Washaway Beach and Willapa Bay

Willapa Bay

WA coast-Willapa Bay

Long before the Columbia River was tamed by dams and jetties, a long sand spit formed north of the Columbia’s mouth.  The sand spit grew until it partially enclosed the estuaries of several small rivers.  Today, that sand spit is called the Long Beach Peninsula.  The estuary on the inland side of that sand spit is Willapa Bay.  At over 260 square miles of water surface, it is the second largest estuary on the west coast (San Francisco Bay is the largest).  Willapa Bay is also one of the most pristine estuaries in the U.S.

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Coldwater Lake at Mt. St. Helens

As the crow flies, I live about 35 miles from Mt. St. Helens. Driving, it is 55 miles to the end of the road at Johnston Ridge Observatory on the west side — close enough to go there on a whim for an evening photo shoot. Recently, I have been toying with the play of light and shadow when the sun is low in the sky and it seemed like a fun idea to go up the mountain and see what the shadows might reveal.

I have visited the volcano, both east and west sides, on several occasions over the years, but always when the sun was high in the sky, between the hours of 11:00am and 4:00pm, in May, June, and July. The mountain and the lahar field at its base, when the sun is high, are bright. You see harsh shades of gray that are dramatic, without a doubt, and well worth the trip to the mountain.

In the evening, however, I discovered to my joy and amazement, that there are colors in the crater and shapes that I never saw before and the ravines carved by streams of meltwater are deeper than I imagined.

Mt St Helens Lava DomeThe lava dome is better-defined with the help of shadows

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Daytripping to Olympia

West Budd Bay

I had two reasons for visiting Olympia.  First and foremost, it is home to my very favorite farmers market ever.  Those not familiar with farmers markets may be wondering just how much lettuce a person can want to buy.  Let me tell you that farmers markets are far more than that.  Perhaps the only Washington farmers market that is open year-round, it has over 400,000 visitors in the 135 days it is open for business.  And they are not just buying lettuce.  In addition to world-class produce, one can find nursery stock, applewood smoked bacon, hand-crafted sausages, soaps, herbs, artwork, jams and jellies, baked goods, and fresh meat and seafood.  The Olympia Farmers Market also has a stage and offers free, live music during lunchtime.  Did I mention there is terrific food and locally roasted coffee available, too?

Olympia Farmers Market

The second reason I had for visiting Olympia was to shoot some photos.  Since taking up photography a few years ago, I discovered that I go more places and see more things with a camera in hand than I ever did before.  Not only that, but I really LOOK at my surroundings.  While looking for a photo op, I see beautiful landscapes, lovely wildflowers, and interesting birds.  Before I took up photography, I would take a quick look, not really seeing half of what was there, and think “Okay, where to now?”.  With photography, as with much else in life, one thing leads to another.

Heron on a Seafood Diet

I started posting photos on Flickr.  I found and joined a Flickr Group called Birds of Washington.  I posted a photo of a little brown bird I had been unable to identify and a helpful member, Jon D. Anderson, identified it.  I then discovered that he takes some good photos, is an avid and knowledgeable birder, and includes in his captions information about where the bird was seen.  Now, armed with information about where to see some birds in the Olympia area, I grabbed a canvas shopping bag and my camera and headed out to enjoy a fun day trip.

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Befuddled, Baffled, and Bewildered

Thank you for emailing me some How-To tips.  With all these new symbols popping up on webpages while simple menus are disappearing, I feel quite lost. It is as if the world suddenly changed all the symbols on traffic signs — I would be lucky not to have a head-on collision with a cement truck.

That was how I began a comment on a friend’s blog recently.  I was rather pleased with my clever analogy at the time, but the more I got to thinking about it, the more I realized that wasn’t clever.  It was quite simply, the unvarnished truth.

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It seemed like a good idea at the time

How many times has my 20-20 hindsight sneered at that particular thought?

Well, it did!

When they were handing out brains, you thought they said trains and jumped out of the way.

That’s mean!  Not fair!  I’ve just had some bad luck lately.  It’s not my fault!

So now you’re whining about it?  You should have seen this coming.  Idiot.

It Seemed Like A Good Idea at the Time

That is just one example of the inner dialog that has run through my head more than once over the years.  Thankfully, as I have gained in years, I have also gained the ability to spot my bad choices a bit sooner than I used to.  Sometimes, I even catch them quickly enough to make a course correction and fix my error.  Mostly.  Partially.  Sometimes.

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Today, I did NOT fall

 

I fall.  Where I live, the ground is uneven.  Sometimes, I mis-step.  My ankle twists.  It feels like I go over in slow motion, but I can’t stop myself from falling.  Sometimes I hurt myself when I fall.  It makes me feel clumsy and inept.  It also makes me determined to do something about it.

