Sunday, April 30, 2017

Wild Horses Monument - ART

Driving on I-90 by the Columbia River you see a lot of things, including this sculpture by David Govedare titled Grandfather Cuts Loose the Ponies.  This sculpture was created in 1989-1990 and is also called the Wild Horses Monument.

We stopped in the pull off to have a look.  It's pretty spectacular.

We took the time to hike up.  Here's the view from the horses.

And the horses themselves.  Most all of them have some graffiti, which either adds or detracts, depending on your viewpoint, I guess.

They're fullsize, and welded up out of 1/2" steel.

This is some beautiful welding, showing the symbols Native Americans would paint on their horses with the moon, star, sun, and spots of the Appaloosa Horses.

Here's a foal...

Here they are galloping off the ridge toward the Columbia River.

For me, this really captured the spirit of the animals, and of the region.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Bonneville Fish Hatchery

We took some time to visit the Bonneville Fish Hatchery in Cascade Locks, OR - the same time we visited the Bonneville Dam and Powerhouse.  The hatchery is run by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and was built in 1909.  The information here is from their website and kiosks at the hatchery.  I've been to several hatcheries, but never one as big as this.  To give you an idea of the magnitude of the place, they raise "6.6 million fall chinook, 900,000 spring chinook, 750,000 coho, 250,000 summer steelhead, and 60,000 winter steelhead."  That's a lot of fish!  

I ordered these pictures in some sort of sequence, so you can understand how it works.  Here, you can see Tanner Creek, which flows into the Columbia River downstream of Bonneville Dam.  So, no dams are between this creek and the ocean.  

The adults that are migrating up the Columbia River and into the creek are diverted into the collection pools.  Creek in the top of the picture, collection pools in the bottom.

They collect a lot of adults...

The eggs and sperm are taken, swirled together so fertilization takes place, and the eggs are placed in these trays to incubate.

It's a lot of fish.

The adults are donated to local food banks or sold by a bid system to the highest bidder, who then sells the fish at market, so there is no waste.  When the babies are in the fry stage, they get placed in pools outside. 

Water from the Tanner Brook is constantly run through the pools so the fry have fresh, oxygenated, cold water to grow in, and perhaps equally important, they learn the smell of their home stream.  Biologist's best guess is that the fish migrate back to their home stream by smell. One of the problems with raising hatchery fish is that this dilutes genetic diversity.

Here, one of the workers feeds the fish...kind of like tiny bits of dog chow...  They are fed several times a day.

Here's what they look like in the pen...  There are lots of pens.

There's something close to 100,000 in each....  I guess they're about 4" long, and a little thicker than a pencil.

The pens are carefully screened to keep predatory birds, raccoons, and the like out.

In another pool, they have rainbow trout.  You can judge the size yourself, by looking at where folks have thrown coins in the water.

Again, look at the coins....  These trout are just for show, and are not for rearing young.  The signs pointed out that in the wild, trout don't grow this big, because they don't get enough food.  Here, there were vending machines for tourists to purchase food and feed the trout.  These ones look pretty fat.

These are White Sturgeon, one of the oldest fish species, first found in the Jurassic Period.

There was a cool underwater viewing area for the sturgeon.  This large one is named Herman.

As you can see in my amazing photo, made using my patented "blurred vision" camera technique, Herman is very big, about 10 feet long, more than 450 lbs, and 70 years old.

Here's a picture of a record sturgeon caught in the wild.  Sturgeon don't breed till they're about 25 years old, and may live to be more than 100 years old.  

Outdoor view of the pond.  White Sturgeon are the largest freshwater fish found in North America.

This map shows the Columbia River Watershed.  The green area is the bit where anadromous fish (ones where they're born in freshwater, live as adults in the ocean, and return to freshwater to spawn) can currently migrate, the orange bit that which was historically available but is now cut off by dams, and the yellow bit is where fish could never migrate due to natural obstructions like waterfalls.

Just a general statistic.  

That's a lot of fish.

Friday, April 28, 2017


Hi Everyone,

We left Harden, Montana this morning and headed East on I-90.  In the distance, you could see snow on the mountains.

Then as we got into Wyoming, you could see it close up....

Then it got still worse.  These two drift boaters wanted to go fishing, I guess.

