An Evening on the Tarlatt Trail

May 25, 2014 | 2 comments

Tarlatt Slough

Tarlatt Slough

Last night we sacrificed our usual Saturday night date with Judi Dench and Geoffrey Palmer (in the re-run of “A Time Goes By”) to go hiking.! It was a highly unusual undertaking for us and we wouldn’t have missed it for the world!

The occasion, “Listen to the Night,” was the first in a year-long series of events being sponsored by the Friends of Willapa National Wildlife Refuge. With dozens of others, we walked a mile-long track on the Refuge lands at the head of the bay, stopping at various ‘stations’ along the way where enthusiastic volunteers talked to us about what we were seeing and hearing and what the plans are to make the Refuge more user friendly.

Ben Walton, an avid birder (and hunter) talked to us about the importance of Willapa Bay as a primary migratory bird flyway – more than 100,000 geese counted during the big spring migration just a few weeks ago. He said that a prime viewing location (and where he does his count) is at Dan’s Oysterville Sea Farms, four blocks north of us.  We tried not to look smug or to say, “Yep, we know that! We watch from our house, too!”

Bear Scat

Bear Scat

Farther along the way, Community Historian colleagues Ellen Wallace and Betsy Millard talked about the importance of Tarlatt Slough as a Native American and early pioneer portage route.  And a bit farther on,  volunteers cautioned us to “Watch out for the bear scat” and to “Look to your right over the next rise to see the elk herd in the distance.” The bear scat we saw but the only herd we glimpsed in the distance were cows. We took the charitable view that the elk had moved on before we were in viewing range.

My favorite stop was to see the two little saw whet owls. I had never seen any ‘in person’ before, though I used to hear their distinctive metallic-sounding call when I lived on the bay on the old Douglas land claim. Josh Saranpaa, assistant director at the Wildlife Center of the North Coast (a bird rescue organization) talked to us about the saw whets. One has a permanently injured shoulder and the other is blind in one eye. Since they cannot be released back into the wild, they have become ambassadors for bird rescue, traveling with handlers to schools and other venues such as last night’s trail walk.

Saw Whet Owls

Saw Whet Owls

At the far end of the trail, Bob Duke had some serious looking telescopes set up for viewing the night sky. It was fairly clear, the moon was in its last quarter, a slight breeze kept the mosquitoes at bay (mostly), and it should have been a perfect night for taking a look upward. But it would be at least an hour before it would be dark enough and was already approaching our bedtime. When we decided that we’d give the telescope experience a miss, Bob kindly said that the fall sky would offer better viewing opportunities and suggested that we come back to a similar event planned for September.

Before we headed homeward, the president of the Friends of the Refuge, Clay Nichols, told us a bit about the plan for this particular part of the Willapa National Wildlife Refuge – the part called the Tarlatt Slough unit. Federal funding has already been appropriated but not yet allocated (or is it allocated but not yet appropriated?) for the construction of a Visitors’ Center and plans include a boardwalk path that will hook up with the already existing Discovery Trail and go clear to the bay. How fabulous!

All-in-all, we didn’t miss Judi or Geoffrey even once during the course of the evening.  Maybe that was because we did meet an amazing number of other friends and acquaintances along the way.  In fact, someone remarked that it felt like ‘old home week on the trail.’  But, I did realize as I sat down to sing the praises of the evening in this blog that I really don’t know the official name of the route we took. “Tarlatt Trail” sounds great, though, doesn’t it?


  1. Sandy Nielson

    It was so good of you and Nyel to come out Saturday night for our WOW evening at Tarlatt Slough. Impressive that you hiked as far as Bob Duke’s station!
    Wednesday and Thursday I was walking that same route with area 4th graders and by the time the day was over and I had walked back to the parking lot I knew I was dragging a bit.
    One question: do Oysterville residents re-name wild plants? I was surprised to find the name “cow parsnip” in your blog. Oh, oh, I thought because I had been calling it “cow parsley” on the field trip days. Could it be that I had given young minds misinformation?! Today when I looked it up, I found no reference to “cow parsnip” but cow parsley is also called wild chervil and Queen Anne’s Lace (I thought the latter was a completely different plant).
    Perhaps on next year’s field trips, I should identify the pretty white flower as “cow parsley” unless one lives up north in Oysterville where it is known as “cow parsnip.”

    • sydney

      Well, I’ve heard Oysterville residents accused of many things, but renaming plants is a new one! lol I’ve heard Heracleum lanatum, the plants I pictured in my May 22nd blog, referred to as “cow parsnip” all my life and you will find it listed as such in “Plants and Animals of of the Pacific Northwest” by Eugene N. Kozloff (University of Washington Press,1978) as well as in many other field guides. Cow parsnip is quite different from Queen Anne’s Lace (Daucus carota, sometimes called “wild carrot” as well as “cow parsley.”) Queen Anne’s lace is, as its name suggests, much lacy-er and is smaller and more delicate than the sturdy cow parsnips. But I am not an authority by any means. Kathleen Sayce could give you the straight scoop.



  1. WoW!! | Friends of Willapa National Wildlife Refuge - […] And read what our peninsula chronicler Sydney Stevens had to say in her posted blog - […]

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *