Who Shot Pavy’s Pig… And— A Summer Break From Blogging

I’ve always been a fan of pigs. Whenever I go to a County or State Fair, I make a beeline for the livestock barns, mainly to see the pigs and the goats. I found this handsome pair hamming it up at a small county fair in Cedarville, California when I was on my way to Burning Man one year. Normally I take photos of their faces and snouts, but I couldn’t resist the kinky little tails.

Like the gunslingers of the Old West, our reputations far exceeded the reality of our actions. Take Tony Pavy’s pig for example. Tony had a large pond with bullfrogs, a hundred or so acres of scrubland, and a wooded hillside that housed a number of gray squirrels. He also had an attitude similar to Jimmy Pagonni’s: Children were not to be heard or seen, especially on his property. As with Pagonni, we didn’t allow Pavy to keep us from our appointed rounds. We would slip in at night to harvest his bullfrogs and during the day to bring down a squirrel. Tony had a very effective way of getting rid of us. In a very loud voice he would yell, “Mama, get my gun!” and we would streak out of there.

A couple of friends and I were hunting for the squirrels on his hillside when the unfortunate incident with the pig took place. But before I tell the story, I need to digress and provide some background information.

Growing up in Diamond in the 50s meant having a gun and shooting things. At least it did if you were a boy. We graduated from BB guns and 22s to deer rifles and shotguns. Obtaining your first rifle was an experience similar in importance to obtaining your driver’s license, except you could get one a lot earlier. Before we were allowed to hunt, however, certain rules were pounded into our heads. We had to take a course sponsored by the National Rifle Association. These were the years when the NRA’s primary concern was about hunting and hunter safety. They also sponsored marksmanship competitions for improving skills. Ten years after I got my license Peggy won the NRA’s National Pistol competition for youth.

I didn’t become one of America’s premier marksmen, but I did learn it is important to know what you were shooting. This might seem obvious, but flatlanders out of Sacramento often had trouble making the distinction between a cow and a deer. Of a much more serious nature, every year or so one would mistake another hunter for a deer. Wear red hats and bright clothes, we were taught. There were other things we weren’t supposed to shoot as well. People’s houses for example. Robins were also high on the list. They ate their weight daily in bugs. It was okay to shoot ‘vermin’ such as ground squirrels, jackrabbits, coyotes and the scrub jays that pecked away at pears. In fact there was a bounty on jays, $.25 per head.

My usual preference was for watching wildlife, not killing it. I made an exception for gray squirrels. The thrill of the hunt combined with my appetite for a delicious squirrel and dumpling stew my mother whipped up overcame any reservations I had. All of which brings me back to the pig.

Gray squirrels have about the same appreciation for being shot that you or I might. To avoid this unhappy circumstance, they take off leaping through the trees. The one we had marked for dinner was jumping from limb to limb in a live oak tree on the hill above Pavy’s with all three of us shooting at it when we heard a bellow from the barnyard.

“Mama, get my gun! They shot my pig! They shot my pig! Hurry, Mama!”

I don’t know how fast Mama moved but we flew. By the time Ernie Carlson, the County Sheriff, caught up with us we were far away from Pavy’s and about as innocent as newborn piglets.

“Excuse me, boys,” the Sheriff remarked when he pulled over in his car and rolled down his window, “I don’t suppose you know anything about Tony Pavy’s pig being shot.”

“No, sir,” we replied respectfully in unison. We had rehearsed.  Besides, we were technically correct. We hadn’t shot Pavy’s pig; we hadn’t even shot the squirrel. It was a ricocheting bullet that did in the pig. 

Ernie looked at us dubiously.

“Pavy described three kids that fit your description,” the Sheriff said as he continued to build pressure, hoping that one of us would break. Boy, had we heard that one before.

“We’ve been out in back of Ot Jones pond,” I argued indignantly. And we had been. So what if we had arrived there out of breath.

“Well, you kids behave yourselves,” the Sheriff said with an ominous I know you’re lying tone. We breathed a joint sigh of relief as he rolled up his window and drove off. Once more we had avoided a fate we probably deserved. I suspect now that Ernie was not one hundred percent dedicated to finding the alleged pig murderers. Tony was not universally loved in the community for several reasons, of which regularly threatening to shoot kids was only one. 

For example, my father did some electrical work for him once for free. As he was leaving, Tony asked, “Would you like one of my geese for dinner?”

“Sure,” Pop had replied, assuming Pavy was offering it as thanks for his four hours of work. 

“Good,” Tony had replied, “that will be five dollars.” Pop was more than a little irritated. He had a hearty laugh years later when I told him about our adventure with the pig. I wisely avoided telling him at the time, however. His perspective on our miscreant behavior softened substantially with distance and age.

