After the rain in the Painted Hills of eastern Oregon, the colors stand out in bold contrast. I live an hour and a half away from these strange geological features and patiently wait for the storms of fall to arrive.
The first image shows the view from the road to the Overlook parking area. The hills are located within the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument.
Though I’ve been here several times, I’d never hiked the 1/2 mile Painted Hills Overlook Trail. The easy trail leads you past this dramatic scene. Wow!
Here’s a closer view.
These hills are on the south side of the trail.
There are four short, easy trails and a more moderate longer trail a short distance away.
This photo shows part of the Painted Cove Trail after the rain.
Here’s another part of that trail. It’s an Instagram-worthy view, but my dog didn’t feel like smiling for the camera that day. 😉
Here’s a view from Red Scar Knoll/Red Hill Trail. The colors are wonderful!
I talk more about the origin of the hills on Painted Hills – An Oregon natural wonder.
Visiting the Painted Hills Unit
Here’s a map of the area that shows the hiking trails. Leaf Hill, Painted Cove, and Red Scar/Red Hill are all 0.25 miles long. Painted Hills Overlook is 0.50 miles and Carroll Rim is 1.6 miles long.
Here are a couple additional points about visiting the Painted Hills.
- This landscape radiates heat so I would not recommend the longer hike on hot summer days.
- Bring plenty of water with you on all hikes.
- Use the restroom in the picnic area. There are no restrooms at the Overlook or at trailheads.
- Cell phone coverage can be spotty.
- Please stay on the trails and leash your dogs. Your tracks will remain for months in this fragile environment.
One more thing to consider…
- If you visit after the rain, you may run into gumbo mud. When it rains here, it’s like the ground turns into a mixture of Superglue and soil. The mud collects on your tires and shoes. See how it stuck to my boots? I scraped some off before getting in the car. At home, I sprayed my boots full blast with a hose and still had to use a stiff brush to get it all off. However, getting pictures of the hills after stormy weather was well worth it!
green leaves fluttering
ever alert for dawn’s frost
blushes of autumn
This old bench at Sahalie Falls, Oregon stands in stark contrast to the new fences bordering the trail. It’s nice they preserved a piece of the past here.
It’s a short walk from the parking area to view the falls. Aren’t they spectacular?
Steep knife-edged mountains arose from the plains centuries ago. Over time, torrential rains wore them down into rounded hills. Though plants tried to take root on their soil, none survived.
The Wise One summoned the artists of her tribe. She asked them to paint the hills in sacred colors. Pale green colors, from crushed sagebrush leaves and golden rabbitbrush blossoms, and black and red, from sumac trees, filled their brushes. The artisans painted the hills with broad brushstrokes and veiled the skies with delicate dabs of white.
Here are a couple pictures of autumn cascara leaves up close. I spotted these beautiful multi-colored leaves on shrubs near Santiam Junction in Oregon. They were growing within an inhospitable looking lava bed.
This tall shrub is attractive year round. The oblong leaves, with their distinctive parallel veins, are glossy green for most of the year. Autumn cascara leaves have spectacular colors. Cascara produce greenish-yellow flowers in the spring, and dark purple fruit in the summer.
One of their common names is Cascara sagrada, Spanish for “sacred bark.” The bark is well known for its laxative effects. See the Names section of Cascara, Frangula purshiana for funny Chinook names based on these qualities. 😉
I have always been impressed by the elegance of terns. Terns in flight have pointed wingtips and some species have deeply forked tails. Today I’m sharing a stylized pencil sketch I did of a Forster’s tern. These wetland birds can be spotted in much of North America at certain times of the year.
Here are a few Caspian terns I saw at The Narrows in Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, south of Burns, Oregon. They don’t have the black-tipped bill and forked tail of Forster’s terns, but still have the elegance of ferns.
Do you have artwork you would like to share? If so, include a First Friday Art tag on your post.
If you’re looking for something artistic to do this month, consider participating in Inktober. Create a pen-and-ink drawing every day for a month based on prompts. Fun and challenging!
Splashes of autumn
Along verdant waterways
Beside winding roads
Within ancient lava beds
The glorious frocks of fall
These photos show rocky seating at Yellowstone National Park. The Park Service constructed several types of places to sit that blend into the environment.
in the first picture, tourist gather to take in the dramatic views of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. Young children are taking a brief rest with their family on a rocky bench.
The second picture shows a boulder sofa at the head of the trail. It’s unoccupied at the moment since everyone is drawn towards the waterfalls a short distance away.
