Saturday, March 29, 2014

Skagit Wildlife Area - Headquarters (Skagit) Unit - March 27, 2014

I was on the tail end of a nasty cold and cycling, skiing, or hiking didn't sound too good.  I opted for an easy drive up to the Skagit Valley for some easy walking and birding.  A stop at Pleasant Ridge Farm in Rexville and the Breadfarm in Edison would add a hunting and gathering element.  Plus the daffodils would be at peak but still too early for tulips.

The Skagit Wildlife Area - Headquarters (Skagit) Unit is one of 16 separate units in the Skagit region owned and managed for the benefit of wildlife by the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife (WDFW).  The Skagit Unit includes 190 acres of mostly estuary and tidal wetland.  This is also stop 64 on the Cascade Loop of the Great Washington State Birding Trail.

Great Washington State Birding Trail

I parked at the big parking lot at the eastern end.  I checked out the boat ramp where an old barge was tied.  I followed the only path here, which is the dike trail that is basically a gravel road on and next to a newly constructed dike.  The path forks at the tide gate on Wylie Slough so you have two options.  I took the left path, basically out and back, for a total of two miles for the day.  It was a beautiful day of clearing weather with big clouds and blue skies.  The trees had not yet leafed out but the salmonberry was in bloom as the harbinger of spring.  An eagle's nest was already active.

I ran into a gentleman on a bicycle along the way who explained some of the controversy surrounding a recent restoration project in this area.  He spoke with a Scottish brogue and had a beautiful and very friendly golden lab.  So bicycles and dogs are probably allowed here.

The recent controversy is the Wiley Slough Restoration Project implemented in 2009 to restore 157 acres back to tidal estuarine habitat primarily to help with Chinook salmon recovery.  The 157 acres had been formerly diked off from tidal and river influence and was readily accessible to walk-in hunters and wildlife watchers.  The recovery operation involved the removal of the old dikes and the moving of the Wylie Slough tide gate to open the area to tidal and riverine flooding.  New dikes were constructed further away from the river.  The restoration project reduced the area of access that hunters formerly had.  You can now see a lot of dead trees in the restoration area, trees that cannot tolerate wet feet or brackish water.

It was a great few hours here, added a new bird to my list (Greater yellowlegs), and I learned a little something.
Entrance to Skagit Wildlife Area
Old barge at the boat launch
Dike trail
Cattails fading
Eagle's nest
Looking out to Skagit Bay
Satellite view and the route (adapted from
Bird list for the day:

Canada Goose
Trumpeter Swan
Northern Shoveler
Northern Pintail
Green-winged Teal
Ring-necked Duck
Hooded Merganser
Common Merganser
Great Blue Heron
Northern Harrier
Bald Eagle
Red-tailed Hawk
American Coot
Greater Yellowlegs
hummingbird sp.
Tree Swallow
Black-capped Chickadee
American Robin
European Starling
Spotted Towhee
Song Sparrow
Golden-crowned Sparrow

Sunday, March 16, 2014

McClinchy Mile Bike Ride 2014

I have always wanted to go for this bike ride but circumstances have never worked out.  Ride day forecast was for the imminent rain to hold off until the afternoon.  Stoked with a bowl of granola and a fruit smoothie, I hit the road for the ride start in Arlington.  I landed a parking spot just steps from the registration desk.  It goes without saying that early start/early arrival has advantages, though parking appeared ample.  This ride is certainly not among the "big" rides.  I had pre-registered on Active, which was an exercise in offer-avoidance (ugh!).  No numbers were issued, just a green wrist band to wear.  The route cues were well marked on the road surface.

I opted for the shorter 34 mile semi-loop from Arlington to Stanwood out-and-back.  This was my first "longer" ride of the season; a kind of shake-down cruise.  It was the perfect distance for me at this time.  The route is mostly flat with a little roll here and there.  The vehicle traffic was light except through Arlington, Stanwood, and around SR530 and Interstate 5 where just a little additional caution was needed.  Much of the route is on uncrowded rural roads where the occasional passing vehicle gave wide berth.

The best thing about this route is that it traverses some gorgeous farm countryside in the lower Stillaguamish Valley with beautiful old barns, some well-kept, others crumbling in decay covered in blackberry brambles.  I passed an occupied nest of bald eagles high up in a cottonwood tree right next to the road.  In a few places the route hugged the Stillaguamish River for a short distance.

On the return back to Arlington, the wind had picked from the southeast making for a little extra effort.  I could feel the last few small hill climbs into Arlington that told me the relatively flat 34 miles was just right.  The rain held off.  Satisfyingly, I was passed by no one.  I did pass a number of riders myself.  Perhaps the strong riders opted for the 48 miler.  Maybe next year.  Either way, I'd do the McClinchy Mile again.

The McClinchy Mile Bike Ride is a fund raiser for B.I.K.E.S. Club of Snohomish County

Parking ample at the start.  Haller Middle School, Arlington, WA
Registration uncrowded.
The bucolic lower Stillaguamish Valley.
Midway rest stop at Stanwood Middle School, Stanwood, WA.

The Stillaguamish River, high and turbid.
Well kept old farm house in the lower Stillaguamish Valley.
The grain mill in Silvana, WA.
The route via