We just got back from the Rock, Gem, and Mineral Show in Madras. I overheard someone say there were 135 vendors this year so it took a while to see everything. This is the 68th year of this event. It is sponsored by the The All Rockhounds Pow-wow Club of America, Inc. Prices for the rocks, gems, and minerals range from one dollar to hundreds of dollars. Parking, admission, and entertainment is free. The show takes place June 22-25.
Here are a few pictures I took today at the event. Do I know what the name is of everything I show in these pictures? No! I have always liked pretty rocks even if I don’t know what they are. If you go to a big rock show like this, someone there can likely identify what’s there for you and tell you all about them. They may even tell a tale or two about the adventure they had when collecting them.
Some birds you hear long before you see them. I was happy to follow the sound of a northern flicker’s calls to discover it was nesting on our property. Here it is peeking out from its nest cavity in a western juniper tree. Their markings are loud and sharp – just like their calls. I know the birds won’t be in their nest for long, but I am glad to catch glimpses of them glimpsing at me.
Weekly Photography Challenge – Transient
Have you ever seen a plant out in nature and thought to yourself, “Wow, I wish I could have that in my yard!”
Well sometimes you can and if you include certain types of plants, you’ll benefit in several ways including:
- Saving $$$ on your water bill.
- Ensuring that your garden plantings survive and thrive.
- Attracting wildlife.
- Spending less time on maintenance.
Water wise gardening, otherwise known as xeriscaping, incorporates plants that require less water. The plants can be native to the area or from other areas with similar environments. There are hundreds of these types of plants that can be incorporated into your garden.
Deciding what to plant
You need to consider the environment where you live. I live at an elevation of 3,400 feet in an area that gets about 10 inches of precipitation per year. Water is a precious resource here.
When deciding what to plant, you can start by going to a local plant nursery. You could also check out information from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Cooperative Extension System. Click here to find resources in your state. Local sources can tell you more about water requirements for different plants and what grows there, soil types and amendments, how to water efficiently, what mulches to use, and how to maintain your landscape.
Plan and design your landscape before you start purchasing plants. Consider establishing “zones” where plants have the same soil, light, and water requirements. Figure out what type of watering system you want to have. We use a drip irrigation system to target the plants with limited amounts of water. If you choose plants that grow well in your environment, they may require very little water once they are established.
Finding water wise plants
Find a source for getting plants that grow best in your area. I am very lucky to live near Wintercreek Restoration and Nursery, a nursery that specializes in native plants. I have also successfully transplanted drought tolerant native plants from other parts of my property. Some plants, like buckwheat, are more successful if raised from seed. Native plants may not need additional soil amendments when you plant them. Be sure to mulch around plants after planting them and do maintenance as needed.
It can be a daunting task to get started with a water wise landscape design. You can hire a landscape designer or do it yourself. We have done it ourselves using local resources. I often buy plants that are small because they cost less. Last year my garden looked kind of pitiful. It takes time for the landscape to mature so I have to remind myself to be patient. This year, even after a heavy snowfall winter, the plants are much bigger so I am beginning to see their potential. Yay!
I recently heard a complicated and beautiful birdsong but it took me a minute to locate the songster. Though the photo I took was a little out of focus, the mockingbird’s song was loud and clear. Be sure to visit this site to hear it – Northern Mockingbird’s song. No wonder its Latin name translates to “many-tongued mimic.”
Weekly Photo Challenge – Focus
The landscape at Capitol Reef National Park tells many stories in colorful layers of rock. The darker columns in the picture above are part of the Moenkopi Formation and it is 225 million years old.
The sedimentary layers of rock in this picture consist of silt, sand, clay, and gravel. The bands of gray and burgundy are made up of volcanic ash. The 700 foot thick layer at the base of the cliffs is the Chinle Formation. That formation contains a lot of petrified wood.
I was impressed by contrasting colors and textures at this park. If you take a trip to Utah, don’t overlook this park. There are a lot of hiking trails here and a short scenic drive.
