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Corvallis Hiking Oregon Willamette Valley

Finley Wildlife Refuge Loop – 4/14/2021

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

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

IMG_1826The Three Sisters from the road

IMG_1832Yellow paintbrush

IMG_1841Cabell Barn

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

IMG_1852Rabbit at the lodge

IMG_1865Cabell Marsh Overlook

IMG_1871White crowned sparrows

IMG_1878Deer in a field near Cabell Marsh

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

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

IMG_1887American coots

IMG_1889Ring-necked ducks

IMG_1892Buffleheads

IMG_1908Black pheobe

IMG_1910American wigeons

IMG_1915_stitchCabell Marsh

IMG_1921Canada geese

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

IMG_1951More northern shovelers

IMG_1953Ring-necked ducks

IMG_1955Green winged teal

IMG_1956Robin

At a junction on the SW end of the Marsh I stayed left following a roadbed past a huge flock of geese and some ponds to a junction with the Pigeon Butte Trail.
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IMG_1983Killdeer

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IMG_1991Red-winged blackbird

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

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

IMG_2012Spotted towhee serenade

IMG_2020Bewick’s wren

IMG_2022Madrone

IMG_2027Mourning dove

IMG_2029Camas blooming near the summit

IMG_2034View from Pigeon Butte

IMG_2036Scrub jay spotted on the way down.

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

IMG_2043Acorn woodpecker

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

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

IMG_2066Western bluebird

IMG_2070Bruce Rd and a sign for the overlook.

IMG_2071Swallows at the overlook

IMG_2075Mary’s Peak and Pigeon Butte from the overlook.

IMG_2076Mary’s Peak (post)

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

IMG_2080Sparrows

IMG_2085Western bluebird

IMG_2088Mitigation Wetland

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IMG_2103Egret

IMG_2098heron flying by the egret

IMG_2125Northern shoveler

IMG_2126Green winged teals

IMG_2129Trailhead off of Bruce Road

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

IMG_2136Entering the woods

IMG_2142Giant white wakerobin

IMG_2144Fairybells

IMG_2162Startled heron

IMG_2169Egret and a cinnamon teal pair and maybe an American wigeon

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

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

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

IMG_2201Bleeding heart

IMG_2220One of many fairy slippers

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

IMG_2230Buttercups

IMG_2232Violets

IMG_2238Fawn lilies

IMG_2244Back at the junction and onto the Intertie Trail

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

IMG_2257The Woodpecker Loop

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

IMG_2263Amphibian pond and interpretive kiosk.

IMG_2267Viewing structure

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IMG_2272Mt. Jefferson

IMG_2273The Three Sisters

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

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

Happy Trails!

Flickr: Finley Wildlife Refuge Loop

Categories
Coastal Range Hiking Oregon Salem/Albany Trip report Willamette Valley

Minto-Brown Island Park and the Banks-Vernonia State Trail

We didn’t have any hikes planned for awhile after our visit to Tamanawas Falls due to Heather having a half-marathon to run on April 10th. Her half-marathon wound up being an opportunity for a pair of short hikes on race weekend though.

On the day before the race we made the short trip to Salem’s Minto-Brown Island Park for a short walk to help make sure Heather stayed loose. We’ve spent quite a bit of time in the park, sometimes walking and other times passing through on runs. This was the first time I’d brought the camera along to get some photos though.

The area used to be islands in the Willamette River but flooding changed the course of the river so that the former islands are connected to the rest of Salem. At more than 1200 acres, the park contains 19 miles of trails, a playground, a 30 acre off-leash dog area, and fishing opportunities.

The paths are a mix of paved and soft surface trails making the park a popular place to run, walk, or bike. High water does close some of the trails at times but there is almost always a few that remain passable. Later this year a footbridge connecting this park to Salem’s Riverfront Park will make it possible to visit both of these parks as well as Wallace Marine Park without setting foot on a road.

We parked at the Shelter Parking Lot at the end of Minto Island Road SW and set off toward the shelter following signs for the Blue Heron Loop. The park has plenty of signboard maps as well as trail pointers throughout.
Signboards at the parking lot near the gazeebo.

