Greetings from Castle Rock: Humongous Hummocks Edition

The weather did its best to ruin our plans today, but we defied it mightily. We didn’t get a single glimpse of Mount St. Helens – unless you count the 2.5 cubic kilometers of the summit we hiked over.

Don’t get the jacuzzi suite if you intend to get an early start, cuz it won’t happen. Fortunately, we hadn’t planned to do too much today, so we got to linger happily in the room for the morning before heading out for adventure. Our first hike o’ the day took us down to the sediment retention dam on the Toutle River. It’s a remarkably easy and pleasant walk through a lovely young forest, with a walk across the top of the dam at the end, and it is magical. Loved it. Here’s a view looking behind the dam, where the water is slowed and the sediment settles out before the river continues on its way.

Image shows the shallow water of the Toutle river spreading across the valley, with purple lupine in the foreground.

Sediment settles behind a screen of lupine.

After that nice warmup, we headed on up the mountain. We dropped by the Forest Learning Center so that B could look at the exhibits – it’s a great place to get a sense of what the May 18th, 1980 eruption did to the forest.

Then it was time for hummocks! The cloud ceiling was just high enough to let us see the awesome eruption features in the river valley, and the rain held off. Yay! And the clouds gave a beautiful silvery sheen to the ponds that have collected within low spots in the hummocks topography.

Image shows the lumpy landslide landscape. The clouds are low down and cutting off the surrounding mountains. A silvery pond shines in the distance.

A pond in the hummocks.

And it was so calm that you could see some exquisite reflections. Here is a beautiful hummock contemplating its own reflection.

Image shows a rubbly gray hummock, looking like a mini-Mount Rainier with its perfect ice-cream scoop shape, reflected in the silvery-gray water of a pond.

Reflected awesome.

Down by the Toutle River, you can walk on a terrace made of lahar deposits and stand close to a hummock sliced in half. This should give you an idea of how huge some of these chunks of landslide debris are.

Image shows me standing in front of a towering mound of landslide debris. It looks like an enormous, chunky-gray cliff, and is at least four times taller than me.

Moi in front of a hummock.

Conifers are slowly returning to the blast area! Here’s one that’s looking like a perfect little Christmas tree topping a hummock.

Image shows a perfect little Christmas tree growing atop a hummock.

D’aw!

After we finished up the Hummocks Trail, we needed a cool-down walk. Luckily, Coldwater Lake is literally one minute away. It was nearly deserted and completely wonderful. And it did a geology demonstration for us! The path passes by a hummock which is too steep for things to grow well on, so it doesn’t have a lot of erosion protection. Water has begun carving it, and here has created a mini-alluvial fan. Awesomesauce!

Image shows the dark-gray side of the hummock. Water has carved some channels into the side, and debris washed down is starting to fan out across the sidewalk.

A baby alluvial fan!

Then, just as we were returning to the car, it started pouring rain, so that worked out beautifully. Our timing couldn’t have been better. Alas, Patty’s Place had closed early due to the lack of business, so we ended up going to a place in Castle Rock. Which was also awesome, despite the poor service and mediocre food, because it was close enough to the hotel for us to take our burgers to go, and still have them be piping-hot as we tucked in whilst watching cartoons.

We’re not yet sure what we’re doing tomorrow. It depends on the weather. We’re hoping to do the south-side approach to St. Helens, but if the weather’s foul, we’ll try the Gorge instead. Either way, we should have plenty of awesome pics for ya!

Where Canada Geese Come From – Plus a UFD!

It ain’t Canada. Well, at least, considerable numbers of them aren’t Canadian. One of the most remarkable sights we saw when we went to Grand Coulee was the goslings. There were so many goslings, people! It seemed like every park we drove by or stopped at in the coulees was filled with geese and goslings. You’d see a handful of adults and infinite seas of babies. I have never seen this many goslings in my life.

Image shows a bit of Banks lake and the grassy shore. There are two geese and seven goslings on the grass in the foreground. On the lake are two adults and sixteen bebbes.

