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.
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.
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.
If you follow the trail farther, you’ll come to two narrow ladders that take you up to a slickrock sandstone plateau.
Follow the rock cairns marking the trail…
to get stunning 360-degree views of the Canyonlands.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
You can access the area by this staircase when it’s open.
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.
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!
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.
May the new year bring you wisdom, patience, and peace.
Sometimes you get lucky when you’re taking candids of critters. This little burrowing owl gave me a knowing wink right when I took its picture.
We visited the Caswell Sculpture Garden in Troutdale, Oregon a couple days ago. This sculpture of two great blue herons is right by the entrance.
I noticed a movement near the willows right behind this sculpture. I spied a real great blue heron!
This ground squirrel didn’t want me to know where it was hiding its cache. It had so much in its cheek pouches it could barely walk.
These spotted pigs look content in this shot, but one of the piglets had just escaped its enclosure. I scooped it up and returned it to its family.
There are lots of opportunities to take candids of critters right on our property. This morning I was out walking my dogs and I noticed this orange tabby cat. He blended in so well with the plants around him that my dogs didn’t even notice him.
I took this candid shot of my dog, Shelby, relaxing on the window seat. See her ball right next to her head? She is dreaming of when she can play fetch again. 😀
On a recent trip revisiting Steens Mountain, I thought back on what this place looked like decades before. When I got home, I browsed my photos and realized several pictures I took on this trip were taken in nearly the exact same spot.
Places seem to me to have some kind of memory, in that they activate memory in those who look at them.
W. G. Sebald
Some places call you back to them. While revisiting Steens Mountain this summer, I realized it is one of those places for me.
Here are a few “then” and “now” pictures I took of the Steens.
“We’re almost there,” Pa said. He pointed
towards a low sagebrush-covered hill. “It’s just over that rise.”
“How many times have you said that, Pa?” I
said to myself. I shaded my eyes and looked at the dismal landscape. Dusty
sagebrush and clumps of dry grass for as far as I could see.
The year is 1853 and my name is Lizzie. My
family is heading west along the Oregon Trail. It’s not a trail so I don’t know
why they call it that. Some people call it Emigrant Road, but I don’t think
that’s right either. It’s a rough meandering pathway to a new life, that’s what
it is. That’s why so many of us are making this journey, no matter what the
We have traveled nearly 1,600 miles so
far. On a good day we make 20 miles but on most days we travel 10-15. It’s been
five months since we left Missouri.
We came here because of the promise of
free land. If Pa was a single man, he could claim 320 acres; since he’s
married, he and Ma can claim 640 acres. Was it worth it? I sure hope so. Based
on what I’ve seen so far, I don’t think this is “The Land of Milk and Honey”
that everyone said it was.
History of Trail
Many of the nearly half a million emigrants that migrated to the Oregon Country in the years 1840-1870 could have written this account. In the nineteenth century, Great Britain, France, Russia, and Spain claimed parts of this region. Each country eventually gave up its claims. The Oregon Treaty of 1846 ended the joint occupancy with the British and set new boundaries for Oregon. As a result of this action, the U.S. government encouraged settlement of the newly acquired land.
Sensationalized accounts of the “Promised Land” caused the single largest voluntary migration in America. Artists such as Albert Bierstadt presented glamorized versions of the journey along the Trail.
For many of the settlers, the Willamette Valley was the final destination. To read about another wagon route, located near Sisters, Oregon, see my post Santiam Wagon Road.
In 1861, they discovered gold in the Blue Mountains in northeastern Oregon. The gold rush brought even more people to the state. Miners established mining camps in several locations. In 1894, gold was discovered on Flagstaff Hill and a mine was built there. By 1897, three quarters of Oregon’s gold—worth millions in today’s dollars—came from Baker County. One nugget weighed seven pounds!
National Historic Oregon Trail Interpretive Center
Historic Oregon Trail Interpretive Center, located atop
Flagstaff Hill east of Baker City, introduces visitors to this fascinating era
in American history. Exhibits at the Interpretive Center focus on different aspects
of the journey west, including the experiences of pioneers and native peoples.
Approximately 300 miles of the Oregon
Trail still exist. Much of the 2,170 mile trail has disappeared because of erosion
and development. When traveling on a dirt road, motorized vehicles create two
distinct ruts. In contrast to that, wagons pulled by teams of animals create a
trench-like swale, or wide depression. Hooves pack down the middle of the road.
