Tag Archives: great blue heron

Siltcoos River, Siltcoos Lake & Honeyman State Park – 12/08/18

The first week of December greeted us with some beautiful weather. Unfortunately the forecast called for the arrival of rain Friday evening and we were unable to get time off of work during the week to take advantage of the sunny conditions.  We kept our eyes on the forecast though and by Friday there was a window of time Saturday morning where it looked like it might be dry along the coast south of Florence so we made a last minute call to take our final outing of the year.

Our plan was to end the year much as it started (post), with a three stop day along the Oregon Coast.  For this trip we’d picked three hikes just south of Florence, OR in the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area.  Our first stop was at the Stagecoach Trailhead, eight miles south of Florence, in the Siltcoos Area.

Stagecoach Trailhead

Map at the Stagecoach Trailhead

From the trailhead we followed signs for the Waxmyrtle Trail which led us across the Siltcoos River on bridge on the entrance road to the Waxmyrtle Campground.
Waxmyrtle Trail sign

Siltcoos River

Once across the bridge we turned right along the river bank on the Waxmyrtle Trail.
Waxmyrtle Trail

Siltcoos River

It was a mostly cloudy morning, but it was dry and there was a least some breaks which gave us hope that it would turn out to be a nice day after all.
Siltcoos River

Our guidebook had mentioned that this area was one of the best areas for bird watching in the State. Although we didn’t see a large number of birds on this morning we did spot a few along the estuary here.
EgretEgret

Great blue heronGreat blue heron

Common mergansersCommon mergansers

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A little under a half mile from the bridge we came to an old fork in the trail. The right hand fork had been a seasonal trail sticking closer to the river, but it has been closed due to erosion.
Closed portion of trail along the Siltcoos River

We stayed left and shortly arrived at a sandy road leading between the campground and the beach. A sign here pointed right for the continuation of the Waxmyrtle Trail.
Sign for the Waxmyrtle Trail

Waxmyrtle Trail

We followed this sandy track 3/4 of a mile to Waxmyrtle Beach. Along the way we passed through Waxmyrtle Marsh where the morning colors reflected off the still waters on either side of the trail.
Waxmyrtle Trail

Interpretive sign for the Waxmyrtle Marsh

Waxmyrtle Marsh

Waxmyrtle Marsh

Waxmyrtle Marsh

Waxmyrtle Beach

For a longer hike here we could have walked along the beach, but with two other stops ahead of us we simply stopped for a moment to enjoy the Pacific Ocean. It was a perfect morning for a visit, the temperature was in the upper 40’s, there was no breeze at all, and the sky above seemed to compliment the waves below.
Waxmyrtle Beach

Pacific Ocean at Wax Myrtle Beach

Pacific Ocean

Sanderlings

After enjoying a peaceful moment on the beach we headed back the way we’d come, careful to not step on any of the numerous rough skinned newts that were out and about.
Tiny rough skinned newt

After recrossing the Siltcoos River and before returning to the Stagecoach Trailhead we crossed the main road to take the .7 mile Lagoon Trail.
Lagoon Trail

On the far side of a boardwalk the Lagoon Trail began a .7 mile loop around a campground in the middle of the Siltcoos Lagoon.
Lagoon Trail map

Siltcoos Lagoon

Siltcoos Lagoon

Interpretive sign along the Siltcoos Lagoon

Siltcoos Lagoon

Squirrel

Sparrow

After finishing the loop we returned to our car. The hike here had only been 3.3 miles but had offered a nice variety of scenery and wildlife. We drove back to Highway 101 from the trailhead and crossed directly over it to reach the Siltcoos Lake Trailhead.
Siltcoos Lake Trailhead

The Siltcoos Lake Trail with a .9 mile climb inland through a second growth forest to the start of a loop.
Siltcoos Lake Trail

Siuslaw forest along the Siltcoos Lake Trail

Siltcoos Lake Trail

Siltcoos Lake Trail

A wide variety of mushrooms grew along the forest floor where there were also more newts to watch out for.
Mushrooms

Mushrooms

Mushroom along the Siltcoos Lake Trail

Mushroom along the Siltcoos Lake Trail

Rough skinned newt next to an upturned mushroom

We turned right at the start of the loop and followed the trail a little over three quarters of a mile to another junction.
Sunbeams in the forest along the Siltcoos Lake Trail

