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Hiking

Baskett Slough Wildlife Refuge – 04/15/2021

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.
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IMG_2292Mt. 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.
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IMG_2299A few lupine and buttercups

IMG_2300Camas

IMG_2308Castilleja levisecta – Golden Paintbrush

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IMG_2314A few little flowers starting to open up.

IMG_2323View from the deck.

IMG_2329Western meadowlark

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.
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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.
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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.
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We turned left at a sign for the Moffiti/Morgan Loop Trail and headed downhill toward Moffiti Marsh.
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IMG_2368Camas pretending to be part of a lupine plant.

IMG_2374White crowned sparrow

IMG_2381Hawk

IMG_2385Lesser scaup

IMG_2389American wigeons

IMG_2397Pied billed grebe

IMG_2405Yellowlegs

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Red-winged blackbirds

IMG_2424Savannah sparrow

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.
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IMG_2429Swallows

IMG_2430A robin, a western bluebird and swallows

IMG_2435A 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.
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IMG_2439This scrub jay wasn’t shy.

IMG_2448Neither was this serious looking spotted towhee

IMG_2443Norther shovelers heading to the opposite side of the lake.

IMG_2453A bufflehead and some lesser scaups

IMG_2455Canada goose flyover

IMG_2458Mallard pair

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.
IMG_2462Old 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.
IMG_2463Not only was this uphill but we didn’t know for sure where it might lead.

IMG_2464Along the field we went.

On the bright side our little adventure led us to the only blooming checkermallow we’d seen all morning.
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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.
IMG_2477Looking 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)
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IMG_2476An 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.
IMG_2480Baskett 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!

Our route with the “highlighted” section showing the off-trail route around Baskett Butte

Flickr: Baskett Slough Wildlife Refuge