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Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge Trip Report

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Starting Out On the Boardwalk

Swimming snakes! Exploding cattails! Dabbling ducks! Croaking frogs! Sunning seals! This hike had it all.

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Visitor Center

We enjoyed a day of record spring temperatures by walking at Nisqually with my mother-in-law. Spring is just getting started at Nisqually, with Indian plum being one of the few shrubs leafing out. The frogs are loudly croaking now, though we only were able to spot one. A few turtles have ventured out to sunny logs to warm up. Yellow jackets have begun gathering wood shreds from the plentiful boardwalk lumber.

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Spring Green
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Early Spring View

Willows are greening, their thin stems turning yellow and bright in the afternoon sunshine.

We sauntered down the Loop Trail boardwalk, pausing frequently to scan the water and bushes.

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Swimming Snake!

We were surprised to see a garter snake swimming through the water! At one point, I heard something rustling near the trail, and looked down to see a brown bunny hunkered under the brambles. I expected more songbirds to keep us company with their twittering, but they haven’t shown up in the area yet.

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Out on the Dike
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Fresh Catkins
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Canada Geese

We decided to walk out on the long boardwalk that goes out into the estuary. While walking the dike trail, we noticed a bunch of green-striped garter snakes congregating in the dried grasses.

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Snakes in the Grass

The Canada geese were not afraid of people, and we saw a heron close to the trail, where we always see one.

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Twin Barns and Tip of Mt. Rainier

The tide was way out, leaving large expanses of mud and pools of briny water.

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Orange Mud Flats

Green-winged teals and northern pintails fed in the shallows, and various gulls wheeled and chattered. Hooded mergansers and surf scoters dove in the deeper channels. Seals were hauled out on one of the larger islands.

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Viewpoint at the End

This was the first time I’ve made it out to the very end of the boardwalk; there is a great view of the top of Mount Rainier from out there, and a pair of eagles was resting in the line of shrubs at the verge of the bay.

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Mt. Rainier Over the Mud Flats

We were counting down to sunset, when the gates to the refuge are closed, so we walked more quickly back to the Twin Barns area, where we sat and had a snack. Then we decided to complete the Loop Trail, so we could see if we could spot the great horned owl on her nest. We were successful in that endeavor, though I would never have spotted her if I didn’t know where to look.

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Great Horned Owl On the Nest

We saw abundant signs of recent beaver activity on the back side of the loop. We looked for the saw-whet owl, but it must have been out hunting, because its tree was empty.

It was so amazingly warm, and I’m really glad we got the chance to get out for a few hours. I was happy to pull out my short-sleeved shirt and hiking skort. It was doubly nice to have the company of Grandma for conversation. I hope to get down there again once the songbirds arrive from their winter homes.

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Evening Gold

SEA Discovery Center and Point No Point – Trip Report 3/9/18

Yesterday I took Annika and two of her friends on a fun outing over to the Kitsap Peninsula. We took the ferry over from Edmonds to Kingston, and from there it was a quick 20-minute drive to Poulsbo. Our destination was a small aquarium, the SEA Discovery Center, right on the water of Liberty Bay.…Continue Reading

Snowshoeing Wrap-up, January and February

I’ve done a couple of snowshoe trips since the New Year, and fully intended to write up a trip report for each, but decided that since time is passing away so quickly, I’ll just write up a blurb about our trips. Kachess Dam Road This is an easily-accessed area, just off the freeway in Easton…Continue Reading

Hazel Wolf Wetlands, Trip Report, 12/8/17

Edited to add: I wrote this back in December, but forgot to post it. Here it is! It’s still a lovely park to wander around, winter or summer. You may have noticed it’s been pretty quiet here on this blog. I’ve been dealing with my chronic foot and ankle issues, and have not been allowed…Continue Reading

Great American Eclipse – Trip Report, August 2017

The Great American Eclipse of last August is probably fading in your memories, but I wanted to document our trip to Central Oregon to see it. A lot of planning, ruminating, advice-getting, worrying, gear purchasing, and refining packing lists over and over went into this trip. Aaron elected to stay home to save his vacation…Continue Reading

Cutthroat Lake, Trip Report, 9/30/17

With my kids getting older, our schedules are getting fuller, and it’s more challenging to get an entire day for hiking out in the wilderness. But we were able to squeeze in a “quick” trip up to the North Cascades to see the larches turning colors a few weeks ago. We were not excited about…Continue Reading

Blue Lake (Mt. Baker) – Trip report, 9/16/17

After a summer of little hiking, I have been feeling ready to get back out on the trails. I’ve been wanting to go to Blue Lake for a few years now, ever since we were stymied by my car breaking down on the road up there back in 2014. This is one of those hikes…Continue Reading

Super Quick BC Road Trip to Banff – July, 2017

Our kids were at camp together for a whole week in July, so we thought we’d take a little trip without them. Aaron had a doctor appointment he had to go to, and one that would be difficult to reschedule, so we didn’t get out of town until 7:30 Monday evening. We made it smoothly…Continue Reading

Fragrance Lake Hike TR – June, 2017

I’m trying to fill in the gaps of kid-friendly trails we haven’t hiked on, and wanted to do something with an easy drive a couple of weeks ago. We slept in late on this beautiful morning, and it turned out Annika’s shoes were too small – once again, I had forgotten to get her new…Continue Reading

Spring Break 2017 – Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum

Our first full day in Tucson during our Spring Break trip brought us to the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. This was one of my top favorite spots on our journey. We got there fairly early, though I couldn’t convince everyone to get there at 7:30 am for a guided bird walk. (It’ll be just one more…Continue Reading