Those Lazy Hazy Days of Summer

“Roll out those lazy, hazy days of summer,” Nat King Cole sang in 1963. It was the adult version of what the kids of earlier years uttered when they escaped from school for the summer, “No more pencils, no more books, No more teachers, dirty looks.” Actually I liked school and my teachers, and I loved books, but the appeal of having a whole summer ahead with minimal responsibility and maximum play was close to magical. Since I have been writing about my childhood, it’s hard not to feel a bit nostalgic for those days. As Thomas Wolfe wrote, “You can’t go home again,” however, and he’s right. The idyllic view of our childhood that many of us have doesn’t quite match the reality. It’s human nature to forget the bad and remember the happy, which is a good thing.  

But none of this means that we can’t on occasion escape from whatever keeps our feet tethered to the ground and our nose to the grindstone, allowing ourselves to play more and pursue other things we find of interest. I am something of a master at this, having engineered escapes all of my adult life every few years from three months to three years. These escapes have enabled me the wander through the South Pacific, go on a six-month bicycle trip, take two, three month breaks for backpacking, spend three years wandering North America in a small RV, etc. Fortunately, my good buddy of the last 30 years has been more than willing to join me in these escapes. 

Anyway, it’s time for another 3–4 month break. This one won’t be major. I only plan to cut back on some of my regular activities to free up time for other activities. 

One of these is blogging, which I have now been doing for 11 years. I don’t plan on quitting the blogosphere, only cutting back and writing when I am inspired to do so, like when Big Foot or baby deer show up on our door step, for example. I’ll also be touching base with my blogging friends from time to time over the summer. I should be back to a regular schedule this fall. I realize that it is disconcerting when blogging friends up and disappear, so I wanted to let you know what’s up. Have a great summer, and here’s to being able to travel again. –Curt

Tale of a Trail… Gold Miners, Wild Life, Scenic Asides, and Strange Surveyors

Our property backs up to the Rogue River Siskiyou National Forest which in turn shares a boundary with the Klamath National Forest. Together, they include well over a million acres of wilderness! We love it. As do the deer, bears, cougars, foxes, coyotes, etc. We even had a wolf pass through a couple of years ago. This sign marks the boundary between our property and the National Forest. It also marks the beginning of our trail. Surveyors came through a few months ago to check out the National Forest boundary. They moved signs and marked trees in red paint. Peggy thought that maybe they were having a little too much fun.
I wonder why.

For quite some time, we have been making a detour into the forest as part of our daily mailbox walk. It adds an extra mile to our exercise. Plus it is just plain fun. The problem is that the hike only works for late fall, winter and early spring. Otherwise, we are dealing with poison oak, ticks, and little burrs. No one wants poison oak, the ticks may carry Lyme disease, and the burrs are just plain nasty. We come home with dozens in our socks and they are very difficult to remove. Inevitably we miss a few and they end up in our laundry. For some reason, they are attracted to our underwear, mainly Peggy’s. But you can bet I feel the pain…

This spring, I decided to create a trail through the forest that would allow us year round access. It would be poison oak and burr free. Plus we would be much less likely to get ticks. They tend to hang out in bushes and brush off on innocent animals, people and maybe Big Foot, who, legend has it, likes to hang out in our neck of the woods.

I wouldn’t be starting the trail from scratch. Mainly I would be reclaiming and expanding on old miners’ trails and deer paths. My goal, as always, was to have minimum impact, which was pretty much guaranteed since my tools were a rake, mattock, and lopper. I call the lopper, Cindy. You may need to be of a certain age to get that. I tell Peggy that Cindy and I are going up on the mountain to have a little fun. She doesn’t worry; she just snorts. “Wear your gloves, honey.”

I was worried on my first day of trail making. It was two days after the cougar ran across our deck and the morning after our neighbor Bryan had his scary night-time encounter. There was a significant chance that it was still hanging around where I was working. The deer herd was out and came down to watch me work, however. They high-tail it when they are on the menu. Maybe they figured as long as I was there, the cougar wouldn’t be. I hoped they were right in their assumptions. If not, I would wish them good luck as I did my own high-tailing-it act. (Suggestion: Never take off running when you see a cougar. It confirms you are food and fun to chase. Stand tall, look the cougar in the eye, speak to it firmly, “Bad Kitty,” and slowly back away. I’m serious.)

In addition to being a pleasant stroll through the forest, the trail incorporates a bit of history. Miners came searching for gold during the 1920s and 30s. There are old sites for at least seven cabins, a cave, a wood stove, remnants of an old auto, and test holes that they dug following a quartz vein in hopes of striking it rich. They would dig down, find the quartz, shove a dynamite stick in, blow it up, and then check out the results. The test holes come down off the mountain and run right across our property. It could be we are sitting on a fortune. Ha.

