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.


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


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.

An End, A Beginning… and a possible major freakout

Today’s the day I put in two weeks’ notice. Ye olde daye jobe will soon be defunct, and I will be working for the worst boss of all: meownself.

People at work keep asking me if I’m sure. As if trading stability for risk is ever something you can be sure of.

Image shows a cat on a boat, staring at a bird on the dock. Caption says, "Risk vs. Reward. Choose wisely."Of course I’m not sure. I’m not sure my books will sell. I’m not sure the merchandise I’ve got planned will move (although I have a feeling you guys are going to love the stuff based on geology puns!). I’m not sure the economy won’t tank and flush me just as things begin to take off. Can’t be sure of anything.


I’m sure I can’t play it safe anymore.

I’m sure I want to step off that mountain, even though there’s no way of knowing if I’ll fall or fly.

I’m sure there’s a lot I want to do that I haven’t got time for now: so many books to write, and fun things to design, and adventures to go on.

I’m sure I’ve got the world’s best cheering section (that would be you, my darlings!).

And I’m sure the time is now. Because if not now, it’ll be never.

So I’m all in.

Image shows a squirrel sprawled on a deck with a thick scattering of seeds in front of it. Caption says, "Awl In"Two weeks, and the badge gets discarded forever. I kiss the sweet union-bargained benefits goodbye. I say sayonara to the steady paycheck. And probably panic a bit before I get my footing. Shit’s a little scary, y’know. But I’m ready to take the plunge, because even if I fall, I can manage to land somewhere soft enough. And who knows – maybe this is the day that I fly.

Wish me luck.

Intimations of Summer Past: A Photo Essay for Those Brought Low by the Winter

Some of you have expressed a certain dissatisfaction with the temperature of the Northern Hemisphere lately. And I’m blue, too, I’ll admit: the weather forecast is rain, rain, more rain, rain plus snow, clouds, and rain. I’m stuck indoors with Christianist textbooks, some of which take ages to debunk, considering nearly every sentence is a lie. And B’s off to see the folks this week, so there’s a long stretch without the person who listens to me howl about fundies, joins me in some righteous outrage, and gives me the you’ll-get-through-it hug. Ugh.

Let’s have some sunshine, shall we? I’m going to do up a photo each from last summer’s adventures. And perhaps we’ll remember that the warm breezes will blow again, and the sun will shine again, and all this gloom will melt away for a while.


Image shows one of the bare rock peaks of the Cascades, a zig-zag of snow snaking down it, and forested slopes in the foreground.

Cascades, May 2013


Image shows the orange waterfall at Coal Creek, surrounded by bright green plants.

Coal Creek, May 2013


Image is of some wild waves on the river, whitewater crests lit by filtered sunlight.

Wenatchee River, May 2013


Image is looking south, with a ring dike and headlands visible.

Oregon Coast, May 2013


Image is a rainbow-colored cloud in the sky.

Snoqualmie Falls, May 2013



Image is a full-length view of the thin streams of Twin Falls

Twin Falls, June 2013


Image shows a view of the Olympic Mountains across the Sound with South Meadow in the foreground.

Discovery Park, June 2013


Image is a sunlight waterfall on Denny Creek.

Denny Creek, June 2013


Image shows Dry Falls, with water in the plunge pools and the brown basalt cliffs dappled by sunlight.

Dry Falls, June 2013

Image is looking up Icicle Creek, with the lovely white-streaked schist exposed on the banks.

Icicle Gorge, July 2013


Image shows the Sisters with a young basalt flow in the foreground.

McKenzie Pass, July 2013


Image shows the Sound and the railroad tracks along the shore.

Richmond Beach, July 2013


Image shows the basalt quarry.

Lord Hill Regional Park, August 2013


Image shows Mount Rainier with a forested valley in the foreground.

Mount Rainier, August 2013


Image is of a short, wide waterfall plunging, with a scenic footbridge arching over it.

