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.
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:
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I’ll conclude with a few other photos from Sunset Bay that I found interesting.
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.
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.
Four or five times a year we get dramatic sunsets at our house. It is always a time to stop whatever we are doing and watch as the sun lights up the clouds with gorgeous red, orange, yellow and purple colors. The front of our house, which faces a westerly direction, provides front row seats for watching the show. These photos don’t require any description. Enjoy.
Blog-a-book Tuesday: I contemplate killing the ‘lost’ Trekker who had decided to go on a detour but failed to tell anyone. The Four Mouseketeers discover a new pastime at Robinson Flat that their mothers definitely would not approve.
Travel Blog Thursday: Sunset Bay: Beauty, weirdness, and geology
Peggy and I arrived in Bandon on a stormy day and drove over to the Face Rock State Scenic Viewpoint as soon as we had checked into our campground. Face Rock was shrouded in rain and mist. There’s a legend that says you can hear a woman’s voice in the wind if you listen. It all sounds like an appropriate Halloween tale…
According to Native American lore, the beautiful Indian maiden, Ewauna, arrived with her father, Chief Siskiyou, in the Bandon area for a major potlatch. Ewauna had never seen the ocean and immediately fell in love with it. (For those of you who aren’t familiar with the potlatch concept, the object is to give things away to guests, the more you give, the more you are admired.)
“Don’t go near the ocean,” the old men of the tribe warned Ewauna. The evil spirit of the ocean, Seatka, lived in the waters along the coast and apparently had a thing for beautiful young Indian maidens. But what young woman full of life listens to old men? That night there was a great feast as part of the potlatch. After being stuffed with bear and deer and elk and berries, and mussels and clams, everyone drifted off to a deep sleep. That is, everyone except Ewauna.
She quietly got up, careful not to wake anyone, and slipped off to the ocean taking her dog, Komax, her cat, Tenas Puss Puss, and Tenas’s kittens with her. She carried the cat and kittens in a basket. Ewauna ran up and down the beach with joy and jumped into the ocean for a swim, telling Komax to look out for the cat and kittens. Out she swam, farther and farther, as Komax barked louder and louder, warning her of the danger. Suddenly an ugly monster surfaced and grabbed her. It was the evil spirit, Seatka.
Komax stopped barking, grabbed the basket in his mouth and swam madly out to rescue his mistress. Dropping the basket, he sank his sharp teeth into Seatka’s arm. Good boy! The evil spirit screamed in anger and pain, grabbed Komax, and threw him far out into the ocean. For good measure, he also grabbed Teanas Puss Puss and her kittens, tossing them as well. He then increased his grip on Ewauna, squeezing her tight.
“Look into my eyes,” he demanded. He could only possess her if she looked at him.
“Never!” she had replied, staring steadfastly up at the sky and moon. And that is how Chief Siskiyou found her the next morning, still staring up at the sky, refusing to let the evil spirit to possess her. And that is where you can find her today.
While Face Rock gives its name to the scenic viewpoint, there are a number of other sea stacks to admire.
NEXT POST: After a thousand posts, it’s time to consider changes in my blog.
My first participation in elections is close to ancient history. It started when Adlai Stevenson ran against Dwight Eisenhower for President in 1952. My parents were dedicated Republicans. Family loyalty dated all the way back to Abe Lincoln and the founding of the Party. It’s not surprising that they sent their 9-year-old child off to school proudly wearing an I Like Ike button on election day. Another set of parents, equally devoted to the Democratic Party, sent their fourth grader off to school wearing a VoteforAdlai button. It was inevitable that we would meet up for a debate.
It took place in the boys’ bathroom, conveniently away from adult supervision. Neither of us knew enough about the issues to carry on a rational discussion, however. After about five words, we reverted to describing the other person’s candidate with as many expletives as we knew. Sound familiar? I was well-practiced in the art form. When I was younger, my brother and I had often held swearing contests where we creatively cussed each other out for fun. My opponent lacked this experience and I easily won the debate. I was still teasing him when we went outside for recess.
Unfortunately, his sense of humor had gone south and he was carrying a baseball bat. He reared back and smashed me across the thigh. (I’ve often suspected he had a slightly higher target in mind.) As it was, I ended up in the hospital with my thigh muscle the size of a softball, or was that a basketball. I was ever so glad that my man Ike won. Revenge can be sweet.
It was a painful lesson, but I learned two things from the encounter.
