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.

Except.

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!

Great Moments in Horseback Archery: Shoulda Had a Bigger Shield

One thing you should never do, if you’re the leader of a company of equestrian experts, is allow the Viking announcing events direct the audience to choose your shield. Given a choice between large, medium, and comically microscopic, you can imagine what everybody chose.

The Viking's assistant holds up a shield for the audience's inspection, as Alan looks on.

The Viking’s assistant holds up a shield for the audience’s inspection, as Alan looks on.

No, not that one.

Alan graciously accepts the infinitesimal shield the audience has chosen by popular acclaim. We're such evil barstards...

Alan graciously accepts the infinitesimal shield the audience has chosen by popular acclaim. We’re such evil barstards…

Yepper. That’s the one. You’ll have to look closely – it’s that wee silver thing that looks like a mini flying saucer.

Alan was very gracious about it.

Now, firing arrows from horseback is rather difficult. You’re steering something that’s got a mind of its own with your knees. You’re trying to draw your bow with a rather large head and neck in the way, and believe me when I say that even a canter is quite bouncy and prone to throwing off your aim. No surprise that Laurie missed her first shot.

However. She only missed once…

She draws.

Laurie aims at Alan.

Laurie aims at Alan.

She shoots! She scores!

You can see the arrow has left the bow. Note that Alan is holding the shield in a wise place - wise until you realize the thing's designed like a bulls-eye...

You can see the arrow has left the bow. Note that Alan is holding the shield in a wise place – wise until you realize the thing’s designed like a bulls-eye…

Oh, my, did she ever not miss this time round.

An enlarged version of the above, showing where Alan has bravely taken the shot.

An enlarged version of the above, showing where Alan has bravely taken the shot.

If you’re having trouble seeing the arrow, click through for a larger version and pay especial attention to where the shield is.

Well, needless to say, Alan demonstrated that even in full plate armor with a small but thick shield, taking an arrow to the crown jewels isn’t the best experience.

Alan crumples as Laurie rides to victory.

Alan crumples as Laurie rides to victory.

Mind you, I think he was playing it up for dramatic purposes. These were, after all, blunt arrows. And he did have quite a lot of steel on.

Laurie wasn’t done with him yet, though. In the video that follows, the maniacal laughter is courtesy our Viking announcer. It’s not quite right, is it?

However, you can see Alan recover quickly, and in a future video, you’ll see him hamming it up thoroughly, and so a good time was had by all.

And once again, my little point-and-shoot got the shot.  Thing’s almost as awesome as the Free Lancers.

Great Moments in Jousting

Sharpen your eyes and don’t look away: you’re about to see a very unusual moment in jousting.

Did you see the tips crack against each other and come flying apart? That was bloody amazing is what that was. Amazing enough I spent all night fighting with various video editing programs to put together something that would at least attempt to do it justice. Just imagine being there…

Anyway. Thee shall have some lovely photos of the two heavy horses – these animals weren’t bred for slim lines and elegance, they were selected for strength and endurance. It takes a lot of power to haul around knights in full plate armor.

The lighter heavy horse strutting its stuff in the lists.

The lighter heavy horse strutting its stuff in the lists.

Still beautiful, aren’t they?

The Palamino Jouster poses prettily.

The Palamino Jouster poses prettily.

Check out the hooves on these animals – they can cause the ground to tremble as if there’s an earthquake in the offing.

Nice conformance, that horse. Don't let it step on you under any circumstances.

Nice conformance, that horse. Don’t let it step on you under any circumstances.

I want one of each, please.

Anyway. Yes. I’ll be working on the trebuchet montage soon, probably over the weekend – it’s a lot of stuff to work with. In the meantime, I promise I’ll have the occasional new bit of substantive commentary, plus many more horsies. Wait until you see what happened during the archery exhibition. Poor dude shoulda had a bigger shield…

Broughtcha Horsies

I told you I would, didn’t I? Oh, I’ll have far, far more, but this should whet your appetites.

I love the fact they had miniature horse carriages this year. Awesome! Many, many women demonstrating mad skillz in medieval equine martial arts – yet moar awesome. And I discovered that standing beside one of the speakers means I don’t have to fiddle with audio. That’s conveniently provided. Heh.