Peggy and I have found seven flat spaces like this that were likely the sites of miners’ cabins. When they left, they must have taken the lumber and tin roof with them. We did find one section of tin roof and lots of old #10 cans.
This cave, dug by the miners is right off the trail.
A look inside the cave. We didn’t find any gold, but there were bats. Peggy and I call it the Bear Cave. It’s partly to entertain our grandkids but once, during the winter, Peggy and I found bear tracks leading toward it through the snow. I wanted to check it out. My buddy, not so much.
This is one of the test holes the miners dug that extend down onto our property. This one was surrounded by pieces of quartz that Peggy harvested for our yard.
This was one of the rocks that Peggy chose. The biggest. I swear it weighed at least 100 pounds. My back survived but my feet hurt the next day from being driven into the ground. I earned extra husband credits but no gold.

Wildlife has adopted the trail for their own use. We’ve found cougar, coyote and fox scat along it as well as deer. And I even found deer sleeping on it. Then there was the young buck who seemed to be having some problem…

I was hiking up the trail when a young buck started behaving strangely in front of me. This isn’t the most graceful pose. I am always amazed at how streamlined, almost fragile the legs look.
Uh-oh. Have you ever had one of those itches that is just impossible to scratch— at least in public?
Whoops.

In addition to miners’ history and wildlife, attractive trees and flowers are found along the trail as it winds its way through the forest.

Low bridge, everybody down! This madrone crosses over our trail, low enough to bump your head on. Especially if you are wearing a hat that blocks its view and are looking down for poison oak to remove.
The culprit that caused me to bump my head: Poison oak. Its three leaf arrangement is the give away.
I rather like the limb, so it will continue to bump the heads of unwary trail users. Hopefully not mine again.
The madrone trees have bloomed along the trail, making them easy to spot in the surrounding forests
The madrones (Arbutus menziesii) are finishing up now, but they were still in full bloom when I took this photo. I might add that they have a sweet, attractive smell that greets us when we step out our door.
The trail wanders under an Oregon big leaf maple.
Among towering pines…
And past numerous white oaks with their wonderful gnarly limbs.
The trail also passes by buck brush, which was blooming this spring and also has a distinctive sweet smell.
I photograph manzanita as much for its dead limbs as I do its live ones. This trunk reminded me of the alligators found along the Gulf Coast!
The flowers start blooming in March. They are rarely in profusion except for shooting stars (Dodecatheon meadia)which are one of the first flowers to bloom. About the time one flower ends its season, another pops up.
Last week, I showed you some of the gorgeous irises that Peggy grows. Wild irises, possibly not so glamorous but still pretty, grow along the trail. This is yellow leaf iris (Iris chrysophylla).
Blue dicks (Dichelostemma capitatum), a lovely flower that had our book club gigging over its name, have come out in the last month.

I thought that the latest addition to our flower family was pretty face Brodiaea, but now I think it may be a rare Triteleia crocea, a closely related species that only grows in our area.

I’ll wrap this blog up today with my favorite flower, Calochortus elegans. Its common name is elegant cat’s ear. If you have ever owned a kitty, I’m sure you can see why.

My blogging friend Crystal Trulove from Conscious Engagement and her buddy Pedro are visiting today and went out for a walk on the trail. Here are photos of them along the trail and in the Bear Cave taken by Peggy. 

MONDAY’S POST: I’ve promised to tell you who shot Pavy’s pig, and I will. But I also want to discuss our summer blogging schedule, which will be slim at best. Peggy and I are taking a break to pursue some other interests. We intend to be back with a regular schedule in the fall. And I will continue to check in on you occasionally over the summer. The friendships we have formed are valuable.

A Cougar, Leapus Buckus, and Lots of Gorgeous Flowers… At Home in Oregon

Leapus Buckus, so named because he jumped over the Maginot Line of our Deer Defense last year, stares up at me in defiance. If I didn’t know better, I would say he is pawing the ground like a bull ready to attack. And check out his antlers! They are in velvet now and growing, but they look like they will be humongous, dwarfing his head.

I awoke with a start as a deer leapt onto the deck next to our bedroom in the middle of the night a few weeks ago. They frequently cross the deck but rarely at night and never at full speed. It got my attention— but nothing like the loud thump that followed. I imagined something big and thought of getting up to look. But it was a moonless, pitch black night. I wouldn’t be able to see anything and the intruders would be long gone anyway, I told myself. I decided to go back to sleep. It wasn’t easy.

