We witnessed a symphony in the skies over Shoshone National Forest. Spectacular cloud formations and landforms are common sights near Cody, Wyoming. Dramatic wispy clouds such as these often fill the skies.
This week I’m featuring pictures of green, red, blue, and white. These are colors in What a Wonderful World, a song that brings back a special memory. Many years ago, I helped a kindergartner class with an art project related to the song. I assigned each student a color and let them paint anything they wanted. It was a “wonderful” experience!
Here’s my take on the colors from the song.
This picture shows the vibrancy of green foliage surrounding a great blue heron in Troutdale.
Here’s a picture featuring the power of red in an up close portrait of a hibiscus.
I showed the calmness of blue in this photo of two ring-necked doves in my yard.
The softness of white illuminates the road west into Prineville.
The song also mentions rainbow colors. Here’s a misty rainbow over Sahalie Falls.
Why didn’t I give specific instructions to the kindergarten students on what to paint for that long ago project? Their teacher often gave them worksheets to color for class. If they took too long to complete them, or they colored outside the lines, they missed recess and gym class. Yes, really.
When the kids’ paintings were shown during a school assembly, I beamed with pride. What a Wonderful World played in the background. Each student grinned and held up their original work of art. I’m sad to say these paintings were one of only two free-form art projects assigned all year.
After that experience, I volunteered with students at every grade level. I especially enjoyed teaching arts and crafts to high schoolers who missed out when they were younger. Perhaps they had been students of the teacher who tried to push creativity out of young people’s lives.
This morning I was out taking pictures of the sunrise and noticed this baby bird among the berries. It was lucky to have landed in a place covered with a cushioning layer of western juniper leaves.
I looked up in the tree overhead and spotted the nest. An adult American robin perched nearby, completely motionless. I talked to it and got no response at all. I have read that birds sleep with one eye open but this one didn’t follow that theory.
When we placed the baby bird back in its nest, it squawked and that finally got the attention of its parents. I hope it stays in the nest and fledges with its siblings.
Robins like junipers because they provide shelter and food. In the fall, they and other thrushes eat as many as 220 berries in a day.
The nest is in this tree. Can you spot it?
Today I’m featuring portraits of pink flowers in my Bend, Oregon yard. All of these plants are drought tolerant, once established.
The first photo is an ice plant. This groundcover has cheerful starburst flowers and succulent leaves. The leaves turn a bronze color in winter. We had an escapee take root in another part of our yard and it survived without watering.
The second plant is a Woods’ rose. This native 2-5 foot tall shrub attracts bees, butterflies, and birds. Red rose hips develop once the flowers lose their petals.
The third plant is a hollyhocks. This tall perennial needs more water at first than others on this post, but once established it’s fairly drought tolerant. They grow to a height of over three feet and make a bold statement in the garden.
The fourth picture is of a dwarf monkeyflower. They grow up to 4 inches in height and most of that height is in the flower. This native plant grows wild in the High Desert habitat on our property. The plants pictured are about two inches tall.
The fifth plant pictured is a cholla cactus. They produce a big crop of flowers in early summer, followed by yellowish fruit. As I have mentioned before, I have cultivated them by placing a single stem on the ground.
The sixth photo shows a tufted evening primrose. As its name implies, it blooms at night and closes up during the day. This is one of my favorite native flowering plants, but unfortunately the deer like it too. We have to regularly spray them with deer repellant.
When looking for photos for the Sunday Stills Photo Challenge this week that included the color pink, I discovered I had more pink flowers in my yard than I thought. A happy discovery!
I saw this loop-de-loop lodgepole pine growing alongside Firehole Lake Drive in Yellowstone National Park. Everyone drove right past it but I had to stop and take its picture. I wondered what stopped it from going straight up. It figured out how to grow around obstacles and keep going in the right direction. A lesson for us all.
We just returned from a trip to Yellowstone National Park and the Norris geysers were spectacular, as always. Some of the geysers are big and showy; others are small but still impressive.
The picture below is of Steamboat Geyser. Gray stone, dappled with red and brown-colored rocks, surrounds the vent.
