My Mount St. Helens Adventure: FOWC

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

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

The adventure begins

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

Virginia rail by Becky Matsubara
Virginia rail by Becky Matsubara

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

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

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

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

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

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

Uh… that’s not a thunderstorm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The long dark day

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

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

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

Okay, now what?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Meeting some local wildlife

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

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

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

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

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

A new day

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

Cinnamon Teal 30March2018
Cinnamon teal

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

Making our way towards civilization

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

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

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

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

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

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

Royal City

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The journey home

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

About the pictures

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

Go on your own Mount St. Helens adventure

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

I like rocks!: LAPC

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

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

I like rocks collection of various rocks in Oregon May 2020

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

I like rocks collection of various rocks in Oregon May 2020

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

Rocks around a cholla plant, Bend, Oregon May 2020

Stones encircling a golden sword yucca plant.

Rocks around a yucca plant, Bend, Oregon May 2020

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

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

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

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

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

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge – Pastimes

Wolfe Ranch root cellar: Monochrome Monday

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

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

Monochrome Monday

Vista House: Views of the Columbia

Vista House in Corbett, Oregon October 2019

A unique landmark

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

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

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

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

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

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

Construction details

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

Marble lined hallway, Corbett, Oregon October 2019
Marble wainscotting

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

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

Teach us, and show us the Way.

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

Teach us, and show us the Way.

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

More to see

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

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

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

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

More info

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

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

Wet and Wild Otters Haiku: LAPC

Wet and wild otters
Grateful for their liquid world
Tread into its depths

Otter in shallow water, Bend, Oregon 2016

Gliding silently
Steering with slender rudders
In a search for bliss

Otter swimming in shallow water, Bend, Oregon 2016

Meeting and greeting
Leaping and pirouetting
Dancers of the deeps

Wet and wild otters in Bend, Oregon 2016
Wet and wild otters in Bend, Oregon 2016

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge – ALL WET

Cypress spurge up close: SMM

Cypress spurge Bend, Oregon

This pretty plant is the first to bloom in my garden in the spring. The tiny flower of cypress spurge is framed by bright yellow bracts.

Sunshine’s Macro Monday (SMM)

Sharp-shinned hawk cooling its jets: WWE #24

Sharp-shinned hawk cooling its jets near Bend, Oregon 27March2020

This sharp-shinned hawk was either cooling its jets because it was overheated or it was pretending to be a piece of yard art to lure in an unsuspecting songbird. 😉 It stood in my backyard creek for a LONG time!

Water, Water Everywhere (WWE) #24

Keeping our Distance: LAPC

Keeping our distance

Keeping our distance, Bend, Oregon 20 February 2020

Avoiding close contact

Songbirds in Malahide, Ireland 6 March 2020

Unsure where to turn

Keeping our distance, doves in Bend, Oregon 24 January 2020

On the darkest of days

Dark clouds in Bend, Oregon 9 August 2019

But one day, we will once again fly with our flocks

Paper bird sculpture, Bend, Oregon 23 October 2018

Rejoice with our families

Barn swallow fledglings, Sunriver, Oregon 30 June 2017

And our voices will join together in song

Keeping our distance, Yellow warbler, Camp Sherman, Oregon 3 June 2016

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge (LAPC) – Distance

Hells Canyon in the Spring: Friday Flowers

Hells Canyon National Recreation Area is tucked into the northeastern corner of Oregon and the western edge of Idaho. We visited Hells Canyon in the spring last year. At the overlook, the meadows were carpeted in wildflowers. Perfect timing for pictures!

Hells Canyon view to the east 4 June 2019
View to the east

Many different types of flowers were in full bloom.

Wildflower meadow at Hells Canyon, Oregon 4 June 2019
Meadow full of wildlfowers

We had great weather to take in the panoramic view. The Snake River winds through this canyon nearly 8,000 feet below the canyon rim. Hells Canyon, the deepest gorge in North America, is almost 2,000 feet deeper than the Grand Canyon.

View to southeast at Hells Canyon, Oregon 4 June 2019
View to the southeast

Whitestem frasera plants grew in dense clumps sprinkled with pale purple flowers.

Whitestem frasera, Hells Canyon, Oregon 4 June 2019
Whitestem frasera

Hells Canyon National Recreation Area was created in 1975. It encompasses 652,488 acres. There are nearly 2,900 miles of trails in this recreation area.

