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.

References:

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."

Two Videos to Make Your Heart Go Melty (Unless You’re a Hater)

Sometimes, things happen that remind me the world isn’t filled quite to the brim with assholes. There are plenty of good folk, too. And sometimes, I collect those things and share them with you.

First up, a commercial from a for-profit company that carefully considered some of their customers’ suggestions they hate the non-heterosexual folk and said, “Nah, we’ll go with making love from hate instead.”

Yes, of course I got teary-eyed. Are you kidding? And yes, the cynical will say that of course they laughed at the haters, as ten times as many customers aren’t haters, but this was a rather in-your-face rejection of the hateful message rather than just quietly letting the subject drop. So yes, Honey Maid will of course be my graham cracker of choice whenever I venture into culinary territory that requires them.

Next, we have got a mock-serious Irish ad warning about the gaypocalypse that will surely happen should same-sex folk be allowed to marry. They portray the actual dangers of passing marriage equality legislation. Nailed it. Before you watch, please finish all food and/or drink and remove anything spillable from around the computer, because you’re probably going to be howling with laughter and possibly pounding the table. Let’s not allow the gaypocalypse to claim another victim before it’s got properly started.

Unfortunately, I suspect there actually will be people barricading themselves in little enclaves and homeschooling their children in desperate fear that accepting people different from them will get them zapped by God. They will be as pitiable as the couple in the ad.

Want a bonus video? Of course you do! Here you are: the original hater song!

I don’t know about you, but I kind of feel they were unfair to gibbons… We shall make up for it with a desperately cute meme.

Image shows a cat being hugged by a monkey. Caption reads, "Teh monkee is gibbon meh a hugz."

Derpy Horses

I haven’t had a chance to do up our horsies properly, but we need a bit of the light stuff, anyway. And this year, the medieval faire cooperated. Usually, I get horses looking rather dramatic and awesome, or like serious workhorses, but this time round, I caught a few in moments of derp.

Image shows a dun horse with its tongue out.

[your caption here]

The above horse was brand-new, didn’t like the crowd noise or the festival atmosphere, and I believe in the above photo she was expressing her opinion of the proceedings. This was shortly before they called upon her to joust and she said, “Nope. Nope nope nope noper NOPE.” Smart lass.

Image is a pale gray horse with its head back, eyes rolled, and nostrils flared.

[your caption here]

This one gave us two moments of derp. There’s the above, and an even better one below:

Image shows same horse, now trotting away with its eyes closed and its bottom lip dangling in an attitude of extreme derp.

[your caption here]

I salute these noble steeds for their contribution to the world’s stock of derpy horse pictures. For the most part, they’re firey and fierce and majestic, so I know it took extra effort on their parts to get the derp done right. You can contribute by captioning!

If you’re local, do check their calendar and see when you might get a chance to go enjoy their live performances. Is anyone else around on October 5th? I’m rather tempted to go…

Who’d Like a Goode Olde Blacke Powder Explosion, Then?

Alas, I didn’t make it to Sunday’s festivities – Starspider put her knee out, and needed to stay off it so that we didn’t end up having to pop it back into place again on the field. People get squicky about stuff like dislocated knees. She, of course, enjoyed watching her roomie’s face as he nearly tossed his cookies helping her wrench everything back into place. She’s like that. And she’s fine, and sends her regrets. Next year!

While we wait for next year to arrive, I’ve got yer black powder guns a-firing.

Image shows the pirates from yesterday's post tamping down their black powder in their guns and getting ready to Make Noise.

Pirates prepare to plunder.

Unfortunately, the video can’t capture the ground shaking when that small cannon at the end went, but I think you’ll get the general idea. Enjoy!

That little cannon was sweet – and so loud! If you want a better look, here ye go:

Image shows a pirate bent over, tamping powder down the barrel of a small cannon on a wooden frame, while Pirate Jamie Hyneman looks on in the background.

Tamping the powder down, gonna be a big boom, yeah!

I wish I knew who these fellas were, but the website for the faire doesn’t say, and I didn’t grab a flyer. Perhaps Trebuchet knows?

I’ll have horsies and hurlers up soon, as long as no one else in the skeptical community says or does something outrageously awful in the next day or two.