The Little Lost Umbrella

Once upon a time, there was a natty black umbrella. It was born in a factory with thousands of others much like it, assembled by sweatshop workers who were desperate to feed their families. Practical hands packaged it, stuffed it in a box with dozens of its siblings, and then it went on a long ride in trucks and ships and possibly on railways until it reached a department store. It lived in the shelves for a while, where children used it as a sword. It felt this gave it character. It loved its swash-buckling days.

It watched a few of its siblings be sold. Their places were taken by close cousins. They all speculated after store closing, wondering what sort of hands they would end up in, and what the rain and wet were they were made to protect people from. [Read more…]

Greetings from Bothell: A Fraught Final Day, but the Waterfalls are Lovely!

Despite everything (well, a few things) conspiring against us, we are home safe from our trip. Alas, Ape Cave and other attractions on the south side of Mount St. Helens were not to be. The weather worsened to the point where the clouds were tickling the tops of even the lower hills, which meant we’d be in rain and fog the whole way if we attempted to make it up the mountain. So we headed for the Columbia River Gorge, which B has never seen. That’s a place that can be done in foul weather. It’s still pretty, see?

Image looks over the Columbia River and its enormous gorge. The Vista House, a round building, is visible atop a jutting tower of basalt in the near distance. The sky is heavy with clouds, which are cutting off the tops of the higher hills.

The Columbia River Gorge from the Portland State Women’s Forum Scenic Viewpoint aka Chanticleer Point.

Fun fact: that building you see there, the one like a little dot atop that tall basalt point, would’ve been underwater during the Missoula Floods. Wowza.

Even on a rainy off-season Saturday, the place was packed. It seemed like everyone in the Pacific Northwest was visiting. I did manage to catch a shot of the Vista House on Crown Point without a bunch of people, because they were all either inside or on the other side of the balcony for a few seconds.

Image shows a hexagonal building with two tiers. Narrow stained glass windows nearly as tall as each storey make it impossible to see the nine trillion people inside.

Vista House

This is the first time I’ve ever been to Crown Point when that building was open, so B and I zipped inside, took the stairs, and enjoyed the view from the balcony. I’ll show you it in a future post. It’s pretty similar to the previous view, only Vista House isn’t in it.

We couldn’t stop at Latourell Falls because there were no parking spaces left, but we got one at Wahkeena Falls, which I’ve never actually visited. You can ogle them from the viewpoint below, and then, if you wish, hike up a little ways and view the upper tier. We wished, so we did, and here I am with them.

Image shows me standing beside a basalt cliff on the right, with the falls falling to the left.

Moi at Wahkeena Falls.

You can actually hike the short distance to Multnomah Falls from there, and B and I planned to, but he slipped on slippery rocks just after this picture was taken, and went down hard. Fortunately, nothing’s broken, and all he got were a few scrapes, bruises, and a lot of mud, but it was enough to nix any more hiking for the day. We went to Multnomah Falls so he could clean up at their facilities, and then we did take a quick look at the falls, which are spectacular.

Image shows the two tall, thin tiers of Multnomah Falls plunging over basalt. There's a stone arch bridge between the tiers.

Multnomah Falls.

There were far too many people in the way to get a good shot, though. You can see the tops of their heads if you look at the bottom.

We headed up onto the bridge, as B was recovered enough for a little light walking. I was able to get a challenge picture for you! Your mission, if you choose to accept it, is to find the umbrella in this photo:

Image shows the terrace below Upper Multnomah Falls, and the creek wending its way along. To the right, the sheer cliffs of basalt rise, topped with lush greenery. To the left is a screen of trees, and the walkways filled with people. A sad, lost umbrella is somewhere in this picture...

A little lost umbrella is somewhere in this photo.

I’ll show you it tomorrow, as long as I’m not comatose. So tired…

We got a few more from the bridge, then headed home. We almost didn’t make it, because near Chehalis, some asshole in a very loud car decided she wanted to be in our lane, where we were, going 70 miles an hour on the freeway. She came out of nowhere, accelerating hard, and nearly took the front off my car. I had to brake hard to give her enough room, and for a few seconds, it looked like we were all going into the jersey barriers. We’re lucky the cars crowded around us didn’t hit or get hit by either of us. She sped off, not even having glanced our way, and then zipped over into the slow lanes after a mile or so and dawdled. I have no idea why she was in such a hurry for that short distance, and why I was invisible to her, but since we now had a chance to safely catch her up and get a license plate, we followed her when she exited. B snapped this picture, which I now share for public shaming purposes. If you live in southwestern Washington and know who this car belongs to, please inform her that she almost caused a multi-car wreck with possible fatalities, and she may wish to take a defensive driving course.

Image shows a dark blue Lincoln of some sort with dual exaust and a spoiler. WA license #ATN6376.

The asshole who nearly wrecked us.

We didn’t call the police only because she didn’t seem to be driving drunk. Perhaps her friend had alerted her to her near-massacre, because she drove quite sensibly afterward. Still.

So that was more excitement than we wanted out of today, and not at all the good kind. But the rest of the trip went smoothly, and we have a ton of excellent material for you. The kitties at both houses are alive, well, and thrilled to see us. Misha actually ate nearly all of the treats and dry food I put out and seems to have gained a few ounces, so I’m very happy with that. She howled and howled until I gave her some tuna, and is now curled up beside me, being totes adorbs. She will help me get pictures organized and stuff written up. We’ve got the 35th anniversary of the May 18th eruption on Monday, so I need to get you guys something nice for the occasion. In the meantime, if you’re looking for the series to date, here ’tis. A reader tells me the links at SciAm are completely borked, so please read it here whilst that gets resolved.

I am now going to go relax with my kitty. Have a wonderful rest of your weekend, my darlings!

Hapless Dudes Try Labor, Literally Tap Out

I think I may be a bad person for loving this so much. But I have my reasons!

I’ve never given birth, but I’ve experienced pain verging on it. When your menstrual cramps are worse than kidney stones, and your doctor tells you that women who’ve had both babies and kidney stones said the stone were worse than labor, you can be relatively assured you’ve survived something approximating the most painful experience uterus-bearing people typically face. I’m willing to bet that there’s worse things, like maybe being on fire, but childbirth is generally considered to be pretty awful. Yet our culture tells women it’s beautiful, and wonderful, and they shouldn’t ask for pain relief because that will somehow cheapen the experience or something.

You know what, fuck that. [Read more…]

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…]