New Photos of Mount Rainier! Plus Super-Cute Critters

It’s been a long but fruitful day, my darlings. B and I took a little trip to Mount Rainier for you. We hadn’t yet hit the Sunrise VC, you see, so we decided it was about damned time we went. Can you believe I’ve been going to Rainier for years and have never been to top of that road? Scandalous! Now remedied.

Here’s the mountain peeking at some lovely andesite columns you will get to know very well later on:

Image shows gray andesite columns poking toward the road on the right, with a shoulder of Mount Rainier and the jagged crags of Little Tahoma in the distance.

Mount Rainier, Road, and Columns.

Now. I’m going to set the non-geologists in the audience a question: what are the columns telling you about the valley at the time of this lava flow? No cheating by looking up stuff on Mount Rainier, kiddos. But you can go look at Callan’s handy guide to columns wot he made just for us. You can totally get this from just this photo:

Images shows a bunch of gray andesite columns pointed at us.

Here we’re standing direct across the road, with the valley behind us, looking the columns dead in the tops of their darling little heads. Nose of an indeterminate blue sedan for scale.

Right, now you’ve had a challenge, you shall get your cute! This poor little dude was so conflicted.

Image shows a little striped rodent sitting on a somewhat flat rock in an I'm-Very-Tempted manner.

Conflicted ground squirrel or possibly chipmunk, I am terrible at identifying these cute fuzzy things BECAUSE THEY ARE BIOLOGY NOT ROCKS AND I DO ROCKS OKAY?

On the one hand, there was this humungous clump of grass with delicious ripe seeds and it really really wanted them so bad, only there were these people standing there, and it was a little afraid, but it wanted those seeds soooo bad. It spent a moment thinking about it, and dashed up and down a bit, and rushed the seeds and rushed away, and then decided “Sod this for a game of larks” and went and hid, so we left it to get its lunch in peace.

Now, we were up there specifically to look at Emmons Glacier, because I’ve been up the White River Valley it is responsible for, and would have gotten to one of its old moraines if Cujo and I hadn’t been stopped by the small but significant fact that the trail bridge over the river had washed out. So we went down to the Emmons Glacier Vista overlook thingy and had a nice look, and it was really gorgeous.

Image shows Mount Rainier's summit, Little Tahoma, Emmon's Glacier, and a gorgeous glacial valley with a glacier-fed river and lake. Also, much green, because PNW.

A view of Emmons Glacier, and the valley, and river, and a wee little turquoise-colored lake that I could probably identify if I wasn’t too tired at the moment.

Unfortunately, it was a bit hazy, and hot as hell, or we might have gotten better photos. Still. We got some good ones, and yes, someday, you will get more. But if you embiggen this one, you’ll be able to see some snazzy glacial features. Tell me all you can find, if you feel like digging!

We attempted the trail up Sourdough Ridge, but that’s all in bright sunshine, and did I mention is was at least 80 bloody degrees? And I’m not used to high altitudes and heat anymore. So we decided to tackle that in cooler times, and possibly when the air is clearer. We went down to Sunrise Point, where there’s a short-ish side trail to Sunrise Lake.

Image shows Sunrise Lake, a beautiful round pool surrounded by tall trees and mountains. The water is so still you can see the pines clearly reflected in it, even from hundreds of feet above.

Sunrise Lake is a lovely blue-green gem set at the bottom of a glacial valley surrounded by majestic, glacier-carved peaks. Alas, it is down in a valley…

This trail is mostly in shade with a wonderbar cool breeze. Trouble is, it is also a long way down to the lake. Down, of course, translates to up on the way back. But it was worth it. We got to see lots of pretty nature, and the lake, and there was this bird you will squee over when I show you it later this week, and, on a scree slope, this wee little rabbit-like thing running across the rocks with a big sprig of leafy something in its mouth. See if you can spot it in the shot of the slope I took.

Images shows a slope of platy gray rocks surrounded by the usual alpine greenery. There's a little critter on it. Very hard to see.

Wee beastie is somewhere on this scree, I promise you.

Really hard to spot, innit? Alas, I had the camera turned off to conserve battery when the little bugger first darted out, and by the time I had it on, our wee beastie had dashed further downslope. Take it from me, it was cute as the dickens, especially with its bit of greenery clutched in its mouth. Here’s a crop of the above image, and if you can identify they wee beastie from just this blurry pic, I will be very surprised. Also, I will suggest you become a cryptozoologist, because why not?

If you look at the gray rock at the very bottom center, then at the green bush right in front of it, then in front of that bush, you will see a timorous little brown fellow holding very still on the scree and clutching its little sprig.