At the Interpretive Center, you can hike or drive to areas where you can view
actual remnants of the trail.
Covered wagons – Inside and Out
Covered wagons are a prominent part of the
Interpretive Center, both inside and outside. Teams of oxen, mules, or horses
pulled the wagons. Mule teams cost the most to buy. Though mules could be
stubborn, they had remarkable endurance and surefootedness.
Wagon makers often painted wagons blue, with red wheels and undercarriage. The wheels shrank and separated in the heat so the wagon trains went through creeks and rivers to soak them back to size. The emigrants sometimes painted the canvas covers with oil paint for waterproofing.
Every inch of space was used in the wagons. For example, false floors and pockets sewn into the canvases held extra supplies in the interior. They strapped other supplies to the outside or carried them in saddle bags. However, many of the supplies were abandoned along the way because of excess weight. Many wagons went without brakes since this too would add weight. They slowed wagons going downhill with rough locks, wheel shoes, or a tree tied to the wheels.
Emigrants used the wagons for sick rooms,
birthing rooms, and shelter from storms.
Most did not travel inside the wagons on the trail. The rough roads led
to a bone-wrenching ride, so the emigrants walked alongside their wagons. When
the landscape allowed it, wagons traveled abreast to avoid each other’s dust.
Life and Death on the Trail
If several wagons were traveling together,
they often formed a circle at the end of the day’s travel. The area inside the
wagon circle served as a corral for livestock. Exhausted travelers slept in
tents and bedrolls outside of the circle. The day started when the sun rose.
After breakfast and gathering of the livestock, the caravan would travel for
five to six hours. The travelers had limited food supplies so meals might
include such delicacies as Velvet Tail Rattlesnake, Blue Beaver Tail Soup, and
Sometimes the wagon trains camped at noontime
resting spots, but most of the time they pressed onward for several more hours. Women and children collected firewood and men
hunted for game along the way. As evening approached, they would encircle the
wagons again. Evenings were a time for chores, such as repairing wagons and
mending clothing, but also a time to tell stories, sing, and dance.
Quarrels along the trail were common due
to events like wagons getting stuck in the mud or runaway livestock. They took
thousands of livestock animals on the trail for the settlers. The emigrants
lost many because of predators, disease, and accidents.
Many emigrants died on this perilous journey. Some called the trail a “two thousand mile long graveyard.” One estimate suggests there were 10-15 graves per mile from Missouri to Oregon. Provisions gave out and hired hands abandoned their employers. The weak and the sick gave up hope. Cholera caused death within hours and it took the lives of many on the trail. Crossing rivers was one of the most dangerous parts of the journey. Records show that ten percent of the travelers perished.
Sharing the Trail
Emigrants shared the Oregon Trail with
trappers, traders, and native people. The Umatilla, Walla Walla, Cayuse, Nez
Perce, and other tribes lived in the area near the Interpretive Center. As
emigrants displaced local people, conflicts such as the Cayuse War of 1847
arose. The old ways of living off the land and using it for hunting and vision
quests had passed. It forced Native Americans to deal with sweeping changes.
Both emigrants and natives learned to
engage in the business of trading. Native people traded horses, local game, and
salmon for cattle, beads, clothing, powder, and lead. Emigrants learned to
differentiate the tribes by their clothing, hairstyles, beadwork, and basketry.
Communication often consisted of hand signals and a few common words.
Visiting the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center
After decades of planning, the National
Historic Oregon Trail Interpretive Center opened in 1992 to commemorate this
period of history. The 23,000-square foot building sits atop Flagstaff Hill
where visitors get a panoramic view of the surrounding territory. The Interpretive
Center includes exhibits, a theater, a café, and a gift store. There are living
history interpretive talks, lectures, and special events throughout the year. Regular
demonstrations include topics such as flint knapping, Dutch oven cooking,
blacksmithing, and black powder firearms. For more information see this brochure.
A network of trails leads you to living history encampments and to ruts left by wagons passing along the trail. You may catch glimpses of eagles flying overhead or pronghorn browsing in the sagebrush. In the spring and summer, wildflowers such as lupine, Indian paintbrush, and buttercups splash the desert with color. Visitors can take part in regular guided nature hikes.
Flagstaff Hill marked where the Great American Desert ended on the journey west. For the emigrants that made it this far, the lush vegetation and abundant game near the hill amazed them. This site symbolized all they had worked so hard for and many returned to the site years later. The Interpretive Center presents the tragedies encountered along the trail, and the joy many felt when they reached their destination.