Alas, there will be no portraits of moi with horsies – we had to rush back home to watch over Luna, who just got out of surgery. Not that you’d know it from the way she was all over the house playing with absolutely everything, at least until the vaccines kicked in and made her drowsy. I hope my hysterectomy goes as well when I finally manage to convince someone to give me one.

Everyone give a big round of applause, including shouts, whistles, and various assorted noisemakers, to our own Trebuchet, who owned the competition once again. There’s a reason we call him Trebuchet, people.

Pumpkin hurling on the way. There’s an air cannon, even. I just have to cut together a nice montage out of all the raw footage, and you shall have pumpkins being chunked. Plus many horsies.

The Faire continues today for those who are in the area and want to go have a great time.

A Memorable, Sometimes Terrifying, Always Exhilirating, and Frequently Funny Trip

I’m home, alive, which was in doubt a few times during this whirlwind overnight to Oregon. First off, Fourth of July holiday traffic. Meaning folks who would do things like look me in the eye, wait until I was a few yards away, and pull out in front of me. Or who would decide they wanted my lane and wanted it now, regardless of the fact I happened to be occupying the space they wanted. But I’m a watchful driver most of the time, and my brakes are excellent, and the car understands how to stop or swerve quickly, so those incidents merely served as spice.

So forget traffic. Let’s get down to bidness: geogallivanting with Anne, Chris, and Lockwood!

This exchange happened on Twitter because of it:

I swear I did feel the ground tremble a time or two...

I swear I did feel the ground tremble a time or two…

(Text for those whose devices won’t read pics: Chris tweeted, “Geobloggers in their natural habitat: @lockwooddewitt, @highlyanne, me & @Dhunterauthor, with 2 of the 3 Sisters. pic.twitter.com/7PRRk2v09s” and Jacquelyn Gill tweeted back, “That’s awesome! I’m surprised that didn’t trigger an earthquake or something.” Surprises me, too!)

This trip started with me driving down to Oregon at 4:30 in the ay-em, which wasn’t as brutal as it might sound. Few folk on the road, nicely overcast most of the way, cool and lovely. So I was still nice and fresh when I arrived, and discovered Chris and Anne’s rental car had decided to have bits fall off. My car rather comfortably seats four, though, so that was no problem at all. In we piled, and off to McKenzie Pass we went.

Firstly, we stopped at Clear Lake. Total madhouse. It seemed like everyone in Oregon had decided to visit the spot, and we only got a reasonable parking space by a minor miracle. But it was lovely. And people being there meant people doing interesting things, like swimming in water cold enough to cause most people to dip in a single toe and say, “Yeah, it’s not too JESUS FUCK THIS WATER IS FUCKING COLD!” and remove said digit with alacrity. Not this dude:

Kayaking person with dude swimming alongside in nothing but bathing trunks and cap. Definition of hardcore, people.

Kayaking person with dude swimming alongside in nothing but bathing trunks and cap. Definition of hardcore, people.

So that was entertaining. Then the scuba people swam by, and you get to see just how clear Clear Lake is.

Scuba divers in Clear Lake, which is clear enough for you to clearly see scuba divers in it.

Scuba divers in Clear Lake, which is clear enough for you to clearly see scuba divers in it.

The water was also clear enough for the near one to notice me photographing them. That was amusing.

I got a lovely shot of Anne and Chris there.

Anne Jefferson, Chris Rowan, and Clear Lake.

Anne Jefferson, Chris Rowan, and Clear Lake.

I could go on about them until the next century. Keep in mind that these are the two geobloggers who got me back into reading about geology in the first place, as I’d stumbled across them on ScienceBlogs back in the day. I admired them from afar and learned an amazing amount of geology from them. Then, when I became a geoblogger my own self, they became two of my most important mentors. Chris got me published in Open Lab, and Anne is the reason why I have a blog at SciAm. I owe them very nearly my entire professional writer trajectory. Lockwood makes the third most influential person, and here we were, all on the same trip, with Anne taking us through her area of study for her PhD, and I pretty much just shut my mouth, opened my ears, and gazed at them with big admiring puppy dog eyes.