If you look at the gray rock at the very bottom center, then at the green bush right in front of it, then in front of that bush, you will see a timorous little brown fellow holding very still on the scree and clutching its little sprig.

After the beastie and the birdie, we hauled our sorry butts back up that slope, and I can tell you my lungs haven’t ached like that for ages. Like a bellows, they were. I need to spend less time lounging with the cat and Christianist textbooks, and more time on mountains. So it’s a good thing B has decided we should go back to Mount Rainier before our current pass runs out. Weather permitting, we’ll be up there again at the end of the week. Then, depending on what the weather looks like, we’re off to either the Olympics or over the mountains to Ross Lake. Well, weather and our own energy levels permitting, I should say.

And I can definitely recommend sunset as seen from Highway 410 from outside of Sumner, looking over the Puget lowland toward the Olympics. Oh, my, yes. Alas, we were unable to stop and obtain photos, so I shall just have to ask you to imagine jagged black peaks against a salmon-orange sky, with the dark night blue above and the deep pools of shadow in the valley below, with city lights sparkling merrily, and a huge orange full moon rising over the hills behind. So, so wonderful.

Fun, Fidalgo, an Ophiolite, and a Very Rude Buck

We made it to Fidalgo Island. Yay! We got lotsa pictures of bonza peridotite and serpentinite. Double yay! I’ll have a proper write-up one o’ these days, but for today, we’ll do some outtakes.

This time, we visited Washington Park. I’ve been there once before, many years ago, and had no idea that Cujo and I had been hanging about on serpentinized peridotite. Yum! Now I knew, and B and I were determined to see all of it we could see. We got a sorta late start, got hung up in Everett traffic, and lingered over lunch, so it was late in the afternoon when we arrived. Let me tell you something about Washington Park: when you’re in the parking lot, you’ll freeze. There’s a sort of saddle between the bay and the Sound, and the wind blows vigorously through, and it’s like standing in a refrigerator. Do not let this deceive you. If it’s a warm day, you’re gonna end up sweating to death. That’s because of this:

Image shows fingers of brown rock jutting into the blue Sound. Framed by a fir tree.

Peridotite benches at Washington Park, Fidalgo Island.

Peridotite is dark, dense, iron-rich rock that seems to love absorbing lotsa rays and reflecting the heat right back atcha. If you get a chance to go here on a warm summer day, bring plenty of water, wear sunglasses, and remember that a bit of seawater judiciously applied to the back of the neck will help cool things right down.

The loop road, which is also a lovely paved trail, is nice and shady, and you can pop through the trees and bushes and get lovely views of the Sound and the San Juans.

Image shows a dead tree jutting horizontally from the cliff. Through its branches is the Sound and a mountain-shaped island.

A lovely horizontal snag pointing toward the San Juan Islands. I think that’s Orcas Island, but I’m horrible at recognizing these things.

The glacially-planed and polished serpentinite/peridotite makes lovely benches from which to stand majestically looking out over the Sound.

Image shows B standing atop a dark black/brown bench of peridotite with a glitter trail on the Sound from the low-lying sun.

B and the Sea.

Here’s a rare action shot of me crossing a crack through the peridotite.

Image shows me landing on the other side of a crevice on a flat brown peridotite bench.

That’s me doing geology! Sorta.

Lotsa glacial action in this photo – see if you can spot it! You’ve been hanging round me long enough you should be able to see at least one or two things.

You definitely should do the loop road, either hiking or driving. There’s another stopoff on the other side that is neato and I’ll show you it in some detail soon, and then you get to the bottom, and there may be a buck and a doe grazing. However, the deer here are rude.

Image is a profile of a little black-tailed brown buck with wee antlers. He's sticking his tongue out. Looks like he's blowing a raspberry.

Rude buck.

We laughed and laughed, of course. There were deer all over, including in people’s yards. Washington Park is huge, and seems to be a happy home for them.

At the end of the day, driving home, Mount Baker was beautifully illuminated, so I pulled the car to the side of the highway and grabbed you a shot.

Image shows Mount Baker. The sun is low, and has pinkened the snow on its slopes.

Mount Baker from Highway 20, just outside of Anacortes.

Wonderful stuff, and much fun. I’ve got to get my talk done, work on the next post in the Seattle Seahawks Superbowl Ring series (which next post is a pain, because just when I thought I had the research finished, bam – came across a series of papers that call all our existing knowledge into question. Darn it all to heck!). But B asked some great questions about peridotite, so I’ll try to sneak some answers in about that in the near-future, and eventually, after a few more visits to the Island, I’ll be whipping up a series on the ophiolite there. And that’s in addition to the ten tons of other great geology we’ve got going on! And summer field season isn’t even over! It’s going to be a super science winter, lemme tell ya.

