Tulip Frog

A small visitor to our garden… or possibly resident. We hear them calling fairly regularly. This is the first time I’ve gotten a good look at one, though. I’m not sure about the species. Ascaphus montanus is my best guess: it seems within the scope of variability for the species, but I’m not entirely convinced and our garden would represent a notable, though certainly not inconceivable, expansion of the range maps I’ve found. Insights are welcome. Update: It’s a Pacific treefrog brown morph, Pseudacris regilla – thanks, Bluetusk Images (whom everyone should follow)!

In any case, happy springtime, and happy Easter to those celebrating!

Evening Playa Weather

From the archives: two from a cloudy evening amid the salty pools and chemical dust of the Deep Springs Lake playa, my last real photo evening at Deep Springs.

Geese

A huge flock of snow geese two days ago in central Washington:

Winter Daydreams

Two rather spontaneous images made a week apart while killing time in the snowy farmlands of the Idaho Palouse – winter seems to have departed from these parts with the end of February, and these fields will soon be looking very different.

Snow Sketches

We’re having a beautifully stormy February day today, so it seems fitting to share another chilly set, this time from the central Washington Cascades.

All these were shot during two day of perching on a high ridge in the Glacier Peak Wilderness, repeatedly making tea and waiting for clouds to clear.

The tiger stripe patterns of the snowy slopes were fascinating.

Though it was a little past the Summer Solstice, the storm clouds were persistent, but occasionally the peaks put in an appearance, grim spines presiding over their snowy world.

Winter Returning

Several years ago: A December evening in the northern Great Basin as the sky grew grim and chill.

Next morning dawned silent, blue-white and vastly empty with the glow of the setting moon behind cloud.

A hint of warm light in the sky, but no more.

The shallow wetlands remembered their Ice Age glory.

A touch of light, distant.

Cold Water in the Northern Desert

For those of us who love to contemplate Ice Age North America and long for a glimpse of the Great Basin when it was a land of lakes, south-central Oregon fulfills many wishes. Lake Abert is an especially stark beauty, stretching vast and empty towards the arid waves of the sagebrush sea to the west and shadowed by the massive cliffs of Abert Rim to the east. It feels enormous, though it is only a small remnant of Pleistocene Lake Chewaucan.

Like most such Great Basin lakes with no outlet save evaporation, Lake Abert is extremely salty. When I visited on a very cold December morning, ice was trying in vain to form in the salt water, but gentle waves of half-frozen slush were lapping at the shore, hissing softly in the silent dawn.

Lake Abert’s environs are also notable for holding one of the oldest archaeological sites in North America, Paisley Caves. The caves contain evidence of human presence here as early as 13-14,000 years ago.

Climbing up the steep slopes through sparse junipers towards Abert Rim, one can’t help but think of those earliest Americans, exploring inland from the coast past glacier-bound mountains to find an inland paradise full of water and birds.

The water may be far less than it once was, but on a stormy winter evening or icy morning this land still seems to lie dreaming of its Ice Age past.

Stony Land

I am catching up at last with photos from a wonderful solo trip to southeastern Oregon and northern Nevada back in late 2017. One stop on that journey was at the Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge, a gloriously empty expanse in the northwestern Great Basin. I had driven through many times in the past and marveled at the desolation from the highway, but had never yet made time to stop and explore. It’s a land of stones, grass and sage, laced by small streams which have cut remarkable gorges through the outcrops of basalt and rhyolite.

This region of the Great Basin is highly volcanic, connected by its stones to a vast region and history encompassing the ancestral Cascade Range, the enormous Columbia River Basalts and the Yellowstone hotspot. One especially striking feature I have never seen elsewhere was extensive desert pavement composed largely of broken obsidian.

The marshy wetlands looked like wonderful riparian habitat, but on my visit they were hushed, still with anticipation of a winter storm that would arrive a day later. I would love to see this place green and blooming in spring.

The creeks here may be small, but they have been patient and cut deep.

Despite the wetlands, however, the overall feel here was stone: gorges, crags, outcrops and boulders studding the landscape in all directions.

The Sheldon is huge (573,504 acres or 900 square miles) and one could wander for ages out here alone in stone and grass and sky.

2020 Outtakes

One unusual positive to come out of 2020 for me is that for the first time in ages I ended the year more or less caught up on photo editing, processing and even sharing. I’m pleased that this will let me spend some fallow winter time catching up on my significant backlog, which spans many previous years. But I do wish to close out last year with a few local images that I like but which did not quite make it into previous posts. The Palouse and the Channeled Scablands are such a photographic playground!

Deep Time Eroding

Badlands at sunrise, Death Valley National Park

Two old images from several winters ago: Five-million-year-old lake sediments erode into the giant chasm of Death Valley beneath mountains of 500-1,500-million-year-old stone.

Badlands and Grapevine Mountains at sunrise, Death Valley National Park