A small sample of the sea o’ geese at Steamboat Rock State Park.

I’ve seen little goose families scattered about western Washington, but this was like coming across Quiverfull colonies. You can see why they’d come here to raise families, though. Lotsa sunshine, abundant food, beautiful bodies of water, and bonza scenery.

Image shows a goose family swimming on the lake, with the green trees of the park shading the water. In the background, one of the cliffs of Grand Coulee rises majestically.

Goose family life on Banks Lake. Gorgeous!

Steamboat Rock State Park seems to be a favorite home for a lot of birds – we saw so many. But they were all outnumbered by the geese. Squee factor: near infinite. Look at these little gosling bums!

Image shows a bunch of feeding goslings, bend down with their little bums waving at the camera.

Look at those fluffy little bottoms! D’aw!

The grassy lawns were full of large goose families. So was the water.

Image shows three goose families swimming on the water between the shore and the dock. Another wall of Grand Coulee rises beyond.

Taking the kids for a swim. Playdates for everyone!

I think the houses in the background may be on top of a giant gravel bar from the Missoula Floods. There is so much awesome around here, you guys, you don’t even know. I think the only thing for it is for all of you to come stay with me so we can go trekking together. I want to show you this for reals! Come in May so we can go see the bebbes! It is so beautiful.

Image shows an adult goose herding a tight cluster of babies across the water.

Goose family in evening.

On the way home, B and I stopped by Dry Falls and Sun Lakes. Guess what? There were more geese! Shocking, I’m sure. As we were driving back from Deep Lake, we saw a goose family swimming in a huge puddle beside the main road. Alas, by the time I’d stopped the car and got the camera unslung, most of the family was headed across the road to have dinner on the lawn. But one little baby was left behind with its face in the water!

Image shows an adult goose crossing a two-lane road with its babies. One gosling in still in the roadside puddle, head buried in the water.

Left Behind, gosling edition.

It suddenly caught on it was being abandoned, and scrambled after its bros and sisters. Our UFD looks on.

Image shows the lone gosling scrambling after the others, which have almost completed their crossing. A smaller gray bird looks on.

“Geese, lemme tell ya.”

You’re going to tell me it’s a female American Robin or similar, aren’t you? It’s going to be a bird I should know backwards and forwards, I just know it. Look, people, I can recognize geese instantly. Isn’t that enough?! Also, I identified a dove on the wing. Shame I was driving and couldn’t pull over in time to get a pic at the time.

Anyway, speaking of goslings, there are so many photos! You can find them on Flickr. Enjoy muchly!

Greetings From Castle Rock! Pocket Gophers Did Wut Edition

We took a chance with the weather for you, my darlings, and we are now lodged in a ginormous jacuzzi suite in Castle Rock. Tomorrow, we’re hoping our favorite volcano will be visible so we can bring ya’ll some great photos. Today, we took the slowest trip we’ve ever done between Seattle and Castle Rock so we could get a late start (Misha wanted cuddles), wander around Olympia (ZOMG so many waterfalls in the center of the city!), see what pocket gophers hath wrought (mystery: solved!), and wander around Silver Lake near sunset, where all of the birds were magnificent.

We ambled down to Tumwater Falls Park, which is a fabulous place to see some geology if you’re wanting to take a break from I5 for a bit. I saw a tiny part of it for about three minutes when my ex-roomie and I were driving from Arizona to Washington, and I’ve meant to get back ever since. This is a remarkable stretch of the Deschutes River (no, not the Oregon one, we’ve got one of our own!). It goes hurtling over bedrock, plunging over three major falls and several rapids before melding calmly with Capitol Lake. Here’s Upper Tumwater Falls:

Image shows a wide waterfall, broken into two parts by a tree-sized bush. The river flows out below in a series of rapids over (probably basalt) bedrock.

Upper Tumwater Falls. Yes, that is a huge bush growing between the two halves.

There’s a wonderful loop trail, which I’ll walk you through in detail eventually. I even took videos for you! I loved the whole park, but I think the lower falls is my favorite.