New at Rosetta Stones: Mount Baker At Last! Plus, a Genuine Watercolor

I’ve got the preliminary findings from our maiden voyage to Mount Baker up at Rosetta Stones for ye. You’re gonna love it.

You may also love this photograph of Mount Shuksan:

Image shows what looks like a watercolor image of Mount Shuksan.

Mount Shuksan reflected in a lovely tarn.

Looks sorta like a watercolor, doesn’t it just? It sorta is: this is Mount Shuksan as reflected in a lovely little tarn on Mount Baker Highway.

It’s the real thing – I’ve just played a bit with the brightness and such. Here’s the untouched version:

Mount Shuksan as reflected in the tarn.

Mount Shuksan as reflected in the tarn, without the fiddling around.

Okay, and I flipped it right-side up, too. See it in its non-reflected glory at Rosetta Stones, and find out why it’s really actually green.

Stachys Standing Proud

One of these days, I’ll get round to making a little e-book of the flowers ya’ll have identified, so I can look it up and say, definitively, “That’s the flower my readers identified as X” rather than, “Oh, hey, there’s one of the flowers my readers told me the name of, I think, only I can’t remember it off the top of my head, but they know what it is I swear!” Either that, or I will have to become fabulously rich so that I can take a gaggle of you with me all over the world, and have you identify things, and then we’ll post the pictures and idents via satellite phone or something, real-time. We could make up special t-shirts and everything. And we would also support various social-justice causes with our treks, and offset our carbon footprints, and all sorts of responsible things. All while subverting creationist drivel with fun facts. Sound good? Let’s do it! Now I just have to figure out how to become rich…

While I’m working on that, have some fun gazing upon one of the flowers you’ve successfully identified in the past: Stachys cooleyae, or Cooley’s hedge nettle.

Image shows a stem of purple-and-white mottled flowers that look like little trumpets, or possibly roaring lions..

Stachys cooleyae, which is hard to learn how to spell, but quite lovely.

This one was growing happily along the trail between Waikiki Beach and the Cape Disappointment Lighthouse. The whole place is a riot of vegetation filled with things like snakes and spiders and so-forth, but the beauty of the Pacific Northwest is, very few of those things are dangerously poisonous or even inclined to bother folks, so you can enjoy the flowers without worrying that something deadly is about to sneak out and bite you. Having come from a place where a good number of the creepy-crawlies were either lethal or would give you a very painful time, it’s refreshing.

Image is a crop of the previous, showing a few of the flowers, and the fine white hair that covers the stem and leaves.

A closer view. Look at all those darling little hairs!

See? Beautiful. And while it pays to mind your surroundings and know that even in a place where 98% of everything won’t attempt to annihilate you, there’s always the possibility something untoward will happen, nearly perfectly safe. Unless you have a phobia, in which case, until you’ve gone through the full course of therapy and gained the upper hand, it’s probably best not to run about a place that has such an abundance of potentially terrifying living things. Should I become fabulously rich and famous, such therapy will be offered free to those who wish to go geotrekking with me but find things like sudden spiders traumatic.

I wish I had a picture of the snake that kept popping out to see if we’d gone yet. I’m not sure what was in the spot that it wanted so badly – perhaps it was its favorite spot for catching a few rays – but the poor thing would go under its bush, then nip out after a minute, see us, and zip back again. Several times, this happened, in the few minutes we were at the summit of one of the headlands admiring the view. I almost never see snakes doing that. This one was a fair-sized brown garter snake with a pretty red stripe. I like garter snakes – they’re gentle little things, and they keep pests down, and they’re fun to watch. We tried to respect it by getting out of its territory in a reasonable amount of time.

That’s another thing I hope to do, riches and fame or not: help people develop a better relationship with things that creep and crawl. Suppose I’d best work on getting more photos of them, then, without pestering them overmuch…

Sea Stack Pining for the Sea

One of the first roadside zomg-look-at-the-scenery pullouts at the northern end of Cape Disappointment State Park happens to overlook a wonderful example of what happens when sediment fills in the sea round a sea stack. Can you spot it?

Image is looking out to sea. In the foreground are trees, some snags, and a knob of rock. Beyond it is a flat area covered with vegetation and a strip of sandy beach beyond.

