Mule Deer Field Trip near Bend, Oregon

At this time of year, mule deer are migrating and breeding in Central Oregon. Your best chances of seeing this nighttime-feeding deer are in the early hours of the morning or in the late evening. On a chilly November morning, High Desert Museum Curator of Wildlife, Jon Nelson, led a group of people eager to learn more about mule deer.

Mule Deer 10June2016

Mule Deer in the West

The mule deer is uniquely adapted to the environment of the American West. In the spring and summer they browse on plants in mountainous areas. As winter approaches, mule deer pack on the calories and move to lower elevations. Deer in the Cascades migrate eastwards and have to navigate their way past Highway 97. Underpasses help large numbers of deer make that journey. As the deer continue eastwards, hundreds can be seen in the area between Silver Lake and Fort Rock during fall and winter months.

In Central Oregon, deer feed mainly on bitterbrush, Idaho fescue grass, and sagebrush. They are not as dependent on the availability of water since they get much of what they need from their diet. On the field trip, Sand Spring was one of the few water sources we saw. It’s fenced to keep cattle out but the deer, as you probably know, can easily clear most fences if they want to get a drink.

Mule Deer buck 8August2017

Should you feed deer in your yard? No. If deer eat food provided by humans, it can have devastating effects. Their gut has evolved to process certain foods. If they eat other foods, it can kill the good bacteria in their stomachs. This can cause illness or even death. Certain diseases are spread to other deer via their saliva so you may not want to give them salt licks either.

Mule deer can often be found in ecotones, edge habitats between two plant communities. They can also find their preferred food plants in areas that are becoming re-established, including those affected by fires and clear-cutting. Deer seek out certain areas using behavioral thermal regulation. For example, they bed down on south and east facing slopes where it tends to be warmer.

Mule Deer carcass 10April2017 Mule deer are adapted to living in areas with high snowfall. However, depths deeper than 20” for extended periods of time, like we had last winter, can cause many deer to die. Scavengers benefit by feeding on winter-kill deer. On this trip, we found a dead buck and bald eagles and ravens were congregating nearby to feed on it. It appeared that coyotes had been there as well.

 

Factors Affecting Mule Deer Population Levels

When you see numerous mule deer around Central Oregon you may assume they are doing well. That, unfortunately, is not the case. The number of mule deer in Oregon is steeply declining. In the 1960’s, there were more than 300,000 mule deer in the state; now the number is estimated to be around 200,000. On this trip, we drove south on the China Hat Road, east of the Museum. Several years ago it would have been common to see lots of deer in this area. We didn’t see many deer until we were many miles away from Bend.

DeerHabitat 18Nov2017.jpg

There are several factors contributing to declining numbers. Fences affect deer populations by excluding them from some areas and also entangling them, which can lead to injury or death. Other factors include disturbance due to more people living in and visiting the area. Activities such as OHVing, mountain biking, and hiking with off-leash dogs, disturb deer. The many roads of Deschutes National Forest (more than any other National Forest in the U.S.) help in firefighting but also bring more people into the backcountry.

Poaching is a big problem in Oregon. More deer are taken illegally than legally. Due to budget constraints, the few officers responsible for enforcing the laws must cover huge geographic areas. On January 1, 2017, fines for poaching increased. The fine for poaching a deer with four or more points on at least one antler is now $7,500. While that is a lot, some people are still willing to break the law to bag a deer.

Mule deer 18November2017

The mule deer’s iconic antlers can affect their population levels. Some hunters prefer bucks with large antlers but another type of hunter is out looking for antlers. Shed hunters look for antlers that have been shed where deer tend to congregate in the late winter and early spring. This activity disturbs the deer at a crucial time of year. Selling the antlers, priced by the pound, is a lucrative business. Some states regulate how long shed hunters are allowed to collect antlers so that deer are not disturbed in the spring, when fawns are born.

Deer are managed through hunting throughout the U.S. Here in Oregon, seasons run from September through early December. Different types of firearms and restrictions are allowed at different times of the season. Hunters report their success and this information is used to set future seasons and manage the population.

A Bit About Mule Deer Life History

Fawn at Spring Creek near Camp Sherman, OR 25June2016 SiobhanSullivanPredators also affect deer populations. Cougars are the primary predator of deer in this region. Black bears and coyotes sometimes prey on fawns. Wolves have moved into the state over the last few years and they too prey on deer. One of the ways mule deer ensure more of their young survive is through a behavior known as swamping. All of the does become pregnant at about the same time. There are so many young fawns at once that predators can’t possibly get them all.

Signpost rubbed away by deer antlers 18November2017In the fall, breeding season starts for mule deer. The hormone levels in the bucks skyrockets. Their antlers grow at the amazing rate of up to an inch per day. The bucks shed the velvet on their antlers by rubbing on trees – or unlucky signposts. Big antlers attract mates and deter other males. The slim necks mule deer have in summer, become muscular and massive. Their eyes turn red and they sometimes drool. The rutting bucks are  ready to fight any male that gets too close to their harem of does. Harems can contain 15-20 does. The does choose which bucks they want to breed with. Fawns are born in late May through June after a 212 day gestation. Once they are more than a year old, does often have twins.

Diseases That Affect Mule Deer

Mule deer have a lifespan of about ten years in the wild but their life may be shortened by disease. Two diseases affecting deer were mentioned on this field trip. Adenovirus Hemorrhagic Disease (AHD) is passed  through direct contact, bodily fluids, and airborne routes. Symptoms may include a blue-colored tongue, mouth ulcers, severe weight loss, and weakness. AHD affects mule deer, white-tailed deer, elk, moose, and pronghorn and is often fatal. Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) is a disease with symptoms similar to mad cow disease. It occurs in deer, elk, moose, and reindeer and is always fatal.

You may have heard a story in the news recently about a local person cited for possessing a deer bagged in Montana. Oregon is CWD free and does not allow certain parts of deer and elk to be imported into the state from Montana, 24 other states, and one Canadian province that have the disease . Once it was determined that this particular deer had CWD, the deer meat was confiscated and every place it had been stored or disposed of had to be decontaminated. This highly contagious disease could be a serious problem here in the future.

Mule deer in garden 9August2017

So the next time you are concerned about mule deer eating your landscaping, keep in mind that their numbers are declining. Do what you can to keep them away from your most treasured plants and appreciate them for their beauty and grace.

Reprinted from High Desert Voices December 2017 newsletter. To see more issues, go here.

 

Storm over Hart Mountain

Last week  when I visited Hart Mountain National Antelope Refuge, a threatening looking storm was moving in. Dark clouds temporarily blotted out the big blue sky. We didn’t stay long on this primitive dirt road near refuge headquarters. When the roads there get wet, they can turn into a muddy gumbo that makes it hard to drive.  We made it out fine, flushing some sage grouse on the way. Spectacular sights!

Weekly Photo Challenge – Temporary

Pete French Round Barn

Horsemen of the past

Turning in his saddle and tilting his dusty hat to shade his eyes, he finally sees it in the distance. The round barn. The year is 1887 and he and the other vaqueros are moving a herd of horses collected over the sagebrush covered plains of the High Desert in Oregon. He had worked so many hours that week that when he finally settled down each night on a bed of hard sandy soil, he instantly fell into a deep sleep.

Pete French Round Barn near Diamond, Oregon 13Sept2017

Moving cattle, horses, and mules for his boss, Pete French, was a hard but satisfying life. Guiding his horse with worn leather reins, he moves  to the back of the herd of mustangs and starts driving them towards the barn.

Pete French Round Barn near Diamond, Oregon 13Sept2017

Round barns – marvelous structures with a purpose

The Pete French Round Barn, near Diamond, Oregon, was built in the 1880’s. The center pole and supporting poles are made from ancient western juniper trees. The juniper shows cuts and gouges from past use but is still strong. Umbrella-like beams radiate out from the center to support the rounded roof of this 100-foot diameter barn. Horses were stabled in the middle part of the building. The 63-foot diameter rock wall in the middle section forms a round corral in the building’s interior. A 20-foot wide circular paddock surrounds it. During the long winters, 400 to 600 horses and mules were moved through and trained in the barn, safe from the harsh conditions outside.

Round barns allowed livestock to be sheltered and trained year round. Teams of horses and mules were trained to pull freight wagons in the barns. This particular barn has an interesting history.

