WALLOWA LAKE — Adventure guide Judy Swank led a group up a trail to the top of Wallowa Lake’s east moraine Saturday, June 27, in the inaugural Discovery Walk for the 2020 season.
The season got off to a late start this year, with Wallowology delayed from its usual May opening because of COVID-19 restrictions.
But now that the Natural History Discovery Center in downtown Joseph is open, Swank plans to lead walks each Saturday through September, she said. The center is open every Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., according to its website. The schedule for future Saturday hikes will be posted on the website at www.wallowology.org.
Saturday’s 1½-hour hike up an old logging road to the top of the moraine where there’s an eight-mile trail for the more enthusiastic hiker. Along the way, Swank shared her knowledge of the local geology, flora and fauna with the four adults and one child. The three dogs didn’t act as though they were listening. From the top of the moraine was a view of nearly its full length, as well as of the west moraine and the lake between them. There also could be seen what Swank said she believed was part of the Zumwalt Prairie to the northeast.
In addition to a variety of wildflowers, Swank pointed out the variety of trees, including a Ponderosa pine she estimated at being at least 500 years old. She also pointed out grand fir trees and the stark contrast between the new, light-green needles and the older, dark-green needles, as well as the tree’s flat growth pattern that allows it to absorb as much sunlight as possible.
Swank even had some quick-reference books along with her to look up plants she didn’t know off the top of her head. She said similar books are available — or could be ordered — at Wallowology’s Discovery Center in Joseph.
The group’s youngest hiker, 8-year-old Margaret Sinclair, may well have hiked farther than any of the adults, first being far ahead of the group and then lagging back, only to get out in front again. She said her favorite part of the hike was “The flowers. They’re all so pretty.”
Swank said that while there was ample opportunity to discuss vegetation, the group saw little wildlife, other than winged ones.
“I was really hoping we’d see more in the way of wildlife, but they’ve probably gone up higher,” she said.
She did alert the hikers to the fact that two types of deer — mule deer and whitetail — are native to the area as well as black bears (of a variety of colors), cougars and bobcats.
Swank said Saturday’s excursion was a bit of a trial run to see how Discovery Walks can be held in the future, such as how crucial masks are to prevent the spread of coronavirus. She noted that it’s difficult to hike with one, but she wanted all participants to have them along for when they stopped at the top to talk in a group. She also wanted to see how well the walk worked with pets along.
According to the website, Wallowology has shown exhibits highlighting natural and cultural history of Wallowa County since 2014. The Discovery Walks are family-friendly activities and short hikes, as well as longer day hikes and opportunities to tour ranches and local nature sites.