I took this photo: The surface and what lies beneath

trains, barges, turbines, highway, power lines, Columbia River
Twilight on the surface

The main stem of the Columbia River has 14 dams on it, including the largest dam in the United States. Within the entire Columbia basin, more than 400 dams generate almost half of the hydropower in the US.

Ship locks at several dams and channel dredging allow navigation from the Pacific Ocean to Lewiston, Idaho – more than 400 miles inland.

In the late 1800s, half a million salmon were caught for canning and export in one season. Today four of the 400 dams have fish ladders.

The river irrigates 670,000 acres of sagebrush desert in Washington. As many as 100 illegal dams on private property irrigate an unknown number of additional acres.

Hanford, a Cold War plutonium production site, is the most contaminated nuclear site in the US. For 27 years radioactive cooling water from the eight plutonium production reactors was released back into the Columbia River. The federal government did not disclose this information until more than a decade after the discharge ceased.

Today, an estimated 270 billion gallons of groundwater have been contaminated by high-level nuclear waste that leaked from Hanford’s storage tanks. A million-gallon plume of that radioactive groundwater is expected to hit the Columbia River within the next 10 years at the earliest and 50 years at the latest.

I took this photo in the fading evening light of a typical Columbia River day. Train tracks, carrying coal and oil trains, parallel both banks; grain and coal barges ply its waters; Interstate 84 flanks its south shore; thousands of wind turbines, just visible on the far shore, stand sentinel to the north and south; the slow, warm, slack water impounded behind another dam holds fish that can’t move downstream fast enough and can’t move upstream at all; the final ingredient in the cocktail is three decades of nuclear waste in the water and sediments. The calm water and the pastel light are a lovely façade on a tenacious, living body of water that miraculously continues to survive.

I took this photo: Yoga fashion

Thief Valley Reservoir yoga Warrior
Warrior II fashion: snow pants, Sorels, and a hard hat.

The US yoga industry has exploded in recent years: hot yoga, power yoga, radiant flow, restorative, aerial, zen bootcamp (huh?). As the yoga possibilities have expanded, so too have the clothing opportunities. From its perhaps simplistic origins to a $27 billion industry in 5000 short years. No, wait. That should be 4990 years of yoga and 10 years of booming industry.

Being outdoors all day, in one place, in the cold requires warm clothing, a massive quantity of fuel to stay warm (hot chocolate with heavy cream and butter, please), and enough movement to create heat without sweating.

Enter yoga.

Over the years, the fashionable yoga set has moved away from the simple, but ever elegant, loin cloth.  Today’s yoga togs (such a good word too often unused) are something to behold. Strappy tops that require a Ph.D. and schematics to put on properly rule the current scene. Leggings of all lengths and body-hugging forms are standard. Fabulous colors, incredible patterns, material cutouts, and built-in multi-layers compete across the studio for attention.

Enter Tamara.

The common comment that my fashion sense elicits is that I always look put together. To me, this implies that each of my body parts is in its proper place and covered with the appropriate and corresponding clothing items. That seems the least (and apparently the most) I can do in the realm of fashion. So be it.

Ski pants, insulated boots, gaiters, a down coat, binoculars (with harness), and a hard hat seem well beyond the height of yoga fashion. I took this photo for the seeming incongruity of the activity and my clothing. I only have a Master’s degree; I couldn’t get into the strappy things.

 

I took this photo: Not all who wander are lost

stairs on mountain slope in the clouds
Stairs from the clouds to the clouds, for the clouds.

It is not common to find a perfectly good set of stairs in the clouds on the side of a mountain. Ready to assist any passersby, they stood steady and firm on the landscape.

It was raining but the day was bright and the air mild. Western Oregon is rarely a dry place. I don’t melt. I hiked into the cool, dripping coastal range, eventually climbing high enough that the trees became more scattered, more wind-beaten. The trail, slick with mud, occasionally crossed rock or split around washouts and pools.

I came upon the stairs not far from the mountain peak. Another half mile up a rock face and through twisted semi-alpine plants was the open summit, a granite bald with tortured metal-pipe railing, fully enveloped in cloud.

But the stairs? They were wooden, two by fours and four by eights. There were two sections with a landing and a turn in the middle. The upper section had a handrail on the downslope side, the lower stairs on both sides. The trail by-passed them completely, as if a displeased giant plucked them up, and set them again six feet out of line, but parallel, with the trail.

For 50 years, I was on a known path. It had mud and rocks and unexpected by-passes and washouts but it was well-worn and followed by many.  I took this photo the day after my 50th birthday. Since then, I expect stairs in the clouds because they lead to the most amazing of places.

I took this photo: Pueblos Cowboy and His Horse

horse and riders moving cows out of the Pueblo Mountains
A small boy on a big horse moving cows in the Pueblo Mountains

Three riders moved slowly across the landscape, deliberately but unhurriedly they paralleled my path in the opposite direction. I watched the horses with some envy as I continued on foot.

