Monday, January 28, 2013

A Day of Rest

Sunday is my day of rest. That means I get to do whatever I want rather than clean house, work on taxes, or any other onerous task. This past Sunday, it meant walking through our woods to check the trail cameras... and admire our own temperate rainforest. Although I've always noticed the moss and ferns on our hardwood trees, this time I noticed it more because it is so different from the coastal rainforest we hiked through last week. The Sitka Spruce on the coast capture most of the rain in their needles, keeping it from reaching their trunks. Our hardwoods, on the other hand, lose their leaves in the winter allowing the rain to grow lush moss and ferns on the tree bark. Here is our own mini-octopus tree, with green tentacles.

Licorice ferns love to grow in the moss on these trees.

Vine maples covered in moss and lichens and ferns make strange configurations.

 Some of the alders turn completely green. Who needs leaves?

We even have, in our personal rainforest, a waterfall.

Well, okay, it only has a two foot drop... over tree roots.

After fording this little stream, I discovered one of the big leaf maples had cracked and broken since my last trek through this portion of our property.

Part of it still stands, with bizarre finger patterns silhouetted against the sky.

Although it's sad to see these big maples go down, this one opened up the canopy for the struggling cedars and redwoods we planted years ago. Someday, this will be a Redwood Forest. At least, that was my plan when I planted them.

The reclining branch of the tree below used to arch gracefully well above the ground. It has continued to sag and split and now has reached the ground.

From the other side, that tree looks even stranger. This is one maple that is not giving up without a fight.

But to report on the trail cameras that precipitated this day-of-rest hike in the woods: no exciting bobcats or bears, just deer. Lots and lots of deer. Including this young buck with tiny nubs where his antlers will appear eventually.

By the time I returned to the house, Johnny had returned from church. We drove up Agency Creek then, to satisfy my desire to see how much of the upper reaches of Agency Creek that I had not yet surveyed for Dippers might be suitable for those happy birds. And Johnny wanted to go up Spirit Mountain road to see where the logging operation was going on that we heard on his birthday hike. He found his logging operation and I found a one mile stretch of creek to explore later in the year. I believe by searching this one last unsurveyed stretch, I will have learned how many Dippers live anywhere on Agency Creek, west or north forks.

On the way back down the creek, I saw one of "my" pairs of Dippers, making this a very good Sunday of rest. Any day I see a Dipper on Agency Creek... (or a Black Oystercatcher on the coast)... is a very good day indeed.

Friday, January 25, 2013

From the Octopus Tree to Short Beach

 A tenth of a mile from the parking lot at Cape Meares stands this amazing Sitka Spruce. It is not possible to photograph the entire 105 foot height. The Octopus Tree is, according to the sign, "more than 46 feet in circumference".

We followed a path south leading from the Octopus Tree through the temperate rainforest filled with ferns and Sitka Spruce.  From every break in the trees was a lovely view toward Short Beach and Three Arch Rocks at Oceanside.

A soft mist fell as we strolled through tall ferns and taller, much taller, trees. Mist is usual in a rainforest that averages over 100 inches of rain a year.

Some of these Sitkas were huge. Johnny measured his spread against this one.

Fallen giants had giant root wads.

This one lying for many feet along the path had almost returned to the soil.

And always the view of Three Arch Rocks... here with two arches showing.

 Where the canopy opened and sunlight reached the ground, salal grew thick.

From this angle, zoomed up, we could see the arch well in one of the Three Arch Rocks, "Finley".

Eventually we came to the road and hiked back to our car, then drove south to Short Beach, one of my favorite spots for finding Black Oystercatchers. Although we had passed Short Beach on our way to Cape Meares, I wanted to save this spot for last so I could dawdle as long as I wanted.

The Staircase of 1,000 Steps, as it is known, is a rustic and steep stairway with many benches for resting along the way. The staircase was created by locals to reach the beach, formerly accessible only by a slippery trail that had been the ruin of many hikers. Some of the locals may regret the improved access as this formerly secluded beach has become quite popular, especially with fisher folk.

A waterfall tumbles to the beach.

But it is man made, directing rainwater. Impressive nonetheless.

I don't know what's in that rainwater, but gulls and oystercatchers love to bathe in it just before it reaches the sea. This day it was populated by gulls only.

Elsewhere on Short Beach, we found at least six Black Oystercatchers, pretty distant for photographs.