Here’s a picture of the waterfalls. Can you see why people travel thousands of miles to sit on rough rocky seating to take in the view?
Here are three photos of a milkweed seedpod up close. As you may know, milkweed flowers are a favorite of monarch butterflies. North American populations of this butterfly have been rapidly declining.
I got a packet of seeds for free from Deschutes Land Trust, one of our local conservation nonprofits. To find milkweed seeds near you, use the Milkweed Seed Finder courtesy of the Xerces Society.
We planted milkweed starts in our garden this year, but they fried during a week of unusually hot weather. 🙁
My friend, Suzy, planted hers last year and had greater success. This seedpod she gave me measures 4 inches in length. A couple of days ago it split along a seam. Each seed is attached to a little wispy fluff known as coma.
Does this milkweed seedpod remind anyone else out there of the pods in Invasion of the Body Snatchers?
I’m always on the lookout for beavers when walking the river trails in the Old Mill District of Bend. I listen for the sound of a tail slapping the water and search for the silhouette of a rounded head breaking the water’s surface. Why look for beavers next to a shopping area? Because these industrious creatures found an ideal spot to build a lodge there. I’ve always wanted to know more about beavers, so I visited the Museum’s Dam It! Beavers and Us exhibition.
This multimedia interactive exhibit offers visitors the opportunity to learn all about the North American beaver, Castor canadensis. Tall, cutout panels representing forest trees divide the room. Dappled light shines onto the imaginary forest floor. A re-creation of a beaver dam is tucked into a corner for kids to explore.
In another corner, a large box suspended from a parachute drifts towards the ground—more on that later. An Oregon flag, featuring a beaver, flutters against a wall near the entrance. Video featuring the important connection of beavers with Native Americans plays in another section. A colorful animation featuring the life cycle of beavers plays on a large screen on the back wall.
History of beavers
In the center of the room, displays of articulated skeletons, fossils, and beaver-chewed trees draw your attention. One skeleton shows a North American beaver, while the other shows a giant beaver, Castoroides. As its name implies, the giant beaver was much larger than present day beavers. The extinct giant beaver weighed 198 to 276 pounds, while modern beavers weigh 24 to 71 pounds. Dramatic changes in the landscape after the Ice Age may have led to this large mammal’s demise during the Pleistocene era.
In the more recent past, beavers have played an important part in Native American culture. The Blackfeet Nation considers beaver to be one of the three original animals. They played a key role in the distribution of water and land. Beavers also taught people how to be moral. Though many tribes traded skins with settlers, Blackfeet chose not to because of beaver’s cultural importance. They celebrated beavers in a ceremony called the “Beaver Bundle”, an event passed down through generations.
In the late 1800s, things changed for North American beavers when European demand for their skins skyrocketed. They used beaver skins in creating hats and other products. The mercurous nitrate used in curing felt for hats led to the term “mad as a hatter” because of the chemical’s toxic side effects.
Because of high demand, beavers were overtrapped and prime habitat was destroyed. Beaver populations plummeted. One of the contributing factors was the Hudson Bay Company’s (HBC) decision to destroy beaver populations “as fast as possible” to discourage westward migration from American competitors. In the period from 1823 to 1841, HBC intended to make the Snake River territory a “fur desert.”
Changing perceptions of beavers
By the end of the 19th century, perceptions of beavers changed and conservation efforts began. In the 1920s, they moved beavers to areas where they lived in the past. Scientists recognized the value of the beaver in wetland habitat management.
We know beavers as one of nature’s engineers. The ponds and channels they create support diverse flora and fauna. As the effects of climate change increase, these sites serve as important refuges from wildfire, and they also help reduce flooding.
The exhibit highlights the stream channels beavers help create around rivers in two large-scale images. One features an enhanced image taken near Sunriver. The many abandoned braided channels around the Little Deschutes River stand out in this picture.
The other picture, of the Willamette River, uses LiDAR imagery to show the stream channels that existed over the last 12,000 years.
This exhibition features several examples of current work involving beavers. In 2016, in Birch Creek, Idaho, five beavers released near the creek enhanced the habitat. Rare Bonneville cutthroat trout populations increased after the introduction. The Tulalip Tribes, in Washington State, relocated beaver to streams on treaty lands as part of their watershed management program. Other tribes plan to follow their lead. In Oregon, biologists created Beaver Dam Analogs (BDAs) on East Fork Beech Creek and Bridge Creek. These artificial dams established habitat for beavers and fish populations have rebounded.
