Paradise Campground

_DSC1365 There is a road…there is always a road, with us…there is a road that crosses east to west, from Eugene to Sisters in the great green state of Oregon.  This road is called the McKenzie Highway (126), as it parallels the McKenzie River.  There are parts of this river that are good for fishing, rafting, and then there are parts that are good for just being still and watching.  _DSC1360 _DSC1359 _DSC1357Fishing in the McKenzie River could yield Chinook salmon, mountain whitefish, and two varieties of trout. Various ducks as well as bald eagles and ospreys feast on these waters.  The river is also the sole source of tap water for the communities of Eugene and Springfield.  If one was serious about birding, one might search the dense forest on the west side of the basin in Linn County to see if they could find the threatened Northern Spotted Owl.
_DSC1353 For us, we were simply seeking respite from the road, and a good ole geocache.  We got more than we were searching for, though, with these stellar views.  It is a place we would love to come back to and spend more time, perhaps camp for a while.  This spot we found truly was Paradise._DSC1346

Mike Driscoll Park

20150526_163435“Every time…”.
That’s what my husband says when we make the turn from Beltway 8 northbound to head west on the Westpark Tollway.

This is in response to what has been reduced to a simple gesture from me, or the beginning of a statement, something like “Someday, I want to…” or “Have I ever told you…”

This is a habit I developed in response to seeing Mike Driscoll Park there on our right. I’ve apparently been telling him I want to go there someday for years.  Finally I had a chance to go last week, when my plans for the day were canceled and I found myself with some time.  I loaded up the two youngest kids and we just went.

Basically, the park consists of a small playground and then a paved trail around a retention pond. This picture is after the recent rains (Memorial weekend historic flooding).  Usually, there is little to no water in this pond area.

The paved trail is a little over a mile long, and it has one big dip in it at the far end that was still able to be traversed by stroller. Some flowers were blooming at the waters edge, we saw a handful of bird species, and the trail had more shade than I 20150526_163538originally thought. We also found a handful of geocaches along our walk, along with a few mosquitos and a couple “rolly pollys”.
I would go again, though next time wearing more bug spray and perhaps when it was a little less wet there.  My middle son got his shoes soaking wet in the playground and we were unable to get to some of the geocaches that were hidden here due to water and bugs.

Maybe now, though, I will quit driving my husband crazy whenever we pass it. I think I got the desire to explore it put of my system for a bit

20150526_163431 Continue reading Mike Driscoll Park

Willow Waterhole

20150508_110419Last week, I flew the coop again.  I was waiting on a friend who didn’t appear, and I didn’t want to lose another day to my living room, so I loaded the stroller and left to explore a park that I had been reading about and hadn’t visited yet.

This time,  I decided my main objective was geocaching.  I have learned over the past couple of years that I have to decide what I am doing and not try to multi-task my outdoor time.  I always have this optimistic idea that I can exercise, look for caches, AND look for birds at the same time, but perhaps the idea that multi-tasking means you aren’t doing any one thing well is correct.  If I had been truly exercising, I would have been would been moving faster, and if I had been truly birding, I would have been moving slower.

20150508_102521When I got close to the park, I followed the signs to parking off Dryad, but in retrospect, I would have been more comfortable parking somewhere else.  There didn’t seem to be a legit parking spot, but rather a place where the gravel road just ended with enough room for a few cars.  This parking spot put me at the one pond that is the furthest south.  It appears from the map that there are three or four different pond areas in this park, which stretches east to west along Gasmer, crossing S Post Oak.  The park itself encompasses 280 acres in total, comprised of flood relief areas turned “greenspace” in recent years.  The concept of placing retention ponds behind Westbury High School, in the area I was parked in, was first originated in 1996, and came together between 1999 and 2001 under the auspices of the Willow Waterhole Greenspace Conservancy.

