Oregon

Sweet Home Rocks! Part II – Pyrite

Pyrite

Pyrite

Last week we told you about the fabulous petrified wood field open for public digging outside of Sweet Home, Oregon. We also told you this is a great area to find pyrite.

Jerry & Marilyn - "Enough pictures, it's still a half hour to the site."

Jerry & Marilyn – “Enough pictures, it’s still a half hour to the site.”

On this same weekend, my little brother, Jerry, his wife Marilyn, and daughter Jessica, headed up to Sweet Home to check out the “pyrite seam” as Jerry called it. Many years ago Jerry and my stepdad used to pan for gold on Quartzville Creek outside of Sweet Home. This is an area set aside by the Forest Service for public, no fee digging. They found out about the pyrite seam from one of our neighbors so many years ago. He had been on the road crew that cut the road through the seam – apparently they all thought for a few minutes that they were rich!

We headed up Quartzville Road east of Sweet Home. It goes past Sunnyside County Park, a park we highly recommend if you want to stay in the area. It’s large, roomy, has a couple of boat docks where we launched our kayaks into the river rather than right out into the busy Foster Reservoir.

Keep going several miles and you’ll see Green Peter Reservoir. From the pictures, you can see why “green” is in the name. Why it is Green Peter though, I have never found out.

Green Peter Reservoir, Sweet Home, Oregon

Green Peter Reservoir

Finally, we turned on a road leading past an obvious dry camping area, and just headed up about 2 miles. We saw a couple of cars parked alongside the road and a couple of people on the small hillside. Suddenly Jerry exclaimed, “That’s it!” I think he was worried it would be all overgrown after so many years. Jessica jumped out as excitedly as I did to run over to the hill. You could see sparkles all over the hillside and even down onto the road! They were calling to us! Jerry reached down and picked up a beautifully shaped piece and Jessica and I were nearly giddy with excitement.

Nancy, Jessica & Jerry at Pyrite Seam

Nancy, Jessica & Jerry at Pyrite Seam

Now, the hillside is a little slippery because the rock and dirt is soft. You have to be very careful going up and down it because it’s easy to fall and hurt yourself. But does that every really stop a rockhounder?

We gathered pieces we broke out of the rock as well as pieces that I wanted to take home to show the grandsons.

Pyrite in matrix

Pyrite in matrix

Finally we had to leave and stopped back by the dry camp area for lunch. Thankfully Jerry brought a small BBQ and we replenished our energy with hot dogs, chips and drinks.

Nothing better than a BBQ after rockhounding!

Nothing better than a BBQ after rockhounding!

Then he decided to try panning for gold in the creek. It was mainly to show Jessica how to do it. Jerry really didn’t expect to find anything because that particular spot is heavily panned. But it was a great day to cool off down by the river.

Jessica and Rusty enjoyed playing in the river while Jerry panned.

Jessica and Rusty enjoyed playing in the river while Jerry panned.

Although Jessica and I would have been happy to go back and spend a lot more time looking for pyrite, we ran out of time this day. But we all meet up every year in Oregon, so I know Jessica and I will definitely make sure we go back again and find more of that beautiful pyrite!

 

 

 

 

Categories: Oregon, Outdoors, Rockhounding/Gold Panning | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sweet Home Rocks! Part I – Petrified Wood

Petrified Wood, Holleywood Ranch, Sweet Home, Oregon

Petrified Wood at Holleywood Ranch

The Sweet Home, Oregon area is known for Holley Blue and other agates. But did you know you can also dig petrified wood and gather pyrite? Now I know some people say, “Pyrite?! Who wants Fool’s Gold?” Well, this is very pretty, nicely shaped Fool’s Gold.

Jerry and Jessica ready to dig petrified wood, Holleywood Ranch, Sweet Home, Oregon

Jerry and Jessica ready to dig

On this day, my little brother, Jerry, his wife Marilyn, and daughter Jessica, headed up to Sweet Home to check it out. We first arrived at Holleywood Ranch just outside of town, to dig for the petrified wood. We saw the sign showing we were at the right place, but no one was in sight. It turns out you should always phone ahead because the owners live on a hill behind the field where the digging takes place, and so they aren’t always in the field. There is a white house next to the fields but that is rental property, so please don’t bother the renters.

