Oregon Geology Parte the First: Astoria or Bust

You know, this almost didn’t happen.  Tonight, the cat decided she loved the notebook all my notes resided in, and removing my cat from the object of her affections can be fatal.  I mean, does this really look like a feline inclined to relinquish the goods?

Fortunately for all involved, I was able to lure her away by opening the door to the porch.  Now that summer’s here, she’s almost as addicted to the outdoors as I am.  And so, at long last, I can present to you the first installment of our multi-part series on Oregon Geology.  Come join me after the jump for the geologic journey to Astoria.

I’m going to have to wrap this in warnings and caveats.  I’m not even a talented amateur geologist.  There’s probably plenty I’ll get wrong, although I tried to be careful and only work with bits that I had good information on.  And I’ll tell you when I’m not sure about what I’m seeing.

Such as now.  You don’t want to know how many days I spent trying to identify this bit o’ basalt just across the Columbia River from Longview, WA:

As near as I can tell from geological maps and various books on Northwest geology written for the interested amateur, that is a bit of old seafloor, quite possibly part of the Gray’s River Volcanics.  Despite the fact I was a doofus and did not zoom in to the full extent capable with my snazzy new camera, you can kinda sorta see what look suspiciously like possible pillows there, if you embiggen.  I was strangely unwilling to risk a car speeding around the blind curve and squishing me, so I didn’t cross the highway for a closer look, a fact I’ve been cursing myself for ever since.

So, despite a photo that’s perhaps more appropriate to cryptogeology and my own appalling ignorance on the subject, what makes me think we’re looking at actual ocean floor?  A few things.  First, you’ll notice the weathering and color on this bit o’ basalt.  Think back to the paltry post I did on eastern Washington.  The Columbia River Basalts still have a raw, fresh quality to them, even after upwards of 15 million years and several gargantuan floods.  You’ll see when we get to the Columbia River Gorge that even those parts of the Miocene flood basalts that spilled out into the wet west coast look pretty new.  This one, on the other hand, appears affably middle-aged.  The fact that the geological map of Oregon says this area’s covered in Eocene basalts clinches the case, although we’re proving by a preponderance of the evidence rather than beyond all reasonable doubt.

So what’s a bit of seafloor doing up here high and (quite often) dry?  So glad you asked, because it’s an interesting story.

Drive the I-5 corridor from the Columbia River to Olympia, and you’ll notice a great many hills.  These are the Willapa Hills, and between 55 to around 30 to 10 million years ago, depending on the spot, the whole area was underwater.  The west coast we know and love didn’t exist yet.  Instead, there was a rift spewing out new seabed in the ocean between the Pacific and North American plates, and a subduction zone somewhere to the East.  Thanks to the subduction zone volcanoes thrown up by that plate tectonic action, the Western Cascades, we don’t know precisely where – their eruptions covered the area of contact under younger volcanics in most places.  But as you head west, you can see ye olde seafloor, complete with its basalts and sedimentary cover.

Now, you normally don’t see seafloor on a continent – it’s heavy stuff, and sinks down beneath the lighter continental rocks at subduction zones.  But in some cases, the subducting seafloor drags lighter sedimentary rock down with it.  This is important, because there were two subduction zones in this area in them days.  The little North Cascade subcontinent was busily docking with North America, while the Pacific Plate continued its journey west, and as things jammed up together, a second subduction zone came into being in very nearly its present location.  Lighter sedimentary rocks riding the seafloor down into that trench “floated” the slab of seafloor that would become the Willapa Hills nearly two miles up, high and dry.  If you ever want to demonstrate this in your bathtub, fill up with water, stick in a few handy rocks, and shove a bath pillow under them.

So there you go – seabed on dry land.  A few tens of millions of years’ worth of stream erosion, and you have hills.  Neat, eh?

Here’s a photo that’s sort of like a geological family-reunion snapshot:

Starting from the river, we have a Holocene alluvial terrace built up by the Columbia River; then the Pliocene non-marine rocks (conglomerate and wacke) laid down around the Ice Ages; then our old friends the Eocene volcanic rocks, which include not only the seabed, but some that erupted on land; Eocene-Oligocene volcanic rocks erupted by the subduction zone volcanoes (think lots and lots of andesite); and finally Pleistocene to Recent volcanic rocks (and when they say recent, they mean like 30 years if they’re a day – I trust you all recognize our old friend Mt. St. Helens).  And yes, I know most of that stuff is in Washington and we’re supposed to be talking about Oregon, but I was standing in Oregon when I took the picture, so it counts, damn it.

Just think about this for a moment: when you study that picture, you’re looking at a history that covers over 50 million years.  You are looking at island arcs that became part of the continent, old ocean floor, ancient eruptions, and a river and a volcano that are busy making more geology.  That’s a pretty hefty hunk o’ history there.