Wyoming has a lot of snow can see why.

As this snowy sign proclaims, I-90 got closed down.  We exited into Buffalo, WY.

Here's what the on-ramp looked like.  There was also a barricade across, like you'd find at a train track.

So, driving around in four-wheel drive, we've stopped at the Buffalo KOA.  Mrs. Dr. V made a snowman, and I played with Sophie.

We're suffering mightily in the snowstorm.  We had split pea with kielbasa soup for lunch, and now Mrs. Dr. V is making her famous Apfel Streusel Torte.  This has a bottom layer of delicious golden crumbly butter cinnamony crust, with yummie apples on top, and then on top of that, streusels, which are crumbly cinnamony nuggets of goodness.  

I'm tapping my toe and waiting...

Thursday, April 27, 2017

I.A.Q. (Infrequently Asked Questions)

Lots of websites have FAQ's (frequently asked questions).  No one is asking these questions, so I'm calling them IAQ's - infrequently asked questions.

Q.  "Dr. V.  I've taken your classes.....  What do you and Mrs. Dr. V. talk about on the road for all those miles and hours?"
A.  We'll, there's a lot of general talk about backs and butts hurting, but Mrs. Dr. V. puts a stop to that and makes me quit.  We talk a lot about the country we're driving through and the people that live there.  We plan the future, we discuss the past.  If you've ever watched Seinfeld, there is one show where they are trying to get a pilot with NBC to do "a show about nothing."  Maybe it's like that.  Anyhow, it doesn't ever seem to get boring (for me, at least :-)

Q.  "I guess you listen to the radio a lot?"
A.  Actually, we've probably listened to the radio a total of about an hour on the trip.  Most of the
time when we want there are usually no stations we can pick up.  We made it a point to try to not listen to the news on this trip, and to just "check out."

Q.  "Do you eat out a lot on the road?"
A.  We don't eat out a whole lot, and most of the time when we do, one or the other of us gets sick in the stomach.  Mrs. Dr. V. is an UNCOMMONLY fine cook and baker, and we eat quite well in the rig.  I'm used to eating VERY well.  Right now she's making split pea soup with kielbasa.  As a couple of examples, for Easter, she made a braided Easter Bread, we've had pound cakes, peach cobblers, chocolate pudding, fresh bread, fresh rolls, and lots of other really good things that came out of the camper's oven.

Q.  "So, what is the best thing you ate out?"
A.  We ate at some fancy and very expensive restaurants with family and friends that we visited on the way.  However, oddly enough, my absolute favorite was the Mojo Pork found in the Publix grocery store.  We got this many times, and for me, its irresistible.  I love it.  Unfortunately, we drove out of the region where there are Publixes.  The best prepared food we had was, oddly enough, at a Taco stand in Seaside Oregon.  I had a chimichanga, and it was AMAZING.  You're probably thinking, what can you do to make a chimichaanga amazing, and I guess you'll have to go to Seaside, OR to find out.  Spectacular, and all the more so because the quality and the flavor were so unexpected.

Q.  "How far do you drive each day?"
A.  Well, the only time constraint we have is that we want to pick up our son, Erik when he gets out of school May 5th.  So, Karin calculated that to make it around in time we had to average 148 miles each day.  However, some days we stay at a base camp and don't drive.  I suppose that most days we're on the road, we do about 240 miles."

Q.  "Who drives?"
A.  We both drive.  Almost every day, I drive the first shift, and when I get tired, Karin takes over.  Generally, we try to drive 2 hour shifts.  Karin is a better navigator than I am, and I am a little better driving the rig in tight situations.  So when we can, we plan ahead to have me driving when we get to big cities or tight mountain roads.  When we're trying to navigate to campgrounds, grocery stores, and other places, we try to have Karin navigating.

Q.  "Someone told me that Mrs. Dr. V. was a 'Jersey Barrier Jinx.'  What is that?"
A.  They told you right.  We can be driving anywhere, anytime, and if Mrs. Dr. V. takes the wheel, within a few minutes we'll be in a tight, white-knuckled construction zone with those concrete Jersey Barriers on both side, looming tighter and tighter.  She can also jinx an open road in the middle of nowhere into being a stop and go traffic jam.

