Stachys Standing Proud

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mystery Flora: Bitey McBiterson

The trouble with trees (and every other living thing) is that some of them have had to evolve defenses. Some of them are obvious about it, practically shrieking, “I’ll cut/puncture/poison/stickify you! STAY AWAY FROM MEEEE!!!!” Some are subtle and devious jerks, drawing you in by seeming all tame and pretty, then giving you a stealthy stab.

Such is this beauty, which attacked our own RowanVT, and whom she has dubbed Bitey McBiterson, which is the best name for a bush ever:

Image shows a verdant green bush with yellow flowers. It's very fluffy.

Bitey McBiterson I

You’ll have to ask RowanVT where this was. All I know is that it was June, and she was camping…. somewhere. Somewhere that had many interesting and beautiful things, which she sent to us, and one evil bushy tree, which was actually quite pretty.

Bitey McBiterson II

Bitey McBiterson II

Oh, dear, a philosophical mood has suddenly struck… but this is always how I’ve found evil to be most interesting. A lot of our stories and entertainment make evil ugly. Hairy, lumpy, slavering monsters; a devil with cloven hooves and misshapen features; wicked witches with warts. And yet, evil is often at its most compelling and most disturbing when it’s beautiful.

Another image of a flower, this one showing a red-orange streak to some of the petals.

Bitey McBiterson III

One of the most important lessons I ever learned was that evil doesn’t always come in bad packaging. It’s still hard sometimes to think of anything attractive – whether that’s a person, plant, or other entity – as being bad or dangerous. And that’s as true for non-physical qualities as it is for physical beauty.

Image shows the leaves, which are thick, green, and look somewhat like oak.

Bitey McBiterson IV

But I’m learning, as time goes on, to look at the total package, rather than just the dazzling bits. And I’ve learnt that there’s a lot more to beauty than the wrapper.

I’ve also learnt that plants trying to defend themselves aren’t, in fact, evil – although they sometimes seem so to those of us who are nursing wounds from things like Bitey.

Image shows the fruit, which is a little yellow lump all covered in tawny fuzz. It looks perfectly harmless.

Bitey McBiterson V

Not that it isn’t fun to jokingly attribute human qualities, such as a capacity for deception, to said plants.

Here endeth the philosophy. Here is RowanVT’s description of her encounter, and an invitation to identify this nippy little tree:

The tree with the yellow flowers, which I’m sure is non-native, bit the hell out of me when I gently touched its fruit. Those hairs are barbed and come off reeeeeal easy. >_< It is not a nice tree/bush/thing. Hopefully someday I’ll figure out what Bitey McBiterson is.

Hopefully, someday is today.

Sea Stack Pining for the Sea

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

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

Lonely Sea Stack is Lonely

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

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

Let’s Call it Broody.

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

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

Hovergull

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

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

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

Hovergull

FtB Con Is Coming! What Do You Want From Me?

Hey, check this out – there’s a new FtBCon happening August 22-24. Now, in the past, I haven’t managed to swing it, but I asked my new boss if I could have the time to participate, and she said,

Image shows a closeup of Misha sleeping curled up on a pillow. Beside her, a colum of zzzz

Asleep on the Job

So I’m assuming that means I have her permission, and I’m a gonna go for it. I’m giving a talk! On what? Well, I figured we’d talk about stuff. And things. Like, maybe, a little presentation on Christianist Earth Science textbooks? Or I can do a talk on some of the magnificent geology we’ve got here in the Pacific Northwest, complete with lovely photos and a theme of “See – you can still have a sense of wonder as an atheist!” Maybe you’ve got a different idea for the kind of talk you’d like me to talk, and I may say, “Hey – that’s totally something I can talk about!”

Tell me what you’d like by, oh, say, this Sunday (July 20th). Then I’ll figure out what I’m capable of delivering, and whip it up for ye.

And if the boss doesn’t like it, well, she shoulda woken up long enough to say something.

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!

A Glimpse

Oh, my darlings, I will have so much scenic goodness for you. So so much. And restaurant recommendations. And adorable fuzzy animals. And hawt hawt geology.

But we’ve got one day more, then I have a coma day set aside to recover. So I’ll just tease you a bit.

The lighthouse at Cape Disappointment:

Image shows a green-capped basalt headland with a lighthouse upon it.