Most did not pose nicely like the one above. Instead they flew over the surf screaming and chasing one another. But wherever they were, they made my day at the coast complete. I love these noisy, red-billed, flamboyant birds of the Pacific coast.

The Oregon Coast in January

Finally yesterday Johnny and I made it to the coast, our first trip of the new year. The coast has been having lovely weather lately, while we and points inland have been freezing. But when things are cold on the farm, we farmers must tend animals and their frozen water... plus regular chores and assorted crises. I had suggested we celebrate Johnny's birthday last Monday by going to the coast but he preferred climbing Spirit Mountain. So yesterday was my day... and I took over two hundred photos to prove it. (Most, of course, did not come out well.)

Our first stop, on our way to lunch with friends at Oceanside, was just up Hebo Road near Dolph Junction. Gunaldo Falls is visible from the road only during the winter when leaves are off the trees, and then not very well. The name Gunaldo comes from the first two letters of two prominent county commissioners and a county judge in years gone by: GUnning, ALlan and DOdson.  It flows from a tributary of Sourgrass Creek so I think it should be called Sourgrass Falls. In researching this waterfall's name I came across a website I didn't know existed:
Over one thousand waterfalls are listed. As a waterfall aficionado, I plan to spend more time (when I should be working) researching other nearby waterfalls.

The first coastal site we stopped at, on Cape Lookout, prompted more research.

Dick Gammon did, indeed, launch from the site where Johnny is standing, high above the ocean, looking north toward Netarts Bay and Cape Meares beyond. The popular hang glider was ticketed for landing on the beach at the State Park below, so he petitioned the Tillamook county commissioners to allow hang gliding from that favored spot. Apparently, his petition was successful as my further research found that Cape Lookout is now a popular hang gliding spot from two sites, one of which is "just north of Anderson's Viewpoint", and that would be Gammon Launch. I also found a tribute by a hang gliding friend of ours and Gammon's, Reed Gleason, back in 2009, letting the hang gliding community know when his long-time friend died, not from a hang gliding accident, but by taking his own life before the colon cancer he was dying of did.

But while we stood on Gammon's Launch, we did not know that sad story.

Onward we pressed to Netarts Bay, where lots of waterbirds graciously hung close to shore for my camera. A few even stayed in relative focus... like these Double-crested Cormorants drying their wings, a Common Goldeneye, and a foursome of Surf Scoters.

We rendezvoused with friends John and Barbara at Oceanside and enjoyed a meal with ocean view at Brewin' in the Wind, where we saw an eagle fly past. Doesn't get better than eating good food with good friends while watching an eagle outside the window. The last time we lunched with John and Barbara was on Christmas Day, just before Barbara's unexpected emergency surgery. Happily she is recovering well.

After lunch they headed home and we headed up the mountain above Oceanside to see the view from on high. Three Arch Rocks are pictured below, before we headed up.

 They looked a bit different from on top.

...And so did the sea lions covering a smaller rock... In fact, from shore the sea lions' perch looks to be part of one of the Three Arch Rocks. There are actually six small rocky islands that form, with the three big ones, Three Arch Rocks National Wildlife Refuge.

 Unlike the sea lions that were easier to see from on high, the eagles on their customary perch atop Shag Rock were harder to spot not being silhouetted against the sky. (The "arch" rocks are named, west to east, Shag, Middle and Finley.)


 Next we motored a few miles up the road to Cape Meares State Park. It's a lovely site with a rather gaudy and rather new kiosk welcoming visitors..

A viewing platform, also relatively new, gives a good view of the north cove and the rather flat-topped "Pillar Rock" offshore where murres used to nest by the hundreds, until eagles, like this young one enjoying the breeze the day we were there, took to strafing the colony and picking off young ones. There was nothing on the rock this day but a Peregrine Falcon. Peregrines nest on the steep cliff sides of the north cove annually and can often be seen from that viewing platform.

From the south viewing platform, we could see Short Beach, our next destination. It lies between Cape Meares and Oceanside. But first, we hiked to the Octopus Tree and then along a path we had not hiked before that follows the ridge line from the Octopus Tree to the road.

But I'll continue that story another time as this blog is already way too long and I have trees to plant in the arboretum this afternoon. They arrived yesterday while we were enjoying the Oregon coast. Planting trees is almost as much fun for me as hiking in Oregon's beautiful outdoors.