Image shows me standing in front of the lower falls. You can see the thick whitewater curtain, and there is a downed tree lodged over the top. Mist is rising from the falls.

Moi at Lower Tumwater Falls. That water is unbelievably powerful, despite the fact it’s only going over a short drop.

Afterward, and seeing as how the weather was so very unexpected lovely, we decided we would visit Mima Mounds. A lot of people get very excited about Mima Mounds, probably because they are so mysterious. Alas, the mystery has been solved: they are the “Great Pyramids” of the pocket gophers.

So, this:

Image shows a wee gopher being held in a person's work-gloved hand. It's got very long but thin claws. It's got its little mouth open and rather looks like it's singing. So cute!

The Mazama Pocket Gopher (Thomomys mazama). Image courtesy USFWS – Pacific Region (CC BY 2.0).

Ermagherd it’s so tiny and cute!

Created this:

Image shows me standing in front of several grassy hills. They're just a bit higher than my head.

Moi at Mima Mounds.

See those hills behind me? They’re over eight feet tall and thirty feet wide. Tiny little critters you can hold in your hand did this. Wow. So yeah, that was neat. The people shooting guns just across the mounds, not so much. It would’ve been a very serene place if not for the sound of constant gunfire – I hope that’s not a regular thing there.

But it was still pretty neato, and we shall talk more about that soon, too.

After that, we decided to head on down to Castle Rock, and since it was still early, ambled around Silver Lake for a bit. That’s my favorite lake created by a lahar that is now more like a wetland. The birds were out in spectacular force. We saw a ton of swifts (too swift to photograph), red-winged blackbirds, the cutest duck family ever (I’ll do them a separate post when I have time to edit the video for you), and heard so many others it was like being in an avian symphony hall. I was photographing distant mountains peeking through storm clouds:

Image shows the marsh-plant filled Silver Lake, a conifer-covered ridge, and mountains poking up in the distance from beneath a layer of dark clouds. A heron is just visible in the marsh plants.

Look at the pretty mountains! Mount St. Helens wasn’t visible, alas.

And I, by chance, caught a heron and a blackbird. Yay!

Cropped image shows the heron in greater detail. A red-wing blackbird is visible on cattails in the background.

Dinnertime for birdies!

If you ever get a chance to walk round Silver Lake near sundown, take it. And then go have a good meal, and enjoy a jacuzzi suite. I cannot recommend jacuzzi suites highly enough.

Wish us luck for tomorrow, my darlings. We’re going to attempt the Hummocks Trail. We will be walking over what was at the time the largest landslide ever witnessed by human beings. Wowza.

 

Mystery Flora + Cryptopod Double-Header: The Sweetest Little Things

Even the desert blooms in the Pacific Northwest. Yes, of course, all sorts of deserts bloom. The ones I grew up in did, but it was only for a few weeks. Here, you can find flowers just about any time, even in dry country. May is a great time to find yourself some blooms everywhere, because about twelve trillion plants have just gotten some nice spring rains and are feeling pretty perky. You also get baby insects, so sometimes you end up with wee bugs on wee blooms and it’s completely adorable.

When B and I visited Dry Falls, we walked a little ways out into the desert along the rim, and found an abundance of flowers. These little purplish-pink sprays were everywhere.

Image shows three pink stems growing along the rocky ground. Bell-shaped flowers with flaring pointed ends are clustered at the ends of the stems.

Mystery Flora I

They seemed to like stretching out just above the ground. A lot of things in this area stay low down so they can conserve water and not get whammed by the wind.

[Read more…]

Adventures in Christianist Earth Science Education XI: Wherein We’re Told Salty Fish Stories

Oh, hey, now that we’re out of that horrible imaginary undersea contraption, Earth Science Fourth Edition is talking about seawater composition! Aren’t you excited? Surely, they can’t muck that up too badly, right?