Pete French

In 1872, Pete French and a group of vaqueros were camping in an area south of present-day Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. He was working for cattleman and wheat baron, Dr. Hugh Glenn, moving 1,200 shorthorn cattle to better grazing lands on Steens Mountain.  French met a prospector named Porter who had about a dozen cattle and squatter’s rights to the land. He bought the cattle, rights to the land, and the “P” brand. The laws of the land were a bit different back then so when he moved the cattle onto unsurveyed land nearby, that land became his. Ranchers were required to build fences to keep cattle out of their lands.

Pete French Round Barn near Diamond, Oregon 13Sept2017French continued to work with Hugh Glenn and together they created French-Glenn Livestock Company.  Pete French became president of the company in 1893. The company went on to become one of the best run cattle businesses of the time. French-Glenn Livestock Company had two round barns and numerous other buildings on their 150,000 to 200,000 acres of land.

Pete French Round Barn near Diamond, Oregon 13Sept2017Though successful as a businessman, Pete French was not well liked by some of his neighbors. Settlers were putting up fences on what they claimed was public land and French contested those claims in court. He fought with one neighbor, Edward Oliver, off and on for ten years. On December 26, 1897, they got in their last argument. Oliver shot and killed French and was later acquitted of all charges.

Pete French Round Barn near Diamond, Oregon 13Sept2017

Preserving the past

The round barn has been carefully restored by state and federal agencies.  It is now protected as the Pete French Round Barn State Heritage Site. Cycle Oregon and Trust Management Services have also put work into maintaining and improving the site.

The barn is in an isolated location but it’s a remarkable structure well worth seeing. When you stand in it and look around, you really get a feel for the history of the place. It is a place full of many stories. For driving directions, click here.

Pete French Round Barn near Diamond, Oregon 13Sept2017

The Round Barn Visitor Center

There is also an impressive visitor center and store near the barn. The Round Barn Visitor Center contains a small museum and a store featuring clothing, jewelry, hunting knives, and a very good assortment of local and regional history books. The store also has a few snacks and beverages. The museum contains artifacts related to the Jenkins family, who have lived and worked in the area for several generations. Talk to Mr. Jenkins, the proprietor of the store, to learn more about the stories this land has to tell.

Weekly Photo Challenge – Rounded

Dance to a Colorful Beat

Yesterday I went to the Festival of Cultures in Redmond, Oregon. I was impressed by a dance group called Titlakawan Aztec Danza. Hope you enjoy the video I shot of them dancing. Even the toddlers and babies participated.

Here’s a blurb about them that was in the program for the World Beat Festival in Salem earlier this year:

“This Aztec dance troupe is based in Salem/Dayton, Oregon. Titlakawan means “We all possess it” or “We all have potential to fully realize ourselves as human beings”. Our troupe promotes through Aztec dance discipline a healthy lifestyle and outlook. The Aztec dance has its roots in central Mexico and has been practiced and protected in the last 400 years. Through immigration, it has set root here in the Northwest for the enjoyment of all those who participate.”

Here are a few pictures of the dancers. I loved the ornate headpieces! They were colorful and dramatic.

This Festival of Cultures had representatives from several countries including Bolivia, China, the Punjab state in India, Japan, and Yemen.  This event celebrates the many cultures that live in Oregon and the contributions they have made to our state. There were musical performances, dances, activities, handmade crafts, and foods from several of the cultures. There was also a play area for kids. It was a feast for the senses.

Titlakawan Aztec Dancers dance at Festival of Cultures Redmond, Oregon 23Sept2017

 

Beer Flowers

Here’s a picture of the flowers on some hops plants. Here in the Bend area, there are many breweries (about 30) so it’s not uncommon to see this plant. Yes, it helps flavor beer, but it’s also a pretty plant with a distinctive aroma.

Beer flowers - Hops in Bend, Oregon 27August2017

What makes beer so good in Bend

Good water = good beer - Benham Falls 23Oct2014

Benham Falls on the Deschutes River

Why are there so many breweries here? One big reason is the water. The relatively soft and flavorful water requires little processing. Water has a strong influence on the taste of the beer.

I saw the hops flowers near the Deschutes Brewery plant in the Old Mill district of Bend. The air was thick with the scent of brewing beer early this morning. Deschutes Brewery opened in 1988 and it was one of the first craft breweries in the Pacific Northwest.

To learn more about beer in this area, see my post Bend=Beer.  The post mentions an exhibit at the High Desert Museum. Though the exhibit is no longer at the Museum, you can taste many different types of beer in Bend.

You can get samples of  beer from 16 of the breweries on The Bend Ale Trail. If you complete the trail, you’ll get a souvenir. Click here for more info.

A new tasting room in Bend

Yesterday we visited The Ale Apothecary’s new tasting room. This brewery does small runs of beer that are aged in oak barrels. They have truly unique flavors. There is a hollowed out log in the tasting room to show you one of the tools they sometimes use to create their drinks. The beer filters through branches in the log and ages for four to six months. That process was developed in the 1500’s in Finland.

The Ale Apothecary brewer Paul Arney once stated that “a brewery is designed to the place…the environment affects the flavor of the beer”. Bend is fortunate because it’s located in a great environment that is a feast for the senses and the origin of some great beers!

Art in The High Desert show 2017

Artwork shines at the Art in the High Desert show

If you’re looking for things to do in Bend this weekend, go see the Art in the High Desert show. This juried arts and crafts show features works in a wide variety of media. Please help support the 115 North American artisans selected for this show by purchasing some of the things they have created. To see a gallery of the work featured this year, click here.

Woodwork by Jack West at Art in the High Desert 2017 Bend, Oregon

Woodwork by Jack West at  Art in the High Desert 2017 in Bend, Oregon

Here is the woodwork of Jack West of Fort Jones, California. These works of art display fine craftsmanship and an eye for bringing out the best in the woods he works with. The carved curving lines on some of his works are unique and they enhance the wood’s natural beauty. You can see more of his work here .

Ceramics by Gerard Arrington at Art in the High Desert Bend, Oregon

Ceramics by Gerard Arrington at Art in the High Desert 2017 in Bend, Oregon

Here is the ceramic work of Gerald Arrington of Sebastopol, California. You may know that I have a thing about rocks and this artist creates realistic-looking rocks out of clay. His pieces are sculptural, stunning, and earthy. You can see more of his work here.

Sunny views of the show

Crossing the bridge over the Deschutes River to see the Art in the High Desert show Bend, Oregon 26Aug2017

Crossing the bridge over the Deschutes River to see the Art in the High Desert show in Bend, Oregon

This show is good every year but this year it’s great! If you go to the show, you will understand why it’s in the top ten shows in the nation.  The show runs August 25-27 and it’s free to get in. It’s located on the banks of the Deschutes River in Bend at 730 SW Columbia Street.

 

Rock Show – Madras, Oregon

We just got back from the Rock, Gem, and Mineral Show in Madras. I overheard someone say there were 135 vendors this year so it took a while to see everything. This is the 68th year of this event. It is sponsored by the The All Rockhounds Pow-wow Club of America, Inc. Prices for the rocks, gems, and minerals range from one dollar to hundreds of dollars. Parking, admission, and entertainment is free. The show takes place June 22-25.

Here are a few pictures I took today at the event. Do I know what the name is of everything I show in these pictures? No! I have always liked pretty rocks even if I don’t know what they are.  If you go to a big rock show like this, someone there can likely identify what’s there for you and tell you all about them. They may even tell a tale or two about the adventure they had when collecting them.

 

Peter Skene Ogden State Scenic Viewpoint

Crooked River Railroad Bridge 3Apr2017

Crooked River Railroad Bridge

Driving along U.S. Route 97 north of Redmond, Oregon, a bridge dramatically spanning a deep canyon grabs your attention. The Crooked River Railroad Bridge was built in 1911. It passes over the Crooked River, 320 feet below.

There is a nice rest area here with picnic tables, restrooms, and scenic viewpoints. You can get a bird’s eye views of birds of prey, swallows, and other cliff dwellers from here. We had a bald eagle glide over our heads while a turkey vulture drifted by nearby.

