Categories
SW Washington SW Washington Coast Trip report Washington

Julia Butler Hansen Refuge for the Columbian White-Tailed Deer – 06/11/2022

Another rainy weekend was in the forecast which had us questioning whether or not it was worth heading out. Our original plan had involved a hike with mountain views so we wanted to save that for a day with a clearer forecast. This had us looking for something that wasn’t view dependent. The Julia Butler Hansen Refuge a.k.a the Columbian White-Tailed Deer Refuge fit that bill and was on our schedule during the month of June in 2025. I had it penciled in for June due to one of the trails in the refuge, the Center Road Trail, only being open to hiking from June through September. While a refuge hike is typically okay on a rainy overcast day it had poured Friday and we were expecting Saturday to be similar and weren’t keen on driving over two hours to be drenched for an entire 12 mile hike. Friday evening we had all but decided to take the weekend off but just to be sure I pulled up the NOAA forecast for the refuge. To our surprise there was just a 10% chance of showers in the morning followed by partly sunny skies and a high in the low 60s. That sold us and we got our packs ready for a 5am departure the next morning.

After a brief conversation with a very friendly Washington State Trooper (I completely missed a 45mph sign and was given a warning) we pulled into the refuge HQ (open Mon-Fri 7:30am – 4pm). We had gotten the hike for this idea from the “more hikes” section of Sullivan’s “100 Hikes/Travel Guide Oregon Coast & Coast Range” guidebook as well as an entry in the Oregon Hikers Field Guide describes a 6.1 mile loop, which for reasons that will become evident later, is no longer possible. (I have contacted both with updated information.)
IMG_2435

IMG_2437

IMG_2440A damp and cloudy morning.

IMG_2445Swallow

Our plan had been to to the described loop but after reaching the far end of the loop we were going to do an out-and-back along Steamboat and Brooks Slough Roads to add a little hiking time since a six mile loop would likely violate our rule of not having our driving time be greater than our hiking time on day trips. From the HQ we walked out of the parking lot onto Steamboat Slough Road and turned right crossing Indian Jack Slough. The loop description was to then turn right through a gate into the refuge shed/garage yard.
IMG_2441Indian Jack Slough and the garage from Refuge HQ.

The gate, including a secondary pedestrian gate were padlocked and there were “Area Closed” signs on the driveway gate. This was a bit unexpected, but shouldn’t have been if we’d have read the Refuge website more closely. What we discovered after our hike was that at some point a 0.3 section of Center Road, from Steamboat Slough Road west, had been closed to the public making the loop impossible and leaving the Center Road Trail as a 5 mile round trip out-and-back. At this point though we weren’t sure what was going on so we decided to simply head out Steamboat Slough Road and were prepared to skip Center Road and make the hike a simple out-and-back.
IMG_2454

Beyond the shed/garage there was a living quarters and just beyond that we spotted the first Columbian White-tailed deer of the day.
IMG_2458

IMG_2459

We followed this road for 2.3 miles to the start of the White-tail Trail. It is possible to drive to this trail and park at the nearby dead end of Steamboat Slough Road.
IMG_2465Elochoman Slough

IMG_2473The first of many bald eagles we spotted (atop the dead tree across the slough).

IMG_2489Working on drying out.

IMG_2475Lots of non-native yellow flag iris in the area.

IMG_2494Little birds such as this sparrow were everywhere but rarely sat still.

IMG_2501A different eagle waiting to dry.

IMG_2503There are at least 5 birds in the tree including four goldfinches.

IMG_2507A male goldfinch takes off.

IMG_2513The morning clouds were starting to break up as forecasted.

IMG_2516One of many great blue herons.

IMG_2528

IMG_2536

IMG_2539A male wood duck.

IMG_2545Another great blue heron with the female wood duck on the log below.

IMG_2548The first of several osprey.

IMG_2552Cattle in a field along the road.

IMG_2557Geese

IMG_2565Snail crossing the road.

IMG_2572Maybe a yellow warbler. I had to use the digital zoom to get between the branches so it’s not the clearest photo.

The start of the mile long White-tail trail which travels along a setback levee.
IMG_2579

IMG_2582

IMG_2586There was a pole with a bunch of bird nests hung from it near the start of the trail. We’d never seen one like it before.

IMG_2587

It turned out to be nests for purple martins, a bird that as far as we know we hadn’t seen before.
IMG_2588

DSCN1586Bald eagle in the same area.

IMG_2597Slug on lupine

IMG_2600A different type of lupine.