View to the south at Hells Canyon, Oregon 4 June 2019
View to the south

The dramatic landscape was formed by volcanic activity hundreds of millions of years ago followed by collisions of tectonic plates. The mountains eroded over time. A series of lava flows sculpted them into the mountains we see today.

Purple larkspur flowers bordered the trail. I have a different native variety growing on my desert property near Bend, Oregon. One of my favorite plants!

Larkspur in the foreground, Hells Canyon, Oregon 4 June 2019
Larkspur in the foreground

A gallery of Hells Canyon wildflowers

Here’s a gallery of some of the other wildflowers I saw that day. I had never seen these varieties of balsamroot or clematis flowers anywhere before. Wonderful sights to see!

The Hells Canyon Creek Visitor Center is located below Hells Canyon Dam. It is open seasonally and was not yet open when we visited.

You can see Seven Devils Mountain peeking out in this view to the north.

View to the north, Hells Canyon Overlook, Oregon 4 June 2019
View to the north

Hells Canyon Overlook is located 45 miles east of Joseph, Oregon, where we stayed. Check road conditions ahead of time because there can be snow in this high elevation area. It takes about 1 hour 45 minutes to get there from Joseph since you drive on twisting, turning Forest Service roads. The drive is well worth it!

Photo Bloopers 4: More photo fun

It’s time once again for fun with photos. Welcome to Photo Bloopers 4! This is what I do with pictures that don’t quite fit in or turned out weird looking. They needed a few words to make them more interesting. Hope they entertain you!

Photo bloopers Ground squirrel at Lava Butte, Oregon July 2018
Painted Hills in Oregon with funny caption October 2018
Western juniper tree burdened with cones (berries) August 2019
Photo blooper of pronghorn surrounded by rainbow colors April 2018
Collared lizard at High Desert Museum, Bend, Oregon October 2019
Shelves in the General Store in Fort Rock Museum, Oregon May 2019
Rock formation at Arches National Park May 2017
Photo bloopers , dog in front of DNA kits July 2019

Do you want to see more of my Photo Bloopers? See:

WPC – Fun!: Bird Bloopers

Photo Bloopers 2

Fun photos: Photo Bloopers 3

Cave Spring Trail in Utah: LAPC

Trail in Canyonlands National Park, Utah May2017

If you decide to walk the short Cave Spring Trail in Canyonlands National Park, you will be rewarded with unique encounters with history and nature.

Cave Spring Trail in Canyonlands National Park, Utah May2017

The 0.6 mile loop trail takes you past a narrow cowboy camp tucked under a rock ledge. Camps like these were in use from the late 1800s to 1975. The Scorup-Sommerville Cattle Company managed as many as 10,000 cattle in this region. Cowboys lived a life on the range and artifacts from their outdoor camp remain at this site.

Cowboy camp at trail in Canyonlands National Park, Utah May2017

This site was prized due to the fact that a spring existed here. Rainwater percolated through the sandstone over this site and carved out alcoves.

Sites such as these hosted cowboys in the recent past, but Native Americans lived here thousands of years before them. Their rock art can be seen in parts of the cave. The spring is considered a sacred place to descendants of these people.

Cave Spring in Canyonlands National Park, Utah May2017

If you follow the trail farther, you’ll come to two narrow ladders that take you up to a slickrock sandstone plateau.

Ladder on Cave Spring Trail in Canyonlands National Park, Utah May2017

Follow the rock cairns marking the trail…

Rock cairns marking the trail in Canyonlands National Park, Utah May2017

to get stunning 360-degree views of the Canyonlands.

Scenic view from Cave Spring Trail in Canyonlands National Park, Utah May2017
Scenic view from Cave Spring Trail in Canyonlands National Park, Utah May2017

The trail drops down into another narrow alcove and continues to the parking area. Cave Spring Trail isn’t long, but it packs a lot into a short distance.

Cave Spring Trail in Canyonlands National Park, Utah May2017

I was especially impressed by the many interesting formations in the rock along this trail. Cave Spring Trail, and the nearby AMAZING petroglyphs of Newspaper Rock, made this one of our favorite stops on our trip to Utah’s National Parks.

