One smart squirrel: Fan of… & AOTD

I watched one smart squirrel figure out how to get around the “squirrel-proof” cover on this bird feeder. It knocked seeds to the ground and feasted on them. Clever little creature.

Chickaree squirrel, High Desert Museum, Oregon
One smart squirrel, High Desert Museum, Oregon

I watched squirrels at other feeders here on another day and they gave me quite the scolding. Here’s a short poem I wrote about them.

Fan of… #35 ; AOTD

Revisiting Steens Mountain: LAPC

On a recent trip revisiting Steens Mountain, I thought back on what this place looked like decades before. When I got home, I browsed my photos and realized several pictures I took on this trip were taken in nearly the exact same spot.

Places seem to me to have some kind of memory, in that they activate memory in those who look at them.

W. G. Sebald

Some places call you back to them. While revisiting Steens Mountain this summer, I realized it is one of those places for me.

Here are a few “then” and “now” pictures I took of the Steens.

East Rim Steens Mountain Oregon
Then: From the East Rim with the Alvord Desert in the background
Revisiting Steens Mountain, Oregon
Now: From the East rim with the Alvord Desert in the background
Driving east from Hart Mountain, Oregon
Then: The road east to Steens Mountain, Oregon
Revisiting Steens Mountain
Now: The road east to Steens Mountain
Kiger Gorge, Steens Mountain, Oregon
Then: Kiger Gorge
Kiger Gorge, Oregon 28August2019
Now: Kiger Gorge

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge – Pick a Place

Friday Flowers with a Friend

Friday lowers with a friend

I’m treasuring Friday flowers with a friend before the weather changes. It was warm and sunny here yesterday but snow is predicted this weekend. The weather in the high desert is always interesting. 😁

Friday Flowers

Camp Hart Mountain: Monochrome Monday

Camp Hart Mountain, Oregon 27 September 2019

Camp Hart Mountain was constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) and operated from 1937 to 1941. Hart Mountain National Antelope Refuge , established in December of 1936 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, helped protect pronghorn antelope.

The CCC crew stationed at Camp Hart Mountain helped with many projects such as building roads, stringing telephone lines, and building new structures. After their work was completed, most of the buildings at the camp were taken down. The building in the distance was the infirmary and it’s the only historical building remaining at this site. There is currently an RV campground located here.

By the way, I worked at Hart Mountain years ago and saw pronghorn regularly. Here’s a story of one such encounter.

In this land…Oregon countryside : LAPC

In this land near Diamond, Oregon 29August2019
Near Diamond, Oregon

In this land, Nature weaves colorful tapestries into the earth and sky

Pronghorn buck, Hart Mountain
Pronghorn buck, Hart Mountain

And creates havens for its creatures to pause and rest

In this land, Alvord Desert, Oregon 28 August 2019
Alvord Desert

In this land, pale sandy deserts settle in some basins

Warner Valley, Oregon 27 August 2019
Warner Valley

While water collects in others

In this land, Hart Mountain, Oregon from the west 27 August 2019
Hart Mountain viewed from the west

In this land, mountains tilt and rise above sagebrush plains

Big Indian Gorge, Steens Mountain, Oregon 28 August 2019
Big Indian Gorge, Steens Mountain

Where glacial sculptors carve them into works of art

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge – Countryside/ Small towns

California Quail near Winter Ridge: BOTD

California quail near Winter Ridge in Central Oregon. 30 March 2018.
California quail near Winter Ridge in Central Oregon. 30 March 2018.

This lone California Quail perched on a fence post near Winter Ridge and called loudly. Listen to the distinctive Chi-ca-go call of the California quail.

All About Birds describes this bird as “a handsome, round soccer ball of a bird with a rich gray breast, intricately scaled underparts, and a curious, forward-drooping head plume.” A great description of this bird!

I’m lucky that they are common where I live and sometimes even show up in my garden.

Granny Shot It – BOTD

Magic in the Wind Haiku: LAPC

Magic in the wind, Nevada 29August2019
Magic in the wind. Windmill in Fort Rock, Oregon 30May2019
Windmill in Fort Rock, Oregon 9June2016

Magic in the wind
Pushes whirling windmill blades
Creating power

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge – Magical

When the flower blossoms: Sunshine’s Macro Monday

When the flower blossoms

When the flower blossoms, the bee will come.

Srikumar Rao

Sunshine’s Macro Monday

Oregon Trail – Baker City: Visiting History

Oregon Trail Interpretive Center, Baker City, Oregon 24October2018
Covered wagon encampment

On the Oregon Trail

     “We’re almost there,” Pa said. He pointed towards a low sagebrush-covered hill. “It’s just over that rise.”

     “How many times have you said that, Pa?” I said to myself. I shaded my eyes and looked at the dismal landscape. Dusty sagebrush and clumps of dry grass for as far as I could see.

