Scenic views all around
The hike to Gray Butte, located in the Crooked River National Grassland near Terrebonne, Oregon, is great to walk in the spring because of the wildflowers. I went here in May and we saw quite a few colorful flowers. The habitat is sagebrush steppe with scattered western juniper trees.
I have been here twice with Leslie Olson, one of my favorite guides with Bend Parks and Recreation. One time we went on Cole Loop Trail #854 and the other time we went on Gray Butte Trail #852. The roads to the trailheads have sections that are rough but passable. We did out-and-back hikes of around four to five miles total distance. They are listed as easy to moderate hikes. Here’s a map that shows both trails.
A piece of history
My most recent hike began at Gray Butte trailhead, elevation 3,800 feet, near the McCoin Orchard. The orchard was originally planted by Julius and Sarah McCoin in 1886. The property was purchased by the U.S. Forest Service in the 1930’s. At one time there were 100 fruit trees here – apple, pear, plum, etc. Grassland range specialists saved the surviving trees in the 1980’s. When I was there, the trees were in full bloom.
Did I make it to the top of the butte yet? Nope, but we had fantastic views from the Gray Butte Trail. Gray Butte reaches an elevation of 5,108 feet. We stopped for lunch on a rocky overlook known as the Austin Creson Viewpoint, elevation 4,200 feet. Austin Creson was involved in the planning of this trail. The viewpoint is 1.9 miles from the trailhead and this was where we turned back.
The Austin Creson Viewpoint is on the northern edge of the Crooked River Caldera. This caldera is enormous. It encompasses 425 square miles. In fact, the volcanic eruption associated with this caldera was the sixth largest on earth. Woah! Right here in Central Oregon. That’s impressive.
From our lofty perch at the viewpoint we had great views of Mt. Jefferson, the Three Sisters, Broken Top, and Black Butte. Yes, it was a bit cloudy but seeing the peaks peeking through is always thrilling.
We saw and heard eagles, swifts, and sparrows on our hike. We also saw a weird beetle known as the American oil beetle. Nice to look at but don’t touch them because they will produce an oil that will irritate your skin.
Gray Butte wildflowers
Seeing the wildflowers on this hike made my day. They are so beautiful! I am including photos from my most recent hike and from my earlier hike a couple years ago. Enjoy!
For driving directions, see Gray Butte Trailhead. Note that if you stay on the trail for about 6.5 miles from the Gray Butte trailhead, you’ll end up at Smith Rock State Park. Please use applicable maps for this route.
Be prepared on any trips you make into the backcountry and help to preserve its beauty for the rest of us. Thanks!
Blooming lupine amidst obsidian
Lupine plants were in full bloom on a recent trip I took to Glass Buttes, Oregon. They have beautiful flowers and a unique leaf form. The palmately divided leaves of lupine can have five to 28 leaflets. Water often funnels down the leaflets and collects at their base.
Hiking on a caldera
Today I took a hike up Gray Butte, northeast of Terrebonne, Oregon. It was a nice hike with lots of wildflowers and spectacular views. This view is from the edge of the Crooked River Caldera looking west to Mount Jefferson, on the right, and Black Butte, on the left. The rocks in the foreground are splattered with messages left by lichens.
My place in the world is out in the wild places of central Oregon. From dry sagebrush steppe in a caldera to lush meadows bordered by pine forests. There are so many special places to explore…
Weekly Photo Challenge – Place in the World
“Stretching his hand up to reach the stars, too often man forgets the flowers at his feet.” Jeremy Bentham
An unlikely sighting
Last week I was out walking my dog on the Mill A Loop Trail in Bend, Oregon and I happened to see an osprey pair in the process of creating more ospreys. Spring is in the air!
Ospreys often nest in areas close to human activity. This nest is right next to the Bend Whitewater Park. There are perches and platforms installed on both sides of the Deschutes River here for birds. I’m glad to see them using the site after the initial disturbance caused by the park’s construction.
The osprey pair will lay 1-4 eggs and incubate them for 36-42 days. The nestlings will be in the nest for 50-55 days. It will be great to see more of them flying around in a couple of months.