Siltcoos Lake Trail

We had lost nearly all the elevation we had gained and the trail to right continued downhill for another quarter mile to South Camp, a tent site along the lake shore.
Siltcoos Lake

Siltcoos Lake

The lake was very pretty and full of birds but the nearly constant sound of gunfire took a little away from the enjoyment.
Birds on Siltcoos Lake

Birds on Siltcoos Lake

We climbed back up to the Sitlcoos Lake Trail and continued a half mile on the loop which dropped to a small creek crossing before arriving at a sign for the tent sites at North Camp where we again turned right and visited the lake shore.
Siltcoos Lake Trail

Siltcoos Lake

American coot

Birds taking flight from Siltcoos Lake

Following paths north along the shore led us past all the sites and back to the Siltcoos Lake Trail.
Sunbeams in the Siuslaw National Forest

Siltcoos Lake Trail

Just under a mile and a quarter from North Camp we finished the loop and then returned the .9 miles to the trailhead to complete the 4.4 mile hike.

Next we drove north on Highway 101 just over 4.5 miles to signs for Jessie M. Honeyman State Park where we turned east on Canary Road. We followed this road for a half mile before turning right into the East Woahink Day Use Area.

After parking in the large parking area we walked back toward the entrance to a large sign for Cleawox Lake Day Use Areas.
Trail from the East Woahink Lake picnic area

This path led briefly through a forest before joining Canary Road to cross a portion of the lake.
Trail between Woahink and Cleawox Lake

Woahink Lake

After passing over the water along the road the trail dipped back into the forest and immediately forked. The right hand fork led directly into the West Woahink Day Use Area while the left fork (which we took) looped around the day use area along the lake shore passing picnic tables and a small beach.
Beach along Woahink Lake

Woahink Lake

On the far side of the West Woahink Day Use Area we once again found ourselves on the shoulder of Canary Road passing over more of the lake. The trail again veered away from the somewhat busy road and we followed pointers for Cleawox Lake to a paved bike path leading over Highway 101.
Trail between Woahink and Cleawox Lake

Trail between Woahink and Cleawox Lake

Path over Highway 101 in Jesse M. Honeyman State Park

Rough skinned newts had become the theme for the day and even the bike path was not free of them.
Rough skinned newt

Shortly after crossing over the highway we turned right off the bike path at a trail sign.
Trail between Woahink and Cleawox Lake

This path led downhill past a small stone structure and across a couple of paved roads before reaching Cleawox Lake.
Stone structer in Jessie M. Honeyman State Park

Trail between Woahink and Cleawox Lake

Cleawox Lake

On the far side of lake was the day use area complete with a very nice bathhouse. We turned right at the lake and made our way around the water to the bathhouse and swimming area.
Cleawox Lake

Bathhouse at Cleawox Lake

Cleawox Lake

We could imagine that this would be a very busy place at other times of the year but on the second weekend in December there were only a few other people that we could even see and they were all across the water in other areas. We found a dry bench and sat a for a bit listening to a sparrow sing.
Sparrow

As we started to head back an Anna’s hummingbird zoomed by and landed in a nearby tree.
Anna's hummingbird

Anna's hummingbird

We passed by the trail that we had come down to the lake on and continued along the water to a large parking area on the opposite side of the bathhouse.
Cleawox Lake

At the end of the parking lot a path led to a dune along the lake, but before we headed out onto the sand we took a very short side trip on the signed Nature Trail to visit Lily Lake.
Nature Trail

Lily LakeLily Lake

After seeing the small lake we headed up the sand dune overlooking Cleawox Lake.
Dunes Trail

Dune in Jessie M. Honeyman State Park

Cleawox Lake

We climbed to the top of the dune and surveyed the surrounding area.
Dune in Jessie M. Honeyman State Park

Cleawox Lake

Pacific Ocean from a dune in Jessie M. Honeyman State ParkThe Pacific Ocean from the dune.

To the south we could see our goal, the largest sand dune (at least in that area) in Jessie M. Honeyman State Park.