Wrongo. Folks, it sez right in our Section Objectives that we’re so very, very screwed. We are to “evaluate different Flood theories that could account for the saltiness of the oceans.” And the creationist crap spews thick, chunky, and stinky from the beginning. There is so, so very much wrong that we are neck-deep and sinking from the start. We may need that robot thingy to escape this crap.

Image is a painting of a red-orange machine that looks sort of like an old diving helmet on robot legs. It has fat rings sticking out horizontally from its top, like ears. Its legs bend backwards at the knees. It looks like it's drunkenly dancing in the surf on a deserted tropical island. It is frightening.

Figure 13-5 from BJU’s ES4. Run away!!!!

[Read more…]

Happy 127th Birthday, Inge Lehmann! Google Doodle Celebrates

Oh, look, Google Doodle’s honoring one of our Pioneering Women in the Geosciences! Fantastic!

Image shows the earth split apart, forming one of the Google Os. The core is shining between the halves. The continents can be seen revolving independently on each half.

Inge Lehmann Google Doodle

That is one of the coolest doodles ever. Absolutely fitting for one of the coolest women ever. Have you read up on her? If not, you totally should. She was amazeballs!

Only a year later, an earthquake in New Zealand would lead her to her greatest discovery.

The behavior of certain seismic waves, called P’ (P-Prime) waves, didn’t match what would be expected “if the earth simply consisted of a hard mantle surrounding a fluid or soft core.” Inge considered different models, and discovered an interesting result. “The existence of a small solid core in the innermost part of the earth was seen to result in waves emerging at distances where it had not been possible to predict their presence.”

[Read more…]

It’s a Bird! It’s a Plane! It’s a Bird AND a Plane!

I’ve been sorting Grand Coulee trip photos in between doing other necessary things. B’s working on your next Christianist education post, and I’m working on our new pyrite article. Alas, neither will be ready in time for this morning, so I shall tide you over with some more outtakes. Gives me an excuse to post them, doesn’t it just?

While we were at Frenchman Coulee, checking out the ginormous erratics on Babcock Bench, a gigantic plane flew overhead. Okay, maybe not that gigantic, but it was pretty big compared to the usual size of low-flying planes we see. [Read more…]

Escape Chapter 1: Early Childhood (Part One)

In the preface of Escape, Carolyn Jessop gave a brief, body-clenching account of the night she and her eight children fled her polygamous arranged marriage and the Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints cult. Now she takes us back in time to her childhood. For the next several chapters, she’ll immerse us in her early life and the FLDS, showing us how a harsh fundamentalist doctrine enmeshes the mind, and leads to the awful abuses many people, especially women and children, suffer in such sects.

Carolyn very nearly wasn’t born into it at all:

Aunt Lydia couldn’t believe I’d survived. She was the midwife who had delivered babies for two generations, including my mother. When she saw the placenta, she realized that my mother had chronic placental abruption. Mom had hemorrhaged throughout her pregnancy and thought she was miscarrying. But when the bleeding stopped, she shrugged it off, assuming she was still pregnant. Aunt Lydia, the midwife, said that by the time I was born, the placenta was almost completely detached from the uterus. My mother could have bled to death and I could have been born prematurely or, worse, stillborn.

It appalls me that a woman could hemorrhage during pregnancy and just disregard it. But this is what can come of fundamentalist philosophy. Many of these very controlling sects prefer using midwives to OBs. The gynecological care for women is poor or non-existent. You frequently end up with pregnant women choosing – or being forced – to take enormous risks with their health. You get women “shrugging off” dire emergencies like maternal hemorrhage. You too often end up with injured or dead mothers and babies. Carolyn and her mom Nurylon were extremely fortunate. (Oh, and if you’re tempted to paint this gamble as the beautiful result of trusting “natural birth,” please go read the Skeptical OB. There’s a reason poor women in other countries go so far as to swim raging rivers so they can give birth in a hospital. It’s because “natural” childbirth is wildly dangerous.

Carolyn’s father Arthur gave her mom a choice of two names. That’s the extent of egalitarian parenting in their world. Carolyn’s mom was sixth generation FLDS. She knew her place was to submit, the man’s to decide.

