Hiking Stevens Creek Heritage Preserve

Last week I took the boys for a hike. I decided on Steven’s Creek Heritage Preserve, about an hour’s drive south of here. In the past, I’ve enjoyed paddling and hiking Stevens Creek and its tributary Turkey Creek, so I figured this had to be a good destination (search the blog for ‘Turkey’ to see related posts). The DNR website notes that the preserve contains 15 rare plant species, so I wanted to check it out.

We got there around noon in fairly warm (for March - 78°F) and breezy weather. Soon we were geared up and on the trail. The early part of the trail was disappointing; we walked through a huge dry area of fallen pines. I’m not sure if this was storm damage or an attempt to down trees killed by pine beetles. The trail here was cleared by small earth movers and was soft. It would’ve been a mess if it was wet. Some of the trail work made the correct path unclear but we managed to not get lost.

We descended a bluff through the damaged trees and finally started seeing normal growth again. Soon we came upon a little feeder creek, and wildflowers were in bloom everywhere: purples, pinks, whites, and yellows, gently resting on a background of green. I would have loved to spend an hour photographing them all, but the boys were too busy to stop for such things. So I just enjoyed the view.

We walked along the base of a bluff with large rock faces, damp with moisture. If I were a botanist or just knew more about plants, I’d guess that some of the preserve’s rare species would be found here. Someday I’d like to identify them, but for the day we were content to wander through a beautiful place.

Soon we were walking parallel to Stevens Creek. The trail never quite gets to the bank of the river. I was hoping there would be a good spot for lunch here, but there wasn’t much to work with. The trail began climbing a hill away from the stream, so we settled for a fallen tree as our picnic table. The boys ate heartily and drank most of their juice and all of mine. Then we were ready to finish the hike up the bluff.

At the top it was dry and brown we had nice views of the other bluffs through the mostly bare trees. There were less fallen trees here. We ambled over a good flat trail. I saw my first dragonfly of the year, but it didn’t wait to be photographed. Then I was startled to come around a bend and see a small, treaded, hydraulic digger staring us in the face. It was silent and no one was around. I figured we must be getting close to finishing the loop trail to be finding vehicles out there….

I was wrong: someone had driven that thing a heck of a long way up and down hills to get it there. It was hot and dry up on the hill, and the kids were starting to drag. As the trail began to descend, I realized we had yet to get off of this bluff and back to the starting bluff. We came upon the feeder creek again and had to begin the climb through the downed trees. Everyone was tired but we kept at it.

Finally we got up the hill and arrived back at our car. The boys had done great, and we made a well-deserved stop for ice cream on the way home. It sure beat sitting around the house.

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