Archive for the ‘Oregon’ Category

Reflections from a Journey Through Time in Oregon

Monday, September 22nd, 2014

Last Monday Kim and I traveled 300 miles round trip from Bend, Oregon, through the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument. One of the richest and most varied deposits of fossils anywhere on earth, it is also one of the most strikingly beautiful landscapes. In the dry high desert land of East Central Oregon lie treasures of the past that hold keys to the future. While today we are concerned about the effects of human activity in changing our climate, seeing the geological record of Oregon’s past made me realize in a deeper way that the earth is indeed a living planet. It has changed dramatically in the past and will continue to change. Our present land and ocean formations are recent in geological time. The constant movement of the techtonic plates, the subduction of life forms under the plates, and volcanic activity in many forms continue to shift our environment. As shifts occur, climate changes. Fossils from bananas and avocados indicate that Oregon once was a lush tropical forest now found in places like Panama.
In the geological time frame, humans are but a brief recent episode. Like many species in the past we may also become extinct. Humans in any form have been around as a species only a couple of million years or even less, about 200,000 years, if we speak of homo sapiens, our species. By contrast dinosaurs were around about 260 million years. We are the only species that has created a culture that separates us from the natural world. We fail to recognize that we are not separate but indeed have about 100 trillion microorganisms that live within us, approximately ten times more than the number of cells in our body. Our life is not possible without these microorganisms that enable us to perform functions like digestion of food. Our lifestyle today, in a society based on fossil fuels, fails to recognize that those fossils lived millions of years ago.
The Painted Hills, our first stop, is an amazing assortment of red, yellow and white mounds from the Oligocene era between 38 and 24 million years ago. The reds represent wetter climates and the yellows drier climates. The soils were formed from volcanic ash over a period of four million years. Overlooking the painted hills is Carrol Rim which is topped by a 28.7 million year old tuff of ash flow from a vent in Eastern Oregon.
Our second stop was the Thomas Condon Paleontology Center at Sheep Rock. This is an operating laboratory for scientists working on fossils found in the area. It is also a visitor center with panoramic murals of life represented by fossils. Sheep Rock, across the road from the Center, has layers of silica rich volcanic ash with a green tint that carries fossils from 24 million years ago. It is topped by Columbia River basalt from 15 million years ago and overlooks the John Day River.
Not far from Sheep Rock, as the road follows the River, is Goose Rock, a rounded mass of lava that emptied into the ocean about 80 million years ago. Here in the river we found three River Otters, playing and feeding. We watched them and they watched us for about 45 minutes, a truly wonderful experience of communing with another species of mammal.
Next on the road was Cathedral Rock, a towering cliff of red and green ash deposits from 29 million years ago that rises above the John Day River. Nearby is the Blue Basin with colorful banded layers that are 29 million years old.

About  two hours from the Paleontology Center near the town of Clarno is the Palisades, a group of towers formed from a series of mudflows 44 million years ago.  The fossils here include an assortment of 173 species of trees, vines, shrubs and other plants found thus far as well as animals that inhabited a near-tropical forest.  Unlike most of the other sites, some of these fossils are visible on the short trail.

After a day of viewing fossils and beautiful mountains and hills formed millions of years ago, I came away with a newly awakened sense of awe and humility.   I am part of something much larger and much older, and I am not in control.  Life is a beautiful gift present wherever we look to find it. Life calls for giving back.

Overlooking the Painted Hills

Looking Up in the Painted Hills

View from the Painted Cove Trail

Carroll Rim

A Brightly Banded Hill

Sheep Rock

Goose Rock

River Otters Swimming

River Otters Looking

River Otter Eating Crawfish

Cathedral Rock

Cliffs of the Blue Basin

Hill with Ash Tuffs

The Palisades at Clarno

The Palisades at Clarno

Fossil of a Leaf

Tryon Creek State Park

Thursday, January 16th, 2014

Near Lake Oswego, Oregon, lies an urban treasure, Tryon Creek State Park.  Almost 700 acres of preserved forest around Tryon Creek, a stream protected for Steelhead and Salmon, it is easily accessible. The only Oregon State Park within a major urban area, Tryon has many walking paths and holds numerous treasures of a typical forest in the Willamette ecosystem. About ten minutes from where my Mother lives, I had a wonderful walk yesterday for several hours, exploring a few of the wonders. Below are some examples of what I found.

 Transformed Stump

 

Moss Sculpture

 

Ferns on the Tree

 

 Moss and Ferns

 

Like a Rain Forest

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shreiner’s Iris Gardens

Thursday, May 16th, 2013

I’ve been visiting my almost 93 year old Mother in Lake Oswego, Oregon this week.  Today we decided to take in one of the seasonal delights in the area, the Shreiner’s Iris Gardens near Salem.  From May 10 until June 9 the gardens present a spectacular show of color as the hundreds of varieties of iris are in peak bloom.  The day started out rainy but just after we arrived the rain stopped presenting a perfect  day for flower photography, cloudy skies, no rain or wind, and flowers filled with moisture drops from the earlier rain.  I covered the gardens quickly awed by the great variety of colors and combinations of flowers.  I only wish I’d had more time in this paradise of flowers.

Shreiner’s iris Gardens

iris variety

group of irises