05/26/14 - Lake Angeles Trail in Bloom

The trilliums are passing, but the Oregon grape is in bloom along with the pacific dogwood, tiarella and a few other flowers. This is the second wave, but it is coming right along. We've made it past the half way point to the lake, but we have a good bit of getting in shape ahead of us. Still, the high country beckons, so next time, excelsior.

We aren't sure what this is, but it's pretty.

Some latter day trilliums

Mahonia aka Oregon grape

Wild water at the crossing

More wild water

Pacific dogwood

... and more dogwood


... and more tiarella

New growth on the salal almost looks like flowers.

A sylvan collage

Keywords: flowers, high country, oregon, trillium

06/04/12 - The John Day Fossil Beds - Clarno

On our drive back north from Sisters, we followed the Deschutes River through some pretty remote country. There were a lot of grain silos and small towns and not a lot of gas stations. In fact, one of the liveliest looking towns we drove through was Shaniko which is technically a ghost town and uninhabited. (We aren't sure how this works.)

We took a side trip off the road to the Clarno unit of the John Day Fossil Beds, the smallest of the three parts of the beds. We crossed the John Day River and were soon greeted by a little picnic area and a handful of interpretive signs. We were surrounded by castles of stone, the eroding rock layers visible.

The fossil trail was short and led towards the base of the castle wall which rocks had fallen over the ages. They were mottled and marred by age. The little signs insisted that they were full of fossils. We looked, and we looked. Was that dark mark a leaf? Was that indentation a branch? It was hard to tell, but we soon realized that it was not the color of rock or its markings, but rather the texture that revealed ancient leaves and twigs and branches.

Once we had made this cognitive jump, we could see other fossils more quickly, and our walk grew more interesting. We almost brushed away one fossil leaf save that it was now part of the stone. We probably missed more fossils than we saw, but after the replicas at Sheeprock, seeing actual fossils in the living rock was quite a treat.

It really is in the middle of nowhere. One of the few other visitors was a local who just stopped to use the outhouse.

The roses were in bloom.

As were other plants.

The castle wall

Look at the tree like indentation. That's one of the fossils.

This is a typical rock, just chock full of fossils.

That's an obvious leaf fossil there, for small values of obvious.

Hah, we're getting good at this.

That could be a fossil, perhaps an ancient pigeon track, but more likely a leaf.

Fallen leaves, fallen quite long ago

Another bunch of fossils (like us)

Keywords: oregon

06/03/12 - Benham Falls

After climbing the lava butte, we decided to head a bit east and walk along the Deschutes River. This river runs north to south (or is it south to north) a long ways in this part of Oregon. Here, it is bounded on one side by hardened lava which rerouted the river when the volcano last erupted. On the other side is a pleasant, sylvan trail built on the old rail bed. (The rail bed was first repurposed as a highway, but the new highway left path for bikers and hikers.)

We crossed the river and followed the trail through the forest, following the river. Then we heard the falls. The peaceful river had turned into a violent torrent passing through a canyon of volcanic rock. It was quite a sight, and it is worth clicking on the image to see the video.

On our way back to sisters we had a nice lunch in Bend, a town with a good share of brew pubs and trendy shops. We enjoyed our meal at the Deschutes Brewery and even tried a couple of the brewery only beers. They were great, but extremely rich and really went with the chicken wings and ribs.

A view of the Deschutes River

A rock formation

More rocks

The river


The trail

The falls

Another view of the falls - Click for the movie

Pine cones

Keywords: oregon

06/02/12 - The Newberry National Volcano Monument

Before this trip, we had never realized just how volcanic Oregon is. The place is riddled with volcanoes, most of the inactive, at least during our visit. We drove south past Bend to the Newberry National Volcanic Monument. As our elevation increased south of town, the sky grew darker and the rain picked up a bit. Things did not look good, and then we pulled off the main road to the visitor center and discovered that it was closed. The side parking lot, which was open, had only one other car and a tour bus full of German tourists. The main lava field hiking trail was closed.

We were pondering plan B when a ranger popped out, apparently during a break in a training session, and suggested we try following the red road up the Lava Butte. We had noticed the butte towering darkly against a gray sky behind its wall of jagged and crumbled black lava. The red road was indeed red and while it was closed to cars, it was open to hikers, so up we went.

First, we crossed the lava fields, black masses of stone, once molten, and now hardened into lumps and clusters and sheets, then folded and crumpled. Here and there were lava bubbles and tubes, now broken. We climbed the butte, spiraling around it and rising with increasingly spectacular views of the lava fields and the more distant country side. We made our way to the parking lot at the top and enjoyed the vista.

On our way down, the sun emerged. Had the visitor center been open, we would not have been able to hike to the top of the lava butte safely. It was only our bad planning that had given us the opportunity and what a treat it was.

The lava butte glowering behind its fortress walls

The red road

Some pine cones

A distant red mountain, probably another lava butte or cinder cone

A distinctive mountain form

That's the closed lava trail down below. One door closes, another opens.