Rabbits are plentiful and often spotted in the strips of grass along the paths.
Lots of little rabbits in the park

The Blue Heron Loop leads across a footbridge between a pair of sloughs where we spotted a Great Blue Heron searching for snacks.
Slough in Minto-Brown Island Park

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron going after a treat

Shortly after crossing the bridge a sign for the Blue Heron Loop led us off the paved path and onto one of the parks soft surface trails.
Trail in Minto-Brown Island Park

This portion of trail passed another slough on the right where we spotted Canadian Geese, a pair of wood ducks (not pictured due to fast swimming), and an Osprey sitting in its nest.
Canada Geese

Osprey in its nest

We left the wooded path and came to a trail sign at a junction near one of the many fields in the park.
Trail signs in Minto-Brown Island Park

We left the Blue Heron Loop here and headed for the Brown Island Landfill (the park has a little of everything it would seem). We skirted around it to pick up the Turtle Loop running along the north side of the landfill.
There are several connector trails running between the Turtle Loop trails making several different distances possible. We took one of these through the field to rejoin the Turtle Loop along the Willamette River. Here we found some recent beaver work.
Minto Brown Island Park

Recent beaver work

We followed the Turtle Loop back along the river to the shelter parking lot and our car. Even though the park is in Salem its size and the variety of trails makes it a nice spot to “get away” and you are almost certain to see some wildlife along the way.

On race day we headed to the Banks Middle School in Banks, OR where Heather’s race would finish and she would catch a bus up to the starting line at L.L. Stub Stewart State Park. The race would follow the Banks-Vernonia State Trail which is a converted rail bed, Oregon’s first rail-to-trail. Heather hopped on a bus at 7am and I had a couple of hours to kill before the race would start at 9am. So I took the opportunity to hike a section of the trail. I had decided to be at the Buxton Trailhead, one of several possible traileheads to access the trail, which was near the 6 mile mark of the half-marathon.

The trailhead had a large parking area with picnic tables, and a shelter.
Buxton Trailhead

Buxton Tressel from the trailhead

Building and sign at the Buxton Trailhead

I had calculated that Heather would be passing by that spot a little before 10am so I had about 2 1/2 hours available to hike. I took a path to the left of the parking lot down to a creek crossing below the Buxton Trestle.
Footbridge over Mendenhall Creek

Mendenhall Creek

Buxton Trestle

The path then led uphill joining the Banks-Vernonia State Trail just beyond the trestle.
Trail heading up to the Buxton Trestle

My plan was to head east toward the Banks end of the trail for an hour and then head back to the trestle to wait for Heather, but before I headed down the trail I wandered out onto the trestle.
Buxton Trestle
Buxton Trestle

View from the Buxton Trestle

The entire 21 miles of the trail are paved which makes it popular with bicyclists, runners, walkers, and it also sees some equestrian traffic. It was still pretty early though so for the first 45 minutes I saw more wildlife than people.
Starling

Stellars Jay

Wren

The highlight happened as I passed a draw to my left and noticed something moving up the hillside through the brush. It was a decent size but it had its head down making it hard to tell what I was seeing. When it finally raised its head I could see it was a coyote. It blended really well with the brush and wouldn’t stop moving making it extremely difficult to get a decent picture. I finally made a little noise to get its attention hoping it would pause long enough for a photo, but it was quicker than I was and darted off as soon as we made eye contact.
Coyote

In addition to the wildlife there were plenty of Spring wildflowers along the trail. The forested hillside was dotted with trillium, bleeding heart, pioneer violets, and a few fairy bells.
Trilliuims

Bleeding heart

Violet

Fairybells

From the trestle the trail had gradually descended to a gravel road crossing where it left the trees and leveled out as it began to pass between pastures.
Banks-Vernonia State Trail

Birds were abundant, mostly sparrows, swallows, and robins but across one of the fields I spotted a bald eagle flying between trees.
Sparrow

Sparrow

Bald Eagle

I also spotted a single tough leafed iris and a couple of camas blossoms.
Wild iris

Camas

By 8:30am the trail had become quite a bit busier, especially as I neared the Manning Trailhead which I reached just as it was time to turn around and head back.
Manning Trailhead

I had just crossed the Buxton Trestle when the first runners passed by on their way to Banks. These were the sub 6 minute milers so I figured I had about 15 to 20 minutes before Heather would be passing by. I grabbed a snack and waited along the trail for her to pass by which she did right on schedule.
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After cheering her on I hopped back in the car and headed for the finish line to meet her. Her goal for this racing season was to break 2hrs in a half-marathon which she managed to do finishing in 1:52:42. With the race completed and her goal accomplished our attention now turns to our hiking season which will last for the next 6+ months. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Minto-Brown- https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/sets/72157666808908512

Banks-Vernonia – https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/albums/72157666857451492