While recently camping on the Oregon Coast, my daughter noticed a giant banana slug. This slug was a beast measuring 8.5 inches in length! Over several hours, the slug moved from the ground to some low-hanging leaves of a Salal plant. The lower oval-shaped leaves were leathery, but the smaller leaves, just a foot away, were tender-looking and bright green. The slug found these smaller leaves within a short time and began to devour the newly-found meal. What was most amazing to me was that I have only seen banana slugs eating decomposing materials. This was the first time I observed one eating leaves. Also, because of the slug’s location, just a few feet off the ground, this was a great way to see how they eat. The slug’s mouth quickly closed and moved to the next section on the leaf, it is the microscopic teeth (or radula that can number up to 27,000) that make this creature even more fascinating. Below are some close-up pictures and a 2-second time-lapse video taken over about 3-minutes showing the slug eating.
Whether you are running an eco-trip, daily hikes, a week-long active travel program, or leading a bus trip, participants like knowing what to expect. Providing them with good information -throughout the day at key times- can help you, and the travelers, focus on the rest of the trip. Here are some hard-learned tips.
I plan my updates the evening before, it’s often about 9 pm when I have returned to my room and can prepare my materials and what I need to be successful that next day. This includes updating the schedule to include recent updates, planning around unexpected changes, and mapping this out so the people I am responsible for can have a safe and enjoyable time. I usually write it out on lined paper, or waterproof paper for taking into the field, though an iPad or similar could be used for more in-city programs.
The daily updates look something like this:
Breakfast Announcements: (What to Expect That Day)
A quick overview of the day.
Specific information about the day (or outdoor activity or sightseeing walk). This includes the schedule, the weather, and what to expect. I also include any information about water, snacks, and what they can leave on the bus/shuttle, etc.
I pass out any maps and remind them to review the additional trip information at a side table when they finished their breakfast. At the table are additional maps, brochures, natural history books, etc. There might even be a full trail description on foam boards or large paper that can be easily folded and moved.
Briefly go over equipment and I make sure everyone has the needed gear they need.
I mention how and when lunches are going to work (if lunch is boxed at they carry, or at a local cafe, etc).
A point is made about the buildings we will visit, such as visitor centers, and I let them know if real bathrooms will be available or if this is something more basic.
I end the announcements by letting them know that I’ll give another update at lunch or when a specific activity ends.
Ask if there are any questions.
Lunch or Early Afternoon Update (What to Expect Later in the Afternoon)
At this point, the day is about half over and I’ve had an opportunity to observe people. I watch to see if anyone is tired, or maybe needs to sit something out, if I notice this I try to speak with them in private before I give the group any updates.
During this short update, I mention what the next activity is and when we should be returning.
Pre-Dinner Update (What to Expect That Evening)
It’s late in the afternoon and people have usually finished up their hike or activity and are tired. I say I’ll be making an announcement about dinner ten minutes before we are back at the hotel.
If they need to rest and recharge on the shuttle, I let them rest.
When I make my update, I remind them about attire (casual, more dress-up attire, etc), and remind them if they pre-ordered any meals earlier in the week (and I pass around a list to remind them) or say if this is off the menu, etc.
If the dinner is on their own I let them know about local restaurants either via a list or better yet with a hand-made map that I researched and made for them. I also announce that I will be dining at a certain restaurant, and those who wish to join me are welcome.
I try to end on an upbeat note involving dessert, then the time we should be returning to the hotel where I will give another update.
Post-Dinner Update (What to Expect the Next Day):
After dinner, everyone has a full tummy and hopefully is relaxed. Because of this, I keep what they have to remember to 3 items:
I give a basic overview of the day’s schedule,
Mention the weather and what is good to wear or pack.
Where and when I will see them next
The process repeats: it’s often about 9 pm when I’m able to return to my room, prepare my materials for the next day, and organize what I need to be successful.
I’m always informing my travelers about what to expect throughout the day at key times. At the end of the day when I return to my room, I plan out the next day based on any recent changes, and the whole process repeats. I find I can use about 90% of the same materials on future trips, but it’s that 10% where new problems often hide, so I always have to review the schedule, make tweaks, and map things out for those on my trip.
