Visiting Sunriver Nature Center

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.

Visiting Sunriver Nature Center, Sunriver, Oregon

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

Sunriver Nature Center, Sunriver, Oregon

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.

Visiting Sunriver Nature Center, Sunriver, Oregon

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.

Visiting Sunriver Nature Center, Sunriver, Oregon

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.

Visiting Sunriver Nature Center, Sunriver, Oregon

Looking up at Fort Rock: LAPC

Looking up while looking back

Fort Rock Look Up 20May2015

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.

Fort Rock Look Up 9June2016

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.

Fort Rock, Oregon

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 Look Up 4 10June2016

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

Antelope bitterbrush in bloom: Friday Flowers

Bitterbrush blossoms

Bitterbrush Blossoms in Central Oregon 9May2018

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.

Mule Deer browsing on bitterbrush & sagebrush 9March2018I 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.

Friday Flowers

Outdoor Bonsai: Artful Miniatures LAPC

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

Motor’s brakes: My broken cat

Sorry, that’s the brakes

Motor's brakes (or breaks) 10September2018

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.

Motor's brakes (or breaks) 10September2018

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.

Motor's brakes (or breaks) 10September2018

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?

Motor Kitty Tesla October2017

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.

Ascent: Climbing Explored Exhibit

Reaching for the sky in the Ascent exhibit

Ascent exhibit High Desert Museum, Bend Oregon 2018

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.

Ascent exhibit High Desert Museum, Bend Oregon 2018

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.

Ascent exhibit High Desert Museum, Bend Oregon 2018

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.

Ascent exhibit High Desert Museum, Bend Oregon 2018

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.

Ascent exhibit High Desert Museum, Bend Oregon 2018

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.

Ascent exhibit High Desert Museum, Bend Oregon 2018

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

Ascent6 15May2018A 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

 

High Desert Garden Tour: Colorful

Colorful Flowers on the High Desert Garden Tour

Bend Garden Tour July 2017 & 2018 Bend, Oregon

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.

Bend Garden Tour 6 21July2017

Or maybe you want potted plants on wheels that can be moved to where you can see them best.

Bend Garden Tour 7 21July2017

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

 

The Toad Queen: FOWC

Emerging from the earth

Spadefoot toad emerging from the earth 4May2018

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.

GreatBasinSpadefootToad 4May2018She 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.

Steens mountain tour, western meadowlark eastern Oregon 6April2018The 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

Apple blossoms: Friday Flowers

McCoin Orchard apple blossoms

Apple blossoms at the McCoin Orchard at Gray Nutte, Oregon 9may2018

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.

Red Hot Poker: Friday Flowers

Red Hot plants in the garden

Red Hot Poker plants in Bend, Oregon 25 June 2018

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 Poker plants in Bend, Oregon 25 June 2018

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. 🙂

 

Visiting the ghost of a town – Shaniko, Oregon

Stopping at Shaniko

Shaniko, Oregon 16May2018I 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!

Shaniko Hotel, Oregon 16May2018

Shaniko Hotel

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.

Shaniko Stagecoach Station, Oregon 16May2018

Shaniko Stagecoach Station

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 door, Oregon 16May2018

One of the many interesting doors in Shaniko

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.

Shaniko, Oregon 16May2018

Colorful signs posted around town tell the history of Shaniko

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).

Shaniko Museum, Oregon 16May2018

Shaniko Museum

Life goes on in Shaniko…

Cooling Otters: Lens-Artists Photo Challenge

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.

Three Otters Cooling at the High Desert Museum, Bend, Oregon 19March2018

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?

Otters Cooling 2 27September2016I’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

Green Worlds Beneath Me: Photo Challenge – Wonder

Tiny worlds beneath me

I often have to remind myself to look down and notice the worlds beneath me when I’m taking pictures. Here’s a picture of aquatic plants being combed by the waves and highlighted by the sun.

Green worlds beneath me. Aquatic plants at Yellowstone National Park, WY 2June2018

Here’s a picture of a lichen “forest”  growing on weathered wood. Worlds of wonder exist in landscapes large and small.

Worlds beneath me - a lichen forest on weathered wood 21June2018

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge – Wonder

The Watcher Within: Thursday Doors

Doors with eyes

I took this picture on a trip to the ghost town of Shaniko, Oregon and didn’t notice the watcher within until I edited the photo. I thought it was something inside but realized later it was a reflection of the Shaniko Hotel across the street. It looked like some alien creature out of a Star Wars movie watching me. I found some interesting doors in Shaniko but apparently they were keeping an eye on me.

The Watcher Within doors at Shaniko, Oregon 16May2018

Thursday Doors

 

Clarno Palisades Hikes

Stepping back in time at Clarno Palisades

Arch at Clarno Palisades 15May2018

Arch at Clarno Palisades

In May I visited the Clarno Palisades area, 18 miles west of Fossil, Oregon in the Clarno Unit of John Day Fossil Beds National Monument. This unit gets light usage.  We only saw a few other visitors.