Our neighbor Bryan called the next night. “I’m shaking, Curt,” he told me. A hawk had taken out a chicken of his during the day and he had gone out after dark to check on the welfare of the flock. What he found was a pair of eyes staring out at him from one side of a large tree. A long tail stretched out from the other side. It was a cougar. Bryan kept his bright flashlight focused on the cougars eyes and slowly backed away. And then called me.

Suddenly, the loud thump made sense. The cougar had been in hot pursuit of a deer and jumped onto our deck in hot pursuit. Welcome to our neighborhood.

Deer are a common fact of life here. This photo features a pregnant mom and her pregnant ‘teenage’ daughter. I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if Leapus Buckus wasn’t responsible for both.
It seems that pregnant moms are everywhere. I’ve counted eight. It’s like we are running a maternity ward. This doe has adopted the deck next to Quivera the RV. Another deer is behind her. It isn’t unusual to find four or five deer sleeping around the van.
Given the voracious appetite of deer, drastic steps need to be taken to keep the deer out of our flower, shrub and vegetable gardens. This is our Gabion Cage Maginot Line designed to keep them away from our shrubs. There is a small fence on top of the Gabion cages and an eight foot fence on the sides and back of the garden.
Bird sculptures and lavender serve as part of the defense system. The deer don’t like lavender and the birds plus metallic flowers provide obstacles. They lust after the honeysuckle behind the birds, however, and we found them crawling under the 8-foot side fence a couple of weeks ago. The problem has been corrected. We hope. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
The bird sculptures have become favorite perches for fence lizards, who use them to survey their domain.
We grow other flowers the deer don’t like outside of the protected area, such as this Iris growing in Peggy’s iris garden. I’ve included other iris below this.
We have several types of lavender planted around our house. This one is the first to bloom.
A honey bee stops by to check it out. Soon, there will be hundreds buzzing around.
Poppies are another flower that deer won’t eat. I liked the ladybug here.
Peggy planted poppies the second year we were here. It was the 7th year before they decided to grow. Now they are taking over a hill that was covered in star thistle when we arrived.
This colorful fellow was climbing up the wall of our sunroom right next to the poppies.
The deer like our pioneer rose, which surprises us given its sharp thorns. Peggy lectures them on a regular basis. The Red Buttes are in the background. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
The pioneer rose is an heirloom rose originally brought across the country in wagon trains. It is also known as the Oregon Trail Rose and is found along the Oregon Trail. It’s also found in Texas. Texans are adamant that it is not the “Yellow Rose of Texas” of song fame, and they are right. But I wonder if the “Yellow Rose of Texas” wasn’t named after the yellow rose of Texas? (I expect Linda to comment on this.)
Insects such as this colorful beetle avoid the debate but they love the plant. Hundreds of various insects fly around it feasting— and mating. I kept noticing that when one bug landed, another would land on top of it. They didn’t seem to be fighting.
Just for fun. Peggy and I went out to take photos of the ‘Pink’ moon on April 26th. It wasn’t pink but we did think it was dramatic.
Another photo of the moon.
And in conclusion, Leapus Buckus says, “Y’all come by to see me. Bring apples. Lots of them.” Next Friday I will take you on a hike up the hill in the forest behind our property. I’m eager to show you a trail I just built, wildflowers, an old gold mining operation that extends onto our property, and a deer whose actions are stranger than fiction.

NEXT MONDAY’S POST: It’s back to tales of my early years in Diamond Springs, California and why the town mantra was ‘The Mekemson kids did it.’

Oregon’s Harris Beach State Park… It’s a Wrap

The sun appears to drop into the Pacific Ocean at Harris Beach State Park on the Oregon Coast.

It seems appropriate to end my series on Harris Beach State Park with photos of the setting sun like the one above and those below. But first, I would like to cover a striking geological feature: Key Hole Rock.

Sea stacks often have caves or holes in them caused by the action of waves and weather. Key Hole Rock at Harris Beach is a prime example. The light and waves that make their way though the hole provide endless photo ops.
A massive sea stack hovers above the hole. At some time in the probably distant future the whole edifice will come crashing down.
Different angles provide different perspectives as do tide levels. The tide is out here.
Here, the tide is coming in…
Harris Beach State Park on the Oregon Coast.
A photo from an earlier visit provides an interesting perspective of Key Hole Rock at high tide. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

And now for the promised sunset photos:

I’ll conclude with this photo as we say goodbye to Harris Beach. I took it a few minutes after the first photo was taken. On next Friday’s travel blog, Peggy and I will be taking you south to Pt. Reyes National Seashore just north of San Francisco, Ca. I’ve already done a post on the elephant seals. This time we will be taking you on a cow walk.