They’re two of the sweetest people in the world, by the way. Just amazing on all fronts.

After Clear Lake, we visited one or two other places Lockwood and I have been before along the McKenzie River, but with Anne’s eyes, we saw it a whole different way. And there were places we went that are not only off the beaten path, but have no path beaten to them because they’re super-sekrit study areas, and I cannot divulge their location even under torture.

Anne reminding me that this location is verrboten.

Anne reminding me that this location is verrboten.

Okay, there was only one of those places, but it was memorable. Guarded by yellowjackets, in fact, and quite well. One of them took particular offense to me stopping near the nest, which the little buggers had camouflaged well, and let me know by stinging me in the butt. And as I was trying to figure out where this sudden pinpoint of burning pain was coming from, it decided my ankles were delectable, and went at both of them. You can imagine the howling and cursing that ensued. Luckily, I was the only person who got stung (five times!), and it left me alone once I went a few feet up the hill. We didn’t have to kill a poor bugger who was just guarding the old homestead. And yes, that was one of the most painful experiences I’ve ever had, but it was localized, I’m not allergic, and I knew it would eventually go away. It’s just that I could no longer wear regular shoes. Argh.

I wish I could’ve ripped them off then and there, but we still had forest and ferns to navigate on the way back to the car. The ferns were bloody ginormous. Some of them were nearly over our heads.

Moi and Anne bushwhacking through enormous ferns. Image courtesy of Lockwood.

Moi and Anne bushwhacking through enormous ferns. Image courtesy of Lockwood.

Once I’d run a sanitizing wipe and poured some water over my wounds, then changed to flip-flops, I was ready to go. A few stupid stings weren’t going to stop me. And besides, everybody in the group who’d been tormented by an angry yellowjacket said the pain didn’t last long. Onward!

We drove up the cirque to McKenzie Pass. This is a hair-raising road, practically vertical in places, with plenty of blind switchbacks that suggest you take them at 15 mph. I’ve driven it enough times now that I was sort of ho-hum about it, whereas in the past, there’s been a constant litany of we’regonnadie, we’regonnadie running through my head. And I grew up with Oak Creek Canyon, mind, so I’m used to steep curvy things. We made it to the top without squishing a biker or falling down the cliff, which was very nice, and went to my favorite observatory ever.

Chris, Anne, and Lockwood at Dee Wright Observatory.

Chris, Anne, and Lockwood at Dee Wright Observatory.

I kind of lagged behind so I could take ambush shots. I mean, just too cool, having three of my heroes in one place. This is them gazing at Black Crater on the way up to the Observatory. At the top, a kind soul got all four of us, and that was a fantastic shot.

Four geobloggers at a geologically spectacular place.

Four geobloggers at a geologically spectacular place.

So that’s us atop Dee Wright Observatory with North and Middle Sisters as a backdrop. Outstanding.

Now, something I know for truth is that flip-flops and a’a lava don’t mix. I grew up around this stuff. It’s vicious and will cut you. One unguarded instant and bam! You’re bleeding. But that’s a risk I’m willing to take when I’m forced to do geology in flip-flops. I did fine until I stepped on to a boulder of it to get a shot of a particular feature, and slid ever-so-slightly stepping off. I grazed my big toe joint where it joins the foot, just a light brush, and the next thing I knew, it looked like a slaughterhouse. It didn’t hurt a single bit, the cut was ridiculously tiny, but it bled like a scalp wound. So there was moi, dripping blood, shuffling back to the first aid kit for another antiseptic wipe and a band-aid. Yes, I felt like a doofus. But I was back on the rocks in no time.

Moi posing with benchmark.

Moi posing with benchmark.

This photo amuses me, because you can see some examples of my war wounds.

Mah wounds.

Mah wounds.

Yes, I swell like a balloon any time something bites my legs. But the swelling was actually going down at that point. I’d baked myself in the sun, and the heat seemed to help a bit. So, onward!