IMG_2603

IMG_2605Lupine, daisies and yellow gland-weed.

20220611_085803

20220611_090020Bumble bee needing to dry out.

We spotted more white-tailed deer along the levee, a pair of young bucks.
IMG_2609

DSCN1617

DSCN1631

DSCN1653A look at the white tail. He gave us a better look but in that one he was also doing his business so we stuck with this uncentered, slightly blurry version.

There was also a great blue heron sitting in a nearby snag.
DSCN1634

DSCN1647

While we were keeping an eye on the bucks and the heron to the inland side of the levee there were geese, ducks, and various small birds all around us.
DSCN1612Guessing marsh wren.

DSCN1637Ducks

DSCN1644Goose with goslings.

DSCN1651Common yellow throat.

DSCN1660Male gadwall?

We eventually tore ourselves away from the wildlife bonanza and continued on.
IMG_2613

DSCN1666There was pretty much non-stop bird song throughout the day.

IMG_2616Traffic on the Columbia River.

DSCN1668The Santa Maria on the Columbia.

DSCN1671Female brown-headed cowbird?

IMG_2619Flowers along the levee.

DSCN1676American robin

DSCN1677Red-winged blackbird chasing a heron.

When we reached the end of the White-tail Trail we turned right onto Steamboat Slough Road. You can also park near this end of the trail but you must come from the west as Steamboat Slough Road is missing a section (which is why you hike on the levee).
IMG_2621

DSCN1685

We followed this two-lane version of the road for approximately 1.25 miles to a fork and turned right on Brooks Slough Road. After just 0.2 miles we passed the western end of the Center Road Trail. This end was clearly open. We talked ourselves into believing that either we missed where we were actually supposed to go or that they just hadn’t unlocked the gate yet since we were still unaware of the updated rules for the trail and decided that we would take this trail on our way back and we could do the loop after all.
IMG_2625 Note the sign does not indicate that you cannot reach the HQ from the road, it simply says it is 5 miles round trip. Online it adds that hikers must exit the trail the way they entered.

IMG_2628

IMG_2630Roses along the road.

DSCN1699Muskrat

DSCN1694Warbler

DSCN1716Osprey

IMG_2634Brooks Slough Road junction.

We turned right and followed this narrow one-lane road along Brooks Slough. For the first mile it ran parallel to Highway 4 then it veered away becoming a quieter walk.
IMG_2637

IMG_2645Another eagle sitting near the top of the first tall tree on the far side of the slough.

DSCN1729

IMG_2647Interesting shrub along the road.

IMG_2649The partly sunny skies had indeed materialized.

DSCN1748Kingfisher

DSCN1751California scrub jay

DSCN1755White pelicans

IMG_2653

IMG_2654Some sort of ornamental shrub/tree but it had cool flowers.

DSCN1771Turkey vulture

DSCN1786Couldn’t tell what type of ducks they were.

We followed the road for approximately 2 miles to what was shown on the GPS as Alger Creek.
IMG_2660Alger Creek somewhere in the grass flowing into Brooks Slough.

IMG_2661Pond on the other side of the road.

DSCN1788Black pheobe?

After a short break we headed back. It was actually starting to feel warm now but we distracted ourselves with even more wildlife.
IMG_2665

DSCN1798Red-tailed hawk

DSCN1803American goldfinch

DSCN1815Swallowtail

DSCN1825Cedar waxwing with a salmonberry.

DSCN1847

DSCN1850Goat lounging in a driveway across the highway. There had actually been a black goat in nearly the same spot on our first pass.

IMG_2669Caterpillar

When we got back to Center Road we reread the signage and stuck to our plan to try and complete the loop.
IMG_2675

We had been discussing all the different wildlife that we’d seen already and I mentioned that the only thing missing was a turtle. Not long after starting down Center Road I noticed something brown (that didn’t look like a cow) in the distance near the tree line. As I was staring at it a large set of antlers raised from the grass and I realized it was a bull elk.
DSCN1886The elk is in the center of the photo near the tree line.

DSCN1877

DSCN1887

We watched him as he munched on grass for quite a while before moving on. At that point I said something to the effect of forgetting about the turtle because that was better. It wasn’t too much longer before we came to some more wetlands. Lo and behold there was a turtle.
IMG_2686

DSCN1896

Many pictures followed before resuming our hike.
IMG_2697

Heather spotted a pair of egrets in a distant tree which proved impossible to get a decent picture of.
DSCN1910Here is a not so decent picture of the egrets.

We also startled up a pair of American bitterns.
DSCN1912One of the bitterns in flight.