Now, let’s look a bit west:

You will notice, just left of center, a shoulder of a hill with a flat top.  That, my darlings, is our old friend the Columbia River Basalt.  Several of those flows were opportunistic bastards who decided they wanted a seaside vacation, so they zipped right on down the Columbia River Valley several times, pushing the poor river ever further northward, and covering big strips of southwestern Washington and northwestern Oregon in burning hot basalt.  It got so deep and intense it overflowed the valley in several places.  Subsequent erosion, disapproving of such antics, scrubbed much of it away, but there’s plenty of patches left.

No doubt part of that erosion took place during the Ice Ages, when Glacial Lake Missoula floated its ice dam and sent flood after flood roaring across eastern Washington, down the Columbia River, and out to the Pacific, which was about forty miles further away than it is now, with so much water locked up in ice caps.  We’re talking floods that traveled from Montana here, people, and they still had enough water left by the time they got here that Longview was drowned in at least 300 feet of water.  And that river valley you’re looking at today was, at that time, a canyon that ran from Longview all the way out to the Pacific.  The Columbia River has since then filled things in with sediment, creating a much more laid-back landscape, but just imagine: the area filled from canyon-bottom to hilltop with angry brown floodwater.  Okay, so the canyon was only about forty feet deep round here, but still.

If you head down the Columbia River from here, you can see the over-steepened valley walls and faceted spurs left as the flood waters ripped at rock as it raced to the sea.  And, since this area’s built not just on basalt but Holocene alluvial deposits, Pliocene debris, and Eocene marine sediments, it also suffers landslides.  Between fire, water and slope failure, it just can’t catch a break.

Let’s follow the floods on down.  Near Clatskanie, Oregon, they hit a narrow bit of the Columbia River which slowed them somewhat, but they were still deep and strong, probably around 275 feet.  After those narrows, the valley widened where the bedrock changed from basalt to marine sandstone and mudstone.  The floods flowed merrily down to Astoria and then forty miles out to sea, where we’ll meet with them again.

Today, Astoria’s a seaside town with a history.  The town’s sited on the low hills erosion has carved from seafloor mudstones from the Miocene, laid down about 20 million years ago, underlain here and there by the basalts that erupted offshore.  You’ll notice a cheerful reddish-orange hue to the mudstones where they’ve had a chance to weather, but they’re really brown.  If you want to hunt fossils in Oregon, you’ve got a chance at a few here, though you’ll need a microscope for the majority.  On your way in to town, you might notice sandstones that likely were deposited in an old valley of the Columbia River back in the Pliocene, when the climate was drier than today.  And you’ll certainly run in to some Columbia River Basalts.

Let’s meet some fine examples of Astoria-area geology:

You’re standing on Coxcomb Hill, where a hot, probing finger of the Grande Ronde member of the Columbia River Basalt flows prodded its way into squishy coastal sediments.  Those sediments lithified, but were too soft to survive, and erosion took them out, leaving the basalt behind.  Across the river, the hill you see to the right is Scarboro Hill.  Its core is old volcanic rock that got stripped from the Juan de Fuca Plate as it subducted beneath the lighter North American continent.  The collision warped those rocks up like a card pinched between two fingers.  It probably tells the Grande Ronde Basalt that it doesn’t know how easy kids have got it these days.

Now, sight northwest across the arched bit of the bridge to that long, low strip of hills.  That’s Cape Disappointment.  It’s the eroded remains of a Columbia River Basalt flow, most likely another bit of Grande Ronde Basalt.  It’s now a pretty rocky cape with ten tons of fog and a reputation for killing ships – there’s a sandbar out there that likes to shift around, and has racked up an impressive 250 ships sunk.  Don’t play Battleship against the Graveyard of the Pacific, my friends.

Now, sweep your gaze south from Cape Disappointment to an even lower strip of land.  If you enlarge the picture, you’ll notice white froth around its tip, Pacific Ocean breakers.  That is the Clatsop Sand Spit, and we’ll be getting to know it well in a moment.

For now, though, we’re going to remain on Coxcomb Hill, where the Astoria Column rises up like a very tall, pointy column, and take in the view.  Here’s Scarboro Hill again, along with its buddy Bear River Ridge:

Bear River Ridge is what remains of a 2,700 foot thick sill of Grande Ronde Basalt that barged in on some unsuspecting sedimentary rocks and decided to stay.  If you’re starting to get the feeling that you cannot escape the Grande Ronde Basalts out here, you are not mistaken.