Petrified Wood Field, Holleywood Ranch, Sweet Home, Oregon

Petrified Wood Field

We met up with owner Brad Newport, and he showed us the wagons and probing tools and told us to head on out to see what we could find. The top of the ground was literally littered with pieces of petrified wood. It’s tempting to reach down and pick up several pieces but even more tempting to see what we could dig up for ourselves. We saw several trenches where other people had dug so we checked them out and found several pieces nice enough to keep. Most pieces were rather small, but there were some pieces in the field that were simply too big to pick up!

Jessica standing on large piece of petrified wood, Sweet Home, Oregon

Jessica standing on large piece of petrified wood

After choosing several pieces we headed back to the gate where there was water available to clean our finds and decide which ones to keep. The details really show up when the rocks are wet! Then we took them up to Brad’s house to pay for our keepers.

Petrified Wood from Holleywood Ranch, Sweet Home, Oregon

Petrified Wood from Holleywood Ranch!

When we walked into his shop, we were enthralled! Petrified wood everywhere! Limb casts, huge pieces, colorful pieces – it was a rockhounder’s heaven. We had some time to talk to Brad, an extremely pleasant gentleman, and he told us how he bought the property not knowing the petrified wood was on it. And when he did find out, he nearly wore himself out digging every day after work. I could completely understand, I would have done the same thing!

Brad Newport, Owner of Holleywood Ranch, Sweet  Home, Oregon

Brad Newport, Owner of Holleywood Ranch

He didn’t plan to open his property to the public until the Travel Channel Cash and Treasures show called him and wanted to visit. One of their requirements is that the property be opened to the public so he decided to try it. He had a great time telling us the story of the filming of the show, and some of the funny highlights. Holleywood Ranch has also been featured on Grant’s Getaways!

Holleywood Ranch is open for digging every day (weather permitting), just make sure to call ahead to 541-401-0899 or 541-409-6047. The digging is easy, the ground is soft and flat so no hiking, just a simple walk out into the field. You only pay $1.50 per pound for the pieces you choose to keep.

 

More gorgeous petrified wood! Holleywood Ranch, Sweet Home, Oregon

More gorgeous petrified wood!

You can find Holleywood Ranch online at http://holleywoodranch.com/

The link to the episode on Cash and Treasures, as well as Grant’s Getaways can be found here: http://holleywoodranch.com/claim-to-fame/

Come back next week to find out more about how Sweet Home Rocks! Part II – Pyrite.

Categories: Oregon, Outdoors, Roadside Attraction, Rockhounding/Gold Panning | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Crowning Jewel – Crown Point and Vista House, OR

Vista House, Crown Point, Oregon

Vista House

Whether you look east or west, you’ll see beautiful greens and blues for miles. The deep blue of the Columbia River with a barge floating upriver, the dark green forests and fields, and the summer blue skies. These are the views you will see from Crown Point sitting 733 feet above the Columbia Gorge.

Crown Point View East, Oregon

Crown Point View East

One a recent perfect July Saturday we headed down to take a hike in the gorge. After an exhilarating and exhausting hike we wanted to go up to Crown Point to show my daughter, Brandy, her boyfriend, Jason and my grandson, Anden, because none of them had ever been there. David, Josh, and I have been there but not when the building located there was open. This time we were in for a treat, it was open! The building is called the Vista House and was built in 1916-1917, about the same year that the Historic Columbia Gorge Highway was built. It was meant to be a place of rest and great views for gorge travelers. It has an octagonal shape and like an iceberg, much of it is underground.

Vista House, Crown Point, OR

Vista House

You can enter the building from one of four doors, stepping into a large domed room. There are some tables with information set up and park staff available for questions. Two sets of stairs are almost hidden next to the walls.

 

Vista House, Crown Point, Oregon

Vista House, Crown Point, Oregon

Head up and you will come out on the balcony surrounding the entire dome, and giving you an even higher view of the gorge.

