Friday, January 30, 2015

Rattlesnake Ledge

 Rattlesnake Ledge

On 12 December 2014 I put up a blog post about going to Rattlesnake Lake, near North Bend on the way to Snoqualmie Pass, but we had to abort our hike to the ledge that day due to an icy trail.  We made another attempt and this time were successful.  Even though this is the end of January and the middle of winter there is hardly any snow so far and when we saw the weather forecast was for sun and not too cold we decided to chance it.  

The climb up to the ledge is an 1160-foot vertical gain with the round trip 4.4 miles.  No pass is required although we did hang our Discover Pass on the mirror just in case.  It would be advisable to come early to get a parking spot even on a weekday since this is a very popular hiking trail with a spectacular view from the ledge.  The steepness of the trail qualifies the hike as moderate.  The day was beautiful and brought out lots of other hikers many with unleashed dogs.  Bob says about 200 people and 30 dogs.  On most hikes my cell phone will work in the parking lot but not always on the trail so it was a surprise to get a call when I was sitting on top of the ledge.  The caller knew something was up as I started to laugh when he asked where I was.  He was surprised to find out I was on a mountain.

The trail winds its way through a forest of second growth trees.  It is rocky and steep for most of the way.

 The sunlight shining through the moss hanging off the tree branch

Once again, this is winter so there are no flowers and bare trees among the evergreens but lots of moss, a few mushrooms, chipmunks and squirrels, we heard waterfowl and other birds. 

 These enterprising little guys picked up cracker crumbs left by hikers who stopped at the top for lunch. 

This tiny mushroom was poking up through the moss.

 Looking down on Rattlesnake Lake from the ledge

The views from the top were beautiful on this clear, sunny January day.  It got up to about 42 
degrees F at the top but the wind was blowing and made the wind chill closer to 32 degrees F or freezing.  We were wearing extra layers.

Going back down the steep trail was just as difficult as going up.  This was the most vertical gain I have tried and my legs were already tired before we started down.  

Near the bottom we spotted this odd contraption attached to a tree.  Bob went over to get a better look and discovered that it was a counter.  We don't know if it was counting animals or people. 

Thursday, January 29, 2015

If this is Thursday it must be postcards, 179

Cave Paintings, Altamira, Spain
This postcard is not only interesting for the subject, Paleolithic Cave Paintings found in the Cave of Altamira, Spain, but for the route it took to get to me about 45 years ago.  The return address is the American Express Office in Rome, Italy, it was mailed from Greece with several beautiful Greek stamps (below) and the cave itself is located in Spain.  A card on the grand tour of Europe it seems.

Greek Stamps on postcard

Cave and rock paintings can be found all over the globe, some dating 40,000 years old.  There are over 340 caves in France and Spain alone with perhaps the best known ones this in Altamira and the Chauvet Cave in France.  The subject matter is predominantly animals but stenciled human hands and human stick figures are sometimes also included.  Stenciled hand prints were made by placing a hand on the cave wall and blowing pigment over the hand to leave a negative image.  Artists used charcoal and ochre or haematite to create the images, diluting these pigments to produce variations in intensity.  They also used the cave wall contours to create three dimensional effects.  The postcard features the famous Polychrome Ceiling showing a herd of steppe bison in different poses, horses, a doe, and wild boar.

The Altamira paintings were the first prehistoric cave paintings to be discovered and generated controversy in 1880 because some experts found it hard to believe that prehistoric man could produce this high quality artistic expression.  As other caves and paintings were discovered (1902-1904) and supported proof of authenticity it forever changed the perception of prehistoric humans.  In 2012 uranium-thorium dating placed the age of one image in the cave at 35,600 years. 

People did not live inside the cave but the only evidence of habitation is found at the entrance.  The Altamira Cave extends 984 feet (300 meters) with twisting passages and chambers.  The ceiling of the main passageway varies in height from about 6.6 feet (2 meters) to almost 20 feet (6 meters).  Other old Stone Age artifacts have also been found here and evidence of animal occupations are also found in between the times when human were present.  About 13,000 years ago a rock slide sealed the cave entrance, preserving the contents until it was discovered by an amateur archaeologist, Marcelino Sanz de Sautuola and his eight year old daughter, Maria, in 1879.

The caves had to be closed to the public in 1977 because the paintings were being damaged by the carbon dioxide in the breath of the numbers of people visiting the site.  In 1982 the cave was reopened to a limited number of visitors and resulted in a three year waiting list.  A replica cave and museum was completed in 2001 and affords a more comfortable view of the polychrome paintings as well as other works.  It also contains some sculptures of human faces that were not readily accessible in the real cave.  The decision to keep the cave closed to the public was revisited in 2010 but on the advice of experts who found that conditions in the cave had become more stable since its closure the Spanish Ministry of Culture decided that the cave should remain closed to the public.  Some of the polychrome paintings from Altamira are well known in Spanish popular culture. 