In fact, why don’t we turn from north to south and have a look at Saddle Mountain:

To me, it looks like a mutant three-humped camel, but if other people saw saddles, fine.  Whatever moves your mountain.  Not that it’s moving it far in this case – Saddle Mountain’s a Coast Range interloper, a young upstart among the staid old hills of Eocene volcanics, its dark-brown basalts rising up in knobs that form the highest peaks in these here parts.  In fact, most of the highest hills visible from here are part of that same flow, which buried an ancient river delta and caused general mayhem nearly sixteen million years ago.  The lower ridges in the foreground, Eels Ridge and Lone Ridge, are relative young whippersnappers, 15.3 million year-old flows of the Frenchman Springs member of the Columbia River Basalts, which made their way down an old Columbia River channel, evicted the river, intruded the local sedimentary rocks, and refused to leave.  Without them, Astoria might be part of Washington State, since the Columbia River’s used as the border.

After all that fire, it’ll be nice to see some water:

To the left, you’ll see the Youngs River flowing into (shocker) Youngs Bay, and the river on the right is the Lewis and Clark River.  Between them, they’ve built up what looks to be a nice delta.  Someday, if they’re very good, those muddy sediments will become sandstones and mudstones, and will tell future geologists the story of the two rivers that used to flow here.  The low hills surrounding them are 40-30 million year-old sedimentary rocks, which I trust shall provide a good example to the new generation.

And what’s that off in the far distance? Is it, could it be, visible all the way from here….

Why, yes, yes it is Tillamook Head!  Whoever would’ve expected to see more Grande Ronde basalt out here, right?  We’ll have much more to say about it in our next installment of Oregon geology, but for now, imagine you’re an observer standing on – um, well, shit, that’s not safe – you’re a little birdie flying up above this landscape nearly sixteen million years ago, watching firey fingers of basalt nose their way into the sea, sending up clouds of steam and causing all sorts of mayhem.  Anyone who says geology is boring needs to consider what the rocks are telling us.  What they’re telling us just now is that this was a rather eventful place back in the Miocene.  It makes Mt. St. Helens’ little upset look like a firecracker compared to the Space Shuttle taking off.

Let’s get off the hill that would’ve been a very uncomfortable place to stand several million years ago and head down to the mouth of the Columbia River, where we can see some points of interest, thanks to my intrepid companion’s mad skillz at shooting from the car:

From right to left: we see Scarboro Hill’s nose; the Long Beach Peninsula containing Cape Disappointment; Point Clatsop; and Clatsop Sand Spit, as we cross Youngs Bay.  I told you we’d have quite a lot to say about Clatsop, and now that we can see a bit more of it, so we shall.  First, however, note the color of the water.  That, my darlings, is the sediment that will keep the beaches going for some time to come, and it will factor in when we begin to discuss what the Columbia River’s up to out here.

Clatsop extends all the way from Tillamook Head to here, not an inconsiderable distance.  It’s a huge spit of sand, sediment dumped by the Columbia and its companions and sculpted by winds and waves.  The Columbia River’s done all that in just the 8,500 years since the seas rose to their present stand.  Its growth has been somewhat slowed by all the dams on the Columbia River, but it’s going to be with us for some time to come, together with its companion Long Beach in Washington.  The two are part of the same system, sand trending south in summer, north in winter.  Since the winter southwesterly winds prevail, the sand moves generally north.

Clatsop used to be home to great tracts of migrating dunes before some tidy-minded people decided to put a stop to their shenanigans in the 1930s and planted grass and shrubs all over them.  Eventually, if things proceed as such things usually do, Clatsop’s shifting sands will become sandstone, preserving the layers of the dunes for the ages.  Old beach ridges running parallel to the coast will lithify as well.  Those ridges, marking old shorelines left (comparatively) high and dry as more sand got plastered to the beach seaward, are so straight you might think they were old railway embankments.  They tell a story of what the sandspit used to be, and are likely created as breaker bars that, like a sort of Pinocchio, aspired to being a real beach, and eventually collected enough sand to do just that.

Now, you may have noticed with some bays that the sand spits end up very nearly taking over.  In fact, they often do, and the area behind them fills up with sediment and becomes real estate.  If you look up and down the coasts of Washington and Oregon, you’ll find many bays in the process of getting cut off from the sea, with sand bars nearly sealing them shut.  All they’ve got left is an inlet, where the river just manages to cut through the bar. But not here, despite how the angle of this photo makes it look.  The Columbia River’s a strong river, though, and the vigor of its flow has prevented sand bars from getting a proper toehold.  It has not, however, managed to avoid the fate of most Northwestern rivers, which is to be nudged into a little northward bend at their mouths by migrating sand.  Look at a map of the coast, and you’ll see it clearly.