Weekly Photo Challenge – Unlikely
Lines of Hoodoos
Here’s one more entry for the Weekly Photo Challenge of Lines. The many layered castles in Bryce Canyon National Park are an amazing sight. A single hoodoo formation is impressive, but when you see hundreds of them in lines like soldiers standing at attention, they are just plain stunning.
See my previous post Time Lines: Utah Parks for more pictures featuring a small taste of the geology in Utah’s parks.
Time lines from long ago
The time lines are obvious in the many rock forms in state and national parks in Utah. Can you imagine the stories from hundreds of millions of years ago these land forms could tell us?
Weekly Photo Challenge – Lines
Up with the birds for a Steens Mountain tour
On April 6, I was up bright and early for a birdwatching trip that would encircle Steens Mountain in a single day. Being a bit of an introvert, I wasn’t sure I wanted to partake in a tour like this one. The Steens Mountain tour was one of 22 tours available for nature enthusiasts at the Harney County Migratory Bird Festival. The festival, which started in 1981, takes advantage of the annual spring bird migration in the Harney Basin. More than 300 species of birds use this area annually.
A land full of drama
At 6:00 am, participants in the Circle the Steens Mountain & Alvord Desert tour met at Burns High School. The weather was not cooperating for the 200-mile trip. A big storm system was blowing in. Twelve hours and 76 bird species later, we returned to the high school. Though we didn’t see any rare birds, we did see a lot, considering the weather conditions. Our views were framed by the dramatic landscapes of Harney County. The pale colored sands of the Alvord Desert stood out in contrast to the dark stormy skies. Steens Mountain provided beautiful panoramas from many different angles. We also had great views of pronghorn and deer.
We traveled east of Steens Mountain, south to Fields, then north along the west side of the mountain. Our tour guides, Joan Suther and Rick Hall, worked for the Bureau of Land Management locally for many years. The first brief stop was to look at burrowing owls. The small owls were seen braving the wind on this tour and the one I was on the next day. Flocks of snow geese and Ross’ geese were in fields nearby. Our next stop, at Crystal Crane Hot Springs, was much longer.
Visits to places wet and wild
Crystal Crane Hot Springs is a resort with a large hot spring-heated pond and a recently created cold water pond for wildlife. We checked out the wildlife in both ponds. I’m not sure if the people visiting the hot spring appreciated a bunch of people walking nearby with cameras and binoculars.
Waterfowl seen here, and at other ponds and lakes on this tour, included swans (tundra and trumpeter), northern shovelers, cinnamon teals, redheads, common mergansers, and American coots. Western grebes were starting to do a little mating behavior but we didn’t get to see them do their unique walking-on-water display. American avocets and black-necked stilts gracefully waded through shallow water. Killdeer were seen and heard as they tried to make sure we didn’t get too close to their nests.
We saw quite a few raptors on the Steens Mountain tour. Northern harriers drifted over marshy areas. Bald and golden eagles hunted near fields. Swainson’s hawks, red-tailed hawks, and rough-legged hawks perched on pivot irrigation systems looking for prey. American kestrels perched on power lines watching all the birdwatchers driving by. On the field trip I was on the next day, we saw a ferruginous hawk peeking out of a nest in a lone juniper tree. This tree is one of their favorites for nesting, but last year ravens took it over.
Small but significant
Songbirds sought shelter from the weather but luckily we saw several species. It was a little early to see some of the shrubsteppe-dependent songbirds, but western meadowlarks and sage thrashers perched high singing their bright songs. Yellow-headed blackbirds, red-winged blackbirds, and marsh wrens sung in marshy areas. The descending call of the canyon wren was heard near rocky buttes. Say’s phoebes were seen perching briefly then flying out to do a little fly catching.
Dining at an iconic location
We stopped for lunch at the Fields Station Cafe, at the southern end of Steens Mountain. The isolated small town of Fields is famous for the burgers and shakes it serves at the cafe. We ordered ahead for our large group. I didn’t know if I would partake in slurping down one of the giant milkshakes but ended up splitting one. I think I was able to finish one-quarter of a coffee milkshake. It was just enough to give me a much needed infusion of caffeine. After lunch, we crossed the highway to a grove of trees. A great horned owl, perched in the cottonwoods, eyed us warily.