NEXT POST:

Monday’s Blog-A-Book Post from It’s 4 AM and a Bear Is Standing on Top of Me: On a lonely night walk home from visiting her boyfriend, my sister Nancy encounters a ghost from the Graveyard that floats down in front of her. She screams, and screams, and screams…

The “not so usual” Rocks and Driftwood of Harris Beach SP, Oregon

The bright green moss and reflected sunlight are what caught my attention with this rock at Harris Beach State Park near Brookings, Oregon.

The pounding surf and towering sea stacks at Harris Beach State Park near Brookings, Oregon tend to pull your view up and outward. It’s easy to skip looking down. So far in this series, I’ve introduced tide pools and sea stacks. Today I am going to feature the beauty and personality of smaller rocks and driftwood.

I was amused that the bike tracks here look like they may have been left by this rock as it wandered across the beach and made a right turn.
The tide flowing in and out would soon disturb these calm waters among the rocks. I liked the contrast between the sunlight on the rock and the darker water.
A low tide shot with water flowing out toward the ocean.
The tide was flowing in here.
This rock had an obvious personality, but I’m not sure what it was.
Layers of sedimentary rock deposited over eons and then bent by the earth’s moving mantle.
This basalt rock had quartz veins running through it.
Chunks of the rock had broken off and been rounded by the pounding surf. Peggy gathered a number of them and put them in my pack. (One of my jobs is to carry rocks that Peggy gathers. ) She brought the rocks home and added them to her ever-growing rock garden.
Imagine how high the sea must have been to place this giant, storm-tossed log this far above the beach.
I find driftwood endlessly fascinating because of the way it displays patterns in the wood. Color was an added factor here.
I’ll conclude with my favorite. On next Friday’s travel blog I’ll feature a dramatic hole in one of the sea stacks and finish the series with sunset on the beach shots.

NEXT POST:

Monday’s Blog-a-Book… from “It’s 4 AM and a Bear is Standing on Top of Me” : You’ve met Demon the Black Cat, now it’s time to meet MC the White Cat who lived in the Graveyard except for dinner. There was a reason…

The Magnificent Sea Stacks of Harrison Beach… Marvels of Erosion

Once, these two magnificent sea stacks would have been part of the coast. Erosion made them part of the ocean. The evening sun was bathing them in a gentle glow.

I am continuing the exploration of the Oregon Coast on my Friday travel blog. This is part of the Harris Beach series. So far, Peggy and I have given you a tour of the tide pools teeming with interesting sea life. Today I will focus on the sea stacks that adorn the coast. Harris Beach State Park is located next to the town of Brookings, which is just north of the California border. The following photos are taken by both Peggy and me.

Goat (or Bird Island) at Harris Beach SP near Brookings is the largest Island on the Oregon Coast. According to the Audubon Society it is an IBA, an Important Bird Area. And it is. Over 100,000 birds nest there annually, including tufted puffins, a bird I more closely associate with my years of living in Alaska. The island is off-limits to people.
This massive sea stack appeared to have a face looking out toward sea. The rock base made me think of a many legged creature.
A closer view.
The reflection caught our attention here.
Peggy and I wandered among these rocks checking out tide pools.
Later in the day, the tide started coming in. It was time to stop playing in tide pools and start thinking about the sunset.
More color here.
I’ll conclude with this sea stack which was smaller but also colorful. My travel blog next Friday will include human-size rocks, an impressive hole in one of the sea stacks, and drift wood.

NEXT POST:

Monday’s Blog-a-Book Post… From “It’s 4 AM and a Bear Is Standing on Top of Me” : The shameless shenanigans of Pat the Greyhound and Demon the Black Cat get them fired from ghost guard duty.

Sea Anemones Go to War… Harris Beach State Park

It’s the first day of spring here in the Applegate River Valley, and behaving like it. I watched two male flickers (woodpeckers) strutting their stuff this morning for a female while she studiously ignored them by pecking at the ground. One very pregnant doe was busy chasing off her twins from last year. She’ll soon have a new fawn— or fawns— to take care of. And, the swallows have arrived back in our neighborhood. Their aerial performances are truly amazing. Before long, they will start checking out our oak trees and bird houses for possible nesting sites. 

The first of our daffodils have burst into bright yellow blooms, shooting stars are covering the hillsides, and irises are popping up everywhere. Peggy and her sister Jane dug up our iris bed last year to separate the bulbs that were crowding each other out. Peggy discovered that there were more than she could possibly plant, so she started stuffing the extras into gopher holes and covering them— like you might sweep dirt under a rug. Well, that’s what I thought. The gophers will have a feast. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Each hole is now proudly sporting its own iris and Peggy is giving me an “I told you so” look.

And what else happened this morning? There was snow, rain and sunshine. Sometimes simultaneously. Spring has arrived for sure.