We’ll end this missive on Oregon geology with the continuation of the Missoula Flood saga.  When we left the Floods, they were busy pouring down the Columbia River through the narrows at Clatskanie.  By the time they hit Astoria, they were very nearly down to sea level, but they still had a ways to go.  Under the sea, they flowed through the Cascadia channel, through the Blanco Fracture Zone, and headed 250 miles further south until they dropped into the Escanaba Trough, a rift valley.  Wait, you say – the Floods flowed underwater?  Indeed they did, due to the sediment they carried.  That load of debris, fine as it was, made them heavy enough to flow as turbidity currents.  There’s only one word for the turbidite beds they left: megaturbidites.  Even so far away from their point of origin, even after traveling submarine for hundreds of miles, they still left deposits up to 39 feet deep.  And we’re talking sediments carried almost 500 miles from the mouth of the Columbia River.

Look back at that previous picture, at that faint brown tint to the water, and consider that the color is caused by suspended sediment from a river that’s carrying even less sediment than normal.  Now consider what the water must have looked like when the Missoula Floods poured through carrying enough sediment to bury a house, flood after flood, five hundred miles away. 

Floods of water, floods of basalt, subduction zones, mid-ocean ridges, and pile after pile of sediment, all piled up and jammed together, made this area what it is today.  Even though most of that geology is covered by too much biology to be easily visible, it’s still astounding to look at, and incredible to contemplate.  And we shall be doing far more of just that soon, because we are headed down the Oregon Coast, where raw, nekkid geology’s on glorious display.

Let’s take one last look from the top of the Column, and be on our way:

Ye olde indispensable volumes of reference as the author was trying to make sense of it all:

Fires, Faults and Floods – one of the best roadside guides to the Columbia River Basin evah.

In Search of Ancient Oregon – simply the most beautiful book written about Oregon’s natural history.

Northwest Exposures – tying the whole shebang together in one easy-to-follow narrative.

Cataclysms on the Columbia – the book that truly helped me comprehend the incomprehensible.
The Restless Northwest – short, sweet, and yet comprehensive guide to Northwest geological shenanigans.

Roadside Geology of Oregon and Roadside Geology of Washington – indispensable references and inspirations.
Glacial Lake Missoula and its Humongous Floods – not only an informative guide to the discovery and history of the Floods, but an apt title, too!

The Bald Eagle Has Landed

And refuses to take off again.

The weather report informed me it would be cloudy and cool.  That turned out to be a lie.  Oh, there were clouds, but plenty of sunshine, too.  So I went walkies in the neighborhood.  And check out who I saw:

Yes, that’s right.  An enormous adult bald eagle.  A gentleman on the trail informed me there’s a few around.  I’d heard rumors, but this is the first time I’ve seen one.

Unfortunately, he was not interested in flying away, so I’m not able to show you a video of a flying bald eagle.  Shooting video of a sitting-still-and-occasionally-preening-bald-eagle didn’t seem scintillating.  I can, however, show you good enlarged images, so why not follow me after the jump?

When I first saw him, I was on the bridge at Monte Villa Parkway, and too far away to get a decent close-up.  Even working my way down the trail didn’t get me terribly close – wetland buffer and all that.  But I was able to get a somewhat clearer shot, even if there was a building in the background.  I’m not sure which is his best side, so we’ll present both:

Majestic, innit he?

I also came across a ginormous dragonfly:

It’s so awesome being able to stand a great many feet away and still get a shot like that.

On the way home, I stumbled across a veritable duck siesta:

It’s usually not so peaceful along that stretch of the creek.  Right across from the ballfields, y’see, and there’s usually about ten thousand people milling around.  Today, nice and silent, and the ducks seemed to be enjoying the respite.  I almost settled down for a nap with them, but the grilled hotdogs at Home Depot were summoning me.  Yes, that’s right.  Grilled hotdogs, Home Depot.  There’s a gentleman there who sells them, and they are big and yummy.

But first, I had to stop for the baby bunny:

There were two, but the first one ran and hid.  Too cute!

And that’s all for the playing in the sunshine.  Time to have dinner and then buckle down on this geology stuff.

Planes n Parks

My darlings, I can’t say as I regret spending far too much money, time away from the kitty, and neglecting my geological posting responsibilities.  Today was awesome.

We began at the Museum of Flight, where the Collings Foundation had a few of their fighter planes on display.  We got to see the only TP-51C Mustang in existence fly!  We boarded Air Force One and the Concorde.  We met a wonderful World War II veteran who had many stories to tell about his experience as a pilot and prisoner of war.  And we finished up with an afternoon at the Sound.  Hop aboard for photos and video.

