A Long, Hot, Smoky Summer

That pretty much sums it up for the last few months in Ellensburg. It’s breaking now. The smoke has cleared and the heat is gone. It got down to 37 the other morning.

Field trips in geology are coming up with a trip through Moses Coulee Sunday. The threshing bee was held last weekend. A fun event with displays of old farm equipment, a great breakfast and demonstrations. A filed sawmill, a wheat thresher and a grinder for corn meal. Very cool stuff.

It was held on the grounds of the Anderson Hay Company here in town. Previously, it had been held at The Olmstead Place State Park. One of the early homesteads in the valley. Last year though, the bureaucrats in Olympia decided to change the deal where the exhibitors would now be charged a premium to set up their displays.

Well done! A park that gets a few hundred visitors per year kicks out an event that brings thousands to it. Yeah, that works.

Aside from a touch of arson on my garage the town remains quiet. The election is not the heated affair TV would lead us to expect.

Hiking remains good now that the smoke has left. Umtaneum Canyon is still pleasant and, during the week, quiet.  My last visit last week saw more mule deer than people. I’m experimenting with my new, to me, camera, given to me Tom, aka Wilbur. It’s a gem.

My old friend, Mike, retired in Denver. He’s dropped several pounds and 30 points on his blood pressure. He’s had a bad year losing two family members. I remain, to my doctors’ disgust, revoltingly healthy. I think it bothered her that my cholesterol is better than hers.

The house next door is still on the market. It’s in great condition and the scummy renters have been evicted from the back house. This years volunteer tobacco crop has not been as good as last years. I’ve harvested the leaves I could, now, it’s left to go to seed. I’ll be doing more with it next year. I also have a nice crop of millet. More volunteers from the bird seed.

Pipe tobacco and bird seed are not going to be cash crops by any stretch but it does amuse me. The birds are still swarming. I’ve seen several flocks of geese heading south already. It appears teh ospry have also departed. The nests are now empty.

Soon it’ll be time for baking and porridge. Fall starts Saturday and winter won’t be far behind.

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Spring may actually have arrived

I hope so. Winter seemed to drag along this year. The snow is mostly off of Table Mountain to the North. The creeks are rising. I’ve had to mow the yard, twice. My ongoing dandelion genocide is in full swing. Not nearly as much button weed so far. It’s breezy and we’ve hit 80 degrees twice so far. The raptors are out in full hunting and nesting modes.

Last week’s geology field trip was interesting as it was about landslides. Or, “Mass Wasting Events”. Which is the current jargon. We visited five sites from Lookout Mountain through the old US 10 route near Thorp with two stops in the Yakima Canyon and ending just south of Union Gap at the slow motion slide on Rattlesnake Ridge.

That’s the really scary one as it is advancing at 2-4″ per day. We were nearly a mile away from the site and clearly saw the fissures on the hillside. If it all collapses at once itg may well block I-82 and the Yakima River. The state and consultants have ringed it with sensors to keep track of the movement. Unsurprisingly, a couple of the sensors have already been stolen.

Hanging out with friends was very enjoyable. Monday and Wednesday with friend Jim. We test fired a new carbine of his Monday which is a very nice weapon. He’s a retired cop and is knowledgable about proper handling and safety. Since there are predator’s around their home, having such a weapon is a good policy. WEdnesday was lunch and a cigar with coffee.

Thursday evening I went to a friend’s place for an Indian dinner. Very traditional. I couldn’t pronounce, much less spell, the dishes. Rice, chicken were prominent. The vegetable included kale, onions, garlic and mace. Spicy without setting one’s sinus cavities on fire. Home brewed beer and excellent conversation was had.

I got a funny, and delightful card from friends, Jim and Kathy featuring my two vices, cigars and whiskey. Thank you guys. I’ll be keeping that!

Wildflowers are coming out slowly. I need to gather some things from the forests and steppes. I want some Balsam Root and sedums for the yard. I also have some things fo rthe Master Gardner’s to identify. I seem to get a lot of odd things blown into the yard.

On the agenda this week is trying my hand at rolling cigars from the tobacco I grew last summer. No clue as to how that will turn out but, if it’s a complete failure I can use it for pipe tobacco. So, not a really losing proposition.