Home on the range
Wranglers were out on horseback herding cattle on the west side and east side of Steens Mountain. Harney County is 10,226 square miles in size. It is the largest county in Oregon and one of the largest in the United States. Yet with a population of only 7,200 people, it somehow still has a small town feel. One of our guides recognized a cowboy working the range many miles from Burns, where we started our tour.
This was a long, but good, day in Harney County. Our guides knew the country well and helped us spot wildlife. They also told us some of the interesting history related to the area. They pointed out to us what makes this country so special and that’s what made the Steens Mountain tour great.
Daily prompt – Partake
I often stop to look at the succulent wall at my favorite plant nursery. Varied in their colors, shapes, and textures, these prolific plants always impress me.
Weekly Photo Challenge – Prolific
Last weekend I saw this yellow-headed blackbird rising above the misty steam surrounding Crystal Crane Hot Springs in Oregon. He looked almost like some mystical character awakening from a dream.
Weekly Photo Challenge – Awakening
Every time I see a killdeer, it brings a smile to my face.
A bold bird
They are a bold little bird. Yes, you usually hear their distinctive kill-deer call long before you see them. Their black and white banded markings, and cinnamon-colored rump and tail feathers, make it hard to mistake them for something else.
Their bold personality is another thing I admire about them. They are a small bird, but they are fearless if you are near their nest. They assume anyone nearby is a potential predator. Killdeer bob up and down and call if you get close. If that doesn’t discourage you, they’ll drag a wing, feigning injury. The birds flap their wings on the ground while leading you on a wandering path away from the nest. Courage in the face of adversity.
Nest and young
The nest is a scrape in the ground containing three to five speckled eggs. It’s easy to overlook so watch your step if you hear an adult nearby in the spring or summer months. The young birds are covered in down and ready to run right after they hatch. They are one of the cuter birds I have seen in the wild. Watch this short video to see a chick with a vocal adult.
They eat eat a wide variety of invertebrates. Killdeer eat crayfish and aquatic insect larvae in the water and grasshoppers and beetles on land. The birds are often seen following plows in farmer’s fields hoping to catch some recently unearthed worms or insect larvae.
Killdeer’s range covers a huge area in the Western Hemisphere and they can be found in a wide variety of habitats. You can find them around open areas such as mudflats, fields, lawns, parking lots, golf courses, and airports. Killdeer live in many areas year round. Do you have them where you live?
A group of killdeers is called a “season.” It’s a treat to see them, no matter what the season.
Weekly Photo Challenge – Smile
In my backyard, an old western juniper tree serves as my muse. Hope you enjoy these pictures that show the many moods of my muse through the seasons. The moods in the sunsets range from a quiet blush to a loud show of anger.
My cover image shows a rainbow of emotions surrounding the tree.
Weekly Photo Challenge – Rise/Set
I have so many Yellowstone favorite places it’s hard to choose. Here’s a collection of photos of things that make the park special. I start this post with a quote from President Theodore Roosevelt who was known as the “conservation president.”
“The only way that the people as a whole can secure to themselves and their children the enjoyment in perpetuity of what the Yellowstone Park has to give is by assuming the ownership in the name of the nation and by jealously safeguarding and preserving the scenery, the forests, and the wild creatures.”
Theodore Roosevelt, April 24, 1903 at the laying of the cornerstone of Gateway to Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone National Park, with its larger-than-life landscapes, dramatically changing weather conditions, amazing menagerie of wildlife, variety of plant life, and geology in action, is one of my favorite places. It also has a rich history as the world’s first national park.
A park is born
Evidence shows ancient peoples lived in Yellowstone Country 11,000 years ago. European Americans began exploring the lands in the early 1800’s. Teams of explorers brought back tales of wonder of this unique environment. Their work was supported by images created by artists Thomas Moran and Henry W. Elliot and photographer William Henry Jackson. The park was established in 1872 by President Ulysses S. Grant. Additional protections for the park and its wildlife were instituted in 1894 when congress passed the National Park Protection Act – now known as the Lacey Act.
