Blue flax flowers up close: Macro Monday

Blue flax flowers up close in my garden. These delicate flowers are difficult to photograph because they have a habit of turning away from the camera. I guess they are a little camera shy!

Macro Monday

Yellowstone in spring is a time to… : LAPC

Yellowstone in spring is a time to

Shrug off that old winter coat and

  • Yellowstone in spring, Elk near West Thumb, Yellowstone June 2018
  • Bison near Norris Geyser Basin June 2015

Feel the warmth of the sun

  • Red fox near Calcite Spring June 2018
  • Mountain Bluebird near Morning Glory hot spring June 2015

Yellowstone in spring is a time to

View rainbows captured in pools and

  • Grand Prismatic Hot Spring, Yellowstone June 2018
  • Rainbow Pool in Biscuit Basin June 2018

Ephemeral wildflowers

  • Balsamroot near Mammoth Hot Springs May 2018
  • Fringed gentian surrounding Ear Spring June 2015

Yellowstone in spring is a time to

Welcome new lives into the world and

  • Yellowstone in Spring, Bison & calves in Lamar Valley June 2015
  • Yellow-bellied marmot & pup near Calcite Spring June 2018

Marvel at their adventures

  • Two bighorn sheep ewes & lambs, Calcite Spring, Yellowstone June 2015
  • Black bear and two cubs June 2011

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge (LAPC) – Spring

A tree in the making: Monochrome Monday & Macro Monday

A tree in the making in Bend, Oregon June 2020

A tree in the making up close and in black and white.

Monochrome Monday

Macro Monday

Outdoor Horse Sculptures: LAPC & Sculpture Saturday

Summer is a great time to go see outdoor horse sculptures in Bend, Oregon. Here are some of my favorites.

This mare and foal sculpture by Bernie Jestrabek-Hart is at the High Desert Museum. Constructed of barbed wire, this piece portrays a tender moment in a work that is strong yet delicate. Bernie wrote the book, Creating Realistic Works of Art with Barbed Wire , to help others interested in working in this medium.

Outdoor horse sculptures Bend, Oregon
Mare & Foal by Bernie Jestrabek-Hart

This draft horse standing within three large circles of steel is by Devin Laurence Field. Horses played an integral role in Bend’s logging industry. Devin painstakingly constructs each steel piece in a process that includes cutting, forging, pressing, welding, grounding and polishing. This sculpture is in a roundabout in the northeast part of Bend.

Sculpture Bend, Oregon July 2020
Might of the Work Force by Devin Laurence Field

Artist Danae Bennett-Miller drew her inspiration for this piece from her husband, who was a buckaroo. “Buckaroo” is an Anglicized version of the Spanish word vaquero, which means cowboy. Danae created this piece using a lost wax method of casting with bronze and glass. This piece is in a roundabout on the west side of Bend.

Outdoor art in Bend, Oregon July 2020
Bueno Homage to the Buckaroo by Danae Bennett-Miller

This sculpture of two draft horses pulling logs pays homage to the importance of the logging industry in Bend’s past. It’s by Greg Congleton and it’s in Farewell Bend Park. It’s constructed of many surprising metal pieces including gears & sprockets, spoons, a garden hoe, and a 1923 Oregon license plate.

Two Bits 4Dec2016
Two Bits by Greg Congleton

This sculpture is also by Greg Congleton. It’s located right outside the Tumalo Art Co. gallery. Greg grew up on a cattle farm in Paulina, Oregon and draws on that background for his creations. According to Greg, he’s been told that he’s “a strange mixture of artist, architect, engineer, and humorist.” Yes, I agree!

Outdoor horse sculptures Bend, Oregon July 2020
Charlie by Greg Congleton

If you like outdoor art, be sure to check out the outdoor horse sculptures in Bend. They are fantastic! 😀

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge (LAPC) – Summer

Sculpture Saturday

Tiger painting in acrylics: First Friday Art

Here’s a tiger painting in acrylics I did on a small wooden box. I liked how the eyes turned out on this piece.

It’s time to share artwork since it’s the first Friday of the month. If you have something you would like to share, use the First Friday Art tag.

Tiger painting in acrylics by Siobhan Sullivan July 2020

Flicker feather up close: SMM

Flicker feather Bend, Oregon 3June2020

We have Northern flickers in our yard and everything about them is loud, even their feathers. Here’s a flicker feather up close.

Sunshine’s Macro Monday (SMM)

Lighting up winter nights: LAPC

Last February I was happy to see the Central Oregon Light Art exhibition lighting up winter nights in Bend. Oregon WinterFest has food, beer, and music like other events, but it’s also a showcase for artists. I have photographed the Fire Pit Competition (one of my favorite events!) and the Ice Sculpture Competition in the past. Central Oregon Light Art was added in 2019. I was surprised and impressed with what I saw this year.

This one looked nice in the daylight but look at how it changes at night.

Lighting up winter nights at Oregon WinterFest February 2020
  • Round light sculpture at Oregon WinterFest February 2020
  • Round light sculpture at Oregon WinterFest February 2020
  • Round light sculpture at Oregon WinterFest February 2020

This one reminded me of blue barber’s pole.

