Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Night Sky II

I learned from a friend that Jupiter is at its closest approach to earth this year at this time, so when I heard the Great Horned Owls calling by the light of the full moon I just had to go out to see (and hear) the show. Two owls (or more) were calling to each other and high clouds slightly obscured the view. Only the moon and Jupiter could be seen. First I looked through my telescope, but when I saw Jupiter I just felt compelled to try to take a photo to better tell my tale. First, though, here's the moon as seen with my new camera.

To my delight and amazement, the four largest moons of Jupiter were all to be seen. One was on the left side, very close to the planet. To the right, another hovered about four Jovian diameters away ... and right against the right side of Jupiter the two remaining moons sparkled. One nearly touched the edge, and I'm sure if I look again soon it will have either passed in front of, or behind, the planet. Even with the faint haze, the two further moons show in this photo ... and the closer ones disappear in the bright haze illuminated by the Jovian glow. Through my scope the dark bands can be clearly seen. If you're a sky-watcher, this week is a great time to look up!

It would take more knowledge than I have to say for sure which moon should go by which name. After all, one may appear close, but really be at a greater distance from Jupiter. Wouldn't it be fun to watch hour after hour, night after night, until one knew which was the inner, and which the outer, moon?

And, if you're an early riser ... Mercury is making one of only two appearances this year about a half-hour before sunrise, seen right where the sun will soon rise, visible even after all the stars have been obscured by the brightening morning sky. I'm not much of a morning person, so you'll have to tell me about it!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Crater Lake ... and the trip home

It was with mixed feelings that we left the coast and headed inland once again. The beauty of the sea had been tempered by fog and wind. But, as soon as we got a few thousand yards from the coast, the weather was summertime hot again in an instant!

Seeing the big trees in the Coast Range is always a joy, though. We were determined to get to our next stop, Cyndi's brother's home in Prospect, before nightfall. Nonetheless, we still made time for a couple of quick stops. We took a very short hike in the big trees, up a verdant creek, to see Oregon's highest waterfall.

It was already turning darker, and the mosquitoes kept us moving toward our goal.

Cyndi's brother works at Crater Lake National Park, and the morning after our arrival he took us to an overlook near the park lodge. I'd never seen this particular vantage before, and the deep blue of the water was stunning!

Far below my perch on the rim, the steep sides of this volcanic crater plunged quickly out of sight into the bottomless blue depths.

Inside the lodge, I was fascinated by this stairway and wall which showcased bark as the facing material, rather than peeled logs or sawn beams. The grand public spaces of our National Park Lodges are always worth investigating.

Next, for the afternoon's adventure, we set out to see a place in the park I had never seen before, called The Needles. Here they are on the far side of a canyon.

Seen closer, they are eroded spires of volcanic ash and tuff, fused into fantastical shapes.

The interpretive sign explained that these were the fumarole vents long ago, and the hot gasses and mineral-rich steam fused them solid.

As the surrounding material eroded away, only the hardened core remains standing today.

On our way out of the park, we left via the South Entrance, and headed across the vast sagebrush desert, homeward.

We went across the Upper Klamath Lake National Wildlife Refuge.

After a long day of driving, we stopped at sunset and pitched our tent in the sagebrush.

As the curtain of darkness dropped, we ate some dinner and fell asleep to the sound of coyotes. It would be a short drive home in the morning after a good night's sleep under a clear, starry sky.

Bandon and environs

Bandon, Oregon.

It has been a while since I've made time to share more of my Oregon vacation photos. It has been busy at work, and I've relished every occasion to get out and about, so will have more to share on that account as well. But, for now, to return to the story where I left off ...

The campground Cyndi and I visited was near the town of Bandon, and this lighthouse guards the entrance to the bay and harbor.

The Pelicans were feeding, and the Heerman's Gulls were attempting to steal fish from the Pelicans. The Pelicans would fly until they spotted a fish, then plummet into the water, at the last minute folding back their wings and piercing the water like a huge dart.

It was a blustery day, and there were not many people at the beach today!

I can't begin to describe the brisk wind. It picked up spindrift from the ocean and blew it ashore. I was soon shivering before the power of the sea breeze, and retreated to the car to warm up and clean my camera lens.

Even the Heerman's Gulls (the darker ones with red bills) and Western Gulls were hunkered down in the parking lot, all facing into the wind.

Sometimes the fog rolled in, other times the sun broke through. We drove up the coast and explored the many beaches and headlands.

The Beach Pea enjoys the sandy environment doused by salt spray.

We visited Bandon on three occasions and dined there twice.

To escape the chill wind, we drove around behind the dunes to a protected lagoon where this Snowy Egret was watching for fish.

A Raven harassed one of the many Turkey Vultures we saw, hurrying it out of the Raven's territory. Turkey Vultures were just about the most numerous bird we saw ... well, I guess they were easier to count than the myriad gulls.

Wherever the coast provided steep cliffs the Pigeon Guillemot had nesting areas and they clung to the steep faces with their bright red feet.