The first was quite obvious: Never get in a political argument with someone carrying a baseball bat. The second was more complicated. There had to be a better way to resolve political differences.
The best answer that we have been able to come up with as a nation is democracy.
There is nothing guaranteed about our form of government, however. As astute leaders have noted for the past two hundred years: The price we pay for our liberty is eternal vigilance. There are always people who will rob us of our independence for their own personal gain or ideological beliefs. But there is more, our system of government is based on a few simple concepts. These are some that came to mind.
Reflects the majority view of Americans while, at the same time, protects the basic right of minorities.
Provides stability while adjusting to new challenges and changing needs.
Is more pragmatic than ideological when it comes to solving problems.
Recognizes that compromise, coalition building, and across-the-aisle cooperation are essential to the decision-making process in determining the nation’s best interest.
Provides for a peaceful transition of power.
More than anything else, people have to believe that democracy works, that their concerns and interests are represented and addressed, and that they receive a fair hearing. When they lose this faith, our democracy loses. We all lose.
The single most important element in protecting American democracy is our right to vote and an uncompromising commitment to a smooth and peaceful transition of power.
While getting out the vote is a time-honored practice in American democracy, suppressing the vote of those who don’t share a particular perspective is a dark and dangerous path that will inevitably lead to a dark and dangerous future. Numerous examples of suppression exist today in the 2020 election from tampering with the mail system, to making voting difficult, to spreading misinformation, and to threatening voters via the mail, phone and internet. When direct physical intimidation of voters is encouraged, whether it is people carrying AR 15s— or baseball bats— to polling places, the dark times are that much closer.
There are reasons why the Putins of the world, both outside and (sadly) inside our country, wish to reduce our faith in the democratic process. It weakens our nation and points toward an autocratic future— a future that few of us want to see.
Americans are a hardy breed, however. We have been fighting for our rights ever since the founding of the nation with an ever increasing and inclusive definition of citizenship that reflects the changing world we live in.
And we are not going to stop now.
Millions of Americans have already voted regardless of how many hurdles have been thrown up. In fact, they are dancing and singing in the multi-hour-long lines that voter suppression has played a role in creating.
If you haven’t voted yet and are a citizen of voting age— regardless of your sex, ethnicity, color of skin, age, health, economic position, religion, sexual preference, occupation, other differences, or political party— PLEASE VOTE. Our democracy is depending on you.
If place names are any judge, the Devil does get around. There are literally dozens if not hundreds of locations in the US named after him. New England seems to win the prize for the most, which is understandable since the Puritans were among its first settlers. They saw Hell in just about everything.
The Oregon Coast has more than its share of Devilish locations, however. There are 10 places along the coast alone that bear his name. Among them are the Devil’s Punch Bowl, Cauldron and Churn and various body parts including his Elbow and Backbone. I was reminded of the various cathedrals in Europe that stock up on the bones of saints to impress the holy and solicit their offerings.
Peggy and I dropped by his Kitchen on our visit last week to Bandon, Oregon. I’d been there before and speculated in a blog on how the Kitchen got its name. The answer provided by the sign-board seemed a little prosaic in comparison to my speculation. It had to do with the cold waters of the ocean bringing a rich brew of nutrients to the surface that were eaten by plankton, that were eaten by small fish, that were eaten by bigger fish, that were eaten by still bigger fish, that were eaten by seals, otters, and a whole host of seabirds, not to mention people and anything else that could sink their teeth into them.
Possibly if you were on the receiving end of this long chain of being eaten, you might think that the Devil was involved.
Mainly, Peggy and I saw a beautiful beach with some great sea stacks, crashing waves, impressive homes, driftwood, a quiet stream, and two driftwood forts that had either been built by energetic kids eager to fight pirates or adults reliving their childhood. I could see our son Tony enthusiastically joining his three sons on such a project.
Piles of kelp and other sea treasures had been ripped away from their firm attachments to rocks by the stormy seas the day before and were left behind on the beach.
NEXT POST: We will be traveling up to the next beach north, Face Rock with its marvelous sea stacks.
I’ve blogged about Bandon before. And will undoubtedly do so again. The coast with its crashing waves and towering rock sculptures calls to us. And the town is charming. It comes with good restaurants, fun art, cranberries, cheese, and a bookstore—no town should be without one. While Winter River Books is small and doesn’t include a book-store cat, it is well-stocked for its size.
