Farewell to my little brother
From flying his food into his mouth as a toddler
To piloting F-15’s and commercial jets as an adult
My brother soared to great heights until
Cancer struck him down
May he use those wings he has always had
To fly to his next destination
Learn about the natural world by visiting Sunriver Nature Center
Sunriver Nature Center & Observatory is a great place to learn more about the natural world. This small interpretive center is on the west side of Sunriver, Oregon. It’s in an area that includes pine forests, meadows, and the meandering Deschutes River. The “edges” between these habitats are good places to see wildlife.
You can observe local wildlife by walking the trails on your own or going out with a guide. The Sam Osgood Nature Trail winds around the property. In the spring and summer keep an eye out for trumpeter swans. Guided bird walks take place every Saturday morning in the spring, summer, and fall. I have been on several of the walks. You’ll see waterfowl in the pond, raptors flying overhead, and songbirds along the walk. Great gray owls have been spotted in the area occasionally. You never know what you might spot on one of these walks.
There are also programs for families and kids. There are Kids Nature Camps for kids 4-10 years of age at certain times of the year. Family programs might include offerings such as Family Birding, Aquatic Explorations, and Eco Bike Tours. During the school year, staff travel to nearby schools to give presentations.
The Sunriver Nature Center building has live animals, diorama displays of local habitats, hands-on exhibits, and a collection of rocks with a focus on meteors. Their collection of live animals includes birds, reptiles, amphibians, and insects. Birds of prey are used in daily educational talks in the amphitheater.
This is a licensed rehabilitation center so there may be some birds not on public display. With the help of staff and volunteers, the birds get much needed medical attention. If possible, they are released back into the wild.
The Oregon Observatory
The Oregon Observatory offers spectacular views of daytime and night skies. There are opportunities to see galaxies, nebulae, and planets and their moons. The observatory has a large collection of telescopes available. Kids can learn about astronomy through visits, classes, and through community outreach. Look at these amazing photos from the observatory! Hours vary – click here for the most current information.
A few sights to see at the Sunriver Nature Center
One of my favorite places to hang out is near the bird feeders. You’ll see lots of birds, and an occasional squirrel, taking advantage of a free meal.
Here’s a room where reptiles, amphibians, and insects can be viewed. It’s called the Creature Cave.
Birds of prey can be seen up close and personal in their enclosures. A building was constructed recently to house and exercise the Center’s raptors.
Check their website to find out about current events and to register for camps and walks. Staff and volunteers take some of their wildlife ambassadors (like the great horned owl pictured below) to events in the area. Sunriver Nature Center is a non-profit that depends upon donations. Click here to donate.
Pretty purple pansies.
Looking up while looking back
These images from Fort Rock, Oregon focus on looking up. In this photo you see what a town from the early 1900’s may have looked like. Buildings were moved to this site to create the Fort Rock Valley Historical Society Homestead Village Museum. Each building is decorated with artifacts so it’s easy to imagine yourself stepping back in time.
Pioneers were promised rich and fertile land. That was not the reality in this arid high desert. Many settlers moved away after unsuccessfully trying to cultivate the land.
Yet some stayed and learned to love the land. In this photo a sage thrasher perches on a shovel next to a re-created pioneer garden. Listen to the thrasher’s beautiful song here.
Fort Rock is a prominent land feature that settlers looked forward to seeing. Some pioneers who settled there cannot imagine living anywhere else. The ever-changing skies make even those of us there for a short visit look up in wonder.
Lens-Artists Photo Challenge – Look Up
This type of hydrangea has interesting flowers and foliage. This shrub blooms over a long period of time in the summer. The white flowers fade to pink in the fall. The large leaves turn maroon, orange-bronze, or red in autumn.
Flower of the Day – Pink hydrangea
Ancient trees direct
An ensemble of moist clouds
Over the desert
Lens-Artists Photo Challenge – Path
The antelope bitterbrush appears to be reaching for the sky in this photograph. This plant gets its common name due to the fact that it is so important to wildlife. Deer, elk, moose, mountain sheep, and pronghorn (antelope) browse on its small three-toothed leaves and use its dense growth for cover. It’s also important for deer mice, kangaroo rats, sage grouse, and Lewis’ woodpecker.
I have seen plants over twelve feet tall but in my yard, they only reach a height of about three feet. My “landscapers” love to prune them. In certain parts of this plant’s range, bitterbrush can comprise up to 91% of mule deer’s diet in September.