It was July in the Pueblo Mountains. It was hot. I had been walking since dawn; it was midday now. I was out of water, out of food, and out of patience with the shadeless glare of sun-soaked sagebrush.

From a long way off I could see the horse. Even from a distance, I could tell it was a big horse. The rider was just a red dot. Eventually, the red dot became a person, a boy. He rode a few loops, lazy figure eights. He backed up the horse, made it stand and side step. Then he just sat and watched me approach.

“Where’s your horse?” the boy asked with unaffected curiosity and genuine concern.

“I don’t have one.”

“How far did you walk?”

“I don’t know. Several miles. I started at sunrise.”

“That’s a long time without a horse.”

“Yes.” We stood a minute, he on his horse, me looking at the ground. Then, diverting him from my obvious failing, “That’s a big horse.”

“I know. 17 hands. My dad told me I had to grow enough to get on him by myself before I could ride him. I’m only 7. I can’t grow that fast.”

“But you’re riding him.”

“Yup. I told my dad he better build me a ladder.”

“Did he?”

“Yup.”

“I saw three riders earlier. Was your dad one of them?”

“Yup. And my mom and sister. They said I wasn’t big enough to muster so I had to sit here and wait for them to push the cows to me. Then I can circle and ride them down the hill. We’re moving them to water.”

“You’re not big enough to muster but you’re big enough to sit this giant horse out here by yourself for however many hours it takes for them to come back?”

“I know. That’s what I said. But I lost that argument. If it wasn’t for you, I wouldn’t have anything to do.”

“You need a book.”

“I know.”

I had miles yet to cover and parted company. He sat his horse and watched me walk on.

Later in the afternoon, I watched from a slope above as the cows came, moving ahead of the three riders. The boy rode to meet them, swinging far to one side of the cows and then falling in with the other riders. He waved as he passed below me. And I took this photo of him, his mom and sister, the dust, and the cows, a scene of the west.

 

 

Summer blues

Oregon Crater Lake
The summer blues of Crater Lake and Wizard Island

Hart Mountain – spring delights

For too many years Hart Mountain was out of my line of travel and added just enough extra time and miles to the trip at hand that I by-passed it. This spring I made the effort to go there, just there, and was well rewarded. It is a long slog from anywhere, the roads can be quagmires, the dust invasive, the heat crushing, and the mosquitoes draining. May it always remain this way.

 

butterfly flower
Swallowtail and balsamroot
sagebrush, thunderheads
Sky drama
raptor harrier
Looked down upon by a northern harrier
Subtle layers of color and texture
hills valleys
Sagebrush landscape
glowing yellow flowers bumblebee
Bumblebee with balsamroot

The commercial strip v. the National Monuments – a request for stay of execution

Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah
On the executioner’s block: Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah

 

It is already true that one can be dropped on any commercial strip in the USA and have no idea where they are. Each is so much the same, so not unique, that Chattanooga and Bakersfield look much the same. We have eradicated the prairies, slaughtered the forests, and filled the wetlands, must we also quash the individuality of the national monuments and make them conform to the ideals of capitalism, consumerism, and corporate expansion? What of calm, contentment, and courage to step outside of the box, to appreciate the subtle realm of time, space, and light that is not under our control? Where will we go for peace when we have used up all that is wild?

You have seen my photos over the last year. Many of those photos were taken in national monuments (including the two on this page). If you enjoyed my meager attempts at conveying the intensity of these landscapes, you will enjoy this (free ebook) photographic journey through the national monuments by exquisite landscape photographers

http://landalmostlost.com/

And, I hope you will send comments in support of retaining the national monuments.

 https://www.regulations.gov/document?D=DOI-2017-0002-0001

Stay the executions.

Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument
Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument

 

Mid-Summer’s morning among the Painted Hills

volcanic hill Oregon
At the edge of the Painted Hills, Red Hill sits among spring grasses.

Spring reflections on Emigrant Lake

Spring arrived on Emigrant Lake recently. The lake is calm and beautiful and rowers are again plying its waters. Larkspurs and biscuitroot are blooming. The oaks are pushing leaves. The Siskiyous create a misty, almost-mythical backdrop.

Ashland, Oregon, spring
Morning row on Emigrant Lake.
Siskiyou Mountains, spring, clouds
Reflections on Emigrant Lake.
Siskiyou Mountains, Ashland, Oregon
Inundated island of oaks in Emigrant Lake.
Emigrant Lake, Siskiyou Mountains, Ashland, Oregon
Yellow-rumped warbler in spring oaks.
yellow-rumped warbler, Siskiyou Mountains, Ashland, Oregon
Topsy-turvy. Can’t.quite.reach.

Hobart Bluff Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument

Spring in the Rogue River Valley. Finally.

Hobart Bluff Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument
Spring green brightens the Rogue River Valley