Lonely Sea Stack is Lonely

This is the result when a nice, hard stack of basalt (in this case the Eocene Crescent Formation basalt) ends up in a sea of sediment instead of a sea of saltwater. Poor thing is now stuck inland. The only time it’ll be a stack again is either during a tsunami or if sea level rises.

Image shows a closer view of the top of the former sea stack, which has grown a mantle of moss, grass, and possibly a tree.

Let’s Call it Broody.

There’s probably some technical term for these things. I thought it was “knocker,” but that seems to only refer to knobs of rock within a melange. And my brief attempt to wrestle an answer out of Google was non-successful. Who here knows what they’re technically called?

If there is no technical term, I call dibs on calling them “broodies,” just in case that catches on.

Hovergull

A bizarre sight greeted our eyes at Seal Rock State Recreation Site: a nearly-motionless seagull. You scoff, I know, and say it’s not unusual for birds to hang about doing not much of anything, and that is true. However: it’s somewhat rare for them to hang about doing not much of anything in mid-air. This one looked a bit like someone had glued a seagull in a flight pose to a clear stick and was holding it up.

This little bugger went nowhere fast. It hovered happily while other seagulls (including the fledgeling mentioned, but not visible, in the video) zipped and zoomed all round it. There’s probably some explanation for its behavior that’s not limited to “Because, that’s why.” Any seabird specialists in the house?

Image shows one smaller seagull hovering while a larger one flies past

Hovergull

I’m Back – With a Challenge!

I’ve returned safely home with enough neat new photos of the Oregon and Washington coasts, plus manylots of waterfalls, to keep us busy for ages. And summer field season ain’t even over!

Here’s an image from the final day of the trip, when we scooped up Lockwood and went geotripping along the coast around Newport and Waldport. I’m doing the Vanna thing at the contact between some seriously massive basalt and the Yaquina Formation sedimentary rocks at Seal Rock State Recreation Site.

Image shows me standing under a lip of massive basalt, in front of streaky sandstone rocks that the basalt overlies.

Moi showing off the lovely contact.

What I’ve learnt on this trip is that I’m going to have to invest lotsa time and effort into catching up with the current professional literature. I can’t really speak intelligently or intelligibly about the geology right at this spot – the field guides are ages out of date, and the geologic map I’ve found is also quite old. If any of you know geologists whose study area includes this bit of the coast, and they love to talk people’s ears off about their work, well, send ‘em my way!

Right, here’s another image, and this one has a challenge within it. It’s from Yaquina Head, and it has got a seal. Can you see it?

Image shows a tight cluster of basalt sea stacks. The ones in the background are tall and covered with birds. The ones in the foreground are nearly at water level. A gray seal is lounging on one set of them.

Thar’s a seal in them thar rocks…

Now, I know you’ll be tempted to identify all the twelve trillion birds on the rocks, but I’ll be posting much better photos of those soon, so hold yer horses! You’ve already got severe enough eyestrain from finding that seal!

As a special bonus, here is a totes adorbs photo of B watching a seal. It’s pretending to studiously ignore him in this image, but it had actually been scoping him out for a bit, following him along the shore.

Image shows B looking out into the near-shore waves, where a seal head is visible.

B with Seal

I’m of to die of the heat and take a long-ass nap. I’ll be back with much more geotrippy goodness a bit later!

The Most Beautiful Moon I’ve Ever Seen

We haven’t even left yet, and the views are spectacular. The Moon at sunset tonight was magnificent.

Image shows the full moon surrounded by whispy pink clouds.

Sunset Moon

It was one of those fortuitous things. A few minutes earlier, a few minutes later, and it wouldn’t have been there, the way it was. Synchronicity. Lovely.

Image if of the moon and sunset clouds with a bit of forest below.

Sunset Moon with Lovely Forest

If this is even a hint of what the trip will be like, we’re in for some scenic times. Wait til I show you them…

Yes, I Abandoned You For Franklin Falls

Yes, I posted a lovely picture of it on Rosetta Stones. Yes, I’ll be writing up the geology of that amazing place in-depth soonish. Probably by the end of summer, even! And in the meantime, I shall tease you with photos.

Like this before picture:

Image shows me sitting on water-smoothed slabs of granite, with the river rushing beside me.

Moi on the rocks in the Snoqualmie River.

After’s where it gets fun. And very, very cold. (No, I didn’t fall in.) The hydrogeology buffs will probably squee with joy when I post the photo sequence from this stop along the trail!