The Crooked River, true to its name, meanders in a twisting course through the canyon below the bridge. You get great views of the lichen covered cliffs from this viewpoint. This area was formed about 350,000 years ago as lava flows from the Newberry Volcano, 40 miles to the south, moved northwards.

This viewpoint is named after Peter Skene Ogden, who first entered central Oregon in 1825 when working as a trapper for the Hudson’s Bay Company. For more about the park, click here.

Crooked River at Peter Skene Ogden Scenic Viewpoint 3Apr2017

Crooked River

If you are a thrill seeker, you can bungee jump from the bridge in the summer. After a pilot program in 2016, the state gave final approval for bungee jumping businesses here.

Note the signs about leaving your dogs in the car. Unfortunately, some have perished when they accidentally ran off the cliffs.

Caution signs at Peter Skene Ogden Scenic Viewpoint 3Apr2017

Caution signs at Peter Skene Ogden State Scenic Viewpoint

The Crooked River Railroad Bridge has an interesting history. Two competing railroad companies were building rail lines on both sides of the Deschutes River in an attempt to be the first to reach the timber-rich country near Bend. There were also plans to connect this line to railroad lines from other parts of the state.

Jim Hill, owner of The Oregon Trunk Railway (a subsidiary of Great Northern Railway), worked on the west side of the river and Edward H. Harriman, owner of the Union Pacific Railway and other railroads, worked on the east side. Workers in the two competing companies got in fights and raided each other’s camps stealing food, alcohol, and supplies. When they reached Crooked River there was only one area where the geography allowed for bridge construction.

Since Jim Hill had bought that property two years before, Harriman’s company was forced to negotiate with him. Harriman had passed away in September of 1909. The terms of the settlement allowed other railroad companies to use the rail lines from the Columbia River to Bend. The two lines were eventually merged into one with the best grades adopted for use and the rest abandoned.

View from the Crooked River High Bridge looking west at Peter Skene Ogden Scenic Viewpoint 3Apr2017

View from the Crooked River High Bridge looking west

Construction of the bridge, designed by architect Ralph Modjeski, started on May 18, 1911 and it was completed on September 17 of that year. The fast pace was due to a rush to complete the line to Bend, 25.5 miles to the south. Jim Hill drove the golden spike in Bend on October 5, 1911.

Rex T. Barber Veterans Memorial Bridge at Peter Skene Ogden Scenic Viewpoint 3Apr2017

Rex T. Barber Veterans Memorial Bridge

If you visit the viewpoint, you will see three bridges. The Crooked River Railroad Bridge is located farthest west. The Crooked River High Bridge was completed in 1926 and it served as the main north-south highway until 2000. In 2000, the higher-capacity Rex T. Barber Veterans Memorial Bridge replaced that bridge. Formerly known as the Crooked River Bridge, its name was changed in 2003 to honor local World War II fighter pilot, Rex T. Barber. On one of his missions Lt. Barber, in his Lockheed P-38 Lightning, shot down a plane carrying Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto over Bougainville Island, northeast of Australia. Admiral Yamamoto planned and led the attack on Pearl Harbor. There is a lot of history, and beauty, associated with the Crooked River bridges.

Art Afoot – First Fridays

Street scene at First Friday in Bend, OR 3Feb2017

The stores are open late on First Fridays

Ready to celebrate a new month by looking at some impressive art? If so, you might want to go to Bend, Oregon for the First Friday event. Every month select businesses keep their doors open late in support of the arts. Businesses in the downtown and Old Mill areas host artists while galleries feature the latest exhibits. This month Willow Lane Artist’s Creative Space joined First Friday for the first time.

Sip, snack, & see stuff

As you walk around the area, you can stop in to view the art and get free drinks and snacks at the participating businesses. Some also have live music. It’s a popular event so get there early. We went a couple nights ago and the cool temperatures helped make the crowds a little smaller.

You never know what you will find at this event. One summer night we saw a young boy standing on a street corner putting out some amazing music on his fiddle. Just around the corner from him, a craftsman displayed his handmade leather works. Just across the street from them, a couple guys strummed on their guitars as they sang. Many passerbys stopped to admire the work of these artisans.

Red Chair Gallery 3Feb2017

Red Chair Gallery

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Hosmer Lake Reflections

Hosmer Lake 10Aug2016

South Sister from Hosmer Lake, Oregon

My yard is blanketed with fresh snow and temperatures are in the teens but I’m glad I can think back to a warm summer day kayaking on Hosmer Lake. I hope to explore many new horizons in the new year and share them here.

To learn more about my great trip to Hosmer Lake, click here.

Weekly Photo Challenge – New Horizon

Buzzsaw Sharks Exhibit

Buzzsaw Shark at HDM September2016

Weird Science

Fossilized teeth that form a shape like a buzzsaw were found in the 1800’s but the type of creature they belonged to was not determined until 2013. A research team consisting of people with backgrounds in art, science, and digital technology solved the mystery. The whorl of teeth belonged to Helicoprion, the buzzsaw shark or whorl toothed shark. This exhibit brings the findings of that research to life through the artwork of Ray Troll and the sculptures of Gary Straub.

Buzzsaw Shark at HDM September2016A massive sculpture of the huge head of a buzzsaw shark bursts through the wall outside of the exhibit at the High Desert Museum and there are additional sculptures and detailed images inside the gallery. A large sculpture of a buzzsaw shark hangs over your head as you enter the gallery. The walls are covered with murals of waves and members of the shark family. Large colorful paintings show the shark family tree and how buzzsaw sharks swimming in the deep may have looked. Glass cases enclose fossils of the odd-shaped whorl of teeth. Projections of that whorl spin across the floor. Framed drawings of buzzsaw sharks hang on the walls. An interactive model of a buzzsaw shark skull shows the action of those formidable-looking teeth. You can sit on a comfy couch (emblazoned with a whorl pattern) and watch a video about the now-extinct shark.

Cheeseburgers?

When I was at the exhibit, I heard a five-year old boy entering the gallery with his family remark, “Wow! Mommy look at that!” Yes, this is a dramatic exhibit that contains a lot of visual interest and fascinating information. The whorl pattern is repeated throughout the exhibit. The artist also had a little fun with the exhibit by hiding several representations of cheeseburgers in the displays. Can you find any of them in the gallery?

Scientific research and art intertwine

buzzsaw3-sioAt first scientists could not figure out what the creature was that possessed the whorl of teeth or where exactly on the animal they were located. The 2013 research team, Team Helico, used CT scans and 3D digital modeling to figure out that it fit into the lower jaw of an ancient shark. Alaskan artist Ray Troll, has been obsessed with the buzzsaw shark for over 20 years and lent his expertise to the team at Idaho Museum of Natural History. Ray is a well-known natural history artist who has lectured at places such as Harvard and Yale. His work has appeared at the Smithsonian and is featured in the current High Desert Museum exhibit.

As part of their research, Team Helico tried to determine exactly how the buzzsaw shark’s jaw worked. It didn’t slice through the head of the shark because it was blocked by small “stops” on the jaw. The team thought it likely that it ate soft-bodied prey because there wasn’t much tooth wear. It probably grabbed and sliced its prey between its tooth whorl and upper jaw and then swallowed it down its gullet.

Buzzsaw Shark at HDM September2016As more and more of the distinctive whorl-shaped fossils were found in the early 20th century, scientists delineated many as separate species. Leif Tepanila and Jesse Pruitt, of the Idaho Museum of Natural History, did further analysis on the fossils and figured out there were only three distinct buzzsaw sharks species.

The teeth themselves are unique among sharks. Unlike other sharks, they formed a whorl as they grew and were never shed. A mature shark could have 150 or more teeth. New teeth form in a “tooth pit” in the back of the mouth and push the whorl forward when they erupt. They switch from being baby teeth to adult teeth at around tooth number 85. No one knows why their jaw has this unusual form.

A team effort

We are always thankful for the work of our staff on setting up exhibits but this particular exhibit was a little different. The artist wanted lots of participation from staff and volunteers on the background work. Images were projected onto the walls and then painstakingly painted by numerous people at the Museum. If you were one of the people who worked on the display, be sure to go into the exhibit to see the final product. The people who participated in this project had a variety of skill levels and some were nervous about doing it “right.” Everyone should be proud of their work because it all came together into a wonderful looking exhibit!