Jessie M. Honeyman State Park

It was a half mile of sandy up and down walking between the two dunes.
Trail through the dunes at Jessie M. Honeyman State Park

Dune Trail

After a nearly 150′ climb we arrived at the top of the dune and its 360 degree view.
View from the tallest dune in Jessie M. Honeyman State Park

View from the tallest dune in Jessie M. Honeyman State Park

View from the tallest dune in Jessie M. Honeyman State Park

View from the tallest dune in Jessie M. Honeyman State Park

Although off road vehicles are allowed in much of the park this dune (and our route to and from it) are off limits. After soaking in the view (and watching a couple of motorcycles in the distance) we followed footprints steeply downhill to the east.
Path down the dune

Dune in Jessie M. Honeyman State Park

After a short stint through trees we followed tracks around a sandy bowl reentering the trees just above the park’s campground.
Dune in Jessie M. Honeyman State Park

Once in the campground we headed north following the paved roads to Loop “B”.
Campground in Jessie M. Honeyman State Park

We turned east along the northern end of Loop B which brought us to the bike path that we had crossed Highway 101 on earlier.
Trail to East Woahink Lake Day Use Area

We followed path back up and over Highway 101 and returned to the East Woahink Lake Day Use Area. The path was full of birds now, mostly robins but we also spotted a nice spotted towhee.
Robins

Spotted towhee

The only thing we did differently on the way back was that we went through the West Woahink Day Use Area instead of around it which allowed us to use the facilities there before our drive home. This was our longest hike of the day at 5.2 miles bringing the days total to 12.9.

We had been all prepared for wet and rainy weather, but instead we had a nearly perfect day for hiking at the coast. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Siltcoos River, Siltcoos Lake, & Honeyman State Park

Link River Nature Trail

Two weeks after a last minute hiking trip to the Klamath Falls area we had a different reason to head back down to that city, my Aunt LaVonne and Uncle Ron’s 50th wedding anniversary. The celebration wouldn’t be starting until the afternoon, so before the festivities began we took a short hike with our son Dominique along the Link River Nature Trail.

After being chauffeured to the trailhead by my parents (who did their own shorter version of the hike) we set off along the trail which was actually a closed roadbed behind a chain link gate.

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The road paralleled the river which flows between Upper Klamath Lake and Lake Ewauna.

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From the very start the trail lived up to being called a nature trail as a number of different birds could be seen in and around the water.

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At the .4 mile mark we passed the dam that created the lake behind it.

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Just beyond the dam the trail crosses a canal on bridge.

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At the half mile mark we left the roadbed at a post for Klamath Falls and made our way to the river just downstream from the small cascades.

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After visiting the falls we returned to the trail and continued to follow the river toward Lake Ewauna through a desert canyon where there were plenty more birds.

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IMG_4636Coots

IMG_4642Scrub jay

IMG_4663White pelican, coots, and a cormorant

IMG_4655White pelican

IMG_4668Coots

After one and three quarters of a mile we arrived at the southern end of this section of trail at w parking lot near a power station. Here we crossed Main Street near the Flavell Museum and then also crossed Highway 39 at a crosswalk into a small parking area for the Klamath Wingwatchers Nature Trail.

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This trail passed underneath Highway 97 and brought us to Lake Ewauna.

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The trail itself wasn’t much to write home about as it passed between the lake and the busy highway, but the number and variety of birds made up for the traffic.

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After about a quarter mile on this trail we came to a fork signed “Loop B”.

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This was the beginning of a .8 mile loop around a couple of old mill ponds. We decided to go around the ponds counter-clockwise so we stayed right. We saw birds everywhere – in the ponds, on the lake, and in the sky.

IMG_4713Mallards and other birds

IMG_4706Canada geese

IMG_4702Pelicans in flight

IMG_4710Great blue heron among others

IMG_4719Northern shoveler

IMG_4721Horned grebes

After completing the loop we headed back, recrossed the roads, and returned to the trailhead along Lakeshore Drive. We spotted several additional types of birds that we hadn’t seen earlier and many that we had.

IMG_4729Northern flicker

IMG_4739More pelicans

IMG_4746Another jay

IMG_4750Great blue heron on the rocks

IMG_4731Common merganser

IMG_4762Hooded mergansers (in the foreground)

IMG_4757Egret

IMG_4759Western grebe

In addition to all the birds we did see two garter snakes slither into the grass and my parents spotted a muskrat and a deer on their hike. For a short, in town hike it had provided a lot of wildlife over the 5 mile round trip.

We spent the afternoon at the anniversary party with a whole different type of wildlife :). Happy Trails!