Deception Falls, August 2013


Image is of pink water lilies on the pond.

Washington Park Arboretum, August 2013


Image is a knight on a galloping dapple-gray horse.

Snohomish Pumpkin Hurl and Medieval Faire, September 2013


Image shows the river with its gravel bars, and the snow-capped Cascades in the distance.

Al Borlin Park, October 2013


Image shows the view across the Puget Lowland, with Mount Baker in the distance.

Cougar Mountain, October 2013

Just think of what we’ll see when summer comes again…

Went for Shrooms, Came Back with Birds

Inspired by Kenny and the small stretch of charming weather we’re having, I went on a quest Saturday to find mushrooms. Only some unutterable barstard’s mown down all the local fly agaric. And the ones I did find were – oh, shall we say, well past their prime and leave it at that? Bleck. And I was being lazy and doing the North Creek loop, which isn’t exactly a mushroomer’s paradise. I need to get me arse out to the woods, but after a month of sitting round sewing and a further three weeks of lying around being ill, I’m not up for the strenuous business.

Which turned out awesome, actually. I got you birdies!

My little cormorant. Image is a profile of a cormorant, which is standing on a small lump of wood or similar in the creek.

My little cormorant.

There are two ponds on this stretch of North Creek. One is up by where I work: it’s large, and somewhat screened from passers-by, and it’s where a lot of the cool kids hang out. That’s where you would normally see a cormorant, when they make their way over here. However, a bird-watching gentleman told me that pond is frozen, so everybody ended up coming down the creek to the second pond, which is smaller but deep enough not to freeze. It’s also easier for people to get to, which is why the birds and other animals who don’t appreciate humans tend to give it a miss. This cormorant was also giving it a miss, opting instead for a stretch of creek up near the beaver lodge. It wasn’t too happy about being in close proximity to people, but seemed to understand that we weren’t going to come down the steep banks after it.

This did not mean it was able to live its life undisturbed. The ducks were not at all impressed by its solitary black majesty.


Cormorant and duckies. A male and female mallard pair are sailing through the creek right past the cormorant.

Cormorant and duckies.

I thought it would photograph best with water as a background, but I decided to try another set of photos with the grassy bank behind. And green is, apparently, its color, because it really makes that orange by its beak and that green eye pop.


Cormorant against grassy bank.

Cormorant against grassy bank.

Here’s a nice close photo of it.


Closeup of cormorant.

Closeup of cormorant.

Look at those lovely patterns in its wings. Rather looks like someone spent a long time drawing it in various shades of charcoal gray and jet black, dunnit? That’s one of the many things I love about this camera. From the bank, I could barely make out the slightest shade of orange around its bill, and the body was just a solid black blob. The camera managed to resolve quite a bit with its spiffy optical zoom.

And you get a tableau like this, when the water stills after the ducks’ passing, and a noble bird is reflected.


Cormorant and reflection.

Cormorant and reflection.

So that was pretty awesome. Then I meandered the few steps down the trail to the pond, where a kindly birdwatching gentleman pointed out a treasure. See if you can find it in this group photo.

Can you spot the unusual bird in this photo? Look closely - it's very hard to see. (The photo shows a portion of the pond, full of ducks and other waterbirds, and hiding in the rushes is a green heron.)

Can you spot the unusual bird in this photo? Look closely – it’s very hard to see.

I’ll give you a minute. Also, a link to a larger version. Because I love you, that’s why.

Since the other pond was frozen, a huge congregation of wildlife had gathered down at this one. If you look round the mud flats, you’ll see lots of nutria having a nibble, as well as all the ducks, and this was just a small sample of the abundance.

Ducks and nutria having afternoon tea.

Ducks and nutria having afternoon tea.

And amongst all the usual stuff, there was this wee little green heron, who should’ve left the locale long ago.

Wee green heron on the bank, barely seeable it blends in so well.

