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Monday, April 30, 2007


It seems that one of the consequences of staying alive for a long time is that you begin to gain a sense of appreciation for the cost of change. This is achieved through the accumulation of memories, through the death of more and more of your contemporaries, through cycles of human construction and demolition, and occasionally, demonstrations of environmental tinkering via Mother Nature’s big box ‘O’ tools. Evidently in November, Mother Nature determined that a portion of the Sandy River needed a make-over

It used to be that you would drive to Zigzag and turn North at the Lolo Pass junction, drive a little over four miles to forest road 1825 and then…but then it doesn’t really matter because forest road 1825 has a gate across it now. So it’s get-out-of-the-car-and-walk-time.
At first, as you walk along the trails that snake along the river, you marvel at the delicate ground cover and the tenacious tree-like things that struggle to grow out of the moss and lichen covered rocks. But then abruptly, the trail disappears, seemingly scooped out by a titan gardener with skyscraper sized spade.

In a little less than a mile, you reach the bridge.

Fortunately, there is a wealth of bridge alternatives.

Don’t take this tree though, because it only goes to a little island in the middle of the river and you end up having to wade through really cold water to complete the crossing.

The sign says the Ramona Falls trailhead is still 2 miles ahead.

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I…
I took the one without a tree in front of it.

From here, or very close to here, there is a message board that is kind enough to inform you that a mile ahead, there will be NO seasonal bridge across the river until maybe May – but it depends. But that note was probably written before the November moonscape make-over.

Here Mother Nature experiments with a lunar crater motif.

As best as I was able to determine, this is the place where you would expect to find a seasonal bridge (if it was the right season). I think the dark space into the trees on the other side of the river is where the trail continues, but I didn’t have time to verify it owing to a prior softball commitment. From this point, my GPS device claims that it is 3.8 miles back to where I parked the car.

These building supplies off to the side of the trail provide another clue about the possible location of the site of the seasonal bridge, but if you ask me, I think they are going to need more wood.

A wiser choice of tree-bridge allows me to cross back without getting wet.
(To be continued)

Monday, April 9, 2007

Propagation of Our Root-bound Cohorts

My January 16, 2007 blog entry, Invasion of the Alien Pods (, turns out to have been incomplete and its sensationalistic title essentially misleading. A comment from alert blog reader Cynthia astutely points out the incomplete part. She said, “And let us remember our dear animal companions who share the planet with us. Very helpful in assisting our root-bound cohorts with propagation.” Upon reflection, I realized also that the seed pods can’t possibly be ‘alien’. While it is fun to make metaphors about foreign invaders and the logistics of warfare as applied to vegetables, it is probably more informative to remember that plants share the same genetic code the rest of us do and that somewhere down the line, evidence implies, we all come from the same replicator. We are a big interconnected family, dependent on each other for our very lives.

The interrelationships between species are so complex that it leads many of us to assume that they have been put in place by an intelligent designer. However, given a process like natural selection and its resulting cumulative adaptations, scientists are beginning to see how complex design might be accomplished without supernatural intent.

At this date in the evolution of species, there are many alliances and treaties existing between the plant and animal world that aid both parties in their continued survival and propagation.

STRATEGY 59: Only Pooh Can Make This World Seem Right

Here, plants and animals forge an agreement.

PLANT: If you promise not to yank me out of the ground and kill me, I’ll let you eat this nice fruit I’ve prepared.


PLANT: (silently to self) Ha! That fruit is packed with seeds. When the animal poops several miles down the road, those seeds will be ejected with free fertilizer!

STRATEGY 42a /42b: Hitchhikers

PLANT #1: Damn it. That’s the second time this spring those large hairy migratory animals have come through here and trampled all over us. At this rate, we will never be able to spread into that distant yet promising field.

PLANT #2: I’ve noticed that those migratory animals have no problem moving around from field to field owing to the fact that they are not rooted into the soil.

PLANT #1: If only we had sharp pointy stickers or grappling hooks, we could maybe catch a ride.

PLANT #2: Hey, that gives me an idea.

STRATEGY 689: More Flies to Honey than Vinegar

Blog reader Cynthia kindly sent me this cool picture of a bee in action. I briefly wondered if perhaps a possible explanation for 'missing bees' ( alluded to below ) might be that camera enthusiast are gluing them to flowers in order to get sharp close-up pictures. Cynthia denies using glue and insists that no bees were hurt in the acquisition of this photo. It turns out that Cynthia is an artist based in New Mexico. You can visit her web-site and view her multi-media portfolio at Be sure to also check out her photos of 'Ancient Sites' and 'New Mexico' and see if you don't end up wanting to see it all for yourself.

