Group Leader: Mark Hougardy | Organization: Eugene-based hiking group | Date: in September 2023 | Duration: 1 day | Walking Distance: 3 miles | Participants: 6 | Elevation Gain/Loss: 30 feet
The weather delivered a light rain and the fragrance of the forest “waking up” after a dry summer was beautiful. On the far side of Pigeon Butte, we observed a burned patch under some oak trees. This appeared to be from a controlled burn within the last 24 hours, there was one smoldering patch. The location was recorded. We observed on our short walk: Egrets, a California Quail, a Newt, 4 Deer, 1 Barred owl (shown), Grebes, Herons, Ducks, Wrens, a Jay, one Red-winded blackbird, and 20 Turkeys. Shortly after we left the Finley area the rain came down.
Group Leader: Mark Hougardy | Organization: Eugene-based hiking group | Date: in September 2023 | Duration: 1 day | Walking Distance: 3.5 miles | Participants: 3 | Elevation Gain/Loss: 30 feet
Snag Boat Bend is the eastern unit of the William L. Finley National Wildlife Refuge. The centerpiece of the property is an old meander of the Willamette River that connects with Lake Creek. On our walk, we saw four River Otters, herons, egrets, one turkey, several kingfishers, numerous skeletal fish scattered on the bank which are believed to be carp, several ducks, signs of beaver, and a large burrow in the bank located near the water level. We were the only people on the trail during our 2.5-hour walk. Separately, we visited the Mennonite Bakery that was in the area and returned home with some delicious snacks.
Group Leader: Mark Hougardy | Organization: Eugene-based hiking group | Date: in September 2023 | Duration: 1 day | Walking Distance: 4 miles | Participants: 8 | Elevation Gain/Loss: 200 feet
This was a meandering nature-viewing hike to the highest point of the William L. Finley National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon. Our hike began with a short side trip to the Prairie Overlook on the south side of Bruce Road to enjoy the view, then we walked north along the Pigeon Butte Trail. We looked for band-tailed pigeons and songbirds. We did see one raptor. There were signs of a previous fire on the south side of the butte as much of the grasslands had been charred. We saw a large white oaks along the trail going up the butte. At the old quarry, several roosting turkey vultures observed us. At the top of the butte, we could easily see 40 miles to the south of Skinner Butte even though there was smoke from an area forest fire. On the return walk, we had lunch under a tree then Cheadle Barn then continued on the Cheadle Marsh Trail to observe a wetland. The area was very dry. We saw signs of elk, a lizard, a frog, several white-colored praying mantis, and a Great Blue Heron eating a frog.
Trip Report: Group Leader: Mark Hougardy | Organization: Eugene-based hiking group | Date: in September 2023 | Duration: 1 day | Walking Distance: 4 miles | Participants: 4 | Elevation Gain/Loss: 50 feet
We saw egrets (shown in the photo), pelicans, grebes, swallows, a hawk, a red-winged blackbird, jays, vultures, oak woodpeckers, and other birds. A baby Gartner snake (shown) was peeking out along the trail, and we saw tracks where elk had passed over a muddy area. It was interesting to see the Cabell Marsh at a time of year when the water level is shallow and many birds have left the area. The marsh was dry and a big crisp, though the recent rain did help. We visited the quarter-mile-long Campbell Boardwalk. On our departure, we stopped by the visitor center. In the town of Monroe, we visited a family farm stand.
Group Leader: Mark Hougardy | Organization: Eugene-based hiking group | Date: in September 2023 | Duration: 1 day | Walking Distance: 2.5 miles | Participants: 6 | Elevation Gain/Loss: 55 feet
Our group followed a mowed pathway around the perimeter (from 18th Avenue in west Eugene) to the south end of the preserve. The area was quiet and there were pleasant views of the nearby hills. The trip leader took a spill on the trail. Walking to the east we attempted to cross a little creek but poison oak had turned seasonally red revealing its abundance. We decided it best not to risk it and returned to our original route back to the cars. Willow Creek’s native grasslands, ash woodlands, and perennial streams provide the best remaining example of native wet prairie habitats in the southern Willamette Valley. The property is managed by the Nature Conservancy where more than 200 native plants, 100 birds, and 25 butterfly species have been recorded on the preserve. This biome once occupied much of the Willamette Valley, but today has been reduced to only a few remnant patches.