Wee green heron on the bank, barely seeable it blends in so well.

I don’t remember ever seeing one before, so this was rather exciting, and made me feel better about missing out on mushrooms.

Little heron walking out from its old brown grasses with purpose. That food, my friends, will be captured and eaten.

Little heron walking out from its old brown grasses with purpose. That food, my friends, will be captured and eaten.

I spent quite a bit of time up there, watching the heron hunt, and talking to the gentleman about all the wonderful things round here. He’s seen river otters on this creek, which means I’m going to have to spend more time along it. Otters! It’s possible that’s what got mightily offended when I startled it from the bridge the other day. It plopped off the bank before I could get a good look at it, and all that would poke out later was a head sorta like a nutria but not really, and kind of like a beaver only not, and it would look toward the bridge, see me still there, and make an angry huffing sound before diving again. Just like a church-type lady doing the “Well, I never!” routine. I felt kinda bad, but look, I was on the human part of the creek and stayed there, so I sort of felt like it was getting huffy over nothing.

Anyway. One last look at our hunting heron:

Hunting heron, now out on the mud flats and looking for passing delicacies in the water.

Hunting heron, now out on the mud flats and looking for passing delicacies in the water.

Coming home, I saw a dragonfly. Yes, a big fat ol’ red dragonfly, so late in the season – I’d have shot a photo if it had landed, but it didn’t. Still. Absolutely magical, seeing a summer creature in the near-winter. It went well with the ladybug that was industriously climbing my window earlier.

Mah late ladybug. It's a silhouette of a ladybug that's climbed to near the top of the window, shot from inside the house. Just a tiny little thing.

Mah late ladybug.

And then Starspider and I went to the weaver’s store near sundown, taking the road along the lake, and those sunset colors on the water with the Cascades and Mount Rainier and everything – I wish we’d been in a position to photograph them for you. It reminds me why I moved here, and why I stay.

One of the best cities in the world, this.

The Saga of the Salivary Gland

Look, it’s not a tumor.

Image of white kitten on top of a larger white cat that is grumpily saying

Not that you’d know that from the reaction. You know how they tell you to see your doctor if your sore throat doesn’t go away or worsens? Well, going in to week three of this wretched illness, everything was improving except my throat, which was busily getting worse. My regular doctor has taken a sabbatical to be with her kids, and it seemed rather asinine anyway to drive all the way to Totem Lake and see a real doctor over a silly little illness like this, so I went to our on-site clinic. One torture session with a cotton swab and a needle-stick later, we’d decided it wasn’t mono or strep, just a persistent virus. No worries. Come back if it gets worse.

Later that night, I got a sharp pain in the roof of my mouth where the hard palette meets the soft, near where all that crap drains from your sinuses down your throat. Felt like a canker sore, and there was a little bump that night that was a large painful bump in the morning. Well, figures. So much shit was draining it was coming out of virtually every orifice, including my eyes, and that was bound to irritate sensitive tissues.

But then it started being as painful as strep, and interfered with swallowing and spitting, and made talking painful, and if my period hadn’t started early and thus had me taking my usual high doses of ibuprofen, I’d probably not have been able to function at all. So when that didn’t resolve after a day, at a time when my nose had decided it could cope without full-time hard-core decongestants and I was no longer pouring mucous everywhere (sorry for that image), I decided another visit was in order. I expected them to tell me either no big deal, or no big deal and hey, have some antibiotics.

The physician’s assistant on duty freaked. the fuck. out.

Her eyes got huge when she saw the swelling, and she went galloping through large and imposing medical tomes, and took photos and consulted colleagues, and fussed over the fact I’d been a smoker. She didn’t say, but I could hear it plain: tumor. Lots of structures there, she said. Better see an ear, nose and throat specialist. Do you have good insurance? It’ll be expensive. See one this afternoon.