More lava fields.

The lava field

Some lava

A broken lava bubble

The viewing station - closed - at the top of the butte

Keywords: oregon

06/01/12 - The John Day Fossil Beds - Sheeprock

We were maybe 90 miles from the nearest gas station when we arrived at Sheeprock. Sheeprock does not look like a sheep. It is a pointy formation which was once noted for being covered with grazing sheep. We made our way to the fossil trail in the Blue Basin. That's not a color problem with our camera. The eroded rock formation we explored really was blue and even bluer up close than it appears in these pictures.

The trail followed a small stream which had carved the basin, so we crossed on steel bridges and saw all sorts of erosion patterns. It is this erosion that reveals the fossils. While we saw signs of fresh erosion, we didn't see any new fossils here. The park service people, we were told, gather them. There were, however, a number of replicas of fossils of an ancient turtle and a sabertooth tiger. To be honest, some of them did indeed look like ancient bones or turtle shell, but others we would have mistaken for mud and rock.

There was a longer trail around the Blue Basin, which supposedly has spectacular views, but we didn't have time to explore it. The John Day Fossil Beds were quite amazing, but also amazingly remote.

Sheeprock aka Mount Pointy

One of the fossil replicas

The trail

One of the many eroded formations

Blue mud

Blue canyons

Blue erosion

More blue

This is one of the many reasons they call it the Blue Basin.

It's like the Grand Canyon, only smaller, and blue.

Did we mention blue?

Keywords: oregon

05/31/12 - The John Day Fossil Beds - Painted Hills

It was a long drive from Sisters, where we were staying, to the John Day Fossil Beds. We had passed the last town a while back and had left the river valley for the wild lands beyond. The turn off for the Painted Hills section of the park was a simple farm road, but there was no mistaking when we arrived at the painted hills. Their bright colors were unmistakable with bands of red, ochre, orange and even green. The landscape was surreal, like something one might find on Mars. We explored a bit, climbing for a better view of the strange forms. Then, we set out for an even more remote part of the Park, miles farther down the road.

Stripes of color

This bird sure sounded like a lark.

More painted hills

If you look carefully, you can see that these stones once formed a lava tube, since eroded and collapsed.

Dramatic lighting

A view from our climb

Another overview

More hills of color

The crenelations we climbed

Waves of grass

Mineral deposits

Keywords: oregon

05/30/12 - Smith Rock and the Monkey Head

With all the rain coming in from the coast, we gave up on exploring the hills and concentrated on river valleys to the east. Smith Rock along the Crooked River is a popular rock climbing site and noted for a particularly challenging formation known as the Monkey's Head. Needless to say, we stuck to the hiking trails.

From the parking area overlook, the river valley almost looked like one of those train track models with its dramatic cliffs and the snaking river below. We could even hear a train whistle, but the actual train was miles away and not down by the river. The rock walls were fantastic in the sense of being something from a fantasy. The setting seemed an isolated world within a world, a secret canyon hidden from the flat land above.

The amazing view from the overlook

Canyon walls

More canyons

The sunradish, Oregon's unoffical state plant

Even more tantalyzing canyon walls

Rock climbers probably dream about this kind of thing

You can see the shadow of the Monkey's Head on the canyon wall here.

The Crooked River

Another view, right out of a technicolor western

Keywords: oregon

05/29/12 - Metolius Falls

We had hoped to go hiking along another river higher in the hills, but as we ascended to Santiam Pass the rain got worse and worse. We gave up and hiked along a piece of the Metolius River near Camp Sherman. There was plenty of water to go around, including an underground stream emptying into the river.

Here is where the water flows from an underground stream. (Click the image for a movie.)

The river looking peaceful

Another view

A bit more river action and one of the captured log islands

A larger island

The Wizard Creek fish hatchery

Another view of one of the river's sources

Oregon grape, in Oregon, of all things

One of the columbines

This was sort of a cross between a sunflower and a horseradish. We called it a sunradish.

More flowers - There were quite a few.

Keywords: oregon

05/28/12 - We Drove to Oregon

We haven't been putting much online because we drove to Oregon and back, and now we are recovering from all the excitement and exhaustion. We saw some amazing things and took lots of pictures, so check this space now and then.

Lovely Oregon - Yes, that's snow on the hillside.

Keywords: oregon

03/27/10 - Long Beach, Astoria and Environs

We recently took a trip to Long Beach in southern Washington, not far from the Oregon border. We took some pictures, ate some good food and learned a lot about the Columbia River, the Coast Guard and the Lewis and Clark expedition. Follow some of the links to the right to see some of our photos.

A glimpse of the beach

The long beach at Long Beach

A wilder day

Leadbetter Point State Park - a forest walk

Astoria, Oregon, from a pier

The lightship Columbia at the Columbia River Maritime Museum

The river inlets near Fort Clatsop

Trilliums at Fort Clatsop

The barbequed oysters of South Bend

Keywords: oregon, oysters, restaurants, beaches, trillium