The attached photo is of the slide at Union Gap. The fissures are quite large and we were about as close as anyone on the trip wanted to get.

Continuing Education

No, I’m not going to remedial classes for anything. And, for a change this isn’t about geology. Although there’s a full summer of that coming up.

This is something different. The daughter of friends asked me to take some photos at her tango class the other day. Specifically, Argentine Tango. It’s not what one sees on TV. Much less dramatic and more improvisational.

It was fun taking the photos. Even a couple of very short videos. Natalie is an excellent instructor and it was fascinating for me to watch the concentration and effort put forth. She did invite me to try it but given a lack of a partner and that I can usually almost walk across a room with out tripping, I declined.

That didn’t interfere with my enjoying the opportunity. I have seldom felt comfortable taking photos of people. Karen demanded full right of censorship on any shots I took of her. Not many survived. But it was always fun to try and capture her spirit.

Music, playing, composition, performing has always fascinated me. I don’t do any of that so perhaps that’s why I enjoy watching practitioners work their magic. The concentration and force of will towards perfection is admirable and remarkable.

On a similar note, Saturday morning, one of the young women who work at the Early Bird was singing to celebrate the opening of the patio dining area. She’s very good and her guitarist companion is also superb. Mostly, light jazz and soft, easy listening music. I had the grilled cheese sandwich. I didn’t eat the rest of the day.

The week was rounded out by a hike to Umtaneum Canyon to check out the beaver dam. They’re working on it very hard and lots of new branches have been added. Little wildlife on the canyon floor but mule deer were evident along the ridge. Also, turkey vultures. Life continues apace.

Volcanoes, Music and Floods, Another Week in Ellensburg

The volcanoes in question this time aren’t the source of the great basalt floods of 17 million years ago. These are the ancient stratovolcanoes of 25 to 28 million years ago,

Never heard of them? There are more than a few remnants scattered through the Cascades all the way to Mexico. Around here though, many of us have hiked or scrambled to the tops, perhaps not even recognizing the origins or ages.

Fife’s Peak, Edgar Rock, Goat Rocks, Tieton, Kloochman Rock and the Goose Egg. All in the area of Hwy. 410 and U\S 12. Driving along 12, west from Naches takes one through, the Tieton volcano.

 

The evidence, is in the granite plugs, that used to be the magma chambers below the cone. Just like Rainier has its magma chamber, and is only 1/2 million years old, these granite plugs are what remains after the volcano ceases erupting, about 2 million years more or less, and the cone erodes and weathers away.

Goat Rocks still retains some of its cone, although much degraded by time and ice. Each of these cones once stood into the 15,000 foot range. All it takes is time for the cycle to begin and end.  So, visit Mt Rainier in the next 1.5 million years before it’s dormant and gone.

Less explosive was a classical guitar recital by the Caulkins. Held Sunday in town at Gallery One. Neil and Tamara are a delight to hear. The music they prefer is from the 18th and 19th Centuries. Mostly of French or German origins. The gallery space is small but acoustically very nice. It makes for a restful counterpoint to a week of activity.

The Floods came once again, from Nick Zentner’s Wednesday evening lecture downtown. The story is familiar but he had new information about the dating and the techniques used to arrive at the dates. Some of it is pretty esoteric involving measuring solar radiation on exposed quartz in granite. This involves finding just the right rock under just the right conditions. Interesting that it can be done but not being a scientifically minded person, I’m okay with nodding my head and agreeing.

The other method involves digging in dirt. That, I know how to do. The idea there, is to find the layers of silt which settled in the area of Lake Lewis. This lake formed to the north of Wallula Gap when the flood waters were impounded while the flow through the gap slowed their advance. By digging, walking around and by measurement various sites have Surveys have shown evidence of 41 to 81 different floods. The last being between 6,000 and 14,000 years ago. Of major interest is the question of whether humans had witnessed the floods. Paisley Cave in Oregon has provided proof of human habitation in the 14,000 year range. So, yes, it’s possible that humans did witness, or were overtaken by the floods.

At least by the later floods which were on a much smaller scale than the original, early floods. The sheer terror must have been unimaginable. I’d have wanted to be in orbit to observe.

