Roosevelt Elk at Dean’s Creek: A Nature Study

The Dean Creek Elk Viewing Area and the O.H. Hinsdale Interpretive Center are popular tourist stops along Hwy. 38 near Reedsport. Here, visitors are able to observe up-close views of Roosevelt Elk, with the herd sometimes reaching as many as 120 elk. This area of mountains, meadows, and marshes also are home to beaver, coyote, muskrat, mallards, Canada geese, and great blue heron.

Roosevelt Elk: A Nature Study @EvaVarga.netThe Roosevelt Elk are native to the area and are considered Oregon’s largest land animal. Inhabiting forests and meadows from northern California to British Columbia, they are the largest of six sub-species of elk. They generally live between 10 to 15 years, but some may live more than 20 years.

In this short video by Chris Cru, you can observe the Roosevelt Elk peacefully grazing as well as a coyote running in the background.


The antlers of a Roosevelt elk can reach spreads of nearly 3 feet and are thicker than the antlers of the Rocky Mountain elk. Older, stronger bulls have larger antlers, with 6 or more points per side, while yearling bulls have single spikes.

A mature bull elk can weigh an imposing 700 to 1200 pounds, standing 5 feet tall at the shoulder. Cows weigh about 500 to 700 pounds, while a calf weighs just 23 to 45 pounds at birth.

Their brown-gray winter coat will turn to a glossy, reddish-bay color in the summer. A tawny rump patch is outlined in black and they boast a thicker mane. At birth, calves are spotted and more tawny in color. As mature elk age, their coats will lighten in color.

Roosevelt Elk: A Nature Study @EvaVarga.net

Using a range finder to calculate our distance apart

Nature predators include mountain lion and black bear which primarily feed on new calves and sick animals. When approached or threatened, both cows and bulls will use their sharp front hooves for protection. Cows will bark an alarm that sounds like a high-pitched neigh while calves will bleat when danger approaches.

In late summer, bulls shed their velvet by rubbing antlers against tree limbs and bushes until the new antlers are hardened and shiny. This helps the males win over the female when the mating season begins in autumn.

Roosevelt Elk: A Nature Study @EvaVarga.netThe elk bulls bugle during the fall season. This is a great time to see the males in action. The bull elk’s deep, resonating bugle can be heard across the meadow as the males call to attract a female, move in to spar with a competitor, and take control of the harem.

To signal their status and fitness, the bulls will wallow in mud and spray themselves with urine. They will also tangle plants in their antlers to appear more imposing and better emphasize their size and power.

Roosevelt Elk: A Nature Study @EvaVarga.netWhen the rut season is over, the females will force the males out of the heard once again. He will generally join up with a small group of other males though occasionally he’ll remain solitary. They then focus on grazing to gain nourishment fro the oncoming winter months.

The bulls drop their antlers in the later winter which become an important source of calcium for smaller forest mammals including coyotes, squirrels, and mice.

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We’ve always enjoyed taking part in the monthly challenges at Handbook of Nature Study. This month our selected challenge was to Sketch Outdoors.

Creating a Labyrinth on the Beach with Artist, Denny Dyke

We get home to Oregon regularly and though I grew up in Bandon, hidden gems and little adventures continue to take me by surprise. This is exactly what happened on New Years Day this year when we happened upon Denny Dyke creating a holiday labyrinth.

Image of people walking a hand-drawn labyrinth on a sandy beach taken from above

We first met my dad at the house and visited for a short time. He shared with us his latest projects and we then proceeded to downtown for our usual Fish & Chips at the Bandon Fish Market. {When it is in season, Salmon Fish & Chips is the best!}

Labyrinth Art

Earlier that morning, I had fortunately caught an advertisement of a labyrinth event shared on Facebook and I was looking forward to seeing the Circles in the Sand near Face Rock Beach.

We were delighted to arrive early and thereby have the chance to take part in the creation of the labyrinth. It’s amazing how simple it is once Denny describes his vision to you. He lends you a few tools and off we go filling in the design.

image of mother and daughter creating a labyrinth on the beach

When the design was finished, we were able to set down the tools and be amongst the first to walk the creative maze. As we walked, we could contemplate the coming year and give thought to the year that past.

In Greek mythology, the original Labyrinth was an elaborate structure designed and built by Daedalus for King Minos of Crete at Knossos. Its function was to hold the Minotaur (half bull, half man) eventually killed by the hero Theseus (son of Aegeaus, King of Athens). According to the mythology, Daedalus had so cunningly made the Labyrinth that he could barely escape it after he built it.

Serendipitously, I was inspired to write this post as the kids and I just read of King Minos, the Minotaur, and Theseus earlier this morning and we recalled fondly our own labyrinth experiences.

image of two children jumping in front of the famous Face Rock in Bandon, OregonThere has been a resurgence of interest in the symbolism of labyrinths which has inspired a revival in labyrinth building in recent years. On low tides, labyrinth artist Denny Dyke regularly creates classical cretans, baltic wheels, and double spirals in the sand. He also draws large versions of the Chartres and Santa Rosa.