Meanwhile, I have a nasty cold. “We don’t likes it,” as Gollum of Hobbit fame would say. I have a box of Kleenex on one side and a paper bag on the other. I feel like I am an essential part of an assembly line for creating dirty tissues. Pull a Kleenex out of the box, sneeze into it, and stuff it in the bag. Repeat. I filled two bags yesterday. I’d be worried in this age of Covid, but my sniffer is working fine, I don’t have a fever, and Peggy and I had our second dose of Moderna in February. 

I was totally out of it yesterday and the day before. Instead of writing, I read a 400-page fantasy novel about a reluctant hero, a kick-ass princess, a unicorn without a horn, and a dragon that collected butterflies instead of virgins and gold. It was just what the doctor ordered. I’m almost human today, which is why I am back to blogging. Today I am returning to the tide pools of Harris Beach for a look at sea anemones.

The sea anemones at Harris Beach come in a variety of shapes and sizes. This was one of the larger ones we found, a giant, green sea anemone or Anthopleura xanthogrammica, if you want to be scientifically correct.
A more typical view. The tentacles are covered in stinging cells that the anemone throws into small prey like a harpoon. Once the poison has done its job, the anemone then uses its tentacles to work its prey into the gaping mouth seen in the center. When the feast is over it jets the leftovers out its mouth that has conveniently become an anus. I wonder if the anemone then gargles with sea water. The anemones stinging cells are more or less harmless to humans. How do I know this? I petted a few in my youth. The anemones don’t seem to like it; they immediately close up shop, like the anemones below.
A few of the big guys hanging out together at low tide. Anemones close up when exposed to air as a way to protect their tentacles. A small, dark fish is lurking in the remaining water. Some small fish seem to have a symbiotic relationship with anemones and swim among the tentacles, free of worry. Predators beware.
I found this interesting. A number to the anemones were covered in brightly colored pieces of rocks and shells. Scientists speculate that this serves as a natural sunblock when the anemone is exposed to air at low tide. I was curious about how they go about gathering and affixing their collection but couldn’t find anything about it.
Some smaller sea anemones live in colonies as seen here. These are clones of each other except they differentiate into scouts, warriors and moms. When two colonies meet, they go to war. It’s the scouts job to find new territory for the colony as it expands. When they come on another colony, the warriors take over by whaling away at each other with their tentacles. The ‘moms’ stay in the middle out of harm’s way. Next Friday, I’ll cover the other sealife we found in the tide pools.

NEXT POST:

Monday’s Blog-a-Book Post… “It’s 4 AM and a Bear Is Standing on Top of Me”: I move outside to commune with nature in the summer but the ghosts continue to haunt our backyard. I hire the family pets for protection. They charge a high fee.

The Starfish of Harris Beach State Park, Oregon

We saw this colorful starfish from a distance and came over for a closer look. It’s scientific name is Henricia leviuscula. It common name is Pacific blood star.
I decided a slight shift in perspective would create a twirling ballet dancer! Or is it a whirling dervish?

We were lucky to find any starfish at all. The population up and down the Pacific coast came close to being wiped out in 2013. A rather nasty virus that melted these attractive creatures from the inside killed millions. Legs would fall off and go crawling away. It sounded like the plot to a Grade B horror flick. Fortunately, evolution came to the rescue. A small portion of the population seemed immune to the virus. Maybe some of the legs got lucky. They came back with a vengeance. We did find a few that were obviously dead. I touched one. It was mushy. Melting.

Everywhere we looked we saw starfish. Sometime in bunches. These purple and orange star fish belong to the same family, Pisaster ochraceus. Scientists don’t know why they come in two colors.

Here are some fun facts:

  • These rather amazing five-legged creatures have seawater for blood. It serves the same purpose, delivering nutrients to cells. 
  • Starfish can regenerate an arm lost to a predator. But what if the arm loses its starfish? It can regenerate a new starfish, an exact replica. Pretty cool, huh.
  • They have very small mouths but like large, tasty morsels, like mussels. Not a problem. They have big stomachs. They send them out through their mouths and wrap them around what they want to eat. They digest their dinner and then suck the nutrients back into their mouths, along with the wandering stomachs. 
  • They move around on tiny little feet that are found on their arms. They fill these little feet with water and mimic walking. They travel slowly, at least I have never seen one move quickly. 
  • The feet also serve another purpose; they work as suction cups. The starfish will wrap itself around a closed mussel, attach their little feet, and pull the shells apart. Not an easy task.
  • One more thing about their arms, each one comes with eyes. Not eyes like you and I have but photo receptors that allow them to distinguish between light and dark and move around in search of food, or to avoid becoming food. 