When Carolyn was born, her father had only one wife. The family moved from Colorado City, Arizona to Salt Lake City, Utah when Carolyn was five. Her mother thrived there, where her husband could come home from work nightly and they had enough money to feed their growing family. They could even afford toys for the kids. Nurylon loved taking her kids to the zoo and the park. And she was “thrilled,” after three daughters, “to finally have a son, because in our culture, boys have more value than girls.”

The fact that her father favored Carolyn over the other kids caused tension, but despite that, the year they spent in Salt Lake City was good. But then her father decided to move the family back to Colorado City, because his eldest child, Lydia, was about to start school, and he wanted her taught in the FLDS-soaked (nominally) public schools. Couldn’t have her learning real stuff, of course!

Image shows an empty desert lot. Beyond it is a jumbled collection of modest houses of various sizes. In the distance, the cliffs of El Capitan rise over the town.

Colorado City, Arizona. Photo courtesy Ken Lund via Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0).

The move back to their cramped little home and the dusty, claustophobic little FLDS town caused Nurylon to sink into a deep depression, one so severe she couldn’t even try to hide it from the kids. She would talk constantly about wanting to die, “having nothing to live for,” and sometimes would inform her children over their late-morning breakfast that she planned to kill herself that day. She assured her terrified kids that the Church would assign their dad a new wife, so they’d have a new mom to take care of them. She beat her children almost daily, sometimes bruising them so severely the marks would linger for over a week. The kids had to become experts in her behavior to survive, going so far as to provoke her into spanking them every morning once Carolyn had figured out she only spanked once per day, and the morning spankings weren’t as severe. She then wondered why her children were so bad in the mornings…

Many fundamentalists advocate spanking, relying on the Bible for justification. They have entire rituals dedicated to it, including spanking from love and hugging the child afterward. Carolyn’s experience shows why this doesn’t work:

When my mother beat me, she would always say she was doing it because she loved me. So I used to wish she didn’t love me. I was afraid of her, but I would also get angry at her when she hit me. After she beat me she insisted on giving me a hug. I hated that. The hug didn’t make the spanking stop hurting. It didn’t fix anything.

This was considered good discipline in the FLDS community. But it’s not discipline. Spanking is abuse.

Abuse was rife in the FLDS community. Carolyn remembers seeing women in dark glasses, hiding black eyes and other bruises, quite often as a child. Her mother wouldn’t explain that those bruises came from battering husbands.

On the outside, Carolyn’s family looked perfect. Her mother kept them dressed in beautiful handmade clothes, and they were exquisitely well-behaved. Everyone thought their family was perfect. Keep that in mind when you see the Duggars playing happy huge family on teevee.

In Salt Lake City, Carolyn’s mother had been happy, engaged with the world around her. “In Colorado City, she was locked into a world of constant pregnancies, a loveless marriage, and a rural community strung together with dirt roads.” She and her husband fought constantly when he was home. She had to put on a facade of perfection with him, but it was never perfect enough. He complained about dust atop the refrigerator when the rest of the house gleamed. He complained about the children’s behavior, no matter how well they behaved. He wanted his already-thin wife to be thinner, despite keeping her almost continually pregnant.

There were flashes of the person she could have been, had she not been crushed by the FLDS lifestyle and her husband’s abuse. She loved playing games with her kids, and read them fairytales. She delighted in Christmas, even going so far as to smuggle in an FLDS-forbidden Christmas tree one year. She and her kids had a wonderful night decorating it, and a joyous Christmas morning opening their presents and eating candy.

My father let us have candy once a year – no more. My mother was clearly disobeying our father in giving us sugary treats…. Linda and I were old enough to realize that Mama was going to have to pay for her disobedience, but we loved feeling so spoiled.

