Blog Archives

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!

 

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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.

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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!)

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

Under the Cover of Darkness: Star Party at Rooster Rock

While many of us were wrapping up our yard work, our barbeques, and our walks under Saturday evening’s setting sun, volunteers from Rose City Astronomers and Vancouver Sidewalk Astronomers were just coming out to play.

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The night kicked off with a gorgeous sunset over the Columbia River.

March 22 marked Rooster Rock State Park’s first Star Party event for 2014.  Organized by OMSI in partnership with Oregon State Parks, Rooster Rocks holds seven “Star Parties” throughout the year between the spring and fall equinox.  This past weekend, over 200 visitors joined volunteer astronomers along the Columbia River to look at constellations, nebulas, and Jupiter with its moons.  It was a spectacular evening.

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Poised for darkness, telescopes lined the bank of the Columbia River.

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A photographer sets up her camera to capture the magic of the evening.

Never been to a Star Party?  You still have six more chances!

Here are some tips and things to know:

  • Know before you go.  Star Parties may be cancelled due to cloud cover and/or high winds.  Call the OMSI hotline to confirm:  503.797.4000.  Press #3, then #5.
  • Arrive around dusk and well before dark.  This will give you a chance to find parking, restrooms, and a place to lay out your blanket.
  • Bundle up.  Warm days can be deceiving; bring a winter coat, hat, gloves, and maybe a hot drink!
  • Bring stargazing gear.  A flashlight with a red lens (or red cellophane) is a must for walking around in the dark – white light ruins your (and everyone’s) night vision.  Personal telescopes and binoculars are welcome.  Star charts are also a nice addition – paper copies are available at the event.
  • Expect to pay $5 for parking.  While the event is free, Oregon State Parks still requires a parking permit.  $5 for a daily, $30 for an annual, $50 for a 2-year.
  • Begin with the talk!  Just after sunset, you can join us for a presentation and get lowdown the event and the current viewing highlights.
  • Visit each ‘scope.  Volunteer astronomers bring their telescopes and their knowledge to Star Parties, and they love to share.  It’s simple.  Walk up to a person with a telescope, ask what they’re looking at, what it is, and if you can take a peek.   Never seen where stars are born?  This is your chance.
  • Lay back, and enjoy!  Star Parties are a great chance to relax with friends and family.  Grab a star chart, get out your red flashlight, lay back, and map out the night sky.  Find the Big Dipper, the North Star, your zodiac sign, or make up your own constellations.  Contemplate the stars, the Columbia River, the Gorge, and the Universe.

 

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Even the naked eye could catch the beauty of “Thor’s Crown” resting below the Orion constellation.

Upcoming 2014 Star Parties

At Rooster Rock & Stub Stewart State Parks

  • April 19
  • May 10
  • June 2
  • July 12
  • August 12
  • September 20

Special events at Milo McIver State Park

  • April 14 (Lunar Eclipse – Milo McIver ONLY)
  • October 8 (Lunar Eclipse – Milo McIver ONLY)

 

We hope to see you there!

 

For more information and other events, visit the OMSI website:  https://www.omsi.edu/starparties

 

 

 

Slight Breeze from the East

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Differences in winter temperatures cause winds to rip down from the east in the Gorge.

Well, it is a little breezy here in the Gorge this week.  Trees are falling over, limbs are ripping through the air, litter is playing tag, rangers are trapped in their vehicles at Vista House, visitors are finding (and losing) their center of gravity, and newscasters are having a heyday.

http://www.kgw.com/news/High-winds-head-to-East-County-Columbia-Gorge-241676571.html

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High winds kick up waves, and the spray can make rainbows. Is there a pot of gold in the Columbia?

It’s that time of year.  Bitterly cold, dense air from the deserts in the east is ripping down the Gorge towards the warmer ocean and replacing the warmer, less dense air in Portland.  The narrow passage between two different climates makes the Gorge the perfect place for this kind of gap wind.  Wind can be fun (I simply love it), but extreme wind is reason for extreme caution.

Check here for the weather at Vista House, Crown Point:   http://www.wrh.noaa.gov/mesowest/getobext.php?wfo=pqr&sid=D6193&num=60&raw=0&banner=off  (NOTE:  1/24/2014:  Our wind gauge is not currently reading correctly; actual wind speeds and gusts are HIGHER.)

Our Rooster Rock webcam shows conditions on the Columbia River:  http://www.pdxgreen.com/RoosterCam.aspx

Heading out into the wind?  Here are a few things to think about . . .

Secure Your Stuff

There are two fates for the loose objects outside during high winds.  They either a) become lost or ruined or b) become projectiles injuring people, pets, or property.  Neither one of these is good.

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Rangers are dedicating hours to cleaning up after this week’s high winds. Tree at Rooster Rock.

Watch Your Face

You know that fancy backpack you’re wearing for your Gorge hikes?  The one with hip belt and chest strap?  It is out to get you.  Big gusts turn loose straps into whips and these lashes are killer on the eye.  Make sure they’re securely tucked or tied off.

Choose Your Vehicle (and Your Route)

High profile vehicles get blown around in the wind; a big gust can push you sideways, or, if your vehicle is really tall, tip you over.  Driving I-84 in high wind is stressful.  If possible, choose the slower, more scenic Historic Columbia River Highway.  And watch out for debris.  It is more than Parks and ODOT can keep up with.

What's RIGHT with this picture?

What’s RIGHT with this picture?

Park Thoughtfully

Nearly every park vehicle in the Gorge has a funky door feature—this comes from high winds ripping the door out of a driver or passenger’s hands and flying forward.  Park with the front of your car pointing INTO the wind.  And if you need to use your feet to force your way out of your car, you should probably just stay inside.  Even if you get out, you’re asking for a tumble.  It’s not cute.  And it will be recorded.

And with that, it is time for me to jump in my car and blow east!

Escape to Vista House!

The holiday season is fully upon us.  Shopping, traveling, cooking, eating, working, rushing, rushing, rushing, repeat.  It seems to happen every year no matter how we plan.  The holidays are simply busy.  But even amidst the frenzy, there are moments that make us pause and reflect.  Watching the tutu-clad toddler twirling down the aisle of the store.  Finding the perfect gift for a loved one.  Listening to carolers sing songs from our childhood.  Catching a whiff of a favorite holiday food.  Coming upon a breathtaking view . . .

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Vista House from Portland Women’s Forum.

This morning, one of the rangers swung up the Historic Columbia River Highway for the daily run and took these fantastic photos of Vista House.  “It’s sunny up there!” she exclaimed.  We all stood in silence, admiring the scene captured on her smartphone:  Clouds swirling around the basalt prominence of Crown Point, the tip of Vista House rising just above, sun reflecting off the green and amber opalescent glass windows.  We’ve all visited Portland Women’s Forum enough to be able to transport ourselves to the very spot where the photo was taken.  We could imagine the 3″ x 2″ screen filling our view.  We paused and, for a moment, soaked in the stunning beauty of the Gorge.

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The view from above changes the tone of a gray, foggy Oregon day.

So, this holiday season, we wish you all a moment or two like this.  A flash of the magic that is the meaning of the times.  And, if you find that the opportunity doesn’t find you, go find it!

NOTE:  Although our campgrounds are closed for the season, our parks and trails are open.  In the west end of the Gorge, restrooms can be found at the following Oregon State Parks:  Rooster Rock, Lewis and Clark, Dabney, Latourell, Bridal Veil, and Dalton Point.  Vista House will be open this winter on weekends, weather permitting; closed on holidays and weekdays.

Safe travels and happy holidays from all of us in the Columbia River Gorge!