A few weeks ago, Cobalt and I visited one of the ghost forests along the PNW coast. These forests were formed as a result of the great Cascadia earthquake on January 26, 1700 (super interesting story for how they figured out that date). During the quake, pieces of forests along the coast dropped away and the trees found their roots in salt marshes. These trees don’t like salty water, so they died, leaving behind eerie tree skeletons that remain to this day.
I first found out about ghost forests from reading Sandi Doughton’s book “Full Rip 9.0” and I’ve been obsessed with them ever since. Unfortunately, the closest ghost forest to Cobalt and me requires a boat to get to it, so we haven’t visited that one yet. The easiest ghost forest to get to in the area is the Neskowin Ghost Forest because it’s just hanging out on Neskowin Beach on the coast of Oregon. Anyone who’s willing to cross a shallow creek can see those ghost trees. So when Cobalt and I decided to take a vacation to the Oregon coast, I made sure we paid them a visit.
This ghost forest is interesting because apparently the trees were completely buried until the epic 1997-1998 storm season exposed them. Now they host an assortment of mussels and barnacles, and sometimes even tide pools, so it’s double fun — see the ghost forest AND sea stars (can you find the sea star in the top photo?).
Cobalt and I got there just after low tide and spent the next hour or so meandering through the forest and searching for crabs (crab pictures coming soon). The weather was perfect: cool and misty, which made our ghost forest experience even more creepy. It was unfortunately pretty crowded, despite it being 8 a.m. on a Thursday. I guess everyone was excited about ghost forests and/or tide pools.
This was not the first ghost forest we’ve seen. We found our first one on accident. In 2019, Cobalt and I were exploring the area of Alaska near Anchorage and we drove past the Girdwood ghost forest. This ghost forest is much newer than the Neskowin ghost forest though, it was formed during an earthquake in 1964.
Move over, aspens. There’s a new fall tree in town.
This weekend, Cobalt and I went on an epic hike in search of larches, trees I had never heard about until a few weeks ago. These needley trees look like your typical evergreens during the summer, but then in the fall the needles turn yellow and fall off, like your typical deciduous trees. So cool!
In addition, it’s been two years since Cobalt and I have lived in Colorado, and we missed our fall tradition of seeing the glorious aspens turn yellow against the bright blue Colorado sky.
So when we found out that the Pacific Northwest has larches, we knew we had to go find them.
It’s not exactly easy. Larches in the state of Washington live at high elevation (~5,000 ft) in the northern part of the Cascade mountain range. So we had about a three-hour drive to wiggle northeast to the Cascades and then up.
But it turned out to be a beautiful day for a drive. To get to the Cascades, we drove through tunnels of orange and yellow trees that were shrouded in fog. Perfect for people who love fall and Halloween. Then as we climbed into the mountains, the sun came out and we were surrounded by outstanding views of the craggy mountains in this mountain range. Seriously, it was jaw-dropping.
My co-worker had recommended that we do the Cutthroat Pass trail, because it would definitely get us high enough to see larches (the trailhead is about 4,000 feet), and it would possibly be less crowded than other popular hikes in the area. The weather was too perfect though, so I think half of the state of Washington had the same idea we did.
Anyway, the trail was great! It was coated in snow, which ranged from a little dusting at the beginning to more prominent snow as we climbed. But the sun was out, so we weren’t too cold. We had INCREDIBLE views of the surrounding mountains, and we started to see larches nestled on them as the trail went on. Then suddenly, at about 6,000 feet, we found ourselves surrounded by these beautiful turning-yellow trees…. and all the other humans who had come out to find them.
Cobalt and I wandered around the larches for a while, taking pictures and getting to know them.
Their needles are thinner than those of other needled trees I’ve encountered, so they felt feathery and soft. Their softness and the way they were organized on the branches made the branches look like yellow pipe cleaners jutting out of the trunks. For some reason, the twisty nature of the larch branches made me think of skeletons. Not sure why.
After meandering through larches and humans, we found a large rock in the sun and decided to stop for lunch. We enjoyed our excellent views of the larches and the light breeze that swept across the area while we munched on carrots and cheese.
Then it was time to head back down. :(
These trees are magical. I can’t wait to go back and visit them again next year — or maybe next week. I miss them already.
Hi everyone! It’s been forever and a day since I last posted on here, and I really miss it. I think I was stressing myself out about having the most amazing prose accompanying the prettiest pictures from the coolest places on each post. And I’d put all this work in and wonder if it was even worth it. Who was I doing all that work for? So I stopped posting.
But I really missed having a place to record what I’m up to every week, even if it’s nothing glamorous. Chances are I’ve taken at least one photo that I’m particularly proud of or that I think sums up my week. And after all, this blog is supposed to be “a day in the life of an active metal,” so shouldn’t it be showing snapshots of my life? Really, this should be a place for me — a sort of online photo album, if you will. If y’all think my photos are cool, well that’s neat too.
So today you’re getting this bird on top of my bus stop. I posted it because I think it sums up the running story I’ve been writing in my head while I walk around Seattle lately: The birds are out to get me. I know, very “The Birds” of me. But seriously, let’s discuss:
A few weeks ago, I was walking to the bus stop and a bunch of crows were cawing at each other on the power lines above my head. Then one of them swooped down so close to my head, I could feel the air moving. It was seriously like a scene out of The Birds. Crows continued cawing at me for the rest of the walk….
Then, last week, I was walking to a meeting and I was suddenly swarmed by a huge flock of pigeons taking off.
Later that same day, a crow tried to drop a shell on my head. It fell and broke near my feet. I looked up, and the crow was eyeing me from the top of a building.
And then this photo: a crow on top of my bus stop. Its feet made really neat/ominous noises above my head… Yikes
See what I mean?