I am reprinting this article I wrote for the October 2016 issue of High Desert Voices, a newsletter for volunteers and staff at the High Desert Museum. The exhibit will be at the Museum until April 23, 2017. NOTE: This exhibit is no longer at the Museum.

To see a fast-speed video of the installment of this exhibit, go here.

Pilot Butte: Bend’s Volcano

Pilot Butte views to North & West October 2016

Pilot Butte views to North & West

Do you want to go to the top of one of the few volcanoes in the U. S. located within the city limits? Pilot Butte is a cinder cone that rises 480 feet above the city of Bend. There are some amazing views from its 4,142 foot summit.

Look at this 360° “photo sphere” image that I took from the top. You can move the image around to see it all. It is a fantastic place!

About 190,000 years ago, Pilot Butte erupted and spewed glowing cinders and steam hundreds of feet into the air. The butte was covered in a foot of ash when Mount Mazama erupted 7,700 years ago. As Pilot Butte eroded away over the years, it evolved into the extinct cinder cone that we see today.

View from Pilot Butte looking to the East October 2016

View from Pilot Butte looking to the East

You can get to the top in a few different ways. The Nature Trail is a 0.8 mile hike and the Summit Road Trail and the Summit Drive Trail are both 1.0 mile long. There is also a road that winds around the butte. The road closes for several months during the fall and winter. The Nature Trail is a dirt trail that ranges from moderate to moderately steep. There are several benches where you can rest and take in the sights. The Summit Road Trail starts on the west side and follows the road. You can also access it from the east side via a short trail. That’s the Summit Drive Trail.

The butte is covered by bunchgrass, wildflowers, shrubs, and western juniper trees. You will see reddish volcanic soil along the trail and in road cuts.

You can see lots of interesting wildlife here. Mule deer can be common during certain times of the year. A cougar was seen on the butte a couple of years ago but they are not a common sight. You are much more likely to see a golden-mantled ground squirrel. Red-tailed hawks and other raptors hunt here so be sure to look up. You might also see (and hear) black-billed magpies and scrub jays. On warm days, western fence lizards might be out sunning themselves on rocks.

At the top of the butte there is a peak finder and several informational panels. You get spectacular views of several Cascade Mountain peaks to the west and north. You may be able to see Mount Jefferson, Three Fingered Jack, Mount Washington, the three Sisters, Broken Top, Belknap Crater, Black Butte, and Mount Bachelor. To the south you get a great look at some of the 400 cinder cones that are a part of the Newberry system. Newberry volcano blew about 400,000 years ago and its lava flows covered 1,200 square miles in this region. To learn more about Newberry, click here to read one of my previous posts. To the east, you’ll see Powell Butte and the Ochoco Mountains.

You get great views of the city of Bend and the Deschutes River. You will also see the irrigation canals cut across the city on their way to the east and north.

The property where the butte is located was owned by the Foley family and was donated to the state in 1928. Pilot Butte State Scenic Viewpoint is the most visited state park in eastern Oregon.

Pilot Butte with Pilot Butte Drive In November 2016

Pilot Butte with Pilot Butte Drive-In on the right

There is a local tradition of setting off big fireworks from the butte on the Fourth of July. It is not uncommon for fires to start from the falling embers. Firefighters are up there ready to put them out. Since the butte rises nearly 500 feet above the land below, it is easy to see the fireworks display from many locations in and around Bend.

Paulina Lake hike

Paulina Lake 4Oct2016The day we hiked at Paulina Lake, 25 miles east of Bend, the weather forecast was a bit iffy. In fact, the location for our hike had been changed to a warmer locale but we decided to go for it.

Paulina Lake sits at 6,350 feet in elevation and snow was predicted. We started our hike at Paulina Lake Lodge and hiked two and a half miles to the hot springs. We ran into snow, rain, hail, and sun on that October day.

The trail hugged the side of the lake so we had good views of it the whole way. Paulina Lake, and it’s fraternal twin East Lake, sit in a caldera that formed after Newberry volcano blew and then collapsed. Paulina Lake is 1,531 acres in size with depths up to 250 feet. To learn more about the Newberry National Volcanic Monument, click here for one of my previous posts.

Paulina Lake Volcanic soil 4Oct2016The trail was relatively smooth with little elevation gain. At the beginning of the trail there were a few areas where the trail had been cut through fallen timber. In parts of the trail, the soil was brick red reflecting it’s volcanic origins. Lichens covered tree trunks in shades of fluorescent green.

Paulina Lake Hot springs 4Oct2016As we made our way towards the hot springs, a cool breeze blew over the lake. I have been to a dozen hot springs and this one is a little unusual. The small springs sit along the shoreline of the lake and people dig them out to increase their size. They are only visible when the water levels are low. I did not try them out on this cold day but I have heard two or three of them are a “cool” 95 ° F while the other is about 110° F. It is weird that they are such a cool temperature when recent research determined that the magma beneath the lakes reaches a temperature of 654 ° F.

Paulina Lake 4Oct2016Fishing at this lake can be very good. The state record brown trout, at 27 pounds 12 ounces, and state record kokanee, at 4 pounds 2 ounces, were caught here. There are also rainbow trout in the lake. People  troll fish, cast, or  still fish here depending on the season. There is a boat ramp at the lodge and at Little Crater and Paulina Campgrounds. Click here for more info on Paulina Lake and the fishing opportunities there.

Doris Lake & Blow Lake hike

Blow Lake, Oregon 20Sept2016

Blow Lake, Oregon

If you’re looking for a short hike to a couple small, quiet lakes, try out the hike to Blow Lake and Doris Lake southwest of Bend. It’s only a mile to Blow Lake and another mile and a half from there to Doris Lake. There are 400 feet of elevation gain. You can park at the Six Lakes Trailhead along the Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway. As the trail name implies, there are six wilderness lakes to explore here.

Doris Lake, Oregon 20Sept2016

Doris Lake, Oregon

The elevation here is 5,310 feet and you pass through subalpine forest on your way to the lakes. Blow Lake is 45 acres in size. Windfall trees form a frame along one edge of the lake and can be seen resting on the bottom of this clear lake. Doris Lake, a mile and a half away, is slightly larger at 69 acres in size.

Fall foliage looked beautiful during late September. Huckleberry leaves showed a lot of color. Even the meadow grasses and sedges showed shades of red along their golden edges.

We didn’t see a lot of wildlife on that particular day but did see gray jays, red-breasted nuthatch, mountain chickadees, and ravens. Both lakes contain brook trout that can get up to 14” in size.

Be prepared on any trips you make into the backcountry and help to preserve its beauty for the rest of us. Thanks!

Fort Rock Cave

View from Fort Rock Cave 9June2016

View from Fort Rock Cave, Oregon

Looking out of the mouth of the Fort Rock cave at the Sagebrush Sea, one can only imagine the thoughts of those that lived there thousands of years ago. Sagebrush sandals, determined to be 9,300-10,250 years old, were found in the cave. These sandals are the oldest ever found in the world.

Fort Rock Cave 9June2016

Fort Rock Cave

Luther S. Cressman, an archaeologist and founder of the Department of Anthropology at the University of Oregon, found the sandals in 1938. He knew they were old but some of his colleagues doubted their age. The radiocarbon dating process had not been developed yet. In 1951, he was vindicated when the sandals were radiocarbon dated using the new process.

A small hearth was found in the cave and it was radiocarbon dated to be 15,000 years old. Several stone tools were found nearby. Though that date was questioned by some, in 2009 human coprolites (fossilized poop) determined to be from 14,300 years ago were found in nearby Paisley Cave. In 2009 a multiple function tool made from agate was discovered in Rimrock Draw Rock Shelter, near Riley, Oregon. It may have been made as long ago as 16,000 years ago.

Inside of the Fort Rock Cave 9June2016

Interior of Fort Rock Cave

Other ancient sandals have been found but never in the quantity found at Fort Rock. Nearly 100 sandals were found ranging from child-sized to adult. They are all the same style with a flat bottom and flap covering the toe area. The sagebrush bark is woven in a distinctive twining style. Sandals of this type were found at various locations in southeast Oregon and northern Nevada. In more recent times, ethnographers found that members of the Klamath and Paiute tribes, who lived in the Fort Rock area, wore footwear woven from sagebrush and tule.