President Theodore Roosevelt had a love of the land and he was instrumental in making sure many natural areas were preserved. His quote above reflects the importance of preserving wild places so that all may enjoy them “in perpetuity.”
Landscapes – large and small
Here are photos of some special landscapes.
And more of spectacular hot springs and other features.
And don’t forget to notice the tiny landscapes beneath your feet.
And of course the wildlife.
Yellowstone National Park gets visitors from all over the world. 4,116,524 people visited in 2017.
May we all continue to safeguard and preserve its scenery, forests, and wild creatures.
Weekly Photo Challenge – Favorite Place
Messages communicated without words
I am always amazed by the beautiful beadwork on display at the High Desert Museum where I volunteer. The carefully crafted pieces represent work by tribes of the Columbia Plateau in parts of modern-day Washington, Oregon, and Idaho.
Tribes represented include Umatilla, Wasco, Wishram, Paiute, Washo, Chehalis, Quinault, Nez Perce, Skokomish, Chinook, Tillamook, Yakima, Warm Springs, Haida, Salish, Yaqui, and others.
Doris Swayze Bounds Collection of Native American Artifacts
They are artifacts with an emphasis on “art.” However, Native Americans in the 1700’s and 1800’s did not make art for art’s sake. Beads embellished utilitarian pieces. Beads adorned items ranging from small handbags and knife cases, to deerskin clothing and footwear.
The High Desert Museum houses the Doris Swayze Bounds Collection of Native American Artifacts. Born in 1904 in Oklahoma, Doris Swayze Bounds later lived in Hermiston, Oregon, where she worked as a banker. She always appreciated Native American people and their culture. Many of the pieces in the collection were gifted to her by local Native Americans as a way of showing their respect and affection to her. The artifacts date from the 1870’s to the 1960’s. The collection has many pieces, but I focused on the beadwork in this post.
A brief history of beadwork in North America
In the early 1800’s, beads used in trading with native people were referred to as “pony” beads. Transported by pack animals, the beads were limited in availability and colors. The smaller “seed” beads became widely available after about 1850. These inexpensive beads were available in larger quantities and in a wider variety of colors.
White traders thought of the beads as cheap trinkets but to native peoples, they were highly prized. The beads were valued for their beauty and durability. They also freed up time that would have gone into crafting beads from bone, shells, and other materials. The beadwork became a status symbol and a source of pride in their culture.
Bead-working techniques vary and show ethnic membership. Colors and motifs represent different things to different tribes. If symbols are changed, such as being inverted or assembled in incorrect colors, they may show a hidden negative message. For example, an inverted American flag could have expressed displeasure with governmental policies.
Expressions of cultural pride
The beadwork is this collection is beautiful but some pieces were made during a dark chapter in American history. The hardships native peoples endured are difficult to imagine. Beadwork allowed them to express pride in their culture when they were being forced to give up their traditional ways of life. We are fortunate that some of their remarkable work has been preserved.
To view more of this collection and learn about Native American’s many accomplishments and challenges, visit the High Desert Museum in Bend, Oregon
Source of beadwork history information:
Logan, M. H. (2014). Brightly Beaded: North American Indian Glass Beadwork [Pamphlet]. Knoxville, Tennessee: University of Tennessee, McClung Museum of Natural History and Culture.
One Word Photo Challenge – Museum
A bluebird of unhappiness
The mountain bluebird perched on the snag for a long time in a drenching rainstorm. While all the other birds sought shelter, he stubbornly remained on his perch. He wondered if it really was a bluebird day. The bird thought his brilliant blue plumage would attract a mate by reminding her of the sky on a sunny day. No such luck!
Weekly Photo Challenge – I’d rather be…
Celebrating a life
After living a life full of leaps and bounds, she settled down in her favorite aspen grove. The bunchgrass waved goodbye. The rabbitbrush shaded her in her final moments. The rosebush provided fruit in celebration of her life. And finally, the aspen covered her in leaves of gold.
