Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge

Pine Lake Loop TrailAfter visiting Steptoe Butte, I kept on driving north to Cheney (45 more miles or so) and Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge. The primary inhabitants of the refuge are birds, specifically waterfowl. I do not possess the skills or patience to photograph birds (and I didn't try), but I saw and heard many different types.

My love of duckies has been documented before. At Turnbull, there were several different kinds of ducks, geese, and swans. Most of them were hanging out in the Pine Creek area; there's a short loop trail that goes around the area and as I walked around it, the waterfowl would shift to a different part of the lake. A gaggle of geese was so offended by my presence that they just got up and flew off and didn't return until I left the trail. I did see a lovely bluebird in a tree, though.

On the trail, I saw a lot of mammal poop. However, the only mammals I saw were the eight million or so chipmunks that appear to be the official park guides. The lack of large mammal sighting was not unexpected; the trail was paved, after all, so it wasn't like I was in the deep forest. There are three longer trails that go along the outskirts of the refuge, away from the paved area and away from the gravel (loud) road. I'm sure there are mammals back there, and I'll see them when I go back to Turnbull in a couple weeks and drag my buddy Mary along with me—she's dumping her husband for a few days and coming up to hang out before school starts and she has to teach a bunch of freshmen. But I digress.

The bulk of visitors to Turnbull follow the 5.5 mile gravel "auto tour," and I did the same. Along the way, there are little stops with short little walks out toward ponds and what not. I took advantage of the ones at Pine Lake, the Kepple Lake overlook, and Blackhorse Lake. When I go back, we'll do the 30-Acre Lake trail through the middle of the auto tour area, but also the Headquarters Trail to the end of Cheever Lake and the Bluebird Trail which I believe houses a ton of bluebirds.

Although I didn't see any large mammals in Turnbull, it really is a lovely place for a walk or three. I got my mammal fix in on the drive home. Somewhere between Plaza and Rosalia on the drive back down 195, two deer were walking through the fields just twenty or thirty feet from the highway. Then, just after the llama farm in Colfax, I looked over to the left at a bunch of trees on the hillside and thought of the shade and cover they provided and thought, "If I were a deer, that would be a lovely place to hang out." No joke, a deer then walked out from under the trees.