On Walkabout to See What's Out There

Tulip Trek

By: BriarCraft, 9:57 PM GMT on April 30, 2012

The day was mostly cloudy and gray, but it wasn't raining. Time to get out and enjoy the nearby tulip fields. The grass was in need of mowing -- really, really, really in need of mowing. Did I care? Well, I did give it a moment's thought as I drove out the driveway and the little private road where I live. A moment later, just about the time the tires first touched on pavement, those thoughts, along with the too-tall grass were left behind.

The first order of business was to go into Toledo to rob the ATM, as I don't like going anywhere without a bit of cash on hand. In rural areas such as this, debit and credit cards can be useless at times.

Then it was about face and head out for my Sunday afternoon drive past Toledo airport. It has a handful of planes in hangars, a repair shop and gas pump, the primary activity that takes place there is Skydive Toledo. It would have been a good day for jumping out of a perfectly good airplane, but apparently there were no thrill-seekers just then.

Heading east on US-12, it wasn't long before the prairie gave way to the foothills of the Cascade Range. Before long, I came to a sign pointing the way to Mayfield Dam. I hadn't been there in awhile and I had never shared it with WUville denizens.

As the road wound between hills down toward the dam, I was treated to an added springtime bonus. A different sort of dam with her foal. There was no resisting the smile that touched my lips, even as I reached for the camera.

Mayfield Dam has no particular claim to fame. It's just a small hydroelectric dam on the Cowlitz River, tucked into the hills with a fair-sized reservoir behind it. It's a popular place for boating and fishing with a few boat ramps and a state park campground. The only real amenity is the view, but that's enough for me.

A few miles farther east, between the towns of Mossyrock and Morton, is the DeGoede Bulb Farm and Gardens. DeGoede has a large nursery and several greenhouses, but it's main claim to fame is the tulips. 300 to 500 acres of tulips. Because of the cool spring, the tulips were 2-3 weeks behind schedule this year, so they were just coming into full bloom.

DeGoede welcomes the public to drive onto their property, park their cars, and wander along the edge of the fields. They don't charge admission, because they know this is the best way to generate customers for the bulbs that will be for sale in late summer.

I wasn't alone in my desire to spend some time enjoying the blooms. It was nice to see that, while there were no employees to stand watch, the public acted with respect for the farm and the flowers. Nobody cut flowers. Nobody stole bulbs. They simply stood and looked or took pictures, and some made note of the names written on stakes at the end of the rows.

Tulip Field Collage

Tulip Collage

Ridgefield National Wildlife Preserve

By: BriarCraft, 5:25 AM GMT on April 17, 2012

Sunday morning dawned with bright sunshine and blue skies, but by the time we hit the road, high clouds had grayed the sky and eliminated most shadows. Still, the temperature was pleasant and the air was calm. We headed south, along the I-5 freeway toward Portland. We had a couple of errands to run first, before heading to our destination, the Ridgefield National Wildlife Preserve, on wetlands along the shore of the Columbia River about 50 miles south of home.

Heading south on I-5 along the Columbia River. Thank a fast shutter speed for this photo taken while driving 70 mph.

There are two sections in the Preserve and they are separated by the town of Ridgefield, Washington. One contains a replica of a cedar plankhouse of the type that Lewis and Clark found here in Cathlapotle Village of the Chinook people. There is also a 2-mile wetlands trail with views of nearby Carty Lake.

The other section and our destination was the 4.2 mile River "S" discovery auto tour in and around the wetlands. There is one 1.5 mile hiking trail in this section, open May-September. An auto tour is just the ticket for someone like me who has limited mobility and many perfectly fit people enjoy it as well.

Entry into the River "S" unit of the preserve is by way of a rustic one-lane plank bridge.

Fun signs are posted along the drive as a reminder to visitors to stay in their vehicle.

The first thing we spotted upon entering the preserve was a River Otter. He came bounding over a little mound of grass, slid into the water, dove and came up with a little fish, which he hardly chewed at all, then disappeared under the water not to be seen again. Unfortunately, the little fellow was moving too fast for me to get a shot on full zoom before he disappeared. Here is a photo I found on the University of Michigan website:

Some views of the preserve:

Every time I visit the Ridgefield National Wildlife Preserve, there are many different birds to see. Some are in residence year-round, others come just for the winter or to nest, and still others just stop off for a rest on their way to distant lands.

The views of the author are his/her own and do not necessarily represent the position of The Weather Company or its parent, IBM.