The first time we visited Carver Park Reserve was early last November. It was a cool, partially cloudy day. Although Winter was in the air, nothing much along those lines had happened yet. Then, just a few days later, Winter appeared and snow started falling. And just kept on falling until it reached historic levels. 🥺
And now it’s Spring. 😊🌼 The snow has stopped (we hope) and melting has begun. The sun is out. 😎 Whether this is the Spring of Deception, we don’t know. But sunshine is a hint that we should go outdoors while conditions are favorable.
Since Carver Park is only 20 minutes away, we decided to go there to bask in the sunshine. The winter map is still in effect, so the trails west of Victoria Drive (Highway 11) remain reserved for Nordic skiers.
But to the east, the paved trail from the dog off-leash area to the Lowry Nature Center is open to hikers. So we did an out-and-back on that and added in a loop on some of the unpaved (and still snow covered) trails near the Nature Center.
Today was a good day to be a dog – the parking lot at the off-leash area was about half-full when we pulled in. Just the day to roll around in the snow, chase squirrels and your new buddies, and sniff each other’s butts! Doesn’t get much better than that! 🐶
Leaving the dogs to their enthusiasms, we headed northwest on the paved trail. Where it was exposed to the sun, all the snow and ice were gone and it was an easy walk.
But about half of it is in the shade and on those sections ice – very slippery ice – still ruled. So there was a lot of putting on and taking off of microspikes until we reached the Nature Center.
The highlights of this hike were our sightings of Sandhill Cranes in an open field next to the paved trail. Oregon has the Greater Sandhill Crane (Antigone canadensis tabida) but the ones found in Minnesota are Grus canadensis.
That said, this was the first time either of us had seen a Crane of any type in the wild. According to the Nature Center, the Sandhills have just started their return migration.
From the Nature Center, we followed the Tamarack Trail along the shore of still snowed-in Crosby Lake and then came back via the Aspen Trail. These trails were high traction snow and no microspikes were needed.
The Aspen Trail passes a viewpoint that looks out over Stone Lake. From there we caught sight of yet two more Sandhill Cranes striding across the still frozen lake. We were wondering if the Cranes were as confused by all the extra snow we got this year as we are.
Not far from where we saw the Sandhills, The LovedOne managed to see a Barred Owl up in a tree. This was quite a feat considering how well camouflaged these owls are.
Although originally an eastern species, by the early 1970s, these owls had extended their range to Oregon, where they are now permanent residents.
There, Barred Owls have gotten into trouble as an invasive species that is hard on the iconic (beloved of environmentalists, hated by loggers) Northern Spotted Owl. Out here, where it presumably belongs, the Barred Owl is just beautiful.
Along the Tamarack Trail we’d noticed blue bags hanging from some of the trees. Turns out these are sap collection systems and the Nature Center boils this sap into its own maple syrup. So before we started back on the paved path, we stopped in at the Center to see the displays and buy a bottle of their homegrown maple syrup. 😋
This hike came to 6.1 miles (9.9 km) on yet another near perfect day to be outdoors. We went home for lunch, secure in the knowledge that The LovedOne would soon turn that maple syrup into delicious maple bars. 😋😁
Yes, that owl was a special experience. But the cranes indicate that Spring is finally coming. And we are really, really looking forward to that. 😀
That barred owl image is stellar. That had to make your hike on those sometimes snowpacked, icy trails worth the risk. Thank you for sharing this photo, especially.
Thanks! We’re hoping we can time a hike to see when several thousand of the Sandhills return from their winter migration south. That would make us feel like spring has finally arrived. Some homemade maple bars will be good, too. 😀
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It’s always good to take advantage of the warmer weather and spend time on the trail. Your pictures are stunning. How fun to even spot some Sandhill Cranes and a Barred Owl. It’s also neat that you can buy maple syrup from the Nature Center.
It is. We were lucky to catch a glimpse of it through all the branches. 😃
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The owl is amazing!