In 2020, this geyser erupted 48 times. Water shoots 300+ feet into the air, making it the tallest in the world. This year, once again, we just missed its latest eruption. It went off on May 31, 2021, the day we drove to the park from Bend, Oregon.
Here’s an overview of the basin. If you don’t have time to walk the trails, You’ll get great views from this observation area.
Here’s a view from the trail. There are geysers everywhere you look in the Norris Geyser Basin.
You will also see wonderful thermophile “paintings” alongside the trail. I loved the green colors here!
This is Minute Geyser and it used to go off regularly. Unfortunately, many years ago tourists threw rocks into its vent so now it doesn’t erupt as often.
This is one of my favorite little geysers. Vixen Geyser’s opening is only about a foot across and the rocks surrounding it look like they’re covered with gray fuzz. This geyser is not colorful, but it goes off often. As soon as I walked up to it, it erupted.
Here’s a video of Vixen Geyser erupting right on cue. It’s like it knew I was there waiting for the show.
The map below shows all of the main thermal features in Norris Geyser Basin. The two main trails vary in length, with the Porcelain Basin being the shorter of the two. The Back Basin trail is 1.5 miles and the Porcelain Basin trail is 0.5 miles.
We visited the basin at 7:15 am and hardly anyone was there. If you go at midday in the busy season, expect to park outside the parking area alongside the main road. You may have to walk quite a ways to reach the trailhead. Consider going in the early morning, late afternoon, or early evening, when crowds are lighter.
Just a little reminder to be prepared for the changeable weather within Yellowstone. The last time I visited this trail, it snowed. I forgot to bring a change of clothes and I got soaked. Unfortunately, that’s when I found out I could not buy pants at any of the stores within the park. Uh oh! This time I stashed a change of clothes in our car before we left home. 😀
There’s a new sculpture at Tumalo Art Co. in Bend, Oregon. The Homeward Bound sculpture of a deer, by Danae Bennett Miller, is a cast bronze piece. Danae uses a lost wax process to create works of art. I previously featured one of her horse sculptures in Outdoor Horse Sculptures. That post highlights the work of several impressive sculptors.
Here’s a husky pocket pet I painted on a rock. This breed can sometimes be a handful.
But in the right hands, they’re great pets. Here it is curled up in a cozy blanket.
My first dog, J.C., was part husky. One of the things I remember most about her was her thick undercoat – a common trait of huskies.
After brushing her, I understood how people such as the Coast Salish once made blankets from dog fur.
Do you have artwork you would like to share? If so, include a First Friday Art tag on your post.
Ponderosa pine bark up close. This bark is made even more interesting with drips of amber pitch.
These colorful lichens are growing on a rock in my High Desert yard. So much variety in a tiny landscape!
The Warner Wetlands of south central Oregon are beautiful throughout the year. I dug into my archives to find photos taken long ago there, supplemented with a few recent ones.
You can view wispy sunsets over the wetlands in the summer.
Moody cloudscapes over them in the spring.
Snow and ice covering them in the winter.
Sweeping scenic views of them in the fall.
And you get the drama of Hart Mountain rising above them with its massive presence. This fault-block mountain towers 3,600 feet above the valley floor. Its highest point is atop Warner Peak, elevation 8,024 feet.
There are numerous lakes in this 40-mile long wetland and some are seasonal. One of the lakes, Mugwump Lake, varies significantly in its water level. The lake is named after the politically independent and unpredictable mugwumps.
The Warner Wetlands host a wide variety of wildlife, including 42 mammal species and 239 bird species. Fish in the wetlands include crappie, bass, bullhead, and trout. If you’re lucky, you may see an endangered Warner Sucker, a fish that only lives here.
This area doesn’t get a lot of visitors due to its isolation. Visitors can enjoy camping, hiking, OHVing, birdwatching, hunting, and fishing. When water levels are high enough, there’s a canoe trail you can follow in the northern section (see map). You’ll find a short birding trail in the southeast section. There’s also a public site to dig sunstones for free, located several miles northeast of the lakes.
If you’re feeling a little worn out after all your outdoor adventures, check out Hart Mountain Hot Springs Campground on the refuge. There’s a rock structure surrounding a hot spring pool located within the campground. You can find another undeveloped pool in the meadow about 100 yards away. Exactly what you need after a hard day of outdoor recreation!