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge (LAPC) – Narrow

Someday in the future: LAPC

Someday in the future I’ll live on a street full of possibilities

Someday in the future, Road sign, Bend, Oregon 8February2020

Someday I’ll live where birds are the color of the sky

Scrub jay, Bend, Oregon 3June2017

And flowers are the color of the sun

Balsamroot flowers near the Columbia Gorge 15April2017

Someday I’ll live where lichens send messages that only I can see

2 Rock, lichens on a rock near Bend, Oregon 8February2020

And rocks will tell me of distant worlds in their own kind of Braille

Someday in the future, Thunderegg storytellers near Bend, Oregon 8February2020

Someday I’ll live where trees watch me through knowing eyes

Tree with eyes, Bend, Oregon 10July2019

And waterfalls speak to me in shades of green

Waterfall close up, Horsetail Falls, Oregon 9October2019

Someday in the future I’ll live where every sunrise is more spectacular than the one the day before

Someday in the future sunrise, Bend, Oregon 5December2019

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge (LAPC) – Future

Secret Blue Views: Two short stories

Did you know there are secret rooms at McMenamins Old St Francis in Bend? Here are pictures of two of the blacklight rooms with their secret blue views.

You can’t get into to the rooms through a traditional door. You have to find special panels in the hallway and push them in just the right spot.

The secret blue views inspired me to write microfiction stories related to each room.

Story 1

On the night of the harvest moon, trees in a hidden forest create plump blue and red fruit. Jackrabbits venture into the forest, searching for the red fruit. They nibble on their magic and dance until the sun rises and the fruit disappears.

Story 2

I am lost in a deep blue forest. Hanging crystals appear to light the way, so I follow them, turning to the left and right. I can’t find my way. Slumping against a tree trunk, I turn my gaze towards the sky. Then I notice it—a heart of branches leading to the true path. I am found.

Noticing the lines in a scene: LAPC

When I travel, I think about photographing what I see by noticing the lines. Your eye wants to follow where they lead you. Here a few leading lines from northern Oregon.

Noticing the lines on the way to Hood River, Oregon 10October2019
Fall foliage along Oregon Route 35
Passing by Mt Hood, Oregon 11October2019
Passing by Mt Hood
Looking west towards the Bridge of the Gods, Oregon 11October2019
Looking west towards the Bridge of the Gods
The stairway leading to Multnomah Falls, Oregon 10October2019
The stairway leading to Multnomah Falls

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge – Leading Lines

Spruce cones up close: SMM

Spruce cones up close

A photograph of spruce cones up close that I took in my Bend, Oregon yard.

Sunshine’s Macro Monday (SMM)

One acre at a time: On the Hunt for Joy Challenge

One acre at a time, Summer Lake, Oregon November 2017
Part of Summer Lake is included in the Diablo Mountain Wilderness Study Area

Last week I helped preserve a bit of the desert, one acre at a time. Sometimes it isn’t apparent how your $$$ help a cause. When you donate to conserve.org, you can see your money in action.

Mule deer doe, near Malheur NWR, Oregon April 2019
Mule deer doe

Making a difference

For only $46 per acre, you can help the Oregon Desert Land Trust purchase part of the 118,794 Diablo Mountain Wilderness Study Area in eastern Oregon. You can view a 360-degree photo of each individual acre and choose which you want to help buy.

They are trying to purchase 880 acres that are currently in private hands. The Land Trust and Global Wildlife Conservation organizations will match funds for each donation to make the $182-per-acre purchase.

Once the purchase is complete, the public will have access to the land. The purchase ensures that the site will not be developed in the future.

Pronghorn herd at Hart Mountain, Oregon August 2019
Pronghorn herd

This bit of the desert includes interesting natural and archaeological features. The salt flats and rimrock hillsides are home to mule deer, pronghorn, greater sage grouse, and burrowing owls. Migratory birds live in the sagebrush and greasewood habitats.

The Paisley Caves contain evidence of humans that dates back to over 14,000 years ago. The nearby Fort Rock Cave and Catlow Caves contain similar artifacts.

Catlow Caves artifacts, Oregon April 2019
Catlow Cave artifacts

If you donate to this site, you can visit “your” acreage. I haven’t visited the parcels I helped purchase yet, but I can’t wait to see them in person. It will bring me great joy to see how I made a difference, one acre at a time.