Crown Point View West, Oregon

Crown Point View West

If you head down the stairs from the main floor, that’s where you will be shocked by the size of the building! There are several small galleries, large ornate restrooms, a small gift store and another small store with souvenirs and snacks, all very reasonably priced. Ice cream sandwiches were the hit with our little group on this hot day.

Vista House Restrooms, Crown Point, OR

Vista House Restrooms

Vista House Gallery, Crown Point, OR

Vista House Gallery

Back outside, Anden was excited to see telescopes so we scrounged up two quarters between us so he could take a look up and down the gorge. He was impressed that he could see the words on the side of the barge that was heading upriver.

Vista House Shop, Crown Point, OR

Vista House Shop

The Vista House has been designated a National Historic Landmark. It was dedicated in 1918, restored between 2001-2006 and rededicated in 2006. The property is over 305   acres in size and is an Oregon State Park. According to a survey visitors were asked to complete, 70% of visitors are not local, most coming from over 800 miles away. Conflicting reports estimate the number of annual visitors range from 500,000 per year to nearly one million per year.

The Vista House is open 9am-6pm daily, weather permitting. (David was there one time when it was so windy that he was able to lean into the wind and it held him up!)

Getting there: Take exit 22 off I-84/Highway 30 to 40700 E Historic Columbia River Hwy, Corbett, OR 97019.

 

 

Categories: Historical, Keatons Out and About, Oregon, Outdoors, Parks, Roadside Attraction | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Washington State’s Own Stonehenge

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Stonehenge at Maryhill

Stonehenge in England is surrounded by theories and speculation. It’s fun to try to think about what the circle of stones really meant and why it was created. But Stonehenge in Maryhill, Washington has a definite known reason and purpose.

This full-size replica of the stone structure was built by Samuel Hill, a businessman, and was finished in 1929. It is however, not made out of stone, but out of concrete. Its purpose is to honor those who died in World War I. The names of soldiers from Klickitat County are engraved on markers. It is also the very first Memorial to World War I Veterans in the entire United States.

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Hill had heard that the original Stonehenge was thought to have been created as a sacrificial place, so he envisioned the Maryhill Stonehenge as a tribute to those who were sacrificed in war.

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There are 40 stones on the inside circle and 30 stones on the outside. As the original Stonehenge marks the solstice, so does the Maryhill one. The Altar Stone is aligned to the sunrise on the Summer Solstice.

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Altar Stone in the center

Standing in different parts of Stonehenge the sun throws shadows that look both beautiful and intriguing. It’s interesting to stand there for awhile and watch the shadows move with the sun.

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Shadows

Maryhill Stonehenge sits high on a bluff above the Columbia River in the Columbia Gorge. The view is spectacular every way you look. On the beautiful spring day we were there, the sky was deep blue and the grass was still green, not having turned brown yet from the heat.

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The Columbia River and Gorge

With no mountains to block the view, you can see west to Mt. Hood.

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Sam Hill Memorial Bridge and Mt. Hood off to the left

Looking down on the river you may see fishing boats, speed boats or even barges and tug boats transporting their goods upriver. You can see the Sam Hill Memorial Bridge crossing the Columbia River to the town of Biggs on the Oregon side. In a time-warp feeling of old vs. new, wind turbines can be seen on the Washington hills north of Stonehenge.

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Wind Turbines

There is no cost to visit the memorial and it is open from 7am to dusk.

Directions: On the Washington side of the Columbia River, go east on Hwy. 14 and follow the signs to Stonehenge.

On the Oregon go east on Hwy. 84 to exit 104 and the Sam Hill Memorial Bridge at Biggs, Oregon. Take it north, crossing onto Hwy. 14 and continuing east following the signs to Stonehenge.

 

Categories: Historical, Keatons Out and About, Oregon, Outdoors, Parks, Roadside Attraction, Uncategorized, Washington | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Learning About Fish: Bonneville Fish Hatchery, Oregon

 

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White Sturgeon – he’s looking at you!

