Happy Leaf

My wetware is still mostly non-functional, but should be coming back online soon. I’ve been capable of actual thought for whole minutes at a time. This could increase to as much as an hour now that the 8 liters of IV fluid have mostly been processed, and I have room in my body for things like food. Wow, right? My plans for the next few days include eating, with occasional naps. If all goes well, there will be writing, as well, but no promises just yet. I may be too busy shoveling nutrition in. Happily, I can do this while reading, so I’ll have some book reviews for you soon. You’ll love the one about all the flat earth people.

In the meantime, I’ve had just enough energy and focus to start going through photos we took before I got walloped by this infection. Here’s a very happy leaf we found at St. Edwards.

Image shows a green leaf on the ground. It has holes that look like eyes and a mouth. There's a small yellow leaf on top that looks like a lock of hair.

Happy leaf.

With luck, I’ll have some really spectacular fly agaric for you soon, too. They’re popping out all over the place right now. Seems to be a good year for fungi.

Fall Fishies in a Lost and Found Spring

Just down the road a bit from Proxy Falls, there’s a meadow where people can pull in to camp. Behind that meadow is a spring, which Anne Jefferson showed us in July of 2013. Anne knows all of the best places in the McKenzie River watershed! Lockwood, B, and I went back on our last visit to the area. This time, we found more than serene and lovely water – we found fishies!

Image shows a bit of blue-green water with a log fallen over it. Fishes are swimming in the clear, shallow, still water.

Fishies in the spring I

Many many fishies!

Same view, with a few more fishies in it.

Fishies in the spring II

Are they trout? I wanna say trout. But I know very little about fish. We used to go fishing at Lake Powell, but the only fish I ever caught were the wee little sunfish that would flock to the boat, knowing I’d give them a salmon egg feast if they’d just bite the hook and tolerate me hauling them up and releasing them. I’m told fish don’t feel a lot of pain. I certainly hope that’s true. Regardless, the little dudes were never deterred, and they’d flock around me for as long as the salmon eggs held out. I think I might have caught a perch or two once, out by Glen Canyon Dam, and maybe something else as a wee youngster, but I’m obviously not an inveterate lover of all things fish and fishing. I can’t identify them for carp. But I do enjoy encountering them, especially when I don’t have to fish for them.

The same scene. Many fish have gathered in the center of the shot.

Fishies in the spring III

You have no idea how long I stood there squeeing and filming. I tried several photos, which as you can see are not the bestest. We always manage to get there near sundown, and the trees block a lot of the light. I decided to try a video instead. I think it turned out rather well, all things considered.

Alas, it’s a bit unstable, but it got a bit blurred when I tried to stabilize, so I suppose we can live with shaky-cam. Hopefully, all of the above are adequate for identification purposes. What kind of fishies do you think our fall fishes in the spring are?

One Courageous Cormorant

There’s a cormorant in this picture. I swear to you. Yes, I know there are very violent waves going on, but there’s a little seabird floating in the midst of all that chaos. Can you see it?

Image shows a portion of Devils Churn. There are steep, black basalt walls, with waves pounding against them. In the center of the photo, against the far wall, there's a cormorant swimming serenely in water that looks rather murderous.

Cormorants have no fear of fishing in the Devils Churn.

Here, this may help. The cormorant was where the big wave is now:

Image was taken a second or two after the previous. There is a rather hefty wave where the cormorant was.

The cormorant has dived below.

No? Well, let’s zoom in:

Image is cropped from the first image to show the tiny head of the cormorant floating in the churning sea.

Can you see the cormorant now?

This is something I hadn’t experienced at Devils Churn before: a seabird unconcernedly fishing in surf roiling in and slamming off the stone walls of a narrow chasm. I mean, imagine trying to grab dinner in a ginormous washing machine on the agitation cycle. With a bull ramming it every few seconds. And sharp, unforgiving rocks plastered on the sides. If a human fell into the Churn, it would go very hard for them. But this little bird fished as happily as if it had been on the serenest of seas.

I have a gif for you, showing the little bugger riding the waves:

Image is a serious of photos showing the cormorant floating atop churning waves.

Our enterprising little cormorant doesn’t appear to suffer seasickness.

Both the original photos and the cropped images are here, if you want to take a more leisurely look. They’ll give you an idea of just how wild the waves were. Of course, you can also watch the video:

I love the fact that nature has supplied remarkable creatures to go with the astounding geology. I hope to discuss all of that soon, but for the moment, I must away to scream thoroughly into a pillow regarding the continuing idiocy in atheism, followed by a nice calming session of rock magnet production with B later this afternoon. B is getting your newest Christianist miseducation post typed up, so you have that to look forward to. Right?