Flick: Link River Nature Trail

Taylor Dunes, Lake Marie, and Umpqua Dunes

We’d been fortunate this year having only been forced to change plans due to weather twice, in February due to snow in the coast range and at the end of our trip to the Elkhorns when thunderstorms forced us to cancel our plans to visit the lookout atop Mt. Ireland. For the third time in the last four years our September vacation coincided with a forecast for snow in the mountains. We had planned a four day trip around and up Diamond Peak, but with a chance of rain or snow showers all four days we decided to turn to our alternate plan which was a trip to Bandon, OR on the Oregon Coast.

We had three stops planned in the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area on our way down to Bandon. Our first stop was at the Taylor Dunes Trailhead located seven and a half miles south of Florence.IMG_2286

From the small parking area the trail immediately crossed a paved road and passed by Taylor Lake.IMG_2287

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After .4 miles we arrived at a viewpoint above the dunes.IMG_2305

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From the viewpoint we followed the trail through the sand for half a mile to a signed junction.IMG_2311

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We turned right here on a half mile trail that passed through a forest behind a foredune before arriving at the Pacific Ocean.IMG_2313

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After reaching the ocean we returned to the junction and turned right to complete a loop through the Carter Lake Campground.IMG_2338

Carter Lake

The final .4 miles of the loop was along the paved campground road.IMG_2339

Our second stop was at Lake Marie, about 18 miles south of Taylor Dunes, in the Umpqua Lighthouse State Park. We parked at the Lake Marie Trailhead and set off on the 1 mile loop clockwise around the lake.IMG_2340

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The fishermen around the lake had some competition from the local wildlife.IMG_2352

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Just under a mile around the lake a short spur trail led to a viewpoint overlooking more dunes.IMG_2372

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We completed the loop and then decided to walk the tenth of a mile up Lighthouse Road to see the Umpqua River Lighthouse.IMG_2381

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A viewpoint at the lighthouse looked out to the mouth of the Umpqua River.IMG_2383

There was also a gray whale jawbone nearby.IMG_2387

After visiting the lighthouse we returned to our car and continued south on Highway 101 for another 5.5 miles to the signed John Dellenback Dune Trailhead.IMG_2390

The trail left the parking area and immediately crossed Eel Creek on a footbridge.IMG_2391

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The trail passed a marshy area where a great blue heron was looking for breakfast.IMG_2401

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At the quarter mile mark the trail crossed a paved road in Eel Creek Campground.IMG_2403

In just .2 more miles the trail left the trees and entered the dunes.IMG_2407

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Poles marked the route of the trail through the shifting sands of the dunes, but we began to doubt that we were really supposed to follow the poles when they began to veer to the north (right) of a tree island. The GPS appeared to show the trail passing to the south (left) of that island.IMG_2418

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There were footprints leading to both sides of the trees so we decided to trust the GPS and headed to the left.IMG_2428

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When we reached the vegetation of the deflation plain just under two miles from the trailhead we were unable to find any sign of a trail. We did however find a lupine still in bloom.IMG_2442

We attempted to locate some sign of a trail in the area shown on the GPS but each time we thought we might have found a way through the brush it got too dense to continue. We worked our way north along the edge of the vegetation for nearly half a mile where we finally spotted some signs.IMG_2443

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For the next three quarters of a mile the trail passed through a variety of scenery before reaching the ocean.IMG_2445

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We followed the beach south for about a mile before turning back.IMG_2460

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On the way back we followed the posts along the north side of the island.IMG_2476

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We took a side trip up the tallest of the dunes before reaching a junction at the edge of the trees.IMG_2490

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We went right at the junction for a half mile to complete a loop back to the trailhead.IMG_2498

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With our wandering around this hike came in at 8 miles giving us a total of 12.7 on the day. We ended the day in Bandon where we explored the old downtown and had a wonderful dinner at Foley’s Irish Pub. A good start as far as backup plans go. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Taylor Dunes, Lake Marie, and Umpqua Dunes

South Beach and Depoe Bay

On the way to our annual family reunion near Gleneden Beach we made several stops to check out short trails in the Newport and Depoe Bay areas. For our first stop we parked next to the Hatfield Marine Science Center and took the paved Yaquina Bay Estuary Trail from the east end of the parking lot.
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We were hoping to see some wildlife along the half mile trail and we weren’t disappointed. Just from the parking lot there were many birds visible.
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There was also a snake sunning itself at the beginning of the path.
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We followed the path along the estuary to its other end near the Oregon Coast Aquarium.
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The final stretch of trail was across a boardwalk.
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IMG_9736View from the boardwalk