Q. "How fast do you go?"
A.  Slower than you :-)  We rarely go the speed limit, and on the interstate, rarely faster than 62 (even though the limit is 80 out here in Montana).

Q. "What the heck?!  Why are you driving so slow?"
A.  Try it sometime.  Driving a truck with a camper really is about 2 to 2 1/2 times harder than driving a regular car.  It's intense and tiring.  We drive a little slow, and instead of aggressively competing with the rest of the traffic, it just kind of happens around us.  Being a defensive driver is a lot easier way to go, and it saves on the ulcers and improves gas mileage.

Q.  "You've written a lot of blog articles.  How long does it take?"
A. Well, the first big secret is that Karin writes and co-authors a lot of them.  Irregardless, we each edit each other's writing unmercifully.  Mrs. Dr. V. keeps me from sounding like a fool when I write.  When we visit an interesting site, we'll take a hundred or so photos.  Some of these show what we are seeing so we can share it with you, but many of them are pictures of the signs and kiosks we see, so we have the information with us to add facts and figures to the blog entries.  I bought one of those cool "Write in the Rain" notebooks to take notes on the trip.  It's buried over there on the bookcase.  I took it out once to remember a password.  Everything is done on the camera.

Q. "It sounds like your camera is important, then.  What are you using?"
A.  We started with a small "do-all" Nikon Karin uses, and I used a Leica M8 with a 28mm lens and a Canon waterproof Powershot.  I found that the Leica wasn't fast enough to catch things I wanted to get, and I was mostly using the Canon....right up until I took it snorkling and killed it (I guess it was almost waterproof).  After that, I thought long and hard and did a lot of research and bought a Nikon D7200 with a 18-140 Zoom.  This camera rarely leaves our side, and in fact, it rides on the center armrest of the truck, so who ever is not driving can shoot pictures while we're on the road.  I can't speak highly enough of it, and the difference its made in the quality of the blog and our ability to write and report.

Q.  "Sounds like you take a lot of pictures, how do you deal with them all?"
A.  The camera uses two SD Cards to store them.  One is a 64 GB backup that we just leave in camera, and the other a 64 GB that we shuttle the pictures to a laptop with.  We copy the photos into appropriate directories and sub-directories, first by State, and then by location or topic.  The photo files are VERY big, about 24 mb each.  You wouldn't be able to view them on the blog like that, so we make a PowerPoint presentation for each blog, paste the desired photos into the presentation, and then compress the pictures using the editing tool.  The file with compressed pictures is exported as a set of JPEG images, which we upload into the blog.  As you can imagine, it takes a lot of time, and a lot of file space.

Q.  "Hey, speaking of time, you didn't answer my question."
A.  Each blog entry takes around 3-4 hours to write, depending on the internet service we get at whatever campground we stay at.

Q.  "Say....that actually sounds like work."
A.  Well, honestly, I expected work - hard work- but not this much.  On a given day, we might drive a couple hundred miles, visit one or more sites, record information, camp, and write one or more blog entries.  I couldn't begin to do it without Mrs. Dr. V pulling a ridiculous share of the load.

Q.  "You must have seen a lot of rigs at the 50-60 campgrounds you've stayed at.  What's your favorite rig?"
A.  I'm well known for being someone that always wants something I don't have, but in this case, we nailed it.  Our camper really is the absolute perfect rig for this trip.  We've spent the past 30 years walking the loops at campgrounds, checking out rigs to see which is the best.  This is my fourth Airstream, and the third one we've modified.  Ours  really is the best rig - the queen of the campground.

Q. "Well, isn't that nice for you!  But I'm a poor college student.  I can't afford that."
A.  For a long time, Mrs. Dr. V and I couldn't, either.  We slept in the back of station wagons and trucks, put our tent up on roadsides, skulked along to river put ins and waited till dark to pitch a tent by the river.  We've slept in backseats, parking lots - you name it, we've done it.  Many of the "tent only" campsites are very cheap (depending on the season and location even free), especially those offered by the forest service. But...we kept traveling out in the world and getting it on us.