A sculpted garden of outdoor bonsai plants
I saw these outdoor bonsai trees on the High Desert Garden Tour in Bend, Oregon this summer. I marveled at the artistry that went into sculpting these plants. Though I’ve seen bonsai trees in the past, I was pleasantly surprised to see tree species that grow locally sculpted into small replicas of full size trees. You can see why they are referred to as “living art.”
Lens-Artists Photo Challenge – Small is beautiful
Sorry, that’s the brakes
My cat, Motor, has to put the brakes on for a while. He was outside a few days ago and when he came in, something was not quite right with one of his front legs. The vet x-rayed him and we were told he had a broken leg.
We don’t know how he did it, but he is not a happy cat right now. Dogs sometimes get to wear the “cone of shame” for a while but cats just have to learn to deal with it.
He keeps asking me if he can go out. No, Motor, not for a while. You get to wear that colorful splint for four to six weeks.
I have been a little distracted lately making sure he doesn’t fall off of things. Why does he have to jump to the highest spots?
Here he is during happier times on my lap with our other cat and not-so-tiny dog.
Motor celebrated his 16th birthday recently. I hope he recovers well and is able to celebrate a few more.
Flower border in full bloom
It’s been a while since I walked one of my favorite short trails in Bend, Oregon . The flower border along the Mill A Loop trail is spectacular right now. Even my dog had to stop and smell the roses.
Prickly pear cactus in my garden
The prickly pear cactus in my garden are highlighted in the summer with bright yellow flowers and in the winter with layers of snow. The sharp needles make their presence known throughout the year.
A lucky sighting of a red fox
We saw this red fox in Yellowstone National Park in June of this year. This is the Rocky Mountain subspecies, Vulpes vulpes macroura.
The red fox is not seen often in the park because they are nocturnal and they blend into their preferred habitats along the edges of meadows and forests. The females nurse their kits during late spring and this may have been a female out looking for food. Foxes usually use dens created by other animals.
We were fortunate to see a female with kits on another spring visit to Yellowstone. Litter size averages four to eight kits. Vixens gives birth in late March to April. Both parents care for the young through their first few months of their life.
When wolves were introduced into the park, many coyotes were eliminated by the wolves and this may have caused an increase in the number of foxes. Coyotes prefer sagebrush and open meadow habitat and hunt more by day so they don’t compete as much with foxes.
The red fox is the smallest dog-like mammal in the park. The males weigh 11-12 pounds and the females weigh 10 pounds. They average 43 inches in length. Most foxes live 3-7 years but in Yellowstone can live up to 11 years.
Foxes can have a wide variety of coat colors–from red to black. Their thick tail aids in balance and they use them to signal to other foxes. Foxes wrap their tail around themselves in cold weather to help them stay warm.
Red foxes have a varied diet. They feed on voles, mice, rabbits, birds, amphibians, eggs, carrion, and some plants. Animals that prey on foxes include cougars, wolves, and coyotes.
Video of a flying red fox
Here’s a National Geographic video of a fox hunting in the winter. They have extremely good hearing and listen for animals beneath the snow. When they sense prey, they pounce or “fly” to catch it under the snow. Flying Red Fox
Lens-artists Photo Challenge – Action
Reaching for the sky in the Ascent exhibit
Sometimes you may have looked up at rock climbers on Smith Rock (near Terrebonne , Oregon) and wondered what drives them in their quest to reach the top. This new exhibit helps answer that question. Ascent: Climbing Explored, looks at the history, evolution, and culture of climbing and mountaineering in the West. What began as scientific exploration, grew into an activity people take part in for sheer joy of the experience.
One of the first things you see in the exhibit is a journal entry from John Muir. Muir taught people about conserving wild places through his eloquent writings. In another section of the exhibit, the artwork of Thomas Moran is featured. The paintings he created of Yellowstone in 1871 helped to establish the world’s first national park. The artwork and writings of early explorers were the “social media” of their day. Artist Sarah Uhl, also featured in this exhibit, presents landscape art that is a continuation of themes first presented by 19th century artists. James Lavadour, of the Walla Walla tribe, did the bold bright paintings of mountains near the exhibit entrance. His paintings, and the clean lines of the exhibit, bring a modern look to the displays.
A bit of history related to climbing
Many of the objects displayed in Ascent are on loan from the Mazamas. The Mazamas climbing club was founded in 1894 in Portland. William Gladstone Steel was one of the driving forces of the organization. From the start, they have played an active role in conservation. The Mazamas club was also ahead of the times in allowing women to enroll as full members. As Steel said, “No climb is complete without them.”