The Museum of Flight is enormous, my darlings, and chock full o’ goodies both inside and out.  I’ve been to air museums before, but not like this.  My poor father is getting stuffed on an airplane and hauled up here as soon as we can both get time off work, because kids in candy shops wouldn’t even be in it.  He’d be far more ecstatic than that.  Y’see, he’s the reason I even give airplanes a second glance today.  He builds model aircraft, up to and including designing his own, and he’s been flying nearly as long as I’ve been alive.  Many happy childhood memories revolve around spending time out at the flying field with the old dad.  I’ve even flown, briefly and with care, once.  (He claims I’m good at it.  I say that’s the kind of thing pop’s say sans evidence and refuse to risk an expensive model on my rumored skills.)

So while planes aren’t my passion, I do enjoy stints at air museums eyeing the aircraft.  And it was a lovely day for it by Seattle standards.  You’ll see plenty of cloud cover, but it was warm and dry, which is all we ask.

Let’s start basically where my intrepid companion and I did, which is with the Concorde.  

This is one of the planes they let you poke around in.  And it made me realize something about transatlantic flight: if you want supersonic, you’d better be very, very short and skinny.  There’s not much room in one of these things:

Yes, I know, it’s hard to tell with all the Plexiglass, but believe me, without it wouldn’t be much of an improvement.  Not even the flight crew got a lot of space:

Luckily, folks were stuffed in there like so many salted herrings for only 4 hours or so at worst.  In fact, this plane set the record for an Atlantic crossing at 2 hours, 52 minutes and 59 seconds.  That’s bloody fast.  So fast that the aircraft stretched 6-10 inches from heating in supersonic flight.  These and many other fun facts are plastered to placards on Plexiglass all the way down the aisle.

It’s rather sad the Concorde’s no longer in service.  It’s a really lovely plane, with its swept-back wings and slender nose.  And even an inveterate smoker like me can survive a few hours in the air on the way to Europe.

After the Concorde, you can go nose around Air Force One:

It’s actually pretty awesome to wander about in the footsteps of Presidents.  And there are a lot of Presidents to follow around on this plane – it flew everyone from Eisenhower to Johnson, and it was still in service during Nixon’s presidency.  Everything was state-of-the-art then, but as you can tell from the secretary station, technology has moved on a bit:

Here’s the nerve center, where the President and his staff could sit and discuss whatever needed discussing.  There’s a view into the Presidential Stateroom just beyond the conference table:

It was hard to get a good shot of the Stateroom itself with all the glare off the plexiglass, but I did me best:

There’s an actual doggie door in the door of the Stateroom, too.  No word on cat flaps.

There were a few warning plaques that made me chuckle.  Here’s one above a white rotary phone:

And in case you wondered whose phone it was:

Up front, you could find the actual security phone, and get a good look at the cockpit, which makes all too clear that this plane was flying before computers came standard:

And that was about that for Air Force One.  All in all, very interesting.  Nice to see how the Leader of the Free World flies.

The plane I really wanted to poke around in wasn’t accepting visitors, alas.  Who wouldn’t want to investigate a Boeing 737 prototype used by NASA?

I mean, look at it’s name:

Oh, and that’s not dirt up near the nose – it’s signatures, I’m assuming from the last group of folks who worked with it:

Too awesome, and I loved it muchly.

But time flies, and we soon had to abandon the aircraft in this field for the exhibition planes, lest they fly off without us having seen them.  Unfortunately, to get up-close and personal with them, you had to pay a separate fee.  Since we’d already paid for the Museum and too many souvenirs, we gave that a pass.  I’ve prodded the innards of warplanes before, anyway.  We just stood back and took some shots through the fence.  Here’s their B-17 Flying Fortress:

And their B-24 Liberator, currently dressed up as Witchcraft:

These planes are enormous.  If you’ve never stood near one, you have no idea.

They had Betty Jane there, too, the only TP-51C Mustang currently flying:

And there she goes!

That, I have to tell you, was amazing.

Olde Thyme Aviation had their AT-6 “Texan” out, too.  And I was in a prime position to catch her coming home from a flight:

I can’t even begin to tell you how excited I was.  I mean, standing in the propeller wash!  Outstanding.

As I was wandering along the kiosks set up by the airfield, an old man with a twinkle in his eye called out over the engine noise, “Hey, why don’t you take my portrait?”  So I did:

It turns out this is Lt. Col. James H. Keefe Jr., USAF (Ret.).  You can see an interview with him at the Veteran’s History Project, or get the book his son wrote about his father’s service, Two Gold Coins and a Prayer.  Jim has a lot of stories, some of which he shared with us.  Here he is showing me pictures from the book and telling me the stories behind them:

I could have stayed there all day listening to him.  He’s had a hell of an interesting life, and he’s one of a vanishing breed.  It is good to shake the hand of a vintage American hero, a man who nearly died in Hitler’s POW camps.  I got a signed copy of the book for my dad, who is another vintage American hero.  I wish he’d been here to meet Jim.  The two of them would have had plenty to talk about.  Different wars, different branches of the service, different experiences, but war is war no matter where or when it’s fought.

