New Years trip to Washington – Part 6

Well we plan another easy day as it’s getting late in the trip and I think we are all tired from all the visiting and traveling that has been done. Today it was decided to go to a nature reserve for a short drive and walk, as the weather is finally getting rainy. Imagine that, rainy weather in the Pacific Northwest during winter.

This 5,150-acre (2,084 ha) area of marshes, grasslands and woodlands, named the Ridgefield National Wildlife Reserve is just north of Vancouver, WA and is one of 4 reserves located along the Columbia River in the greater Vancouver area. Established in 1965 to protect waterfowl, it was established with the 3 other refuges in the Willamette Valley for wintering birds migrating and nesting from Alaska.

The area includes a 2-mile (3.2 k) self-guided walking trail that’s objective is to showcase the Columbia River Watershed, the 4.2-mile (6.75 k) auto tour route and a seasonal 1.2-mile (1.9 k) hiking trail.

Managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service it protects sandhill cranes, various shorebirds, and a large variety of songbirds, mallards, great blue herons, and red-tailed hawks. Mammals calling the reserve home include deer, coyote, raccoon, skunk, beaver, river otter, and brush rabbits.

The refuge consists of five sections, each unique in habitat supporting the wildlife that reside there. Two of these sections are open to public visitation and enjoyment, while the remaining three are kept as sanctuary for wildlife to rest, nest and escape human disturbance. This maintains an important balance for those species less tolerant to human presence to thrive in an increasingly urban area.  The visitors then get the chance to view and experience wildlife and habitat, receiving the many benefits of being out in nature.

The Columbia River has long sustained human population and dates back long before Euro-American arrived. There have been large Native American settlements found on the reserve. The refuge also preserves the most intact archaeological site on the lower Columbia River with evidence of at least 2,300 years of continuous human occupation. That history and culture is interpreted through the Cathlapotle Plankhouse built in 2005 and open to visitors on the weekends in the spring and summer. The plankhouse was built to represent the buildings Lewis and Clark might have found here at their Wapato Portage village.

Since we are visiting in January we are not to leave the car due to the large flocks of geese and ducks nesting in the area between October 1st and April 30th. The cars become your movable animal blind as the birds are accustomed to the vehicles presence. There is an observation blind halfway along the route you can park and take the short hike out to it.

There are 14 interpretive markers and signs along the way along the one-way road. It was a fun drive as we were one of the few vehicles in the reserve on this weekday morning. We saw many birds, mammals and 2 deer along our route. When we left the car to hike to the blind my grandson had an old cell phone that he uses to take photos and he was just shooting away at all the details on the forest floor trying be like his Dad, it was so cute.

It has been a tiring week of visiting family, meeting new people and seeing new sights so we leave at lunchtime to head home for a late lunch as I need to pack and rest for my drive home.

New Years trip to Washington – Part 5

We take a day to rest, clean and organize our things from the adventure at Tillamook State Forest then decide to head north from Vancouver, WA for a day trip to Battleground Lake to enjoy the nature surrounding it. Being winter it is raining off-and-on today, so we go down to the lakeshore so my grandson can have some fun trying to fill the lake with rocks he finds on the shoreline. This is something he really enjoys, he has thrown rocks at Mt Adams, into the Snake River in Grand Teton National Park and now here. Kids are so funny how they entertain themselves. We discussed hiking the trail that goes around the lake but decided that with the rain it would just be a slick mess.

 

 

After our short stay at the lake we head to The Cedar Creek Grist Mill just outside Etna south of the Lewis River along scenic Cedar Creek. A gristmill grinds grain into flour using nature’s forces, usually water being run by a water wheel. The first water-powered mill was reported around 71 BC in Asia Minor. Grain mills in England were counted in the 1086 Domesday Survey In England, which stated there were 5,624, or about one for every 300 inhabitants that year, peaking to 17,000 by 1300.

Cedar Creek Grist Mill is a working museum allowing visitors inside to observe the workings of the mill built in 1876. Samples are given to visitors after the tour of the facility. This is a totally nature driven mill using the water flowing through a plumb to a Leffel turbine installed with its flume (water canal) around 1888. Pulleys, and belts turn the milling stone producing flour, corn meal and sometimes apple cider.

 

 

Resting on a steep and rocky slope in the narrow gorge of Cedar Creek, it is the only gristmill in Washington that still maintains its original structure, mills with stones, and is water powered, this is also the oldest building in Washington State still producing its original product.

 

 

The last owner died in the late 1950’s and the property was bought by The State Fisheries Department in 1961 that removed the old dam and built a fish ladder. The Fort Vancouver Historical Society leased the mill in 1961 and had it registered as a National Historical Place.

Time, weather and vandals took its toll by 1980. “The Friends of the Cedar Creek Grist Mill”, a non-profit corporation, was formed to save the old mill. Using period tools consisting of axes and adzes they replaced the damaged posts and beams. Due to a dam removal in 1961 they had to now get water into the mill, extending the flume 650 feet where the water from the creek could flow into the intake without the dam.

Next to the mill is a covered bridge across Cedar Creek. There is no history on the first bridge although it was completely replaced by a truss bridge in 1935. The 1935 bridge could not support heavy loads, so in 1994 a new covered bridge spanning Cedar Creek was built.

 

 

Sadly it was closed on this weekday right after the holiday but peeking in the windows demands a return visit when it is open.

New Years trip to Washington – Part 1

Getting up before dawn I left home in Orange County to head for my first nights stay in Eureka, CA. 682 miles and 11 driving hours from home. It was going to be a long day that took me up Interstate 5 to Interstate 580 through the east San Francisco Bay Area, up to Richmond and across the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge to link to Highway 101. This bridge is the northernmost east-west crossing of the bay. Opened in 1956 the tolls are only collected heading west.

 

 

Connecting to Highway 101 I continue up this iconic road through the California Redwoods and my destination for the day Eureka, CA and a cozy room for the night.

1 to Eureka-5

Highway 101

I used Air BnB to locate this very comfy, quiet room with a separate entry and bath in a residential neighborhood in the south east of the city. Colorful Corner was all that it was advertised and the host Patricia was a marvelous person to meet. We talk via email before my arrival, she gave me suggestions for places to have dinner and to visit on my way north the next day. Along the way Patricia texted me that she might not be home when I arrived and gave me the access code to the room, Although when I did arrive, after 12 ½ hours of travel time, she was home and we had a delightful talk as I dropped my things in the room and headed out to dinner.

 

 

A port city on Humboldt Bay in Northern California, Eureka’s Old Town district and throughout the city features beautiful Victorian homes in all states of repair. The bay was overlooked by early European Explorers and not settled until 1849 when it was discovered by an overland expedition. The second largest bay in California was the jumping off point and base for the early gold miners of Northern California who did not want to take the long overland trip from Sacramento. Eureka got its name from the eager gold miners of the day, its Greek meaning “I have found it” is also the state motto of California. Timber, shipping, fishing, boating and a strong commercial district has shaped the largest coastal city between San Francisco, CA and Portland OR throughout it’s history and to this day.

The cool Mediterranean climate has an average high August temperature of 64.3 °F (17.9 °C) and an average December temperature of 47.8 °F (8.8 °C) With an average of 40.3 inches (1,024 millimeters) of rain per year falling on an average 119 days during the year. The city might also be covered in a blanket of fog for most of the year.

Climbing into bed, exhausted, I appreciated the warm, comfortable, quiet room and slept like a baby until the next morning.