Mystery Photo Answer

Did you figure out last week’s mystery image?  Do you still have a few questions?

Before I reveal the answer, let me show you two more photos and give you a few more hints.

 

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Material Hint: Look closely at the mid-right section of this photo. See the (dangerous) piece of flair woven into the object? It should help you reel in the answer.

 

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Object Hint: Take a peak inside this object — it has a soft lining of moss and lichen.

A few other things to mention:

  • This was found after ranger fell a hazard tree near Benson Lake — Benson is located near Multnomah Falls, between the Historic Columbia River Highway and I-84.  There is a lake, a pond, a creek, and the Columbia River nearby.
  • It was hanging suspended from a cottonwood tree branch about 20 feet up.
  • The dimensions of the object are 3 1/2″ wide by  5 1/2″ long.

Ready for the answer?!

Okay, here it is:  . . . We do not know.

That’s right.  We do not know.  Well, not everything at least.  We know that it is a bird’s nest.  And we know that it is constructed of fishing line and lined with moss, lichen, and a strand of carpet.  What we are not 100% certain of is its maker.  Our first three initial guesses out of the birds who weave nests were wren, bushtit, or oriole.  Bushtit nests look more like long hanging socks.  And while some wrens weave nests, the wrens in the Gorge are not great weavers, and this nest is a piece of art.

Our best guess for the maker of this nest is the Bullock’s Oriole.  These are common at Benson; they often nest in cottonwood trees near streams and waterways; they are marvelous weavers of hanging basket nests; and they’ll use hair, twine, or grass for a nest (or perhaps fishing line!)  Our only hesitation is that the nest seems a bit small for this medium-sized bird.  A quick search reports that the average Bullock’s Oriole nest is 4 inches wide and 6 inches deep — our is 1/2″ shy of each of those.  So it may be a smaller Bullock’s nest.  Or it may not.

And this is how naturalist studies often go.  A definitive answer is not always possible.  More research is often required.  And not the kind that is found on the Web or in a book.  No, the best research here will be done at Benson State Recreation Area during the Bullock’s mating season.

So, I’ll see you at Benson between this coming May and mid-July!

 

 

Mystery Photo Challenge: What Is This?

A few of the Gorge rangers were out at Benson State Recreation Area yesterday and found this gem.

Questions for the readers:

  • What is this?
  • What is it made of?
  • Who made it?
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View from the front.

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Close-up of the material.

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Object with a large paperclip for a size reference.

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Profile.

 

Post your best guesses in the comments field below, and we’ll get back to you next week with the answer!

The Beach Is Back

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A sandy Gorge beach awaits you at Rooster Rock.

The beach is BACK . . .

. . . And it’s free of rubble

(Hey-la-hey-la the beach is back)

We see it wavin’ better come out on the double

(Hey-la-hey-la the beach is back)

The wind has died down and the sky is mostly blue

(Hey-la-hey-la the beach is back)

So come out now ’cause it’s quite a view

(Hey-la-hey-la the beach is back)

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Kiteboarders enjoy bounding from shore to shore in early season winds this year.

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Meanwhile, windsurfers take their chance to perform a river dance.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s true; the beach is back at Rooster Rock State Park.

As many of you know, Rooster Rock used to be the place to go for sandy river-level picnics, sandcastles, and swims—but things have changed over the years beginning with the floods of 1996 that swept massive amounts of beach downriver.  Today, a wide, rambling shoreline is a rarity.  And the perfect wind and weather window is now.  So, if you get a chance, take a drive out to exit 25, and enjoy the sand between your toes while it’s here and while it’s warm.

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Turkey Vultures are the custodians of the beach – -here, they clean up a carp carcass.

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A Great Blue Heron finds a lunchtime snack along the pole dikes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wondering what the beach used to look like?  Take a peek!

 

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Rooster Rock’s parking, c.1960.  Check out those cars!

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Rooster Rock’s beach, c.1960.  Note the clothing and hairstyles.