Vertical pole light sculpture at Oregon WinterFest February 2020

A multi-colored suspended piece with a ghostly sculpture in the background.

Lighting up winter nights at Oregon WinterFest February 2020

A simple and bold piece.

A bold light sculpture at Oregon WinterFest February 2020

An outline of a person. I think I liked this one the best. The guy walking behind it warned me he was going to photo bomb me and I told him he’d be on my blog. 😀

Lighting up winter nights at Oregon WinterFest February 2020

This piece is like a graceful lighted wind chime.

Windchime-like sculpture at Oregon WinterFest February 202

A tree lighted up in cool colors. The flag bridge is in the background.

Lighted tree sculpture at Oregon WinterFest February 202

The temperature that night was cold, but I was glad to have the opportunity to see these works of art lighting up winter nights.

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge – Surprise

Barn Owl Up Close: A Photo a Week Challenge

Barn owl up close, Dingle, Ireland March 2020

Here’s a look at a barn owl up close. They are such an interesting looking owl. Their white facial discs and undersides contrast with cinnamon colored head, back, and upperwings. An elegant bird with a worldwide distribution.

A Photo a Week Challenge – Anything

Art at the Amphitheater in Bend

Art at the Amphitheater , Bend, Oregon November 2018

When I walk my dog in the Old Mill district, I always smile when I see the art at the amphitheater. The Les Schwab Amphitheater is the main venue for large events in Bend, Oregon. Minneapolis artist, Erin Sayer, painted the crow on one side of the stage and the owl on the other.

Fellow Minneapolis artist, Yuya Negishi, assisted her. Yuya painted a dragon mural on the side of a building across the river and another mural on a staircase.

Owl mural in Bend, Oregon December 2018
Artwork on utility box in Bend, Oregon November 2018

Even the utility boxes are painted.

There’s a big, open field in front of the stage.

Art at the Amphitheater , Bend, Oregon November 2018

The Deschutes River runs behind the stage. Here’s a view from across the river. Those silos on the right side belong to Deschutes Brewery.

View of amphitheater in Bend, Oregon November 2018

Events are temporarily postponed or cancelled because of coronavirus. Huge crowds, such as these seen at Bend Brewfest, often fill the fields at events.

Brewfest in Bend, Oregon August 2018

The flower border along one side of the field is spectacular at certain times of the year.

Flower border in Old Mill district of Bend, Oregon September 2017

Accommodations for entertainers at this venue are unique. They are old boxcars resting on a section of train track. You can see the old train station, built in 1911, across the street.

Accommodations for entertainers in Bend, Oregon April 2019

Here’s a closer view of the train station on a winter day. Now it’s the Art Station, managed by Bend Park and Recreation District. It offers art classes for adults and children.

 Art Station in Bend, Oregon 9March2019

Art at the Amphitheater shows up in many forms including murals, concerts, colorful flower borders, art classes, and locally brewed beers. 😀

Yellow flowers with petals radiating -Tanka: LAPC

A single flower
With petals radiating
Captures warm sunlight
To share on overcast days
Illuminating us all

Prickly pear cactus with petals radiating Bend, Oregon 4June2020
Prickly pear cactus
Salsify blooming in Bend, Oregon 29May2020
Salsify
Cinquefoil in bloom, Bend, Oregon 14June2020
Cinquefoil
Oregon sunshine with petals radiating, Bend, Oregon 14June2020
Oregon sunshine

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge – One single flower

All about Purple sage: Friday Flowers

Purple sage and Indian paintbrush  at Gray Butte, Oregon May 2016

     You may have heard of this plant referred to in the classic western, Riders of the Purple Sage by Zane Grey. But did you know purple sage is not actually in the sagebrush family? It’s a type of sage in the mint family, Lamiaceae, and one of its common names is “mint sage.” If you crush the leaves in your hand you’ll be able to tell why.

     I’ve seen purple sage, Salvia dorrii, in various high desert locations in eastern Oregon. Gray Butte, just northeast of Smith Rock, is a great place to see this native shrub in full bloom.

Wildflowers at Gray Butte May 2016

    Purple sage grows in the western United States and northwestern Arizona, south to the Mojave Desert. It grows on open slopes, flats, or foothill areas receiving 7-15 inches of annual precipitation. This shrub grows in low to high elevations in sandy, rocky, and limestone soils. It often grows in stands of sagebrush and in pinyon-juniper habitats.

Wildflowers at Gray Butte May 2016

     This plant is a semi-evergreen shrub that grows to a height of 1-3 feet and a width of 2-4 feet. Its narrow, grey-green leaves are rounded at the tips. The flowers are purple and dark blue and they appear in spike-like clusters. Purple sage blooms from May through June. Their gray to red-brown fruit is 1/8 inch or smaller.

Honeybee on purple sage Bend, Oregon June 2020

Purple sage in the garden

     Purple sage can be grown in gardens. This plant grows in full sun and has very low water requirements. Purple sage is propagated by seeds, dividing the plants in early spring, or taking cuttings of new growth. It attracts bees, butterflies, and birds, including hummingbirds. This shrub is deer and rabbit resistant. Purple sage grows in USDA plant hardiness zones 4b through 10a. That includes areas with an average annual extreme minimum temperature of -30 to 30 degrees Fahrenheit.

