Galley Wench Tales

Exploring the world through the people we meet
and the food they eat.

Nutria on the trail edge at Steigerwald Lake Wildlife Refuge.

What do you do on a cold, blustery gray day, with the promise of months more of them on the way? 

Steigerwald Lake Wildlife Refuge, off of Highway 14, just East of Washougal Washington.
Note the dark clouds, though in truth they were handsome in their own dramatic way.

Truly, if teleporters existed, I would beg to be beamed to a warm sunny spot where I could shed my clothes and bury my bare toes in the sand. I can’t deny being envious of my cruising cohorts currently holed up in summery Australia and New Zealand, or the winter-warmed lands of Southern California, Florida and Mexico, or the Indonesian tropics.

Deb admires the artwork which she dubbed “the magic door,” though it was closed to us
this time of year.  It led to the fish ladders but was closed to protect some seasonal waterfowl.

Instead, I did the next best thing… called a friend (thanks, Deb!) willing to bundle up and trundle out and join me for a brief wander to see what we could see. We headed off to new-to-us territory in our own backyard, Steigerwald Lake Wildlife Refuge. Established in 2009, I never made it to Steigerwald before moving from Southwest Washington in 2010. 

The trail is as much an art trail as a wildlife trail. This trip, I kept my lens mostly
on the flora and fauna, but this sign gives you a small taste of the artwork.
The rest will wait until a future post – or – your visit there.

As many as 200 different bird species find at least a temporary respite at the refuge.

The refuge was named for rags-to-riches Allen Steigerwald, originally from Pennsylvania. A newcomer back in 1886, with only $10 in his pocket, he convinced local suppliers to loan him the materials he needed to build a home on contract. Later projects included the Lewis and Clark Exposition. Then came farming, and a dairy business in Washougal, where Steigerwald Lake Wildlife Refuge is now located.

While Deb and I were new to this particular neighborhood, the wildlife was clearly well settled. “Watch for the bald eagles, great blue heron and the nutria,” car-bound smiling hikers wearing dangling binoculars told us.

Nutria crossing the trail at Steigerwald Lake Wildlife Refuge.

We didn’t see the eagles or the heron (though I’ve seen plenty of both in the area), but we did see the nutria. Happily chowing down on vegetation at the edge of the path, he didn’t appear bothered by our presence, though he preferred showing us his derriere far more than his rather cute face. The Dutch refer to these critters as “beaver rats,” which strikes me as a great description as their bodies are beaver-like but their tails are rat-like tail and they’re rodents.

Female American kestrel at Steigerwald Lake Wildlife Refuge. She was much more impressive when she took flight, but my camera focus was too slow to capture that.

We also saw plenty of ducks and geese, and I originally mistook a gorgeous American kestrel, for a harrier. A California scrub jay with bright periwinkle plumage of was there to bid us a colorful goodbye at our walk’s end, a delight despite knowing they’re really one of the thugs of the bird world. 

California scrub jay with colors far cheerier than his expression, still welcome on this gray day.

I will happily return to enjoy Steigerwald on a sunnier day or even again before then, but hopefully not trying to snap photos from under my wind-tugged umbrella.

Steigerwald Lake Wildlife Refuge — I’ll be back!

Location Location
We’ve been busy bopping around on house-sits in the Portland-Vancouver Washington area. We’re about to start our 5th house-sit* since late November. House-sitting gets us off the boat and out from under the gloom of covered moorage during the already darkest days of winter. It also cleared the way for tackling some boat projects that don’t meld well with living aboard. Currently, Wayne’s about half-done with refinishing the floors in our salon. And we’re still sussing out what, when and where our next adventures will be.

*my affiliate link to Trusted House-sitters, those house-sits we’re doing other than for friends.