Friday, November 27, 2009

Oregon Oddities

Hope all my US readers had a great Thanksgiving! We're now in the November blahs here in the Northern Rockies; it's dark, it's cold, and so Oregon in the summer is not far from my thoughts.

While Paul and I, and our friends Denise & Jim were traipsing about the lovely coast of Oregon, we did spot the occasional odd thing here and there. I've already shared the Head at Hug Point with you. A few days earlier we had traveled south to Newport, OR and Yaquina Bay Lighthouse State Park. We tried to get there when tide was at its lowest because the park has some great tidepooling and we got an hour or so in, and then we explored some of the other parts of the park once the water got too high to safely tidepool. There's a sheltered cove that seal lions and harbor seals often hang out in so we walked down to that area and noticed that the railing and posts of the fence along the sidewalk had become a caterpillar highway! They seemed to be traveling with great intent, but in all different directions.

This is just a small group of the hundreds of caterpillars we saw

Denise identified them as being in the Tussock moth family, but we've yet to figure out exactly what kind they were.

We then continued on down to the cove and watched two seals on a rock watching a great blue heron on another rock watching the fish. Unfortunately we discovered that although we had left the main batch of caterpillars behind, there were still some roaming the railings in this area and we accidentally squished a few as well as picked up a few hitchhikers on our clothes. It was tricky trying to remove them from us without touching those hairs that looked like they'd be
very itchy.

For a minute, the seal found us an interesting diversion. Then he/she went back to watching the heron.

On another day we headed into the temperate rainforests that make up the Northwest Pacific Coast in search of the ubiquitous banana slug. There was plenty of fog, plenty of vegetation, but no slugs. We eventually found one on the Washington coast, but it wasn't like the olive green giants that I remember seeing in Olympic National Park. However, it was the first slug we'd seen the whole week, so it became much celebrated and photographed.

Later, Denise told me that after we headed home, they saw some real field guide quality banana slugs on a hike they took near where we had been staying. They also finally heard a varied thrush on that hike; a bird we'd been trying to get all week.

And when you are hungry after all the hiking and beachcombing and gingerly picking caterpillars off of you, where do you go to eat? Why at the Inflatable Crab, of course!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Hey Kids, We're Going on a Road Trip!

There are still many photos from our trip to Oregon in July that I haven't had a chance to go through and edit. One bunch of photos I knew I wanted to do a post about as I was taking the pictures. I think my friend Denise and I even used the word "blogworthy" at the time. Since things are pretty un-blogworthy around here right now, I figured it was time to dust them off and share them.

One day during our trip in July we all piled into the car and headed up the coast of Oregon and across the Columbia River into Washington. We were birding and hitting the Lewis & Clark historic sites along the way, but there was one stop we had to make just for the sheer silliness of it. In Long Beach, WA one can find Marsh's Free Museum, home of Jake the Alligator Man. How could we travel all that way and not pay Jake a visit?

Jake gets plenty of press time.

The, er, man himself. Watch out kid, don't get too close.

Packed in amongst the shelves of keychains, mugs, tee-shirts, magnets, toothpick holders, shot glasses and bumperstickers all sporting Jake's image, Marsh's also had other curiosities including a two-headed calf...

A shrunken head...

...a number of old music boxes and player pianos, a variety of taxidermied exotic animals from around the world, and a human skeleton on display in a coffin. The place kind of reminded me of a Coney Island-meets-Wall Drug-type tourist attraction. In one form or another Marsh's has been serving the discerning public since 1937. You gotta hand it to the family for being so enterprising.

Monday, November 09, 2009

When Life Gives You Turkeys - Painting 41

Nothing personal against turkeys, but it just kind of fit today. Paul went for his final exam this morning, and found out that one of the four members of his exam committee had come down with the flu and couldn't make it! So his final, final exam will have to wait until February! Argh! It's only just a little anti-climactic.

But life goes on. This is Painting 41. I need to complete 9 more paintings by November 20th to be at the halfway point in my 100 Paintings in a Year Challenge. That's kind of an exciting milestone to contemplate. I did this painting on the heavy cold-pressed watercolor paper I've been working on in Laure Ferlita's Imaginary Trip to Paris class. I used to swear by hot-pressed paper, but I've been very pleasantly surprised at the amount of control I still get with watercolor on this paper. Another bonus is that it takes a lot of water to make the paper buckle. I'm a lazy watercolorist, so not having to stretch my paper is a real perk to me.

For those of you wondering whatever happened to my ornithological ABC series that I had started, I hit a bit of a snag at C. I wanted C to be for crane, and I remembered that Paul had gotten fabulous photos of some sandhill cranes with their chick. Well, we have moved three times since he took those pictures and I am still looking for them. I may skip to D while I continue my search. Stay tuned...

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Hibernation - Can I join in?

I think in another life I was a bear. Or a groundhog. Or one of these box elder bugs. Whatever I was, the desire to go into hibernation this time of year has followed me into this realm of existence, as has the desire to eat everything in sight. And I am confident that the daylight savings time change this weekend will not help the situation one bit.

On top of the sleepiness, I have been so restless and listless lately. Maybe it is just because Paul and I are headed into the two most pivotal weeks of his PhD program to date, but as his supportive spouse there's nothing I can actually do about it except just wait. And bake cookies (with a rather Leave It To Beaver mentality that home-baked goodies made with plenty of butter and love will make everything all right). While the cookies may clog his arteries, hopefully they won't clog his brain cells as he needs them to pass his comprehensive exams. This is kind of like passing the Sphinx, or Fluffy the giant three-headed dog; making a mistake would be very, very bad. I have every confidence that Paul will pass with no problem, but it is still a long, nerve-wracking process for both of us. My preference would be that I go to sleep now and he can wake me up when he's got the good news.

So, to my little half-hearted sketch. I'm obsessed with these box elder bugs and I wanted to try something different tonight. I thought maybe using colored pencils for a change would shake me out of my stupor. However, I think they had about as much chance at really perking me up as trying to wake up a hibernating bear.