High desert landscape Bend, Oregon June 2020

Ethnobotany

     Native Americans made use of this plant throughout its range. Stems and leaves of purple sage were used as a cure for colds by the Kawasiiu, Paiute, Shoshoni, Okanagan-Colville, and Washoe tribes. They also applied poultices to the chest, smoked the dried leaves, and made steam baths from parts of the plant. It was used in various forms to treat headaches, stomachaches, fever, influenza, pneumonia, gonorrhea, swollen leg veins, eye problems, and general illness. Hopi, Kumai, and Paipai used this sage to treat epilepsy, headaches, stomachaches, and other conditions. The Kawasiiu people threw it into the fire to ward off ghosts.

Fun Fact: The genus name of this plant, Salvia, comes from the Latin word salveo. It means “Be well/ in good health.”

Wandering the roads of Utah: LAPC

The Lens-Artists Photo Challenge this week is the long and winding road. Wandering the roads of Utah a few years ago, we saw many picturesque roads.

The Mt. Carmel Tunnel in Zion National Park.

Wandering the roads of Utah, Zion National Park May 2017

Winding dirt roads bordering the canyons in Canyonlands National Park.

View of Canyonlands National Park, Utah May 2017

Utah State Route 95 curves down towards the Hite Bridge in Lake Powell.

Wandering the roads of Utah, Hite Bridge Lake Powell, Utah May 2017

Arches Scenic Drive Road near Park Avenue in Arches National Park.

Near Park Avenue in Arches National Park, Utah May 2017

Winding dirt roads seen in Bryce Canyon National Park from Bryce Point.

Bryce Canyon National Park from Bryce Point, Utah May 2017

Highway 28 runs along the Colorado River near Red Cliffs Lodge in Moab.

View of Red Cliff Lodge Moab, Utah May 2017

Scenic Drive Road in Capitol Reef National Park.

Wandering the roads of Utah Capitol Reef National Park, Utah May 2017

Be sure to have your camera ready when you are out wandering the roads of Utah. Lots of opportunities for pictures! 😀

Prairie falcon pen-and-ink: First Friday Art

It’s already First Friday again! Today I’m sharing a prairie falcon pen-and-ink drawing I created. This drawing shows their dark “armpit” marking. That’s one of the ways to distinguish them from peregrine falcons.

Prairie falcon pen-and-ink by Siobhan Sullivan

Here are a couple glimpses of a prairie falcon flying high above the 9,734 foot peak of Steens Mountain in Oregon.

Prairie falcon from the peak of Steens Mountain, Oregon 28 August 2019
Prairie falcon from the peak of Steens Mountain, Oregon 28 August 2019

Share artwork you or someone else created with the First Friday Art tag.

Happy Friday!

Many shades of obsidian: Weekend Challenge

There are many shades of obsidian in nature. The Weekend Challenge from GC and SueW, and their monthly color challenge for June, is the color Obsidian.

By coincidence, I was out in the yard yesterday morning rearranging some of the obsidian I’ve collected at nearby Glass Buttes. Here in Bend, Oregon, we recently had a huge storm with high winds, rain, and hail. My rocks all had a nice bath. 😉

Here are few portraits of obsidian rocks in my garden.

A piece of black obsidian in with the ice plants. I like to pick up pieces that have interesting textures.

Many shades of obsidian. Black obsidian & ice plant. Bend, Oregon May 2020

Here’s a larger piece of black obsidian tucked in under the mint plants.

Black obsidian & mint plant. Bend, Oregon May 2020

Here are a trio of mahogany obsidian rocks.

Mahogany obsidian from Glass Buttes, Oregon May 2020

Here are three smaller pieces beneath a cholla cactus. Spotted mahogany colored rocks, like the middle piece in the photo below, are called leopardskin obsidian. If that’s true, is the striped piece on the left tigerskin obsidian? I don’t think so!

Go to OreRockOn and look under the Obsidian & Knapping for Sale tab to see pictures of many varieties of obsidian.

Obsidian beneath a cholla cactus. Bend, Oregon May 2020

This is green sheen obsidian. It has stripes of green color crossing the black.

Green sheen obsidian . Bend, Oregon May 2020

This piece of silver sheen obsidian is being guarded by a prickly pear cactus. Silver sheen, and other types of obsidian, have a sparkly iridescence when you tilt them in the light.

Many shades of obsidian. Silver sheen obsidian . Bend, Oregon May 2020

This gunmetal obsidian, next to an Oregon sunshine plant, blends in with the color of the gravel. Gunmetal is solid gray in color.

Gunmetal obsidian & Oregon sunshine plant. Bend, Oregon May 2020

These are just a few of the many shades of obsidian located an hour away from my house. Lucky me!

For more on Glass Buttes, in eastern Oregon, see Glass Buttes Obsidian Field Trip and Glass Butte Dragonglass . I Like Rocks! shows more rock pictures taken in my gardens.

Chive Blossom up close: Macro Monday

Chive blossom up close Bend, Oregon May 2020

Here’s a view of a chive blossom up close in my garden. We have a bumper crop this year!