The palisades at Clarno Palisades 15May2018

The palisades

There are three short hikes near the covered picnic area. The Geologic Time Trail winds along ¼ mile to connect you to the other two trails. Interpretive signs note the changes of the last 50 million years. The colorful small signs explaining the geologic history looked brand new. The Trail of Fossils takes you up a ¼ mile loop trail on the hillside and shows you fossils that left their imprints in large boulders.

An almost-tropical forest covered this region 44 million years ago. 120 inches of rainfall per year, compared to about 9 inches today. Bananas used to grow here! Bear-like predators, four-toed primitive horses, and other creatures once roamed this land. The Clarno Arch Trail takes you up ¼ mile trail (yup, another ¼ mile one!) to the base of a cliff with a natural arch cut into the stone. This trail has a 200 foot elevation gain. If you hike all the trails out and back, it adds up to 1.25 miles.

Spring shrubs and flowers

When I was there in mid-May, wildflowers were in full bloom. The rose bush featured in one of my earlier posts—Wild Rose: Friday Flowers—was near where we parked. The “trunk” of that shrub looked like a formidable weapon!  We saw orange globemallow blooming along the trail.  Large netleaf hackberry shrubs grew on the slopes near the cliffs.

Canyon wren at Clarno Palisades 15May2018

Canyon wren

Birds of the cliffs

There were a handful of birds out that day. Canyon wrens serenaded us with their descending song. A prairie falcon, American kestrel, and golden eagle flew near the cliffs protecting their nest sites. A California quail called Chi-ca-go in the background. Swallows flitted overhead.

Fossilized logs forming a "T" at Clarno Palisades 15May2018

Fossilized logs forming a “T” on the cliff face

Logs and lichens

We spotted several fossilized leaves and branches along the Trail of Fossils. When we went up the Clarno Arch Trail, we saw large fossilized logs sticking out of the cliff face. The colorful lichens covering the rocks attracted my attention as usual.

Colorful lichens at Clarno Palisades 8 15May2018

Colorful lichens on the rocks

Stairway to the arch

The columns of the Palisades were formed by volcanic lahars 54-40 millions years ago. They are stately and beautiful but the stair step-like structure beneath the arch really got my attention. Water must have pooled up in each “step” before falling.

Steps beneath the arch at Clarno Palisades 15May2018

Steps beneath the arch

When we were there with Bend Parks and Recreation, it was a cool day. I imagine it gets hot in the summer here so plan your visit with that in mind.

The palisades at Clarno Palisades 15May2018

The palisades

Other attractions nearby

I highly recommend visiting the Thomas Condon Paleontology Center, an hour and a half southeast of the Palisades. Read my post on that amazing place here.

Here is a Trail Guide for hikes in the Clarno, Painted Hills, and Sheep Rocks Units of the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument.

An ombre monolith filled with fossils at Clarno Palisades 15May2018

An ombre monolith filled with fossils

Layers at Three Creek Lake

Looking for layers

I was just thinking about a kayaking trip last fall to Three Creek Lake near Sisters, Oregon.  When I was looking for photos of layers for the Travel at Wit’s End challenge, that trip came to mind.

Yes, there were obvious layers in the rock faces bordering the lake, but there were other layers as well.

  • Green reflections of trees in the lake.
  • Snow covering parts of the scenery.
  • Reflections in the lake highlighted by snow.
  • New growth in a forest bordered with an edge of sedges.
  • Rocks in volcanic-hued rainbows of color.
  • Waves lapping at the shore.

Sometimes you need to look a little harder to find nature’s hidden layers.

Travel At Wit’s End – Layers

Baby bunny: Tuesday Photo Challenge

New life in the form of a baby bunny

Last night my dog was shaking with excitement looking at something right outside the sliding glass door. A baby bunny! However, it wasn’t just any rabbit. This one was a tiny “kit” that was just a few inches long.

Baby bunny in Bend 17June2018

I have seen jackrabbits and cottontails in the shrub-steppe High Desert habitat where I live. This could be a cottontail or maybe even a pygmy rabbit. It’s hard to tell when they are young.

Yes, the background is not the best for this shot. But sometimes nature comes to you and you have to take advantage of it and grab your camera. The sprinkler head is just over an inch across so this gives you an idea how small it was.

Needless to say, my dog did not get to go outside for a while. The bunny went back to its burrow which is probably under our porch. Life goes on for this little cutie.

Tuesday Photo Challenge – New

All-time Favorites: WPC

The theme for the very last Weekly Photo Challenge was All-time Favorites. I’m late getting these up because my computer was in the shop and I was traveling. So without further ado…

North American River Otter 24Sept2016

North American river otter

All-time Favorite Critters

I have a lot of photos of animals so it’s hard to choose favorites but here goes. Here’s a handful for you.

All-time Favorite Landscapes & plants

This was even harder to narrow down! Here’s another handful.

All-time Favorite History Photos

And here’s a dash of history for good measure. Hope you enjoy them!

Final Weekly Photo Challenge – All-Time Favorites