[Tweeters] Bus and Birds: Green River Community College

Mark Vernon ma_vern at yahoo.com
Mon Aug 25 14:56:26 PDT 2008

Here is a very good bus destination, both civilized and wild, Green River Community College (GRCC). Some of you will know of this place, but most people are not aware that it has a very large, hikable area with a wide variety of habitats. I have the advantage that I work there and get to see the gradual transitions between the seasons and migrations. The place has roughly 5 miles of trails, though they go off in different directions. No other college in our area has anything like it, please correct me if I am wrong!!!
Anyway, I use one of two different buses to get to the college, Metro routes #164 and #181. The #164 actually has come from Highline Community College as #166, but at the Kent Transit Center it becomes either the #164 or the #168. The #168 goes to Covington, and is the one to access the Soos Creek Trail and Lake Meridian (coming soon as a posting). The #164 from Kent runs every hour. On it's way to GRCC it partly takes the Kent Kangley Hwy. #181 comes from Twin Lakes and Federal Way, it runs every half hour. On it's way to GRCC it acceses downtown Auburn.
When you arrive at the college walk south towards the forest. The network of trails can be reached from several different spots. I would advise looking at the map of GRCC on the website www.greenriver.edu . There are three major trailheads so I don't think they will be difficult to find. The main trail is a pleasant loop and there are signs and maps all over the place. If you have time you can actually walk all the way down the hill to the Green River!
This part of the river is a gorgeous place that includes several oxbows. This is the place to watch salmon in the fall. It is amazing to see them splashing through these oxbows. This is Riparian habitat so expect to see birds that inhabit such places. The land across the river is all in the parkland. The western section of the hillside above the river is nicknamed "The Wilderness". It is steep, brushy and has few trails. Did you know that Elk have been coming to this place over the past few winters? I haven't been so lucky but I have talked to many people who have seen them and the Forestry department at GRCC has confirmed it.
On the main loop there is a bench with a wonderful overlook of the valley in which Soos Creek enters the Green River. There is a classic view of Mt. Rainier. Hwy 18 also runs through this valley. This is a good raptor viewing place to see Bald Eagles, Red-tailed Hawks, Turkey Vultures and Ospreys. Vaux's Swifts are sometimes in huge numbers. The unpredictable Raven sometimes shows up. I have had good luck with Northern Pygmy-Owls. One individual was present, and tooting, from last January all the way to early June. The slop above Hwy 18 has been reliable for Willow Flycatchers, and in the past I have seen Lazuli Buntings.
This morning I watched a young Cooper's Hawk being buzzed by an Anna's Hummingbird. I found three Brown Creepers and lots of Chestnut-backed Chickadees. I also ran into a large Snowshoe Hare.
I could go on and on. This is a place to come and explore. It is very surprising. You can even go to "Dead Horse Canyon", look for it on the map on the trail. I get out on the trail every chance I get. Since I work with ESOL students I sometimes take them for a walk.

Mark Vernon
Renton, WA
mailto ma_vern at yahoo.com

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