May 2nd is World Labyrinth Day. Join Denny at Coquille Point (aka Elephant Rock) to join in the fun in creating a labyrinth with a sandy path.

Oregon Coast Quests

We are avid Letterboxers and have always enjoyed the added fun of a scavenger hunt while on a family outing. When I first discovered Oregon Coast Quests, I was intrigued. I knew this was something we would enjoy. As it turned out, it provided so much more.

questsoregonLike Letterboxing, Quests are fun and educational clue-directed hunts that encourage exploration of natural areas. A self-guided activity whereby Questers follow a map and find a series of clues to reach a hidden box.

Similarly, the box contains a small guest book, a stamp pad, and a unique rubber stamp. Participants sign the guest book to record their find, and make an imprint of the box stamp in their clue book as proof of accomplishment. Then the box is re-hidden for the next person to find. The location of the clues and box remain a secret so others can share the fun. Oregon Coast Quest clues and boxes stay in place year-round.

What makes Quests different from Letterboxes is that in the box, there is additional information about the site. Additionally, the box is maintained by locals who are dedicated to keeping the box secure whereas Letterboxes are sometimes hidden by travelers and are essentially uncared for – causing many to go lost.

coastquests

We were able to complete our first Quest when we drove up to Oregon to visit family for Thanksgiving. We had hoped to complete a second during the same visit but just didn’t have the time and it was raining something fierce.

There are presently 26 Quests in three counties (Lincoln, Coos, and Benton) – one of which is in both English and Spanish! We are excited for this new challenge. Upon completing 10 or more Quests, we are eligible to receive a Oregon Coast Quests patch! If that isn’t incentive – what is?

The Oregon Coast Quests book is currently being updated and a new edition is expected to be published in the spring of 2015. Until then, you can purchase a 2013-14 edition from Oregon Sea Grant

Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway

The volcanic activity of the Cascade Range has created unique geological formations that can only be seen in this part of the country. From gigantic obsidian glass flows (at Newberry Crater near Bend, Oregon), steaming mud pots at Lassen National Volcanic Park, and lava tube caves surrounded by a wide diversity of scenery make this journey an unforgettable experience.

The 500 mile Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway winds its way from Lake Almanor in Northern California through dramatic volcanic landscapes to Southern Oregon’s Crater Lake National Park.

volcanic-legacy-logoLiving in this region, we have had the opportunity to explore many of the volcanic sites over the years. This past weekend, we enjoyed unplugging and reconnecting with one another while camping at Manzanita Lake. It was the perfect field trip to augment our current geology cycle in STEM Club.

I am delighted to share some of the highlights from our experiences over the years along the volcanic scenic byway with you today.

Lassen Volcanic National Park

We will begin our tour with the remarkable hydrothermal features in Lassen Volcanic National Park which include roaring fumaroles (steam and volcanic-gas vents), thumping mudpots, boiling pools, and steaming ground. These features are related to active volcanism and are indications of the ongoing potential for further eruptions from the Lassen “volcanic center.”

manzanitaManzanita Lake at Lassen Volcanic National Park

At the nearby Loomis Museum, we learned how B.F. Loomis documented Lassen Peak’s most recent eruptions (1914-15) and reviewed the geologic, historic, and cultural past at the Lassen Crossroads Information Center.

Subway Cave

Heading Northwest towards Burney, we come to the Subway Caves where you can hike 1/3 mile through the largest accessible tube in the Hat Creek Flow. The lava was discharged in large volumes from a series of north-south fissures (cracks in the earth). This river of lava crawled northward 16 miles, covering the floor of Hat Creek Valley. While the top crust cooled and hardened, rivers of red-hot lava insulated by newly formed rock above, continued to flow. Eventually, the lava drained away, leaving tube-like caves. The entrance to the cave was formed by a partial collapse of the cave’s roof many years ago.

McArthur-Burney Falls Memorial State Park

Not far from the caves, McArthur-Burney Falls features a 129-foot waterfall, cascading at a rate of 100 million gallons of water daily. While it is not the highest or largest waterfall in the state, many claim it to be the most beautiful. Additional water comes from springs, joining to create a mist-filled basin. Burney Creek originates from the park’s underground springs and flows to Lake Britton, getting larger along the way to the majestic falls. Teddy Roosevelt once described Burney Falls as the “eighth wonder of the world”.

burney_subway

Castle Crags State Park

Heading north now along the I5 corridor, we come to Castle Crags State Park which features 28 miles of hiking trails, including a 2.7 mile access trail to Castle Crags Wilderness, part of the Shasta-Trinity National Forest.  The Pacific Crest Trail also passes through the park.  The park is named for the 6,000-feet tall glacier-polished crags.  The solitude you experience as you explore the forest or traverse part of the Pacific Crest Trail cannot be matched.