Macro Monday

Rainbow of soft colors in my garden: LAPC

Right now I have a rainbow of soft colors in my garden. Many plants are blooming in the high desert.

This lupine has delicate shades of purple and peach on the same plant.

Soft colors in my garden Bend, Oregon May 2020

My purple sage shrub started blooming last week. This plant is a member of the mint family. If you crush the leaves you’ll get what some refer to as a “mildly intoxicating minty aroma.”

Purple sage in bloom. Bend, Oregon May 2020

This a sweet little carnation with dusty green foliage and small blossoms in varying shades of pink.

Pink carnation in bloom. Bend, Oregon May 2020

The orange globe mallow has small blossoms that contrast well with its muted green leaves. The large heart-shaped rock adds a nice accent. I Like Rocks! shows examples of other rocks in my garden.

Orange globe mallow. Bend, Oregon  May 2020

This is a cushion spurge plant. I love the soft yellow blossoms and colorful variegated foliage on this ‘First Blush’ variety.

I recently featured a close up of another spurge in my yard. They are cheerful little plants. 🙂

Soft colors in my garden in Bend, Oregon. Cushion spurge May 2020

I always appreciate the soft colors in my garden, but even more so now.

Just living is not enough… one must have sunshine, freedom, and a little flower.

Hans Christian Anderson

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge – Delicate colours

Dragon Door of the Dark Hedges: Thursday Doors

Isn’t this dragon door spectacular? It’s a beautiful work of art with an interesting story behind it.

Dragon door, County Antrim, Northern Ireland 29 February 2020

Do you recognize the tree-lined road in the photos below? This road, in County Antrim, Northern Ireland, is featured in the Game of Thrones television series.

Do you see the big stump on the left? Four of the 245-year old beech trees fell in windstorms over the last few years. The reclaimed wood was used to create several doors. The dragon door is one of ten doors installed in pubs and hotels in Northern Ireland. Each door represents a scene from season six of Game of Thrones. You can download a Journey of the Doors passport and collect stamps as you visit the location of each door.

The dragon door above is at Fullerton Arms Guesthouse in Ballintoy, County Antrim. It features an image of Drogon, one of Daenerys’ dragons. Dothraki stallions are also featured on this door. There is also a facsimile of the Iron Throne at this location, in case you have an urge to sit on a throne made of swords.

Dragon door from fallen tree, County Antrim, Northern Ireland 29 February 2020

The Dark Hedges

In the Game of Thrones series, this location is “The Dark Hedges” of King’s Road in Westeros. Digital magic replaced the paved road with a dirt road. This site appears in a couple episodes of seasons two and seven. The trees are also featured in Transformers: The Last Knight.

This is a popular tourist destination and that popularity may have contributed to the trees falling over during the storms. Beech trees have relatively shallow root systems and the heavy vehicle traffic was affecting their growth.

The Dark Hedges, County Antrim, Northern Ireland 28 February 2020

In October of 2017, most traffic was forbidden from traveling on the road. The Woodland Trust, a woodland conservation charity, was instrumental in this decision.

The Dark Hedges, County Antrim, Northern Ireland 28 February 2020

This road is often packed with visitors so it can be difficult to compose a picture. I didn’t have that problem in February. Maybe that was because it was snowing… 😉

Thursday Doors

My Mount St. Helens Adventure: FOWC

On May 18, 1980, a trip to help band golden eagles at the Yakima Canyon in eastern Washington turned into an unexpected Mount St. Helens adventure.

Mount St. Helens, Washington March 1980
Mount St. Helens in March 1980

The adventure begins

I was part of the Young Adult Conservation Corps, working for the Washington Department of Game in Olympia, Washington. We spent most of our time in the office, but we took occasional field trips. One of the wildlife biologists invited four of us to help him band eagles and we were excited to get out in the field. 

Virginia rail by Becky Matsubara
Virginia rail by Becky Matsubara

     We piled into John’s Volkswagen van and took off for eastern Washington. John suggested stopping at Crab Creek Habitat Management Area, 20 minutes south of Royal City, to do a little birdwatching before driving south to meet the biologist. We stopped and saw yellow-headed blackbirds, cinnamon teal and other kinds of ducks, a short-eared owl, and two Virginia rails with a newly hatched chick.

Google map showing location of Mount St. Helens & Royal City, Washington
The red marker indicates the location of Mount St. Helens and the yellow marker shows the location of Royal City, Washington.

     We drove along the road bordering Crab Creek. There was talk of taking our raft down the creek. Nobody could decide what to do so we pulled off the main road onto a minor side road a half a mile from Smyrna. We had no idea how long we would end up staying on that side road.

Yellow-headed blackbird Rising above the mist 6April2018
Yellow-headed blackbird

     We got out of the van to check out the creek and noticed what looked like a storm brewing in the west. John, who was familiar with the area, said that if we rafted the creek, we would see more than we could by car. The rest of us were hesitant about rafting if there was any possibility of rain. As we stood there trying to decide what to do, a “storm” drifted into the valley. John kept saying it wouldn’t matter if we got a little wet and kept insisting we should raft the creek. We still couldn’t decide what to do.

