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Originally published Thursday, October 29, 2009 at 12:05 AM

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Walkabout

See wetland restoration at Portage Creek Wildlife Area

Take a walk in a reserve where a former dairy farm is being restored to wetlands, near Arlington.

Special to The Seattle Times

Walk location: Arlington

Length: About a mile round-trip, with additional meadow walks.

Level of difficulty: Level dirt/grass/bark trail and hummocky meadow trail. Meadow grass can be wet (and soak your shoes). The area near the education center is muddy; best to visit area in November before the park gets too soggy with winter rains.

Setting: This former dairy farm is being restored to a more natural wetlands state (for more on the park's history, see the Web site). From the parking lot, take the trail into the 157-acre area (note the blown-out white-stemmed mushrooms growing out of the path). Turn left at the junction of the trail and a grassy meadow path, and follow the trail along the edge of the open meadow. After crossing two bridges, the trail ends at a secondary entrance off Cemetery Road (currently closed). Behind the open education center is a pond; for now the trail around the pond is overgrown, but climb the gravel road to the closed entrance gate to get an overhead view of the pond and the entire area.

After returning along the main trail, if you want to walk out into the meadow, turn left when you reach the grassy trail. (The map on the park Web site shows a loop trail that encircles the meadow, but you'll only see a faint trail in the grass along this one side — it's best to just retrace your steps.)

Highlights: Fall is a good time to get out in the middle of an expansive meadow (whether picking out pumpkins or enjoying the open space). Frogs love the park, beavers build dams here to expand the seasonal wetlands, and raptors such as bald eagles and red-tailed hawks hunt in the meadows. On a recent visit, an eagle flew off one of the snags by the parking lot when I arrived; later I heard its call across the meadow from the forest on the far hill.

Facilities: None.

Restrictions: Pets on leash.

Directions: From Interstate 5 north of Everett, take Exit 208 and head east on Highway 530. In 2.5 miles, turn right on 59th Avenue, and in .2 miles turn right and head through the white pipe fence down the gravel road to the parking lot.

For more information: 425-388-6600 or www1.co.snohomish.wa.us/departments/parks.

Renton-based freelancer Cathy McDonald, a former geologist, has written about science and nature travel for 20 years. She's currently a travel guidebook editor at Rick Steves' Europe Through the Back Door. Contact her: nwwriter@hotmail.com

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