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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 Mt. St. Helens Trip report Washington Washington Cascades

Coldwater Lake & The Hummocks

We ended our “Creek Week” vacation by changing things up a bit and heading to the Mt. St. Helens National Volcanic Monument hoping to see some snowy mountains. Our creek theme wasn’t totally abandoned though. Our destination was Coldwater Lake which was formed during the 1980 Mt. St. Helens eruption when Coldwater Creek was blocked by debris from the mountain. The creek still flows into and out of the lake on it’s way to the North Fork Toutle River.

The slide that created Coldwater Lake also created the Hummocks which are piles of rock, ash, and other debris that was washed down and deposited along the Toutle River. A 2.5 mile trail loops through these mounds and that was where we decided to start our hike. Our plan was to hit that popular trail first before it got crowded then walk back along the shoulder of Highway 504 for a quarter mile to the entrance to Coldwater Lake and once there either do an 8.8mi out and back to a footbridge over Coldwater Creek or continue over the bridge on a longer loop up and around the lake. We decided to wait until we got closer to the bridge before choosing which option we would take.

It was quite foggy when we arrived at the trailhead for the Hummocks loop making it pretty clear that we wouldn’t be seeing Mt. St. Helens for awhile at least.
The Hummocks trailhead

The scenery along the trail deserved our attention anyway with many ponds and streams nestled between the various mounds.
Ducklings on one of the ponds
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As we were making our way through the strange landscape we spotted some elk on one of the Hummocks a short distance away.
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They didn’t seem to be the least bit concerned with us. There were also numerous ducks, geese, and other birds enjoying the ponds and marshes along the trail.
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The trail also passes a nice viewpoint above the North Fork Toutle River where Mt. St. Helens would be visible on a clear day. We settled for the river and another group of elk grazing on the far bank.
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Shortly after leaving the viewpoint we were passing through a wooded area when I noticed an elk around 30′ away standing in the trees. Before I could get the camera up it disappeared but that had been the closest we’d come to an elk yet.

The clouds were beginning to clear up when we made it back to the parking lot and set off along the highway toward the Coldwater Lake entrance. We passed over Coldwater Creek on it’s way from the lake down into the Toutle Valley and then crossed the road and headed down to the lake.
Coldwater Creek

The view across the lake was spectacular from the trailhead. Minnie Peak lay ahead with a dusting of snow and a misty covering of clouds.
Coldwater Lake
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A little island was a popular spot for geese and ducks. I am sure they were there for the views.
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As we traveled along the north shore of the lake the views both ahead and behind kept getting better. The clouds were lifting revealing more and more snow covered peaks.
Coldwater Lake
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A few flowers were ahead of schedule giving us a taste of what will be coming in the next few weeks.
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Scouler's Cordaylis

I had my eyes on Minnie Peak waiting for the last cloud to finally let go. It was a stubborn one though and just wouldn’t quite disappear.

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The trail crosses several small streams before reaching what was a very nice waterfall on this day. Rock Gully Falls, as it’s called in Sullivan’s book, was swollen with melt water making it a damp crossing since there is no bridge.
Rock Gully Falls
The crossing
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We spotted several more elk above us on the hillside as we rounded a small peninsula shortly after passing the falls. It was amazing watching them quickly traverse the steep hillside.
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Can you spot them here?
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The next marker along the trail was a fan of rocks that had been part of a slide into the lake.
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Near the end of Coldwater Lake we came to a shallow pool of water that was, at least at one time, home to a beaver. We didn’t see one but we did see plenty of ducks and geese here.
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Evidence of Beaver work
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The cloud had finally left Minnie Peak revealing the craggy mountain top by the time we reached the trail junction just above the bridge over Coldwater Creek.
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Coldwater Creek came raging down the valley putting on an impressive show.
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We had decided to do the full loop as it appeared that snow would not be an issue and loops are generally more fun than retracing your steps so we crossed the bridge and began to climb the ridge on the south side of Coldwater Lake. The views behind us as we climbed just kept getting better.
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The rock fan
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It was a stiff climb but the views eased the pain some. As the trail began to become more gradual, we could see the Coldwater Visitor Center far off in the distance on the opposite hillside.
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Down in the little valley Heather spotted more elk moving in the trees.
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Just a short while later she spotted another elk heading our way. It stopped in a little bowl below us to check us out.
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Nique correctly identified it as a young bull as it began to come toward us again.
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He then veered slightly away from us and crossed the trail a ways ahead and disappeared behind a small rise. I kept looking up the hillside to see if I could see where he was heading.
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Just moments after taking the above picture he popped his head up over the rise and looked right down at us. As I fumbled with the camera he jumped down onto the trail no more than 10 yards in front of us and sped off back the way he had come originally. By the time I got a picture he was quite a ways down the into the bowl.
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That had gotten my heart racing as I wasn’t sure if he had decided to turn aggressive. I had been expecting him to run away from us not at us. After the excitement we continued on to tractor junction where a trail leads up to Coldwater Peak. The junction is named for the piece of logging equipment that was laid to rest there by the eruption.
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We had finally found a little snow in this area but not much was left.
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After curving around the trail came to a great open viewpoint.
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We could see Rock Gully Falls and the North Coldwater Lake trail really well.
Rock Gully Falls