We were impressed by the number of herons and egrets in the bay.
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In addition to the the herons, egrets, and numerous seagulls there were many other birds in the area, most of which didn’t want to stop for pictures.
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After returning to our car we drove to Highway 101 and headed south to the signed entrance of South Beach State Park. Here we parked at the Day Use Area and hiked past the restrooms over the foredune to the ocean.
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We turned right and headed north along the beach toward the south jetty about a mile away.
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From the jetty we could see a pair of lighthouses, the Yaquina Bay and Yaquina Head Lighthouses. They had been the stops on our way to the reunion in 2017 (post).
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We turned inland at the jetty continuing for just over a quarter of a mile to the South Jetty parking area.
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IMG_9758Part of the Oregon Coast Trail

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An osprey was busy eating its catch on a nearby tower.
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From the South Jetty parking area we took the paved South Beach Jetty Trail back to the South Beach State Park Day Use Area for a two and a quarter mile loop.
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Our next stop was the Mike Miller Trail which is located on the east side of Highway 101 along SE 50th Street which was just two tenths of a mile north of the South Beach State Park entrance. We parked along the shoulder of 50th St. near the start of the trail.
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They were out of trail guides at the trailhead so we weren’t able to follow along with the numbered stops along the 1-mile loop but we did get to see some nice coastal old-growth trees along the way. We followed signs for the Mike Miller Trail which crossed a marshy pond twice on footbridges.
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IMG_9786One of several benches along the trail.

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From the Mike Miller Trail we returned to Highway 101 and drove north through Newport toward Depot Bay. We turned inland on Schoolhouse Street just south of Depoe Bay at a Shell Station. We immediately forked left and drove downhill toward the bay following City Park signs. After parking we headed into the park where we followed signs for the South Depoe Bay Creek Nature Trail.
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The forested path followed South Depoe Bay Creek for a quarter of a mile to a footbridge where a .3 mile loop began.
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We crossed the creek and stayed left on the main trail at junctions. The trail passed a huge, hollow old stump with two trees growing off of it.
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A second nearby stump was covered in green foliage.
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The trail recrossed the still creek and passed a rather large picnic table before completing the loop.
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A short distance prior to the start of the loop we had passed a fork where the right hand path led uphill.
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On our way back we turned uphill on that trail and climbed through the trees to Indian Trail Avenue.
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We followed this road down to the Shell Station along Highway 101 passing a little whale statue/slide.
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We then followed the highway north into Depoe Bay.
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We could have crossed the highway and visited the Whale Watching Center or browsed the local shops, but we didn’t want to be late for the reunion so we simply turned right onto Bay St. after crossing over the highway bridge following it around the bay to the Coast Guard boathouse.
IMG_9816Whale Watching Center

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We continued along the bay until we reached a wide footbridge across South Depoe Bay Creek back to the city park.
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This wound up being a 1.7 mile round trip bringing our total mileage for day to a grand total of 6 miles. It was a nice variety of trails and a good way to work up an appetite before the reunion. Happy Trails!

Flickr: South Beach and Depot Bay Trails

Finley Wildlife Refuge

Another weekend of snow in the mountains and rain in the valley combined with plans to get together with a friend in town from Mississippi made it a perfect time to finally visit the William L. Finley Wildlife Refuge. Located about an hour from Salem the refuge is located just off Highway 99 ten miles south of Corvallis.

There are a number of trails in the refuge, some open year round others from April 1st thru October 31st. We had planned two stops in the refuge with the first being at the Cabell Lodge located near the Cabell Marsh Overlook 1.5 miles after entering the refuge.
Cabell Lodge

From the gravel parking area we followed a pointer for the Cabell Marsh Trail to the overlook.
Cabell Marsh Trail

Cabell Marsh Trail

The covered overlook provided shelter from the steady rain and an opportunity to watch the plethora of ducks on the water and a white egret on the far shore.
Cabell Marsh

Cabell Marsh

Ducks at Cabell Marsh

A seasonal trail continued beyond the overlook which we followed a short distance to a service road where we turned right.
Cabell Marsh Trail

The roadbed/trail soon arrived at the water giving us a closer look at the ducks and a great blue heron.
Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

After a quarter mile on the road we turned left onto the Homer Campbell Boardwalk.
Homer Campbell Boardwalk

The .4 mile boardwalk is open year round with a handy viewing blind located along it’s route.
Viewing blind along the Homer Campbell Boardwalk