Weekly Photo Challenge – Order
Here’s a view of a hummingbird working the flowers of spring last year. The flowers fade away as the seasons turn but the memory of their brilliance remains.
Weekly Photography Challenge – Evanescent
Can you guess where I was earlier this month? Yes! I was on a 2,754-mile road trip to see parks in Utah and Nevada. We visited five national parks and one state park in Utah and one national park in Nevada.
I love the artwork on these t-shirts. It’s nice to remember a place with a wearable piece of art.
I took a few pictures while on this trip. 1,420 to be exact. Lots of material for future blog posts!
An amazing example of petroglyphs can be seen on the road into the Needles section of Canyonlands National Park in Utah. Wow! I have seen petroglyphs before but never so many in one spot. There are more than 650 drawings on a rock wall at this state historical monument. The dark desert varnish provides a nice contrast to the messages carved into the stone.
The first carvings at this site have been determined to be 2,000 years old. People of the Archaic, Anasazi, Fremont, Navajo, Anglo, and Pueblo cultures have carved their messages into the rock over the years. Unfortunately, it looks like some more modern graffiti artists added to parts of the scene.
The meanings of the messages here have been difficult to figure out. Do they tell a story or are they merely scribbles? The Navajo refer to this site as Tse’ Hane – translated as “Rock that tells a story.” It does indeed appear to tell many stories. Only the people who made the carvings know exactly what those stories were.
It’s hard to imagine that the big flat area pictured above was once filled with water that all disappeared. Developer William A. Laidlaw was in this area in the early 1900’s and he promised settlers a project that would irrigate nearly 30,000 acres. Local businesses and settlers put up some of their hard earned dollars for the project but then figured out they were being taken advantage of. Laidlaw was burned in effigy in 1907 and 1912. New plans were made by the state for a reservoir.
In 1914, the huge earthen Tumalo Dam on the edge of 1,100 acre Bull Flat was constructed. It took 18 months to complete. The reservoir was filled with thousands of gallons of water. A couple of school kids were passing by the reservoir one day and heard a roaring noise like a tub draining. A giant whirlpool was sucking down the water at the rate of 220 cfs – as fast as it was being filled. Yikes!
They tried plugging the hole with bales of hay and detonating dynamite on floating barges. Nothing worked. It turned out the engineer that designed the project had not done much work on the soil at the site. It is extremely porous and modern day engineers liken it to a sponge. There are also lava tubes underneath the surface.
The local settlers had been conned. In 1915, they changed the name of the town nearby from Laidlaw, the name of the original developer, to Tumalo. Eventually they did get water but not until 1922. The current reservoir irrigates around 8,000 acres.
Though the dam and canal system don’t hold any water today, they do provide a great area for a hike. You enter the trail near the earthen dam and follow it through the rimrock-lined Red Rock Canyon area.
I love the sign the landowner put up near the trail head.
You can walk for several miles along this trail. The trail slopes downward at the trail head but otherwise it’s pretty flat. We walked for a couple of miles then headed north up on top of a ridge. You get panoramic views of the surrounding landscapes. The juniper forest and rimrock cliffs along this trail provide habitat for a variety of wildlife.
Along parts of the trail, the rock formations have a layered form that makes for some nice photos. In other spots, rimrock is splashed with lichens as if Jackson Pollock was there working on his next masterpiece.
We found the remains of a deer along the trail. Butterflies were landing on the deerskin so we had some good views of them. This behavior is called “puddling.” Several days after our hike, a member of our group was hiking there and found a much more recently deceased deer. It appeared to have been cached – maybe by a cougar.
Bushy-tailed woodrats, aka packrats, collect trash and debris from their nest and move it out of their nesting area into “middens.” They then go to the bathroom on the middens and they harden into a dark substance known as amberat. We saw some of these globular dark piles on the cliffs on this hike. Gross but interesting. Paleontologists have analyzed amberat that is tens of thousands of years old and it contains valuable information. Click here for a post with more about woodrats and amberat.