Group Leader: Mark Hougardy | Organization: Eugene-based hiking group | Date: in September 2023 | Duration: 1 day | Walking Distance: 4.5 miles | Participants: 5 | Elevation Gain/Loss: 300 feet
Arriving at the Finley National Wildlife Refuge we discovered the Woodpecker Loop Trail was closed for repairs. Instead of beginning our hike on that path, we parked at the Visitor Center and then proceeded to the second part of our planned hike, the Mill Hill Loop. We saw a vulture on the trail. There were numerous flying ants emerging from the ground in several areas. Upon returning to the Visitor Center area, it was learned the nearby and rarely opened Fiechter House was open and staffed with interpreters. The house was built in the 1850s and is considered to be the oldest house in Benton County. After our visit to the Fiechter House, we stopped by the Campbell Boardwalk for a side trip to the Cabell Marsh. We made good use of the opportunity to eat plums and blackberries in the parking area before heading home.
Trip Report: Group Leader: Mark Hougardy | Organization: Eugene-based hiking group | Date: in June 2023 | Duration: 3 days | Walking Distance: 17 miles | Participants: 8 | Elevation Gain/Loss: 1,000 feet | Type: Urban Walking
On our first day, after getting settled at the Sutton Group Campground, we drove about 5 minutes to the Darlingtonia State Natural Site. This small botanical park is home, to a carnivorous pitcher plant Darlingtonia californica. The Sutton campground was strangely quiet for the time of year, and the host was out of campfire wood to sell. We recovered some wood from vacant campsites for that evening’s fire. The next morning, we drove about twenty minutes north to Carl G Washburne Memorial State Park. We hiked down the coast while exploring the cliff face and rocks, then up the Hobbit Trail and onto the Heceta Head Lighthouse. The day was surprisingly sunny with little wind. On our return hike, the wind began to pick up. We crossed the coast highway and down to the China Creek Loop, which, unfortunately, was still closed from the year before due to a collapsed footbridge. Continuing our hike, we explored a nearby old homestead. We saw many beautiful rhododendron blooms. In the park, we walked to the far end of the beach trail that took us under the highway and out to the mouth of China Creek. We walked a short distance back to our cars. The Washburne ranger was generous enough to sell us some wood. That evening, we enjoyed dinner around our campfire. On the last morning, we departed camp for the Tahkenitch Campground day-use area. We hiked out to the beach, saw some storm damage, and also a bald eagle. We crossed inland over the dunes to Threemile Lake, where we had lunch. We had a pleasant hike through the woods and back to our cars.
I am excited to have completed the first half of my ecoregion fieldwork with the Oregon Master Naturalist (OMN) program this past week. The focus area was the mid-Willamette Valley. The OMN program is through Oregon State University Extension. Oregon’s landscapes define the people and wild species that call this land home. Students of the OMN program learn about the natural history, ecology, and natural resource management practices of Oregon. I am looking forward to applying this new knowledge within my own volunteer-led hikes so others can better appreciate Oregon’s beautiful and dynamic landscape. Kudos to the OSU Extension and the many volunteer instructors for helping to make this happen!
Group Leader: Mark Hougardy | Organization: Eugene-based hiking group | Date: in April 2023 | Duration: 1 day | Walking Distance: 4.5 miles | Participants: 8 | Elevation Gain/Loss: <100 feet | Type: Urban Walking
Walkers, runners, bikers, birders, and anyone who enjoys exploring the many trails and paths of the Whilamut Natural Area in Eugene, Oregon (and nearby Springfield) can learn from these quiet stones of place. The stones help to connect people with traditional names on the land and remind people that the Kalapuya people are still here. Our 2.5-hour walk was sunny and the temperatures were perfect for a springtime walk. Shown is the Gudu-kut stone; Gudu-kut is the Kalapuyan name for frog.