I dug through my archives to find pictures of this mellow fellow we once had as a pet. Calypso Blue was a miniature horse and he measured 32 inches at his withers. He was one of the mellowest horses I ever met. His companion, Scooby, pictured here, was a lot more feisty.
I think I took these photos on the day we bought him. It took a LONG time to brush out that mane and tail.
It’s hard to tell in these photos, but underneath all that mane he had piercing blue eyes. We sold him when we moved. This mellow fellow went to a home with a little girl who showered him with affection.
Catlow Cave artifacts, including sagebrush bark sandals, grass & bark baskets, and arrowheads & spearpoints, are displayed at the Harney County Historical Society Museum in Burns, Oregon. There are a couple pointed sticks that may be “knitting needles”, used to knit the sagebrush bark together.
These cave artifacts are between 9,000 to 10,000 years old. The Northern Paiute people lived in this region. There are several caves in the Catlow Valley cliffs. Petroglyphs adorn some of the rock faces.
Wouldn’t you like to have a river winding across your floor
like this one in the entry hall?
How about a cedar dugout canoe? Some were up to 50 feet in
The Columbia Gorge Discovery Center & Museum is in The Dalles along the Historic Columbia River Highway. Built in the 1900s, this road was the first scenic highway in the U.S. The highway winds through areas with forests, rocky cliffs, and dramatic waterfalls. We were planning to visit Multnomah Falls that day, but it was inaccessible due to a fire.
Creatures from the Ice Age
So we ended up here and a Columbian mammoth trumpeted with joy when he saw us. We stayed out of the way of his 16-foot long tusks. We found another interesting critter close by.
Did you know that there were once dire wolves in Oregon? Me neither. They were the largest canid to have lived, weighing as much as 150 pounds. Sometimes creatures portrayed in stories, such as Game of Thrones, actually existed.
From cultures that date back >10,000 years ago
Next we walked into a gallery of Native American artifacts. This center features artifacts from Wasco, Northern Paiute, and Warm Springs tribes.
Beadwork and basketry always impresses me. It would take so much patience to create something like that, something I don’t always have.
In another part of the center, the practice of fishing the Columbia River off of wooden platforms is highlighted. Native Americans fished this river for thousands of years but the runs of salmon have decreased dramatically due to dams and warming water temperatures.
Lewis & Clark’s travels
Several displays referred to the explorations of Lewis and Clark.
They passed through the Gorge traveling west in October of 1805 and on their way back home in April of 1806.
Members of the Lewis and Clark party traded with the natives for needed supplies and information on routes. See those strings of beads hanging from the display? Beads had great value as an item to trade at the time.
Naturalists were eager to explore this new land and this
display shows some of the winged wonders they encountered. That’s a lot of
As the United States expanded its territories in the 1840s and 1850s, more settlers moved toward the West. Lt. John C. Frémont explored the Oregon Trail, camping at The Dalles in 1843. The Army helped map potential wagon routes through Oregon.
Settling into Wasco County
Thousands of settlers soon made their way to Oregon and towns sprung up to support them.
The right saddle
Businesses catering to the settler’s needs prospered. Those are some nice saddles!
The Chinese in mid- to late-1800s Oregon
The railroad expanded into Oregon. Chinese immigrants helped construct railways and worked in the gold mines. They brought elements of their culture with them.
Though some of their customs and products, such as fireworks, were appreciated by the largely European American residents, Chinese often encountered prejudice.
This exhibit detailed archaeological work on the Chinatown site that once existed in The Dalles. After the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, it was more difficult for them to stay in the United States. Most moved away from The Dalles by the late 1920s.
There were a couple things we didn’t see on this visit.
The Columbia Gorge Discovery Center put a lot of time into restoring native habitat on the 54-acre campus. There is a short nature walk with interpretive markers around the buildings.
They have a Raptor Interpretive Program that uses live falcons, hawks, eagles, and owls. They have presentations for visitors on days that vary with the season.
The Columbia Gorge Discovery Center was a nice place for an unplanned stop. Lots to see and do there. We were there in October and there weren’t many other visitors. The fall leaves outside the building greeted us in bright shades of gold.
There’s a great fountain just outside the front door. I leave you with the calming sounds of its waters.
I saw many plants I’m familiar with on this tour. Some I knew the names of, others I was like, “Uh… what was your name again?” Fortunately, the plants were labeled or the person whose garden it was could tell you.