Before I continue, here is a little background for those who don’t know me well:
I have osteo arthritis.  For two years, I walked as little as possible and then only with a cane.  I had a total hip replacement, complete with pelvic bone graft, in 2012.  After surgery, a physical therapist showed me some exercises to rebuild the strength in my hip.  There were serious range-of-motion limitations for the first 90 days after surgery.  For the second 90 days, I was told I could gradually increase my range-of-motion.  Suffice it to say that after two years of walking with a cane, surgically severed muscles, and six months of restricted range-of-motion, I lost strength in my legs and the ability to save myself from falls.

I like to be independent and self-sufficient.  I tend to take responsibility for myself, rather than expect someone else to solve my problems for me.  I am able to walk over rough, uneven ground without falling, but that requires me to watch where I put my feet.  If I only look at my feet, just think of all the other things I won’t see!  Unacceptable.

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The Scablands — Washington Photo Trek Part III

I started out this year to explore eastern Washington, but I don’t always end up where I set out to go.  The route from Point A to Point B offers many opportunities for those with the inclination to notice them.  There are side trips and detours.  There are discoveries.  One can put on blinders and take the shortest route between A and B, ignoring all those other distractions.  Or one can take off the blinders, slow down, and see what there is to see.

I could easily have chosen to spend an intensive week or two traveling this highway and that.  Instead, I chose to break up my explorations into two or more shorter treks.  The goal and destination of the first trek was to see courting sandhill cranes and to meet a photographer I knew from Wunderground’s photo gallery.  Along the route to those destinations, I mapped out some wildlife refuges and back roads.  As it turned out, I never did spot a sandhill crane.  I did meet Backwardguy and he showed me a wonderful birding spot near McNary Dam that I will be sure to visit again.

In the course of my wanderings along back roads I discovered a fascinating geological aspect to eastern Washington that sparked curiosity about the glacial loess hills of The Palouse and the great Missoula Floods that carved away much of the loess to expose the rugged terrain of the Scablands.  Everywhere I went, each aspect of the terrain I discovered, led me to an increasing sense of wonderment at what Mother Nature had wrought.

Scablands near Connell, not far from Palouse Falls (shown in Part II)

4312-near Connell

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Self-Fulfilling Prophecy

“Whether you think you can.  Or think you can’t.  You’re right.” ~ Henry Ford

“Our lives are not defined by what happens to us, but by how we react to what happens.  A positive attitude is a catalyst — a spark that creates extraordinary results.” ~ unknown

“A PESSIMIST is one who makes difficulties of his opportunities and an OPTIMIST is one who makes opportunities of his difficulties.” ~ Harry Truman

I have been thinking about self-fulfilling prophecies lately…

Those are three favorites from among my collection of quotes.  Each sums up an important concept in just a few words.  In today’s vernacular, they would be considered sound bites.  Clear, concise statements often go farther than long, complex explanations.  One might say these three quotes relate to optimism vs. pessimism and that is correct, as far as it goes, but might they also be telling us something about self-fulfilling prophecy?

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Obsession

ob·ses·sion   noun \äb-ˈse-shən, əb-\
• a state in which someone thinks about someone or something constantly or frequently especially in a way that is not normal
• someone or something that a person thinks about constantly or frequently
• an activity that someone is very interested in or spends a lot of time doing
• a persistent disturbing preoccupation with an often unreasonable idea or feeling

I have a hunch that we all have experienced obsession at some time in our lives.  Perhaps it was a first teenage crush.  It might have been a sports team that just had to win the championship.  Or a video game you couldn’t walk away from.  You name it, someone has obsessed about it.  In other words, obsession is a normal and natural experience.  As with most things, though, moderation is key.

I don’t know if it is true for others, but for me, it sometimes doesn’t take much for an interest, concern, or worry to blossom into a full-blown obsession.  That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but often it is.  Once obsessed, it can be very difficult to walk away.

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The Palouse — Washington Photo Trek Part II

The Palouse (pə-LOOSS) is a region of the northwestern United States, encompassing parts of southeastern Washington, north central Idaho and, in some definitions, extending south into northeast Oregon. It is a major agricultural area, primarily producing wheat and legumes.

The origin of the name “Palouse” is unclear. One theory is that the name of the Palus tribe (spelled in early accounts variously Palus, Palloatpallah, Pelusha, et cetera) was converted by French-Canadian fur traders to the more familiar French word pelouse, meaning “land with short and thick grass” or “lawn.” Over time, the spelling changed to Palouse. Another theory is that the name was in the first place a French word, describing the area which was then applied to the indigenous people inhabiting it.

Grain Fields north of Walla Walla

The landscape of the Palouse Prairie is unlike any other landscape I have seen.  As I drove in a northeasterly direction from Walla Walla on March 30, I entered terrain of closely packed round hills, seemingly placed at random.  There were no ridges or lines of hills.  I watched and hoped for a high spot to pull off the road and take a panorama shot of this fascinating country, but it was not to be.  The photo above was taken through the windshield while I was driving about 40mph!  Finally, I came to a relatively straight stretch of road with a broad shoulder and I pulled off to snap another photo.

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