Our next stop was Proxy Falls. This is a world-class beautiful waterfall, with a longish hike to get there. Anne decided we’d go to the top of the Collier lava flow, which is a tiny distance in, and then I could decide how much further we’d go, because flip-flops. But I figured I’d make it just fine. It’s a decently-maintained trail, and I could’ve grabbed a stick if I’d needed.

Ermahgerd! Ah shtick!

Ermahgerd! Ah shtick!

No, seriously, those are community sticks. Says so right on the stick.

Community schtick.

Community schtick.

Don’t ask me why that was so amusing. It just was.

So anyway, off to the top of the flow we went. Now, understand something: this flow is only 1,500 years old or so. It’s a baby. But it’s got ginormous old-growth trees hanging out all over it. There’s a reason for that involving outburst floods and other features, and I will someday tell you the story, but for now, just gaze in wonder as Anne and Chris show you how huge these trees are.

Bloody big tree.

Bloody big tree.

It’s bleedin’ enormous. I think that tree merits the designation maclargehuge.

Now, by this point, we were a considerable distance along the trail, and when your flip-flops have sneaker tread, a hiking trail is no tough challenge, so we went the distance. People. Proxy Falls is gorgeous. And hydrogeologically interesting. I’ll show you why someday: for now, enjoy Chris and Anne showing it off.

Anne, Chris, and Proxy Falls.

Anne, Chris, and Proxy Falls.

So that was utterly enchanting, and then we visited a lost spring, which Anne found, and my trusty flip-flops got me through another trek in the woods without undue incident. We ended our day at Takoda’s Restaurant. People. If you’re ever in the area of Takoda’s Restaurant, go to it forthwith. I wanted to ask them if they had a room upstairs where I could stay until I’d worked my way through their menu. Incredibly tasty.

And right next door is Harbick’s Country Store, where you could get nearly anything at a reasonable price. I zipped over before dinner and bought a selection of things with which to treat yellowjacket stings, in the spirit of scientific inquiry. I can report that Anbesol, despite being a topical anesthetic, is unable to cope. Hydrocortisone cream does nothing until the next day, when the pain is gone and the buggers are itching vigorously. Campho-Phenique, which I hadn’t encountered since childhood, doesn’t solve the pain, but seems to calm it a bit, and it’s antiseptic as well, which is a bonus. Very nice stuff. An extremely hot soak, a bit o’ Campho, plus two Benadryl, and I was basically unconscious and feeling great that night.

So, despite yellowjackets and rough lava, that was a fantastic day. We all had a blast, and it was an honor to ferry around a car full of amazing geobloggers. I’m so glad I got that opportunity!

Anne and Chris had to leave somewhat early the next day, so Lockwood and I were on our own. That’s never a problem for us. We headed out to investigate McDowell Creek County Park, which was rumored to have spectacular waterfalls. Oh, honey, does it ever! And it has a trail that’s very kind to flip-flopped feet. Bonus: the flip-flops allowed me to go wading for better shots, and there’s nothing like a good scramble through freezing cold water on a hot day. Glorious!

There’s also some extremely amusing misspelled graffiti:

Pro tip for graffiti artists: spell-check before scribbling.

Pro tip for graffiti artists: spell-check before scribbling.

(Says “You’ve gotta fall before you fly, so spread your wings and sore.”)

Props for using the correct form of your. Shame about the sore. Lockwood’s actually threatening to get “Spread Your Wings and Sore” tattooed on himself now. I think he should go for it. If any of you want to design some appropriate graphics, that would be awesome.

Now, I won’t leave you without a glimpse of a waterfall. This one’s a bit meta: Lockwood photographing me photographing Majestic Falls.

Moi at Majestic.

Moi at Majestic.

So that was a delightful, easy loop, and then we returned to Corvallis and went to our favorite Italian restaurant, Pastini. Reasonable prices, and zomg I’ve never had better Italian dressing on a salad. I wanted to take home a bucket of it. So good.

That ended our geoadventure. I zipped over to Suzanne’s on my way home. She’s one of my favorite people in the universe, and I’m glad I had time to spend a couple of hours with her and Token, who is one of the only lap dogs I find myself loving. We had good times, then it was home to my kitty, and to sleep excessively. Oy. Whatta trip!