After 2 miles we spotted a set of posts with signs where we finally understood that the Center Road Trail no longer runs the entire length of the roadbed now.
DSCN1920

DSCN1918

We were less than half a mile from the HQ which was visible from where we were but we obeyed the signs and turned around. It would have been about a perfect distance for us as we were at the 12.1 mile mark when we had gotten to the closed area. Now we had to backtrack two miles on Center Road before the mile long White-tail Trail and the 2.3 mile road walk back to the HQ parking lot. Not only was this a lot longer than we’d planned but the surface had been mostly paved and what wasn’t paved was packed gravel road beds so our feet were really protesting as we retraced our steps.
IMG_2704

DSCN1924Heather spotted this garter snake along Center Road. Another animal to add to the days list.

IMG_2708Back at the White-tail Trail.

IMG_2711It had cooled down again which provided some relief as we trudged back.

DSCN1929A second turtle

DSCN1931Mallards

DSCN1933

IMG_2714Way more water in the afternoon.

DSCN1940Another kingfisher. It was in the same tree as the heron had been earlier that morning when we were watching the bucks.

DSCN1941Family swim

IMG_2719By Steamboat Slough Road we had all kinds of blisters/hotspots on our feet.

IMG_2725Arriving back at the refuge HQ.

I got to the car first, changed shoes and drove back to pick up Heather who was only about a quarter mile behind me. My GPS read 17.5 miles of almost entirely flat hiking.

Fortunately I had thought to bring my parents camera which has more powerful zoom than my point and shoot and also our binoculars which Heather had been using since there was so much wildlife to be seen. We encountered a couple of other hikers on the White-tail Trail as well as a pair of cyclists and several cars along the various roads but for the most part it was a fairly peaceful (long) hike. The one thing we kept coming back to was that if we hadn’t done the hike the we did we wouldn’t have seen some of the wildlife that we encountered. Was it worth the blisters though? You betcha – Happy Trails!

Flickr: Columbia White-tailed Deer Refuge

Categories
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.
IMG_1814

IMG_1818

IMG_1820

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.
IMG_1961

IMG_1964

IMG_1970

IMG_1983Killdeer

IMG_1988

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.

IMG_2051

IMG_2047

IMG_2058

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

IMG_2094

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.
IMG_2165

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.
IMG_2178

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.
IMG_2186

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

IMG_2214

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.
IMG_2245

IMG_2247

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

IMG_2270

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?).
IMG_2277

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
Columbia Gorge North Hiking Trip report Washington

Lacamas Park

We officially kicked off our hiking season this past week, a week earlier than we had originally planned. We got things started by attending a slide presentation by Adam Sawyer author of “Hiking Waterfalls in Oregon”. He covered several waterfalls some we’d been to and others that we have yet to visit. We wound up adding one of the falls to this years schedule after realizing one of our planned hikes would have us driving right past the short path to Panther Creek Falls. The presentation got us excited about getting back out on the trails, and when we saw that the weekend forecast was for sunny skies and 70 degree temperatures coupled with reports of the camas blooms hitting their peak we decided to move our Lacamas Park hike up a week.

Lacamas Park is located in Camas, WA and is a much more urban setting than we are used to on our hikes, but it offers plenty of trails with very minimal elevation gain which we were looking for due to Heather having just run a half-marathon the previous week. In addition, a series of lily fields bloom in the park in April and early May (most years) and there are several visitable waterfalls. We began our hike at the Lacamas Heritage Trail located at the north end of Lacamas Lake.
IMG_0982

This 3.5 mile path squeezes between Lacamas Creek then Lake and a golf club and private homes. The gravel path also passed several benches and interpretive signs listing some of the plants and animals that might be spotted in the area.
IMG_1008

The area was full of birds, some we saw and others we just heard singing away in the crisp morning air.
IMG_0993

IMG_0999

IMG_1031

IMG_1035

There were also plenty of flowers along the trail.
IMG_1012

IMG_1014

IMG_1019

IMG_1027

IMG_1029

IMG_1001

The lake began to widen as we traveled along and would have offered a pretty nice view of Mt. Hood but the sky was oddly hazy so we could only make out the mountains silhouette beyond the far end of the water.
IMG_1036

It turns out the haze was likely caused by massive fires in Siberia and possibly a dust storm in China when the jet stream picked up the smoke and dust particles and delivered them across the ocean to the Pacific North West.