It’s a rich, complicated history and I love it.

Two other notes. The first three robins arrived yesterday in the yard. If interested go online and look up neil and Tamara Caulkins. Neil has posted on their website/blog several of the performances and the yare a delight to hear.

 

The Landscape Changes

As if the geology of Washington State was not complicated enough. It’s not like we don’t already have basalt lava flowing across the landscape some two miles thick, Ice Age floods that have rearranged the place, stratovolcanoes that come and go every couple of million years.

Oh, no, it gets even stranger. In the new lecture series by Nick Zentner, of CWU Geology and PBS TV fame began his winter town series of lectures in Ellensburg.

His latest talk, last Wednesday, covered how, Mt Stuart, not all that far from where I type this now, originated in Mexico about where the southern tip of Baja California is now. The evidence comes from years of observation and study. It seems the magnetic signature of the rocks, as well as the types and ages, are identical. The mechanism of how the rocks got here is pretty interesting as well but before we go there, some deep rock plate tectonic history is in order.

150 million years ago, Pacific beachfront property was readily available in Spokane. A large strike slip fault, much like the San Andreas Fault was operating. It brought north, debris and assorted bedrock to build the area west of Spokane but, until about 17 million years ago, without the vast flood basalt flows we see everyday. This long, and now dead fault, brought Mt Stuart to us. Adding to this was the remnants of islands left over from the breakup of Pangea, the original supercontinent. These were swept up, in geologic times frames, by the westward movement of the North American Plate. This same fault brought what is now Washington, west of the Cascades, to its present location. Evidence of this movement continues well up into British Columbia and Alaska.

In a side note, Nick also mentioned that the San Andreas Fault would, in 150 million years or so, place that part of coastal California containing Los Angeles off the coast of Vancouver Island. I expect to be elsewhere when this happens.

Adding yet another layer of interest is the fact that our portion of the North American Plate is slowly rotating clockwise with the pivot point centered in the Pendleton, OR area. This accounts for the rise of the successive ridges to the south of Ellensburg through the lower Yakima valley. If that ever bounces back, I’d also prefer to be elsewhere. Orbit would be good.

Proving all this gets pretty involved with the chemistry and magnetic properties of the rocks as well as sorting out zirconium from crushing those same rocks. Evidently, zircons are traceable to specific locations which can then be compared to other samples. I’m really glad that someone else is doing this because I’m pretty sure I have neither the patience nor the OCD levels to do this kind of work.

This week, the lecture is on the Ancient Volcanoes of the Cascades. I know this will be good.

The image above has nothing to do with the piece today. It’s a red tail that was hiding behind a power pole along the road.

Word Salad

Another good day here at Ciudad El Robber’s Roost. Breezy and 49 degrees outside. Breezy here means less than a steady 40 mph. Our hysterical friends at the Weather Channel have a high wind warning out until this evening for 30 mph winds. Yawn.

This post has been on my mind now for a long time. Even Karen told me to write about it. So, it’s been percolating a while.

One could say, cliche’s or click bait or attention grabber’s, but I find that there is an extensive list of far too commonly used terms that simply annoy the crap out of me.

“Heartbreaking”, often seen in relation to some incident that is either of a personal nature yet somehow gets posted on Facebook. If you’re going to be heartbroken I agree about a possible tragedy. If it’s because you got stood up on a date. Not so much.

“Jaw Dropping”, often used when some celebrity or another shows her private parts in public. It’s never guys who do this. Maybe because no one wants to see guy parts? Interestingly enough, these same women are in the #Me Too movement. Huh?

“Insane”, Really? You’re a psychiatrist? Talking about a credit card offer? Mental health is actually no joke and throwing words around in such a manner is insensitive to people who may well be, out of their minds psychotic.

“Hack”. As in a means to accomplish a task. Like, opening a jar of pickles. Or, washing your dishes. Really? I always thought it meant to clumsily chap away at an object.

“Majorly”. That’s not even a word. I guess the Valley Girl Speak never goes away.

“Obsessed” Like with the latest water bottle being used by some celebrity on the internet. Obsession, as in see mental health above.

“Massive” Used to denote some significant event or large object. Not, as in, “Massive Nothingburger”

I am going to add, “Nothingburger” here as it just sounds stupid and vacuous.

