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Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Best of Northwest Trek

Over this last year, I have managed to visit Northwest trek not once, but 3 different times, with plenty of pictures and stories to share.  In this post, I will share the best photos I got at Northwest Trek.  These are not every single picture I took (you can find the rest of them on my albums on Facebook), but these ones are some of the most memorable ones I took:

Here is a selfie I did during one of the tram tours.  One major highlight of Northwest Trek is the tram tour.  After paying the $25 admission fee, visitors are automatically booked for tram tours (usually about an hour into the visit).  The tours are about an hour long and you go around a big loops where you can see lots of free roaming animals, like moose, caribou, deer, bighorn sheep, along with some "bonus" animals like geese and ducks (sometimes raccoons too).

Golden Eagle exhibit.  I like the signs the park posts of the various animals you are likely to encounter, offering the basic facts about each animal.  Note: I can't say I have ever seen a golden eagle in the wild (besides the ones at Northwest Trek), but I have seen bald eagles occasionally.

Here is a barn animal perched in his (I wouldn't know the genders of the animals, so I will refer to them as "he" for now in generic) enclosure.

Here is a black bear I saw in his enclousre.  There are 2 locations where you can see black bears: near a bridge that goes over the enclosure and at the official enclosure location (where they have the sign posted of them).  This was one of the few times where the bears were actually up and about (usually they are napping when I am there).  It should also be noted that the park used to have grizzly bears as well (literally right next door to the black bear exhibit).  However, I found out a few months back that the grizzlies they had passed away (old age) and so the park no longer has them (not clear if or when they plan on getting new ones).  Note that Woodland Park Zoo still has grizzlies on display.

Here is a sleeping bobcat.  These guys were shy and can be tricky to get photos of.  These guys are considerably smaller than cougars and lynx.  

Here is a go pro moment on the tram tour.  Lots of hoofed animals to see (like these elk in the field).  It should be noted that the carnivores are absent from the free roaming area (though I wouldn't be suprised if raccoons and foxes sneak int there sometimes). Though I am sure they can hear the wolves and coyotes howling sometimes.

Some animals are quite bold on the tram tour, like these 2 buffaloes that come right out in the path of the tram.  Don't worry, the drivers are professional and are very careful at getting around them without hitting them.

Here are some animals hanging out in the shade.  It is defnitely not uncommon to see animals hanging out in the shade on hot summer days (like these caribou do).  Some animals nap in the summer too.

Here is a coyote I saw at his enclosure.  Coyotes can be very difficult to spot at Northwest Trek (even the red foxes are easier to see there than the coyotes), but I did manage to get a photo of one during my first visit.  According to one of the zoo keepers, Northwest Trek is down to 1 coyote.  They used to have more coyotes but the other ones died of old age and this one in the picture is about 15 years old (so he could pass away of old age soon too).  Not clear if or when they plan on getting new coyotes.  Like the wolves, sometimes you can hear coyotes howling in the park if you are lucky.  Northwest Trek is unique in that they have all 3 wild canines you may encounter in the Pacific Northwest: wolves, coyotes, and red foxes.  Of course in my neck of the woods, coyotes are probably the most common of the 3 (though I have seen 2 wild foxes in recent months too like the ones I saw near Monroe and Auburn several months ago).  Wolves seem to be more common east of the cascades than western washington, though I wouldn't be suprised if you can find them in the foot hills and the cascades.

Downtown Eatonville.  It is a cute little town just south of Northwest Trek (kinda reminds me of Duvall in some ways).  It is also a popular pitstop location for people heading towards Mount Rainer National Park.

Eatonville has some rather unique bars and restaurants like the Bigfoot Tavern and the Pourhouse cafe.  I liked the Pourhouse more (and they do make good pizza too).


Here are some caribou by the tram.  Sometimes you can actually see these guys walking right by the trams as you are waiting to board them (making for some easy photo opportunities, especially right after boarding the tram).  Definitely helps to keep a camera handy for getting photos of these guys, even as you board the tram.