I talked her down from the ledge. Cancer, I figure, would probably take less than two days to go from nothing to big ol’ lump. And yes, I have good insurance, but would prefer not to pay huge copays for nothing. She called an ENT, who said virus or abscess. We decided to keep an eye on it overnight, and I could see a specialist if it got worse.

Between menstrual cramps, emotional misery, and mouth pain keeping me up for all but two hours of the previous night, I was too tired to see straight, so I went home at lunch and slept until eight. When I woke up, the ibuprofen had worn off, and everything hurt like a fury. I hadn’t eaten more than a few bites, I was frustrated and tired of it, and there was an urgent care clinic open in Redmond. Fuck, yes, let’s go see an actual doctor.

The doctor was an older man with copious ER experience who took one look at the swelling and freaked. the fuck. out. Instantly. Snapped a picture, talked about how if the CT scanner had been open he’d have me in there, mused over sending me direct to the ER, talked about how strange a place this swelling was in and how you don’t want to fuck around with something that close to airways and blood vessels, and mused over wanting to stab the thing with a scalpel immediately. If he had me in the ER, he said, it would be straight to the ENT for me as well as pumping me full of IV antibiotics, and no mistake.

Gray kitten in scrubs walking toward right, caption says, "Dr. Tinycat to the OR, STAT!"

At this time, I became a bit nervous.

(And please do give Starspider a big ol’ round of thanks at this point for being ready to arrange rides at in instant’s notice at midnight on a work night, just in case I had actually ended up in the OR – it’s good to know that there are people who will come rescue your poor ass at all hours.)

He kept me there until midnight, pondering, and consulting with the nearest ER, and finally decided that since the swelling hadn’t worsened over the previous twenty-four hours, I could talk and swallow and breathe, it was safe enough to send me home with antibiotics and steroids and a strict order to see an ENT first thing in the morning. They were to get me in no matter what. And if I noticed the slightest change, I was to zip straight to the nearest emergency room.

So I went to the 24-hour Walgreens, which had only one frenzied pharmacist on duty, nine million people in line, and my insurance company was playing silly buggers and denying to cover my meds. Do you know how much plain ol’ amoxicillin costs without coverage? 80 fucking dollars. But the steroids were cheap, and the pharmacist kindly gave me two antibiotic pills for free until I could yell at the prescription insurance folks, and I made it home in the wee hours of the morning with enough medication to begin the battle.

50 milligrams of Prednisone, 875 milligrams of amoxi, and a few hours of sleep later, I woke up to… a very mild ache in the ol’ swollen bit, and the happiest throat I’ve had for two weeks. Solid food did not daunt me. I popped out of bed, warmed some chunky steak-and-potato soup, added some bread and cheese, and proceeded to feast. Said, “Fuck the ENT this morning, I’m going back to bed, and the afternoon will definitely do.” Promptly fell back to sleep. Got up mid-morning and made my appointment. Sorted out the insurance problem with a very nice and competent woman who left me happy to be a Caremark customer. Waltzed in to the ENT’s office. Saw a wonderful young man in a lab coat, who flashed a light in my mouth… and promptly freaked the fuck out. Quietly. One thing you do not want a specialist to do is get those concerned-eyebrows going on the instant he take a peek at your little swelling.

But after a bit of pondering, and taking into consideration how quickly meds were working, and hearing that the swelling had gone down, and I’d had no fever or any other major issues, he decided it was just an infected salivary gland. It’s just that the ones at the top of your mouth usually don’t get infected, so everybody was a little disconcerted by the placement of the thing. He decided there was no need for stabbing it, or otherwise worrying – the antibiotics and steroids should do the job nicely. We’ll make sure the thing completely clears, but there’s no worry at this point of dying suddenly of asphyxia, bleeding, or cancer.

So you can expect to finally see more of me round here. Recovery is in sight. There are no huge sewing projects with serious deadlines on the horizon. And I’ve had plenty of time to read and think in between bouts of passing out, so there’s a lot for me to share with you!