We saw a raven nest on a cliff face and the birds let us know when we got too close. Turkey vultures and other raptors drifted overhead. We didn’t see many songbirds on this cool April morning.
A few varieties of wildflowers were starting to come up. The leaves of bitterroot were up but no flowers yet. See my previous post here about them for photos of their stunning flowers. Bright yellow and white flowers contrasted with the surrounding soil. There are some very old juniper trees scattered throughout the area. Their scraggly growth form adds character to the landscape.
This was an enjoyable hike in an area with an interesting history. There is a good parking area near the dam at the intersection of Sisemore Road and Snow Creek Road. We got there by driving on several roads northwest of Bend but you can also get there more directly by heading west on Couch Market Road off of Highway 20 just north of Tumalo.
Reflecting back on a cool October morning at Sunriver, Oregon
Weekly Photo Challenge – Reflecting
The Three Sisters volcanoes in Oregon are beautiful but one of the three is dangerous. The photo above shows Middle Sister, a dormant volcano, and North Sister, an extinct volcano. Their other sibling, South Sister, is the troublemaker. This volcano last erupted about 2,000 years ago and research in 2000 indicated uplifting activity so it could blow again. See all three Sisters in the photo below. South Sister is on the left – some distance from her siblings.
Weekly Photo Challenge – Danger!
“The key to a wonderful life is to never stop wandering into wonder.”
Weekly Photo Challenge – Wanderlust
If you walk on the Trout Creek trail at certain times of the year, you’ll probably see golden eagles soaring over the rimrock bordering the Deschutes River. This easy trail is located northwest of Madras, Oregon and the trail head is located in a nice Bureau of Land Management (BLM) campground. There is no fee for parking and hiking there.
The trail follows an old railroad track route. As I mentioned in a previous post here, there were two railroad companies competing to work their way south so for a while, there were two tracks. This rails-to-trails conversion serves hikers well. The trail heads west from the campground for 7.6 miles. On a recent hike there we hiked for two miles and then turned around. There’s an outhouse there and a good grass-covered area along the river for a lunch break.
We saw some interesting wildlife on our hike in April. Common mergansers were seen all along the route. The female and males have such different coloring and form you might think they are two distinct species. We saw ospreys on a nest and soaring overhead. Golden eagles and turkey vultures were seen in several places. Double crested cormorants were seen a few times. An unusually silent Townsend’s solitaire songbird did its best to make me think it was something else. See my post here about solitaires. Swallows circled and swooped over our heads. This area does look like it would get hot later in the year so keep a watch out for snakes as temperatures increase.
There are colorful growths of lichen on the rimrock cliffs that border the riverside trail. At one point I saw a huge “O” created by fluorescent green lichens. Were there some University of Oregon ducks out there influencing Nature?
Wildflowers were just starting to come out on our spring hike. I spotted a single beautiful delicate yellow bell flower along the trail. The mock orange shrubs were just starting to leaf out but later in the season their fragrance must fill the air. I saw the biggest bitterbrush shrub I have ever seen along this trail – about 12 feet tall.
The hike is framed by the cliffs rising above the river far below. You can see basalt and tuff from different geological time periods reflected in these formations.
The columnar basalt cliffs make this a popular destination for rock climbers. Climbers can try out over 130 routes there. Some consider this area to offer some of the best desert crack climbing around. For more details on climbing there, click here to read a post by climber Jeff Wenger or here to read a post on summitpost.org. Wenger explains how various groups got together with the BLM to implement a seasonal closure to protect nesting golden eagles – as opposed to a year-round closure. The cliff nesting area is closed to rock climbing temporarily from January 15 – August 15. It may open as early as May 15 but the hiking trail is open year-round.
