Rain Forest | Pacific Coast

Two special places in WA state.

Our View From Iowa

by Jim and Melanie

On our recent trip to the Pacific Northwest, we ranged from Tacoma, WA at the north end to Portland, OR at the south. We shared a little about the C-17 cargo planes at McChord Air Force Base and about Portland Art Museum’s exhibit on burly antique cars. Between those two, we also enjoyed lower-tech experiences.

The Temperate Rain Forest

From Tacoma WA, we drove along I-5 to Olympia, where we headed west on highways 8 and 12 toward the Pacific coast. Route 101 then took us north. Before we turned west, a sign pointed to the Quinault Rain Forest trailhead nearby. The coastal plain geography meets the Olympic Mountains at that location. The gain in elevation of the moisture-laden air causes large amounts of rainfall in the region, between 10 and 15 feet a year, resulting in a temperate rain forest.

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Prairie Burn | 12 April 2018

Our friends had a fire.

Our View From Iowa

Seventeen years ago, friends of ours moved from their in-town home to a 5 acre property several miles out of town. They built a beautiful prairie-style house and converted 4 acres of their alfalfa field front yard into a mixed prairie like it was 200 years ago. Native grasses, wildflowers, and trees were planted and a small pond was formed. The plantings grew well in the rich Iowa soil. Wildlife returned. Bird species grew in number. Kestrels nested in the box above the open space. Waterfowl visited the pond. They kept paths mowed to allow easy access to parts of the prairie visible in this satellite view.

Recent year Google Maps view. Pond lower left. House upper right.

Only one thing was missing from their prairie. They needed a fire. Much dry vegetation was on the ground built up from years of growth. Certain desirable native species were crowded out…

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Black Point Wildlife Drive

Our view of a very low-tech place near the space coast.

Our View From Iowa

by Melanie and Jim

On our last full day in Florida, we headed to the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge north of Kennedy Space Center. The wildlife site is accessible from the town of Titusville. After crossing the causeway from Titusville, we turned onto the Black Point Wildlife Drive. This is a seven-mile, one-way drive through marshlands.

As the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service says, it “provides an excellent place to see waterfowl (in season), wading birds, shorebirds and raptors. Alligators, river otters, bobcats, various species of snakes, and other wildlife may be visible as well.” We saw no bobcats or snakes, and the velociraptors were hiding. But there were plenty of birds and alligators to enjoy. Zoom/drag or turn your phone in this interactive for a typical view of the area.

This Great Blue Heron stalked some lunch while we passed. It gave us some great views.

There…

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Mt. St. Helens | Eruption | 18 May 1980

The eruption of Mt. St. Helens in Washington State 37 years ago was a spectacular event. Upwelling of magma caused the mountain to be forced slowly and strongly from below. On the morning of 18 May, a huge landslide occurred on the north slope face of the mountain. Rock, timber, snow and ice, slid down the face. The event allowed the volcano to release pressure and begin its eruption.

Ash was projected high in the sky and was caught in the high altitude westerly winds. The dense cloud of ash drifted east blocking out the midday sun across the state. Ash settled down on communities causing confusion and havoc.

In the path of the settling ash was Manastash Ridge astronomical observatory run by the Dept. of Astronomy of the Univ. of Washington. Douglas Geisler was working at the observatory throughout the night of the 17th into the early morning hours of the 18th. He said the skies were excellent for telescope observations. He went to bed at about 5 am.

A loud ‘boom’ barely interrupted his sleep. He went back to sleep until about noon. When he got up to go outside, it was dark.

“Yikes! – There is no day. It’s completely black; thick, inky black with visibility ~10 feet (with a flashlight), & it stinks. This is the end of the world.”

In the logbook for the 19th, he noted for the record the sky condition was black & smelly. He also noted he lost 6 hours of observing due to volcano (good excuse, huh?)

He thought he might be the last survivor of the war as he remembered hearing a ‘boom’. He turned on the radio and heard ‘cha cha’ music. Why was the world playing music at the end of the world? Eventually the radio station from Yakima said that Mt. St. Helens ‘blew its wad.’ He was relieved.

It remained dark until mid-afternoon. Several inches of ash settled on the ground. Visibility improved to about 1/2 mile by dusk. He covered the telescope and instruments to prevent damage. He took some pictures of the dome and surroundings thinking he might make a lot of money on his story. But, he never followed through.

Orchid | Finally in Bloom

After months of waiting, our orchid is finally in bloom. It was a gift from a young woman who stayed with us while she worked in a local political campaign office. It was in bloom at the time. Soon after she left, the blooms dropped off and left a bare stalk. It looked so sad. I cut the stalk and cared for the plant as best I could. I never had an orchid before. It seems to be Phalaenopsis.

A few months ago, it sent up a new flower stalk. Buds appeared and slowly grew larger. A few days ago, this beautiful flower opened. Another opened today. I hope it brightens your day.