Weekly Photo Challenge – Story
Short and sweet hike
The Mill A Loop is a short and easy hike that starts on the flag bridge in the Old Mill district of Bend. This 1.1 mile trail is paved and mostly flat. You walk along the Deschutes River for most of the hike. At certain times of the year, kayakers, stand up paddleboarders, and innertubers will float by you on the river.
The Flag Bridge is a well-known sight in Bend. The flags are changed to celebrate different holidays and events. I am always impressed by these flags of many colors fluttering in the breeze. They also fly over a smaller pond near the restaurants.
You will walk past a few notable landmarks. Yes, you start out in a shopping center, but you’ll also go by the Les Schwab Amphitheater, Deschutes Brewery, and the Bend Whitewater Park (adjacent to McKay Park). The amphitheater is where many concerts and outdoor events take place here in Bend. Deschutes Brewery, founded in 1988, was one of the first craft brewers in the region. The brewery has a nice tasting room and guided tours. The Whitewater Park was completed in 2015 and it divides the river into three channels. One channel is for wildlife, one is for innertubers and rafters, and one is for whitewater surfers, kayakers, or paddleboarders. I have seen people out surfing in wetsuits in all kinds of weather. See my post Bend Whitewater Park for info about the park and a few videos.
There is a lot of artwork on display along this route. Look for a large metal sculpture of a horse outside Tumalo Art Company close to the Flag Bridge. Be sure to take a closer look at this piece. A tall sculpture that incorporates steel wheels from one of the old lumber mills is just outside of Anthony’s restaurant. The Colorado Avenue Bridge has artwork inside and outside of the pedestrian tunnel. The amphitheater has beautiful murals on both sides of the stage. On the east side of the Whitewater Park, there is a tall metal sculpture that was designed as a perch for kingfishers. There is a sculpture of a group of Canada geese on the west side of the river.
Flora and Fauna
I have to mention the beautiful flowers in the landscaping along this route. I really like the blooming border plants on the west side of the amphitheater. They are gorgeous in the spring and summer months. Watch for the occasional hummingbird when the flowers are in full bloom. There are also some delicious smelling hops plants near the amphitheater.
I walk this trail regularly and the types of wildlife seen varies by season. Ospreys and bald eagles can be seen near the river. Common waterfowl include Canada geese, mallards, mergansers, and American coots. You may see songbirds such as red-winged blackbirds, scrub jays, robins, cedar waxwings, and goldfinches. Swallows drift over the river in pursuit of insects. There is a beaver dam a little ways south of Tumalo Creek Kayak & Canoe and you may get a glimpse of them in early morning hours. I have also seen river otter and muskrats. A small population of the Oregon spotted frog breeds in this vicinity.
There is also a one-of-a-kind 12-station fly fishing course here. You may notice circles on land and in a couple of the smaller ponds. Each station has a sign nearby and you can try your hand at various casting challenges.
A little history
This district was named Old Mill because there used to be two lumber mills located here, one on each side of the river. The three iconic smoke stacks you see were part of a powerhouse that ran 24/7. The stacks were preserved when REI took over the space. This spot was very important for the economy of Bend in the early 1900’s. Timber was hauled into Bend and floated in the river until processing at the Brooks-Scanlon or Shevlin-Hixon mills. The Oregon Trunk Railroad had a line that went to the mills to pick up lumber.
To see a map of this hike and others nearby, look at this brochure from Bend Parks and Recreation. The Mill A Loop is the yellow trail on the inset map. I think you will enjoy walking this easy trail, no matter what season it is.
To find out more about the Old Mill District, click here.
Silent barks speak with voices needing to be heard.
Unknown worlds are tucked into their cracks and crevices.
Layers peel away to reveal glimpses of their hearts.
Their eyes gaze at us with infinite wisdom.
They sometimes wear disguises to cover up who they are.
But by peeking under silent barks, we learn we are all the same beneath.
