This will be another long post — there’s just so much to see at the Finley NWR! We were talking about the refuge awhile ago and I suggested we go last Friday. I decided to wear my big backpack with about 20 pounds in it for training purposes. The forecast was mainly for light rain with some wind, so we went prepared for that weather, but as soon as we got onto Highway 34 it started to snow!
Kangaroo was very nervous about driving in snow since she hadn’t experienced it in her new truck, but she did great. Once we arrived at the refuge office, she had to take a photo of Georgio, her truck, in the snow!
We enjoyed browsing the nature store, until the store volunteer lady came in and told us they weren’t open yet. If you aren’t open, you should lock the door to keep us out, ha! There were oodles of neat things in there!
After we left the store, we headed over across the road to our first trail, the Woodpecker Loop trail. We came in at the back of the trail, you can drive up to the actual trailhead a little ways further on. There were plenty of paper maps and signs available for following the trails.
The Woodpecker Loop trail goes through many different kinds of natural areas, including an oak woodland, oak savanna, seasonal wetland, riparian area, and ash swale.
We think we may have seen one woodpecker in the oak savanna part of the trail. This loop trail had a few nice information signs and cards.
We saw no frogs but I guess it isn’t quite time for them yet, I think they’re probably still hibernating or doing what amphibians do in the winter. We will have to come back later in the spring or in summer to see or hear them!
This natural area, the oak savanna, is now scarce. There was a photo on one informational sign that showed the area in the 1930s and in the 2000s, and how much the Douglas Fir trees have taken over. The property where I grew up and where Mom and Dad still live is an oak savanna. Here is a short video of the oak savanna area and the pavilion there, where we try to figure out where we saw the rare flowers last time we visited! (We did figure it out later, I think.) I believe they use the pavilion for educational purposes, but it would be a lovely place to stop and have a picnic lunch. On a clear day there is a very nice view of the mountains in the distance.
After the oak savanna you descend into an oak woodland, and then move to the riparian area. The sign for the riparian area said there might be raccoons, but we saw no raccoons.
After the riparian area we came out to the Woodpecker Loop trailhead parking lot. We decided to go to the road and turn left toward the buildings we wanted to visit.
On the way up the road, we visited another oak savanna area. The sign says some of the oaks are over 200 years old, but none of them were as big as the ones at Mom and Dad’s!
This is the John Fiechter house, built in 1855. Iwas the first lumber house built in the area and is the oldest house like this still standing in the area. If you want to read some fascinating history about the Willamette Valley and Benton County, check out the 1985 National Register of Historic Places nomination form for the Fiechter house. Once you scroll through the very extensive description of the house, you get to the neat history part. I love pioneer history, don’t you?
Here are some interior photos of the house (of course we had to peek in the windows!). All of the rooms we could see had these radiator heaters in them, and the heaters were on. The house does have electricity. The original idea back in 1985 was to use the house as a museum or for educational purposes, but that doesn’t seem to have happened.
Then we moved on to the Cabell Hunting Lodge.
We were disappointed not to be able to hike the Cabell Marsh Trail, but the trail is closed from November 1 through March 31 so nobody will disturb the Canada geese that overwinter there.
Since we couldn’t hike the marsh trail, we went up the Cabell Lodge road to this barn…and I asked Kangaroo if she wanted to open the door to see if there were any owls in there… 😀 But the doors were nailed shut. Rats!
Then we went to the other side of the barn and there was this sign. Oops! Oh well, I guess we didn’t really molest, damage, or steal anything!
We made our way back down the road towards the refuge office and store, and what do you think we saw, in real life? ELK!!
The elk were very far away across a field, but it was so neat to see them! We had never seen elk in real life on a hike, only once on the way to a hike when we were in the car. We walked up the road a little way and there was an actual viewing area with a sign, but by that time the elk had gone into the woods.
We saw some elk footprints — here is a photo of Kangaroo’s foot next to the elk prints.
Once we got back to the refuge office and store, we crossed the road again and instead of taking the Woodpecker Loop, we took the Mill Hill Loop. This sign has a nice map of the area.
The Mill Hill Loop was very muddy from all the recent rain and snow, and we walked slowly to avoid slipping in the mud!
We went back into the nature store before we left but didn’t make any purchases. I’m surprised I was able to resist all the fun things!
We saw a total of FIVE rainbows this trip!!
When we were done with our hike we went to Monmouth as usual and had DQ for lunch. The young man taking our order had a pointy stud in each nostril with a chain across to connect them. I said it looked like it hurt. “Does it hurt?” I asked. He assured me it didn’t. I told him I was glad and went to get my drink.
Just keep walking!