Trip Report: Group Leader: Mark Hougardy | Organization: Eugene-based hiking group | Date: late April / early May 2022 | Duration: 4 days | Hiking Distance: 17-20 miles | Participants: 9 | Type: Hiking & Tent Camping
Just getting to our assembly area was an adventure with snow and cold temperatures crossing the Cascades. Arriving at Oregon’s Tumalo State Park the temperatures were mild if a bit cool. The group hiked 6-miles along the picturesque Deschutes River and then enjoyed an evening around the campfire. On the morning of day 2, we made a stop at the Ogden Wayside to see and walk the impressive 500-foot canyon made by the Crooked River. The weather included dramatic downpours mixed by sun and calm. We drove to the historic town of Shaniko and were welcomed inside the historic Shaniko Hotel (1900) which is undergoing renovations for opening later in the year. The town is a page out of the late 1800s and early 1900s and the hotel has a number of ghost stories. Continuing to Cottonwood Canyon State Park we drove past a number of wind turbines, cows, and open rangeland. Arriving at the park we made camp and enjoyed a 4-mile hike. It was windy that afternoon and well into the night. On day 3, we hiked 7-miles in the morning along the John Day on the Pinnacles Trail. We had to turn around due to a trail closure because Golden Eagles were nesting. Bighorn sheep peered down at us from high above the basalt cliffs. After returning to camp and enjoying some lunch several of the party hiked another 4 miles, with some making an additional 7. We enjoyed a quiet and windless evening around a warm campfire. We went to bed as the stars were coming out. Later that night the stars were amazing, though rain clouds were rolling in. The morning of day 4 was an early departure for the group with some opting to enjoy a warm breakfast in Condon.
We observed merganser, deer, mallard ducks, turkey vultures, Canadian geese, California bighorn sheep, swallow, crows, hawks, an unidentified lizard, and several snakes along the trail. There were tracks and signs of bobcats, coyotes, more bighorn sheep, and possibly pronghorn. We heard soft hoots with a stuttering rhythm: hoo-h’HOO-hoo-hoo from a Great Horned Owl, and the chucks of what was believed to be Chukar partridges.
Clinging to the rugged shoreline of Washington’s coast is an especially tenacious Sitka Spruce. The tree is a favorite among visitors to the area because it appears to grow suspended in the air with just a few roots clinging on for support.
A little creek flows underneath, forming a little cave, and on a rainy day I was there a little waterfall could be seen.
Sitka Spruce is known for being especially sturdy. During World War I, straight-growing Sitka Spruce was sought out because the wood was the preferred wood for bi-planes that needed a high-strength to lower-weight ratio on construction materials. This Sitka Spruce displays its heartiness as it hangs on to the western shoreline of North America.
On this day, just feet away was a high tide, a violent ocean, and little room on a small beach littered with tree-sized logs. Turing one’s back to the water was not advised. I didn’t stay long, but it was good to see this unusual and inspiring tree.
The Tree of Life is located near Kalaloch and within the Olympic National Park.
For more information visit the Coastal Interpretive Center’s page on the tree.
During a trip to the Olympic Peninsula in March, I was excited to experience the Hoh Rainforest, but upon arriving at the Ranger’s kiosk was told that a tree had fallen over the road. The tree was large enough that outside help had been called in to help with the removal. My vehicle, along with others, was told to return another day. 🙁
But the ranger, upon hearing that I was traveling to the south shore of Lake Quinalt suggested visiting the Quinault Rain Forest Nature Trail -a personal favorite of his.
Upon seeing the striking beauty of the trail I was hooked. This trail was about half a mile in distance but required an hour just to meander through this old-growth forest and fern-covered canyon. There were hanging carpets of lush green moss, signs of various animals, fungi, and the wonderful smell of clean air. This place, in a word, is breathtaking. I love interpretive trails but had not expected this half-mile walk to be so encompassing. For a longer walk, the nature trail connects to the Quinalt National Recreation Trail System with several additional miles of trails. The trail has some fantastic interpretive signage – kudos to those who arranged the material! This visit was in the springtime with temperatures in the low 50s and lots and lots of rain.
Group Leader: Mark Hougardy | Organization: Eugene-based hiking club | Date: March 2022 | Walking Distance: 2 miles | Participants: 10
The weather was a bit wet and windy, but it did not lessen our enjoyment of the University of Oregon’s iconography. Our walk focused on the historic head sculptures at the Knight Library representing historic figures from the disciplines taught in academia, the science gargoyles of the Lokey Science Complex, and the printer’s marks (colophons) at Allen Hall. Shown is the humorous Einstein gargoyle.
Group Leader: Mark Hougardy | Organization: Eugene-based hiking club | Date: March 2022 | Walking Distance: 3 miles | Participants: 10
Downtown Eugene has some colorful building-sized murals along with multiple micro-art pieces. It’s been about 9-months since a previous walk downtown, it was good to see several old favorites, and a few new pieces too.
Shown are two recent additions: “We Rise” by Rachel Wolfe Goldsmith & a colorful Tyrannosaurus mural by Bayne.
Group Leader: Mark Hougardy | Organization: Eugene-based hiking club | Date: February 2022 | Walking Distance: 6.5 miles | Participants: 10
Our walk through the Masonic cemetery and across the UO campus recognized the 200th birthday of Thomas Condon, a fossil-hunting minister who was Oregon’s first state geologist, the University of Oregon’s first science professor, and the first to recognize the paleontological importance of the John Day region: an area with a fossil record that spans over 40 million years.
