Wednesday, July 20, 2011

This Is Not A Birding Trip - 7/16 and 7/17

It had been a few weeks since I got back from the Big ol' Trip, and Bre thought it was time for the family to get the heck out of Dodge together.  She had work late Friday night, so we packed up Saturday morning to run off to Skamania and Klickitat Counties.

"Are you bringing your lists....", Bre asked (in a way that implied that This Was Not a Birding Trip)

"Um... You picked the county that I'm probably gonig to have the most trouble with... (we were staying in North Bonneville in Skamania County), but I know this isn't a birding trip."

Bre looked me over carefully, raised an eyebrow and kept packing.

Our kids have to be complimented - they really entertain each other fairly well most of the time when we head off on long road trips.  The DS came along, some coloring books, and a "Where Are They?" book that has kept them well occupied.  Bre and I cajoled them several times on the way down to stop and look out of the windows... "Look at the river!" "Look at the train!" "Look at the trees!"... and they've gotten very good at feigning temporary interest.  They keep the peace fairly well.

I-5 South between Seattle and Vancouver is a stretch Bre and I have gotten to know pretty well this year.  We stopped where the sun don't shine (the rest stop in Cowlitz County... and it continued to be true today.  I've never been there on a sunny day), and tried to get a picture of Bre's favorite spot, where the Columbia comes a little closer to the road, and you can see it lined with so much green and so many trees through the openings. 

On into Skamania County - "There it is... sitting like a sentinel over the Columbia..."

"How did I know you were going to say sentinel?" Bre mused.  She still hasn't warmed up to Beacon Rock.

We finally got to a point where we had to pull over, because the view was too great to pass up.

The kids got out, and we told them, "That... is the Columbia River."  Maura asked us how we knew it was the Columbia, and we talked about big rivers, and how this was the biggest river in our part of the country.  After a few more stops and Maura asking "What's that river?", it became a bit of a running joke for us.  Still, it was nice that they weren't just pretending to be interested here.  They were pretty impressed by the size of the river, how high above it we were, and how nice the scenery was around it.

Klickitat County

The drive at the start of our trip was a little ambitious - although we were staying in Skamania County, there were places we really wanted to visit in Klickitat.  I had found a winery(Waving Tree) right next to Maryhill State Park, and there was a wine I wanted Bre to try, so we refound it and did some tastings, coming away with a couple of bottles.  One of them was a Dessert Barbera - a sweet and sparkling (!) version of a normally quite dry red wine.  They don't do the champagne tops on the bottles, though, so they won't sell to people that are headed for, say, Seattle. 

After that stop, we were off to a place I had to skip on my trip - The Maryhill Museum of Art.  This is where I had found my first Lesser Goldfinch (and the grounds were full of them again, along with several Ash-throated Flycatchers).  We had to park on the far end of the lot, and as we got out of the car, the skies opened up and we got drenched.  It's amazing how little it rains here, but how hard it rains when it does.

Once we got in, we enjoyed...

Objects donated by Queen Marie of Romania...

...Rodin sculptures...

...and chess sets! (Maura and Declan's favorite part)

Outside, it had stopped raining, so we enjoyed the grounds for a bit.  I think Maura got the most out of this, splashing around in puddles in her rainboots, tumbling down the grassy hills, and enjoying the 'fuzzies' (if anyone knows what this low-growing plant is, I'd love to know). 

Golden Eagles? Ferruginous Hawks... didn't
find any, but... it wasn't a birding trip.
We left Maryhill in the late afternoon, and made our way to dinner in White Salmon, then on to the hotel.  All the way back, the sun was casting shadows on the hillsides.  We stopped three times on the way back (the limit that Bre put on herself for the drive... so many more stops would have been possible!)  We finally checked in to Bonneville Hot Springs Resort.  The kids put on the fancy robes to watch TV (finally!), and Bre set out for sunset pictures.

Skamania County

Bridge of the Gods - Skamania County

Sunset near Bridge of the Gods - Skamania County
The evening was lovely, and Bre and I were able to enjoy it from the deck.

From the balcony - Bonneville Hot Springs Resort
The next morning, I was up early, ready to walk some of the trails around the resort.  Once I was out the door, I realized it was raining again... hard.  I went back inside and asked the fellow at the desk for an umbrella.  I made it outside with flowery umbrella in hand, and lightning hit the hill above the resort.  At this point, I "had enough sense to get out of the rain" as they say.  No long birding walk before breakfast, but that's fine - this was not a birding trip.

Raven in the misty morning - not many
more birds were out this morning.
We had a great morning - Good breakfast, and an hour or so in the pool (the swim lessons are helping...), and mini golf... the most harrowing round of mini golf we've ever had.  Holes at the top of little hills... puddles at the bottom.  Dante, or maybe one of the Greek poets wrote about punishments like this. 

I did get out for 20 minutes before we left, and was amazed at how few birds there were!  Not a single flycatcher, warbler or vireo was singing in the woods on this July morning after a rain.  Once I got back, we were packed up and ready to go off on our hike.

Our hike

Falls Creek
 On the Internet, Falls Creek Falls was described as "a juggernaut" despite the fairly boring name.  We saw that it was 1.7 miles each way, so we got the kids out there with a full stomach.  It was a great start.  Kids were looking at plants (Maura and I played "Name that plant" for a bit, but the answer was "maiden-hair fern" too often, so she kind of gave up on that.)  Declan was moving pretty fast, as was Falls Creek next to us.

Licorice ferns
Things continued to be pretty un-birdy.  The only birds I heard on the entire walk were a Pacific Wren and a single flock of Golden-crowned Kinglets.  By the end of the walk, I'd found more species of fern than birds!  Sword ferns were the primary fern in a few areas, replacing the maiden-hair ferns, and one area also had licorice ferns.

We may have gotten about 3/4 of the way there when there were grumblings.  The kids really wanted to go back to the car, rather than continue for a waterfall.  It took a good bit of convincing to get them to continue, but in the end, we were successful:

Falls Creek Falls

Declan and I at Falls Creek Falls
Declan said it was "totally worth it", and Maura told us thanks for taking her to a 'real waterfall' (she's been to Snoqualmie Falls before, so this was a bit of a puzzle to me... but she liked it!)  The walk back was a little faster (downhill), and we were off to home.  Bre and I let Jill (our GPS unit) choose the route home, and I was happy to see that we would get to go on Forest Road 25.

Oh, whoops... not open
The change in plans added a half hour, but we made it home by evening.  Checking over lists at the end of the trip - 35 species for Skamania, and really nothing out of the ordinary: Osprey, White-crowned Sparrow, nearly all of the corvids (Western Scrub-Jay, American Crow, Common Raven, Steller's Jay), some finches, Canada Geese... but no Red-tailed Hawks, not a single pigeon, and no new warblers.  I'll be back later in the year once the ducks are back!

Not a birding trip, but a very good trip nonetheless!

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