  At around 8:30 a.m., we heard what sounded like two sonic booms. We figured the sound came from the nearby Yakima Firing Range, where the United States Army did training exercises. A little while after that, we heard thunder and Dave and I thought we smelled rain. This was Sally’s first time in eastern Washington. She had recently moved from Pennsylvania, and we were busy explaining to her that sometimes big thunderstorms move through eastern Washington. By this time you couldn’t see the far end of the valley and lightning crackled across the sky. John mentioned that he’d gone to college in Ellensburg, an hour west of us, and thunderstorms were common. The rest of us believed him at that point, but we had concerns about the storm.

Uh… that’s not a thunderstorm

     The clouds kept moving in until they covered half the sky. Electrical wires overhead buzzed from the electricity in the air. The buzz would get louder until a flash of lightning and a peal of thunder would rock the valley and then the buzz would start again. Meanwhile, the clouds overhead looked like someone had spilled an enormous bowl of gray-colored popcorn and it had spread across the sky. We started talking about how we had never seen clouds like that. Dave, who was from Alabama, said it looked like a tornado sky.

Ash cloud from Mount St. Helens' eruption, 18 May 1980
The ash cloud

As we talked, the clouds changed again. Now they looked like gigantic fists pounding down on us. By this time, John had given up on rafting the creek and he ran to the van to get his camera. I asked him to grab mine, and we both took pictures of the amazing clouds as they formed overhead. If you followed one it would move downward, exploding into a black haze.

     The immense dark clouds now covered about three quarters of the sky. It was dark overhead, and the only light left was in the east. The effect was that of an eerie sunset, but it was 11:00 in the morning. The darkness continued to move across the sky until only a sliver of light remained on the horizon.

Mount St. Helens, Washington March 1980
Mount St. Helens in March 1980

     At about this time, Sally said she felt something falling on her face. She asked us if we felt it and we said “no” but one by one we felt something falling on us too. John turned on the radio in the van. It said, “In case you haven’t heard, Mount St. Helens has blown.” We looked at each other in disbelief and John let out a hoot and said the mountain “had finally done it.” Several weeks before, we had taken a quick trip to the west side of the mountain for a planned Mount St. Helens adventure. On that trip, we took pictures of the mountain venting steam.

We were excited and didn’t know what to do next. Everyone decided we better get into the van when the ash fall got heavy. It was also getting dark out. The ash was coming down so heavy it was impossible to go out without something covering your mouth. We were 120 miles northeast of Mount St. Helens, directly in the ash’s path. Lightning still flashed every once in a while, spreading in a horizontal direction, like fingers reaching across the sky. The flashes were the only outside light we would glimpse for many hours.

The long dark day

     It was so dark you couldn’t see your hand in front of your face. The time was around 11:30 a.m. We didn’t know how long we would be there so we only turned on the radio every once in a while. The disc jockeys were excited about the eruption and played songs like “Volcano” by Jimmy Buffet and “Dust in the Wind” by Kansas. I remember part of Jimmy Buffet’s lyrics in particular: “I don’t know where I’m going to go when the volcano blows.” We had one beer in the van and shared it in a toast to the volcano. We got out a flashlight and spread a map outside to collect ash.

     I lit a candle lantern but a little while later we dug out John’s Coleman lantern. We only kept the light on for brief periods of time because it would get too hot in the van. Whenever we opened the window, ash and mosquitoes would pour into the van. We wondered how long we would be in there and what we would do to pass the time.

     We talked about what we were experiencing for a while. If we hadn’t been near a radio, we could have thought this was a nuclear explosion and that stuff falling from the sky was radioactive fallout. With the sky being so dark and everything so quiet, it would have been easy to think it was the end of the world. We should have been in a panic, but we were calm about the whole situation. The darkness surrounding us had a kind of presence, but it wasn’t a frightening one.

Okay, now what?

     As it became more and more clear that we might be stuck where we were for a while, we started trying to think of things to do. We were lucky we had plenty of food because our plan was to meet four other people and we had enough for everyone for four days. We couldn’t cook anything, but we had plenty of vegetables to snack on and peanut butter and jelly to make sandwiches. Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches were the easiest things to make. Dave, who once worked as a camp counselor, sang us a camp song about the sandwiches in his soft southern drawl.

Peanut butter & jelly sandwich 10 May 2020
Peanut butter & jelly sandwich

     “First you take the peanuts and you crunch ’em, you crunch ‘em… For your peanut, peanut butter and jelly. Peanut, peanut butter and jelly.”

     He cracked us up because of the funny way he sang and danced to the song. Dave pretended to pick grapes, crush peanuts, and spread peanut butter and jelly onto bread. Every time he said the word “jelly” he raised his voice for emphasis. It was easy to imagine how his rendition would entertain young campers.  

   After that, we started telling dumb jokes and singing camp songs. When we started running out of those, John said he thought he had a deck of cards in the van. He found them, and we played cards for a long time.