We had heard a lot of croaking on the Hummocks trail but hadn’t seen any frogs or toads there or along the lake, but now at almost 3500′ Nique spotted one.
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Coldwater Peak became visible as we made our way back toward the west end of the lake. It was interesting to see this side of it after having hiked up it last year.
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Just as the trail began to descend we came to more logging equipment that didn’t survive the eruption.
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From here we could also see the Hummocks parking lot and our car.
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We still had a ways to go.

Our last elk sighting was a big one. As we were coming down, the largest herd we’d seen was scrambling to stay ahead of us and dropping down over the hillside.
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What a sight 🙂
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We made it down to the South Trailhead and began our road walk back to our car. Mt. St. Helens finally decided to make an appearance at this point.
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When we got back to the car I dropped off my pack and jogged down the Hummocks Trail to the first good viewpoint to get my volcano pictures.
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Now that’s the way to end a hike – Happy Trails indeed! 🙂

flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/sets/72157644218596998/
facebook: https://www.facebook.com/deryl.yunck/media_set?set=a.10203973677849473.1073741876.1448521051&type=1

Categories
Hiking Oregon Salem/Albany Trip report Willamette Valley

Ankeny Wildlife Refuge

Greetings! I know we weren’t supposed to be hiking again until after our marathon this coming weekend, but we managed to sneak a quick one in. We took advantage of a scheduled cross-training day to head out to the Ankeny Wildlife Refuge just south of Salem. This is the first hike listed in William Sullivan’s 100 Hikes in the Central Cascades book and according to the description April is one of the peak migratory months for the various birds that can be spotted there. A flat 2 mile loop along the Rail Trail worked perfectly for our cross-training needs so it seemed like the ideal time to finally go check out the refuge.

We parked at the Rail Trail parking area and set off on a gravel path heading to the start of the loop.
Ankeny Wildlife Refuge

Trail in Ankeny Wildlife Refuge

After a couple of hundred yards we reached the start of the loops where we took a right onto the Rail Trails raised boardwalk.
Boardwalk Trail

The boardwalk is necessary as the trail passes through a wetlands that is either under water or too muddy for passage.
Pond in Ankeny Wildlife Refuge

There were many small birds present as we approached the bird blind located just over half a mile along the boardwalk. Most of them wouldn’t sit still long enough for a picture but a curious Bewick’s Wren paused long enough for a shot.
Wren

We didn’t stay long at the bird blind due to the fact that we were supposed to be cross-training but the blind overlooked a marshy pond where ducks and red-winged blackbirds moved about.
Bird blind in Ankeny Wildlife Refuge
Red-winged blackbird

Shortly after leaving the blind a pair of noisy geese expressed their displeasure with our presence.
Canada Geese

We discovered the reason for their annoyance was the nest they had built near the trail.
Goose nest

The boardwalk ends at an old dike road where the loop turns left and follows the dike back around to the parking area. Being as early as it was in the year (the dike is only open from April 1st – September 30th) the dike was covered in damp vegetation.
Ankeny Wildlife Refuge

We encountered numerous red-winged blackbirds as we travelled along the dike and we also spotted a good variety of ducks in the many ponds.
Red-winged Blackbird
Ring-necked ducks (at least most of them were)
Cinnamon Teal
Mallard

Other than our feet getting a lot wetter than we had planned due to the wet grass along the dike it was a peaceful trail. We had a bit of trouble locating the correct place to turn back toward the parking area and had to pass through about 10 feet of saturated ground to get back but that just helped make it feel more like a hike :). Ankeny Wildlife Refuge would be a great place to go if you’re interested in bird watching. Someday we’ll have to go back and spend more time standing still and waiting for the birds to come to us. Until next time – Happy Trails!

flickr photos: https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/sets/72157643529661063/
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