Covered wagon, Baker City 24October2018
Covered wagon and rabbitbrush in bloom

     The year is 1853 and my name is Lizzie. My family is heading west along the Oregon Trail. It’s not a trail so I don’t know why they call it that. Some people call it Emigrant Road, but I don’t think that’s right either. It’s a rough meandering pathway to a new life, that’s what it is. That’s why so many of us are making this journey, no matter what the cost.

     We have traveled nearly 1,600 miles so far. On a good day we make 20 miles but on most days we travel 10-15. It’s been five months since we left Missouri.

     We came here because of the promise of free land. If Pa was a single man, he could claim 320 acres; since he’s married, he and Ma can claim 640 acres. Was it worth it? I sure hope so. Based on what I’ve seen so far, I don’t think this is “The Land of Milk and Honey” that everyone said it was.

Oregon Trail map by Ezra Meeker
The Old Oregon Trail map by Ezra Meeker 1907

History of Trail

     Many of the nearly half a million emigrants that migrated to the Oregon Country in the years 1840-1870 could have written this account. In the nineteenth century, Great Britain, France, Russia, and Spain claimed parts of this region. Each country eventually gave up its claims. The Oregon Treaty of 1846 ended the joint occupancy with the British and set new boundaries for Oregon. As a result of this action, the U.S. government encouraged settlement of the newly acquired land.

Sensationalized accounts of the “Promised Land” caused the single largest voluntary migration in America. Artists such as Albert Bierstadt presented glamorized versions of the journey along the Trail.

Painting by Albert Bierstadt of the Oregon Trail
Oregon Trail by Albert Bierstadt 1869

For many of the settlers, the Willamette Valley was the final destination. To read about another wagon route, located near Sisters, Oregon, see my post Santiam Wagon Road.

Display on settlers early years in Oregon, Baker City, Oregon 24October2018
Display on settlers’ early years in Oregon

     In 1861, they discovered gold in the Blue Mountains in northeastern Oregon. The gold rush brought even more people to the state. Miners established mining camps in several locations. In 1894, gold was discovered on Flagstaff Hill and a mine was built there. By 1897, three quarters of Oregon’s gold—worth millions in today’s dollars—came from Baker County. One nugget weighed seven pounds!

National Historic Oregon Trail Interpretive Center

     The National Historic Oregon Trail Interpretive Center, located atop Flagstaff Hill east of Baker City, introduces visitors to this fascinating era in American history. Exhibits at the Interpretive Center focus on different aspects of the journey west, including the experiences of pioneers and native peoples.

Part of the Oregon Trail, Oregon Trail Interpretive Center 24October2018
Part of the Oregon Trail

     Approximately 300 miles of the Oregon Trail still exist. Much of the 2,170 mile trail has disappeared because of erosion and development. When traveling on a dirt road, motorized vehicles create two distinct ruts. In contrast to that, wagons pulled by teams of animals create a trench-like swale, or wide depression. Hooves pack down the middle of the road. At the Interpretive Center, you can hike or drive to areas where you can view actual remnants of the trail.

Display on wagons and teams, Baker City, Oregon 24October2018
Display on wagons and teams

Covered wagons – Inside and Out

     Covered wagons are a prominent part of the Interpretive Center, both inside and outside. Teams of oxen, mules, or horses pulled the wagons. Mule teams cost the most to buy. Though mules could be stubborn, they had remarkable endurance and surefootedness.

Mule team pulling a wagon, Oregon Trail Interpretive Center 24October2018
Mule team pulling a wagon

     Wagon makers often painted wagons blue, with red wheels and undercarriage.  The wheels shrank and separated in the heat so the wagon trains went through creeks and rivers to soak them back to size. The emigrants sometimes painted the canvas covers with oil paint for waterproofing.

     Every inch of space was used in the wagons. For example, false floors and pockets sewn into the canvases held extra supplies in the interior. They strapped other supplies to the outside or carried them in saddle bags. However, many of the supplies were abandoned along the way because of excess weight. Many wagons went without brakes since this too would add weight. They slowed wagons going downhill with rough locks, wheel shoes, or a tree tied to the wheels.

     Emigrants used the wagons for sick rooms, birthing rooms, and shelter from storms.  Most did not travel inside the wagons on the trail. The rough roads led to a bone-wrenching ride, so the emigrants walked alongside their wagons. When the landscape allowed it, wagons traveled abreast to avoid each other’s dust.

A typical camp along the Trail, Baker City, Oregon 24October2018
A typical camp along the Trail

Life and Death on the Trail

     If several wagons were traveling together, they often formed a circle at the end of the day’s travel. The area inside the wagon circle served as a corral for livestock. Exhausted travelers slept in tents and bedrolls outside of the circle. The day started when the sun rose. After breakfast and gathering of the livestock, the caravan would travel for five to six hours. The travelers had limited food supplies so meals might include such delicacies as Velvet Tail Rattlesnake, Blue Beaver Tail Soup, and Cricket Mush.