To get to this trail head you have to go on a somewhat circuitous route so look at directions here under “Getting There.” You will pass through a one-lane tunnel at one point so make sure you have a loud horn. 😉
Silent Sunday – Photography
While out hiking last June near Camp Sherman, Oregon, we were surprised to find a young fawn hidden in a grassy field. Its mother was close by so we took a few pictures and continued on our way.
Weekly Photo Challenge – Surprise
Driving along U.S. Route 97 north of Redmond, Oregon, a bridge dramatically spanning a deep canyon grabs your attention. The Crooked River Railroad Bridge was built in 1911. It passes over the Crooked River, 320 feet below.
There is a nice rest area here with picnic tables, restrooms, and scenic viewpoints. You can get a bird’s eye views of birds of prey, swallows, and other cliff dwellers from here. We had a bald eagle glide over our heads while a turkey vulture drifted by nearby.
The Crooked River, true to its name, meanders in a twisting course through the canyon below the bridge. You get great views of the lichen covered cliffs from this viewpoint. This area was formed about 350,000 years ago as lava flows from the Newberry Volcano, 40 miles to the south, moved northwards.
This viewpoint is named after Peter Skene Ogden, who first entered central Oregon in 1825 when working as a trapper for the Hudson’s Bay Company. For more about the park, click here.
If you are a thrill seeker, you can bungee jump from the bridge in the summer. After a pilot program in 2016, the state gave final approval for bungee jumping businesses here.
Note the signs about leaving your dogs in the car. Unfortunately, some have perished when they accidentally ran off the cliffs.
The Crooked River Railroad Bridge has an interesting history. Two competing railroad companies were building rail lines on both sides of the Deschutes River in an attempt to be the first to reach the timber-rich country near Bend. There were also plans to connect this line to railroad lines from other parts of the state.
Jim Hill, owner of The Oregon Trunk Railway (a subsidiary of Great Northern Railway), worked on the west side of the river and Edward H. Harriman, owner of the Union Pacific Railway and other railroads, worked on the east side. Workers in the two competing companies got in fights and raided each other’s camps stealing food, alcohol, and supplies. When they reached Crooked River there was only one area where the geography allowed for bridge construction.
Since Jim Hill had bought that property two years before, Harriman’s company was forced to negotiate with him. Harriman had passed away in September of 1909. The terms of the settlement allowed other railroad companies to use the rail lines from the Columbia River to Bend. The two lines were eventually merged into one with the best grades adopted for use and the rest abandoned.
Construction of the bridge, designed by architect Ralph Modjeski, started on May 18, 1911 and it was completed on September 17 of that year. The fast pace was due to a rush to complete the line to Bend, 25.5 miles to the south. Jim Hill drove the golden spike in Bend on October 5, 1911.
If you visit the viewpoint, you will see three bridges. The Crooked River Railroad Bridge is located farthest west. The Crooked River High Bridge was completed in 1926 and it served as the main north-south highway until 2000. In 2000, the higher-capacity Rex T. Barber Veterans Memorial Bridge replaced that bridge. Formerly known as the Crooked River Bridge, its name was changed in 2003 to honor local World War II fighter pilot, Rex T. Barber. On one of his missions Lt. Barber, in his Lockheed P-38 Lightning, shot down a plane carrying Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto over Bougainville Island, northeast of Australia. Admiral Yamamoto planned and led the attack on Pearl Harbor. There is a lot of history, and beauty, associated with the Crooked River bridges.
Safe and secure in its nest, this great horned owlet looks content as an adult keeps watch nearby.
Weekly Photo Challenge – Security
A densely clouded sky can be seen as an excuse to feel sorrowful and gloomy or an opportunity to reflect back a glow of happiness and joy.
Weekly Photo Challenge – Dense
It’s been a while since I posted any photo bloopers so I figured it was about time for some more. Sometimes an imperfect picture needs a little modification. Here’s what I do with them. Enjoy!
To see more, go to one of my previous blooper posts here.
