We had decided to make 3/15 (Sunday) the day for our March hike to take advantage of a clear, albeit cold, forecast and to get it in before COVID-19 becomes any larger an issue. We started our day by visiting Miller Woods, a conservation area maintained by the Yamhill Soil & Water Conservation District. The 130 acre property was donated to the district in 2004 and is open from dawn to dusk for hiking (no pets). Although there is no fee, donations are welcome and can be made online (the option we used). These donations appear to be put to good use based on the amount of obvious work that has been put into the area.
As hard as it may be to believe we were the first car in the parking lot. After stopping at the information kiosk (laminated maps were available) we set off on the Outer Loop Trail planning on going counter-clockwise around the approximately 4.5 mile loop.
Part of the work being done at Miller Woods is Oak Savanna restoration, which is what most of the Willamette Valley was made up of prior to development.
After passing some of the restoration work the trail entered a forest of Douglas firs.
We had our first covering of snow at our house when we awoke on Saturday and the near freezing temperatures had our hands stinging by the time we had made it to the trees but in the forest we were reminded that Spring is on the way as we began to notice several of the early wildflower varieties.
The trail wound around a hillside above Berry Creek before looping back toward the old farm fields.
Bird’s nest that Heather spotted along the trail.
After briefly passing through the edge of the field the trail reentered the forest after crossing an outlet stream from a pond.
A shorter loop was possible here by taking the green Discovery Loop back to the parking area.
We stuck to the Outer Loop though and began a gradual climb to the loop’s high point at the 600′ K.T. Summit. As we were climbing we spotted what we thought was a pair of deer (it turned out to be three).
The first deer we spotted (up near the top of the hill at center).
Zoomed in shot of the second deer at upper left.
First deer again.
The trail zigzagged up the hill and wound up taking us right past the deer who seemed less than worried about us.
First deer crossing the trail ahead of us.
The second and third deer watching us pass.
After passing the deer we also passed a memorial to the Miller’s who had donated the property.
The summit was marked by a sign and a bench but lacked a view.
Beyond the summit the trail began to descend back down to the fields. The forest here was a little more mature and we spotted another early wildflower getting ready for Spring when we noticed a fairy slipper emerging from some green moss.
We also noticed a little dusting of snow left on a few leaves and stumps.
The trail wound down to a crossing of the pond’s inlet creek where some skunk cabbage was putting on a nice display.
We emerged from the forest and followed the trail to the pond where the trail split. We went left passing the pond on our right and made our way back to the trailhead.
The area around the pond was popular with the birds.
There were quite a few robins about.
From Miller Woods it was just a 15-20 minute drive to Our Lady of Guadalupe Trappist Abbey.
Book binding, a bakery, a wine warehouse and forestry all occur at here and a gift shop sells fruitcakes and honey. Given that “social distancing” is a thing right now we opted not to enter the gift shop or any of the other buildings on this visit and walked through the courtyard to a gravel path leading between two ponds.
Larger of the two ponds
Little footbridge by the large pond
Beyond the ponds we turned uphill on an old roadbed.
We followed the road as it climbed up a tree thined hillside gaining views to the west of the snow covered coastal range.
We ignored the signed trails sticking to the road which was also signed as the “Guadalupe Loop”
There were quite a few birds in the remaing trees. We watched a pair of acorn woodpeckers for a bit and a spotted towhee was busy picking through some grass while stellars jays could be heard but seldom seen.
Second acorn woodpecker
We soon left the thinned area and entered a forest where we spotted more toothwort and some sort of blooming tree.
After about a mile we came to a fork in the road where the left side was gated (and posted no hiking beyond the gate). We forked right continuing uphill for a half mile to another fork. This time we went left which led a short distance to a viewpoint overlooking vineyards and Mt. Hood in the distance. (We should have taken a fork right shortly after taking the left but missed it and ended up having to backtrack a bit.)
We returned to the fork and went straight on what was still the Guadalupe Loop for just over a quarter mile to a sign for a shrine.
Snow along the Guadalupe Loop
A short spur led to the shrine and a viewpoint of the Coast Range.
Our guidebook said to turn back here and return the way we’d come. We toyed with the idea of continuing on the Guadalupe Loop and started to do just that, but we weren’t certain if it was really in fact a loop or how long it might be. We decided not to tempt fate but then instead of going back the way we’d come we turned left at a sign for St. Juan Diego Pass and followed a grassy track downhill.
A patch of purple caught our eyes on the hillside and it turned out to be an iris that was weighted down a bit with water.
This chipmunk also caught our attention.
We followed the path for a little over half a mile before popping back out on the Guadalupe Loop near the fork with the gated road where we turned left and hiked the mile back down to the parking area.
It turned out to be a beautiful day (once we thawed out from the initial frozen hands at Miller Woods) with a total of 8.2 miles of hiking (4.4 at Miller Woods and 3.8 at Trappist Abbey). There were very few folks out, we saw two trail runners at Miller Woods and passed a handful of groups at Trappist Abbey, had some wildlife encounters, and spotted a few Spring flowers along the way. Hopefully things will settle down sooner rather than later with the corona virus but until then stay safe and Happy Trails!
Flickr: Miller Woods and Trappist Abbey