One item featured in the exhibit belongs to the company founded by rock climber Yvon Chouinard. In 1970, Chouinard purchased pre-made Rugby shirts and affixed his brand name onto them. You can see one of these shirts near the van scene. He later had great success with Patagonia, the company he created.
There are two large display cases that show historical and current gear used in mountain climbing. Some equipment has changed little, while other items, such as footwear and climbing rope, have changed radically. One of the most significant changes was in the materials used in shoes. Since the 1980s, they have become significantly lighter.
Different techniques of climbing
Climbers and mountaineers are always looking for new ways to see the mountains. In the 1920s, methods to reach the summit included using metal spikes, known as pitons, into the rock. One of the hands-on displays shows protective gear climbers use to anchor themselves to the rocks. While pitons and other equipment help make the sport safer, some prefer to “clean climb” without hammering things into the surface they climb over. The bolts cause damage to the rock from repeated placement and removal.
In the 1970s, climbers lives revolved around climbing. They preferred to free climb, using only their hands and feet. We called these athletic climbers “rock jocks” when I was in college. Climbers were often referred to as “dirtbags”. Dirtbags often lived in vans, such as the one in the exhibit, and some experimented with drugs.
The drive towards ascent
Climbers are driven to reach summits despite the risks. As one climber quoted in the exhibit said, “It breathes life into me.” Climbers climb for many reasons. The physical and mental challenges are just a part of the experience.
Certain locations, such as Yosemite and Smith Rock, are particularly challenging and draw in climbers from all over the world. The Yosemite Decimal System (YDS) rates the difficulty level on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being the easiest level. By the 1950s, this scale was further refined with the addition of decimal points and letters.
The first ascent of Smith Rock was made in 1935 by Central Oregon resident Johnny Bissell. In the 1950s, national attention came to Smith Rock after Madras residents Jack Watts, and brothers Jim and Jerry Ramsey, established climbing lines on the peak. A 650-acre state park was created at Smith Rock in 1960 to conserve the site. Though many considered the various routes “climbed out” by the late 1970s, Alan Watts, Jack Watts’ son, started developing top down routes. At the time, they were considered the hardest routes in the world with a YDS of 5.14a. One of Watts’ routes was featured in 1986 on the cover of Mountain, an influential climbing magazine, and climbers soon flocked to Smith Rock.
Rock climbers come in all shapes and sizes and one display features information on adaptive climbing. Climber Mark Wellman was the first paraplegic to summit El Capitan at Yosemite. Gear has been modified over the years to meet the needs of climbers’ specific needs.
The next generations to ascend
A large climbing wall for kids is a popular part of the Ascent exhibit. The wall is for future rock climbers between the ages of 5-12. The kids I saw were thrilled to climb up the blue wall studded with colorful hand- and footholds. It was almost as if they were climbing for the sheer joy of the experience.
This is a reprint of a July 2018 article in High Desert Voices, a newsletter by and for volunteers and staff at the High Desert Museum in Bend, Oregon. To see more issues of the newsletter, go here.
This exhibit at the High Desert Museum runs from April 28 – September 9, 2018
Colorful Flowers on the High Desert Garden Tour
Here are some pictures from the High Desert Garden Tour located in Bend, Oregon. Lots of colorful gardens out there!
There were gardens with winding paths and comfortable places to sit to take in the scenery.
You can get plenty of ideas on what colorful plants to plant in borders on this garden tour.
Or maybe you want potted plants on wheels that can be moved to where you can see them best.
After looking at all of those colorful plants on a hot July day, it made me want to jump into a swimming hole. Maybe I could have taken a quick dip in this backyard pond on the tour. 😉
If you want to see the featured gardens on the garden tour next year, check local nurseries in Bend for tickets for this July event. The tickets sell out fast! Next year will be the 25th year of this annual event.
Lens-Artists Photo Challenge – Colorful
These colorful ice plant blossoms brighten up my garden in the spring and summer months. This a drought resistant plant that the bees love. The small succulent leaves are interesting too. Ice plants are a low-maintenance ground cover plant that does well in areas with hot, dry summers.
