Signs of Spring at Whychus Canyon Preserve

Apr 19, 2012
Eva Eagle reflects on her first hike of spring.


By Eva Eagle

On April 9, I had the pleasure to help Mary Crow lead a Land Trust hike at Whychus Canyon Preserve. The route is sometimes known as the ‘mountain goat walk,’ thanks to a few steep sections where having four feet might be quite helpful. Our group, a full complement of guests and leaders, had no problem with the terrain but respected its difficulty as we made our way down the steep canyon trail.

With the late arrival of spring, this was a welcome hike.  We were favored with a mild day after many stormy ones, yet it was still fairly cool as we descended into the canyon. The signs of spring were subtle--flickers drumming in the treetops, Idaho fescue bunches showing new green close to the earth, sand lily leaves poking through the sandy soil, and a few tiny gold star flowers among the dust. Whychus Creek was flowing rapidly, no doubt too rapidly for the health of the fish that would like more friendly habitat, but the sound alongside our canyon bottom trail was delightful.

Mary knows Whychus Canyon Preserve well, and we were favored with her observations about everything from geology to flowers to badgers to knapweed. We enjoyed watching the aerial displays of tree swallows near the western rimrock, then the more pedestrian, but still very colorful “Rock Doves” (aka “Feral Pigeons”), as they explored possible nest sites. 

Strolling along the creek was pleasant indeed, and it was all too soon that we were heading back up to the canyon rim. This is truly a mountain goat-like section of trail, often testing the stride length of short folk like myself. Then we spread out on The Boulders to enjoy lunch with a view.  As if the canyon and the mountains weren’t enough, we also watched the steady upstream flight of a bald eagle and the circling of turkey vultures above the opposite wall of the canyon.

Of course, once at The Boulders we still had two miles to go to the trailhead, starting with an uphill slog. But the footing was good, the sun was out, and the old growth trees were beautiful. Drawing close to the gate, we looked over remnants of an old homestead and made up stories about some of the artifacts we saw.  Before long we were heading out the gate and back up the road to our cars, pleasantly tired and relaxed after our five mile loop.

Thank you Mary!  And thanks to Karen, Ehrhard, Elke, David, Andy, Dwayne, Greg, Jodi, Jean, … for making this hike a great First of the Season for me.