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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.

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Roaming along the coastline of Newport, Oregon

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

The Oregon Coast is one of the most magical places I’ve ever been. There’s something about the walls of mist rolling through big, black rock outcroppings, the bent pines standing up to the ocean winds, and the booming power of the waves hitting the sand that really gets me out of my head. It’s one place that I regularly escape to when living in the high desert makes me feel claustrophobic.

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Weekend photo montage

As per usual, this holiday season has been busy busy buzzing for me – working, sewing for the Etsy shop, sewing holiday gifts in lieu of buying presents – it’s been fun, but am I tired. Sunka has been a good, patient pup through this bonanza of activity, so I treated him to a hike in one of my favorite spots along the river. After 3 miles he was ready for more, but the cold wind and warm sun insisted that I immediately go home and nap. I got out the old Hipstamatic for fun. Happy solstice!

Naked snowberries, waiting for quail.

Patterns in the ice found in a river boulder pothole.

My faithful explorer friend.

An inordinate fear of lake monsters.

Recently I took a little jaunt to Lucky Lake in the Cascade mountains. The hike was a blood-pumping one mile, the lake was shallow (which means the water was refreshingly cool rather than omg-I-think-I’m-dying freezing like most of the lakes up here), and it was deserted. My hiking buddy and I got to swim, the dog ran around until he was exhausted, and I revealed to yet another human being my absurdly irrational fear of lake monsters. Read the rest of this entry

Blue Jay Quickie.

Hipstamatic photo and update quickie of the bad bad blue jay brothers. The Little Shits are huge and nearly ready for release. They molted some of their secondary feathers, which are critical for flying, so I’ve had to hold on to them longer than usual as those feathers grow back. It’s likely that spending several days on the ground without food and water caused malnourishment to the point that the feathers fell out. Fortunately they’re on their way back in!

Tonight will be their first night alone, outside; the nature center has a little wildflower barn covered in fine mesh where they can experience ‘outside’ without actually being outside. Needless to say, I’m nervous, but also excited to get some rest tonight. They’ve learned that squawking and bustling around their cage is a fun activity, especially at night when Momma is trying to sleep. While the secondaries that fell out are important for lengthy flight, the primaries they still have left allow them to experiment with shorter bursts of flight. They each took their first “long”-ish flight the other night, from the top of their cage to the large aloe plant on the other side of my wee apartment, a distance of approximately 15 or 20 feet. Gump went first, several times, egging Bubba on until Bubba went for it too. They were visibly excited, although their collective ability to land is still completely without grace and needs some work. Baby steps.

Trouble in a bird suit.

They got their first meal of mealworms, which Gump dove into right away. Bubba was unimpressed with crawling food but after watching his brother hork down several of the squirmy bugs, he gave it a tentative try. And then they were fighting over them, chasing each other in long hops around the hardwood floors – tap tap tap TAPTAPTAPTAP.. tap tap taptaptaptap TAP TAP SQUAWK tap tap tap.

At that point they were placed lovingly back into their cage because Momma was exhausted from staying up all night watching Pirates of the Caribbean and needed a nap. Today they got to try earthworms and were visibly confused/interested/unsure. To be fair, the worms are night-crawlers used for fishing and they’re huge. Each time the worm moved, the jays hopped and fluttered into the air, landing around the worm but not exactly running from it. Gump stood up straight, stretched his neck and cocked his head to the side. He peered at the worm with first his left eye, then turned his head to peer with his right eye. He tentatively grabbed the worm and then released it, flying up to land on a small ledge to regain some courage.

This went on for some time until I took up the worm and, apologetically, cut it into smaller pieces. This tactic was met with great enthusiasm – Gump immediately grabbed up on wiggling segment and flittered off with it to experience the fine food on his own. Bubba ran after, curious to see what Gump would do with it. Hopefully they’ll learn to take whole worms.

The things we do for those we love! :) Hope you all are having a wonderful Sunday!

Hipstamatic Scrub Jays!

I’m not at all much of a techie, but I finally joined the nerd movement and downloaded the Hipstamatic camera app on my little-used iPod. The schtick of this app is that it basically takes photos like an old Holga, messing with depth of field, color saturation, and format, and making all your photos look like they either 1) were taken in the 1960s or 2) went through your washing machine.

I’m a photographer-wannabe so I’ve been playing with the new app this morning. It’s kinda fun, don’t you think? It reminds me of flipping through my mother’s photo albums of when she was my age, traveling through Yosemite National Park with her true love.

They’re not exactly National Geographic quality, but at least you can see the babies getting a little bigger (and the eyebrow! I love the eyebrow!). Happy happy Wednesday!

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.

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.