Cabell Marsh

Ducks at Cabell Marsh

Beyond the blind the boardwalk passed through a scenic ash forest where lichen hung from the tree limbs.
Homer Campbell Boardwalk

Homer Campbell Boardwalk

At the end of the boardwalk we found ourselves at a small parking area. A short walk up the gravel road here brought us to the park’s main road (the one we’d driven in on) where we turned left. A short uphill walk toward the Cabell Barn brought us to the Fletcher House on our left.
Old barn at Finley Wildlife Refuge

Fletcher House

One of the oldest buildings in Benton County, the Fletcher house is believed to have been constructed in 1855. In 1933 the Carriage House was added when the then owner William F. Cabell remodeled the Fletcher House.
Fletcher House

Interpretive sign at the Fletcher House

From the Fletcher House we followed a very short grassy path back to the Cabell Marsh Overlook parking area. After putting a couple of towels down on our car seats we drove .7 miles further into the refuge turning right at a sign for the Woodpecker Loop Trail. The trail began at a signboard and headed into oak woodlands.
Woodpecker Loop Trailhead

Woodpecker Loop Trail

Our plan was to link the Woodpecker Loop with the Mill Hill Loop via the Inter-Tie Trail so when we arrived at the beginning of the loop we forked right across a footbridge.
Woodpecker Loop Trail

The Woodpecker Loop is named in honor of the 5 different species of woodpeckers that can be found in the area. We were able to check one off the list when we spotted a northern flicker in a tree.
Nothern Flicker

The trail climbed gradually through the oak forest eventually leaving the tress in favor of more open grasslands.
Woodpecker Loop Trail

View from the Woodpecker Loop TrailBald Hill

We stopped at a viewing platform around a large oak tree. On a clear day the tops of the Three Sisters and Mt. Jefferson are said to be visible but we were unable to verify that.
Viewing platform along the Woodpecker Loop Trail

View from the Woopecker Loop

Just a short distance beyond the platform a new building was being built.
New building along the Woodpecker Loop

The trail then began descending where it reentered the trees and passed over a swale on a long boardwalk.
Woodpecker Loop Trail

When we arrived at the junction with the Inter-Tie Trail we turned right following the pointer for the Mill Hill Trail.
Inter-Tie Trail

This half mile trail led us through the forest and across a gravel road.
Inter-Tie Trail

It wasn’t entirely clear where the Inter-Tie Trail ended and the Mill Hill Trail began but based on it’s half mile length the Inter-Tie Trail either ended at the road crossing or at a trail junction just a bit further along.
Inter-Tie Trail to Mill Hill Trail

The left hand fork led to the Display Pond parking area so we veered to the right. We had just been discussing the fact that it seemed like an area where we might see one of our trail favorites, rough skinned newts, when sure enough we spotted one curled up on the trail.
Roush skinned newt

We stayed right again at a second trail junction, this one coming from the park headquarters and nature store.
Inter-Tie Trail to Mill Hill Trail

Approximately .6 miles from the road crossing we arrived at a four way junction. From the junction the Mill Hill Trail loops around Mill Hill while another path led to several other destinations.
Mill Hill Trail

Trail sign along the Mill Hill Trail

We forked right choosing to do the loop in a counter-clockwise direction. The forest along the trail changed a number of times on this 1.7 mile loop.
Mill Hill Trail

Mill Hill Trail

Mill Hill Trail

The rain had been steady all day and was only picking up as we made our way around Mill Hill. We stopped briefly at a viewpoint of Gray Creek which looked more like a pond, but for the most part just kept hiking at a quick pace.
Gray Creek from the Mill Hill Trail

We were however on the lookout for newts.
Rough skinned newt

When we arrived at the four way junction we decided to try and go back a slightly different way so we followed the pointer for Cabell Marsh then quickly turned left onto a service road. This road passed behind some refuge buildings before coming to a gate along the parking lot of the headquarters and nature store.
Finely Wildlife Refuge offices and store

A sign on the gate said the area was closed to the public so we probably shouldn’t have come down that particular road but now that we were at the headquarters we walked across the lot toward the Display Pond then turned left at a signboard for the Mill Hill Loop.
Display Pond

Mill Hill Trail

We passed a junction with a trail coming from the Display Pond and continued uphill.
Mill Hill Trail

We wound up meeting up with the Mill Hill/Inter-Tie Trail at the first junction we’d come to after crossing the service road earlier in the day.
Inter-Tie Trail

We turned right, recrossed the service road, and returned to the Woodpecker Loop Trial where we again turned right to complete that loop.
Inter-Tie Trail junction with the Woodpecker Loop Trail

It was about a half mile back to the trailhead from this junction. We were now officially soaked. Our “waterproof” layers were beginning to fail and water was now reaching our base layers. Apparently 2 hours is the limit to the effectiveness of our waterproof garments. It had been a nice morning of hiking and we are now eager to go back on a nicer day when we can really take our time and enjoy the surroundings. The two hikes came in as 1.1 miles and 5.1 miles respectively which we completed in a little over 2 hours due to our quicker than normal pace.