Here is a red fox perched almost right behind the sign. If you want to see red foxes here in Washington State, I might recommend visiting Northwest Trek.  They can be easy to miss sometimes, but with some patience and luck you are likely to see these otherwise very elusive creatures.  Foxes are not easy to spot in the wild (though I have heard that both Mount Rainer National Park and the American Camp area on San Juan Island are also good places to see foxes too, though I would have to see them for myself at those places to verify the rumors) and are usually most active at night around here, so Northwest Trek does offer some unique opportunities to see these guys (sometimes even up close).  

Here is a closer shot I got of one of the foxes.  It should be noted that there are 2 red foxes at Northwest Trek.  There is this guy and another one (though the other fox usually likes to hide in the woods and watch visitors as they go by).  They kinda remind me of the arctic foxes at Point Defiance Zoo, where one is timid while the other is more bold and will interact with visitors (even coming out to "say hi") like this one did. 

Definitely couldn't resist getting photos of these foxes.  It is not every day I see foxes up close like this.  In my area, foxes usually come in the form of coyotes too.  

Here are some geese on the tram tour.  Besides the usual hoofed animals you are likely to see on the tram tour, you may also encounter "bonus animals" like candian geese, ducks turtles, and frogs.  I have heard about sightings of raccoons too (though you would probably have to go on the tour later in the afternoon for better chances to see them).

Oh yeah.  Here is the other red fox, hiding as usual.  This guy is definitely more timid than the other fox and will usually keep his distance.  Though I have seen him running around his enclosure too sometimes (most notably on my most recent visit on Saturday with both foxes running around).

Here is my friend, Daniel Parks hanging out by the moose statue in front of the park.  Definitely a good place to get photos and selfies before entering the park.

Here are some more geese.  Used a digital camera to snap a photo of these guys.  BTW, you are never too far from Canada from the Tacoma area as Interstate 5 goes right to the canadian border (in fact it is about a 2 hour drive to Vancouver, BC from Everett going the freeway).

Here is a moose hanging out.  They are not quite as easy to spot as the other hoofed animals, but if you are looking around on the tram tour, you are likely to see at least some of these moose.

One perk about going to Northwest Trek in the late spring and early summer months is that the baby animals start coming out.  Got pictures of these baby buffaloes with their herd when I was there on July 8.

Here is a bighorn sheep hanging out in the shade.

Did you know that Northwest Trek is literally on the way to Mount Rainer National park (south east of the park)?  At some parts of the tram tour, you go up a foothill and get pretty good areal views of the valley below.  On clear days you might even see Mount Rainer in the distance from some spots.

Here is a golden eagle.  Like the red fox, Northwest Trek can be a great place to see golden eagles.  I can't say I have ever seen golden eagles in the wild (besides the ones at Northwest Trek), but I have seen the more traditional bald eagles on various occasions (even in my own back yard sometimes). 

Here is a free roaming chipmunk.  The park is in a wooded area, so you may see some random wild animals in the park like chipmunks, rabbits, and crows.  I have also heard about coyote, fox, and possibly even cougar sightings in the woods surrounding the park.  Even  the tram tour area gets raccoon sightings sometimes.

Here is a turkey vulture.

Here is a snowy owl.  These guys are definitely more noticeable and majestic than the barn owls.  I have only seen these guys in the wild once.  Back when I was a teenager, I was in the boy scouts (even made it all the way to eagle rank, which is not an easy feat to accomplish) and almost every summer, my troop would do these week long 50 mile hikes you can go on and explore the back country here in Washington (pretty big state offering a wide variety of terrains, including coast lands, islands, valleys, farm land, cascade / rocky mountains, and even high desert areas on the east side of the Cascades).  Anyways (long story short), one year I signed up for the 50 mile hike around the Ross Lake area at North Cascades National park, and on one of the days I was hiking, I remember seeing a white snowy owl flying around (broad daylight too).