Burrowing owl pair, Malheur NWR, Oregon April 2017
Burrowing owl pair

New photo challenge

There is a new weekly photo challenge called “On the Hunt for Joy Challenge” and the topic this week is “Get Outside.” I thought this would be a perfect time to feature this conservation opportunity.

On the Hunt for Joy Challenge – Go Outside

Firehole Swimming Hole: LAPC

On your way to see Old Faithful, you may want to take the 2-mile long Firehole Canyon Drive to the “heated” Firehole swimming hole in the Firehole River.

You will drive past the 40-foot waterfall of Firehole Falls.

Firehole Falls in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming May 2018
Firehole Falls 2018

Just a little farther up the road, you’ll see the Firehole swimming area. The hot springs of Yellowstone National Park feed into the river and heat the chilly water to a comfortable temperature. There is another swimming area called Boiling River near the north entrance of the park.

Please read the regulations and find additional information about the Firehole and Boiling Springs swimming areas at Swim and Soak prior to your visit. Most of the park’s hot springs are extremely hot and soaking in them is prohibited. These are the only two places where swimming is allowed.

On our last few visits, we have been at Yellowstone in May and June. The Firehole has been closed to swimming because the water level was too high. It’s a nice place to take a short break when you are out exploring the park.

Firehole swimming hole, in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming 2011
Firehole swimming area 2011

You can access the area by this staircase when it’s open.

Firehole swimming area stairs in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming 2011
Firehole swimming hole stairway 2011

Swimming the river in the summer

When the water levels drop in the summer, you can drift the river beginning near the cliffs. Large signs warn you about the risks of swimming here so use common sense.

I took the following two pictures in July 1998. Note how the trees in these pictures show the effects of the fire of 1988. Compare them to the pictures above, taken in 2011 and 2018.

In nature, lightning causes fires that help thin overgrowth and release the seeds of certain types of pine. The photos in the beginning of this post show how a healthy forest is regrowing in Yellowstone.

Firehole swimming area in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming 2011
Firehole swimming hole 1998

This is what the Firehole swimming hole typically looks like on a warm summer day. I have many fond memories of swimming here with my family over the years. It is a special spot!

Firehole swimming hole in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming 1998
Firehole swimming hole 1998

Lens Artists Photo Challenge (LAPC) – Special Spot Shots

Favorite Pictures 2019: LAPC

It’s that time of year when you share some of your favorite pictures. As usual, I have a hard time narrowing it down. Please enjoy this selection of wild places, wildlife, history, and a pinch of art at the end.

A brilliant desert morning
A brilliant desert morning on my October birthday in Bend, Oregon
Magic in the wind, Nevada 29August2019
Magic in the wind in northern Nevada
Kiger Gorge, Oregon 28August2019
Kiger Gorge on Steens Mountain, Oregon
A rosy outlook
Roses in bloom in Hood River, Oregon
A swirling clematis growing in Culver, Oregon 20July2019
A swirling clematis growing in Culver, Oregon
Bird not for sale, robin nest in grape plant, Bend, Oregon 21July2019
Robin nesting in a grape plant at plant nursery in Bend, Oregon
furry & feathered, killdeer at Yellowstone National Park
Killdeer at Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
Close up of elk in velvet, Wyoming 2June2018
Close up of elk in velvet in Wyoming
Stepping back in time. Horse gear at the High Desert Museum, Bend, Oregon October 2019
Harnesses, bridles, a wagon, and other gear on display at the High Desert Museum in Bend, Oregon
Close up of the apothecary at Kam Wah Chung John Day, OR 26October2018
Close up of the apothecary at Kam Wah Chung in John Day, Oregon
Sod House Ranch, Malheur NWR, Oregon 9April2016
Sod House Ranch at Malheur NWR, Oregon
Pocket Barn Owl 31January2019
Pocket Barn Owl painted on a rock by Siobhan Sullivan

May the new year bring you wisdom, patience, and peace.

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge (LAPC) – Favorite Photos of 2019

Rainy view of otters: Pull up a seat challenge

Log bench shaded by tree at High Desert Museum, Bend Oregon October 2019

I had a rainy view of otters from this log bench shaded by a red-leaved tree. The otters at the High Desert Museum seem to have fun no matter what the weather is.