The location where the sandals were found was likely a lake shore 10,000 years ago. Native peoples may have lived there because of the easy access to game, fish, and edible plants. At the present time, the cave borders a huge expanse of dry sagebrush steppe habitat. The climate changed after Mount Mazama blew 7,600 years ago. A thick layer of ash from that eruption blanketed an area covering 500,000 square miles in western North America.

If you want to see this site, you will need to go with a guide since access is regulated by Oregon Parks and Recreation Department in partnership with the University of Oregon. Go here for more information – Fort Rock Cave.

Fort Rock Valley Museum Sagebrush Sandal display

Fort Rock Valley Homestead Museum – Sagebrush Sandal display

If you want to see the sandals in person, there are some on display at the University of Oregon Museum of Natural and Cultural History. Click here for a good photo of them – sandals. The Museum also has a collection of stone tools and other fiber artifacts excavated from the cave. You can see a small display about the sandals at the Fort Rock Valley Homestead Museum. See my post on that Museum and information about the Fort Rock formation here.

 

Lava River Cave

Lava River Cave entrance 16Aug2016

Lava River Cave entrance

I recently went on a two-mile trek to the center of the earth. Okay, not quite the center of the earth but the trail did lead underneath Highway 97 – the main North-South highway in these parts. I decided to visit Lava River Cave before it shut down for the season. This cave is located 12 miles south of Bend, Oregon in the Newberry Volcanic National Monument area.

I had heard that there was limited parking so I got there early. WAY too early! I forget that I only live a half an hour from many of these geological attractions.Check the operating hours and entrance pass requirements for Lava River Cave here.

Lava River Cave 16Aug2016

Lava River Cave

It is a cool but creepy experience to go into some of these caves. When I say cool, I really mean cool. The average temperature inside this cave is 43° F so dress accordingly. You can bring your own lights but they rent high-power flashlights there for only $5. I chose to help support the site by renting their light. They have a donation jar near the exit so you can make additional contributions there.

At 5,466 feet in length, Lava River Cave is one of Oregon’s longest lava tubes. Lava from Newberry Volcano flowed down here about 100,000 years ago. As the lava drained away, it created this long tube. The lava was 2,000° F!

Lava tubes are often discovered when a part of the roof collapses, exposing the cave below. This cave was discovered in 1899 by stockman and trapper, Leander Dillman. The site was acquired by the U.S. Forest Service in 1981 and was included in the Newberry National Volcanic Monument when it was established in 1990.

Lava River Cave sand gardens 16Aug2016

Lava River Cave sand gardens

One of the unique features in this cave is the presence of “sand gardens.” Over time, sediment washes through cracks in the roof and it partially fills the cave. These sand gardens form as water droplets erode the sand fill away. They look a bit like very small badland formations.

The cave is about a mile long to the end. I only had to duck to avoid hitting my head in a couple of spots. Much of the cave has a roof that is high overhead. Wear good boots and watch your step.

It took me 50 minutes on the way in to get to the end as I attempted to take many pictures. On the way out it only took about 25 minutes since I was walking much faster. Note that you are required to listen to a very short talk on protecting local bat populations from White-nose Syndrome prior to going into the cave.

Lava River Cave entrance stairs & ramps 16Aug2016

Lava River Cave entrance stairs & ramps

One last thing…I saw a group of several young mothers carrying infants in front packs. No, just no. When you start the walk, you go down a series of ramps and 55 metal stairs. Then you get into some rough ground for a short while. Though much of the walk is over fairly smooth ground, you will run into rough sections and you can stumble even when using a good light. Lava River Cave is a nice cave to visit but I would not recommend it for young children or people who have mobility issues. Just my two cents worth…

There are plenty of sights to see around here. See my posts on the following for more information: Lava Cast Forest, Lava Butte, Lava Lands Visitor Center, and  Happy Bday Newberry! Note that the visitor center and some of the attractions close during fall and winter months.

Art in the High Desert

Art in the High Desert 2016

Art in the High Desert 2016

Art with a view

Set along the scenic Deschutes River, the Art in the High Desert event features 110 artists from throughout North America. Based on its sales of fine art, it is ranked number 12 for best fine arts festival in the nation. This is the ninth year of the event. The show features a wide variety of two- and three-dimensional artwork.

My favorite works there this year were created by local artist, Jason Waldron. He makes three-dimensional works created with wood and metal scraps salvaged in Central Oregon. They are large, dramatic, and expressive. Check them out at Waldron 3D.

Bend Whitewater Park

About the Bend Whitewater Park

Did you know that you can surf on the Deschutes River? Yes, thanks to the creation of the Bend Whitewater Park you too can hang ten on the river that flows through Bend, Oregon. Maybe you would rather float down in an inner tube – you can do that too. Maybe you want to get a glimpse of some wildlife – that’s also an option. The river was split into three channels: the Habitat Channel for wildlife; the Whitewater Channel for kayaks, surfboards, and stand up paddleboards; and the Passageway Channel for inner tubes and small rafts.

Innertubers at Bend Whitewater Park, Oregon

Passageway Channel.

A 100-year old dam was recently removed from the river near the Colorado Avenue Bridge and an “amusement park” was put in by Bend Parks and Recreation. At a cost of nearly $10 million dollars, some questioned its value. Bend Paddle Trail Alliance, one of the local groups in support of this park, contributed over $1 million towards the project. The voter-approved  bond said that water recreationists would have “safe passage” once the project was completed. That’s a good idea since people were injured or lost their lives because of the dam.

A wild river does not always cooperate with the plans of engineers. Inner tubers were getting hurt on the rocks at the Bend Whitewater Park last spring when water levels were still high. That section was temporarily closed down. Now that water levels are lower and some additional work has been done on the channels, tubers can once again enjoy the river.

However, you may not want to try to go down this section in a canoe. The guy in the red canoe on the right side of the photo above capsized. There is a portage route where you can walk around if you don’t want to try the rapids.

Video of inner-tubing and surfing on the Deschutes

The course of the channel that is for surfers, paddleboarders, and kayakers can be altered by adjusting 25 bladders in the river. A Wave Master controls the course with an app on his iPad.

I walk right by here looking for wildlife. I am hoping some of the critters that used to be here will return when all of the construction is completed. This was a great spot to see swallows, mergansers, osprey, cedar waxwings, and the occasional dipper. See my previous post on Birding Around Bend for more info. I have also seen beaver, river otter, and muskrats near the Bend Whitewater Park. You never know what animals you will find here.

Canada geese in the Habitat Channel, Bend Whitewater Park

Habitat Channel

Many people start their float at Riverbend Park and get out at Mirror Pond in  Drake Park. You can also do a shorter float by starting at McKay Park, where the Whitewater Park is. A Ride the River shuttle can take you and your inner tube back upriver where you parked for a small fee.

 

 

Cowboy Dinner Tree

Cowboy Dinner Tree gift shop

Cowboy Dinner Tree gift shop

Tucked away in Oregon’s Outback, you will find a unique place that hearkens back to an earlier time. The Cowboy Dinner Tree is a small restaurant located in Silver Lake Oregon, about an hour and a half southeast of Bend. The restaurant is only open from 4:00-8:30 pm four days per week and reservations are required. They give you ample portions of food here and you are advised to bring a cooler for leftovers. They do not take credit cards or debit cards so have cash on hand.

You have your choice of a 26-30 oz. top sirloin steak or a whole roasted chicken. Both are  accompanied by several tasty side dishes. There is green salad, hearty soup, old fashioned sweet yeast rolls, baked potato, and a dessert. You can have coffee, iced tea, or pink lemonade with your meal. On the day we were there, they served bean soup and a small shortcake with fresh berries. Everything is homemade and made daily.

Many years ago, ranchers pushed their cattle through this area on the way to the lush meadows of Sycan Marsh. The Dinner Tree, a big old juniper tree, was at the halfway-point. There was a small shack where the restaurant now sits and hungry ranchers stopped here for some grub from the chuck wagon. The food they had then was probably buckaroo beans and biscuits – not the large meal now served at the Cowboy Dinner Tree. The site was a homestead back in the late 1800’s and it was converted into a restaurant in 1992.