When would you guess that the Bonneville Fish Hatchery in Cascade Locks, Oregon was built? 1990’s? 1970’s? During the hippy days of the 1960’s? Would you believe it was 1909?! I was very surprised because I didn’t think hatcheries came into existence until much more recently in response to dams and concerns about endangered fish. But this one was built as a rearing site for eggs that were received from other hatcheries. At that time it was known as “Central Hatchery”. The hatchery sits on Tanner Creek, which flows into the Columbia River. In 1930 it was expanded to be able to hold 11 million salmon. It was expanded again in 1978 and again in 1998. The facilities are built on the site where Lewis and Clark camped on April 9, 1806!

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Bonneville Fish Hatchery Grounds

We spent one recent spring day there and it was heartwarming to see so many other families there introducing their children to the fish and learning about conservation and the lives of fish. The beautifully manicured grounds is very welcoming. You can pick up a free tour guide that will lead you around the facility and tell you all about it and what fish are in each pond or “battery” as some of the rearing ponds are called.

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Fish “Batteries”

There are beautiful Rainbow Trout ponds.

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Trout!

You can even feed the fish. There are vending machines and for a small price you can buy food and toss it to the fish and watch them snap it up very quickly.

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Josh feeding the trout

The White Sturgeon Pond was amazing! The fish are the size of a tree trunk! You can watch them swimming lazily through the water from above, or go down below into a view area and feel like they are swimming straight towards you. Kids love to see how the Sturgeon look like they have their bones on the outside of their body. They’re very majestic looking fish though, and you can’t help but stare at them for a very long time.

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White Sturgeon next to tree trunk

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Sturgeon Viewing Room

You can also see the Egg Incubation Building which is on the National Historic Register and includes a Visitor Information Center.

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Incubator Building

There is another small Visitor Center in the building that holds the offices for the Hatchery. You can also see the Spawning Room in that building and view a 12-minute video explaining spawning.1-IMG_3259

Finally, you have to stop at the Oregon Wildlife Bonneville Gift Shop where they have a lot of souvenirs and wildlife conservation items to choose from. All proceeds benefit fish and wildlife projects.

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Gift Shop

To help you plan your visit you can see the Tour Guide here: http://www.dfw.state.or.us/resources/visitors/docs/Bonneville_Hatchery_Self-guided_Tour.pdf

From April to August the hatchery is open from 7:30am-8pm. September and October hours are 7:30am-7pm. November to March it’s open from 7:30-5pm.

Getting there: Take I-84 east from Portland to exit 40 Bonneville Dam/Fish Hatchery and just follow the signs.

Categories: Historical, Keatons Out and About, Oregon, Outdoors, Parks, Roadside Attraction | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Firefighters on the Butte: Watchers and Teachers

Fire Smoke

Fire in the lava “island”

Smoke in the distance. In the Bend, Oregon area this happens rather regularly. When that happens while we are visiting we like to drive up to a little cinder cone south of town because it has such a fantastic view, probably a couple of hundred miles.

This time when we got to the top, we saw a US Forest Service fire truck and several firefighters. They weren’t in fire gear, just wearing blue uniforms. Ironically, when we were here eight years previously, there was also a thunder and lightening storm and when it was over we went to this same cinder cone and there were firefighters on lookout then as well!

We stepped out of the truck to take pictures. The fire was an impressive sight from up there. It was in the “lava island” at Lava Lands Visitor Center (see the article posted March 24). We could see the smoke actually billowing up. We went up to talk to the fire crew, and one of them started explaining everything to us – which fire that was, why they were letting it burn, that there was significant lightening expected that day, that they had just gotten back from fighting the fire at Warm Springs. Anything we asked he answered and more.

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Keeping watch

We somehow started discussing timber management and the differences in how timber grows on the coast and how it grows here. He told us that the trees are supposed to be close there but here they are naturally spaced about 40 feet apart. He said low underbrush naturally grows here and when a fire starts it burns just that lower part and doesn’t reach the canopy so the trees survive. He explained to us that past poor management over-planted the trees so now they are closer together. The firefighters are trying to play catch-up by thinning some trees but this is also a controversial practice politically.

He also explained that the practice of NOT putting out fires has been detrimental as it has allowed low undergrowth to get taller, and when it catches fire now it can reach the canopy and kill the trees as well. He believed he knows proper management techniques that would make the forests healthier as well as cost MUCH less and save taxpayer money, but that, again, politics interferes.