I am going to do three posts on Bandon this time. The first is on art in Bandon. Next will be the Devil’s Kitchen State Park. There are interesting houses hanging out on the cliff, sea stacks, and forts made of driftwood. I am also going to take a look at what the recent storm tossed up, mainly kelp, piles and piles of it, plus a bouquet of sea palms for Peggy. I’ll conclude the series with a visit to Face Rock State Park and its famous name sake. While there, I will include a number of other sea stacks/rock sculptures that we admire and can never get enough of. As always, our cameras were quite busy!
The art of Bandon: Not surprisingly, it comes with an ocean emphasis.
NEXT POST: Peggy and I visit the Devil’s Kitchen State Park where the ocean crashes against the rocks, interesting homes hang out on the cliffs, forts are made of driftwood, and storm-fared kelp is tossed up on the shore.
When Donald Trump came to California two weeks ago to comment on the devastation caused by raging wildfires in California, Oregon, and Washington, he was asked about the impact of global warming on the fires. Here is his response:
Well, I don’t think science knows, actually… When trees fall down after a short period of time, they become very dry — really like a matchstick… And they can explode. Also leaves. When you have dried leaves on the ground, it’s just fuel for the fires… It’s a management issue… It’ll start getting cooler… You just watch.
Peggy and I don’t buy the ‘It’ll start getting cooler” argument, but we do take forest management seriously. We spent $20,000 this past year doing what we could to fireproof our property. And it didn’t involve ‘sweeping the floor’ as the President recommended a couple of years ago, cleaning up the leaves and fallen branches. We had forty, 80-100 foot trees cut down on our five-acres removed. They were dead as in d.e.a.d. Ten years ago when we moved in, they were happy and healthy. The years of drought and excessive heat killed them. As it has millions of trees across the west. Yes, good forest management is important, but all the management in the world will not save forests when draught combines with 100° F heat, high winds and fire. Nor will it save towns, as Talent and Phoenix learned.
Peggy and I prepare for fire, obviously. We live in a forest. Fire comes with the territory. We spend countless hours working outside and doing what we can to reduce the danger. But we are also prepared to vacate the premises, to ‘get out of Dodge,’ to skedaddle! When a level two warning is issued, we will be packed and out of here. Forget level three. We have lists. Things are organized so we can grab and go. The greater the danger the less we will grab. Quivera the RV is packed and ready right down to clothes, tooth brushes and tooth paste, everything we need to live. If our house burns down, it will be sad, but not tragic. “We’ll just buy a new RV (sorry Quivera) and hit the road,” Peggy says.
People who live in towns and cities have different expectations. Homes burn down, yes, but not towns. Back before all of the codes designed to prevent fires were adopted and before modern fire departments came into being, they did. But not today. Except they do. Ask the residents of Talent and Phoenix, or Santa Rosa, or Paradise or numerous other small towns and cities that have been caught in the paths of raging fires over the past few years.
Peggy and I know the communities of Phoenix and Talent well. I was born in Ashland where the fire started. Until recently, our doctor’s office was in Talent. (It still stands about 200 yards away from where I took the top photo.) One of my great grandfathers and a great, great grandmother are buried in Phoenix. She came across the country in a wagon train. I fear, but don’t know for sure, that the graveyard was wiped out.
The fire came on fast and ferocious. So fast that people were literally running down the street, leaving everything behind. “It came like a huge wave,” an 82 year old woman stated. A man reported that he had been working when he heard the first warning. He dropped what he was doing, jumped in his truck, and broke speed limits heading for his home so he could save his cat. He was too late.
My Saturday drive was heart-rending as I looked at the devastation. The following photos capture just a small portion of what I saw.
Global warming is real. Extreme weather will not go away by denying its existence, or by claiming “It will get cooler.” Fires will continue to rage, hurricanes will become more frequent and more powerful, polar ice will melt and the seas will rise. Expect more floods, droughts, tornadoes and other types of extreme weather. We owe it to ourselves, children, grandchildren and future generations to do everything humanly possible on a national and international level to reverse this trend. Playing ostrich and burying our heads in the sand is not the answer.
Since I am still working on my next post on the 1908 Great Race, I decided to throw in a quick update on life here on Oregon’s Upper Applegate River. First, fall has arrived. Leaves are beginning to turn and the white oaks have produced a bumper acorn crop— a fact that has the deer all but climbing the trees.
NEXT POST: We will rejoin the Great Automobile Race of 1908 as it makes its way to San Francisco.