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Rooster Rock’s beach-goers, c.1960.  Imagine your family here!

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Hope to see you here soon!

 

Gifts to Vista House

Within a few weeks of beginning my new position in the Gorge, I received a phone call.  It was Ms. Julianna Guy calling from Bellingham, Washington.  Julianna had a special request.  She was 87 years old, and before she died, she wanted to see a plaque at Vista House recognizing her father.

Vista House on Crown Point_Grey Day

What if no one had donated land for all of us at Crown Point?

Julianna’s grandparents were Dr. and Mrs. Osmon Royal, and they had owned acreage at Crown Point (the site of Vista House) when they passed, in 1910 and 1912, respectively.  An only child, Julianna’s father, Osmon Royal II, inherited the land from his parents.

Soon after, the City of Portland approached Mr. Royal about donating the land, and on November 2, 1914, Osmon Royall II along with three others gave land at Crown Point, each for the sum of “One Dollar … in consideration of the public good and benefit … for park purposes …”  Osmon Royal II was just 22 when he made the commitment.

Although Julianna’s father passed when she was 10 years old, she said that her mother, Carolyn Merritt Royal, told her children of their father’s “donation and of the love they both had for Mt. Hood, Crown Point … and of their courtship on the hiking trails of the area.”

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Without Vista House at Crown Point, over a million visitors a year would miss out on this view of the Columbia River Gorge.

Today, nearly 100 years later, a plaque hangs in the recognition hall in the lower level of Vista House.  It recognizes a total of eight land donors:  November 2, 1914 — Lorens Lund, Mari Lund, Osmon Royal II, George B. Van Waters; January 16, 1915 — Sarah M. Cornell, Ivan R. Cornell, Edward C. Cornell, Maud Cornell.  On July 27, 2014, Julianna Guy and twenty-six of her and Osmon Royal II’s relatives will travel to Vista House to see the plaque and pay tribute to their ancestor.  And with the date nearing, I thought we all should, too.

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Nearly 100 years ago, eight individuals generously donated land for Vista House at Crown Point.

Countless individuals and groups have contributed to the Vista House that we see today.  Some, like Osmon Royal II, donated land.  Some, like Vista House visitors, have donated money.  Others, like the Friends of Vista House volunteers, donate time.  All are invaluable.

So the next time you are at Vista House, I encourage you to visit the recognition hall.  To stop, read names of the 320-plus donors, and consider what Vista House must have meant to each.  And, then, perhaps, what it means to you.


 

DO YOU KNOW RELATIVES of land donors Lorens Lund, Mari Lund, Osmon Royal II, George B. Van Waters, Sarah M. Cornell, Ivan R. Cornell, Edward C. Cornell, or Maud Cornell?  They are invited to meet the extended family of Osmon Royal II at Vista House on Sunday, July 27, 2014 between 10 and 11 AM (exact time TBD by the Royal family).

 


 

For the Love of Lupine: A Naturalist Study

The other day, I was driving through one of our Oregon State Parks, and a sea of purple flowers caught my eye.  Lupines.  A towering field of the beauties in full bloom.  I made a mental note to stop back with a camera.

Lupines_Field of in Early Evening

Hanging out in a field of lupines is the perfect, peaceful end to a day.

Early that evening, I drove by a second time.  I couldn’t help myself.  I leapt out of the truck and headed straight for the field.  An hour later, I emerged.  Late for dinner and grinning from ear to ear.  In 60 minutes, I traveled no more than 10 feet and took 100 photos.  I had a million questions.  I have been scouring my wildflower guides and the internet since, and rather than less, I now have even more.  Although I know far more about the lupine than when I set off to study them, I find now that I feel like I know less than ever.  So goes the journey of discovery.

Below is the condensed version of what I found:

Lupine, the Plant

Flowers_In Bloom Side View

Lupine in bloom – a side view. These plants were about a head shorter than I – so up to 4 feet tall.