Following are more of our photos:

At first, I thought that the ugly guy above the starfish was seaweed. But looking at it more closely, I decided that it wasn’t something I wanted to meet up with on a dark night.
I’ll conclude with this edgy fellow.

NEXT POSTS:

As you read this post, Peggy and I are on our way to Pt. Reyes National Seashore north of San Francisco. When she asked what I wanted to do for my birthday week, it popped up. The National Sea Shore is one of my all-time favorite places and I have been escaping there for 50 years. So, beyond responding to comments, I will be taking a break from blogging and reading blogs this coming week. Translate: Vacation! I’ll be back to work on March 8. See you then. –Curt

Harris Beach State Park… Another Gem on the Oregon Coast: Part 1

Harris Beach State Park is located just north of Brookings, Oregon, which, in turn, is located north of the California border. It is one of a number of beautiful state parks located along the coast.

Peggy and I just returned from visiting another of the scenic state parks along the Oregon Coast. This time we followed the Redwood Highway from Grants Pass to Crescent City, which, in itself, is worth the trip. Highlights included following the plunging Smith River as it tumbles down to the Pacific Ocean and winding through the giant trees of Jedidiah Smith Redwood Park. (Smith, BTW, was an early mountain man, explorer, pioneer and author in the western US. His name is on lots of places. Had I been in his boots, those places would be named Mekemson. Grin.)

Harris Beach State Park is a short 26 miles from Crescent City following Highway 101. It’s about three hours from our home. We lucked out and got a campsite overlooking the Pacific that is normally booked months in advance. We don’t do months in advance.

The park is named for George Scott Harris, a native of Scotland. According to the Park website, he obtained the property in 1871 after a lifetime of wandering, which included serving in the British Army in India and spending time in Africa and New Zealand.  In 1860, he made it to San Francisco where he worked in railway construction and mining, finally migrating to what would become the park, settling down, and raising sheep and cattle.

We’ve visited the park before. This photo is from one of our trips. You can see why we would want to return.

While we are always fans of reflection shots, Peggy and I found something else to amuse ourselves with this time: Tide pools. Half of our beach time was spent ferreting out sea life. I plan to feature what we found in this five part series including starfish, anemones, hermit crabs, snails, limpets, chitons and seaweed. Oh my! Plus. Naturally, there will also be sea stacks, driftwood, unique rocks, and sunsets— the types of things one expects when visiting the Oregon coast. Today, I will post a few introductory photos to the park.

Looking down on the beach. We timed our visits for low tide so we could visit the tide pools. People walking on the beach provide perspective.
Looking out to sea.
It pays to look down, as well. Interesting patterns can be found in the sand. Temporary art, soon to be washed away. This reminded me of a ferocious ocean bird. Travel back from the long, pointed beak to the fierce eye.
Looking up provided a view of a dead tree, yellow flowers and rock. The yellow flowers are bourse, another visitor from Scotland that came to Oregon and decided to stay.
A whole different world exists on top of the rocks. Seabirds find the seat stacks at Harris Beach an ideal place for raising families.
Speaking of nesting, the largest island on the Oregon Coast is just off of Harris Beach. Known as Goat Island, it is also known as Bird Island since over 100,000 birds nest here in spring, including tufted puffins.
The rocks also have unique stories to tell.
While I like drift wood because of the character it develops bouncing around in the ocean, many people find other uses for it. One person’s photo op is another person’s fort! Or possibly, a beach campfire.
If you need a change of scenery, look back toward shore. My focus here was on the shallow stream spreading out over the sand.
Here, I liked the distinctive layers starting with the sand and working upward. Note the size of the driftwood logs.
A closer perspective.
I’ll conclude todays’ post with a sunset. Next Friday I am going to focus in on star fish, also known as sea stars. They were almost wiped out in the past few years by a virus but have made a miraculous recovery.

NEXT POSTS:

Monday’s Blog-A-Book…It’s 4 AM and a Bear Is Standing on Top of Me: I discover that the overgrown, jungle-like graveyard next to our house is a great place to play during the day but becomes very scary at night when the ghosts come out.

Tuesday’s Blog-A-Book… “The Bush Devil Ate Sam”: While driving a laundry truck to earn money for college, I meet a young Liza Minnelli in her babydoll pajamas at casino magnate Bill Harrah’s home, and am held at gun point during a laundry takeover at Lake Tahoe. Later on, I was amused by the thought that it was good training for me as a student at Berkeley and as a Peace Corps Volunteer.

The Beauty, the Geology, and the Weirdness of Sunset Bay…

A couple of weeks before Christmas, Peggy and I made a trip over to Cape Arago on the Oregon Coast. The waves featured in my January 7th post were from this trip as is today’s post on Sunset Bay State Park, which is located at the beginning of the Cape just outside of Coos Bay.