Rainy view of otters at High Desert Museum, Bend Oregon October 2019

Pull up a seat challenge

Covered in coldness poem: LAPC

Covered in coldness
Obscured from view
Layered in lightness
Dazzling and new

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge (LAPC) – Cold

Watching & waiting for clouds: LAPC

Watching & waiting for clouds

Turning the sky into a color collecting kaleidoscope

Watching & waiting for clouds over Bend, Oregon 2August2014

Expressing their thoughts with fiery punctuation

Orange clouds in sunrise over Bend, Oregon 12October2014

Or softening their words in pastel tones

Pastel sunrise over Bend, Oregon 13July2014

Watching & waiting for clouds

Painting the world with their bold thoughts

Colorful sunrise over Bend, Oregon 15October2015

While gazing at us through eyes lined in brilliance

Watching& waiting for clouds. Bend, Oregon 6January2018

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge (LAPC): Waiting

Teepee made from tules: Monchrome Monday

This teepee made from tules is a re-creation of what Native Americans of Central Oregon once used as a home.

Teepee made from tules, Bend, Oregon October 2019

Tule bulrushes (pictured below at Hosmer Lake) grow along the shores of lakes, ponds, and waterways.

This plant was used to make teepees, baskets, mats, bedding, footwear, and clothing. Tules were also used medicinally, as a source of food, and in making boats.

A black & white world – 4 haikus: LAPC

In a black & white world, everything is laid bare for all to see.

A lack of color
Highlights drama in the skies
In brilliant detail

A black & white world, A storm brewing near Sisters, Oregon August 2019
A storm brewing near Sisters, Oregon

A lack of color
Gives expression to patterns
Often unobserved

California quail near prickly poppy, Bend, Oregon May 2017
California quail near prickly poppy

A lack of color
Reminds us of distant times
Dimming yet dazzling

A black & white world, Shaniko, Oregon May 2018
A side street in Shaniko, Oregon

A lack of color
Brings fading autumn blossoms
Back to vivid life

Autumn hops blossoms, Bend, Oregon October 2019
Autumn hops blossoms

In a black & white world, the loss of color can often lead to seeing things in a new light.

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge (LAPC) – Monotone

With two you can… : LAPC

The Lens-Artists Photo Challenge this week is Seeing Double. Sometimes two heads are better than one.

With two you can share your wisdom.

With two you can share wisdom. Burrowing owls at High Desert Museum, Bend, Oregon 2016
Burrowing owls

With two you can have differences of opinion…

Ospreys nesting along the Deschutes River, Bend, Oregon 2018
Ospreys

But learn to work together in the right direction.

With two you can go in the same direction. American avocets near Malheur NWR, Oregon 2019
American avocets

With two you can brave the elements together.

With two you can brave the elements. Moss-covered hemlocks at Mt Bachelor, Oregon 2016
Mountain hemlock

With two you can reflect the best in each other…

Bitterroot flowers in bloom near Chimney Rock, Oregon 2016
Bitterroot

And learn to function as one.

Yellow bells near Malheur NWR, Oregon 2019
Yellow bells

Lens-artists Photo Challenge – Seeing Double

Stories within the layers of stone: LAPC

Sometimes I look at layered rock formations and imagine stories within the layers.

This formation at Fort Rock looks like the giant prow of a ship bursting through the cliffs.

Stories within the layers, Fort Rock 10 June 2016

A closer look shows where the water levels were before the ship drained the basin.

Rock formation at Fort Rock, Oregon 10 June 2016

This jumbled formation at Malheur NWR looks like it was made by a giant who was in a hurry.

Rock formation at Malheur NWR, Oregon 8April2016

But a closer look reveals the perfect spot for great horned owls to raise their young and protect the land.

Stories within the layers at Malheur NWR, Oregon 8April2016

This Painted Hills formation looks like an immense shark swimming through the hills causing a commotion.

Painted Hills, Oregon 25October2018

A closer look shows some of the magical green stones left in its wake.

Painted Hills, Oregon 25October2018

There are stories within the layers that you can learn if you just pause to look and listen.

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge – Layered

Scene from a museum: Monochrome Monday

A scene from a museum, Baker City, Oregon

This is a scene from a museum in Baker City, Oregon. I thought the rustic details came out much more clearly in black and white.

Monochrome Monday