I should have known. Wetlands means wet feet. Annie and I visited the new Beaver Creek State Natural Area just south of Newport, OR, today. It’s a beautiful state park, all new and shiny, smelling of fresh-cut wood and grass. Trails padded with grass and wood chips lead upward to great vistas and downward though the rushes toward the creek.
We headed south on a pleasant trail. When we passed an opening to the creek, I pulled Annie back, saying, “Oh no. We’re not getting wet today.” As the grass rose around us, I gazed at miles of waving grasses and distant hills in varying shades of purple, gray and tan. Just as I was wishing for the 10th time that I had brought my camera, the ground gave way beneath my feet. Sploosh! Annie and I were in mud up to her belly and my calves. We walked on a little ways, hoping the ground would firm up, but it didn’t. Sploosh, sploosh, sploosh. We turned back.
Off the side of the trail where the ground is solid, there’s a plastic dock, accessed by a plywood bridge. If Annie waded in there, she could get clean, I thought. She was thirsty, already drinking the murky water. I stepped onto the dock, felt it rocking dangerously and decided I was better off sitting down. Meanwhile, Annie leaned over the edge, drinking. I relaxed in the warm breeze. Ahh.
Suddenly, splash! My pup, who just discovered two weeks ago that she could swim and who has thrown herself into every puddle since then, jumped in. It was deep. She tried desperately to climb back onto the dock but couldn’t get a grip on the plastic surface. She panicked, desperately splashing, her nails slipping off the dock. Still holding her leash, I struggled to guide her over to the shallow side, willing to jump in if I had to. Just when it looked as if she might drown, she finally paddled around the dock to the shore. She shook a few times and pulled me toward the car. She’s traumatized, I thought. But then she saw another trail. She headed right for the water. “We’re wet enough,” I said.
And so, with NPR’s “Fresh Air” providing commentary in the background, we drove home, utterly soaked. Every now and then, we turned to grin at each other. Another adventure survived.
Moral: This is a great park. You can hike, kayak, canoe, or simply enjoy wide open spaces from the many benches scattered around. Take Highway 101 to Oregon’s Milepost 149 and turn east. The turnoff and the parking lot by the visitors’ center are well-marked. If you don’t want wet feet, watch your step. If you want to see it all, wear tall boots and carry towels. Lots of towels. Don’t forget the camera.