Cottonwood Beach & Columbia River Dike & Steigerwald NWR Hike

Hike Distance: 8.7 miles      Yearly Hike Distance: 1743.0 miles

Elevation Gain: 486 feet      Yearly Elevation Gain: 227276 feet

My hiking friend, Marshall, has never been to this area before and so I was glad to take him on a tour of this beautiful area.  It was a very windy day and the wind chill was definitely on the cold side.

We started out by exploring the Cottonwood Beach area, which was devoid of wind due to the trees acting as a wind break.  There were Bald Eagles, and a large offspring, high up in the Cottonwood Trees,  The parents took flight and were a joy to watch!  The young one was rather large but appeared to not be able to fly. 😦  The sun reflections on the Columbia River were stellar, and I took many photos.

We headed out on the Columbia River Dike after exploring the beach.  The easterly wind was harsh, but we went clear to the end of this trail, where a locked fence resides.  We stopped for a snack, and sat on the concrete bench at the east end of the trail.

We headed back west on the dike and turned right toward Steigerwald Lake.  We explored the two bridge areas and stopped to take photos of the many birds in the area.  One funny occurrence was that we saw a Harrier on top of a post twice while walking in this area, but it always managed to fly away before we could take pictures.  Oh well, the art of photographing birds is definitely not my strong point.  haha

While between the bridges, on the Steigerwald Lake trail, we came upon a couple of large Nutria browsing near the trail.  These are basically invasive rodents that are very successful in this area. 😦  These two Nutria acted domesticated, and didn’t even move when we approached them.  We were feet away and they didn’t even flinch.  People must be feeding them, without realizing they’re basically destructive rats. 😦

Next, we headed back toward the cars and took a last side trip to Cottonwood Beach.  It was a bit longer hike than expected but very nice.  We had a great time!


Seaquest State Park Hike

Hike Distance: 6.0 miles      Yearly Hike Distance: 1734.3 miles

Elevation Gain: 855 feet      Yearly Elevation Gain: 226790 feet

We were headed out to a new location for a forest walk and found an active logging operation!  It sucked, and we couldn’t go due to safety (and the area was closed).  So, my son found that Seaquest State Park was close by, and we drove out there.

We parked at the east end of the Mt. St. Helens Visitor’s Center, which is within the park.   We parked at this location as it’s located next to a tunnel that connects the visitor center to the northern section of the park.   It will become obvious why we parked here, from the trip report.  Note that this park is on the NW corner of Silver Lake.

There is a marsh with a one mile boardwalk/trail located just south of the parking area.  This small loop trail is nothing short of fantastic, and is worth coming out here just for the stellar views!  We traversed this loop and really enjoyed the views of the marsh, Silver Lake and the surrounding hills.  It was a bit disappointing to see duck hunters, putting down decoys, just off the trail.  Just to repeat, I have nothing against responsible hunting, but there are NO HUNTING signs on both ends of the trail, and this is a State Park, which NEVER allows hunting!!!  I went in the visitor center to report this violation, and was greeted by employees that showed no concern and were indifferent, and mentioned they were shooting all morning.  They said the’d report it to the park rangers, but we still heard shots after we left.  My grievance is that people need places where they don’t have to be around hunters, or gun shooting, and where they can feel safe.  We often go to state parks during hunting season for this reason alone.  It’s not asking much to have a few outdoor safe zones for people/families that want to enjoy the outdoors without the risk of getting shot, and state parks are usually those places!

After completing the small loop hike, we headed out to the tunnel to access the trail system on the northern end of this park.  The trail system on the north side is much more extensive, and there’s plenty to explore. 🙂  There are maps on the trail, and you’ll need to use them to get around.  I couldn’t explain the contorted path we took, but suffice it to say that we looped around the boundary of the park and also hiked a few of the side trails.  There is a camping area in the park, and the trails seem to go off, like in wheel spokes from this area.

The forest in the park is in very good shape, with a very healthy forest, and lush under story.  The state park has been working on improving this forest, and it shows.  There is no ivy, that I remember, crawling up the trees, which is amazing.  Most of the trails are clear and easy to navigate.  There are a few roads in the park that are used like trails, so don’t be surprised.

I wanted to go at least seven miles, but it was late, and getting dark.  This area is definitely worth visiting, if for nothing else than the small loop hike near the visitor center!