Mercer Slough Mini Hike

Hey, it’s Labor Day in Seattle, and it’s not pouring rain! Miraculous!

The weather forecast actually did call for rain today, but the clouds must have dumped it all on us last night because it has been sunny and warm all day. I would have gone outside regardless, but thanks to the clear skies I brought my family along.

For our last little hike before the kidlet heads back to school we opted for something easy but beautiful. The city of Bellevue has a well-maintained trail system that connects Lake Washington and Lake Sammamish, passing through several small parks on the way. We chose to stop at two of the parks, and though we could have easily walked between them, we decided to save our daughter’s (unpredictable) energy and drive to each separately. Sometime, when I’m on my own, I think I’ll walk the entire length of the 10 mile trail. For today, though, we started at Kelsey Creek Park.

Kelsey Creek Weathervane

Kelsey Creek is a quiet neighborhood park geared toward young children. The creek itself splits the park in half, and runs under small bridges, which are nice spots to look for frogs in the summer and salmon in the fall. The real highlight of the park, though, is a working farm and educational center. We like to stop by from time to time to check on their sheep, horses, goats, chickens, ducks, cows, rabbits and their one immense pig.

Kelsey Creek Pig

We said hello to the animals, then wandered around the trails a little. The native plantings create a lot of shelter and food for birds, and we spotted a number of our area’s common park birds. After we walked Kelsey Creek, we headed to our next spot for more of a hike – Mercer Slough, which is the waterway Kelsey Creek flows into.

Bellevue Blueberry Farms

Mercer Slough Natural Area is just barely south of Bellevue’s downtown area, but it feels a world away. What once had been lake bed is now a marshy reserve that has been farmed in places for blueberries. We have been blueberry picking at the U-pick area before (and were sad that we missed the growing season this summer), but we haven’t done much exploring of the surrounding wetland. Today’s trip was a good opportunity to do just that.

Mercer Slough September

I was pleasantly surprised at the range of environments we walked through on our mini hike. The trail starts out as a gravel path through a tunnel of deciduous trees which becomes a thicket growing in standing water as you walk closer to the lake. A boardwalk floats through a dense crop of Douglas’ spirea and forks at the slough where you can choose to follow a path between the river and the blueberry fields or cross a bridge and head uphill into a mossy forest. The forest path then loops back around over small streams choked with enormous swamp cabbage and returns to the bridge. Or, you can head further into the forest and make a loop around the perimeter of the park. It felt like a very rich outdoor experience for roughly an hour’s worth of time.

Mercer Slough Kayaks

The slough seems like an excellent spot to see herons and ducks, especially in the winter. I’d love to get out there with a kayak sometime.

BellevueSep07 (113)size

The variety of habitats and the quiet bark trails in the forested areas made for great bird watching. Woodpeckers and songbirds were everywhere, and didn’t seem bothered by our presence. We heard two hawks of some kind calling to each other through the trees, too, but couldn’t spot them.

The trees themselves were spectacular as well. I’m always fascinated by twisted old tree trunks smothered with moss and ferns and full of spooky holes.

Mossy Forest Bellevue Washington

I think I can say with confidence that we will be making quite a few more trips back to this park. I’m interested to check it out in other seasons to see how it changes, and as I’ve already said, there are opportunities for longer hikes and kayaking when time permits. Parks like this are one of the things I love about living where we do – we can live close enough to the city to satisfy our every need but only have to travel a short distance (in this case literally a few blocks away from a major downtown area) to feel fully immersed in nature.

Areas visited: Kelsey Creek Park, Mercer Slough Natural Area

Species observed: Mallard, Rock Pigeon, Red-breasted Sapsucker, Downy Woodpecker, American Crow, Stellar’s Jay, Barn Swallow, Black-capped Chickadee, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Orange-crowned Warbler, Spotted Towhee, Song Sparrow, Dark-eyed Junco, House Finch, House Sparrow.

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