After that, going to the beach was almost an anti-climax, so we’ll end here for now.  Besides, this is enough multi-media for one day.  I’ll post photos of the interesting rocks I found that were too heavy to carry home, the best piece of driftwood in the Northwest, and some gorgeous scenery tomorrow.  There’s even a bit of Bellevue sunset, which I captured on the drive home.  So much to look forward to, right?  It’ll be up after I’ve done my long-promised Parte the First in ye olde Oregon Geology series.

But I can’t leave you without your very own parrot holding a bottle of Corona, because everyone should have a parrot holding a bottle of Corona:

Makes Mexican dining a surreal experience, I’m here to tell you.  That’s from La Costa in Burien, should you ever wish to visit him yourself.  And speaking of Mexican, I have got some leftovers begging my attention.  Adios!

At Last

I have, no thanks to fretful felines, horrible hormones, and the release of a certain new gizmo that has caused my work load to pretty much quadruple, finished the first leg of research on Oregon geology.  I feel very nearly prepared to say one or two intelligent things about some of the photographs I took. 

Of course, now it’s bedtime.  And tomorrow, ye olde intrepid companion and I are off to the Museum of Flight to peruse some planes that are only in town for the weekend, followed by a trip to the Sound, which means a full report on that little adventure tomorrow night.  So poor Karen shall be forced to wait until Tuesday for her nummy rocks.  But I figured I’d better inform everyone that, really and truly, we’re very nearly there!

And as an aside, let me just note that two weeks’ intense study has definitely deepened my appreciation for the holiday photos I took.  Now they’re far more than just snaps of pretty places.  I can glance even the most languid landscape over and say, “Yup.  It looks peaceful now, but it was erupting ocean floor 30-60 million years ago, then it got drowned in mud, then it got booted out of the sea, then it was minding its own business when floods of lava poured all over it, and as if that wasn’t enough, then it got hit with a flood that would’ve made Noah say, ‘Shit, I think I need a bigger Ark.'”

When I first came up here, I was afraid geology would be boring.  Flood basalts.  Everywhere.  And little baby rocks hardly more than a few handfuls of millions of years old.  Yawn.  Boy, was I ever wrong.  Even the youngest whippersnappers are proving fascinating.  Deep time is all well and good, but shallow time’s got a lot to recommend it, too.

But before I can get to the geology, there’s aircraft and sunshine and beaches to attend to.  Besides, there’s bound to be some geology lying around the beach, so maybe I’ll be able to bring some back for all y’all.

To the Asshole Who Couldn’t Be Bothered to Douse a Campfire

You deserve to be tied to one of the Ponderosa pines in the path of your fire.

My stepmother forwarded me some photos taken of the Schultz Fire.  It’s horrific.

This is the area where the fire reportedly started.  It used to look like this before some fucktard decided he or she didn’t need to extinguish a campfire in dry country:

This is what it will look like now:

Nature's Devastation/Aftermath of a Forest Fire

Wayne Ranney has a lot more shots of the fire at Earthly Musings, including a sequence that shows just how incredibly fast these fires blow up in Arizona.  The motherfucker who caused this apparently didn’t stop to think about that, even though summer after summer, some other motherfucker’s managed to demonstrate the principles of super-dry pine trees + sparks + strong hot summer winds = armageddon.  And for those who believe good Mother Nature will heal all wounds, consider how fucking long it takes to heal on steep slopes in dry country.  Here’s Mt. Elden, which suffered a horrific fire in 1977 that nearly took out Flagstaff:

Its scars are still clearly visible today:

Over thirty years, and you’d think it happened yesterday:

That was another campfire started by a dumbshit, in this case a runaway girl.  Not that age is an excuse anymore.  When I was in elementary school, they showed us the burn site, showed us a film of the fire, and explained just how fucking important it is to stamp out every little spark.  They even told us to crush our smokes, just in case any of us had started smoking at the tender age of 5.  But hey, maybe it’s different now.  Maybe the AZ Cons decided we don’t need no stinking librul fire-safety education, and little kiddies aren’t taught how to avoid burning the forest down anymore.  Maybe the fucktard who left a campfire burning in a tinder-dry wilderness never learned not to play with matches, or never to turn their back on a fire until it’s cold and dead.  Maybe the dumbshit didn’t have a fucking television and lived locked in a dark, windowless room where they couldn’t see the forest burn year after year because of other stupid fucktards.  Maybe there’s some kind of excuse.

Or maybe there’s just someone who needs to learn that when you play with fire, it’s not just the forest that gets burned.  I hope the little shit ends up in prison.

Dumbfuckery du Jour

Courtesy of TPM, a triplet of wild-eyed conspiracy theories trumpeted by two elected Cons and a wanna-be Senator.  And here I thought this sort of frothing-at-the-mouth crazy was reserved for wee-hour radio shows and poorly-written photocopied “news”letters.

