parallel to Smithfield Road following it to a small trailhead (where Heather and I started the 2020 hike). The fences across Smithfield Road were popular with the feathered community.
A robin, a western bluebird and swallows
A green winged teal and a cinnamon teal in a small marsh.
We took the path from the trailhead to Morgan Lake where there were a lot of ducks doing their best to stay as far away from us as possible.
This scrub jay wasn’t shy.
Neither was this serious looking spotted towhee
Norther shovelers heading to the opposite side of the lake.
A bufflehead and some lesser scaups
Canada goose flyover
After passing the lake we got a wild hair and instead of following the loop up around the north side of Baskett Butte we decided to stay on a fainter grassy track around the eastern side of the butte.
Old out building below Baskett Butte.
This seemed to be a good way to avoid the elevation gain of going up and over the saddle on Baskett Butte but along the way the grassy track disappeared into a field. There was another track heading uphill toward the butte but we were set on not climbing so we sallied forth.
Not only was this uphill but we didn’t know for sure where it might lead.
Along the field we went.
On the bright side our little adventure led us to the only blooming checkermallow we’d seen all morning.
At a row of vegetation if briefly appeared we might be turning back but a break in the brush provided us a way through (it appeared to be a popular route with the resident deer and elk.
Looking uphill along the row of brush.
On the other side of the brush we found a huge flock of geese (or several smaller flocks that had merged)
An extremely small portion of the geese.
We veered right away from the geese not wanting to be the cause of what we could only imagine would have been quite a commotion and cut across another field directly to the trailhead which was now visible.
Baskett Butte from the field.
Our route may have actually been a little shorter than if we had stayed on the trail as my GPS showed 4.8 miles while the route as described by Sullivan is 4.9 miles. It also saved a little bit of elevation gain and allowed us to see a little part of the refuge that we hadn’t before. It would have been pretty ugly though if it had rained recently though as I can only imagine those fields would be muddy messes. While not quite as exciting as the other two refuges Baskett Slough has always managed to deliver wildlife sightings and is definitely worth a visit. Happy Trails!
A day after visiting the Ankeny National Wildlife Refuge (post) I headed out to the William L. Finely National Wildlife Refuge for another attempt at spotting wildlife. Heather once again was working so I was on my own again. We had done two previous hikes here, one in 2017 visiting the Cabell Marsh and hiking the Woodpecker and Mill Hill Loops and the other in 2020 starting near Pigeon Butte. My plan was to combine most of those two hikes and add a few new short stretches to make a big loop through the refuge starting from the Woodpecker Loop Trailhead. One item to note is that some of the refuge is closed from November 1st through March 31st making this loop impossible during the seasonal closure.
The refuge is open from dawn to dusk and I arrived at the trailhead just as the Sun was beginning to rise behind Mt. Jefferson.
From the Woodpecker Loop Trailhead I walked down to the refuge road and followed it to the left back to the Cabell Barn then turned right on a road at a season trail sign for the Cabell Marsh Overlook. I followed the roadbed to the Cabell Lodge and past the overlook down to Cabell Marsh.
Mt. Hood from the refuge road
Cabell Marsh (the marsh had been drained when we visited in 2020)
I slowly walked along the dike at the marsh using binoculars to try and identify how many different ducks were out on the water.
Wood duck, ring-necked ducks and a pied billed grebe
More northern shovelers
Green winged teal
At a junction on the SW end of the Marsh I stayed left following a roadbed past a huge flock of geese and some ponds to a junction with the Pigeon Butte Trail.
Junction with the Pigeon Butte Trail (grassy track heading uphill)
Originally I had planned on skipping the half mile trail to the top of Pigeon Butte but it was a beautiful morning and it had been too cloudy to see much on our hike in 2020 so I turned uphill an tagged the summit before returning to my originally planned loop.
Spotted towhee serenade
Camas blooming near the summit
View from Pigeon Butte
Scrub jay spotted on the way down.
One of the “blue” butterflies, maybe a silvery blue
When I got back down to the junction I continued south on the Pigeon Butte Trail to a junction at a pond below Cheadle Barn.
Looking back at Pigeon Butte, the yellow paintbrush was starting its bloom on the hillside.
Instead of heading for the barn and the Cheadle Marsh Trail which we had used on our 2020 visit I went right following a roadbed to Bruce Road across from the Field 12 Overlook.
Looking back at Pigeon Butte and the Cheadle Barn
I then walked west on Bruce Road to the trailhead for the Beaver Pond and Cattail Pond Trails passing the Mitigation Wetland along the way. I paused at the wetland to watch a great blue heron and egret along with a number of ducks in.