“Bombshell” There are bombs, there are shells. Two different items that, if used properly make a large noise and break things. Different delivery systems.

“Imapact” If I strike someone in the throat with my fist it will have an impact. They will not be impacted by my fist. If, I dislike them sufficiently enough to have done that I will probably not offer a tracheotomy to restore their breathing. Although, cutting their throat may also be required.

“Racist” A fornerly useful term now used so often as to have a diluted and none funtional meaning. Having grown up far closer to the Old South, as I did, I know a lot more about actual racism than you may want to hear.

“Sexist”, see “Racist” above

“Nazi” Don’t bother me with this unless you’re talking about the National Socialist Workers Party or, the Aryan Brotherhood. I’ve met some of both and they are not as pleasant a people as you’d expect.

“Hitler” Yeah, A first order jerk but a piker compared to Stalin and Mao. Or, if you prefer percentages, Pol Pot. Evil? You betcha! Vile and needing tyo be throat punched? No question but let’s also keep in mind how much he was admired in his own country and by, “Progressives” here until he invaded the Soviet Union. The hypocrisy is strong in this one.

I could go on. I know this is an out of character post for me but it does get this list off my desk and into the reclcling bin.

In the meantime the herd of quail is in the yard gobbling up the seed I put down for them this morning. They’ve been somewhat circumspect the last couple of days. Probably because of the red tail hawks that have been cruising the neighborhood.

Nick on the Rocks, A New Season

Nick Zentner, professor of geology here at Central just released his new season on PBS.

If you haven’t seen any of these it’s a must. Nick brings the rocks of Central Washington to life and the video series is a great tease for anyone wondering how the state got to look the way it does.

The University did a full on red carpet premier here Friday night which, given that it’s Ellensburg was pretty funny. I did tease him about not wearing a tux. The segments are also available on Youtube which is helpful. This seasons offerings talk about Lake Chelan, the Seattle Fault, (Run, it’ll be ugly), Ancient rivers, the Columbia used to flow through Yakima, Ancient Volcanoes, like Goat Rocks and Rimrock, Bridge of the God’s Landslide and Columnar Basalt.

I’ve had the great pleasure to attend many of his field trips to these places so have a fair bit of knowledge already. I do plan on returning to a lot of these places though for more detailed, and less crowded, exploration.

The event drew over 300 people, most from the community but some from Seattle and elsewhere. Plus, instead of just showing and going he paused between each segment to ask the crowd for feedback. He gave special attention to his videographer and editor, Chris Smart, for the really hard work of getting the programs to five minutes. Each segment takes roughly a month of work to produce. Not an easy job at all.

Weather here at Casa Robber’s Roost is pensive. We’re supposed to see rain and snow later tonight and tomorrow. I’m enjoying my cigar and coffee here at the keyboard. Karen would approve of both.

I did venture out the door this morning hoping for breakfast at the Palace. It was too crowded.  I did encounter one of my neighbor’s chickens in the front yard. I threw some seed out. She ignored it but the other birds did not. The Ranch Store has a big bin of wild bird feed courtesy of the Audubon Society. That has become a real hit with the local quail herd. I need to get more tomorrow.

There was an anti Trump march in town yesterday but with the craft beer festival going it was difficult to get any idea of how well attended it was.

Eagles are roaming the area. Red Tail Hawks are out in force. I did encounter a young man flying his toy drone in the park the other day. It was in the area set aside for it but some too easily offended person claimed he buzzed her with it. I had spoken to him earlier and he was very responsible. We talked a few minutes about the camera it carried. The battery life on the thing is about four minutes. Good thing they are rechargable. Buying 9 volts would be ruinous. My only minor issue, and it is minor, is it makes an annoying buzzing sound. He was good humored about that, so was I.

There is a new breakfast place in town. The Early Bird. On Water St across from Fred Meyer’s. They only do breakfasts and are open from 7AM to 2PM. Red beans and rice for breakfast? They have it. The breakfast burrito is too large for me to eat in one sitting. Very pleasant people work there and it’s an enjoyable experience.

Not much else going on here but I wanted to get something out about Nick. Watch it if you can.