Group Leader: Mark Hougardy | Organization: Eugene-based hiking club | Date: February 2022 | Walking Distance: 5 miles | Participants: 11
Scattered throughout the Whilamut Natural Area in Eugene, Oregon (and nearby Springfield) are 15 boulders etched with words from the Kalapuya language. These are the Kalapuya Talking Stones, and they help educate and remind visitors that the Kalapuya people, the original inhabitants of the area, are still here. The writing on the stones reflects natural items in the traditional landscape. We enjoyed visiting all 15 stones on our walk.
On Saturday, February 26th, attend the Kalapuya Storytelling & Drumming event (Downtown & Online) at the Eugene Public Library.
Group Leader: Mark Hougardy | Organization: Eugene-based hiking club | Date: February 2022 | Walking Distance: 6 miles | Participants: 10
Steve Prefontaine “Pre” is one of Oregon’s greatest sports legends. He is a former Duck (University of Oregon) athlete who helped to fuel the American running craze in the mid-1970s, earned a fourth-place Olympic finish in 1972 (5K), and numerous American records including seven NCAA titles. He is the inspiration for many runners in the decades since. Tragically, he was killed in a car crash at the age of 24 near the UO. On this walk, we learn more about “Pre” through some of the places he visited, urban trials he likely ran on during trainings at the UO, his memorial, and ending by visiting the world-class Hayward Field. Please share any stories or knowledge you have of this running legend while on our walk. The image is from Hayward Hall at Hayward Field, University of Oregon.
Trip Report: Group Leader: Mark Hougardy | Organization: Road Scholar | Date: August & September 2021 | Departures: 4 | Duration per Program: 6 days | Hiking Distance: 30 miles each departure | Participants: ~20 per departure | Type: Hiking | Trip leader and participants were fully vaccinated against Covid-19
Sunny weather and pleasant temperatures greeted participants on 4 hiking programs exploring Oregon’s central coast. The focus of each program was learning about how the coast has changed especially over the last 100 years. Hikes included exploring the temperate rain forest, old-growth Sitka Spruce, the rugged Oregon coast, and the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area which is one of the largest expanses of temperate coastal sand dunes in the world.
Trip Report: Trip Leader: Mark Hougardy | Organization: Eugene-based Hiking Club | Date: August 2021 | Duration: 3 days | Distance: 25 miles | Participants: 6 | Type: Hiking & Camping | Trip leader and participants were fully vaccinated against Covid; masking precautions were taken as needed.
The trip began at the Cape Perpetua main parking area at noon on Sunday. For logistical reasons, we switched the day 1 and 2 sections with each other. We arranged several shuttles to Yachats and walked through town, then on a side street, then a pathway next to the highway before venturing inland to the Amanda statue. After that, the trail had an unrelenting elevation gain. Finally, we reached the top at just over 1,000 feet and descended to 800 feet to the shelter at Cape Perpetua for amazing views of the Pacific Ocean and Oregon Coast. We walked down the switch-back laden trail, with some continuing to the group camp while others retrieved vehicles from the nearby visitor center parking area. The evening was quiet and we were able to enjoy a campfire in the cool ocean air.
The next day, we broke camp and arranged several shuttles between Yachats and the Governor Patterson Memorial State Recreation Site, about 7.5 miles away from where our hike began. The fog quickly returned. We passed the Big Stump, a relic of a “ghost forest.” The card attached to the tree says this is an ancient redwood tree that died about 1,200 years ago. The associated website for additional information is not active at the time of this writing. A second, seeming ancient redwood was found about a quarter-mile top the south on the beach. The group made several creek crossings. The wind kicked up. Entering Yachats, we walked on the 804 trail along the rocky coast and through Yachats to where our car shuttles waited at the Yachats State Park Recreation Area. The group split up, with those in town finding some lunch with several shuttled back to pick up our vehicles. Near the parking area, we watched several whales just off the coast. That afternoon, we returned to the group camp, where we relaxed and hiked local trails. BTW, on the interpretive display at Perpetua about the CCC camp from the 1930s, a Thanksgiving Day menu is shown. One of the items is “Goat’s Milk,” which is code for beer. That evening, a juvenile bard owl visited the camp. The owl sat on a prominent dead, broken tree about forty feet away for about 45-minutes. The owl looked at us and was very curious about some rustling in the nearby grass. The owl departed, and we enjoyed the evening.
On the third day, we broke camp and drove south by-passing several hard-to-access beaches or areas with a hazardous shoulder for walked to the Heceta Head parking overflow lot. We arranged a shuttle to the Muriel O. Ponsler Memorial State Scenic Viewpoint. We walked south to the Heceta Head, where we observed an osprey and briefly two bald eagles. We traversed the hobbit trail and over to Heceta Head Lighthouse. Just beyond the lighthouse, there were two possibly three juvenile gray whales playing and having lunch. We continued under the Cape Creek Bridge to the picnic area, where we ended the trip. Over three days, we hiked 25 miles and saw some fantastic wildlife.