Cabin scene from the past
Here’s a cabin scene in Torrey, Utah. It looks as though this old building could tell many interesting stories. Lots of drama in those walls…
Tuesday Photo Challenge at Dutch Goes the Photo! – Scene
Emerging from the earth
The Spadefoot Toad Queen
The ground trembled beneath a stunted sagebrush shrub. The Toad Queen emerged from her burrow to a changed world. Clouds of smoke hung over the land from a wildfire. The spadefoot toad gazed at this new world through golden slitted eyes. Sand tumbled down her spotted back.
A purple larkspur plant stood near her burrow. Its head of flowers tilted toward the earth, wilted from the blistering heat.
The Toad Queen heard a meadowlark singing nearby. The song stopped abruptly, interrupted by a fit of coughing.
“What happened while I slept in my burrow?” She glanced around at the desert landscape.
She and the other spadefoot toads had pulled moisture from the soil as they slept underground and it helped them survive. Other creatures had not been so lucky. The carcass of a sage sparrow fledgling lay near her burrow. A few feathers clung to the tiny dried out body.
“Wind and fire are taking the water from the land,” her mate said. He had emerged from his own burrow. The toad shook the sand off the black spades on his hind feet.
“The sun is drying everything,” she said. “We must call for help.”
A call for help
Her mate called the spadefoot toads. His loud croaking call carried far over the sagebrush steppe. Other toads joined in and soon the air was filled with a chorus of croaks.
Over their heads, dark clouds collected in the smoky skies. Thunderheads formed. The patter of rainfall on the earth woke other spadefoot toads. They emerged from their burrows and joined in the chorus. The air was alive with the energy created by their song.
Rain fell, dousing the fires. White smoke rose from the burning trees and shrubs doused by the rain. Hours later, the fire was out.
“Thank you,” the Toad Queen said. She smiled at the group of spadefoot toads gathered around her.
The meadowlark alighted on a greasewood shrub near the Toad Queen. His melodic song of gratitude echoed across the landscape.
Renewal and change was coming to this land, but it would take time.
FOWC – Energy
Hard and soft patterns in water
To me, this image of patterns in water looks like the chiseled profile of a white-frosted creature from another world. The shape is echoed in the shoreline across the stream.
This image looks like an alien planet where worlds float on pale greenish-gold islands anchored by strong strands of green. Once the worlds are full, they detach from their moorings and float away.
Lens-Artists Photo Challenge – Patterns
McCoin Orchard apple blossoms
I saw these apple blossoms in the McCoin Orchard near the trailhead for the Gray Butte trail. This orchard, near Terrebonne, Oregon, was originally planted in the late 1880s and it was rescued by range specialists 100 years later.
There’s a nice hike here with some spectacular views of the country. The close up views of spring flowers are great as well.
Pretty but invasive
These honeysuckle blossoms are pretty but they are on an introduced plant that has been so successful it’s considered invasive in some parts of the country. These tall shrubs are growing along the Deschutes River and they produce a lot of berries later in the summer.
A harsh landscape with soft edges
There are many soft sights to see in Yellowstone National Park’s harsh environments. Soft and steaming mist drifts over Sunset Lake. Soft puffy clouds float over rounded hills in the distance.
The colors along the shorelines blend softly into one another giving the lake its name. To me, it is a mystical sort of place that has many stories to tell.
Lens-Artists Photo Challenge – Soft
Red Hot plants in the garden
Sometimes the common name of a plant really fits. Here is one of those plants. The red hot poker plant is native to Africa and it grows well in the high desert of Oregon. It is a drought tolerant perennial that has both herbaceous and evergreen species. They are also known as torch lilies.
Red hot plants can grow to a height of five feet and their colorful flowers attract hummingbirds, butterflies, and bees. Orioles are also attracted to the nectar. Here’s a post from Mountain Valley Growers showing orioles busy sipping nectar. This plant is deer and rabbit resistant.
The Better Homes and Garden site refers to this plant as “an eye-catching burst of color that is both whimsical and architectural.” Yes, that description fits the red hot poker well. 🙂
Up close and personal with bison
I was glad I was inside my car when I saw these bison coming right at us. Some people think they are calm and tame like a domestic cow. They’re not! Bulls weigh up to 2,000 pounds and cows weigh up to 1,000 pounds. Since they can run up to 30 miles per hour, it’s best to keep your distance.
Here’s another post on them plus a link to more information. Bison Celebrating 4th.