Sunset Bay at sunset with the tide out.

The tourist and real estate industries of the Oregon Coast prefer to ignore the next BIG one, or put it off to sometime in the distant future. The folks involved in predicting earthquakes have a different perspective. The sheer number of tsunami evacuation route signs along the Oregon coast speak to their concerns. The Cascadia Subduction Zone is real. A massive 9-point something or other earthquake known as a mega–thrust is in our future. They happen every 300 to 600 years. The last one was in 1700. The oceanic Juan de Fuca plate is diving under the North American continental plate and it will not be denied. It’s stuck right now. Small earthquakes near the surface are creating pressure on the trapped area, however. When it gives, all hell will break loose.

I, for one, pay careful attention to the evacuation routes whenever Peggy and I visit the coast. If the earth shakes, we will be out of there! So what if we leave our welcome mat behind.

Sunset Bay State Park is a geological wonderland when it comes to featuring various aspects of what can happen when a massive earthquake strikes. The most fascinating to me are the stumps of ancient trees. Twelve hundred years ago, a forest stood above the ocean where Sunset Bay now stands. An earthquake caused a subsidence in the land, drowning the forest. At low tides, the remains can still be seen.

I was fascinated by the different shapes of trunks left by the ancient trees.
Octopus like…
A different perspective…
This ancient tree stump at Sunset Bay State Park bears a strong resemblance to a man doing jumping jacks.
This tree has roots on roots. A genealogist would be impressed.
Incoming tide surrounded the tree trunk and reflected the fluffy clouds in the sky.
Peggy stands in front the ancient tree trunks to provide perspective. Her Covid-19 mask serves as a scarf.

Faults, fractures in the earth’s surface along which the blocks of crust move relative to one another can be seen among the tilted and layered rocks of the Bay at low tide. The rocks, BTW, also provide an excellent area for tide pools that feature sea life loved by kids and adults alike. 

Low tide at Sunset Bay. You can see a number of tide pools to explore, but it also shows a clear fault running from left to right. A second fault can be seen behind it. The crust between the faults moves when earthquakes strike.
We spent a few minutes peering into tide pools.
We were impressed by the sea anemone. The slit is the anemone’s mouth, and, for convenience, its anus as well. The tentacles contain stingers filled with a toxin for stunning dinner, which is then transported to its mouth.
For fun, I rendered the anemone in black and white.

While the bay represents an earthquake caused subsidence, the Whiskey Run terrace surrounding the Bay represents uplifts and folding also created by tectonic activity related to the Cascadia Subduction Zone. The wave-caused erosion taking place in Sunset Bay operated on the terrace when it was at sea level. It’s estimated that the land rises approximately three feet every thousand years. 

The terrace above Sunset Bay was once at sea level. Like the Bay, waves created the flatness of the terrace.
A close up of the Whiskey Run terrace. The sedimentary layers have been tilted down to the right by tectonic forces and then eroded away by wave action. A layer of dirt/rock has since been laid down on top, providing soil for the forest.

And finally, I would like to feature a strange, non-tectonic feature of Sunset Bay: concretions. Peggy and I first came across these round, rock-like structures on the southern coast of the South Island of New Zealand. They are created when groundwater triggers extra amounts of ‘cement’ around irregularities in the rock such as shells, creating a round structure that continues to grow as more cement is added. The hardness of the covering makes it harder to erode than the surrounding rock. 

This is a concretion.
And these are concretions apparently marching out to sea. Why, I haven’t a clue.

I’ll conclude with a few other photos from Sunset Bay that I found interesting.

An orange rock with ripples…
A ghost tree…
Sea grass in the late afternoon sun…
Peggy walking through the tunnel that connected our campground to the bay.
And finally, I’ll wrap up this post on Sunset Bay with more waves.

NEW BLOG SCHEDULE: I’ve been working on revising the book on my Liberia Peace Corps experience— adding a few chapters on my experience working for the Peace Corps after I was a Volunteer and updating the chapters I wrote about modern Liberia. Several of you have read the book and a few of you may have even been around when I first blogged it several years ago. Anyway, I am going to reblog it again, adding it to my schedule. On Mondays I will continue to blog my book, It’s 4 AM and a Bear is Standing on top of Me. On Wednesdays, I will blog The Bush Devil Ate Sam. On Fridays, I will continue my travel blog.

NEXT POSTS:

Blog a Book Monday: Will you believe I actually have a good day on the Sierra Trek?

Blog a Book Wednesday: Introduction to the Bush Devil Ate Sam

Travel Blog Friday: I return to my Backroad series following Highway 191 through Navajo country in Utah and ending up in Arizona’s Lyman State Park.