willow waterhole

I also immediately became aware of one issue with this park.  The location of the park lends itself to sketchy inhabitants, perhaps due to its inner city location.  There are nearby apartments near S Willow and S Post Oak with an opening in the fence that allows direct access to the park.  I actually think that it is great that apartment residents have this awesome nature park in their backyard, but I have to admit feeling some reservation about sharing the park with two lone fellows that I saw while out there.  Neither of the men that I saw were dressed as if they were out to enjoy a nature park.  One was dressed in urban thug and his shirt actually had the store tags hanging off of it, so I wasn’t sure if that was a style, an accident, or a recently stolen item.  The other was lingering suspiciously by a park bench near the parking area.  He had a bag in his hand, and also occasionally reached into the bushes to what appeared to be a backpack.  He would walk aimlessly a few feet in either direction, stand there, and then go back to his bench.  It made me feel uncomfortable and I wanted to keep my vehicle within view at all times.  There were some other mothers out here with strollers and young children, so I decided that if they didn’t let these suspicious folks ruin their good time, I wouldn’t either.  I did cut my visit short, though, and next time I go, I am taking Jason with me.

I am going to try to go with the family on a weekend when Houston Audubon folks are there doing their monthly bird survey, so I can learn from them and also have the company of others.  There are interesting features at this park and several caches hidden there to find (I found five while I was out there), so there are reasons to come back.

Here are some of the views from the park that I experienced while out there:


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Cross Creek Ranch: Where Nature Resides

wpid-wp-1418566868556.jpegScenes from dawn to dusk at Polishing Pond, an area within the Cross Creek Ranch neighborhood dedicated to nature.  The fifty acre series of connected ponds acts as an engineered water quality basin, filtering water for use in irrigation in the nearby community.  It also attracts a LOT of wildlife, mostly birds.  Although primarily waterfowl can be seen here, we have also spotted many other types, such as blackbirds and hawks.  wpid-wp-1418566904221.jpeg
There are several boardwalks around the lakes to get a closer look.  Can you see the two white ibis at the end of this one?  A Glossy Ibis (#125) was also spotted this morning flying over the southwestern-most pond.
wpid-img_20141214_071144.jpg Although it seems quiet and calm in these pictures, the waters are literally teeming with ducks.  Hundreds of them make their way through the ponds; mostly American Coots, but also other exciting species such as Northern Shovelers, Lesser Scaups (#126), and Gadwall. Pied Billed Grebes can be seen ducking under the water, sometimes just the tip of their heads peeking out as they swim under the water surface.  Also, numerous egrets, herons, and ibis can be found along the shores or perched in low-hanging branches.wpid-wp-1418566941899.jpeg
One of the best parts about this place is that it is relatively quiet. We have rarely run into other people out here, although if the secret gets out about how great this place is, maybe the humans would flock here, too. I found this place due to geocaching, due to the fact that I needed a find on a specific day, and one cache was hidden out here. Since then, we have hidden another on the other side of the pond ourselves, and visited a few times to look at the birds.wpid-wp-1418566984886.jpeg
We have also been spending time at the Canine Commons dog park in the neighborhood, and enjoying some brief walks with the dogs along 150 acre Flewellen Creek Park. The Cross Creek Ranch neighborhood was brought to you by the Johnson Development Corp, the same company that also planned Sienna Plantation, Imperial Sugar Land, Harmony, and many other familiar master planned communities. The mission here was to accomplish two objectives: an enhanced lifestyle for its residents, and to be eco-friendly in the process. They have planted 1,000 trees, native grasses and shaped new trails for hiking and biking that wrap around waterways and creekbeds. wpid-wp-1418567067058.jpeg
We entertained the idea that we might like to live here, until we looked at the price range of the houses. The houses we saw listed in the neighborhood ranged from 350K to almost a million. I suppose we will have to just be happy living a short drive or long bike ride away for now, but it is nice to know there is so much to explore here. wpid-wp-1418567037232.jpeg