Back to the box suspended from a parachute mentioned earlier in this article. Why is this box featured in the exhibit? In the 1940s, wildlife agencies dropped beavers from planes in crates designed to open on impact. This method helped re-establish beaver populations in remote areas.
There is one more item of interest to mention in this exhibit. Did you notice the bottles of alcohol in the display case on the left side of the photo above? Those bottles contain Eau de Musc whiskey. Tamworth Distilling flavors this whiskey with castoreum, an oily substance from castor sacs located under a beaver’s tail. The distillery notes its “bright and fruit qualities (raspberry) and rich leathery notes along with creamy vanilla aroma.” Would you care to make a toast to beavers with a glass of this? I’ll leave that decision up to you, but we should celebrate this engaging exhibit for teaching us more about our remarkable state animal.
This exhibit is on display at the High Desert Museum in Bend, Oregon through October 3, 2021.
This is a reprint of an article I wrote for High Desert Voices, a newsletter published by and for volunteers at the High Desert Museum. This article was featured in the August 2021 issue.
Today I’m featuring views of Oregon mountains from afar. We’re lucky to have wide open views of these landmarks.
The first picture shows a view of the iconic Cascade Volcanoes west of Bend, Oregon. From left to right you can see Broken Top, South Sister, Middle Sister, North Sister, Black Crater, Mount Washington, Three Fingered Jack, Black Butte, and Mount Jefferson. Visitor can drive scenic roads, hike, rock climb, bike, go boating, fish, hunt, and nature watch around these peaks. This map helps you find the activities you’re looking for.
The second picture shows mountains east of Terrebonne, Oregon. The highest peak is Gray Butte, where I’ve seen lots of stunning wildflowers in the spring. At the base of the mountains, on the left side, you can find Smith Rock State Park. This park is a destination for rock climbers and hikers from around the world.
The third picture shows Steens Mountain, in the southeast part of the state. This fault block mountain is 50 miles long. At certain times of the year, visitors can drive to the 9,733-foot peak. It’s a trip well worth taking and the views are spectacular. You’ll see the pale sand of the Alvord Desert far below and stands of mountain mahogany and aspen near the peak.
The fourth picture shows the Painted Hills, north of Mitchell, Oregon. The stripes of red, tan, orange, and black in this photo record the effects of past climate change in this region. There are several trails in the Painted Hills Unit of the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument. One of my favorites in the nearby Sheeprock Unit is the Blue Basin Trail.
Consider the weather when viewing Oregon mountains from afar
When you’re out exploring Oregon mountains from afar, check the weather conditions in advance. Did you notice the cloud cover increasing in each of these photos? Clear skies show off the Cascade Volcanoes along the skyline, but rainy conditions bring out the soil color in the Painted Hills.
I saw these lodgepole pines on pilings next to a bridge crossing the Deschutes River. I was hiking the trail to Benham Falls but had to pause to marvel at these little trees. Trout swam around the pilings, providing a little extra fertilizer for this odd nursery.
Who knows why the trees settled there. They certainly found a nice piece of waterfront property with a view. 😉
I saw these fading hibiscus flowers at a local garden center in early June. The petals are past their prime, but the flowers still have a style all their own.
Do you wonder when you wander
Where the path will lead?
Up to mountains,
Where scattering clouds reveal the peaks of possibility?
Down to deserts,
Where sandstorms expose the color of earth’s soul?
Over to ocean shores,
Where waves create cryptic messages in the sand?
Through dense forests,
Where trees of different character stand together as one?
Do you wonder when you wander
Where the path will lead?
Here are pictures of daisies three ways I took on the Mill A Loop trail in Bend, Oregon. I used Corel PaintShop Pro 2021 to do the photo processing.
The first two show the original photo compared to a soft focus adjustment. I think it works well for these soft flowers.
The second two show the original photo compared to a colored edges effect. I like to draw and this effect created a work of art, minus all the erasing I usually do. 😉
The last images compare the original to a ripple effect. It appears the flowers are growing beneath the water’s surface in an alternate reality.
I admit, I tend to use the same settings on my photo editing program. It was a fun challenge to showcase daisies three ways while exploring some of the other options.
In these portraits of creatures, the lighting is a major part of the scene.
In the first picture, a family of Sandhill Cranes struts across a meadow in the morning light. The lead bird, in the strongest light, keeps an eye out for predators.
In the next photo, a bull elk grazes in a grassy field. Bright fluffy clouds and dark forest trees are major parts of this shot. The elk, with its bright back fur and dark legs, blends into that environment.
