Photojournal - 28 July 2012

Places of power

I'm back at the photojournal after a lengthy time away; I've decided I like this format better than the blog that I started. As always, a lack of time will probably prevent me from the frequency of posting I used to maintain. However, over the course of the next month or two, I hope to complete a set of photojournal entries on my summer vacation of 2012.

My girlfriend Dorothy and I started our summer holiday in late July. Our plan was to head southeast to Yellowstone Park, there to meet my brother and his family for some joint touring and family togetherness. None of us had ever been to Yellowstone before, so we were quite looking forward to the trip.

Dorothy picked me up from work on Friday afternoon and from there we headed straight out of town. We stopped in Hope for dinner at Rollie's and pressed on to Princeton before stopping for the night.

Princeton is known for its Yellow-bellied Marmots, and I was hoping to find and photograph some of them. I'd done that before (see Marmot Morning) and thought it would be a great start to our trip.

Before breakfast, we went out to look, but couldn't find any of the little blighters. We did spot some crows, though, and some Stellar's Jays, Eurasian Collared-doves, and a lone Mountain Chickadee.


His black bandit-mask on his white face is distinctive, for a chickadee.

We also found a smaller relative of the marmots, a Red Squirrel, who was carrying a cone almost as big as he was.


As you can see, I'm a bit rusty with the photography and that one came out a bit blurry.

Resigned to our utter marmotlessness, we had breakfast at the motel and headed out on the road. We immediately encountered a group of five or six deer—Mule Deer, of course—on the side of the road. Here's the cutest of the bunch.


I didn't take a lot of time with the deer; we just pulled over and I shot out the (open) window of the car.

We drove through the Similkameen Valley towards Osoyoos, and stopped when we came across Spotted Lake. Spotted lake is, well, spotted.


It seems to me that the lake doesn't have spots, but rather just the opposite. The spots are the lake, and the non-spots are on it. It's an antispotted lake. Or, one might say, a laked spot.

One can imagine what the indigenous locals must've thought about this amazing little bit of nature. What in their experience (or even our modern experience) is there to compare it to?

Okay, then, just in case you can't imagine what they must've thought: they naturally considered this a place of mystery, a sacred place, a healing place ... a place of power.

Dorothy and I made our next stop in Osoyoos proper. Osoyoos is in the Okanagan Valley, the fruit basket of Canada. Orchards and vineyards are everywhere here: peaches, plums, apples, pears, cherries, peaches, nectarines, grapes, and probably a few other things. Being a bit fruity ourselves, we felt right at home.

We spent an hour or so driving the side roads looking for birds and whatnot. It was bright, sunny, and hot—hot enough for any self-respecting birds to avoid being outdoors where they could be seen. This Western Bluebird was one of the few birds that seemed to have an issue with his self-respect.


He was probably out looking for food for his children, but he could have just been out on his roof working on his tan. I hope he gets his issues worked out.

A little later, a circling raptor caught my eye and I got out of the car to shoot it. It turned out to be an Osprey, with magnificently glowing backlit wings. He was pretty far up there.


I was a bit perplexed at the local flora. There were large, bulbous growths that I could not indentify, seen sprouting up here and there over the grass and scrub. The fairy-ring appearance of the ones below lead me to think they were some kind of mushroom.


But if they were mushrooms, then their gills had a very odd almost-mechanical look to them, and they were huge.


Dorothy and I wanted to make good progress east this day, though, so we waved goodbye to the communicative folk of Osoyoos and crossed the border into Washington. The plan was to head south for a while and then cut east across the Idaho panhandle.

The border crossing was a breeze and we made good time northerly. Our first stop was at Chief Joseph Dam, where our path deflected eastward. Of all of the dams in the US, the Chief Joseph is billed as having the second-largest power output, despite being a run-of-the-river (small or no resevoir) dam. (It may have lost its second-place status to West Viriginia's Bath County Pumped Storaged Station, but I've found conflicting information about the latter.) Run-of-the-river is apparently not run-of-the-mill.

The welcome center at the dam had a nice little lawn and garden. One feature was a stone-and-grass labyrinth next to a small pond. Behind the labyrinth I found a lurking Killdeer. It's astounding how its black and white stripes turn to camouflage in rocky areas, particularly ones harshly lit by the mid-day sun.

I spent some time in the labyrinth trying to catch some of the many dragonflies that patrolled the nearby pond. I had a great time—the beasts were colorful and interesting—but I only got a few passable shots. This one's a Variegated Meadowhawk.  

And here's a Western Pondhawk. I loved the head and face colors on this fellow.

Next to the labyrinth was a used turbine runner from the dam.  

Nearby, European Paper Wasps had made a nest under the clay tiles of the roof of a gazebo.


As I was watching some Brown Cowbirds hopping around on the lawn, a bigger bird flew into a nearby tree. Looking up, I was pleased to find a natty Eastern Kingbird.


We headed further up the road to a couple of observation points on a nearby hill. Appropriately enough, good views of the dam were to be found at these spots..

I couldn't quite get the whole dam in my shot above, so I changed lenses to my fisheye lens. I love how much of a scene the fisheye takes in, and couldn't resist taking a few shots of Dorothy with it. Here, I'm holding the camera at arms' length, shooting blindly. Autofocus made it all work out.  

You mightn't know it for looking at the picture, but Dorothy and I are of the same height, and we're standing at the same level. That's the fun of fisheye.

I did eventually take some fisheye shots of the dam. Here you see just how much of it the previous photo missed out on.


It was hot outside of the car, so we made our stops short. Soon we were back on the road, headed east, farther up the Columbia River to another famous power spot—the Grand Coulee Dam. I wanted to see this dam because I remember reading about it in grade school.


Grand Coulee is not as visually impressive as Chief George, but that's deceiving. Chief George may be number two in power generation in the States, but Grand Coulee is number one. It generates about two and a half times the power of Chief George.

The overlook I took the Grand Coulee photo from also overlooks a town on the east side of the Columbia, called Mason City. Mason City looks like it was built in the 40's, when the dam was built, and hasn't been remodeled since.


From here we crossed the river and went south to Electric City, looking for a place to get some gas. It seemed Electric City is well-named, for we found no gas there, and had to double back towards Mason City to fill our tank.

It was about 4:30 and, as we concentrated on making haste, I found no good photo-ops for the rest of the day.

I'll leave you with one last shot from the Grand Coulee overlook. This area is known as the Channeled Scablands, and it has distinctive features caused by glacial drainage and periodic floods at the end of the last ice age. Amongst these features are the epononymous coulees, which are channels or canyons with steep eroded walls. This final shot is of a coulee wall.


That was perhaps my favorite shot of the day, with its pastel color scheme and overall smooth flow gently interrupted by rugged rock and harsh brushy vegetation. And with the bonus cross symbolism of the power pole in the lower left.

Your cool he,


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