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Thursday, January 22, 2015

If this is Thursday it must be postcards, 178

Carlingford, County Louth, Ireland

The remains of the castle shown on the above postcard sent by a friend can be found in Carlingford, County Louth, Ireland.  The castle is known as King John’s Castle, named for King John the brother of Richard the Lionheart, who visited here in 1210.  The western part of the castle was begun by Hugh de Lacy before the year 1186 with the eastern section constructed in the mid 1200s.  Subsequent alterations and additions occurred in the 15th and 16th centuries.  In the 1950s the Office of Public Works began conservation work to stabilize and preserve the remaining portions of the original castle.  There is a public viewing area on the eastern side but the castle itself is closed for safety reasons. 

Carlingford is an eastern coastal town about 7 miles (11 km) south of the border with Northern Ireland and approximately 56 miles (90 km) north of Dublin.  A settlement began here shortly after the Norman knight Hugh de Lacy laid the castle foundation stone on a strategic outcrop.  The strategic position made it a vital trading port resulting in relative prosperity during the 14th, 15th and 16th centuries.  Trade charters encouraged the rich mercantile class to build as can still be seen in the remains of the Mint and Taffe’s Castle. 

Historical set backs include the town being burnt to the ground in 1388 by a Scots force as retaliation for Irish attacks on Galloway; the 1637 Rising by the Irish of Ulster; the Cromwellian Conquest of 1649; and the Williamite wars of the 1690s.  By 1744 the town was described as in a state of ruin in the journal of Isaac Butler.   Today its mediaeval charm attracts lively tourism that has become the major source of employment in the area.  There is an annual Oyster Festival held in August and passenger ferries operate daily from the nearby town of Omeath during the summer months.

The stamp design looks like an artifact, possibly jewelry.  The 38 pence stamp was issued on 3 April 1991. 

For more information, please see:,_County_Louth

Thursday, January 15, 2015

If this is Thursday it must be postcards, 177

Nauvoo, Illinos, 1839-1846

The small city of Nauvoo, Illinois is shown as it was in the 1800s on the postcard above.  Like Kirtland, Ohio it is one of the Mormon historic sites that have a part of the old city restored and a visitor center so that it is possible to see what it was life was like at that time.  Jacque Baker is the artist who painted the picture on the card.  The postcard was issued for the official Utah Pioneer Sesquicentennial Celebration in 1997.  We visited Nauvoo in 2000 when the reconstruction of the temple, at the highest point of the city, was in process.  There was a model of what the finished temple would look like near the construction site.  Today the temple has been completed and the city with the immediate surrounding area are on the National Register of Historic Places.

 Nauvoo Temple reconstruction in progress

 Model of the completed reconstruction

Flying Angel Moroni

Many of the LDS temples have the standing figure of the Angel Moroni blowing a trumpet perched atop the highest steeple.  The flying Angel Moroni on the Nauvoo Temple is the older version that resembles a weather vane.

One of the more interesting items was this Sunstone pictured below.  It is from the original Nauvoo Temple and now housed in a case in front of the visitor center.  Two other Sunstones from the original Temple still exist, one at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., and one at the Community of Christ Joseph Smith Historic Center. 

 Small replicas of the Sunstone can be purchased at the gift shop.  A nice curiosity that occasionally doubles as a bookend.

The Temple was designed in a Greek Revival style by William Weeks a Mormon architect.  There were originally Starstones found at the top of the Temple like a crown of 12 stars, the Sunstones in the middle representing “clothed with the sun,” and Moonstones at the bottom (“moon under her feet”) see Revelation 12:1.  The temple was only half completed when Joseph Smith was assassinated in 1844.  Brigham Young encouraged the members to complete the Temple, which was accomplished by 1846.  It was used for sacred ordinances for less than 3 months before vigilantes drove out the remaining Mormons and the Temple was vandalized.  In 1848 an arsonist set it on fire and although an attempt was made to save the building it was gutted.  By 1865 the Nauvoo City Council ordered a final demolition of the remains and all evidence of the Temple disappeared except a hand pump for a well that supplied water to the font.  The reconstructed Temple was built on the original site and dedicated as the Nauvoo Temple on 27 June 2002, 158 years after the deaths of Joseph and Hiram Smith.

The city is situated on a bend of the Mississippi River with the lower flat lands barely above the water line.  It was swampy and mosquito infested when the early Saints moved here to escape religious persecution in Missouri. First called Quashsquema by the native population the name changed to Venus when a post office was established in 1832.  By 1834 it was known as Commerce and it wasn’t until the Mormons arrived in 1839 that it was renamed once again in 1840 this time to Nauvoo (to be beautiful) from Isaiah 52:7 “How beautiful upon the mountains . . .” 

The population of Nauvoo in 1844 was 12,000 about the same size as Chicago at the time.  Following the martyrdom of Joseph Smith and his brother Hiram in 1844 there was increased violence from non-Mormons that forced most Latter-Day Saints to leave Nauvoo.  Most followed Brigham Young to the Great Salt Lake Valley in Utah.