I got quite the scolding from this chickaree squirrel from its perch above me. Chickarees, otherwise known as Douglas’ squirrels, will try to defend their territory from just about anything.
Weekly Photo Challenge – Atop
Apparently some hawks think our backyard water feature is their personal smorgasbord. I often see a swoosh of wings go by as songbirds scatter. The Cooper’s hawk, and the very similar sharp-shinned hawk, are frequent visitors to our backyard. Like the jays that always seem to follow me, the Cooper’s hawk has now decided it must be one of my totem animals. I have seen them in a wide variety of habitats here in central Oregon. They always pose nicely for my camera. Here’s a bit more about them…
Range: Cooper’s hawks live throughout the United States, southern Canada, and Mexico. Their breeding range extends from southern Canada southwards to the northern parts of the U. S. They winter and live year-round in the southern and central parts of the U.S. and in Mexico.
Identification & unique characteristics: This medium-sized bird has the rounded, broad wings, and relatively long legs that help to identify it as an accipiter hawk. Adults are gray on their backs and on the upper side of their tails and wings. Their head has a darker “cap” and they have red eyes. There are thick dark bands on the tail. Their breasts have orange-reddish bars. Juvenile birds are brown on their upper parts and their breasts are streaked with brown. Their eyes are yellow. This hawk has a length of 14-18 inches and a weight of 8-14 ounces. Females are always larger. Cooper’s hawks fly in a distinctive way – a couple quick flaps and then long glides. This bird is silent much of the time though it does sometimes vocalize with a cak-cak-cak call during the breeding season.
It can be very challenging to figure out if you are seeing a Cooper’s hawk or a sharp-shinned hawk. Cooper’s hawks have a larger head, thicker legs, bigger feet, a paler back of the neck, and a rounded tail with a thicker white tip. The Northern Goshawk looks similar but it is much larger and it has a more distinct white eye stripe.
Behavior & life history: The breeding season begins as early as March. Courtship includes aerial chases and displays with gliding flights with their wings held up in a ‘V’ position. In bonded pairs, the male does a bowing display to the female before and after building the nest. Cooper’s hawks prefer to build their stick nests 25-50 feet above the ground in trees located in areas with flat habitat. Eggs are incubated for 30-36 days and the young birds are in the nest for 27-34 days. They lay 2-6 eggs. This skillful flier often sits in wait and in a sudden burst of speed captures its unsuspecting prey. They mainly eat birds but also prey on small mammals and, occasionally, frogs, snakes, and lizards. Bird prey ranges in size from warblers to robins on up to grouse (and chickens!). Cooper’s hawks live up to 12 years in the wild and as long as 20+ years in captivity. Predators of this bird include red-tailed hawks, great horned owls, and raccoons.
Habitat needs: Cooper’s hawks live in a wide variety of habitats that include mature forests, mixed woodlands, edges near wetlands, and in open country. They prefer to live in forested lands but are now common in urban and suburban areas. This may be due, in part, to the abundance of rock pigeons, one of their favorite prey species. This bird and other birds of prey are also attracted to backyard feeders.
Status & conservation: This hawk’s population is considered stable at this time. In the past, Cooper’s hawks were adversely affected by the pesticide DDT but after it was banned in 1972 their numbers increased. Since they prey on chickens, they were heavily hunted in the past. One of their names is “chicken hawk.” Cooper’s hawk populations may be affected by habitat loss and degradation.
Interesting fact: Cooper’s hawks do not have the notched bill that helps falcons kill their prey. They kill their prey by squeezing it and sometimes they even hold it under water to drown it.
Sometimes an artist’s greatest wish is that others will be able to see the emotion and spirit of a place in their work. I hope you can feel some of what I was trying to capture in this photo.
Art is about expressing the true nature of the human spirit in whatever way one wishes to express it. If it is honest, it is beautiful. If it is not honest, it is obvious.
Weekly Photo Challenge – Wish