Travel with Intent Photo Challenge – Action
Stopping at Shaniko
I visited the ghost town of Shaniko, Oregon this spring. The town is right on U.S. Route 97 and I’ve driven by it many times but didn’t really know much about it. The 1910 census showed its population at its peak level of 600 people. By 1911, the population plummeted. It’s called a ghost town today but according to the 2010 census, 36 people still call it home. They originally named the town Cross Hollows.
The first thing I wanted to know was where the current name came from. In 1867 Oregon received a grant to build a military road from The Dalles to Fort Boise, Idaho. They discovered gold in Canyon City and thousands of miners relied on small towns nearby for supplies. Settlers traveled to areas that had previously been hard to access. They grabbed up large parcels of land under the Homestead Act of 1862. One of the settlers was August Scherneckau, and he established a post office in the area. Members of the local Wasco tribe pronounced his name SHAN-i-koh, and the name stuck. As someone with an unusual name, I can relate to that!
Boom to bust
By 1900, Shaniko was the center of production of wool, wheat, cattle, and sheep in eastern Oregon. The Columbia Southern Railway rail line, originating from Biggs Junction 55 miles to the north, reached Shaniko in 1900 and they shipped products from here throughout the region. Incoming supplies included farm equipment, building materials, fence posts, and coal and wood fuel. In 1901 it was one of the largest shipping centers in the world.
The soil was not good for farming but it worked well for cattle and sheep. Shaniko was known as the “Wool Capital of the World.” It marketed 4 million pounds of wool in 1901. In 1903 the Moody Warehouse Company recorded sales totaling over a million dollars in a single day!
In 1911 the Oregon Trunk Railroad, created by railroad magnates Edward Harriman and James J. Hill, began operating. It linked Portland to Bend and fewer trains traveled on the route to Shaniko. Business in Shaniko began to decline. Fires destroyed much of the business district in 1911. The Interstate Commerce Commission stopped rail service to Shaniko in 1943.
Shaniko’s recent past
The Shaniko Historic District was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1982. Buildings include the Shaniko Hotel (designated in 1979), the Sage Museum, Shaniko School, City Hall and Jail, Wedding Chapel, and the Wool Warehouse.
If you visit, look for some of the interesting old doors like the one above. There’s another one on my post The Watcher Within.
Oregon businessman Robert B. Pamplin, Jr. purchased the hotel and a few businesses in 2000. He planned to renovate historic buildings and develop new properties. However, in 2008 there was a dispute related to access to water to serve the hotel and café. He closed those businesses, tried to sell them for $3.2 Million, and later decided they were no longer for sale (as of 2016).
Life goes on in Shaniko…
- The Shaniko Preservation Guild maintains several historic buildings and operates a small museum. When I was there with my group, one of them found an old article about one of her relatives who lived there tacked onto the wall. Cool!
- The Shaniko Restoration Group works to restore historic buildings.
- If you peek inside the Shaniko Livery Barn, you’ll see a collection of antique cars.
- Hundreds of people attend Shaniko Days in early August.
- There is an annual Wool Gathering in mid-September.
- Musical events include the Tygh Valley Bluegrass Jamboree in late September and the Ragtime and Vintage Music Festival in early October.
I had fun watching these yellow-bellied marmot pups playing while their mom kept a watchful eye on them. A mother’s work is never done!
Dutch Goes the Photo! Tuesday Photo Challenge – Play
A dwarf mini with big attitude
We used to have two miniature horses. One, Scooby Doo pictured on the left, was a dwarf mini. He stood at only 27″ at the withers. His pedigreed companion, Calypso Blue pictured on the right, stood at 32″. Calypso was calm and even-tempered. Scooby had a lot of personality and let you know it.
When it was time to move, the farrier who trimmed our horse’s hooves took Scooby. He had worked with a lot of horses in his days and could see that Scooby was a big personality in a small package.
Travel with Intent – Dwarf
About page story
Yes, that pronghorn is kind of bossy, but I hope you’ll take a minute to look at my “new and improved” About page. Thanks for visiting!
Bend Branches About page
Three guys cooling their jets
When it’s as hot as it’s been (102 degrees here yesterday!) I wish I could do a little cooling off by being an otter. Here are three cooling otters in motion.
They always look like they’re having so much fun.
Can you imagine sliding down an embankment and cooling off in a clear mountain stream?
I’m also including a short video of three North American river otters at play at the High Desert Museum in Bend, Oregon. You can hear fellow volunteer Jonny Goddard, AKA Otter Brother, in the background “directing” them.
Lens-Artists Photo Challenge – Cooling