In this photo, a northern river otter drifts through the water. Mid-day sun cuts through the water and dapples the bottom surface. A trail of bubbles emphasizes the otter’s streamlined form.
The gray fox in this photo is soaking up the warm rays of the sun. The bright sunshine highlights her silhouette and blissful expression.
This Red-tailed Hawk was not bothered by my close approach. It was too busy thinking about the young Robin in my yard to notice me. This photo, taken in the middle of the day, has limited shadows.
The last picture is of a mule deer in my yard. The shadows are lengthening as she looks for a place to settle down for the night. Her reddish summer coat shines in the early evening light.
When you’re taking portraits of creatures, you can’t always be there in the “golden hours.” Try to capture the spirit of the animal, no matter what time of day the clock says.
pushed by hot magma
through ancient layers of rock
the pull of dawn’s light
This lone tundra swan lived in the Old Mill District of Bend, Oregon for several months this year. Its graceful silhouette, and the waves surrounding it, are highlighted in these black and white images.
We planted a couple artichoke plants in our garden this year and assumed they died after a week of extreme heat. Several leaves on both plants turned brown from the sun, but the plants survived. Here are their purple blossoms up close. Artichokes are pretty and tasty!
Sometimes you visit places where the landscapes are pretty as a picture. Here are a few places I’ve visited in the western states that feature picture postcard views. I tell a tiny tale about each of them.
Kiger Gorge on Steens Mountain, Oregon is full of drama. A giant serpent tunneled through here leaving scales of deep green. Wise ones believe the sweetest water can be found in shallow wells beneath these strands of greenery.
Morning Glory in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming is a glorious sight. The artist who created this landscape experimented with various colors. She could not settle on using a single color and discarded her pallet here for us to find.
This grandfather tree in Arches National Park, Utah often told tales of wild places to his many grandchildren. When he passed, they honored him by preserving the bones of his existence and planting golden flowers near his roots.
Herds of clouds collect over northern Nevada in the spring, deciding whether they will release showers in the upcoming seasons. If you listen closely, you can hear their whispers drift by you carried by the desert wind.
Do you see the largest sea stack in this photo of Ruby Beach in Washington State? I think it was a giant beaver who was busy eating and ignored the incoming tide. The beaver became stuck in the sand, unable to escape. She has been there for so long that a row of trees took root along her spine and grew to towering heights.
Do any of the pretty as a picture places you have visited have hidden tales?
Once a year, in the middle of June, Clearwater Native Plant Nursery opens its gates to the public. This contract grow nursery provides native plants for restoration and landscaping projects. Plants sold here grow well in upland, riparian, and wetland habitats. The nursery is located in Redmond, Oregon.
Clearwater Native Plant Nursery provided plants to the Deschutes Land Trust for the restoration of Whychus Creek, 15 miles to the northwest. The plantings provided wildlife habitat and helped stabilize the soil near the creek.
Clearwater Native Plant Nursery Annual Sale
I had never been to their annual sale before. This nursery is not open to the public the rest of the year.
We arrived soon after opening and there were already a lot of people there. Plants ranged in price from $3 for a 4-inch pot, to $27 for a 5-gallon pot.
Plants for sale are laid out in neat rows.
Walking through them is like being a kid in a candy store.
You can find the plant labels at the end of the rows.
I purchased eight plants including the rosy pussytoes and showy penstemon pictured below. They are great wildflowers to include in my low water usage landscaping.
Some of the plants for sale had already bloomed. Gardeners need to use their imagination to think of what these plants will look like in the future.
I remember seeing prairie smoke plants at Slough Creek in Yellowstone National Park and wanted one ever since. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that the plant I purchased at the sale will fill out and look like the ones in Yellowstone.
A few tips if you plan on attending this sale…
- A list of plants this nursery sells is on their website to view ahead of time.
- Parking is limited but people don’t stay long so be patient.
- Helpful volunteers are available to answer your questions.
- Bring your own boxes and/or wheeled carriers. They are not provided.
- Take a picture of the plant label at the end of the row. Individual plants don’t always have labels.
- Bring cash! They do not accept credit or other forms of payment.
Friday Flowers (FF)
In Washington State, locals call Mt Rainier The Mountain. When clouds fill the skies and you catch a glimpse of her, people say, “The Mountain is out!” I took a quick trip up to Seattle this weekend and had a picture perfect view of Mt Rainier from above. What a gorgeous sight!
When you travel the backroads in this part of the country, it’s not uncommon to see cattle herds movin’ down the road guided by cowboys. We saw a couple cowboys on horseback moving this herd near Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.