Ground squirrel on Bruce Rd.
heron flying by the egret
Green winged teals
Trailhead off of Bruce Road
I turned off of Bruce Road at the trailhead and followed the grassy track to a fork where I veered left on the Beaver Pond Trail. This trail led briefly through the woods before arriving at the Beaver Pond where I startled a heron and a few ducks but an egret and a few other ducks stuck around.
Entering the woods
Giant white wakerobin
Egret and a cinnamon teal pair and maybe an American wigeon
As I was watching the egret I noticed something else in the water but I wasn’t sure if it was an animal or a log/rock in disguise. Even with binoculars I could decide but after looking at the pictures it was in fact a nutria that appeared to be napping.
The egret finally flew off and I continued on to a junction just beyond the pond where I turned left heading slightly uphill toward the Refuge Headquarters and the Mill Hill Loop.
At a signed 4-way junction I followed a pointer for the Mill Hill Trail to the left but not before I checked out a patch of pink along the trail straight ahead.
The pink turned out to be shooting stars.
I hiked the Mill Hill Loop (which led back to the junction right past the shooting stars) and then turned left on the Intertie Trail. The Mill Hill Loop was full of surprises with a number of different wildflowers blooming and a turtle sighting. The turtle was on a log in a wetland quite a bit below a bench along the trail and I only spotted it with the help of the binoculars but that counts.
One of many fairy slippers
It took some work to get the camera to stop focusing on the brush in the foreground.
Back at the junction and onto the Intertie Trail
I followed the Intertie Trail to the Woodpecker Loop ignoring side trails to the Refuge Headquarters.
The Woodpecker Loop
I turned left opting to head uphill on a slightly longer route back to my car so that I could check out the view from a hilltop viewing structure.
Norther flicker along the Woodpecker Loop
Amphibian pond and interpretive kiosk.
The Three Sisters
I watched a pair of raptors chase each other around but couldn’t get a clear enough view to tell what kind they were (maybe Cooper’s hawks?).
This was the best shot I could get at 40x zoom with the sun in front of me.
After accepting that a clearer picture wasn’t possible I left the shelter and hiked downhill to my waiting car. While I only passed two other hikers on the trails there were a number of folks at the trailhead either just arriving or getting ready to leave. My loop with the mile detour up and down Pigeon Butte came in at 11.3 miles. The great thing about Finley is the diversity it offers with forest, woodlands, marshes and fields each supporting different plants and wildlife. The possibility of long, medium and short hikes is also nice. The one drawback is that there is a lot of poison oak in the area but they keep the trails wide enough that it really isn’t much of a problem.
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.
There is a nice kiosk there overlooking the marsh from which quite a few ducks and geese were visible.
Canada goose and mallards
Ring-necked ducks (I’m not sure all the females are the same.)
Geese 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.
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.
There were a lot of ducks in Willow Marsh but they were keeping a safe distance from me.
A bufflehead and mallards
Mallards and ring-necked ducks
I then turned right along a dike passing between Willow and Teal Marshes.
Teal Marsh to the left of the dike.
It was more of the same treatment from the ducks in Teal Marsh.
Mallards an northern shovelers
While the ducks stayed away I had better luck with the smaller birds.
Female red-winged blackbird
At the end of Teal Marsh I turned around and headed back past the ducks.
Geese coming in for a landing on Teal Marsh
Ring-necked ducks and a bufflehead pair
Pie 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.
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.
Mohoff Pond was busy with a number of different ducks but primarily they seemed to be northern shovelers.
I 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.
One of the egrets taking off.
Brewer’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.
Pintail Marsh ahead on the left.
The dike between Mohoff Pond and Pintail Marsh.
Ducks 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.
Looking 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.
I passed the Rail Trail Boardwalk and stayed on the dike now retracing our steps from our first visit.
The dike turned south wrapping around Dunlin Pond.
The boardwalk across Dunlin Pond from the dike.
Ring-necked ducks taking off.
Hawk 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.
Another yellow legs?
Mustard along Killdeer Marsh
A 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.
Cinnamon Teal in South Pond
The dike led me to one of two actual trails in the Refuge, the Rail Trail.
Damaged trees from the ice storm earlier this year.
I turned right at the boardwalk and followed it over the water to the dike on the far side.
I 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.
I followed this short boardwalk along and over Bashaw Creek to a bird blind.
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.
The 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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
Killdeer on the dike.
A 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.
I was now on a dike between Mohoff Pond (left) and Mallard Marsh (right).
Ducks and geese were everywhere as I trudged directly into the wind along the dike.
Another green-winged teal
A 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!