You walk down a trail on the Olympic Peninsula and the Puget Sound, surrounded by mossy trees, millions of ferns piercing their green swords against the browns and reds of cedar trees the size of old-timey log cabins. You drop in elevation, crossing a few small streams, cross-able by stepping on large rocks or if you are lucky, a fallen tree carved into a wooden bridge. The air becomes intoxicating; the faintest hint of salt water is present. You round a corner, and through the thick Pacific Northwest undergrowth, you see the greenish waters, still from their protection from the wind, absent of all water life except for one picturesque, thin-legged beauty. Standing knee-deep, standing perfectly still, but not noticing you, bountiful plumage out for the world to see, a great blue heron becomes a breathtaking sight. This entire scene in front of your eyes becomes imprinted on your brain always expecting to see this sight at every lake and stream on the Olympic Peninsula.
This scene should be made daily, especially after a long day of work, with the stress of the office needing to be released and left behind, like a sturgeon in September, caught on the mighty Columbia. A walk to the water, to see the beauty of nature needs to always occur. This should the walk down the hallway to your bathroom or better yet the walk between your office and the car. I know this may sound too good to be true, that I am going to try and sell you a bridge in Brooklyn, but if you live or work in Olympia or Lacey, the sight of a great blue heron in a private area, far from boats and apartments is just eight short miles away.
The Chehalis Western bike trail is a great trail that we might get into later, but to everyone who goes there, the highlight should be what is at the very end. No, not the parking lot, equipped with restrooms and room for RVs and Campers. Nope, not the conservation area just down the road, with deer and seals nearly living there. No, the hidden gem is what is called the Overlook Trail, with the trail-head on the other side of the parking lot.
The Overlook Trail (less than a mile) at Woodard Bay Natural Resource Conservation Area is basically a summary of the entire Pacific Northwest. With a beautiful lush green forest like the one described above, complete with ferns, to a planned recreation area, with benches and awkwardly logged trails. The trail even ends with a viewpoint that is nearly always active with bald eagles and great blue herons, but the ending isn’t the rarest thing. The unique part of this trail isn’t what is on the trail, but what is above it. High in the birch and alder trees, giant nests little the canopy, with well over 100 of them stretch along either side of the trail. This is where the scene described above was born; this is great blue heron rookery.
Great Blue Herons, while nearly everywhere on the Puget Sound, seem to spend their lives in the water, but they are born and nest in the trees. They also don’t do it how it appears their lives are lived, all alone. Nope, they are apparently quite communal during this time period, and live very close to each other. These rookeries are all over the place, but finding one randomly on a trail is quite the experience, and this is the only one I have experienced. While this is a beautiful sight, it sadly isn’t one that is year round. Like most of the rookeries around the state, they are closed off during mating season. So if you have great timing, you might actually see the prehistoric looking birds in the trees above you. However, even without the birds, this scene, with hundreds of round flat nests, is truly amazing. In fact, you might just fall in love with the area, making this a ritual you do on your way home from work.
More info on Rookeries: http://wdfw.wa.gov/wildwatch/heroncam/heron_facts.html
Exotic Hikes: @Exotichikes on Twitter
Oh…and this is part of the drive….