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Roaming Across America

roam: verb - To move about without purpose or plan; to wander.

Whew!

A whole month ago, I made the great journey across the country back to my home state of Maryland from Oregon. Six amazing years on the west coast have made a lasting impression upon my heart and spirit, but I sure have missed my family. It’s so great to be home for the holidays: seeing the nieces dress up for Halloween, gathering recipes for a grand Thanksgiving, and pondering Christmas crafts.

For a roaming naturalist, this was a huge, exciting adventure!

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If you’ve never driven across the country, the Great West has a Great Treat – high speed limits! I was hauling a trailer, however, and was restricted to driving about 50mph the whole way to avoid burning out the engine. I just  put-put-putted my way across Idaho, Wyoming, and Utah, but driving slow gave me a great chance to enjoy the landscape.

One place that stuck out during the travel was Medicine Bow National Forest in the southeastern corner of Wyoming. Just driving by it was amazing – I can’t imagine how beautiful it must be on the inside! Well, okay, I kind of can, because there’s Google.

This pic is similar to some of the rock formations visible from the highway as you drive past the forest. (Thanks to Sylvia from Colorado Lifestyle for the amazing photo!) Those boulders are so enticing! It was hard not to pull over and check it out.

via Colorado Lifestyle blog – check it out by clicking on the pic

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Sunka sang songs after taking doggie sedatives to make the 7-day trip less stressful. Poor pup!

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My buffalo buddy kept us company too.

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This is pretty much how we both felt at the end of every day.

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Almost out of Ohio – check out those cool cacti.

I averaged about 400 miles per day, which wasn’t too bad with a neurotic dog, three snakes, and a thousand pound trailer. I feel very blessed to have been able to cross this spectacular country not just once, but twice now.

In Nebraska, I camped at a wonderful park and serenely drifted off to sleep with the sound of rain pattering on the tent – a sound that I think many campers can attest to being quite peaceful. On the other side of that, however, the camper also knows deep down that the rain could patter peacefully for a little while, or turn into a raging thunderstorm.

Well, guess what happened!

After several hours of intense thunder and lightening, a park ranger came through each campground and advised everyone to evacuate to the park’s lodge because the park was under tornado threat. That was pretty scary, but the storm passed with no tornado and we all eventually got back to sleep. What an adventure!! Now I know much more about the Midwest in autumn than I ever had…

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Sunka lounging at our beautiful Nebraska campsite.

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Discovered this lovely deceased dragonfly on our evening walk.

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Lovely morning fog on the Youghiogheny River.

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Ahhh, a beautiful sunrise to welcome me home to the East Coast!

While I will definitely miss Oregon, this is the first year in six that I will get to experience a real autumn! Woo hoo! It’s been so long. I’ve also already ordered a winter tree finder book, and a leaf book because, well, we have a lot of leaves over here that I don’t remember. Like, a lot. There’s also already a list of things I want to plant come spring because the growing season here is tremendous compared to the high desert.

Thanks for reading! :) Have you ever driven across the country? What was your experience like? I’d love to know, so put it in the comments!

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Roaming at Smith Rock State Park

roam: verb - To move about without purpose or plan; to wander.

On a blazing hot Sunday several weeks ago, I visited one of the most amazing spots in Central Oregon, a state park called Smith Rock State Park. It’s a haven for rock climbers, as tall cliff faces shoot into the air at steep angles and varying sizes. For hikers like me, it’s a spot of sagebrush steppe with meandering trails and an array of plants and critters that can keep one occupied all day. It was a beautiful day in the rocks and always an education: as I sat on a sun-baked rock enjoying my lunch, I glanced down to see that I had chosen a spot which ants had chosen  long before me. I’d disturbed their home, and they were haphazardly scurrying across both of my feet and up my legs. I leapt into the air, squawking and dancing and stomping like a madwoman. It’s a shame I don’t have it on video. After apologizing profusely for killing several of their tribesmen in my surprise and panic, I offered them a hunk of my lunch. They examined it and, after deeming it unworthy, returned to their subterranean home. Apparently ants don’t care for fried fish.

One of my favorite things about dogs is that they are happy to visit just about anywhere – desert, beach, forest, whatever. They are eternally up for adventure.

The beautiful carvings of beetles.

I have decided that the doggie backpack is an essential item for the owner of high-energy dogs. A few hot hours carrying his own water around and he’ll sleep for the rest of the day.

Smith Rock’s craggy peaks and thirsty slopes.

The sun shines through waxy Oregon Grape leaves and the air is thick with the perfume of the plant’s tiny yellow flowers. Drunk on nectar, bees float heavily from bush to bush.

This is the first time I’ve gotten to see Curl Leaf Mountain Mahogany in bloom in person! The flowers are utterly tiny and easy to miss, but upon close inspection they’re actually quite beautiful and fragrant. This is a tree of serious drought tolerance, a very cool species.

Another shot of the Mountain Mahogany.

Roaming at Steelhead Falls, Oregon

roam: verb - To move about without purpose or plan; to wander.

This is Steelhead Falls, one of my top favorite places in Central Oregon to visit in the summer. The dog can run for hours off leash, splashing into the cold river when he gets too hot, and besides the incredible waterfall and swimming hole, you can spend the whole day geeking out on plants. In the Great Basin, some of the most beautiful places (at least to me) are those where the steppe and water meet. Rivers are the lushest places around, and just 20 feet from the bank of this river, the sagebrush and juniper take over. There are tall, ancient cliffs here where ravens and bald eagles nest in safety. On this day, an osprey circled us multiple times before landing in a tree a little ways off. Central Oregon is good fishin’, for mankind and wildlife.

Weekend Photo Montage

        

Roaming in the Painted Hills, Oregon

roam: verb - To move about without purpose or plan; to wander.

I love to roam.

I recently made the trip out to a spectacular spot in Oregon’s “high desert” region called the Painted Hills. The Painted Hills are one of three spots in the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument, which includes the Sheep Rock Unit loaded with fossils and an AWESOME fossil museum, complete with a glass wall where you can watch paleontologists chipping away at the remains of some million-year-old-something. *drool*

The Painted Hills were an ancient floodplain home to small, ancestral horse species and other early mammals. Erosion has wiped away the more recent layers of soil to reveal this amalgam of clay and minerals, which, true to its name, looks like it was painted with a big red brush.

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Weekly Photo Wunderbar!

I apologize for being totally MIA these last few days my finely feathered friends, but if you can believe it, that coyote article took all of the writing zest write out of me. I also spent the day touring backyard farms and two evenings at a conference about agriculture’s impacts on the environment – lots to fill my brain space!

It’s Saturday, and that means it’s time for the Weekly Photo Wunderbar. This is one of my favorite spots to visit in the Cascade range.

Weekly Photo Wunderbar.

Each week for the next while, I’ll be featuring nature photos, either from my own collection or from fellow bloggers/nature enthusiasts. Interested in being featured? Leave me a comment!

I’ll start today with this photo of Todd Lake and Mt. Bachelor  in Oregon from my own collection.