     We would shut off the light every once in a while because of the heat and to check if it was still dark. It was early afternoon, and the sky was pitch black. When we opened the van door and turned the light on, the mosquitoes and moths would come inside again. We spent a long time trying to get rid of the mosquitoes. They were big ones! As it got later in the day, we thought about sleeping arrangements. We rearranged our gear, including the rubber raft, cooler, and bags of food, to find a place to sleep semi-comfortably.

Meeting some local wildlife

     Around this time, we heard a big thud against the side of the van. We looked at each other and when we realized none of us had made the noise, we rushed to lock the doors. I don’t know why, but everyone had the same thought at the same time. We wondered if something had run into the van. John turned on his headlights and we saw a duck lying on the ground. It must have flown into the van because it couldn’t navigate in the darkness. The duck was flapping around like the collision injured it, so I jumped out to check if it was okay. The bird flew off after a couple unsuccessful attempts so it must not have been hurt too badly.

Young swallows in Bend, Oregon 14 August 2016
Young barn swallows

     A little while later, when we had the light on, a swallow flew around the windows like it was trying to get into the van. The swallow perched on the windshield wipers for a while and then it would flutter around again. The animals were feeling the effects of the heavy ash fall. John and I thought about the Virginia rail chick we had seen that morning. It was so young it wasn’t yet able to stand. It was likely covered by ash now. We would see more effects on the local wildlife when we woke up the next morning.

     By evening we were getting restless and eager for some sign that we would see the light of day again. At around 8:30 p.m., we got a brief glimpse of the landscape. It was light enough to make out the hills surrounding us, but not enough to see very far down the valley. The quick glimpse showed us the ash covering everything, and it was still falling. Dave and John set out a tarp to collect more ash. The map we had laid out earlier had about ¾ of an inch of ash on it. Darkness came again as night fell. The night was quiet and starless.

A glimpse of light after Mount St. Helens eruption 19 May 1980
A glimpse of daylight in the evening

A new day

     We woke the next morning to an unfamiliar world. It was like a layer of gray snow had covered the land. Before, the plants had been green and growing and now they were a pale gray color and bent over from the weight of the ash. The ash covering the ground was nearly two inches deep. The consistency was like baby powder. If you picked up a handful and threw it in the air, it would stay suspended for a while. If you stepped onto it, it was like moon dust. It would whoosh around the sides of your shoe and when you moved your foot away, a deep and perfect print would remain.

Cinnamon Teal 30March2018
Cinnamon teal

     As we looked around, there were signs that animals had been very active during the night. Everywhere you looked, you saw tracks. It’s too bad we didn’t have a field guide to animal tracks with us because this would have been the perfect opportunity to use it. Rabbit, mouse, and bird tracks ran in neat lines across the ash. Several tracks formed intricate designs like those of the beetle we observed trudging across this new ash-covered world. It would do loops, turns, stop, and then do it again. Ants tunneled their way out of the thick ash, already adapting to the unfamiliar landscape. An occasional duck would fly by, and a few floated in the nearby creek. The animals were trying to adapt to this altered world, but they didn’t all survive the extended gloomy night.

Making our way towards civilization

Nursing a beer, stranded on a Mount St. Helens adventure 18 May 1980
Nursing our single beer

     We decided we had better try to get out of there and back to civilization. John and Dave picked up the tarp and guessed it held ten pounds of ash. We collected ash in containers and ended up collecting a lot on our shoes and clothing. The ash was still thick in the air and we wore bandanas to help keep it out of our noses and mouths. We took pictures of everyone looking like a bunch of bank robbers.

     A couple cars drove by in the distance so everyone decided we should try to get going too. We got in the van to drive to Odessa, an hour and a half to the northeast. The route went up a hill and after we had driven a few miles, the van conked out. It had overheated. This VW van was air cooled, taking air in through collectors on the sides and circulating the air around the engine. The hot, ash-filled air wasn’t cooling the engine down enough. John got mad and took a walk. When he came back, he told us there was an intersection not too far up the hill. Luckily the van started, and we took off towards “civilization.”

     Every time a car drove on the roads, it would kick up huge dust clouds that were almost impossible to see through. The main east-west highway in Washington State, Interstate 90, was closed because of the heavy accumulation of ash. 

An enormous amount of ash fell at Mount St. Helens, but as it drifted east, accumulations were heavier in certain parts of eastern Washington. We later learned that prior to the eruption, the mountain measured 9,677 feet at the summit. After the eruption, it measured 8,363 feet. A lot of that material had shot up into the atmosphere.

Ash fallout from the May 18, 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens. USGS.
The distribution of ash fallout from the May 18, 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens. USGS.

Royal City

     After stopping at a corner store and attempting to call Olympia, we headed for Royal City. The people at the store told us the church there was taking in travelers. The population of Royal City in 1980 was 676 people. We drove to the nearby church and the van almost died again. The van made it to the church and we ended up staying there with about 75 other people for four days.

     We donated most of our food to the church so they could share it with the other stranded travelers. The majority of the food served was from the community and there was plenty for everyone. We ate a lot of delicious home-canned vegetables and fruit.

Mount St. Helens adventure in Royal City, Washington 18 May 1980
The parking lot at the church in Royal City, Washington

     The pastor, his wife, and the sheriff showed great patience in a tough situation. During the last two days of our stay, people were getting antsy to get out of there and they were getting on each other’s nerves. Sally, Dave, John, and I were getting along fine and passed time by telling more dumb jokes.