I’m out for the rest of the week aside from a pre-scheduled post on the geology of the Fourth of July – all the MMA fights are happening this week, I’m trying to be a good girl and go to ye olde daye jobbe at least a few days before my official end date, and I intend to have some serious lazy time before working full-time for the worst boss in the world: moi. We’ll finish naming the store next week, and I will totally get back to those of you who have asked me bidness-related questions! Until then, go have as much fun as you can endure, and if you’re in a place that’s miserably hot, get thee to the water if you can! See you soon!

My Fish, Damn You! A Hungry Heron’s Tale

It’s been one of those weekends filled with fortunate happenstances. B’s household emptied out for a camping trip, so we took the place over. We could do what we wanted, when we wanted, so when the weather suddenly cleared late Saturday afternoon, we buggered off to Juanita for a nice walk and some vitamin D production. It was far less crowded than expected. There was only one gentleman and his dog birdwatching at the first cul-de-sac in the wetland, and one mighty large heron hanging about on a log.

A great blue heron, standing upon a half-submerged log, surrounded by pads that will soon be full of lilies.

A great blue heron, standing upon a half-submerged log, surrounded by pads that will soon be full of lilies.

It really was a tall bird. Here’s some perspective:

A wider version of the above, showing the bit of Juanita Bay where the heron fishes.

A wider version of the above, showing the bit of Juanita Bay where the heron fishes.

And there were red-wing blackbirds, one of whom would later cause our hungry heron some grief.

A red-wing blackbird hanging about on the cattails.

A red-wing blackbird hanging about on the cattails.

The heron was being boring. It didn’t look like it would move for the next century or so, and I got occupied looking at some unusual wetlands plants, and the gentleman was speculating upon when the heron would go fish, while the dog chilled and B associated with a duck. So the gentleman was the only one ready to get the whole sequence of the fast-moving action that came next, alas. It began with the heron spotting a catfish and spearing it in a flash, followed by the blackbird deciding that, even though the heron is enormous compared to it, that catfish was worth trying to steal. I saw the blackbird swoop down and harry the heron, but didn’t have time to swing the camera about until it had given up and gone away. Drat.

But I’m pretty damned happy with the shot I got just after the heron had turned away in a huff.

The heron, catfish in beak, crouched in the lily pads with its wings out.

The heron, catfish in beak, crouched in the lily pads with its wings out.

That, my friends, is the most magnificent photo of a heron I’ve ever managed. I’m in love with it.

You can tell this heron’s had it rough. It’s been scrapping with more than red-wing blackbirds, judging from the raw spot on its wing. So I’m quite pleased for it, managing to catch such a tasty fat fishy.

Our heron, posing prettily with the fishy in its beak, standing tall in triumph, and also wondering where it's going to go to get this thing off its beak without losing it.

Our heron, posing prettily with the fishy in its beak, standing tall in triumph, and also wondering where it’s going to go to get this thing off its beak without losing it.

It stood on the log for a bit, with the turtles looking on in admiration (and probably pretty smug about the whole evolving-armor thing). Then it waded off into the water.

Our heron treading off toward the shore, looking for a likely spot for lunch. You just know it's headed for some place in the tall grass or the cattails where we won't be able to watch nature being nature.

Our heron treading off toward the shore, looking for a likely spot for lunch. You just know it’s headed for some place in the tall grass or the cattails where we won’t be able to watch nature being nature.

And I managed one last shot as it crouched and readied itself to possibly fly away…

Our heron, complete with fish dinner, crouched and ready to spring into action, as a turtle dives at its feet, having decided this obtaining supper scheme sounds like a darned good idea.

Our heron, complete with fish dinner, crouched and ready to spring into action, as a turtle dives at its feet, having decided this obtaining supper scheme sounds like a darned good idea.

…but it actually just ended up hopping into a tall clump of grass. The gentleman said this heron likes doing that, so apparently it’s a regular here, and so should I be, if I want to get even more awesomesauce heron dining shots.

I got you some other lovely photos of various and sundry, which I’ll have up soonish. Right now, though, I have to go cuddle my kitty by way of apologizing for ditching her for other kitties for a night. It’s no consolation to her that neither Kirby nor Luna slept with me, nor that Kirby walked all the way down the hall and trod all over his daddy rather than just nudging me to navigate the few steps from couch to door to let him out this morning. Cats. They always go for the person who’ll have to work the hardest to meet their needs, don’t they?

As for those of you who may be wondering what became of the red-wing blackbird after his ill-fated attempt to steal from a heron, he went chuckling off into the rushes and appeared quite content. The gentleman with the dog says he regularly harries the herons. Once I’m free of ye olde daye jobe, I may just have to head down to see if I can capture another chapter in this story.