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The view from above of a lupine in full bloom.

Flowers_Early Side View

Another side view of lupine – this one is early in its blooming stage. You can see the upper flowers have not yet opened.

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View from above of an early bloom.

 

Flower Arrangements

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When I looked more closely at the flowers, I found that some of the flowers spiraled up the stem – like a string of DNA!

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However, on other plants, the flowers were arranged in a circle like a wagon wheel with tiers stacked upon one another. Are these two the same species?

 

A Closer Look at Flowers

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Here is a close-up of the lupine flower – the top part is called the “banner petal.” Note how curved it is! The lower petals are two and called “wings.” Tucked inside the wings are two more petals forming the “keel.”

Flower_Up Close Inside

Here is an inside peek into the lupine flower – I learned by watching the bees, that a light pressure on the top of the wings causes the keel of the flower to pop out. The two petals that make up the keel protect the inner workings of the flower. Inside are the male and female parts of the flower – including the pollen that the bees are after.

 

Leaves

Leaf

The leaf of a flower is an important part of identification! Unfortunately, it is this leaf that is throwing off my ID. This flower is the size of a “broadleaf lupine” (few other lupines are as tall!) – but the leaves do not seem particularly broad or as round as described. A mystery.

 

Seeds

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The lupine seed!

Lupine_Seed in Dried Flower

Here you can see the banner petal, wings, and keel surrounding the seed. It gives an idea of how it all unravels!

Lupine_About to Seed

Going backwards, here is a flower just before seeding.

Lupine_Flowers in Various Stages of Seeding

One plant will have flowers in various stages of seeding.

 

Bumble Bees

Bumble Bee

While I stood among the lupines, a soft buzz filled the air. Bumble bees were everywhere!

Bumble Bee_Giant Pollen Baskets

Check out the GIANT pollen baskets on this bee!  The bees store pollen on the tibia of their hind legs (the lower portion of the last set of three sets they have.)

Bumble Bee_Working on Flower

After pushing open the wing petals, the bee dives in with its hind legs to gather pollen.

Bumble Bee_Leaving Flower

Then the bee pushes off and heads to the next flower. From my observations, the bees tend to start low on the plant and then spiral their way up making frequent stops. Check out the keel petals still poking out from the wing petals!

Beyond the Fall: A Latourell Loop Hike

Most of us, when we go to Latourell Falls, pull off the Historic Columbia River Highway into the parking lot, walk the 25 yards or so to the viewing point, snap a few photos, and then jump back in our vehicles to zoom off to the next waterfall.  I’ll admit, I’ve done this very thing numerous times. 

A few of us walk down to the base of the falls and then wind around under the Highway to find ourselves in some weird park we’ve never seen before and then scurry back to where our vehicles are parked.  I’ve done this, too.

Even fewer of us do what I (after rangering for nearly 7 years in the waterfall wonderland of Silver Falls) now highly recommend.  Which is this:  Park at Guy W. Talbot State Park on the north side of the Historic Columbia River Highway just west of Latourell Falls (follow a state park shield with a picnic table) – technically, Latourell Falls is IN Guy W. Talbot, but few know this or park here.  Use the very nice restroom if needed.  Follow the braided, paved path uphill, keeping right.

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Penny postcard of Latourell Falls. What has changed since this was taken?  (Besides the spelling?)

What you’re about to do is hike the Latourell Falls loop backwards.

Backwards, you ask?  Yes.  Here’s why.  If you’re willing to hike 2+ miles, it is worth it to see the upper and lower falls at Latourell – most of us, as I mentioned, only see the lower falls and miss out the upper.  Waterfalls, as we all know, are quite a treat.  So, for this (and I’d argue, all) waterfall hikes, do the work first – hike uphill in the forest first, and then, as you wind downhill, you’ll be rewarded with first the upper falls, and, finally, the lower falls.  A couple more hundred yards, and you’ll be back at your vehicle.  And a nice restroom.