Cowboy Dinner Tree

Cowboy Dinner Tree

Today the Cowboy Dinner Tree is a popular destination. They have a restaurant, gift store, and a couple of cabins for lodging. The lodging has been so popular that they are in the process of adding five additional cabins. The gift store features items crafted by local artisans and craftspeople.

Main dining room

Main dining room

We arrived at about 4:30 pm and the place was filling up fast. We had a large group so we shared a long table but there are also smaller tables available. The place is decorated with cowboy print curtains and lots of related items such as horse bits, ropes, stirrups, and saddles. Dollar bills scrawled with notes from customers adorn the walls and ceiling.

The food was great and the server, Cowboy Dinner Tree owner Angel Roscoe, was very attentive. She and her husband, John, took over the restaurant from her mom in 2012. You will not leave feeling hungry that’s for sure! As their website says – Join us for a taste of the real Old West.

Cowboy Dinner Tree restaurant, Silver Lake, Oregon

Cowboy Dinner Tree restaurant

Where’s Woody?

White-headed woodpecker, Picoides albolarvatus

White-headed woodpecker, Picoides albolarvatus

Last weekend I was out looking for some of the 11+ species of woodpeckers that can be seen near Sisters, Oregon. The Dean Hale Woodpecker Festival brings birdwatchers from all over the world into the woodpecker-rich habitats in the area. East Cascades Audubon Society has been putting on the well-attended event since 2011. There were 17 different field trips this year.

Black Butte & Mt Jefferson, Oregon

Black Butte & Mt Jefferson, Oregon

It was a hot day and stunning views of the Sisters peaks, Black Butte, and Mt Jefferson welcomed us.

Our group looked for birds near Camp Sherman. We saw seven types of woodpecker including Lewis’s woodpecker, red-breasted sapsucker, downy woodpecker, hairy woodpecker, white-headed woodpecker, black-backed woodpecker, and northern flicker. We saw about 60 species of birds that day including a few of my favorites like osprey, western tanager, black-headed grosbeak, and cedar waxwings.

Metolius River, Oregon

Metolius River, Oregon

As always, I am more there for the experience than looking for specific birds. We visited the Metolius River near where its headwaters spring forth from the ground. It is an impressive river. An American dipper bobbed along the shores in search of prey.

It’s been a great year for wildflowers. We saw lupine, columbine, blue flax, sego lily, and many other plants bursting with flowers.

Dean Hale Woodpecker Festival, 4 June 2016

Dean Hale Woodpecker Festival, 4 June 2016

Special thanks go to our fearless leader, Tony Kutzen, and to the East Cascades Audubon Society. Here’s a photo of the groups waiting to leave for the various field trips in the morning with Tony posing on the left side of the photo. It’s great to go out with such a knowledgeable birder. He was not able to show me the ivory-billed woodpecker I requested but oh well. 😉

 

Flocking to Malheur

 

Ross's Geese, Chen rossii

Ross’s Geese, Chen rossii (Snow geese were in some of these flocks)

Flocks alighting
Optics focusing

American Bittern, Botaurus lentiginosus

American Bittern, Botaurus lentiginosus

Nature’s fireworks on display
Exploding in a timeless rhythm

Say's Phoebe, Sayornis saya

Say’s Phoebe, Sayornis saya

Wings fluttering
Voices trumpeting

Malheur Birdwatchers

Malheur Birdwatchers

Welcoming visitors to share
In a celebration of Spring

 

Happy Bday Newberry!

Volcanoe

Maybe Newberry National Volcanic Monument can light its own candles for its 25th birthday celebration. It’s young as a monument and is also young in geological terms.

Big Obsidian Flow

Big Obsidian Flow

Big Obsidian Flow

Mordor??

The amazing, and appropriately named, Big Obsidian Flow feature was formed a mere 1,300 years ago. You can walk up a trail that winds through a massive mountain of sparkling obsidian. When I say massive I mean MASSIVE – 380 million cubic yards! From a distance, the landscapes appear to be a real life version of Mordor. Up close, the shimmering reflections all around you are dazzling.

If you are at the Monument on a clear day, you might want to drive up Paulina Peak. When the Newberry volcano erupted 7,000 years ago, it collapsed and formed a caldera. Paulina Peak is what is left of the volcanic peak. It is 7,983 feet tall but was likely 500-1,000 feet higher before the eruption. If the weather cooperates, you will get a glimpse of peaks in Washington state and California from its summit.

Paulina Peak

Looking West from Paulina Peak

Be forewarned that the road up is “primitive.” In this case, primitive means that parts of the road consist of bone-jarring washboard. The view from the top is worth it though.

From the top of Paulina Peak you get a great view of Paulina Lake and Twin Lake. These two lakes formed in the caldera created after the Newberry volcano erupted. Hot springs are present at both of these lakes. There are plenty of places to camp nearby. If you’re into fishing, the lakes have a plentiful supply of kokanee, brown trout, rainbow trout, and Atlantic salmon.

Snowshoe and ski tracks at Ten Mile Sno-Park

Snowshoe and ski tracks at Ten Mile Sno-Park

The road into this area is closed during winter near the Ten Mile Sno-Park but there are a lot groomed trails for winter activities. I went snowshoeing there on February 20 for the Winter Recreation Celebration. The Discover Your Forest group once again hosted free guided walks. Our group was small but there was a lot to see there. It’s a much different habitat than Mt. Bachelor. There were snowmobiles using some of the trails but the cross country skiing and snowshoeing trails had light usage.

Winter sights near Paulina Lake

Winter sights near Paulina Lake

The last big events planned around the 25th birthday celebration of the Newberry National Volcanic Monument occur between June 30 – July 4th. There will be a re-dedication of the Monument. On July 4th there will be a fireworks display in La Pine. It will celebrate the 10th anniversary of La Pine, the 30th year of the Frontier Days celebration, and the 100th anniversary of Deschutes County.

I have covered parts of the Monument in past posts. See Lava Lands Visitor Center , Lava Butte , and the Lava Cast Forest .

Lava Butte – Central Oregon Attractions

View from the top of Lava Butte

View from the top of Lava Butte

You can get to top of the Lava Butte cinder cone by hopping onto a shuttle or taking a short hike from its base. The 500-foot tall butte is located at the Lava Lands Visitor Center in the Newberry National Volcanic Monument about eight miles south of Bend, Oregon. Lava Butte is one of the hundreds of cinder cones in the immediate area.

 

Near Benham Falls

Benham Falls trail

Lava Butte erupted about 7,000 years ago. There are several trails that wind through the ancient lava flows and onto the flanks of the butte. There were three main gutters where most of the lava flowed. Ten square miles of pine forest were buried by lava. The lava flows blocked the Deschutes River in five places. If you walk the trail to Benham Falls you can see where the river has made its way through the lava rock.

Giant lava "snowballs"

Giant lava “snowballs”

 

 

 

 

 

When the eruption of Lava Butte occurred, gas-charged lava was ejected into the sky. Cinders cooled and collected to form the 500 foot tall cone shape you see today. Giant balls of lava can be seen along the trail. These “snowballs” started out as small pieces of molten rock and as they rolled through the lava flow, they grew in size. If you could cut one of them open, it would resemble a cinnamon roll in form.

The basalt rocks have less silica in them so they aren’t shiny like obsidian. The cinders are used locally to gravel the roads in snowy and icy weather conditions. The lava rocks are also used for landscaping purposes.

Ground squirrel

Ground squirrel

The wildlife that live in the lava lands have to adapt to the harsh conditions. You may see some of the small rodents such as the American pika, Ochtana princeps, yellow-pine chipmunk, Eutamias amoenus, or golden-mantled ground squirrel, Spermophilus latreralis. You may hear the sweet song of the rock wren, Salpintes obsoletus, before you see it. You may also hear the sound of the pallid-winged grasshopper, Trimerotropis pallidipennis. Their call has been likened to the sound of a sprinkler.

 

 

Lava Butte plants

Lava Butte plants

The plant life has also adapted to the dry, or xeric, conditions. You may see varieties of rabbitbrush and buckwheat growing between the lava rocks. If you are there at the right time of the year, you will see the showy colors of Davidson’s penstemon, Penstemon davidsonii, or Oregon sunshine, Eriophyllum lanatum. Wax currant, Ribes cereum, has berries that were used in the past by Native Americans in the making pemmican – which is similar to beef jerky.

