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Sep 02 2011

Interlude With Dragonfly

I wish I could promise you drama. However, aside from some very nice scenery, Highway 58′s about the least-dramatic road through the Cascades. When you reach Willamette Pass and stop by Odell Lake, you don’t really feel as though you’ve just reached the mid-point through some of the most dramatic mountains in the United States. Sure, they explode occasionally, but they haven’t exploded round here just lately. You haven’t even climbed very much – you’re at a mere 5,000 feet. There’s some nice pointy peaks surrounding you, but it’s not like you’ve been on a steep climb with hairpin turns through them. You don’t feel like you’ve really worked for it.

Which is fine, because that’s left you nice and relaxed and in a mood to amble round photographing pretty things. There’s even a helpful sign that tells you what you’re photographing:

Hard to be sure, but that could be Diamond Peak there in the distance

Rather not what one expects in a shield volcano, is it? But that’s what it is – a great big shield volcano composed of fifteen cubic kilometers worth of basaltic andesite. That’s lots. And it’s thought to be fairly young – around 100,000 years or so, which in geologic terms means it’s barely out of diapers.

I know, I know. You’re looking at its jaggedy profile and saying, “Dana, my dear, that looks more like a stratovolcano.” Well, yes, of course it does. It stopped erupting before the last ice age ended, and the ice did a number on it. Ice is quite the artist (not Vanilla Ice, but actual ice, mind). It sculpted and carved and removed bits until this nice, sharp diamond shape was left.

And it left a rather nice lake, as well.

A bit of Odell Lake

The glacier that covered this area carved out a nice basin, then closed it off with a terminal moraine, and left the lake behind. The Cascades are riddled with these high mountain lakes, and they’re all quite lovely. Not warm. But pretty.

I’d have quite a few more pictures of mountains and so forth, only I came across this wonderful wee beastie as I was pottering about:

An unexpected dragonfly

Well, you know I’m mad for these things. And this poor bloke was dying. When I saw him, he was a bit pathetically crumpled up, on his back, and just looking miserable lying there on the bare shoulder pavement. I didn’t want him to finish the last moments of his life by being squished under a tire, so I scooped him up. He spent a comfortable few moments on my knee:

A fine fellow

And he didn’t seem much fussed by the whole thing. He just rested there calmly, and I thought, I’ll never have a better opportunity to photograph a dragonfly’s eyes. Only I’m a softhearted silly person who won’t reposition a dying dragonfly for her own gain, so I bunged the camera in front of him and hoped for the best, although I couldn’t see where we were aiming:

Dragonfly eyes

Looks a bit insouciant, doesn’t he just? Rather like he’s bellying up with an elbow on a bar, about to order a cold one. I liked him very much, and wished there was some reasonable way to prevent nature taking its course, but of course there’s not. You can’t rush an elderly dragonfly to the hospital and demand emergency resuscitation. So after a bit, I just eased him off into the weeds, where nature could finish taking its course without intervention from half a ton of passenger vehicle. I took one last photo, with my hand for scale, so you can have an idea of how very large he was:

Goodbye, dragonfly

My index finger is about 3 1/2 inches from knuckle to tip, for those who like precision. That translates into a seriously large dragonfly. I’m very nearly sure he’s one of the darners, but they all look so similar I’m not sure exactly which he might be.

Strangely, these skinny creatures with their transparent wings don’t feel delicate. Their little legs are sturdy, and their bodies hard and smooth. Even though this one had one pair of feet over the Styx, he seemed quite tough. They’re even quite tough after hitting the hood of a Honda Civic at 60 miles per hour – we ended up with one plastered to the front during the trip, and while everything else had spattered, it was still a whole, recognizable dragonfly, although a bit crispy and very, very deceased. I have even more respect for these guys after seeing that. They’re certainly not as dainty as they look.

After savoring my closest encounter with a dragonfly yet, we drove on. Hang on, my darlings, because it’s about to get a wee bit explosive.

4 comments

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  1. 1
    Silver Fox

    Diamond Peak looks to me like a shield volcano much more than it looks like a stratovolcano, being more broad and shield-like than steep and conical. Perhaps it's the snow that might make some think stratovolcano?

  2. 2
    Silver Fox

    Oh, and WAY cool dragonfly! You must have dragonfly fu. :)

  3. 3
    Cujo359

    So sad, but at least he got to be a celebrity before his time was up.

  4. 4
    starspider

    My goodness, he's beautiful!I'm so glad you got such lovely pictures.

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