I just hiked the loop backwards (having already completed frontwards) and confirmed, at least for myself, that it is the best direction.  And don’t worry, your forested hike up has a few things in store for you, too.  Take a look . . .

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Fairybells. Easily confused with a handful of other similar lilies.

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Larkspur – what a handsome flower!

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Piggy-back Plant is in the saxifrage family; one of the odd purple-brownish flowers in the Pacific Northwest forest.

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The Salmonberry flower is always an eye-catcher and typically one of the early bloomers.

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Pacific Bleeding Heart – about ready to seed!

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Our striking white Trillium flowers turn a gorgeous purple as they age.

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Fringe Cup, also from the Saxifrage family.

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Corydalis – somewhat similar in looks to a Bleeding Heart when you first learn wildflowers, these two blossom around the same time and can be find in similar habitats.

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Banana Slugs are everywhere once you train your eyes to see them. This one was about 4 inches long, but they can be over 9!

Happy Birthday, Vista House

Join us for Vista House’s Birthday celebration on Sunday, May 4th from 11 AM to 3 PM.  

A second, smaller celebration will take place on Monday, May 5th – the day of Vista House’s dedication.


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Dedicated on May 5, 1918 – Vista House is nearing 100 years old!

Recently, I visited the Pittock Mansion in Portland for the first time. A fascinating building, one of the things I was struck by was the similarity between Pittock Mansion and Vista House. Marble interior, sandstone exterior, mahogany woodwork . . . the buildings have the same sort of geometric lines and ornate flair. Undoubtedly, the same movers and shakers that were behind the Historic Columbia River Highway and Vista House were in the same circles as those in Portland. It’s a microcosmic era of architecture in a sense. And now, at both Pittock and Vista House, nearly 100 years later, the doors are open to all and visitors are traveling from afar, piling into these grand buildings, and standing for a moment in awe.

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People have been driving up to Vista House for 96 years – the cars have changed, but for the most part, the building has not!

The other morning, as I was putting on my park uniform, I was thinking about Pittock Mansion and Vista House. And instead of wondering what everyone must see and think as they enter the doors, I started to think about the Vista House building, itself. What has Vista House seen since its opening? How have things changed since 1918? As we all know, if you spend enough time with an inanimate object (today, typically, a vehicle, computer, or phone) eventually, you gain a “sense” of that object—it begins to take on a personality of its own. Buildings, especially those with a rich history, are no different. Spend enough time with Vista House—wash her floors, scrub her toilets, patch her leaks, paint her walls, and set her clock—hang out with her through howling winds, torrential downpours, and stunningly silent sunrises and sets—and you start to get a sense of Vista House.

So, as we prepare to celebrate her birthday on May 5, imagine with me. What has Vista House seen over the past 96 years? What was life like in 1918?

Our U.S. history course remind us that in 1918, WWI came to a close on the 11th hour of the 11th  day of the 11th  month—taking 16 million lives in four years.  The Flu Pandemic of 1918 took three times as many (50 million) in less than a year.  As for every-day life, we Vista House fans know that in 1918, cars were becoming increasingly common as were the roads they traveled upon—although trains remained the primary mode of transportation.

In 1918, people relied on telegraphs and letters for their main communication.  Telephones existed, but were expensive and unreliable.  Radio existed, but commercial broadcasts did not.  Americans spent their free time at roller rinks, pool and dance halls, movie theaters, and saloons.  Films were silent and about 20 minutes in length.

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How does Vista House and the area around it look different today?

In 1918, life expectancy was 53 years for men, 54 for women.  Women began stepping outside of the home, working as teachers and secretaries; some, for the war effort, took traditionally male jobs in factories.  Soon, women would be given the right to vote.  Sports fans could tell us that the Boston Red Sox won the World Series in 1918 and wouldn’t do so again until 2004.  In July of 1918, revolutionary Nelson Mandela, President of South Africa and recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, was born.  Mandela passed just last year.