     Sometimes the wagon trains camped at noontime resting spots, but most of the time they pressed onward for several more hours.  Women and children collected firewood and men hunted for game along the way. As evening approached, they would encircle the wagons again. Evenings were a time for chores, such as repairing wagons and mending clothing, but also a time to tell stories, sing, and dance.

     Quarrels along the trail were common due to events like wagons getting stuck in the mud or runaway livestock. They took thousands of livestock animals on the trail for the settlers. The emigrants lost many because of predators, disease, and accidents.

     Many emigrants died on this perilous journey. Some called the trail a “two thousand mile long graveyard.” One estimate suggests there were 10-15 graves per mile from Missouri to Oregon.  Provisions gave out and hired hands abandoned their employers. The weak and the sick gave up hope. Cholera caused death within hours and it took the lives of many on the trail. Crossing rivers was one of the most dangerous parts of the journey. Records show that ten percent of the travelers perished.

Sharing the Trail

     Emigrants shared the Oregon Trail with trappers, traders, and native people. The Umatilla, Walla Walla, Cayuse, Nez Perce, and other tribes lived in the area near the Interpretive Center. As emigrants displaced local people, conflicts such as the Cayuse War of 1847 arose. The old ways of living off the land and using it for hunting and vision quests had passed. It forced Native Americans to deal with sweeping changes.

Oxen team pulling a wagon
Oxen team pulling a wagon

     Both emigrants and natives learned to engage in the business of trading. Native people traded horses, local game, and salmon for cattle, beads, clothing, powder, and lead. Emigrants learned to differentiate the tribes by their clothing, hairstyles, beadwork, and basketry. Communication often consisted of hand signals and a few common words.

Visiting the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center

     After decades of planning, the National Historic Oregon Trail Interpretive Center opened in 1992 to commemorate this period of history. The 23,000-square foot building sits atop Flagstaff Hill where visitors get a panoramic view of the surrounding territory. The Interpretive Center includes exhibits, a theater, a café, and a gift store. There are living history interpretive talks, lectures, and special events throughout the year. Regular demonstrations include topics such as flint knapping, Dutch oven cooking, blacksmithing, and black powder firearms. For more information see this brochure.

Exhibit inside the Interpretive Center, Baker City 24October2018
Exhibit inside the Interpretive Center

     A network of trails leads you to living history encampments and to ruts left by wagons passing along the trail. You may catch glimpses of eagles flying overhead or pronghorn browsing in the sagebrush. In the spring and summer, wildflowers such as lupine, Indian paintbrush, and buttercups splash the desert with color. Visitors can take part in regular guided nature hikes. 

The white arrow points to the Trail location, Baker City, Oregon 24October2018
The white arrow points to the Trail location
A closer view of the Trail, Baker City, Oregon 24October2018
A closer view of the Trail

     Flagstaff Hill marked where the Great American Desert ended on the journey west. For the emigrants that made it this far, the lush vegetation and abundant game near the hill amazed them. This site symbolized all they had worked so hard for and many returned to the site years later. The Interpretive Center presents the tragedies encountered along the trail, and the joy many felt when they reached their destination.

Oregon Trail Interpretive Center, Baker City, Oregon 24October2018
Entrance sign

Killdeer in the rushes: BOTD

Killdeer in the rushes, Yellowstone National Park 30May2018

Killdeer in the rushes bordering a hot spring at Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming. I assume they have tough feet since we saw them regularly wading into the hot springs in various locations.

Granny Shot It – BOTD

Flying Saucer Cloud: Monochrome Monday

Flying saucer cloud, Steens Mountain, Oregon 28 August 2019

I saw this flying saucer cloud hovering near Steens Mountain a few days ago. I see why lenticular clouds, like this one for example, are often called UFO clouds.

Monochrome Monday

Mellow fellow, Calypso Blue: LAPC

I dug through my archives to find pictures of this mellow fellow we once had as a pet. Calypso Blue was a miniature horse and he measured 32 inches at his withers. He was one of the mellowest horses I ever met. His companion, Scooby, pictured here, was a lot more feisty.

Mellow fellow miniature horse 9January2019

I’m posting these because I noticed that one of the Icelandic horses in Leya’s post on the Precious Pets photo challenge looked a lot like Calypso Blue.

Mellow fellow is a photograph of a miniature horse

I think I took these photos on the day we bought him. It took a LONG time to brush out that mane and tail.

Photograph of a miniature horse

It’s hard to tell in these photos, but underneath all that mane he had piercing blue eyes. We sold him when we moved. This mellow fellow went to a home with a little girl who showered him with affection.