Many of the remaining trees in the area have a twisted form. The rocks take a long time to break down into soil here in the very dry conditions. The trees send out a taproot that searches for water. The spiral growth form allows all of the branches to get water. One of the tree trunks here is referred to as the “Lava Ness Monster” since it resembles the Loch Ness Monster in profile.

Lava Ness Monster

Can you find the Lava Ness Monster?

The Lava Lands Visitor Center is only open from May 1 to October 31. You can purchase a recreation pass at the entrance gate or use one you may already have. Due to very limited parking at the top of Lava Butte, you must board the shuttle to drive to the top. The fee to ride the shuttle is $2 round trip.

Trailhead for Trail of the Molten Land

Trailhead for Trail of the Molten Land

There are several trails around the butte. I have walked on the 1.1-mile long Trail of the Molten Land and have also driven to the top and walked around the crater. There is a fire lookout at the peak but it is not open to the public. Information about the trails can be found inside the visitor center. Click here to see my article about the Lava Lands Visitor Center .

Fun fact: Astronauts trained here in 1966. NASA  thought the landscapes of the moon might be similar to this habitat.

Oregon Winterfest

Oregon WinterFest celebrates the winter season here in Central Oregon. This is the 17th year of the event. Here are few more photos from the recent event. You can see pictures of some of the ice sculptures above. The bird sculpture was still in the process of being carved.

Fire King & Ice Queen

Fire King & Ice Queen

The Fire King and Ice Queen made their entry on horseback. The queen called herself “Princess Ariel Anna Belle Elsa Cinderella Rapunzel.”

Inside the tents

Inside the tents

There were booths to get food, beverages, and handmade crafts inside the large tents. There were also quite a few food carts outside.

Blacksmithing

You could be a Blacksmith

The Central Oregon Metal Arts Guild had demonstrations and workshops scheduled throughout the event. You could make your own large wall hook for $20.

There were several bands playing at the event. A couple of my favorites were The Company Grand and the B Side Brass Band.  The Company Grand is a 10-member band that harkens back to the big band era while throwing in some modern sounds. B Side Brass Band is a New Orleans inspired band with a great sound and a lot of enthusiasm. Both bands are local.

There were many other activities at the event including a high-flying dirt bike show, a flying dog show, a Children’s Area, a Star Wars themed run, and a wine walk. I previously posted pictures of the Fire Pit Competition.

This year the proceeds from admission fees went to Saving Grace, a local organization that provides support services to victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. If you are thinking about going next year, keep in mind that the money raised goes towards local causes.

 

 

FIRE!

Did that get your attention? I went to the Oregon WinterFest event here in Bend this weekend and took some pictures of the Fire Pit Competition that I wanted to share with you. This is the 17th year of the festival so it has a long history in the area. This is the fourth year for the fire pit competition and there are more entries every year.

The dragon and a fire pit with the flag bridge and Deschutes River in the background.

The fire pits came in many shapes and sizes.

FirePit6 WinterFest

This one had an enclosure with mirrors.

FirePit7 WinterFest

This one was like a huge globe.

Flowers of flame and a burning stump.

FirePit14 WinterFest

This one tied everything together into a nice package.

Some were tall and others were closer to the ground.

 

FirePit19 WinterFest

Visitors were glad to have many places to warm up.

Some of the pieces were very intricate.

Would you prefer steaming hot espresso or a roasted garlic?

FirePit18 WinterFest

This one provided shelter from the breezy conditions on Saturday night.

FirePit11 WinterFest

You could tell that the artists put a lot of heart into their work.

Hope you have a nice Valentines’s Day!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

High Desert Museum – Central Oregon Attractions (continued)

When you go outside into parts of the 135-acre property, you will be able to visit various exhibits. The Autzen Otter area is being renovated and won’t be open again until sometime in the spring of 2016. Be sure to stop by to see the entertaining otters once the exhibit reopens.

Keep going around the trail and make a brief stop at the wildlife viewing area. Here you might get a glimpse of woodpeckers, nuthatches, chickadees, squirrels, and chipmunks. You might get lucky and spot a hawk or owl waiting to get a snack.

The Wind, Earth, and Fire Trail is nearby and it shows how fire plays an important role in forest development. Keep following the trail and stop into the Changing Forests exhibit to learn about forests in the area.

Next you will see the Miller Family Ranch. The buildings there are built to show what a farm in 1904 would have looked like. Peek inside the cabin to see how a family lived and watch interpreters demonstrate life in those times. There’s also a barn, corral, chicken coop, saw mill, and even an outhouse. The woven wood corral is practical but also a work of art. You may see horses, donkeys, and chickens at the ranch.

Redband Trout

Redband Trout

Continue on the trail and you will come to an overlook at a small pond. You’ll get a great look at the native Redband trout from there.

Keep walking on the trail and you’ll get to the Donald M. Kerr Birds of Prey Center. See the porcupines in their enclosure just outside the door? The Museum has bald and golden eagles, a turkey vulture, a barn owl, a great horned owl, and other birds in their collection. Most of the animals at the Museum were injured or kept as pets so they would not be able to make it in the wild.

Silver Sage Trading Store

Silver Sage Trading Store

Head back to the main building and be sure to stop at the Silver Sage Trading store. There are books, artwork, clothing, toys, and many other items related to the high desert and current exhibits at the Museum. You might be able to find a piece of unique jewelry or something kind of quirky like dog treats containing beer byproducts.

Whose Home?

Whose Home?

Near the store, there’s a Whose Home? area for young children to climb and play in. They can pretend they are a baby bird in a huge nest. There is also an outside play area called Dig, Crawl, Climb! Kids can pretend like they are a giant spider or some kind of burrowing creature hiding in a hole.

As you leave the building through the main entrance, be sure to look up. There is a metal sculpture of a sagebrush plant that shows just how big their root system really is. This icon of the Wild West has adapted to the harsh environment of the high desert. A visit to the High Desert Museum will teach you how plants and animals have adapted to the environment and how people, past and present, have learned to thrive there.

For more information go to High Desert Museum

High Desert Museum – Central Oregon Attractions

Tucked away in the pines south of Bend, you will find a magical place. The High Desert Museum may not be what you expect when you see the word “Museum” in its name. Yes, it does have artifacts in permanent and rotating exhibits but they are beautifully displayed in buildings that blend into the environment. There is much more to this place than traditional exhibits.

The rotating exhibits cover many facets of the high desert. In December of 2015, these included one on weather, one on sage grouse, and another on women of the American West. There are daily talks and demonstrations about nature and history related to exhibits at the Museum. The Museum also has people dressed in period clothing interpreting history and a small collection of desert wildlife.

High Desert Ranger Station

High Desert Ranger Station

One of the first things you see as you drive up the long driveway is the small High Desert Ranger Station. This was an actual station and it was built in 1933 and moved here in the 1980’s. It’s only open during the summer months.

Inside the main building in the Spirit of the West section, you’ll see a typical encampment of Native Americans, part of a Hudson’s Bay Company fort, and then walk past a wagon travelling on the Oregon Trail. You will wind your way through a mine and then come out into a re-created town. You may see one of the miners trying to strike it rich. You might see one of the shopkeepers or a banker going about their business.

The By Hand Through Memory exhibit focuses on local tribes including the Nez Perce, Umatilla, Warm Springs, Yakama, Spokane, and Colville. The exhibit includes modern conveniences in some of the displays to show how tribal members adjusted to change. The path through this exhibit winds past displays showing native people collecting food, a large collection of beaded bags and other items, a tepee, a small house representing life in the mid-1900’s, and a display of fishing in a river. Outside the exhibit, a volunteer may explain some of the older and modern artifacts from local tribes.

The Desertarium exhibit lets you get up close and personal with some desert wildlife. No, these are not stuffed specimens – they are live animals. This part of the Museum has insects, fish, amphibians, reptiles, and birds. Check out some of the wildlife of the high desert such as the burrowing owl. There’s also a bobcat in an enclosure in a nearby hallway.