Here is the black bear again, sleeping as usual.  They tend to be napping during the day when I am there (makes me wonder if they are nocturnal creatures)


Here is my friend Daniel with a manakin wolf at the Baker Research Cabin.  The cabin is pretty unique in that it is situate right between the fox enclosure and the timber wolf encloure and offers information on wolves, coyotes and foxes.  Another park: you can often see actual wolves roaming around right outside the windows.  There is also an area where you can crawl into and get up close to the wolves (there is a glass separating you from the wolves) if you feel brave enough.
This red fox was looking right at me.  This guy defnitely seems to be more inqusitive about the human visitors than the other fox is.  By the way, the camera seems to pick up on the yellow glow in his eyes.  Interestingly, all of the foxes at Northwest Trek are the traditional red and white kinds, though here in Washington (most notably at Mount Rainer),  the red foxes in the wild can also take on other appearances, including silver phased foxes (the greyish black kinds) and cross phased foxes (they have darker fur and a black mask on their faces).  The one I saw near Monroe was definitely a cross phased red fox (his face was black and hard to see, though I could make out his body and bushy tail).



Here is another close up of the fox.  One tip on getting photos of these guys: be sure to bring a digital camera with good zooming features.  Makes it alot easier to get pictures of these guys.  These guys are usually silent, but they can be quite noisy when they want to (they can yip, scream, gekker, etc).  It is also worth noting that they give off a skunk-like smell too (probably has to do with their urine).  If you pick up a wierd odor near their enclosure it is probably the foxes you are smelling (though there are skunks in the park too, most notably at the forested animals exhibit).  The smell is noticable but I usually find it tolerable. 

Here is a fox laying down.  By the way, I bet these guys are not used to being up during the day like they are and will probably nap when they have opportunities (after all they say that foxes are primarily nocturnal creatures, sleeping during the day and coming out anytime between dusk and dawn).  I like how they often curl up with their tails when sleeping (not always of course).

Here is a lynx I saw at Northwest Trek.  One noticable difference I find between lynxes and bobcats is that the lynx is actually much bigger than the bobcat.  If you think you are seeing a bigger than normal "bobcat" in the wild, you are probably seeing a lynx.  Though lynxes are not quite as big as mountain lions (those guys are huge compared to the other wild cats).

Managed to get a photo of 2 of the lynxes with my digital camera.  BTW, go pros are not recommended for getting videos or pictures of lynxes as they seem to be too far away for the go pro to pick up (they will be farther away than they seem when reviewing the footage).

This lynx was coming out to say hi

Check out these raccoons posing for the camera.  These guys are usually pretty active at Northwest Trek, especially later in the day.  I nicknamed the guy on the left, "Davy Crockett" (I remember seeing those old Davy Crockett movies with the guy with a raccoon hat).  Of course this "Davy Crockett" is an actual live raccoon.  On tip on seeing raccoons here in Washington: if you want to see more of these guys in the wild, consider taking a trip to Point Defiance Park in Tacoma (especially late afternoon and early evening hours, before the park closes).  I find raccoons to be a pretty common sight along the 5 mile drive section there (definitely moreso than the red fox, resident ghost and deer).

Here is a skunk curled up in his den. Interestingly, Northwest Trek does offer visitors a chance to see these animal's in there dens when they are not out.  If you can't see them outside in their enclosure, you might see them in their den(s).

Got an areal view of this beaver swimming around.  There is an upstairs section of the forested animals exhibit and you can see some extra small mammals (like porcupines) as well as areal views of the skunks, fishers, beavers, river otters, and even the raccoons.

Another closeup shot I got of the red fox

this fox was looking right at me.  He is probably like "you watch me...I watch you".

This fox was getting ready to roam around his enclosure.  When the foxes are out they love to wander around in their enclosure and you can often see their white tipped tails too.


Here is the mannikin wolf again.
Managed to get a picture of Mt Rainer near Eatonville.  Mount Rainer National park is pretty close to Eatonville so the views of the mountain can be quite breathtaking.



Here is the picnic area and map of the park.  On the first time I went to Northwest Trek with my parents, we had a picnic before touring the park.  Though sometimes I find it easier to just get some nachoes at the stand nearby.  They also have a cafe where you can get lunch too.  You usually have at least 30-60 minutes "to kill" before the tram ride after entering the park, and can be a good chance to get some lunch and take a bathroom break before getting on the tram.