PLANTS: Listen, tossing buckets of pollen into the wind is getting expensive. We need a more precise delivery system. Maybe we could convince you to handle some special deliveries for us.

ANIMAL: What’s in it for me?

PLANTS: We could maybe give you something sweet – a concentrated source of energy – as payment?

ANIMAL: Sounds good. How will I find the pollen and how will I know where to deliver it?

PLANTS: Geesh! Do we have to draw you a diagram?

THE NEWS: With reported losses of bees reaching up to 90 percent in some states, scientists have found no cure for what they labeled Colony Collapse Disorder. Official Mike Hansen told the Kalamazoo (Mich.) Gazette that with honeybees dying at an alarming rate in 22 U.S. states the 2007 fruit harvest is at risk.

PLANTS: Oh crap!

PEOPLE: Oh crap!

STRATEGY 689: variation on a theme #22

PLANT #1: Free sugar! Free sugar!

ANIMALS: Yay! Free sugar!

PLANT #2: I don’t understand why you are giving away free sugar.

SCOTT: I don’t understand either, but it sure makes me curious.


SERPENT: When you eat of this tree, your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.

SCOTT: Really?

SCOTT: Hey! If we select only the best tasting apples over time to grow in our orchards, we end up with delicious apples! (These human selected apple trees may now be extra susceptible to disease owing to reduced genetic variety.) Gosh! This is tricky!

GOD: O.K. Who ate the fruit?

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

TABLE MOUNTAIN: Columbia River Gorge Geology

In a previous blog entry, Bridge of the Gods (, I noted that some geologists have posited a link between a landslide that likely occurred in the 1200s and local myths/legends describing a land-bridge across the Columbia.

Current, apparently misnamed, Bridge of the Gods.

John Eliot Allen, author of The Magnificent Gateway, writes, “The lobe of the latest (“Cascade”) slide covers about 5 ½ square miles. It diverted the river a mile to the south, and contained a dam long enough, in all probability, to give rise to the Indian legend of the “Bridge of the Gods”

Mr. Allen describes the unstable geologic situation like this. “Heavy Grande Rhone Basalt-flows cap Greenleaf Peak and Table Mountain, resting upon 1000 feet of weak, clay bearing Eagle Creek sediments.”

The trail I took to Table Mountain starts at the Bonneville trail head. It’s on the Washington side of the river across the highway from the Bonneville Dam’s visitor center parking lot. You can pick up a parking/forest pass at a Chevron station a couple miles west of the trail head (Five dollars for a day pass).

At the east end of the trail-head parking lot, find the Tamanous trail sign and proceed about a half a mile until you merge with the Pacific Crest Trail. A sign at the intersection almost counter intuitively points North and South. Go north, ultimately, along the Pacific Crest trail, though it will feel an awful lot like you are really going west. Whenever you come to an intersection, be sure you see the little metal Pacific Crest Trail diamonds posted in the trees when you resume your walk or you may be off track.

Heading down the trail toward Gillette Lake, I noted that were it not for the moss, you would think the landscape was still rolling. While some carbon dating results put the landslide event at about 1260 A.D., other geologists have attempted to date the slide by measuring lichen growth.

Gillette Lake has some nice camping sites and appears to periodically host beavers. There are remnants of lodge and dam building activities. I’m inclined to describe the color of Gillette lake as a green not found in nature, but that apparently can’t be accurate.

A little bit past Gillette Lake, the trail opens up onto what may be an old logging road and a clear cut area that affords a good view of the sheared away face of the mountain. This image shows Table Mountain as it appeared this year on March 3rd (left) and again on April 1st (right).

A former trail to the top of Table Mountain has been closed due to erosion and other environmental concerns. A posted sign encourages you to continue another half mile to this newer access point. If the trail so far has been a medium ‘5’, it is about to become a “9” and for old out of shape fat men, maybe an “11”.

Later on, there will be the additional psychological challenge of exposure to sheer drop-offs. I had to shield my eyes with my hands – like blinders – to keep focused on where I was placing my feet.

From this vantage point, you can see how the river bends to the south behind Bonneville Dam.

From the summit, looking east up the Columbia River gorge.

This ridgeline leads to the top (The point) of the sheer face of Table Mountain

In retrospect, I’m not sure it is a good idea to get this close to the edge of an unstable mountain with a demonstrated propensity to slide.

I thought it was hard going up the mountain, but my knees had a surprise for me when I started back down. Fortunately, I got off the rocky dangerous part well before dark. Limping past Gillette Lake on the way out, I was thankful I had my flashlight and my bag of survival gear – just in case (about 15 1/2 miles round trip).

The Narrative Image NAVIGATION AID

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