While he was explaining all this, he was also kind enough to open one of the equipment doors on the fire truck and took out a whiteboard marker and illustrated the tree and undergrowth for us. It was really quite educational!

Fire truck white board

Fire truck “white board”

Josh made himself at home while we were being “educated”. He talked to the other crew members, and they allowed him to climb on fire truck to take pictures from that vantage point.

Just before we left a state police pickup pulled up just to check on the crew and find out what they were seeing. He also told them that that a woman he talked to was a little panicked when she saw the smoke because she thought a volcano was going off!

We wondered how long that crew stayed up on that cinder cone watching for fires. We really appreciated their willingness to welcome us and take their time to educate us – and we were especially grateful for the job they do to protect beautiful Central Oregon.

 

Categories: Keatons Out and About, Oregon, Outdoors | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Islands in the Lava? – Lava Lands Visitor Center, Bend, Oregon

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“Islands” of trees in the lava

Lava Lands Visitor Center is located about eight miles south of Bend, Oregon on Hwy. 97. There is a very small interpretive center, bookstore, trails, restrooms and picnic tables. The site is set up for visitors to Central Oregon to learn all about the volcanic history of the area known as the Newberry National Volcanic Monument.

Lava Butte is the focal point of this spot. The lava flow from this butte spreads out over nine miles in this area. There are “islands” of trees in the flow. “Islands” is the term the locals use. When we first arrived there was a fire from lightening and the news kept reporting that the fire was in an island in the lava flow. We wondered what that meant and finally found out when we visited the site.

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More “islands”

To see this spectacular scene you can either walk one of the trails up to the top of Lava Butte or drive up in a car. There are only 10 parking spots, so when you enter the lower facility you are given a time slot and told where to park and wait. Then when it’s your turn you can start driving up to the butte (there is no cost for this part). It’s actually quite close and doesn’t seem very tall, at only 500 feet. The drive up is unique as it follows a beautiful red lava rock road that first weaves through a lava bed, then spirals up the hill.

Road up to top of the butte

Road up to top of the butte

Once parked in the parking lot, you can take a short, but rather steep walk up to the working Forest Service lookout. Inside the bottom floor of the lookout are displays on the walls above each window explaining each geologic feature you are seeing out that particular window. That’s when I realized there are a heck of a lot of buttes and mountains around there!

The views up here there are amazing! For such a short butte, you can see very far.

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Amazing views!

There are two trails – The Trail of Molten Land and the Trail of the Whispering Pines – where you can take a leisurely stroll through the area, enjoying more views and looking for critters. What great names for trails!

Nothing cuter than critters!

Can’t resist the critters!

David enjoyed the walk on the trail.

David enjoyed the walk on the trail. Notice the lookout behind him.

After checking out the butte and the trails, you really need to stop in the visitor center and see the educational and interesting displays. There are four different short movies shown during the day that explain the different volcanic processes so they are worth seeing in order to learn more.

Lava Lands Visitor Center is a quick stop to visit while in the Central Oregon area, but an important stop that will help you understand the geology you are seeing. When you learn the story of how the landscape was created through such violent earth processes, you can’t help but view it in a different light and appreciation.

Lava Lands Visitor Center is a Forest Service Fee site so it costs $5 for the day or the $30 annual pass is valid there.

Lava Lands Visitor Center
58201 South Hwy. 97
Bend, OR 97707
(541) 593-2421

 

Categories: Keatons Out and About, Oregon, Outdoors, Parks | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Cartlandia!

1-CartlandiaSignAhhh, the enticing aromas of BBQ, Thai, Asian, Gyros, Chicken and Waffles and more. This must be Cartlandia!

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Just a few of the carts at Cartlandia

If you think it sounds like the TV series, Portlandia, you are correct. Cartlandia is a food cart area located in Portland, Oregon. Portland is becoming very well known for its food carts so of course we had to check them out. We were told about a couple of different areas where there were food carts so we drove around looking for them. Then we found one full block of carts. First we had to walk all the way around and see what all they had available, and boy, did they have a variety to offer. We wanted to sample a couple of items, but not eat full meals so we could keep sampling. The only problem was, this is Oregon, so it was pouring down rain. There was no place to sit and eat and we hate eating in the car. So we stood under the overhang of one of the closed carts and ate as quickly as we could. Then took off to look for Cartlandia.