Thank you Anne, Chris, Lockwood and Suzanne for making this trip one of the best ever. Love you all! And you, my darlings, I shall show my appreciation for you with many enchanting photos very soon. But right now, it’s time to pass out again. Hasta!

Gone Gallivanting. Have a Kitten.

ZOMG you guys, I’m finally meeting Anne and Chris this weekend! They’ve driven and flown a long way to get here. I’m driving down in the wee hours of Saturday morning so that we can meet up in Corvallis, and Lockwood’s taking us geogallivanting. Fun times! I owe Chris and Anne a healthy chunk of my career as a geoblogger. It’ll be lovely to thank them in person.

I’m trying to fit in plenty of time with B, Kirby and Luna before I go. We spent a chill Fourth of July watching Alias and MMA and playing with kittehs. Fame doesn’t seem to have gone to their heads quite yet. Kirby spent a few minutes playing with his baby sister between jaunts in the nice weather, and Luna was just outstandingly adorable. Good thing, because she’s pretty much all you’re getting for a few days.

Here she was last week:

Luna lounging.

Luna lounging.

She’d put on a few ounces and was getting better at getting around, but she was still totally awkward kitten. So cute!

With kittens, a week makes a huge difference. She’s gotten bigger, put on more weight, and started getting coordinated. And she’s fast! She’s also bloody adorable: she likes to play around the coffee table now, and will balance on the support rod that runs under it. Wish I could’ve shot that, but it was too dim under there. I did, however, manage some very nice ones with her in her favorite spot on the hearth.

Luna lounging on the hearth.

Luna lounging on the hearth.

And I got tons of her alternately washing herself and playing in my lap.We’re talking serious hilarity here.

Luna in my lap, playing with my hands.

Luna in my lap, playing with my hands.

Do you know how hard it is to concentrate on the dramatic bits in Alias when a kitten’s being this bloody adorable?

Play must pause while the paw is polished.

Play must pause while the paw is polished.

She’s in that ultra-flexible but easily-unbalanced stage where washing is an epic enterprise.

Gotta get that back foot pinned down. It's tricksy!

Gotta get that back foot pinned down. It’s tricksy!

Those toes! They kill me.

Must perform acts worthy of a contortionist to wash back...

Must perform acts worthy of a contortionist to wash back…

Aaaand now we can play again.

Hands off the clean fur, lady!

Hands off the clean fur, lady!

Awwww!

She reminds me of when Misha was young and did those uber-cute things that have you in puddles of squee every ten seconds. Hopefully she won’t grow up to be homicidal. She doesn’t attack sleeping peoples’ toes, so there’s hope. Also, she’s got a lovey-dovey big brother to model proper cuddly behavior. Kirby isn’t quite a lap cat, but he does love his cuddles.

Right. You’re stocked up on squee. I’ll be back soonish with the geo, and pics of four geology folk gallivanting round the beautiful state of Oregon. Love you, my darlings! Be good don’t get caught while I’m gone. And if any of you want to flood me with cute kitten pics while I’m gone, I won’t protest.

Franklin Falls Prelim Report: In Which Important Things Are Realized

Our story begins the night before the trip, as I was trying and failing to find anything on the geology of Franklin Falls, and cogitating about what I remembered seeing there oh so long ago. I’ve had a few samples sitting on a side table for years, and occasionally, I’d take them out and turn them over in my fingers and ponder. They seemed sedimentary, but also volcanic. They might have been sandstone and slate, only they were super-hard, and made strange sounds. I went round and round with them. Andesite? Bizarre basalt? Whut?

Then, last night, I began pondering the fact that the Snoqualmie Batholith is right there. The South Fork Snoqualmie River flows over it near the road. And you can find exposures of that grand granodiorite along the bits of the river beneath the gorge. I’ve played there, in fact. I began thinking relationships. I thought of other places where I’ve seen igneous rocks intrude. I thought of going up on Marys Peak with Lockwood, and looking at the gabbro sills, and then that trip down to the hornfels, which is what happened to sandstone when the adjacent magma baked it.