Cape Disappointment Lighthouse

Twas overcast, but it was pleasant, and the scenery was certainly not a disappointment. Then we got to see our Suzanne! And little Token, who cannot ever get enough tummy rubs and has a doggy grin for anyone who’ll keep giving ‘em.

Day Two plans went gang aft agley because of Rainier Days, which had filled every hotel within a billion miles of St. Helens, and a storm that Weather.Com apparently could not see coming. So we improvised, and went to Silver Falls State Park instead. People, it utterly did not suck, and you will be amazed.

Image shows moi standing beside a very lovely waterfall which is plunging over a lip of Columbia River Basalt.

Lower South Falls

And then tomorrow, it’s off to the coast with Lockwood. Excellence awaits. I’ll be back in Seattle shortly, and shall show you All the Things.

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…

Rocking the Magnets, Baby, Yeah!

You know, I’m never going to be bored again. Well, there may be occasional moments, but not that many. I have a list ten trillion miles long, and I’m going to need a few extra lifetimes to get everything done.

I’m also going to need to find new and better ways to get superglue off my fingers. But the results have been totally worth it. At least in my opinion. Alas, the kitchen fluorescent isn’t the most flattering light, but here are the first rock magnets:

Image shows a small cluster of rock magnets on my fridge.

Yay rock magnets!

I always knew there was a reason why I collected buckets of rocks when out with Lockwood. Now I can do pretty things with them! And soon, you’ll be able to pick some up in the soon-to-be-named-and-shortly-thereafter-launched store. All hand-collected and hand-made. Whee!

The ones above are serpentinite, surrounding a wee bit o’ garnierite. I’ve spent the day selecting samples, trying a bit of varnish on a few of the ones that look best wet, and gluing them to magnets. It’s been pretty fun.

Image is a larger version of the previous, showing the rock magnets beside other magnets of various waterfalls and space scenes. There's also a magnet I got from the FBI.

Rock magnets outcrop.

Then I cleaned out the car, which wasn’t as fun, especially since it was a hot and sunny day. But we’re going to Oregon on Saturday, and we need room in the trunk. After sweating to death hauling books and packs of soda up the stairs, I decided that I would do what I’ve always wished American workplaces were wise enough to do, and had a siesta through the hottest part of the afternoon. Then, more magnets:

Image shows a cluster of rock magnets on a paper plate.

More rock magnets!

These are larger bits of serpentinite and a couple of pieces of garnet mica schist. I’m hoping they’ll turn out well, but being bigger pieces, they were also more stubborn about the whole being glued thing. I’ll be going back to my favorite glue, one that near-instantly glues pretty much anything to everything, yet doesn’t seem to take up long-term residence on my fingers.

Now it’s off to clean the house, and then B and I will be doing the necessary acquiring of essentials before we head out, so the blog will probably be quiet for a few days. I’ll post some preliminary photographs from the road as time and hotel wi-fi permit.

For now, I shall have to leave you with Mount Rainier at Sunset from my former office window:

The summit of Mount Rainier as seen from our third-floor window. I do have to say, the views from that particular part of the building never sucked.

The summit of Mount Rainier as seen from our third-floor window. I do have to say, the views from that particular part of the building never sucked.

See ye soon, my darlings!

New at Rosetta Stones: What’s the Big Bang Got to Do with Super Bowl Rings and Geology?

Glad you asked! (If you didn’t ask, just read the title out loud. Hey, thanks for asking!) I’ve got the first part of the answer for you over at Rosetta Stones. This has turned into a mini-series. Also, I had way too much fun making images of the ring with the Seahawks app.

Image shows my fingers holding a piece of citrine against a blue sky. The Seahawks ring is pasted atop it.

The Seahawks Super Bowl ring and a beautiful piece of citrine.

I even made the cat participate:

Image shows Misha lying in bed next to the Seahawks ring.

Misha and the Seahawks ring.

Look, it’s shiny and I can’t help myself.

Alas, I had no place to put this amazing picture of the Moon when it was just a ring around the Earth.

Image shows a molten Earth surrounded by a hot rocky debris ring.

Our Moon before it was even a moon. Image courtesy the American Museum of Natural History.

You can watch a video of it here. And Seed Magazine had a neato article. This space stuff is neat – especially as it relates to geology!