The Bureau of Land Management manages the Warner Wetlands. Hart Mountain National Antelope Refuge is located just to the east of the lakes.
I recently hiked the Trail of Molten Lands at Lava Lands Visitor Center and paused to take in the volcanic views. The center is located within the Newberry National Volcanic Monument, a place with many recreational opportunities.
I took these photos from the Phil Brogan Viewpoint. On a clear day, you can see Mt. Bachelor, the Three Sisters, and other peaks in the distance. On this day, clouds covered them in soft shrouds. The visitor center reopened on May 20, a couple days after my visit. It’s a great place to learn more of this area’s volcanic past.
Here are a couple pictures of the volcanic views from a closer angle.
This 1.1 mile trail winds through basalt lava flows surrounding Lava Butte to the viewpoint.
This Colocasia Esculenta mural, created by Danny Fry in 2020, shows colorful elephant ear plants. This plant, referred to as taro or kalo, is common in Hawaii, where Danny grew up.
The colorful leaves of this mural represent the mix of people here in Bend, Oregon. Many people move here from other locations, and this mural reflects that growth in a positive light. For example, Bend hosts several thriving restaurants and businesses run by Hawaiians.
In the early 1800s, Hawaiians in Oregon worked as laborers, sailors, and in the fur trade. I described their history in Aloha Owyhee! Oregonians generally called them Kanaka, the Hawaiian word for human being.
The taro plants shown in the mural have been an important part of Hawaiian culture for centuries. Taro, scientific name Colocasia esculenta, is used in creating poi, a local delicacy. Traditionally, taro roots cooked many hours in underground ovens. Natives pounded the roots on wooden boards with stone mortars. The finished product has a pudding-like consistency. Poi tastes sweet if eaten right away or sour if allowed to ferment.
I’ve been out and about more recently and photographed several spectacular sights seen in blue and green.
I thought the pictures deserved a story, so I made up a tiny tale to go with each one. At a virtual conference I attended yesterday, I learned a “micro-story” is a form of flash fiction with 300 or fewer words. I’m calling the following stories “mini-micros” since they range from 43 to 58 words. Not sure if they qualify as true stories, but they were fun to write.
A crowd of manzanita shrubs watches a shifting skyscape in awe. Their pink blossoms open in silent applause. Snow-covered Cascade volcanoes rumble in the background, taking in the show from a safe distance. Steam billows from their peaks, merging with the dancing clouds.
Clouds emerge from a crack in the ground on a chilly spring morning. They radiate outward from the ridgetop and tree branches stretch and reach towards them. Striated boulders celebrate by tumbling and crashing down a steep slope. An osprey drifting overhead crows in anticipation as another glorious day begins.
Deep in the forest, two bull elks battle in an intense fight for the right to mate with cows in their herd. Their horns clatter and lock together. The fight lasts so long they become frozen in place. Meanwhile, a young elk spike, the one everyone overlooked, bugles with joy.
Over the years, Big Tree lost a bit of his height because of windstorms and bad weather, but he’s proud to keep his place in the record books. He tells anyone who will listen that he is the largest circumference Ponderosa pine in the world. Like many of us, Big Tree lost height and gained circumference as he aged. 😉
I’ll share more spectacular sights seen recently in future posts. So much to see in the spring – one of my favorite times of the year!
Though some consider Canada geese to be a “nuisance” species, they sure have cute goslings. I watched these young ones growing up fast in Bend, Oregon.
Here’s what they looked like a week later.
When I was out kayaking at Prineville Reservoir, these recently-hatched goslings struggled to conquer the huge-to-them wall.
With lots of encouragement from their parents, they finally made it. These little ones showed their incredible ability to adapt.
Canada geese are common in a wide variety of habitats. This pair nested on top of a cliff…
with a scenic view. Smart birds!
rise swallow the wind
rapid plunge trailed by bubbles
joyful rays of sun
Manzanita blossoms are putting on a show right now in Central Oregon. The delicate pink blossoms contrast with the thick, leathery green leaves and red bark. The bark on these shrubs peels like on a madrone tree. It’s one of my favorite local plants but it refuses to grow in my garden. That gives me an excuse to seek them out in the wild.