It has certainly been a different year as far as hiking goes for us. It will be interesting to see what the final few hikes we have planned wind up looking like. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Finley Wildlife Refuge

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.
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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

Fall River and LaPine State Park

The day after finally getting to see the Green Lakes clouds had moved into the mountains bringing snow to the higher elevations and rain lower. A pair of hikes near LaPine, OR offered us a chance to stay below the clouds while visiting the Fall and Deschutes Rivers.

Our first hike of the day began at the Fall Creek Campground located off the Cascade Lakes Highway near milepost 15.
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Fall River is fed by springs located less than a mile from the campground which causes the water to be crystal clear.
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We started our hike by crossing the river on a footbridge and heading east .4 miles downstream to a dirt road.
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Along the way we began noticing many trees that had been gnawed by beavers, some rather recently.
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We began watching intently hoping to see one of them. After reaching the road and returning to where we had crossed the footbridge we stayed on the south side of the river and continued west toward the springs. We didn’t see any beavers but we saw plenty of other wildlife along the way to the springs.

Fish in Fall River
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Mergansers
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More ducks
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Small birds
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Kingfisher
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Great Blue Heron
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At the springs we spotted several deer.
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The clear water near the springs was brightened by green plants in the water.
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There is a parking area near the springs as well as the rentable Fall River Guard Station.
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We returned to the campground on the north side of the river resulting in a nice little loop back to the bridge. We continued to see wildlife along the way.

Duck
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Golden-mantled squirrel
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Robin
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Merganser
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Deer
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The trail on the north side of the river continues east past the campground for a total of 2.4 miles before reaching private land. We decided to check out that section as well. More wildlife and peaceful river views awaited on this section of the trail. There was also plenty of evidence of beavers but they never showed themselves.

Golden-mantled squirrel
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Crossbill
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Ducks
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Aster
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Small bird
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Chipmunk
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After reaching the private land and returning to the car we drove 5 miles back toward Highway 97 on the Cascade Lakes Highway and turned south on a gravel road where we had seen a pointer for LaPine State Park. Just over a mile on the gravel road brought us to a pair of parking areas on either side of Fall River. We parked on the south side of the river and set off on a 5.3 mile loop through LaPine State Park.
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We decided to do the loop counter-clockwise and headed right away from Fall River. The forest was fairly dry and mostly lodgepole pine here which can be a little less than exciting.
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After crossing a couple of dirt roads we ignored a trail at the 1 mile mark that split off to the left sticking to the Fall River Trail using the many trail signs along the way.
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At a well signed junction within sight of a fee booth we turned left heading for the McGregor Viewpoint.
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The viewpoint offered our first look at the Deschutes River as it wound through the park.
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Continuing on the loop we veered left at the next trail fork then ignored another left staying straight until we reached a dirt road junction. We went straight toward the river on a dirt road heading for an old house ruin that was shown in our guide book. As it turned out the house had been completely torn down.
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We followed the road a little further then turned right on a trail with nice river and wildlife views and passing two other old ruins.
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Ducks
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Nuthatch
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Northern Flicker
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Heron
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The first ruin was along the Deschutes River.
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The second was was along Fall River.
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The trail followed a short section of dirt road after the second ruin. We turned right on a nice path sticking close to Fall river only to find that we had turned too soon and the path we were on followed a ridge down to the river where it abruptly ended. We backtracked to the road, turned right and quickly found the signed trail we should have taken. We followed the trail for a little less than a mile then forked right heading for Fall River Falls.
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From the falls it was less than a half mile along the river back to our waiting car.

These were great hikes for a less than perfect weather day and both of them offered multiple distance options. The nearly level terrain and abundant wildlife also make them good hikes for kids. Happy Trails!

Flicker: https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/albums/72157658868264591