Painted Hills – Central Oregon Attraction

Painted Hills, Oregon

It is easy to see why the Painted Hills are designated as one of Oregon’s Seven Wonders. The Painted Hills Unit of the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument is 3,132 acres in size and it is located nine miles northwest of Mitchell, Oregon. If you visit the Painted Hills after rainstorms move through the area, the colors will look more intense from the recent moisture. The colors are striking no matter what season it is. It is like looking at a parfait of luscious layers spread out before you. The deep crimson and black layers at the base of the hills contrast with the sandy browns and golds of upper layers.

The color of the hills is due to volcanic eruptions and changes in climate. Over 35 million years ago this area was part of a river flood plain covered by thick forests of semitropical plants. Abundant ash fall and lava floods helped to shape most of the formations. Erosion started about five million years ago. The area was later subjected to immense forces that tilted the layers downward to the east. Basalt floods hardened and protected softer layers underneath from erosion. Over time the layers of ash and vegetation-rich soil became exposed.

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The strata in the John Day formations include Big Basin (28-39 million years ago), Turtle Cove (22-28 million years ago), Picture Gorge Ignimbrite (28 million years ago), Haystack Valley (20-22 million years ago), and Picture Gorge Basalts (16 million years ago).

  • The red color bands formed when weather conditions were warmer and wetter. Rainfall during that time period ranged between 31 – 53 inches per year. Ponds and lakes were common in the area.
  • The yellow and tan color bands indicate drier weather conditions. Rainfall was between 23 – 47 inches per year. Today the average rainfall here is 12 inches per year.
  • The black spots indicate manganese concentrations. Plants that fixed the manganese in the soil likely grew in these areas.

For more information, go to http://www.nps.gov/joda/planyourvisit/ptd-hills-unit.htm

There is a link to a map that gives information on several trails in the area ranging from ¼ mile to 1.6 miles in length.

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The Painted Hills are extremely photogenic so don’t forget a good camera, phone, or other device. You will want to bring back a memory of the surreal landscape.

Thomas Condon Paleontology Center – Central Oregon Attractions

Thomas Condon Paleontology Center

If you drive just a couple of hours east of Bend, Oregon you will find strikingly painted hills and a center devoted to paleontology. The Thomas Condon Paleontology Center will impress you with fascinating information and artfully displayed artifacts. Wow! What a place.

Thomas Condon Paleontology CenterIn 1862 minister and self-trained scientist Thomas Condon learned there were fossils in the John Day basin from soldiers stationed in the area. He began excavating fossils in 1865 and sent specimens to the east coast for verification. There was a great amount of interest in the specimens he uncovered. He was later appointed to be Oregon’s first state geologist due to his many discoveries.

Thomas Condon Paleontology Center Fossil collectors collected as much as they could as fast as they could for many years. In the late 1800’s, John C. Merriam, Professor of Geology at the University of California, developed a new practice when collecting specimens. Detailed notes were taken about the layer of rock strata a specimen was collected in. Merriam, along with Ralph W. Chaney and Chester Stock, led the way in correlating the fossils found in each layer with the geological age of the strata.

Thomas Condon Paleontology CenterAs early as 1903, concerns were voiced over the preservation of the fossil beds. Concerned citizens wanted the area to be designated as a state park. They later pushed for the protection that national park status would provide. In 1975 the area was designated as the John Day National Monument. In 1984 Ted Fremd was hired as the Monument’s first paleontologist. He developed a program of systematic prospecting, mapping of geology, and radiometric dating of the rock layers. Scientists in a wide variety of fields were employed in helping to understand the flora, fauna, and geology of the region.

TThomas Condon Paleontology Centerhe Thomas Condon Paleontology Center was built in 2003 and houses fossils found in the three units of the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument and areas nearby. It is located in the Sheep Rock Unit near Dayville, Oregon. Visitors can get a good view of scientists carefully cleaning fossils found in the field as they work in a lab with large viewing windows. Scientists have found 2,200 species of plants and animals in the lands of this National Monument. The Center displays fossils in glass cases and large murals with re-creations of what scenes may have looked like when those animals and plants existed. A small store with fossil and dinosaur-related products is located in the lobby.

Thomas Condon Paleontology Center  The Monument covers 14, 000 acres in its three units. The units are many miles apart and services are limited so plan in advance. There are several trails in the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument to give you a close-up view of the landscape. Since this is a National Monument, collecting fossils is not allowed.

Digging for fossils is allowed on the hill located just behind Fossil High School in the town of Fossil. I have collected fossils at that location and the site is easily accessible. For more information on collecting fossils there, go to http://www.oregonpaleolandscenter.com/#!wheeler-high-school-fossil-beds/c17uw

To find out more about the Thomas Condon Paleontology Center, go to http://www.nps.gov/joda/learn/photosmultimedia/Thomas-Condon-Paleontology-Center.htm

Lava Lands Visitor Center – Central Oregon Attractions

Lava Lands

The Lava Lands Visitor Center has interpretive exhibits that focus on volcanology, geology, ecology, and archeology locally and in regions nearby. As I entered the exhibit area, I noticed the red “lava flows” in the carpet that guide you through the display. Display boards are big, bright, and bold and contain A LOT of information.

Lava LandsThis small visitor center is a great place to start if you plan to explore some of the 54,000+ acres of the Newberry National Volcanic Monument located south of Bend, Oregon. The Monument was created in 1990 and it encompasses unique geological features, lava flows, and many lakes. Newberry Volcano is a 600-square mile shield volcano and it has had at least two eruptions where part of it collapsed forming a caldera. The 17-square mile Newberry Crater is actually a caldera. You can drive to the highest remaining part of the caldera rim. It is known as Paulina Peak and is 7,985 feet high.

Temperatures beneath the caldera have been measured at up to 500 degrees Fahrenheit and the area is being explored as a source of geothermal energy. Though drilling cannot occur within the boundaries of the Monument, nearby wells have shown potential. Proposed power plants could produce enough energy to supply 30,000 people.

Lava LandsNewberry is covered with many lava flows and 400 cinder cones on its northern and southern flanks. It has likely erupted hundreds, if not thousands, of times in the last half-million years.

This area is referred to as being a part of the “Ring of Fire” due to the presence of volcanic activity and features. Signs of an impending volcanic eruption in this region are outlined and they include gas emissions, steam eruptions, uplift, and earthquakes. Local environments and human populations might be affected by ash fall, lava flows, and lahars – fast moving mudflows consisting of ash, soil, and water. The three volcanoes showing the most potential for activity are South Sister, Newberry Volcano, and Mt. Hood.

Lava LandsMount Mazama erupted relatively recently in geological time and it is featured in part of the exhibit. About 7,700 years ago it had a major eruption that spread ash northwards into western Canada and eastward to Nebraska. The ash produced by that eruption was about 100 times that produced by Mt. St. Helens in 1980. The explosions emptied the magma chamber beneath the summit and it collapsed and later filled with water. The resulting lake, Crater Lake, is the deepest lake in the U.S. and has been measured to a depth of 1,949 feet.

There are examples of several types of rocks associated with volcanic activity. You can see obsidian, pumice, rhyolite, basalt, welded tuff, basalt, cinders, and ash. There is a big piece of obsidian in an open display case and a sign encourages you to touch it. Its smooth, glasslike surface reflects every ray of light.

Lava LandsAs scientists have studied the area, they have learned about the people that lived here thousands of years ago. Archeologists discovered a fire hearth containing obsidian points and other clues about the former residents on one of their study sites. Examples of obsidian points are in another part of the exhibit. The art of flint-knapping, where chips of stone are flaked off to form useful tools from obsidian and other types of stones, is more than 10,000 years old. Another display shows handcrafted items made by Native Americans today using local rushes and other materials. The origins for these patterns likely were passed down over thousands of years.  The exhibit mentions the adaptability of Native Americans as they dealt with climate change, volcanic activity, and an influx of settlers. They incorporated explanations for some of the volcanic events into their mythology.

Lava LandsBe sure to check out the small gift store next to the exhibit area. There is a large 3-D map of the Newberry National Volcanic Monument that not only shows you the scale of the Monument but also shows some of the geological features. Can you see the many cinder cones? It’s a better than average gift store and it contains books, maps, art prints, t-shirts, mugs, and toys.

Note that the Visitor Center is only open for part of the year. It closes in mid-October and opens again in the beginning of May. For more information about the center, go here: http://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/deschutes/recreation/recarea/?recid=38394