Q.  "How is it taking your dogs on the trip?"
A.  Well, it wouldn't be right to not have them, so we brought them.  It does limit some things - sometimes we have to take turns visiting places that are not dog friendly - but on the whole, they open a lot more doors than they shut.  On any given day, probably 10 -15 people will come up to us to talk about our dogs.  People in campgrounds seem especially "dog-starved" and want to pat dogs.  My Border Collie Patch has one bad leg, so he kinda hop skips as he walks, and almost no one will let us go by without some comment or hi-pitched "aaahhhhhhhhhhhh."  In truth, he's spoiled and doesn't really care where he is or what he does, as long as he can see me.  He is a one-person dog. Our Poodle Sophie just wants to chase her donut, so as long as she gets to play until your arm falls off, she is happy.  Little kids especially love to pat her, because she is so soft.  One of the best things we bought on the trip was a small dopey looking plastic fire hydrant dongle that hangs off your belt loop and dispenses doggie bags.  It's indispensable (ha ha).

Q.  "You must about be ready for a glass of wine and to read that book over there.  What else do you want to share with us?"
A.  We're really honored that so many people are reading our blog, and from so many countries.  Share it with your friends and family, if you think they might be interested!  We have both learned a lot on this trip, and are both sad and happy to be on the last leg.

Mt. St. Helens

Karin and I were camped at the Mt. St. Helens visitor center, and about 6 pm, Karin got the wild hair idea that we should drive up the mountain to watch the sunset, and try to get some pictures with the Alpen Glow on Mt. St. Helens.  Realize that the world scale is quite a bit different out there.  From the visitor center up is about 40 miles of mountain driving.  So, we made some sandwiches from SafeWay Spice Baked Pork, mugs of hot chocolate, and took off.

On the way up, we saw a few elk who were camera shy.

We finally got up to the overlook, and saw the evening sun shining on the mountain, but this dadgem cloud was on top of the mountain.  It would be a race to see if the cloud left first, or the sun set first.  The mountain is about 10-13 miles away from this vantage point.

You can see the rain falling in the valley to the left of the mountain.  You might not have been alive, but Mt. St. Helens erupted May 18, 1980.  I can't really tell this story as well as the USGS, so I'll just give you a link to the USGS explanation about Mt. St. Helens.  It's worth your time to learn about it.  Nowadays, its just 8,3,66 feet high, but before the eruption it was 9,677 feet high.  So, about a quarter mile of mountain slide off in the landslide and explosion.

Meanwhile, off to the west and near to Seattle is Mt. Rainier.  As I said, scale is wicked hard to judge.  From where I took this picture, Rainier is about 100 miles away.  It is 14,411 feet high.

As we waited on the cloud to move or the sun to set, Sophie chased her tail

Meanwhile, you can look down into the Toutle River Valley.  In some places here, the sediment from the St. Helens landslide is as deep as 600 feet.  A lot of that is the 1/4 mile of mountain top that blew and slide off.  That's the Toutle River.

If you take my water resources class, I usually cover sediment transport on this river, and the huge sediment retention lake and dam downstream.  Here, you can see the river cutting through the sediment, slowly eroding it.  I guess the banks you see by the river are about 75-100 feet high.

Meanwhile, it looked like that rain would come towards us, but it just went out into the middle of the valley.  Mt. Rainier on the left side, again..  The edge of Mt. St. Helens on the right.

Here's a pre-1980 picture from the visitor center.  By all accounts, it was a beautiful, picturesque example of a volcano cone.

As is this one from after the eruption.  I have a lot of these that I took myself that I use in my classes, but not with me on this trip. And we couldn't take new pictures because, this being winter, the road to the upper observatory - Joihnson Ridge Observatory - was still closed.

Well, the cloud won and the sun set before the cloud blew off the mountain, though it did move up the flanks a bit, so you could see a lot of the mountain and the snow.  You win some, you lose some.  Here though, those SafeWay Spiced Pork Sandwiches did a number on me.  It was a long, dark trip back down the mountain.

I took pictures of the pictures at the visitor's center.  This is Spirit Lake, which got filled in and no longer exists.

Here's the sequence taken by Joseph Rosenbaum, the only actual pictures of the landslide and blast.

Through the magic of computers, you can watch this animated on a youtube  video here.  I think this version is from a Discovery Channel Documentary.

Take home lesson:  You think big geologic events are a thing that happened "back then," but they're not.  They are just spaced out in a time scale that makes sense in a big geologic way.  This is a theme that you'll see in a future blog about the Missoula Flood.