Managed to get a photo of the other tram during the tram ride.  During the warmer months, you can expect the park to be more crowded and often there are at least 2 trams out and about at a time.  When I went there near the end of May, some schools were actually doing some field trips to the park and there were extra kids (probably some of the school districts near Tacoma), teachers, and adults visiting the park that day (defnitely making park busier).  
This fox was perched in the woods.  They have a pretty big enclosure and it is all wooded too, so they tend to feel right at home there.  The woods also give them plenty of cover when they don't want to be seen (at least one of them usually does hide out in the woods, though you can often see that one poking his head out, watching visitors as they come by).



This raccoon had literally climbed up into the tree above his enclosure.  I wonder if the park ever has to worry about them escaping considering how easy it is for them to climb trees there.  Happened towards the end of May.  Even got video of him up there too.

These raccoons can be hard to miss at Northwest Trek.
Aw, this fox was smiling for the camera.  I bet he likes getting his photo taken.  BTW, the foxes were definitely more active during my 3rd visit a few days ago and harder to miss.  Best time of day watch the foxes: late in the afternoon.  They seem to get more active later in the afternoon.  So if you don't see them initially, be sure to check back occasionally (especially later in the day) and you are likely to see a fox or two roaming around in their enclosure (I can't promise you will see foxes every time, but I find them much easier to spot than the coyotes as the coyotes are definitely better at hiding when they don't want to be seen despite their bigger sizes).


Here is me doing a selfie by the moose statue at the front of the park
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more sheep in the field

Saw this sheep right outside the window on the tram tour.  The tours are about an hour long and you are likely to see all kinds of hoofed animals (i.e., sheep, goats, moose, caribou, elk, deer, bison, etc).  Sometimes you will see canadian geese and ducks too (maybe even a raccoon if you are lucky).

This guy was chillin

Here is a black bear again (sleeping as usual)

This fox was sleeping.  They say that foxes are nocturnal creatures (most active between dusk and dawn) so it is probably not uncommon to see them napping during the day whenever they get opportunities to sleep.  

This fox was starting to wake up and even looked at me at one point.  Though there was a zoo keeper in the enclosure, cleaning up the enclosure and even feeding them too, so he was probably picking up on the zoo keeper's presence there (I remember seeing the zoo keeper with treats for the foxes too).

Look, this raccoon is "smiling"

Here is the zoo store.  No zoo is complete without a store in my opinion.  Can be good places to get tee shirts and other souvenirs.  BTW, I was working in retail for over 8 years myself at Kohls here in Snohomish, though technically I still do work retail as a merchandiser/demonstrator for Crossmark and ASM.

Here is a wolf.  Like the wolves at the Woodland Park Zoo, all of the wolves have a white appearance and are definitely the biggest wild canines you are likely to encounter there.  I think there are at least 4 wolves present at Northwest Trek.  Wolves can be hit or miss too.  Sometimes you might see them, sometimes you won't.  Interestingly, this last time I was there (on July 8), initially the wolves were not out, but then they started howling (while I was at the fox exhibit next door, probably kept the foxes up too as they were trying to nap when the wolves started howling) and then I was able to see them pacing around in their enclosure.  In this photo this wolf seemed hungry and was feeding on a dead fish.  Sometimes you can see the wolves right outside the window from the Baker research cabin too.



Here is a tram tour driver giving a short presentation for the tram tour. They tell you what you can expect to see on the tour, safety tips, and other pointers to remember for the tram tour.  The tram tour marks the first half of the visit, though the walking tour park (traditional zoo par) is pretty big too and is best viewed when taking your time.  They also have nature trails you can walk on too, but I would have to do that on a seperate visit and would prefer to have a buddy when going on the nature trails.

