Thursday, July 5, 2012

Hike 15 of 47 - Skagit Wildlife Refuge

Two words describe Skagit Wildlife Refuge in Mount Vernon, WA....flat and peaceful. Never having been to this location that is just a stones throw away from home, I thought it would be perfect for a short walk before work on this fine, sunny 4th of July. I had read the most recent trip reports, jotted down the driving directions, loaded up my pack and Jack and headed to Fir Island. Arriving less than 10 minutes after leaving home, I was the only car in the southern parking lot. 

There is certainly plenty of parking here and by the time I was situated and ready to walk, three more cars had pulled into the lot. There is a privy in the parking lot; look carefully as it is somewhat hidden by bushes. I thought it was just a storage shed!

Mount Baker is hiding behind these clouds.
Jack and I followed the gravel road out of the parking lot and turned right onto the dike. There is a gravel ramp for bikes, wheelchairs or strollers. We walked a very flat 9/10's of a mile following the waters edge. There was a lot of water to our left and a slough or something off to our right, hidden by bushes, that provided a constant sound of trickling or rushing water. The entire way we heard various birds chirping and the wind blowing gently through the trees.
Watching the little bird flit from branch to branch

We ambled on until the road became overgrown. We turned around and headed back the other way, dropping off our doggy bag when we passed the parking lot. Heading left on the dike from the parking lot, in approximately 4/10's of a mile you arrive at an even larger parking lot, a more modern bathroom and a "boat launch". We turned around here after Jack got a drink of water and headed back to our car.
Although I didn't have any kids with me today, this is a great place to take kids for a walk. I'm looking forward to bringing my grandson back in the winter and spring. I saw a HUGE nest in a tree across the water, not sure who built it though; perhaps an eagle or a blue heron? 
BIG nest!
There were tons of birds chirping the entire way. Not being very knowledgeable about birds, I could only identify robins, ducks and gold finches. Previous trip reports mentioned benches, but the only benches that I could see were across the water and sitting in the water. From looking at previous trip report photos, it seemed like there was more water than normal today. 

There are various hunting blinds along the way (is that what those things are called, the place where the hunters hide?). Posted along the way are many signs warning of hunting from September 1 - March 15. I'm not anti-hunting if hunters are providing food for their families, however it seems odd to me that we have a beautiful wildlife refuge, yet hunting  is allowed within the refuge. Especially considering that there are THOUSANDS of snow geese that come here, and snow geese mate for life. 

Looked like a place you'd buy nachos and candy at a Little League game.
This park was very clean. I saw only one piece of trash, which I picked up and brought home to throw away. I came across young families, nature photographers and seniors out walking. I was dismayed to see that I was the only one with my dog on a leash. A couple of dogs were under good voice control, but others were not. I do feel that because this is a wildlife refuge,allowing dogs to run loose and frighten the birds is less than desirable. 

Jack in front of the boat ramp aka dog cooling-off area
My GPS measured about 2.5 miles, but I wandered over to explore the covered area and the bulletin boards in the parking lot. According to the bulletin boards, there are plans to reclaim some of the lost area. I believe floods in years past altered the area quite a bit which probably explains the benches in the water. You do need a Discover Pass here. Be sure to bring your own doggy bags and be prepared to take them home with you., along with any trash as I didn't see any dispensers for doggy bags, nor any trash cans.
Looking northwest, the surrounding farmland is beautiful, too!

If you visit this location via I-5, you will pass this beautiful church in Conway. 
Driving directions from the WTA website ( ): 

Take Interstate 5 to Exit 221. Go west from the freeway and turn right on to Fir Island Road, following the sign for Conway/La Conner. In 1.8 miles, turn left onto Wylie Road and follow for 1 mile to a T-intersection and a Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife sign. Turn left and follow the signs to either of the two parking lots.