Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge
October 1, 2005

If I went to the mountains, I would get rained on. If I went to the desert, I would spend far too much in gas. If I went to the coast I would have too much fun. That left something really local as the only recourse, and that mean the Nisqually once again. The trail was completely flat, it was only ten miles away, and I might get to see some pretty birds.

When I was here in April, I remembered the land being much more brown, which seemed surprising given the warm, dry summer that Puget Sound experienced this year. Berries of various shades were drying and withering as winter approached, but I found some interesting white ones that I had never seen before, and these in excellent shape.

As walked down the loop trail and reached the water, an incongruity struck me: Some of the trees had already dumped their leaves, while others were just experiencing leafchange. A tree full of pale greens and golds would stand next to one which was barren.

I liked being out in the smells, but the sound of the interstate was omnipresent, as were the signs warning you not to leave the roadlike "trail". I wanted to walk out to the water, but the last time I did I upset one of the local volunteers, for doing so was most definitely against the rules. Instead, I settled into a photoblind, well furnished with graffiti, which looked out onto some stagnant water. There might have been a duck or two out there, I suppose.

I sat inside the blind for a while, but didn't have the patience to wait for a crane or something more interesting than a duck to come by and left after a few minutes. It was raining further north, which provided some interesting clouds and light to record.

I shouldn't complain too much as I knew what was here before I drove out. If I wanted some wildness, I should have wandered around the rainforest in the Olympics instead. I spotted a pack of Canadian Rats, known in other places as geese, when I turned onto the final leg of the square loop. I took a picture, which another walker thought was rather funny. It was humorous when looked at in the right light: I was just like the tourists who take pictures of a deer on the road in Rainier, or a coyote in the Grand Canyon.

I left the walker and returned to the visitors center, a bit hungry for lunch and wishing that I had had more drive to go somewhere a bit more remote and interesting this weekend.


From Lakewood, drive I-5 south to exit #114, which is signed Nisqually. At the end of the off ramp, make a right and follow the signs to the refuge. There are two parking lots on either side of the visitors center. Park in the very first one and you'll spot the Brown Farm, or Dike, Trail immediately (it is the large board walk). The Brown Farm/Dike route is a little over 5 miles and is flat the entire way. After the boardwalk gives out, the dike trail is sufficiently road like that my Camry could drive it without issue. The trail loops around the wetlands and returns to the visitors center. You'll have to pay a $3 fee per family (as the sign says) or have some sort of pass (Golden Eagle works). The refuge closes at sundown.