Hornfels.

Duh.

Obvious, now that I think about it (after being trained up by Lockwood). The magma of the Snoqualmie Batholith would have heated the country rock up to a nice altering temperature. It would have baked everything around it. So of course, there would be a good section of hornfels, right? And now I thought about it, the stuff I’d collected looked and sounded like thoroughly-baked hornfels. It has a rather distinctive ring, as you might notice if you watch the video of Lockwood whacking at some at this link. Its presence would fit with the skarn found along Denny Creek. It would explain the odd appearance of the rocks, and their remarkable hardness, and the way they break in rather stark geometric lines. So I now had a theory, and I could test it when we got there. I did, and now I’m damned sure it’s hornfels.

Nice hornfels outcrop at Franklin Falls. Hammer wot George gave me for scale.

Nice hornfels outcrop at Franklin Falls. Hammer wot George gave me for scale.

I was eventually able to locate something of a geologic guide (pdf) that confirmed my observations, so that’s outstanding. Lockwood hasn’t been pounding geology into my brain for three years in vain. I can now go to areas where I don’t have anything but the vaguest idea of what’s there, observe the bits, and fit them together into something of a coherent story. I’m starting to Figure Shit Out. And then I can say to B the fact that precious metals and such like are often found round batholiths, and then glance at a geologic diagram of the area in Roadside Geology of Washington and not be in the least surprised when it turns out there’s gold in them thar mountains.

Also was able to recognize a lot of glacial features, like U-shaped valleys and moraines and horns and suchlike. Upshot: pal around with geologists long enough, and you’ll be able to start figuring it out on your own.

Other important things realized:

1. Even in June in a part of the Cascades relatively low in elevation (2600ft), you’d best be prepared for snow:

Patch o' snow along Franklin Falls trail.

Patch o’ snow along Franklin Falls trail.

We never did get cold until we were coated in spray from the falls, but there were plenty o’ patches o’ snow, and the path was sopping wet from where some had melted in many places, and in some places, you actually had to walk on snow because it hadn’t melted yet. Stuff like this still blows my Arizona mind.

2. If you put your trail beside a river bank, you’d best be prepared to have bits of it eaten by the river.

The path is being chewed away. Rivers are powerful, especially mountain ones.

The path is being chewed away. Rivers are powerful, especially mountain ones.

3. If you go hiking on a trail the snow’s only just melting off of, the volunteers probably haven’t had a chance to go at it with a chainsaw yet, and you’d better be good at crawling over fallen trees:

Tree across the trail. Trees fall down a lot in the Cascades during the winter.

Tree across the trail. Trees fall down a lot in the Cascades during the winter.

4. And B is a fantastic adventuring companion. I knew that already, but I know it even more now.

This was a fruitful trip. Not only is there enough geology to keep us busy for at least one more post (after I’ve had a chance to brush up on certain details of it), I’ve got a huge amount of skunk cabbage, some mystery flowers, some not-quite-mystery-flowers, some cryptopods (one of which is going to delight you: it’s like the Jaws of the insect world), some very awesome fungi, moss and lichen that have turned some rocks into the Wicked Witch of the West, some mystery botany, lots of stuff for a discussion of old growth trees, large woody debris, more waterfalls… at this rate, I’m going to have to start posting about sixteen times a day to catch up with the backlog of stuff.

So I’m going to try to get the geology of Franklin Falls posted tomorrow, and I might hit you with a cryptopod or two. And didn’t a few of you want Marys Peak lilies? I’ve got ‘em ready to write up. Stay tuned!

What’s that? You can’t wait for a photo of the falls? Well, all righty, then. I’d hate to make you suffer.

Franklin Falls. The water volume is pretty high right now - compare that to late summer in my old Franklin Falls post, and wow, viva la differance!

Franklin Falls. The water volume is pretty high right now – compare that to late summer in my old Franklin Falls post, and wow, viva la differance! Also note the patch of snow in the middle of the falls on the left. Isn’t that adorable?

Much more to come, my darlings, I promise!