Yet Moar Greetings from Oregon

Home now. Very tired. Gonna go take the rest of the evening off after I post this, which will probably involve chocolate, kitty cuddles, a warm bath, nearly-mindless reading, and SO MUCH SLEEP. But I couldn’t do those things without grabbing you all some pretty photos from the last day of the trip.

We stopped along the Siuslaw River a bit outside of Florence, OR. There’s a wee little park where, during the first trip we ever took, Lockwood took us for a view of the river and the turbedites that are such a huge component of the Coast Range there. I couldn’t resist the tug of nostalgia. And the calm river reflecting the autumn colors was magic. I’ll show you all that when I put together the autumn extravaganza posts I plan. For now, have some (probable) turbedite chunks reflecting in the river.

Image shows the far river bank, where a pyramid-shaped gray boulder and a smaller dark-gray one shaped a bit like a helmet are reflected in the river.

Rocks reflect.

We’ll be talking lots about turbedites one of these days. Hopefully, you’ll end up loving them as much as I do.

After lunch at a little tea room in Florence, we dropped by the Darlingtonia Wayside to show B carnivorous plants, and then decided to splurge on Sea Lion Caves. We’d never done that before, because you have to buy tickets for everyone, and the expense for a few minutes of seeing lots of sea lions plastered all over a sea cave just never seemed attractive compared to all of the other things we could be doing, many of which are free if you have a Northwest Forest Pass or go to a county park. But Lockwood’s been talking about it for a long time, and decided that we’re doing it this time. This turned out to be an awesome deal, because the sea lions are currently out to sea feeding up for the winter. This means the cave’s sans sea lions, the tickets are discounted, and you can use the same ticket to come back for free when the sea lions return. If you’re local, it’s a bargain. And the cave really is bloody amazing. I was able to shoot it without sea lions all in the way of the geology, which thrilled me to bits. We’ll be doing a post on that someday, hopefully soonish, but here’s a taste:

Image shows waves rolling in through a cleft in the basalt, with a diffuse glow from the sunlight at the far end of the cave.

Waves slipping through the tunnel.

This cave is huge, and there are channels to other bits of it, and the open sea beyond, and it’s enchanting. Especially when it isn’t obscured by biological entities. Don’t despair, seal fans! I will go back when the sea lions are there, and get you plenty of those, too. I’m just glad I got to see it without first.

That’s looking roughly south. On the other side, you basically walk up a set of stairs with a wooden canopy over them that keeps you from getting soaked by the water drip-dripping from the roof, and get this magnificent view at the end:

Image shows Heceta Head lighthouse and a swath of rocky shoreline. Foreground is framed by the dark walls of the cave.

Heceta Head Lighthouse from Sea Lion Caves.

How lovely is that?

After we got done admiring great coastal cave geology, we headed on up to Devils Churn, which I haven’t been to since our first trip. The whole Cape Perpetua area is incredible, and one I could happily spend many days at, but we only had a few hours. It was enough, at least, to shoot a great old tree:

Image shows the thick trunk and a huge lower branch of a spruce. The ocean is visible, framed by the curving tree limb.

Gnarly old tree.

We didn’t get a chance to play in the tide pools, because although this trip was meant to take advantage of low tides, we never did get to the coast when the tide was low. Silly us. I didn’t care a bit. There was a storm out to sea, which meant great waves.

Image shows rugged basalt, with a pool of water in the foreground, and the sea in the background. On the left, a wave has hit the basalt, looking like an eruption of water.

Wave breaking against the basalt.

And all I could do was stand there and stare in awe at everything.

Image shows me standing on the basalt, looking out to sea, with the mouth of the Churn in front of me. Waves are breaking against the rocks.

Moi at Devils Churn

It’s nice to be back home, with my kitty sleeping peacefully beside me, but I do wish I could be back on that coast, watching the waves break. Twas glorious.

Thanks, as always, to Lockwood, for making sure we get to see all the awesome things!

Mystery Flora: Interstate Flowers

So I stopped and smelled the roses blooming near the I405 on-ramp, like people say to do (don’t worry, there’s a footpath there, meant for creekside rambles). Once I’d done that and turned to go, these large purple flowers popped out at me.

Image shows a large bush full of purple flowers.

