Saturday, June 27, 2009

A Ramble Under the Oaks

idyllic (pron: \ī-ˈdi-lik; chiefly British; adj.; date: 1856) 1: pleasing or picturesque in natural simplicity. 2: of, relating to, or being an idyll

I wouldn't have been surprised to see a painter in a floppy hat standing at an easel, paintbrush poised in mid-air. The mown fields of long grass next to the lake, the stands of knarled white oaks and the moody skies were straight out of an English landscape painting.

Walking the loop trail through the Oak Island portion of the Sauvie Island Wildlife Area is not so much a hike as a ramble along a rutted road through low-lying pastures and freshwater lakes. As a major nesting area and migration route for birds, it's also a perfect place to do some amateur birding, so take along your Sibley guide.

I was there with my neighbor Connie and her gentle giant of a yellow lab, Emmitt, who was graciously escorting Walker on his first foray into the wilds of Sauvie Island. And even though the rules require them to be leashed to protect the birds and other wildlife, the dogs were fascinated by the sounds of critters scurrying through the underbrush and the smells they left behind them. We humans, while not as constrained (except by our leashed dogs), were constantly trying to identify various birds that flew up from the fields as we passed.

As we entered the grove of oaks in the center, Connie pointed out the large eagle's nest at the top of an oak snag just off the trail. It's apparently one of five nesting pairs in the refuge, and we stopped to listen to the baby calling for its parents to bring some lunch, though they didn't show up while we were there.

So if you're looking for an easy walk through a pastoral setting, this is one to put on the list. Just ten minutes from town, this is perfect for out-of-town guests, a romantic picnic with a view over a lake or a place for city dogs to have a little walk on the wild side.

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