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Celebrating People, Places & the Good Life in SW Washington State
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Ending One Year and Starting A New One in Nature

I only went out for a walk and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in. ~John Muir

December 26, 2011. The weather is gray and thick with the usual probability of rain. With the passing of another Christmas (accompanied by too many cookies and glasses of rumified eggnog) and singing of Auld Lang Syne coming up, it’s a good day for a walk.

We’re back from Iceland where it was stunningly beautiful but too frigid to do much serious hiking. In our own backyard is the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge. Friends of the Ridgefield Wildlife Refuge also has an excellent Web site. No need for a passport or phrase book. A bird list is helpful, however. Ditto for waterproof boots (in case you accidently hike in the soupy grasslands like we did) and binoculars.

The route to the Refuge passes through the town of Ridgefield, which offers an excellent coffee break, either coming or going, at the Old Liberty Theater. About two miles down the road is the parking lot and the trailhead for the Carty Unit.

The Refuge has more than 5,000 acres under the Pacific Flyway. It’s an interstate highway for migrating waterfowl like trumpeter and tundra swans, sandhill cranes and seven sub-species of geese. Egrets and great blue herons linger year-round. This is the area where, in November 1805, Captain William Clark recorded a sleepless night in his journal due to the all-night cacophony of waterfowl.

Reading about the historic site at the trailhead.

After paying the $3 per party entrance fee at the parking lot, hiking in the Carty Unit begins with displays about the Cathlapotle Plankhouse, which has been re-created in the Refuge. Lewis and Clark documented 14 plankhouses in 1805. The Plankhouse is closed in winter but the exterior is visible.

The Cathlapotle Plankhouse

The Refuge offers straight trails and loops, which wind past stunning white oak trees wrapped in feathery lichen. Young ferns nurse in the air on branches covered in moss. Doug fir trees and spruce complete the woods which are heaped with native plants like Oregon grape and another checklist of understory plants.

A few photos of the Refuge:

The start of the trail.

A good hike for families.

Birdwatching in the grassland.

Ducks and a lone heron.

Ferns in the air.

Teasel.

Massive beaver lodge.

Egret on the hunt.

In flight.

One of the resident songbirds.

Green on green in the understory.

A surreal feathery world of moss and lichen.

It’s time to remember 2011 and celebrate 2012. In the words of John Muir, “In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.” May you have many encounters with nature in the New Year.

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