Nearly 100 years.  I can only begin to imagine all that Vista House has seen since her doors first opened.  And all of the work that has been done to keep them open.

Here’s to Vista House—Happy Birthday; to you—“Thank you”; and to another 96-plus years of service for all of us.

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Happy 96th Birthday, Vista House!

Stop and ID the Flowers

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Twayblade – This subtle little guy is actually an orchid!

A couple of us rangers are attending the PCTA Trails Skills College in Cascade Locks this weekend and couldn’t help but to stop and ID the flowers.

Near Tooth Rock Trailhead:

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Not my first of the year, but the Calypso Orchid is always a treat to find!

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If you remember your mythology, Calypso was a beautiful nymph, hidden in the woods.

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Wild Ginger was the surprise wildflower of the day! This is one of my favorite flowers to hunt for in the spring. Gently lift the Wild Ginger leaves to find this purple-brown beauty.

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Wild Ginger was all over the place above Tooth Rock Trailhead – look for the heart-shaped leaves.

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Surprisingly, Vanilla Leaf was in bloom in a few spots. You can guess what this dried leaf might smell like.

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Twayblade is so small, it is easy to cruise right by. Found this one while marking a trail – and dropped everything for a quick photo!

Wild for Wildflowers

Rangers have been hiking the Gorge on their work and free time and capturing fantastic shots of wildflowers.  

Here’s the first round from the “Crown Point of the East”:

Rowena Crest and Tom McCall Preserve

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Columbia Desert Parsley

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Buttercup

Glacier Lily2_TMC_April 5 2014

Glacier Lily

Gold Star_TMC_April 5 2014

Gold Star

Grass Widow_TMC_April 5 2014

Grass Widow

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Lupine with Water Droplets

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Prairie Star

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Paintbrush

NW Balsamroot2_TMC_April 5 2014

Northwest Balsamroot

Lance-leaf Spring Beauty2_TMC_April 5 2014

Lance-leaf Spring Beauty

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Shooting Star

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Small-flowered Blue-eyed Mary

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Upland Larkspur

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Yellow Bell

The Secret Season

I still remember my first spring in Oregon.  I was surprised by (and called home to report about) three things: 

One, Oregonians mow their lawns if it has been rain-free for a mere few hours, and they do so in their rubber boots.  As kids, we all had to mow our corner lot back in Iowa.  And, according to Papa’s rules, you did not mow unless it had been dry for at least 24 hours – 48 was preferred.  “Papa!  They are mowing during something called a ‘sunbreak!’  And they’re wearing galoshes!”

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A “preseason” rainbow – from January 2014!

Two, the weather is completely unpredictable.  It will be sunny one moment, sprinkling the next, spitting hail for ten minutes, and then turn sunny again.  I had two near-bouts with hypothermia during spring longs runs out in the Willamette Valley countryside before I figured out that I had to dress in extreme layers.

Three, there are more rainbows (and double-rainbows) out here than I have ever seen in all the years of my life.  I remember when my college friend, Jack, came out for a visit.  We went to the Mt. Angel Abbey on a beautiful spring day.  It sprinkled, then it hailed, and then sprinkled again.  “Just wait,” I whispered, “This is rainbow weather.”  And, sure enough, a rainbow appeared as the sun broke through a hole in the clouds.

It was spring.  And, in the Valley (and the Gorge), spring means Rainbow Season.

Here are some recent beauties taken by rangers and friends in the Gorge area.

Rainbow at VH_March 17 2014

One of the benefits of cleaning Vista House – a double-rainbow from Crown Point.

Rainbow Over I-84

If you look carefully, this double-rainbow over I-84 E is reflected in on the roadway. (Have your passenger snap this!)

Rainbow Over the Sandy

Slice of heaven.  Double-rainbow over the Sandy River between Lewis and Clark and Dabney State Recreation Areas.

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