First up: Rep. Sue “Psychotic” Myrick:

Rep. Sue Myrick (R-NC), who we last encountered exposing Muslim intern spies on Capitol Hill and terrorists in the nation’s convenience stores, has issued her most startling warning yet: Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, she has come to believe, is partnering with Mexican drug cartels in the U.S. borderlands and may be planning “Israel-like car bombings of Mexican/USA border personnel or National Guard units.”
In a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, Myrick calls for a task force “to engage US and Mexican law enforcement and border patrol officials about Hezbollah’s presence, activities, and connections to gangs and drug cartels.”

Her “evidence”?  Tattoos, tunnels and terrain.  Seriously.

Next up: Rep. Louie “Loco” Gohmert:

Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) went to the House floor Thursday night, to warn of a diabolical terrorist plot — with a 20-30 year timeline.
The plot involves arranging for a child to be born in the United States — then training them in an isolated environment abroad, ready to dispatch them back here to commit violence after a quick two or three decades.

Um.  Okay.  That’s like totally plausible – for a really badly-plotted thriller.

And finally, we have the woman who replaced Sue “Chickens” Lowden as the Woman Who Would Dethrone Harry Reid, Sharron “Screwy” Angle:

The far-right third party that Nevada GOP Senate candidate Sharron Angle called home in the 1990s supported abolishing “the debt money system” and ran a vitriolic anti-gay insert in state newspapers that portrays LGBT people — or, as Angle’s party called them, “sodomites” — as child-molesting, HIV-carrying, Hell-bound freaks, according to documents obtained by TPM. 
This is a 1992 petition, signed and circulated by Angle, that was part of a successful push to get the Independent American Party on the ballot. It features the Independent American manifesto — including the acknowledgment “That many Americans have ignored the Laws of God.”
The petition says that party members support a proposed Constitutional amendment called the Liberty Amendment, which would “compel the Federal Government to halt its unconstitutional programs and wasteful expenditures such as foreign aid and welfare corruption. It will prohibit the financing of the New World Order with American taxes.”
The amendment would also “eliminate the debt money system and restore Constitutional money to the people. It will thus eliminate the contrived purposes for income taxes and will abolish the Marxist graduated income tax and the fearful I.R.S. It will transfer public lands in the West to State ownership and control. It will restore freedom and prosperity to America.”

That was a petition she signed, mind you.  I’m sure she’ll say she didn’t read it first, and will have further words on how clueless she was about the rabid uber-homophobia and conspiracy-mongering of the party she belonged to for six fucking years, but you don’t belong to a fringe party for six years without knowing something about their frothing insanity.

For bonus lunacy, we have wanna-be Rep. Lou Ann Zelenik proclaiming that Muslim community centers = teh terrorists are taking over Amurika!11!1!!!

This is unconscionable.  These people have health insurance, which presumably includes mental health treatment, and there are a number of excellent anti-psychotics on the market.  So what’s the excuse for leaving what are obviously full-blown psychoses untreated?

More Rose Gardens, a Peony, and a Truce

My intrepid companion has decided you needed to see more of the International Rose Test Garden than just the roses, so there you are: more roses!  And a few other things to boot – don’t forget to visit his site for more than rose gardens.

Now, if he wants to make this a real war o’ the roses, well, we totally can.  I only snapped about a gajillion pictures, thee knows.  Like when I got bored ogling roses and wandered down to the amphitheater for a bit:

Yes, roses even there, I’m afraid.  But there was also an interesting staircase made of rocks rather than roses, so that made me happy:

And with that, I’m calling a truce.  Of course, if Cujo wants to post more pretty pictures, I doubt any of us will argue.

Speaking of pretty pictures, Suzanne’s peony’s obliging:

She takes the most lovely photos of Netarts Bay, and having been by there, I can see precisely why she loves living in the area.  There’s plenty more where that comes from, too, so do enjoy!

See? Geology Work. And Cat

Would’ve worked out better if the camera hadn’t been pointed nearly directly into the light, but I haven’t got a lot of stable surfaces to set it on that aren’t covered with rocks.  So it goes.

I Never Promised You A Rose Garden

But you can have one anyway:

That’s the Gold Medal Garden at the International Rose Test Garden in Portland.  There must be something wrong with me.  I’m a female, and yet ranks upon ranks of roses got hideously boring after the first twenty minutes.  Then again, when I hit their gift shop and screamed for joy upon finding rose lotion, rose air freshener, and rose lip balm, I suppose I shored up my creds.  But still.

Got a lot of pretty pictures of roses, I do admit.  And it was fun taking my camera’s macro mode out for a good workout.  Join me after the jump for a few more.