Mystery Flowers I

I’m not sure if these are cultivars or some sort of fancy native plant, although I lean towards cultivar. Whatever. I love them regardless, for they are large and purple and blooming in October.

Image shows a close-up of a bloom. It has five petals. Each petal is vaguely heart-shaped. The petals are purple, with darker-purple streaks.

Mystery Flowers II

They’re growing on bushy plants that were knee-high or better on me, and had gargantuan leaves to compliment them.

Image shows a single bloom with a clump of leaves behind it. The leaves have five lobes, serrated edges, and are crinkly.

Mystery Flowers III

And they’re completely full of pollen, which seems like it would be awesome for the local insects out looking for a good energy boost before winter. I didn’t see what was pollinating them, alas.

Image is an extreme close-up of a flower, showing the pollen-dotted center, and the dense streaks radiating out. The petals are very narrow at the base.

Mystery Flowers IV

I love how the center looks a bit like an anemone. Very awesome.

Image shows one of the bushes with the trees lining the freeway in the background.

Mystery Flowers V

They’re tall and flamboyant, but practically invisible from the road, for some reason. I didn’t notice them all the times I’ve passed by. It took getting over there on foot to see ‘em. If you can, when you can, get out of the steel cages and go see things at a slow pace. It’s amazing what you see.

Image shows one of the purple flowers turned toward a leaf, as if whispering a secret.

Mystery Flowers VI

It’s things like this that take the sting out of fall. This beauty, plus roses and sunshine and kitties in sunbeams, made the day very mellow indeed.

Moar Greetings from Oregon

We had a long and lovely day along the McKenzie River. This is a fabulous time of year to visit when you can get a clear day – the vine maples turn red, and other plants turn yellow, and Clear Lake becomes a rainbow:

Image shows the surface of Clear Lake: the water is green and blue, and there are streaks of red and yellow reflected from autumn leaves.

Clear Lake is a lakebow

We also got a demonstration of the majesty of nature, wot we should imitate, or so the new age folk tell me:

Image shows a dead fish floating belly-up against a bed of algae.

Isn’t nature amazing.

All right, maybe that wasn’t quite fair. Nature has its icky points, but it’s also beautiful and awesome sometimes, like when dragonflies are hovering by bird hotels:

Image shows a dragonfly hovering beside a wooden birdhouse on a tall pole. A sign on the pole says Clear Lake Bird Hotel.

Lodging for birds and other flying critters.

For the volcano lovers in the audience, here’s a fine set of formerly-flaming mountains:

Image shows a large black lava flow and several volcanoes visible at McKenzie Pass.

Many volcanoes at McKenzie Pass.

And, finally, something new! Here’s a glimpse of Lower Proxy Falls, which we didn’t make it to last time we were there.

Image shows several tendrils of water flowing over dark gray andesite and beds of moss.

Lower Proxy Falls

Tomorrow, we do the coast, and then make a beeline for home. See you there with lotsa pretty pics!

Fundamentals of Fungi: Tiny Orange Delights

There’s more than really nice gneiss and schist (plus a little native marble!) up by Ross Lake Dam. The short but challenging trail down to the the dam includes fascinating flora. I’ve been there in two seasons now. I can tell you that the early August flowers are magnificent (and I will show you some! Don’t let me forget!), but there’s a price to pay in sweat and heat exhaustion. It’s awesome in October, what with the temperature being tolerable and the lake lowered enough to see lotsa bits of marble. And yeah, there aren’t so many flowers, but there are fungi! These tiny little orange shrooms were peeking through the mosses along the trail, and they were like little chips of the sun sprinkled around.

Image shows a bed of bright green moss with tiny brilliant-orange mushrooms with wee conical caps and long, thin stems poking up.

Mystery Fungi I

So those brown pointy thingies? Those are fir needles. You know fir needles ain’t big. And yet, you see how they are huge in these photos. Even the moss looks rather big.

Photo shows a solitary orange shroom in a bed of moss.

Mystery Fungi II

They practically glowed. By the time we were headed back up the trail, it was an hour until sundown, and the trees were doing a good job blocking sunbeams. The whole forest was shadowy, and these little guys seemed to be absorbing most of the light and beaming it out. They were all, “NOTICE US WE ARE VERY BRIGHT WOOO!”

Another image of a solitary shroom. This one is peeking out, half-hidden in the moss and forest litter.

