Friday, August 24, 2012

McNary National Wildlife Refuge

Pelican at the refuge visitor center.
If you like looking for birds, the place to do this is the McNary National Wildlife Refuge, which straddles the Snake and Columbia rivers in Washington and Oregon.

Whether you're driving Highway 12 south of Pasco, taking another highway west at Wallula Junction and driving to Umatilla, refuge signs abound. Usually you can see hundreds of water birds swimming in the lakes on both sides of Highway 12.

The refuge covers more than 15,000 acres as it meanders through the Columbia Basin. The birds you'll see depend in large part on the time of the year. Canada geese, mallards, wigeons and other ducks favor the refuge during the winter months. And don't forget bald and golden eagles, hawks and peregrine falcons.

Other times of the year you'll find owls, wrens, blue herons and pelicans, not to mention mule deer, badgers and muskrat.

Entrance to the visitor center at Burbank Heights.
The educational center at Burbank Heights, just off the Waitsburg Highway, has a wonderful display of the birds and animals you'll see throughout the refuge. When you visit the center, take time to walk the paved trail  to a bird blind where you can watch birds in the small lake. Signs also identify the different vegetation you'll find in the refuge.

We made our first visit to the center earlier this week after we made a last-minute decision to escape the heat by camping at Hood Park, a pretty park along the Snake River about a mile from where it empties into the Columbia. It was almost like camping in our backyard, as it was only about 10 miles from our house, We were surprised to see so many other residents there.

We had some free time one afternoon, so we hopped on our scooters to explore the area that we usually just drive through on our way to somewhere else. That's how we found the refuge's visitor center.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Maryhill: A Washington State Treasure

Maryhill Museum of Art, located in southcentral Washington, has always been my favorite museum, and the museum by which I judge other museums. This is only natural, perhaps, because it was the first museum I ever went to, back when I was about five years old.

Six decades later, I am still going back to Maryhill usually every year or so. Now that I am older, I can really appreciate its charms.

The museum is fantastic! It has the largest collection of Rodin work on the West Coast, a great collection of chess sets, marvelous baskets woven by Northwest Native Americans  and an historic collection of memorabilia contributed by Queen Marie of Romania, a granddaughter of Britain's Queen Victoria. These holdings include her throne, Faberge items, intricately gilded furniture and portraits of the royal family.

But Maryhill is more than a museum. It also includes Washington's Stonehenge, pictured above, which is a monument to Klickitat County soldiers who died in World War I. It is the first WWI monument built in the United States.

It also includes the first paved road in Washington State. Down the road from the museum is Maryhill Winery, which brings in big-name entertainers for summer concerts.

What really adds to Maryhilll's charms are the stunning vistas. Maryhill sits on a bluff overlooking the Columbia River Gorge. On a clear day, you really feel you can see forever!

Because I'm so enthusiastic about Maryhill (we take all out-of-state guests there), I've written an ebook about it: Maryhill, A Washington State Treasure, which is now available on Amazon Kindle. This is a text-only version.

If you like pictures with your words, you'll probably like my podcast, Maryhill: Guarding the Columbia River Gorge, better. Do note that my ebook is a much-updated, expanded version of the podcast which is also available from Amazon or Visual Travel Tours. Use code cp20 if you order direct from VTT; you'll get a 10 percent discount.