Wolves, coyotes and foxes, oh my.  BTW, the foxes are literally right next door to where the wolves are and the coyotes are across the way from the foxes.  By the way, I almost expected the howling wolves to set off the coyote (considering that coyotes howl too), but it didn't

Last but not least, here are some wolves wandering around in their enclosure.  
Well that is alot of pictures, but not all of them.  You can see the rest of the photos I took (really big collection) at my photo albums on facebook (see https://www.facebook.com/ryansjones/photos_albums).  More specifically, the Northwest Trek albums can be found at: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.693977547942.167100367&type=3 (Northwest Trek July 2017), https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.693983665682.1073741903.167100367&type=3 (almost identical to the other one, though they are all of the digital camera photos I got), and https://www.facebook.com/ryansjones/media_set?set=a.688733701652.1073741897.167100367&type=3 (photos from my trip there in May).

Tips and tricks I reccomend when visiting Northwest Trek:
- Try going early when possible (see https://www.nwtrek.org/hours-prices/ for actual hours and prices, which varies by season and time of week too).  I don't know where you all live, but from Snohomish, it is at least a 2 hour drive to the park (sometimes more in traffic).  Park can get crowded and the parking spaces do fill up, so you should try going early when possible.  BTW, hours do vary by season.  In the summer months, it is usually open till 6, but in the other season, it usually closes earlier (like at 4 pm in early spring, and 3pm in the winter months).  So you will probably want to time the trip well.  Also, the first hour or so will likely consist of getting lunch along with an hour long tram tour.  The walking tour (traditional zoo) part is pretty big too and is best done when taking your time instead of rushing it.
- Bring a good digital camera with zooming capability for best results.  Camera phones are okay as long as they can zoom in on things.  I don't recommend go pros for Northwest Trek (except for closeup photos).  I find that go pro pictures don't always turn out well and animals can defintitely be farther away than they seem on the go pro.
- Bring binoculars (especially for the tram tour).  Makes it easier to see farther away animals.  They can also be great to have for seeing the wolves, coyotes, red foxes (especially the one that hides out in the woods), bobcats, bears, and cougars.  Some animals can be harder to spot and binoculars can make it somewhat easier to spot them.
- Animals seem to be more active on warmer sunny days than days when its overcast.  Though some animals can be more active in the winter too.  The foxes usually have fluffier fur in the winter too (like this guy):
Found this photo posted by someone on the Northwest Trek page on Facebook.  This guy is alot more fluffy in the winter than he is in the summer months. 
- Northwest Trek can be done in conjunction to a trip to Mount Rainer (especially if you break the trip up into 2 days).  Eatonville and Elbe are fairly closeby too (making good pitstop locations and dinenr opportunities too).
- Expect extra traffic near Puyallup (especially in the summer).  Even highway the 167 and 512 freeways can get backed up pretty bad sometimes.  Highway 161 can be quite busy near the south hill mall area (though I have found a way to bypass that area by going through Orting and taking a road that comes out at highway 161 near Graham).  Also watch out for aggressive drivers too.  I have noticed people tend to drive aggressively down in that area.
- This park can be funner to visit with a friend, though it can be done solo too (can be useful if you plan to take your time watching the different animals).
- Sometimes if you listen closely and with some luck, you may hear the wolves and/or coyotes howling (maybe even hear the foxes yip too, see http://tinyurl.com/yd6trdjk to see one of the foxes yapping on Facebook).  Last time I was there I heard the wolves howling.
- Be sure to snap a photo or video of the red foxes there if you see them.  Foxes are not easy to find here in Washington State (very elusive and usually come in the form of coyotes), and Northwest Trek is one of the few zoos near Seattle I am aware of that has red foxes (though Point Defiance Zoo and Olympic Game Farm have arctic foxes instead of red foxes) and Northwest Trek does seem to offer good opportunities to see these guys up close and often times, potiential opportunities to get photos and even videos of them (ironically I may have been the first to post videos of them on youtube given how difficult it is to find videos of them on youtube).  I think that the Greater Vancouver Zoo may have red foxes too, but I haven't seen anything on them, so I wouldn't know for sure (it is a hike from Seattle too and does require going across the canadian border too, which can be a hassle sometimes).
Well, that is all for now.  Have you been to Northwest Trek before?  Feel free to share your experiences in the comments below.

Other links of note:
- https://www.facebook.com/NWtrek/ (official page for Northwest Trek on Facebook)
https://www.nwtrek.org/ (official website for nwtrek)