     “Why did the cowboy want a dachshund? So he could get a long little doggie.”

Miniature dachshund by Ellen Levy Finch
Miniature dachshund by Ellen Levy Finch

     We went to the high school to take showers and once to play basketball and volleyball. As soon as you walked outside, you felt dirty because of the intense heat and the ash floating through the air. Back at the church, the pastor got everyone singing after dinnertime every day to get their minds off the situation. One night they sang “Go Tell It on the Mountain” and then a song about the walls of Jericho tumbling down. I don’t think most people even realized how the songs applied to our predicament.

      With the help of the townspeople, we made it through our time in Royal City. They made plans for a convoy with patrol cars, graders, and firetrucks with hoses to help us get back home. Water from the hoses helped to keep the ash down briefly. The convoy would leave the next morning.

The journey home

     When we woke up the next morning, the parking lot was almost empty because everyone drove by themselves. We took off with a couple from Seattle following us. It’s good they did because after the van broke down twice in 15 miles, we abandoned it. We left the van at a farm and gave them our food that would have spoiled. The six of us squeezed into the Seattle couple’s compact car and drove to Bellevue, where John’s parents lived. This ride normally took two-and-a-half hours, but it took way longer that day.

     John and Dave drove back to get the van the next day. They towed it to John’s parent’s house and worked on it. The ash had been very cruel to the van and unfortunately it would never run again. The van delivered us from our secluded ash-covered camp and worked a couple more times, but it just couldn’t make it the entire way.

Mount St. Helens adventure February 2020
Mount St. Helens in the foreground flanked by Mount Rainier (on the left) and Mount Adams (on the right) in February 2020

     When we finally returned to our offices in Olympia, it was like the four of us were joined at the hip. We moved in a herd from room to room. Because of our shared experiences, we couldn’t bear to be apart for a while.

     We will always remember this once in a lifetime Mount St. Helens adventure.

Mount St. Helens adventure February 2020
Closer view of Mount St. Helens in February 2020.

Written in May 1980 and edited for clarity. Some names and identifying details have been changed to protect the privacy of individuals.

About the pictures

Today’s Fandango’s One Word Challenge (FOWC) word is “photograph.” I was lucky because I had before, during, and after photographs for this story. I took a lot of pictures when the eruption was happening but I had a little problem. Ash got into my camera and destroyed it. The handful of pictures I was able to save were overexposed. If only I would have had a smartphone!

Go on your own Mount St. Helens adventure

You can learn more about the mountain at the Mount St. Helens Visitor Center, the Charles W. Bingham Forest Learning Center , the Mount St. Helens Science & Learning Center, and the Johnston Ridge Observatory.

I like rocks!: LAPC

The Lens-Artists Photo Challenge this week is Pastimes so I immediately thought of rocks. I have always collected them.

Here’s a still life of rocks in my collection. Some we found, some were purchased, and others were gifts.

I like rocks collection of various rocks in Oregon May 2020

A couple of weeks ago we visited Glass Buttes, one of my favorite places. Yes, there are several types of obsidian in this haul, but I also picked up ones that looked cool. I like the large one in the upper left in particular.

I like rocks collection of various rocks in Oregon May 2020

I try to incorporate the rocks we find at various locations into our landscaping. Here’s a few around a cholla cactus I started from a single “leaf.”

Rocks around a cholla plant, Bend, Oregon May 2020

Stones encircling a golden sword yucca plant.

Rocks around a yucca plant, Bend, Oregon May 2020

Igneous rock from our property was used to make the border of this raised bed in the vegetable garden. The hops and chives are growing well.

A rock border in a vegetable garden, Bend, Oregon May 2020

As you may know, I like to paint rocks. I have previously featured pictures of an Australian shepherd and Tyrannosaurus rex I painted.

However, I am not the only rock painter in my neighborhood. When the lock down started due to the coronavirus, a few of my neighbors began to paint rocks with positive messages and distribute them around the neighborhood. This one was by my mailbox one day. This is one of my most precious rocks!

A painted rock with a friendly message, Bend, Oregon May 2020

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge – Pastimes

Wolfe Ranch root cellar: Monochrome Monday

Wolfe Ranch root cellar, Arches National Park, Utah 2May2017

Wolfe Ranch root cellar at Arches National Park, Utah. This ranch was settled in 1888 by John Wolfe and his oldest son.

Monochrome Monday

Mother’s Day thoughts – Koala & joey drawing

Mother's Day thoughts - drawing of koala & joey by Siobhan Sullivan May 2020

Sending good Mother’s Day thoughts your way.

The best thing to hold onto in life is each other.

Audrey Hepburn

Making the cut-Capitol Reef National Park: LAPC

The Lens-Artists Photo Challenge this week is cropping the shot. I’m sharing before and after images taken at Capitol Reef National Park near Torrey, Utah. These pictures show examples of making the cut to highlight the subject matter.

Sometimes you want to cut a road out of the picture so you can focus on the scenery. I loved the layered land forms at this park.