Mystery Fungi III

Now, you see how even the half-hidden ones sorta demand to be noticed. And the baby right there at the base of this one’s stem, the little button that will become a fully-grown shroom, that’s an even deeper red-orange color, practically suitable for using as crossing-guard gear. This photo can’t really do the colors justice. They were mega-intense. (Nice bit of lichen up at the top right, btw.)

And yet, I’m not kidding about how small these buggers are. Look at them with my finger for scale.

Photo shows several of the shrooms with my thumb for scale. I could fit bunches on just one fingernail.

Mystery Fungi IV

Makes my thumb look like a bloody giant’s, doesn’t it just? I love it. I love how tiny and vibrant these shrooms are. I don’t even care if they turn out to be enormously poisonous. They’re awesome. And exactly the right colors for fall!

Greetings from Oregon

Allo, allo! We’re in Oregon with Lockwood for a few days, gathering the last geology of the season (unless we get to Montana later this month – stay tuned!). Day One: Marys Peak, which B hasn’t seen yet.

The sun was at the perfect angle for finding faults:

Image shows me standing in front of a fault that has cracked a cliff of pillow basalts.

Moi with pillow basalt cliff fault.

When we reached the summit near sunset, we could just see the sunlight glittering off the waters of the Pacific Ocean:

Image shows the distant ocean through a few trees. The water is glinting and a bit pink.

Sunset Pacific

A bit later, we had sunset proper.

Image shows gold, orange and pink clouds over a dark treeline.

Marys Peak Sunset

And on the other side of the world, the moon:

Image shows a round, orange moon hovering over the city lights on the valley floor.

Marys Peak Moon

Tomorrow, we’re headed up to MacKenzie Pass, and possibly see some things I’ve never seen. Friday, if we’re lucky and the weather holds, we’ll be spending a bit of time at the Coast. And then, hopefully, we’ll return home to a living catsitter. Misha’s old, but she’s been feeling feisty lately…

Dana’s Super-Awesome Mount St. Helens Field Trip Guide I: Hoffstadt or Bust

So, you’ve got a day to visit Mount St. Helens. Huzzah! All right, if you don’t now, you will someday, quite possibly maybe, and you’ll want to know how you can do All The Things when you haven’t got much time. Never fear! In response to a request from Silver Fox, I’m putting together your very own field trip guide, which will show you things you can do in a day there, and feel you got your visit’s worth. Keeping in mind, this is a Pacific Northwest summer day and so it is very, very long.

First, download Roadside Geology of Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument and Vicinity by Patrick Pringle. You can print it out or take it on a tablet, but don’t leave home without it!

To whet your appetite, you can curl up with the field guide some weekend, and peruse these posts: Prelude to a Catastrophe: “The Current Quiet Interval Will Not Last…” and Prelude to a Catastrophe: “One of the Most Active and Most Explosive Volcanoes in the Cascade Range.”

Now that you’re wound up and ready for adventure, start up Highway 504 – Spirit Lake Highway. Crusing along with a passenger who can read bits from Pringle’s book, you’ll see quite a lot of geology even before you get to our first stop – Mount St. Helens and the Toutle River Valley have a long history. Evidence of the area’s dramatic past will pop out at you all the way along.

Optional beginning: Mount St. Helens Visitor Center at Silver Lake. For you strange people who like to get a super-early start, this is a nice place to get oriented. It’s got many lovely displays, some handy and inexpensive guide books, and a great little walk along and over Silver Lake, which was created by a lahar that dammed Outlet Creek 2,500 years ago. On a clear day, you will have a lovely if distant view of Mount St. Helens, 30 miles up the valley.

Mount St. Helens with Silver Lake in the foreground.

Mount St. Helens with Silver Lake in the foreground.

If, on the other hand, you’re driving in from Seattle, Portland or similar and arrive late in the morning, skip ahead to our first official stop.

Stop 1. Hoffstadt Viewpoint

Try to come hungry and arrive around 11 am, when the restaurant’s open – I’m not kidding when I tell you they have the absolute best ranch I have ever tasted. And you’ll want to be freshly fueled for the rest of the day. If you’re here on a warm day, you can sit out on the deck, where misters will keep you cool, and this view up the Toutle River Valley will keep your eyes happy:

Mount St. Helens from Hoffstadt Bluffs Visitor Center.

Mount St. Helens from Hoffstadt Bluffs Visitor Center.