Weekly Photo Challenge – Out of This World
Last fall, we saw a pronghorn herd on the drive to Hart Mountain National Antelope Refuge in southeast Oregon. This herd consisted of about 100 bucks and does.
You can see Hart Mountain peeking out in the distance. A storm was moving in. Here are pictures of the storm as it developed. Storm Clouds over Hart Mountain.
Can you find a big buck watching over his harem in this picture? Both bucks and does can have horns, though the does’ are small or sometimes absent. Males have short black manes, a neck patch, and black markings across their forehead.
Weekly Photo Challenge – A Face in the Crowd
Cool rocks – inside and out
Do you ever drive by a place a million times and think to yourself, “I’ve got to stop there one day.” This rockshop, south of Redmond, Oregon, was one of those places for me. We finally stopped last summer. The shop has hundreds of carefully labeled rocks inside and out.
There are a wide variety of rocks in Central Oregon and this shop displays some of the beauties collected over the past 42 years by the owner. Owners Mel and Jerry Lindbeck obviously have a love of rocks. Mel shapes some of the rocks into spheres, bookends, and display pieces.
Lovely displays of rocks
We have been to plenty of rock shops over the years but this one displays them in lovely ways. The front room has a couple display cabinets, a table with small rocks, and windows lined with slices of semi-transparent agate.
The back room is filled with neatly arranged specimens. In other rock stores we have visited, dust and dirt seem to be part of the collection. Not here. The polished spheres shine and sparkle, reflecting the light. The many amazing specimens invite you to take a closer look.
This is a good place to see some of the rock native to this area. Inside you can see thundereggs, petrified wood, jasper, agate, obsidian, and less common things such as Hampton green petrified wood. Outside you will see some of these same types of rock in boulder-size specimens. You will also see smaller specimens of some of the rocks in water-filled birdbaths that bring out their color. Rough rock is also on display outside in big piles.
And more rocks…
Though most of the rock is from Central Oregon in this shop, there are specimens from elsewhere as well. Pyrite, malachite (one of my favorites), lapis lazuli, copper, quartz, and fossils are all represented. Click here and scroll to the bottom of the page to see the owner’s sense of humor about a special fossil in their collection.
So if you like rocks, think about stopping at this roadside attraction on Highway 97. To find out more about the shop, go to Canutts Gems and Rockshop.
Please support our local businesses and buy rocks for yourself, friends, and family. Remember, a rock makes a special gift that lasts forever.
A sweet story
We adopted our dog, Tesla, a year ago and she is a sweet mutt. She was at a local Humane Society shelter as a young puppy as part of a litter of ten. Each puppy in this litter from Warm Springs, Oregon was given a temporary name that started with a “C.” A loving family adopted her and gave her a new name. Unfortunately, they had to return her due to their circumstances. We drove an hour through a snowstorm and walked into the shelter in Madras a half an hour after she was dropped off. She was stressed out and nervous when we met her but we knew she was the one for us.
She is a Heinz 57 mix of breeds with a very sweet personality. Tesla was a star student in her obedience class. As you can probably tell from the photos, she is kind of goofy. She likes to play with her toys while standing on her head. Her ears are sometimes up, sometimes down, or sometimes one is up while the other is down. Tesla still loves to chase her very long tail – even though she is almost two-years old.
Cartoon character modeled after our dog?
I recently saw the kid’s movie “Coco” and Tesla really reminded me of the dog, Dante, featured in the film. It was a good movie with wonderful animation. In the movie, the dog ends up being more important than he first appears to be. Here’s a short video about the dog in the movie. Dante’s Lunch – A Short Tail
What’s in a name?
Why the name Tesla? One reason is she is very fast. Here’s a short video of her in action. She LOVES to play outside!
Our dog has had three names in her short life but has found her forever home with us. Please consider adopting from a shelter if you are looking for a new best friend. To find a shelter near you, go to The Shelter Project.
Weekly Photo Challenge – Sweet
The desert produces a profusion of colorful wildflowers at certain times of the year. Here is a stunning penstemon plant inside the Fort Rock volcanic tuff ring.