The stone façade surrounding the 5,000-year-old Newgrange monument in County Meath, Ireland is impressive. However, I learned Newgrange’s façade is not what it appears to be.
I liked the way the patterns in the wall changed from dark-colored stones to dark dotted with white…
To light dotted with dark stones.
The white stones over the entryway make it stand out.
The wall includes rough white quartz, rounded gray granodiorite, coarse-grained gabbro, and banded siltstone.
Upon doing further research, I learned “façade” has a double meaning at this site.
In 1699, a local landowner, Charles Campbell, rediscovered this passage tomb. He had instructed laborers to collect stone from the site, and they inadvertently found the entrance to the tomb.
Several prominent antiquarians visited the site. They debated who constructed the monument and what purpose it served. Theories on who made Newgrange included invading Vikings in early medieval times, ancient Egyptians, ancient Indians, or the Phoenicians.
In the meantime, the site experienced degradation caused by the passage of time and vandalism. In 1882, Newgrange and sites nearby gained protection under the Ancient Monuments Protection Act. The Newgrange, Knowth, and Dowth passage tombs, located in an area known as Brú na Bóinne, received recognition as a World Heritage Site in 1993.
Here is Newgrange’s entrance in the late 1800s, before restoration. Numerous archaeologists participated in conserving the site.
From 1962 to 1975, archaeologist Michael J. O’Kelly oversaw excavation, restoration, and reconstruction. Once excavation began, a large quantity of small stones were found. O’Kelly concluded they must have been part of a wall. Under his guidance, his crew made a steel-reinforced concrete retention wall to hold the stones in place.
Many in the archaeological community disagreed with this controversial decision. In fact, P.R. Giot said it looked like “cream cheese cake with dried currants distributed about.”
Newgrange’s façade is “the face of a building,” as defined by the dictionary. However, you could say it’s “a false, superficial, or artificial appearance or effect,” another definition of the word.
When reconstruction at the nearby Knowth monument began in 1962, archaeologist George Eogan took a fresh approach. He believed the stones formed a welcoming “apron” on the ground near the entrance.
The photo below shows the stones near the entrance to Knowth. Both sites are amazing, whether you prefer the cream cheese cake look or not. 😉
I took this photo of the Miller cabin in the morning at the High Desert Museum in Bend, Oregon. I used the platinum process for this image. This method, popular from 1873-1920, was discontinued due to the high cost of platinum.
within a small seed
a tiny new life slumbers
awakened by sun
emerald limbs stretch
stems lengthen and reach skyward
embraced by springtime
sepals nod and bend
petals emerge in starbursts
painted by nature
flower color fades
fruit envelops tender lives
within a small seed
A rainbow of colorful lichen up close. These lichens grow on the rocks in my High Desert yard. Though they are small, they have a big presence
I’m always amazed by artists who collect seemingly unrelated bits & pieces of things and combine them into impressive works of art. This week I’m featuring War Paint by Greg Congleton. I have featured some of his other artwork on my blog since he’s one of my favorite local artists.
On a recent trip to Prineville, Oregon, I made a point of stopping to see this work. Greg created this piece in 2020. I decided to photograph the details of this sculpture more closely.
Here it is as you approach it from a distance.
When you get a little closer, you can see the attitude of the horse and the rider.
Greg is a master at showing expression in his welded metal sculptures. Look at the horse’s reaction to the situation.
The rider sits firmly in place while the horse keeps bucking. Note how his chaps are blowing in the wind created by the action.
The horse seems intent on getting rid of the rider. He kicks his heels high in the air.
But the rider keeps his seat to ride again on another day.
Ride the horse in the direction that it’s going.Werner Erhard
There’s a list of some of the components Greg used in this sculpture posted at its base. Here are the bits & pieces included in War Paint. Can you find them in the photos posted above?
See the Greg Congleton tag for more of this remarkable artist’s work.
A collection of pinecones shown in black and white. These cones were found in the Lost Forest of Central Oregon, a remnant from another time.