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Voodoo Doughnuts!

We found 82nd and followed it until we found Cartlandia at 8145 SE 82nd Avenue. It was off to the west side of the street and in a parking lot with a fence around it. It had a sign on the side of the building letting us know we were in the right place! The first thing we all noticed though was the bright pink cart – Voodoo Doughnuts has a cart there! Woohoo! But solid food first.

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Grandson Anden and Daughter Brandy Getting BBQ

So we split up and all looked around at the carts to see what delights we could partake in here. There were not as many carts as the other site, but still enough variety to make us all happy. We all chose our food then went to the best part of Cartlandia – the Beer Garden!

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Wine, Beer & Pulled Pork

It’s a huge, warm, dry tent where we could sit and eat. And they served beer and wine! What could be better? It even has a big-screen TV like a sports bar. But kids are also welcome there so we sat with our individual choices of delicious delectables and enjoyed a leisurely meal in the warmth of the tent. That alone made Cartlandia stand out from the other carts.

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Beer Garden/Tent

I’m sure it’s great to hit the food carts on a warm sunny day, but it’s nice to know that Cartlandia is prepared for Oregon weather by providing the tent. While on this particular day there wasn’t as many carts as the other site, I imagine that during the better weather there would be more to choose from as the website says they have 28 food carts. And again the tent with seating and shade from the sun would be a welcome relief.

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Beer Garden with TV!

It’s also next to the Springwater Corridor trail, a bicycle trail that runs throughout Portland. So you can take a nice long bike ride and stop and replenish your energy quickly and easily. There is plenty of room for bikes along with parking spots for 50 cars.

If you want to have a really different birthday party or special day, you can even book your event at Cartlandia!

To find out more about Cartlandia and the different foods that may be available there, check out their website at http://www.cartlandia.com

Categories: Bicycle Trail, Food and Wine, Keatons Out and About, Oregon, Outdoors, Roadside Attraction | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

For The Kid in All of Us: Rock and Gem Shows

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OAMS Rock Show

Besides actually going out and collecting rocks, rock and gem shows are a great way to get kids interested in rockhounding. They can see all the different kinds of beautiful rocks and the variety of colors. That can help them visualize what they are actually looking for when they are out collecting.

Over President’s Day holiday we went to Portland, Oregon to check out the rock show sponsored by the Oregon Agate and Mineral Society. We took my grandson, Anden, because he likes rock collecting and it has been the joy of my life to share my passion with him.

The show was held inside the OMSI (Oregon Museum of Science and Industry) hall and admission was free. While it was probably the smallest show I have ever been to, it was still packed with amazing specimens to see, rock-related items to buy, and demonstrations.

When we first walked in we were greeted with a “food table” – every item on the table looked like food but was actually some sort of rock. It was quite impressive. At another table young girls were making painted rocks and creating other crafts from rocks. There was a table with various rocks on it called the “Touch Table” to let kids know they should pick those rocks up and touch them all they wanted!

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Rock “Food”

The table with samples of meteorites was a new experience for us. We had never seen one and were able to touch them and feel how heavy they were. There were little magnets available so we could see how magnetic the rocks were. They really looked quite different than I expected and I’m not sure I would recognize one out in the field if I came across it.

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Meteorite with Magnet

At the back of the room were the demonstrations. That’s where we met 11-year-old Zach Taylor. He was making cabochons for guests. A cabochon is a piece of rock that is most often formed into an oblong piece that is then polished. It can then be placed into a necklace or other piece of jewelry. It was impressive to watch Zac expertly run the “Genie,” a grinding and polishing machine that has six wheels of varying roughness to shape the rock, then polish the scratches out, then finish polishing the stone. The finished product is truly a work of art.