Capitol Reef National Park, Utah May 2017
Before…
Making the cut (cropped image) Capitol Reef National Park, Utah May 2017
and after.

Other times there’s a sign you overlooked. How did I not see that?

Capitol Reef National Park, Utah May 2017
Before…
Capitol Reef National Park, Utah May 2017
and after.

But there are other times when you want to emphasize a sign.

Sign at Capitol Reef National Park, Utah May 2017
Before…
Making the cut (cropped image) of sign Capitol Reef National Park, Utah May 2017
and after.

I was interested in that sign because a thunderstorm was about to break. Needless to say, we did not drive down the narrow canyon.

Note: I also used a perspective correction tool in my photo editing program to straighten the sign.

Sometimes a place deserves a more panoramic view so you give it a little trim. You have to decide where the best place is when you’re making the cut. Hope I didn’t cut it too short.

Capitol Reef National Park, Utah May 2017
Before…
Capitol Reef National Park, Utah May 2017
and after.

And then there are times when you add a little hidden Easter egg and wonder if anyone will notice it when you share the final cropped photo.

Capitol Reef National Park, Utah May 2017
Before…
Making the cut (cropped image) Capitol Reef National Park, Utah May 2017
and after.

Do you see the tiny tan smudge in the lower left corner on one of the flat rocks? That’s a white-tailed antelope squirrel traveling at Rocky J. Squirrel speed. Not a great picture of it, but good enough that I could identify it later. 😀

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge – Cropping the Shot

Vista House: Views of the Columbia

Vista House in Corbett, Oregon October 2019

A unique landmark

Vista House is a unique landmark sitting high above the Columbia River about a half hour east of Portland, Oregon. Perched atop Crown Point, 733 feet above the Columbia River, this site serves as a rest stop and observatory for people traveling the Historic Columbia River Highway. 

Assistant Highway Engineer Samuel Lancaster was the supervisor of the Columbia River Highway project in 1913. It was his idea to offer a place that would make the natural wonders of the Columbia River Gorge more accessible to visitors. Lancaster thought Crown Point would be an ideal site for “an observatory from which the view both up and down the Columbia could be viewed in silent communion with the infinite.” 

Sandstone & stained glass, Corbett, Oregon October 2019
Sandstone exterior

Architect Edgar M. Lazarus designed the structure in a modern German style that incorporated aspects of Art Nouveau. Multnomah County road master John B. Yeon supervised Vista House’s construction. Construction started in 1916 and was completed in 1918.

State funds were not available for its construction, so it was funded by Multnomah County and from private sources. Local schoolchildren were among the contributors. Because of its high costs, the public dubbed it the “million dollar outhouse.” It was original budgeted at $12,000 but ultimate costs were closer to $100,000, nearly $2 million in today’s dollars.

Ceiling with faux painting, Corbett, Oregon October 2019
Faux-painted ceiling

Construction details

The exterior of the eight-sided building is constructed from gray sandstone. Vista House is 55 feet high and 44 feet in diameter. Inside, light cream and pink Kasota limestone covers most of the interior. They used Tokeen Alaskan marble in the rotunda’s floors and stairs. It was also used in the wainscotting in the basement. Original plans for Vista House called for the dome ceiling to be constructed of marble supported by ribs of bronze. Costs were high, so they painted the ceiling to simulate the look of marble and bronze. The upper windows have greenish opalized glass. The tall rotunda windows are green at the tops and clear below, allowing visitors to take in the 360-degree view. Green tiles covered the original roof.

Marble lined hallway, Corbett, Oregon October 2019
Marble wainscotting

There are poems posted on the pillars within the rotunda. Here is my favorite one:

We call upon the mountains,
the Cascades and the Olympics,
the high green valleys
and meadows filled with wildflowers,
the snows that never melt,
the summits of intense silence,
and we ask that they

Teach us, and show us the Way.

We call upon the forests,
the great trees reaching
strongly to the sky
with earth in their roots
and the heaven in their branches,
the fir and the pine and the cedar,
and we ask them to

Teach us, and show us the Way.

-Chinook Invocation—Quoted in Edward Goldsmith, The Way, 1992

More to see

In the basement, you’ll find a small museum and gift shop. There are also several interpretive displays in the hallways. A million visitors visit this site each year.

Vista House went through extensive renovations in 2000-2005. A copper roof, installed over the tiles for 50 years, was removed and they installed green roof tiles similar to the originals. Upgrades included installing an energy efficient geothermal heat pump system.

Vista House view, Corbett, Oregon October 2019
View to the east
View of Vista House from Chanticleer Point, Oregon October 2019
View of Vista House from Chanticleer Point

Here’s a photo sphere view of the inside. Drag the image around to get the full picture. Vista House 360-degree view.

More info

Crown Point was designated a National Natural Landmark in 1971 and it was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1974.

This Oregon State Parks brochure includes a map that shows Vista House and many other scenic treasures worth visiting along the Historic Columbia River Highway.

Clover up close at Glass Buttes: SMM

Clover up close

Last week we visited Glass Buttes to collect obsidian and many wildflowers were in full bloom. Here is a clover up close.

Sunshine’s Macro Monday (SMM)