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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.


Word(s) of the Week: Phloem and Xylem

Today’s words are:

[phloem] and [xylem]

Pronounced: FLOW-um, ZYE-lum

Sciency Definition: Phloem and xylem are two layers of tissues found within the stems of plants and trunks of trees.

Or I could have said: Plant guts.

What’s it do?  Phloem is made of tissues that transport sugars created during photosynthesis, feeding the plant from the top (where the leaves are) down to the roots. The xylem is made of tissues that transport water and minerals up from the root system. In trees, the xylem dies after one year, creating the rings you see in a tree’s cross-section.

Example sentenceA tree ain’t cryin’ without its XYLEM! Ha! Uh, sorry, I must have had some phloem stuck in my throat.

Can you use either of these words this week? Report back in the comments!

Cross-section of a flax stem by SuperManu, via Wiki. The xylem is #3, and the phloem is #4.

Weekend Photo Montage

I recently got to go home to the East Coast for the first time in a year and was overwhelmed with joy for seeing my family! My niece has grown so incredibly much in just one year, and she’s now becoming all kinds of independent. I was able to visit with two of my three brothers and spend a great deal of time with my Momma Bird, who is simply one of my favorite people in the world (and not just ‘cuz she tells me I’m awesome and makes me food. But that’s definitely part of it).

I hope you all are having a good February. Thanks for tuning in and here are some photos from my trip home! Happy Wednesday!

My niece at the National Aquarium's dolphin tank. This pic makes my heart soo happy.

Beech trees, my old friends.

Amazing Timescapes Film by Tom Lowe

This video short is a piece created by award-winning Tom Lowe and I thought it was so powerful I wanted to share it with you all. It’s comprised of beautiful time-lapse footage and an equally as beautiful soundtrack, looking at both the American Southwest and some of the people in it. It’s not completed yet, but you can check out for more footage and sign up to receive emails when more is available. There’s also a blog and a twitter to follow. Turn your volume up and enjoy!

Deciduous vs. Coniferous

Have you ever wondered why some trees have leaves while others have “needles”?

There are two basic systems for trees, and each has its own advantages and drawbacks. And of course, as can only be expected – there are exceptions to all the “rules!”

Two types of coniferous tree needles. (MPF via Wiki)

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