No boring red roses for us, my darlings.  Let’s have a touch o’ sun on a cloudy day:

Reminds me of the lotus, this one does:

Lovely in lavendar:

Perhaps a Rhapsody in Blue (the only varietal name I cared to remember)?

I don’t know why, but this one reminds me of flamenco:

And of course we have to have our pretty pink:

Now, this is why I love being a smoker: this tableau was tucked away in the parking lot, and I wouldn’t have noticed it if I wasn’t looking for something interesting to stare at while I indulged out of the way of others:

And I wouldn’t have got a bee doing the pollination job:

Ah, there.  Now that I’ve stopped to smell the roses – well, metaphorically – I feel better about ye olde crap day at work.  A brief word to the wise: do not upgrade your snazzy phone’s operating system until after the phone manufacturer has worked out the bugs, or you shall be as upset as 90% of the poor people I talked to today.  Instead of rushing right out to download the latest release guaranteed to make your phone do all sorts of things that sound great at the time but in retrospect could’ve waited a wee bit longer, do stop to ponder a bloom or two.  And while you do that, I’ll just be getting back to all the geology homework I wasn’t able to get done today…

Dumbfuckery du Jour

And the dumb marches on, as Randy Brogdon, Oklahoma state senator and gubernatorial hopeful, believes his electoral chances will be ever so improved if he says stupid shit like this:

Instead of placing blame on BP for the massive environmental and economic disaster that it has caused in the Gulf of Mexico, Brogdon claimed that government is “the problem” and that the spill is a “perfect example of why government should never be involved in the private sector”:

In Oklahoma, where oil and natural gas drive the state’s economy, tea party favorite Randy Brogdon, a Republican candidate for governor, said federal involvement in the BP disaster is only making the situation worse.

“This is a perfect example of why government should never be involved in the private sector,” said Brogdon, a state senator campaigning on limited federal government.

Government is not the solution. It’s the problem. The more government tries to get in and regulate the free market, the worse things become.”

Of course, BP’s oil disaster may have resulted from too little — not too much — government involvement. Although the exact cause of the disaster is still unknown, there is a growing mountain of evidence that suggests BP’s own corporate negligence, combined with Bush-era regulators turning a blind eye to safety violations, are what created the environment that led to the oil spill.

I think someone needs to give Mr. Brogdon a copy of Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle and explain what the free market looked like before government involvement in the private sector.  Then again, I don’t know if any amount of gut-churning reality can penetrate the skull of someone so thick-headed as to believe too much regulation and oversight caused BP’s well to go boom.

People like this seem to have never experienced corporations in real life.  Those of us who have understand that without government standing in their way, they wouldn’t have to think of creative ways to fuck us over for fun and profit – they’d just get straight on with the raping and pillaging.  And if he believes the free market will provide the proper oversight, he can peruse this missive to see just how effective consumer outrage is likely to be.

Elsewhere, you knew this was coming:

After President Obama successfully secured $20 billion in escrow for Gulf Coast victims of BP’s oil spill, the right tried a variety of attacks. By now, they’re familiar — it was a “shakedown”; it was “extortion”; it was “unconstitutional.”
But Thomas Sowell kicked things up a notch, taking the right-wing whining about the president fighting for small businesses and struggling families to a whole new level this week.

[D]uring the worldwide Great Depression, the German Reichstag passed a law “for the relief of the German people.” That law gave Hitler dictatorial powers that were used for things going far beyond the relief of the German people — indeed, powers that ultimately brought a rain of destruction down on the German people and on others. If the agreement with BP was an isolated event, perhaps we might hope that it would not be a precedent. But there is nothing isolated about it.

Yep, we’ve moved past the “shakedown” phase, and have entered the “Hitler-esque” stage. Oh good.

And double-goody, we’ve moved directly into the right-wing-dumbfucks-in-Congress-quoting-right-wing-dumbfucks phase:

Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) drew a comparison between President Obama and Hitler in a speech on the House floor last night that quoted a recent op-ed by conservative columnist Thomas Sowell. In his op-ed, Sowell argued that Obama’s call for BP to set up an escrow account to help oil spill victims in the Gulf was a sign that “American democracy is being dismantled, piece by piece, before our very eyes.” 
Gohmert praised Sowell as a “brilliant man” and used his words to warn that there are “useful idiots” who want President Obama to be a dictator…

Which is why I’m not at all surprised that the Cons have made Dems scream with joy by embracing Rep. “Smokey” Joe “All Apologies to BP” Barton to their bosom once again – despite his un-apologizing for apologizing for apologizing, which translates to his apology to BP standing as-is.

They’re counting on American voters being stupid enough to eat this shit up like oil-soaked Gulf Coast shrimp.  I wish I could count on American voters to prove them wrong.