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Young Rockhounder Zach Taylor

Zach has always been interested in rock collecting and joined the Oregon Agate and Mineral Society about three years ago. One of the other members worked with Zach for a couple of months teaching him how to use the equipment and Zach has now been making cabochons for about two years. The field trips or “expeditions” as they call them, are what really get Zach excited. Zach and his mom, Mary, are excited for the next club field trip which will be to Lincoln City, Oregon to collect agates. This club really knows how to involve the kids!

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Josh’s Finds

Moving on in the room, down the outside row of tables were vendors selling small slabs of various specimen of rocks. Josh had a great time picking out some great pieces to add to his collection. Another activity for kids was the “wheel” and for 50 cents kids could spin the wheel to win from a selection of rocks or rock pieces of art. Both Josh and Anden, spun the wheel several times. Anden was thrilled with his winnings but also “needed” to buy something. All those beautiful rocks are hard to resist! He saw a quartz crystal that he really wanted so of course Grandma bought it for him.

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Anden and His Crystal

At the far side of the room were display cases with gorgeous collections. One of my favorites was the picture jasper just because I think it is amazing you can find rocks, cut and polish them, and they really do look like intricately painted pictures!

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Picture Jasper

My other favorite collection was the sunstones. Sunstones are the state rock of Oregon, and there is land set aside in the southeast part of Oregon, outside of the town of Plush, where you can go to collect them for free. They are quite abundant so I would say you are guaranteed to find stones.

Sunstones

Rockhounding is a great way to connect with kids and to get them outside. It’s great for the kid in the rest of us as well!

There are many rock clubs all over the country, several in every state. And there are many rock and gem shows that you can attend.

Categories: Oregon, Outdoors, Rockhounding/Gold Panning | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Columbia River, Transportation Giant

big2_2Last weekend we decided to take a day trip to Astoria, Oregon for a quick getaway. There is a quite a bit to see and do there, but this particular day one fascinating thing was watching all the container ships in the Columbia River. I’ve seen them before, but never so many.

The Columbia River is the biggest river in the Pacific Northwest at 1243 miles long. It starts in Canada, flows south through Washington, then turns west and is the border between Oregon and Washington. There are 14 dams on the river.

Ships coming into the Columbia River have to pass over the bar, which can be treacherous in bad weather. The bar is where the mighty Columbia River meets the powerful Pacific Ocean, creating enormous waves. It is so dangerous that ships must have a Columbia River Bar Pilot (experts in crossing the bar) get on the boat and guide it through the bar.

Once over the bar they then pass under the Astoria-Megler Bridge which was built in 1966 and is 208 feet high.  Upriver the ships also have to pass under the Lewis and Clark Bridge at Longview which is 198 feet high. The Columbia River is 55 feet deep for the first 5 miles, then is 43 feet deep for the next 100 miles or so into Portland, Oregon. Neither of those depths seems like enough when you look at how absolutely HUGE the ships are that are in it!big1_1

About 3600 ships go through the Columbia River every year. Most of the particular ships we saw this day were Articulated Tug and Barges, basically a combination tug boat and barge. The tug can be detached from the barge if needed. I believe we also saw some General Cargo Ships which can carry logs or large amounts of other cargo.

We watched the large group anchored up out in the bay from the dock around the Columbia River Maritime Museum. They were just sitting there, no action, but just fascinating to see so many of them sitting out there lined up. You can see from the amount of red showing above the water that the ships are empty. We assumed they would be heading upriver at some point to load up with cargo. When they are fully loaded and heavy, they sit much lower in the water and the red part is nearly covered.

IMG_2813We went to Fort Stevens and that’s where we saw this ship heading back out to sea. As you can see from the small amount of red showing above the water line, this ship is loaded and heavy. Surprisingly, though, it moved amazingly quick even though it was loaded up.

Watching the boats we wondered – what kind of people worked on the boats, where were they from, where were they going, what kind of cargo did they carry, would we be using any of the items they were bringing in and out? We’ll never know but it was fascinating to see the importance of the great Columbia River as a massive transportation system and the amount of traffic using it.

Categories: Historical, Keatons Out and About, Oregon, Outdoors | Tags: , , , , | 6 Comments

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