We’re about 15 miles (25 kilometers) downstream from Mount St. Helens here. The Toutle River is a braided channel weaving its way through lots and lots of sediment, carrying lots and lots more sediment. If you’ve got sharp eyes, you’ll see the remains of the N-1 dam, built to retain some of that sediment. Unfortunately, it failed to retain a rather large 1982 lahar, and winter storms and floods finished off what was left of it. A new, larger, and simply awesome sediment retention structure was built later (if you’ve got time left over, you can make a short side trip over to marvel at it – delightful little walk, nice engineering, and in certain seasons, you can nibble some delicious oxalis).

The remains of N-1 mark the edge of the debris avalanche, which we will be getting to know intimately later today. But most of what you’re seeing here are older volcanics – Spud Mountain (the rather pointy peak in front of St. Helens in the above photo) and the other mountains hereabouts are far older than our active youngster – they’re around 36 million years old, whereas St. Helens clocks in at around 40,000. You’ll see the occasional bedrock outcrop. If you could get up there, you’d also find, somewhere beneath all the biology, evidence of glaciers that mantled this area, some of which came and went before the Puget Lobe of the Cordilleran Ice Sheet was so much as a gleam in the Cordilleran’s ice. River terraces reveal evidence of pre-1980 lahars that roared down from the mountain in more recent times. Put it like this: this area has a long and exciting history, one that makes reading quad map documentation epic. Not even kidding.

Once you’ve had your fill of scenery, a short wander down a trail near the Visitor Center will take you to the Memorial Grove planted in memory of the people who died in the May 1980 eruption. Don’t worry if you don’t get a chance to pay your respects here – you’ll get a second chance at the end of the trip.

When you continue on, you’ll soon be entering the blast zone….

Photo on the road, within the Blast Zone.

Photo on the road, within the Blast Zone.

 Next: Dana’s Super-Awesome Mount St. Helens Field Trip Guide II: Castle Lake Viewpoint

Originally published at Rosetta Stones.


Decker, Barbara and Robert (2002): Road Guide to Mount St. Helens (Updated Edition). Double Decker Press.

Doukas, Michael P. (1990): Road Guide to Volcanic Deposits of Mount St. Helens and Vicinity, Washington. USGS Bulletin 1859.

Evarts, Russell C and Ashley, Roger P. (1992): Preliminary Geologic Map of the Elk Mountain Quadrangle, Cowlitz County, Washington. USGS Open-File Report 92-362.

Pringle, Patrick T. (2002): Roadside Geology of Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument and Vicinity. Washington DNR Information Circular 88.

Bunnies Addendum (For the Buffy Fans)

Like Anne, Lurking Feminist Harpy & Support Staff said: “Bunnies aren’t just cute like everybody supposes!”

No. Indeed they are not.

Image is a demotivational poster showing an adorable baby white bunny. Caption says "Evil doesn't always look the part."

Anne has done well to listen to the wisdom of Anya, who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of bunnies.

Lyrics for them as don’t or can’t watch the video:

Giles: I’ve got a theory that it’s a demon! A dancing demon? No something isn’t right there.

Willow: I’ve got a theory some kid is dreaming, and we’re all stuck inside his wacky Broadway nightmare.

Xander: I’ve got a theory we should work this out.

Anya, Tara & Willow: It’s getting eerie what’s this cheery singing all about?

Xander: It could be witches, some evil witches! Which is ridiculous ’cause witches they were persecuted. Wicca good and love the earth and women power and I’ll be over here.

Anya: I’ve got a theory, it could be bunnies!

Tara: I’ve got a theory-

Anya: Bunnies aren’t just cute like everyone supposes. They got them hoppy legs and twitchy little noses, and what’s with all the carrots!? What do they need such good eyesight for anyway!? Bunnies, bunnies, it must be bunnies!! Or maybe midgets…

Willow: I’ve got a theory we should work this fast

Willow & Giles: Because it clearly could get serious before it’s passed.

Buffy: I’ve got a theory, it doesn’t matter. What can’t we face if we’re together? What’s in this place that we can’t weather. Apocalypse? We’ve all been there. The same old trips, why should we care?

All: What can’t we do if we get in it. We’ll work it through within a minute. We have to try, we’ll pay the price. It’s do or die.

Buffy: Hey I’ve died twice.

All: What can’t we face if we’re together.

Giles: What can’t we face?

Buffy, Anya, Willow, Tara & Xander: What’s in this place that we can’t weather?

Giles: If we’re together

All: There’s nothing we can’t face

Anya: Except for bunnies…

Image is a demotivational poster showing a brown and white rabbit sitting up with its front paws together in a plotting stance. Caption says, "Evil Bunny. The world had better prepare."