Here are some photos from our visit in 2000 showing a few of the restored buildings and homes.  We arrived late in the afternoon when many of the exhibits were closed or closing and did not have an opportunity to tour the interiors except for the visitor center.  All the buildings are beautifully restored with great attention to detail.  Docents and missionaries dressed in period costumes help explain what life was like in the mid 1800s.  A brickyard has demonstrations of how bricks were made, a blacksmith shop shows how to make horseshoes and iron implements, and other interesting and informative exhibits can be found in the restored Nauvoo.

Visitors to the Brickyard can get a brick!

For additional information, see:,_Illinois

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Lime Kiln

There is still not enough snow to go skiing so we took one of the predicted nicer days for the first hike of the year.  The destination:  Robe Canyon Historic Park and the Lime Kiln near Granite Falls, Washington.  This used to be on an old logging area and railroad line.  The trail was muddy and rocky in many places. There were several downed trees some that crossed the trail requiring a detour around, duck under or a climb up and over.  This section of the west side of the Cascade Mountains is possibly the wettest area.  All the trees had some moss and many had long moss strands hanging off the branches.  Licorice ferns decorated the trees, the ground was spongy in the places where it was necessary to detour around the logs, and there were little rivulets of water running down the hillside.  Heavy rains made the Stillaguamish River very high and there had had some recent flooding.  The trailhead has parking but no restroom facilities.  The round trip from the trail head to the Kiln and back is about 5.4 miles with a 400 foot vertical rise.  The condition of the trail, which is quite good in places but not so good in others, makes this an easy to moderate level of difficulty.

The beginning of the trail is wide and has some gravel

These moss-covered branches were a common sight

The Stillaguamish River was running high on the banks but not overflowing

At this time of year there are no flowers and no leaves on the alders or maples but plenty of green everywhere.  We heard birds, saw ducks on a small lake and found this dead Varied Thrush in perfect condition along the side of the trail.  The wet wooly bear caterpillar was a surprise.

Fungi growing on the trees

Plenty of downed trees to go under, around, or over.  One log even had a step cut out.

Interesting moss

Amazingly clear reflection in this small pond or large puddle

The Lime Kiln made of stone and brick stands about 30 feet high.  There are two openings in the kiln the upper one, shown above, for the fuel and lower one, pictured below, for the limestone that was fired at high heat to produce quicklime (calcium oxide) used as a key ingredient in the production of Portland cement.  The majority of the structure acted as a giant chimney.  The hillside was sprinkled with limestone; left over firebricks, saw blades, and miscellaneous metal pieces.  Approaching it from the trail the kiln loomed above us like some Central American ruin.  There are Licorice ferns growing on the tree at the right and also from the top of the kiln.

The end product came out this opening at the bottom of the shaft

The fuel for the kiln went in this opening

For more about Lime Kilns and how they work, see:

Thursday, January 8, 2015

If this is Thursday it must be postcards, 176

Theodore Roosevelt National Park

The photograph on this postcard was taken by Harley Beall and published in 1991 by the Theodore Roosevelt Nature and History Association of Medora, North Dakota.  The quote from President Roosevelt is dated 1913. 

The park is comprised of three sections covering 110 square miles of land with the Little Missouri River flowing through it and the Maah Daah Hey Trail connecting all three units.  When Roosevelt first came to the North Dakota badlands in 1883 it was to hunt bison.  He fell in love with the rugged lifestyle of the West and eventually invested in two ranches, the Maltese Cross Ranch and the Elkhorn Ranch both near the town of Medora.  Roosevelt’s cabin at Maltese Cross is open to the public year round as part of the South Unit Visitor Center. 

It was to the badlands that Roosevelt retreated following the deaths of his first wife and mother in 1884.  He wrote three books about his ranch life:  “Ranch Life and the Hunting Trail,” “Hunting Trips of a Ranchman,” and “The Wilderness Hunter.”  The loss of his cattle in 1886-1887 and his other “strenuous life” adventures influenced his policies regarding conservation during his time as President of the United States (1901-1909). 

After Roosevelt died in 1919 it was proposed that all or part of the Little Missouri Badlands should become a park.  From 1934 to 1941 the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) developed roads and other structures that are still in use today.  The park is home to a variety of wildlife such as bison, horses, elk, bighorn sheep, white-tailed deer, mule deer, prairie dogs, Black-footed Ferrets and almost 200 different species of birds including wild turkeys.  The population of bison, horses and elk are managed by the Park to keep a balanced ecosystem.  Prairie dogs are monitored by biologists but only controlled when they pose a threat to buildings or human health. 
The park is popular for backcountry hiking and horseback riding.  Permits are required for camping. 

The badlands landscape is very different than the Pacific Northwest but it is still beautiful.  We took a trip through the badlands in 2000 and saw bison, mountain goats, and prairie dogs as well as miles and miles of rocks and dirt with a few trees interspersed.

 Views of Theodore Roosevelt National Park

 Bison along the road

 Mountain goats

Prairie dogs live under the ground and built very large “towns” with tunnels that can extend over a vast territory.  They pop up and look around every once and awhile and also come out to eat whatever available vegetation might be found.  When we stopped for a picnic in the park and stayed quiet soon there were several little critters popping up.  They do not exactly bark but they do make sounds to communicate with each other. 

Prairie Dog

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