I’ve been following pronghorn for years. They have much to teach us.
In the distant past, I was always restless, bounding from place to place, relationship to relationship. Once I started sensing my roots taking hold, I would break free, fleeing restraints. I sprinted towards the next place or person. Like an animal being pursued by a predator, I found it easier to run.
One day I started thinking of pronghorns, those iconic creatures of the Wild West, differently. Maybe I could learn something from them. They are a one-of-a-kind animal, not quite fitting into any family. I felt that way too and I began following pronghorn.
If pronghorns encounter obstacles, they cannot leap over them, they must find a way under or around them. I honed my skills at getting out of difficult situations. Finding the path is not always easy.
Pronghorn’s excellent vision and enormous eyes give them a 320-degree field of vision. I broadened my views and opened my eyes to observe more of the world around me.
In parts of their range, pronghorn migrate seasonally, while in other locations, they stay year-round. I migrated from the rain forest to the High Desert where I found a comfortable life. It’s the right habitat for me throughout the year.
Pronghorns are cautious yet curious. They have come within inches of me, close enough to inhale the scent of their musky perfume. It’s difficult to let your guard down, but it’s okay to let curiosity guide you once in a while.
Though capable of traveling at amazing speeds, pronghorn spend much of their time grazing. I’m not fleet of foot, but I found the pace that works best for me. Fast is not always better.
In winter, pronghorn live in large herds. At other times of the year, they travel in small groups or alone. Large groups are fine at certain times, but it’s okay to find comfort alone or with just a few.
Pronghorn settled into High Desert environments best suited for them to survive. They are rooted in the West.
Other restless wanderers blow by me, like tumbleweeds tossed by the wind. I allow my roots to grow through sandy soil and anchor themselves under boulders, dense and volcanic. This is home.
Here’s a colorful corner filled with blooming summer flowers. This planting includes: hollyhocks, foxglove, blanket flowers, ‘orange blaze’ red hot poker, black-eyed Susan, pansies, and more. I’m looking forward to seeing them again in a few months.
Here’s a white coneflower up close in my garden. I usually see pink or purple coneflowers, but they’re also pretty in this color. Their scientific name, Echinacea, comes from the Latin word for ‘sea urchin’ and the Ancient Greek word for ‘hedgehog.’ The spiny cone-shaped central disk resembles some type of prickly creature.
One of the challenges of photography is capturing images of elusive birds. Sometimes certain species are not considered difficult to photograph, they only elude YOU. Here are a few of mine.
I have been trying to get a decent photo of a black-billed magpie for a long time. These intelligent birds usually take flight when I approach. I finally captured the essence of a magpie recently near my home. This photo shows its long, elegant tail, striking markings, and iridescent plumage.
Slide the slider to the left to see the type of photos I have taken in the past of magpies. This one was near Mammoth Hot Springs in Yellowstone National Park. It teased me by hiding behind the sagebrush.
I’m lucky because mountain bluebirds nest in my yard. When I visit Glass Buttes, an hour away, during the spring months, the bluebirds pop out ready to be photographed.
However at my home, the birds are especially shy, as you can see in the second shot. They somehow sense I’ve picked up a camera and fly away or turn their back towards me.
I have seen white pelicans at several locations. On a recent trip to Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, I finally got some good photos of them on a pond north of the Refuge. I like this photo because it looks like the one on the left is lecturing the one closest to it. The double crested cormorants are listening attentively. I posted a couple more pictures of them on my recent Spring Birds post.
The second picture is the view I usually get of white pelicans. Way too far away! This lone pelican was near Fishing Bridge in Yellowstone.
The last pictures are of burrowing owls. Instead of taking flight, this little owl often hides underground in its burrow. I was lucky to get a photo of this one near Malheur.
On a previous trip, at another location nearby, windy conditions caused this owl to take shelter. Can you see its golden eyes peering over the dirt mound?
I will continue to pursue some of my most elusive birds in an effort to get better pictures. The quest continues…
Here’s a sepia tone view of Fort Rock Homestead Village Museum in the Oregon Outback. Twelve buildings built in the early 1900s were moved to this site. It’s one of my favorite roadside attractions in Central Oregon.