Whale Watching, Wildlife, & Waves, December 2023

Trip Report:
Group Leader: Mark Hougardy | Organization: Eugene-based hiking group | Date: December 27-28, 2023 | Duration: 2 day | Walking Distance: 7 miles | Participants: 4 | Elevation Gain/Loss: 300 feet

The end of the year is a great time for whale watching on the Oregon coast as migrating Gray whales pass just offshore. This year, the wave heights easily exceeded 18 feet, which made whale watching difficult. The trip focused more on looking for wildlife and watching gargantuan waves strike the coastline.

In the distance, the Blow Hole at Depoe Bay.

We arrived at Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area Interpretive Center as heavy rain arrived. We explored the picturesque Quarry Cove Trail and Quarry Cove, then hiked to the beautiful Cobble Beach where the incoming waves created impressive acoustics among the thousands of fist-sized cobbles. We continued to the lighthouse and kept watch for whales in the distance, but they remained elusive. A Peregrine Falcon kept watch on the adjacent Colony Rock. We continued to Salal Hill and saw a deep blue wall of water and wind approaching from the south. As we made our way off the hill, the wall of water hit – we were thoroughly soaked! Returning to the interpretive center, we explored the exhibits and then retreated to our hotel to warm up.

In the evening, we enjoyed a superb dinner (shown) at Local Ocean Seafood as we overlooked Yaquina Bay.

The following morning, we met at the Oregon State Parks Whale Watching Center in Depoe Bay. After viewing the exhibits, we walked past the impressive blow hole on the coast and up the Sunset Street Access Area, where we watched waves pound the rocky cliff-lined peninsula. Even crashing against a cliff, the wave splashes exceeded the rooflines of nearby 2-story houses. Just after noon, we walked back to town and ended the trip.

Street Art Meander Fall 2023, Eugene, Oregon

Trip Report:
Group Leader: Mark Hougardy | Organization: Eugene-based hiking group | Date: October 12, 2023 | Duration: 1 day | Walking Distance: 3 miles | Participants: 6 | Elevation Gain/Loss: 50 feet | Type: Urban Walking

This seasonal walk for lifelong learners to experience the murals and street art in Eugene, Oregon, revealed some great surprises, including a creative featuring musician David Bowie (shown). The weather for our walk began on the cool side but quickly warmed up. It was a great day to meander our way through the downtown alleys and streets to discover new designs.

Finley National Wildlife Refuge: 10-Mile Loop Hike

Trip Report:
Group Leader: Mark Hougardy | Organization: Eugene-based hiking group | Date: in October 2023 | Duration: 1 day | Hiking Distance: 10 miles | Participants: 9 | Elevation Gain/Loss: 200 feet

Our hike made a 10-mile loop through the William L Finely National Wildlife Refuge, home to the largest remaining tract of native Willamette Valley wet prairie. Our autumn exploration was held just at the end of the refuge’s April-October open season. Our goal was to look for wildlife and observe changes on the land during this time of seasonal change. The morning began on the cool side but quickly warmed to a comfortable temperature. The fields, which were barren several weeks ago, were now populated with carpets of green. On one field evidence of a wallow where large animals had rolled which we speculated to be from Roosevelt Elk that live in the area. Our group saw Oregon white oak, Oregon ash, and big lead maple. We also enjoyed seeing numerous ducks, and while on Bruce Road and the Cheadle Marsh Trail, we witnessed several hundred geese flying overhead.

13 Key Elements of a Nonprofit Development Plan

Development is the growth of the mission. To accomplish this you need a strategy. During a recent CFRE training, these 13 points were mentioned as key elements of a nonprofit’s development plan. Understanding this flow is often a pain point at many organizations and I’m glad to see this clarified. Credit: Jack Alotto, MA, CFRE.

  1. Purpose
  2. Development Goals
  3. Strategies (to achieve a million-dollar gift we might need to hire X major gift people, and we have Y number campaigns that target $ or more in giving)
  4. Operational Policies
  5. Targeted Constituencies
  6. Potential of Constituency and Strategy
  7. Cultivation Strategies
  8. Timetable & Income Benchmarks for Each Strategy
  9. Who is Responsible
  10. Marketing Needs of Each Strategy (campaigns and goals)
  11. Budget for Each Strategy
  12. Indicators of Success
  13. Evaluation

Finley National Wildlife Refuge: Cattail Pond Loop Hike

Trip Report:
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.

Finley National Wildlife Refuge: Snag Boat Bend

Trip Report:
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 (one is shown), 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.

Finley National Wildlife Refuge: Pigeon Butte and Cheadle Marsh Loop Hike

Trip Report:
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.

Finley National Wildlife Refuge: Cabell Marsh Trail

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.

Willow Creek Preserve Loop Hike

Trip Report:
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.

Finley National Wildlife Refuge: Mill Hill Loop

Trip Report:
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.

Stepping Back in Time at the Kam Wah Chung State Heritage Site

In John Day, Oregon, a true gem is hidden in plain sight.

This tiny, unassuming building was built in 1865 and was a Chinese medical clinic, general store, community center, and residence. Closed in the 1940s the building lay quiet until the late 1960s when there was talk of demolishing the structure. When the building was opened it revealed a time capsule into the past. Today, visitors can explore the building on a ranger-led walk.

From the State Park website: “This tiny, unassuming building became home to two Chinese immigrants, Ing “Doc” Hay and Lung On in 1888. Both became locally famous: Lung On as a general store proprietor and businessman, and “Doc” Hay as a herbal medicine practitioner. For over 60-some years the building was a social, medical, and religious center for Oregon’s Chinese community.”

Learn more about Kam Wah Chung by watching an Emmy-nominated documentary by Oregon Public Broadcasting.

Hiking Heceta Head & Tahkenitch Dunes on Oregon’s Central Coast

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

Pitcher Plant – Darlingtonia californica

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.

In search of a Rough-skinned Newt
The Heceta Head Lighthouse
A Bald Eagle Seen Flying Over the Beach
Crossing the dunes at Tahkenitch

Getting Outside with the Oregon Master Naturalist Program

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!

Pacific giant salamander

Green heron

Visiting the Kalapuya Talking Stones

Trip Report:
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.