Carolyn’s father came home the following night, and blew up. He and his wife fought at top volume long into the night. When Carolyn woke the next morning, the tree was gone, and her mother wept as she cooked breakfast. Their first Christmas was their last. Her mother’s depression grew so severe she couldn’t get out of bed or take care of the house. Her spirit was crushed.

After a few days, the friend who had been her Christmas co-conspirator came over and told her to stop feeling bad about herself. If her husband didn’t want her to have fun with her kids, that was his problem. Mother rallied, but she never again did something with us in defiance of our religion. I did notice that she became more demanding of us and insisted on more perfection after the Christmas episode. I’m sure she would have preferred to play games with us instead of spanking us, but her own mental slavery prevented her from being who she was.

It’s unbearably tragic when religion and/or ideology confines people in strait jackets so tight they’re strangled. I wish Carolyn’s mother could have broken those bonds, but it’s nearly impossible for women with no power and resources to do. And next week, we’ll see how the FLDS church kept its members in chains. We’ll also see what happened when they were almost set free.

For now, all I can say is, fuck religion. Yes, I’m aware that families can have abusive and controlling dynamics without it. But at least those abusers don’t have a mandate from God for their abuse. At least they can’t so easily claim that what they do is holy. And good people aren’t turned bad against their will, believing they must do what God wants, even if it means harming themselves and their kids. At least they don’t believe their salvation depends upon it.

Image is the cover of Escape, which is photo of Carolyn Jessop on a black background. She cradles a framed picture of herself as an FLDS teenager in her hands. She is a woman in her thirties with chestnut hair and blue eyes.

I’m reviewing Escape chapter-by-chapter. Pick yourself up a copy if you’d like to follow along.

The Heck is This?

B and I took a walk at Richmond Beach by way of getting some healthy exercise while we plan our Mount St. Helens trip. The tide was pretty far out, so we got to do lotsa walking along the beach between the Sound and the railroad tracks. There’s always fun and interesting stuff to see, like this Eye of Siva somebody painted near a manmade waterfall.

Image shows a culvert under the railroad tracks. There's a tiny stream flowing from a pipe, some driftwood piled on the thick granitic riprap rocks, and on one of the rocks is a painting.

Waterfall and rock art.

Here’s a nice closeup of it for ye.

Image shows the pyramidal top of the rock. Someone has used blue and white paint to paint an eye with fancy curlicues coming out of the top lid and inner corner. Underneath is painted the words, "Eye of Siva."

Image shows the pyramidal top of the rock. Someone has used blue and white paint to paint an eye with fancy curlicues coming out of the top lid and inner corner. Underneath is painted the words, “Eye of Siva.”

So that was nice. We dawdled on that side for a bit, then walked over towards the south, where my favorite rocks of all time are. Well, my favorites at Richmond Beach, anyway. Just beyond them, we saw this thingy stuck on the riprap. [Read more…]

Can You Spot the Dragonfly in These Frenchman Coulee Photos?

I spent a bit of Sunday afternoon sorting photos from our Grand Coulee trip whilst watching Misha explore the porch, and found these photos with a dragonfly. I swear that it’s there! See if you can spot it. You needed an excuse to procrastinate on something, right? I’m here to help.

Image shows a bit of the sagebrush-covered desert by Frenchman Coulee. You can see some of the basalt bones sticking up through the thin soil. There's a big sweep of blue sky with a few white clouds to the left. There's a dragonfly in the sky.

There is absolutely a dragonfly in this picture, I promise!

This is a photo I took when we were hiking the desert around Frenchman Coulee. We’d just come from a delightful shady place against the canyon wall where about six billion schoolchildren were being taught how to climb basalt columns. It’s very hard to navigate a trail full of middle-school kids – they’re so wrapped up in their own stuff they don’t notice you until the last instant. But they were adorable and sweet and did eventually clear enough space for us to sneak through. Poor B gets his anxiety triggered by thick crowds of humans, so it was a relief for us both to emerge into the deserted desert beyond, even though it was super-sunny. There was a nice, cool breeze, and it was only in the middle seventies (that’s mid-twenties to you Celsius-using people). [Read more…]