As the lake widened we spotted several ducks and geese.
IMG_1048

IMG_1055

IMG_1060

The Lacamas Heritage Trail ends at Camas Hertiage Park at the southern end of the lake but just across Highway 500 lay Round Lake and Lacamas Park. We crossed the road at a stoplight and entered the park.
IMG_1065

A series of signboards in the park gave all kinds of information on the area as well as a trail map of the park.
IMG_1072

IMG_1073

We looked over the map which agreed fairly well with the one in our guidebook and headed off on the Round Lake Loop
IMG_1076

We crossed over the Round Lake dam and immediately realized that this was going to be a more confusing hike than what the maps had shown. There were several different trails heading off in various directions, all looking fairly well used. This wound up being the case throughout the park and even though there were a good number of signs the profusion of trails sometimes made it difficult to tell which trails the signs were referring to. We knew that we wanted to follow Lacamas Creek down to The Potholes so we picked the trail which seemed to be heading in the right direction and followed the creek. We found The Potholes easily enough and the water was really flowing.
IMG_1081

IMG_1088

A short distance from The Potholes we entered a field of flowers.
IMG_1092

Mostly camas and plectritis, the meadow offered a nice view back to The Potholes.
IMG_1101

IMG_1110

We continued on toward Lower Falls. The trail left the creek for a bit and passed through a forested section where we were serenaded by a little wren.
IMG_1125

IMG_1130

IMG_1134

At Lower Falls a footbridge crosses the creek, another possible starting point lays beyond, but to complete the loop we needed to stay on the east side of the creek. We did cross the bridge hopping for a better view of the falls but couldn’t find one.
IMG_1153

It appears we may have found one if we had stayed on the east side and explored further downstream, but when we returned to that side we just continued the loop which now lead away from the creek. We managed to find the correct trails and passed through a forested section of the park on a .4 mile path to an old gravel road. We turned left on the road and quickly spotted a sign announcing the lily field loop on the right.
IMG_1170

Before we took that loop we wanted to visit Woodburn Falls which was located off a left hand spur trial just a bit further up the road. This trail too was identified by a sign.
IMG_1154

The short trail led down to a pretty 20 foot waterfall that usually dries up after June each year. For our visit the water was flowing nicely making it a scenic little spot.
IMG_1157

IMG_1165

After visiting the falls we returned to the gravel road and backtracked to the start of the lily field loop. The first lilies we saw were white fawn lilies along the trail.
IMG_1172

Then we came to the first lily field. It had both fawn and camas lilies but not in the numbers I had been expecting to see.
IMG_1183

IMG_1187

We passed through a couple of these small meadows and I was beginning to think I had been mislead about the flowers when the path entered a larger field. Camas lilies carpeted the hillsides on either side of the path.
IMG_1197

IMG_1200

IMG_1203

The trail passed through a number of these meadows each full of camas flowers.
IMG_1222

IMG_1228

After the final field the trail dropped back down to the Round Lake Loop Trail just a short distance from Round Lake. We completed the loop and recrossed the highway to get back to the Lacamas Heritage Trail for the final 3.5 miles of our hike. It was a little before 11am when we started back on the Heritage Trail and the day had warmed up nicely. We had given ourselves a mission on the final leg – to keep a lookout for turtles. We had yet to see a turtle on any of our hikes, or at any point in the wild for that matter, and had just read an article about their presence in the park we often take our runs in. The interpretive signs along the lake mentioned turtles so we knew we had a chance of seeing one so we set off watching for anyplace that looked like a good spot for a turtle. We were keyed in on the logs in the water which were playing host to some animals at least.
IMG_1236

IMG_1246

We’d gotten almost to the end of the lake where it looked more shallow and was full of lily pads when Heather spotted it – our first turtle.
IMG_1249

We were staring at it for awhile before we realized that not far away on another log were more turtles. In fact there were turtles on a bunch of logs.
IMG_1253

IMG_1267

IMG_1266

Seeing the animals is one of the things we like about hiking and the first time you see one is extra special, especially when it’s one you’ve been looking for for awhile. We pulled ourselves away from the turtle bonanza and continued on the trail. Before we were finished we saw one more animal for the first time. A greater yellowlegs searching for food in the water.
IMG_1276

We probably saw more people on this hike than any of the others we’ve done save maybe at Multnomah Falls but we didn’t mind as it had a lot to offer. We managed to get 12.4 miles of hiking in, saw 3 waterfalls, some great wildflowers, and lots of wildlife. With all the options and access points Lacamas Park is a handy place for anyone to get outside and enjoy some scenery. Happy Trails!

flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/sets/72157651646192359/