Lava beds National Monument

I’m camped at Lava beds National Monument (Northeast California) for a few days.

The volcanic rocks around here were gassy and have lots of holes. I put water in a natural cavity near my site and immediately had birds showing up to drink and bathe.

There are no springs in the park and the closest surface water is possibly at least 6 miles away in Tule Lake. When it rains here (rare in the summer) there would be plenty of water in natural cavities. But after those dry up birds that need to drink would have to go quite far to find it.

Thus the popularity of my temporary water pool.

Its wonderful to watch birds up close. I got some photos and will spread them out a bit so this post doesn’t get too large.

In order of frequency:

American robin (one to many present all day long)

Townsend’s solitaire (almost as many as the robins)

Yellow-rumped warbler (frequently present)

Cassin’s finch (frequently present)

Bushtit (a lflock of 20 only came thru once)

Gambel’s quail (covey of 15)

Western bluebird(6)

Juniper titmouse (2)

Northern flicker (2)

Woodhouse’s scrub jay (2)

Bewick’s wren (2)

Mountain chickadee (2)

White crowned sparrow

Hairy woodpecker

Slate-backed junco

Spotted towhee

Sharp-shinned hawk (hunting, not drinking)

Non avian also in the neighborhood:

Dasymutillid velvet wasp male (only males have wings)

Kirby’s backswimmer (a predaceous aquatic insect)

Western fence lizard (juveniles and a colorful adult)

Oedaleonotus orientis (a type of spur-throated grasshopper)

I’ll post the birds in future posts.

Here’s a mating pair of spur-throated grasshoppers.


Tiny home fest northwest

In mid August there is a tiny home fest (and vans!) in the mid Willamette Valley. It was at the Polk county fairgrounds and camping was allowed in the parking lot ($15 per night).

I made a lot of nice connections there with both professional builders and owner built tiny houses and vans.

The there were vendors selling things useful and not in the exhibition hall, and 40 or so wildly different tiny homes and vans in the grassy area. The builders were available all day for tours and questions. It was very useful. specially useful to me were the vehicles that weren’t yet finished. I got to see the guts before everything was closed in by paneling, and ask them questions about how they did things.

Here’s a panorama of the vehicles on show.

A van GTG (Get ToGether)

And because I was in Oregon this summer instead of in the Rockies like last summer I got to go to the GTG organized by my friends Nelda, Jerry and Gary.

It was at the Tillamook port RV park which sounds upscale but is really just a mowed field with travel pads. At $15 per night t’s inexpensive for the coast. It was an excellent place for a group of friends to meet and a good base for exploring the north coast.

It was windy, every afternoon.

Oregon Native Plant Society

In early July I went to the Oregon Native Plant Society annual meeting down in the Siskiyou /Klamath mountains in south west Oregon.

That area is known for hosting many endemic plant species (plants which do not grow elsewhere) due to the serpentine derived soils which are high in heavy metals like nickel and chromium, as well as having a high magnesium to calcium ratio. That’s a soil chemistry that many plants cannot grow well in.

Nice folks and the meeting was very well organized with lots of field trips. It was hot, but temperatures were comfortable on the high altitude field trips I went on.

This is the native plant Browns peony Paeonia brownii. That 5 parted fruit in my hand is the seed pod. Wouldn’t that be amazing to see in bloom.

And an exquisite owl clover.

Oregon coast range

A friend and I camped together in the coast range about halfway between the Willamette valley and the coast. Dispersed camping is tough in the Oregon coast range as any road not actively maintained as a road becomes forest pretty quickly. But a friend and I found a wide spot on a remote road and set up for the night.

This was my morning view. The low clouds is the marine layer pushing up the valleys from the coast.

The next morning I continued west through the Coast range towards the coast. This is something I’ve known was theoretically possible but had never done. There are two major highways that connect the ocean to the mid Willamette Valley. But in between there is a network of forest roads.

Here is a map of my route. The map suggests that it takes an hour and a quarter to travel 23 miles and I can attest to that.

On the way I ran into spotted owl researchers. And a dinner plate sized pile of berry bear poop. I did eventually come out to the ocean at Ona Beach.


Late June, 2019.

After that I went over to the coast for a bit and camped in the Oregon dunes on the central coast near Florence.

This June beetle was washing around in the surf so I brought it back to my camp site. Check out those fantastic antennae.

Sunsets at the beach can rival desert sunsets for beauty. I watched for the green flash but no luck.

Mid June, 2019.

Crater Lake National Park.

Even in mid June the campground was not yet open and the park roads in the park were also partially closed. Delight! I joined the many people enjoying the car-free Crater Lake roads by foot and bicycle. I biked up almost to the end of the plowed portion of the road.

From Crater Lake I headed north on a route which would have taken me on Forest Service roads through the mountains to cross highway 58 but rodent circumstances intervened. Pack rat? When the ignition wire is severed so amount of cranking will start a vehicle. All’s well that ends well and I got a tow and a repair on the east side of the mountains and headed west from there. So there’s a good piece of the Cascade Mountains between Diamond Lake and highway 58 that I still haven’t seen. I’m curious about it.


Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument

Mid June, 2019.

After the Native Bee class at the Siskiyou Field Institute in SW Oregon I meandered east and then north through Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument. This area sits between the Cascade mountains to the north, and the Sierra Nevada mountains to the south.

I was looking for a cool, high altitude site because temperatures were heading up towards 100F in the valley. I found a camping site up in the big trees only 3 miles off a paved road for three nights. I stayed put through the heat in the shade of big ponderosa pines. It was my ideal site. Van in the shade, portable solar panel in the sun.

These silver-spotted skippers (Epargyreus clarus) were abundant up there. I watched one individual repeatedly excreting a droplet of clear liquid and then apparently resorbing it via tongue. My guess is that that is a nutrient conservation strategy. In the photo the skipper is sitting on the side of the blue lid of my gallon water jug.

and here’s a reminder about why it’s useful to carry a saw or axe while on little traveled forest roads.

Summer in Oregon

Early June, 2019.

I came to Oregon in May with the intention of attending several events and also exploring more widely deeply in western Oregon, my home of 30 years.

It’s now late August and I’ve had some wonderful experiences over the last few months which I am quite behind at describing.

In early June I went to a 2 day bee identification class at The Siskiyou Field Institute in south west Oregon. August Jackson was an excellent instructor.

Sometimes what you get from an in person experience as opposed to internet learning are not what I might have expected. Besides identifying bees to genus, I learned that’s it’s ok to reach into a net and gently grasp a live bee to get a closer look. They probably won’t sting.