Klamath Wildlife

Continuing north, we exit I5 near Weed towards Klamath Falls. Along the border between California and Oregon are numerous wildlife viewing areas including Grass Lake Rest Area near Macdoel. North of Klamath Falls, you can’t miss the nearly 30 miles long and eight miles wide Upper Klamath Lake, the largest body of freshwater west of the Rockies. Because the lake is so shallow, a highly nutritious blue green algae flourishes, sustaining a food web that lures fly fisherman, bird watchers, and nature enthusiasts from across the globe.

Collier State Park & Logging Museum

Back on the road, we come to Collier State Park is located just north of Chiloquin, Oregon near the confluence of Spring Creek and the Williamson River. Beneath towering Ponderosa pine trees, this park features an outdoor museum of historic logging equipment dating to the 1880s. You can imagine the rugged woodsmen and the immense task of moving raw timber with innovation and brute force. There is also a relocated pioneer village, giving you an idea of how these families once lived.  Railroad buffs can learn about the role the railroad played in logging.

Crater Lake National Park

Lastly, we come to one of the gems of the National Park system, Crater Lake. The collapse of Mt. Mazama created a caldera that filled with clear blue waters to form the deepest lake in America and the 7th deepest lake in the world. There is so much to explore at the 183,225 acre park, we’ve only begun to scratch the surface.

One of our most memorable activities in the past was creating a 3D topographic map of the park, Build Geoography Skills with Topographic Maps, for a geography co-op.

 

 

Shore Acres Geology Walk

Shore Acres, located on the south coast of Oregon near Coos Bay, contains some of the most dramatic geology on the West Coast.  Layers of sediment tilt at steep angles, some are spatter with dark round rock formations like cannon balls, and the surf hitting the rocks shoots spectacular waves 50 feet into the air.  Both my husband and I grew up in Coos County and most of our family still resides in this area.  We thereby get the opportunity to visit frequently.

Our Dynamic Coast

Perched on rugged sandstone cliffs high above the ocean, Shore Acres State Park is an exciting and unexpected combination of beautiful natural and constructed features. Once the grand estate of pioneer timber baron Louis Simpson, Shore Acres features lushly planted gardens with plants and flowers from all over the world. Something is in bloom almost every day of the year. We’ve explored these gardens in the past but our focus this time was the geology.

1 Concretions

The rock formations that look like cannon balls are called concretions, compact masses of mineral matter embedded in a host rock.  Concretions usually form before the rest of the sediment has hardened into solid rock. This pre-rock cementing material collects around a nucleus of decaying organic material.

2 Salt Weathering

The power of the ocean is wearing away the rock formations day by day, as the waves strike the rocky coastline and explode into the air.  But an even more subtle force of geologic change comes from the evaporation of billions of droplets of seawater, deposited on the rocks and causing salt weathering.

3 Colliding Plates

The layers of rock that are part of the Coaledo Formation tilt at a 40-45 degree angle from the Juan de Fuca plate colliding with the North American plate.  The flat surface around you is formed by a wave cut pattern called the Whiskey Run Marine Terrace.

As we drove home, I encouraged the kids to give an oral narration of what they understood from the interpretive signs we had read and the observations we had made.  I hoped that they would also make a few sketches in their nature journal but a las they did not.  Nature journaling is personal.  I try to model it as often as I can but I don’t force it.

During our geology walk, we were delighted to also observe a pod of sea lions surfing the waves and racing one another.  At first, I thought they were dolphins for I had never seen sea lions leap and dive before this day. We watched them for several minutes as they continued their journey south, presumably to a secluded beach not far from where we were standing.

 

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Submitted to the Outdoor Hour Challenge at the Handbook of Nature Study.

So Many Festivals in One Day!

Every nineteen years, we can celebrate three events on February 14th – Valentine’s Day, Lantern Festival (the last day of Chinese New Year), and Oregon’s birthday.

valentines day and lantern festival

Valentines Day

We gathered with a group of homeschooling families to celebrate Valentines Day .. more than 50 homeschooled children exchanged Valentines Day cards!  What a treat!

Lantern Festival

On this day, the celebration food is glutinous rice sweet dumpling, also known as yuán xiāo [元宵]. We were delighted to enjoy this traditional treat this week with our Mandarin teacher – accompanied by a warm glass of milk tea prior to our lesson.

Oregon’s Birthday

Privately, we honored our beloved home state with a little poetry … Oregon became the 33rd state on February 14, 1859.

Rockaway Oregon

by  Leanne Grabel

Seaguls gather like an audience.

They’ve seen the show a thousand times

and they show it.

Meek mountains lumber

in the background

hoping for a moment

to hide behind a mist

and sleep.

Seaweed teases a billion fleas.

Submitted to the All About Love Collage Friday edition at Homegrown Learners.