You’ll see dust clouds long before you see the animals.
The cattle often stop in the road until they are pressured into moving. Watch for signals from the horseback riders to their dogs herding the cattle. Do your best to stay out of their way.
Slowly push your way through. They will move, but they’ll complain about it the whole time.
While waiting to get through a herd, I often look at the unique markings of each animal and guess what their personalities are like. The cow and calf pictured above are big talkers, always willing to give their opinions. The one closest to us in the shot below is bold and sure-footed. She leads the others in the right direction.
A part of the Old West lives on in the present when you see cattle movin’ down the road, guided by riders of the range and their remarkable dogs.
This gigantic pine is Big Tree, AKA Big Red, the biggest Ponderosa pine, Pinus ponderosa var. ponderosa, ever recorded. It’s located in LaPine State Park, north of La Pine, Oregon. Though it lost 30 feet of its crown during severe storms, it is still the largest Ponderosa pine in circumference.
Here are some facts about this tree:
- Circumference: 28 feet 11 inches
- Height: 167 feet
- Crown spread: 68 feet
- Approximate age: 500+ years
- Board feet: 25,000
LaPine State Park Manager, Joe Wanamaker, gave insights about Big Red in an article in the local Source Weekly. He thought it was spared from being logged due to evidence of fire damage. This may have affected the quality of the wood harvested. Wanamaker also pointed out this tree is growing in an ideal location where water tends to collect in the soil from the nearby Deschutes River.
A paved, ADA accessible, 1/4 mile trail leads to this unique sight. Foot traffic around this much-loved attraction caused soil compaction that threatened its growth. A protective fence was constructed around it in the year 2000.
In this map of the park, from Oregon State Parks, Big Tree is located in the lower right corner.
souls from the past send
wispy notes in azure skies
smiles of summer sun
On our recent visit to Yellowstone National Park, we took a side trip to Yellowstone Hot Springs. This attraction is located in Gardiner, Montana, about ten minutes north of the park.
An interesting history
In the last 100+ years, this site has passed through many hands. In 1899, French-Canadian immigrant, Julius LaDuke, staked a mining claim here and discovered it contained hot springs. He created LaDuke Hot Springs Resort to serve miners and visitors to the area. The resort included a large plunge bath and several smaller private baths. A two-story hotel was built nearby. LaDuke entered into a short-lived purchase agreement with William F. Cogswell. This was one of many setbacks in his life.
Visitors traveled by coach to Electric, later known as Aldridge, and then had to cross the 150-foot wide river to the springs. LaDuke employed barges, then a cable ferry, then a ferryboat, and finally a swinging footbridge for his guests.
Guests rumored to have visited LaDuke Hot Springs Resort include President Theodore Roosevelt and famous frontierswoman, Calamity Jane.
Meanwhile, Electric Hot Springs Company made plans to build a hospital and sanitorium one mile to the north. They employed Frank Corwin as their resident doctor. Since they needed to pipe hotter water to their site, they attempted to purchase LaDuke’s property but he refused. He sold it to John H. Holliday for $6,000 who sold it to Corwin 20 days later for $1. Corwin Springs Hospital operated from 1909 to 1916. An unexplained fire destroyed the buildings in 1916.
From 1922 to 1940, Eagle’s Nest Dude Ranch was located here. The current owners, Church Universal and Triumphant, acquired the property in the 1980s.
Read the fascinating history of this site at “Taking in the Water” at LaDuke Hot Springs Resort.
This historic site re-opened in March of 2019 after extensive renovations.
Yellowstone Hot Springs
When we visited in the first days of June, there were only about ten visitors. This site is well-maintained and inviting.
The unique characteristics of these pools, and their suggested health benefits, are highlighted on their website.
Two smaller round plunge pools are located within a larger pool. One of the plunge pools has water temperature warmer than the main pool, while the other has colder water temperatures.
Every day, staff posts the current water temperatures on a board near the changing rooms. The large pool averages 98-100 degrees Fahrenheit. The “hot” plunge pool averages 103-105 degrees, and the “cold” pool averages 60-65 degrees.
After lounging in the warm pools for a while, the cold pool feels much colder! 😉
The grounds are landscaped and clean with lots of places to sit and take in the views.
Even the changing/shower area is nice and tidy.
The entrance sits at the foot of scenic mountain landscapes. Yellowstone Destinations offers tent and RV sites right next door.
I have been to many hot springs in my travels and this was one of the better ones. We plan to visit again on our next trip to Yellowstone.