Anyway, that’s all for today. More posts to come soon (though no promises on any normal posting time. Life’s too crazy for that), as long as I don’t get attacked by birds….
Hi everyone! Guess what? Cobalt and I moved to the western side of Washington! I got a new job (more on that later), so we packed up all our stuff and drove it + a sad kitty over the Cascades.
We’re finally settling into our place here, so this weekend we decided it was time to go on an adventure. We ended up spending Earth Day at Wallace Falls State Park with our friends Titanium and Iron. It was a gorgeous day and we had ourselves a nice 4.5 mile hike to see some falls.
You guys. It was so beautiful. Everything was green and alive. And it smelled so. good. I also enjoyed feeling my hiking boots squish through the wet dirt as we climbed up and up and up to see the falls and then turned around and went back home.
I brought two cameras so that Titanium and I could play with cameras together. She had my zoom/macro lens and I had my trusty prime (no zoom) 50 mm lens. So even if we took similar shots, they probably look quite different. I can’t wait to see what Titanium captured on her camera!
It was great having another photographer to hike with because Cobalt and Iron went ahead and then Titanium and I took pictures of everything all the way up and all the way down. I was in the moment hunting for things that could be cool to photograph. Usually it’s just me being awkward wanting to photograph stuff but not wanting to slow Cobalt down.
Anyway, that’s enough chatter. Let’s look at some pictures. Oh yeah… one note: I’m still in my tiny-things phase.
So we’ll start with some big things.
Now we’ll work our way toward smaller and smaller things…
Hey everyone! This past weekend, I had the challenge of taking pictures of dogs in motion! Cobalt and I went on a hike with some friends and their three dogs. I brought my camera along because I wanted to try to capture the pups doing dog-like activities as we went along the trail.
It was a beautiful day for a hike — not too windy or cold — and we took off up the trail. Everyone was chatting and having a good time while the dogs zoomed all over the place. Josie particularly looooved frolicking through the tall grass on either side of the trail.
Bear thought it was pretty good too.
Every once in a while, the dogs would have a pow-wow over some particularly interesting smell.
And then they were off again.
I loved seeing the dogs’ personalities on display through my viewfinder. For example, here Josie is SO EXCITED about everything, and she needs to share the news with her good friend Bear.
And here’s Sandor showing off how well he can sit so that I will maybe give him a treat? Maybe?
As I write this post, Tarantula is winding her way through my legs. She wants you to know that she’s cute too. But if you normally read my blog, you probably already knew that.
Who wants to see a giant waterfall that has no water in it? Oo oo sign Cobalt and Potassium up! That’s right, we drove two hours away to see the grave of an ancient waterfall!
This week’s post is a continuation of Cobalt’s and my exploration of how floods from thousands of years ago carved out the landscape of eastern Washington state. A few weeks ago, we went to see Palouse Falls, and then the next weekend we headed farther north to see its cousin, Dry Falls.
During the end of the last ice age, Dry Falls was apparently the largest waterfall in the world at 3.5 miles wide and 400 feet tall! That’s like five times the width of all three falls that make up Niagara Falls. And the tallest of the Niagara Falls is less than 200 feet. So… Dry Falls was friggin’ HUGE. Tons of water surged over these now-dry cliffs as it made its way toward the sea. And now it’s all gone. The only thing that remains are the cliffs themselves and those ponds, called “plunge pools,” where the cascading water carved out the rock below. But it must have been quite a sight!
I took this picture from the visitor center, which sits at the top of Dry Falls. The whole time we were up there, I was itching to get down to the bottom. I wanted to be surrounded by these huge cliffs and imagine what it would have been like to be completely underwater.
It turns out that there’s a trail that takes you to the edge of that plunge pool on the left in that picture, and it wasn’t too cold out. So Cobalt, our friend K and I had a wonderful walk across the floor of the former riverbed. It also turns out that it’s really hard to photograph just how crazy and awe-inspiring it felt to be surrounded by walls of rock that used to be a waterfall. But I’ll try:
Utter craziness, I say. Stay tuned for more fun with ice age floods as Cobalt’s and my exploring continues. Are you from the area? Where should we go next? We’re always on the lookout for our next adventure. :)
Helloooo! How is it the last week of January?! How did this happen? So confusing.
Today I am gonna talk about Cobalt’s and my weekend adventure to Palouse Falls. So this is crazy: in the middle of eastern Washington farms, there are these amazingly epic falls. These falls were formed by ice age floods that carved out the landscape across eastern Washington thousands of years ago. Apparently these falls are the only ice-age-flood-formed waterfalls that flow all year round! So pretty. So intense.
So anyway, this past weekend Cobalt and I went to Palouse Falls after our friend L showed us pictures. The falls are spectacular and super easy to see, even if you don’t like hiking. From the parking area, there’s a viewpoint that looks out over them. But Cobalt and I wanted to explore a little more. So we followed a series of trails that led us back behind the falls and down to the river.
From there, we were surrounded by towering cliffs, rushing water, and soft moss and other friendly plants. Then we left the slippery, mossy rocks behind and got back on a trail surrounded by green and yellow grasses blowing gently in the wind. Creeping along the cliff wall, we followed the river back around to the waterfall. Then we rounded the corner of the cliff and stepped out next to the top of the waterfall. Huge gusts of wind blew mist up in our faces where it coated our glasses. Cobalt and I grinned at each other and then picked our way to the waterfall and then the surrounding areas. It was incredible! From the top of the falls, we could see how the floods had carved out a canyon below the waterfall. Here are some pictures.
Eventually, we had to go back to the car. So we picked our way back over the trail on the other side of the waterfall. On the way back, I got distracted by the green plants. They were so green and so detailed. I wished I had a macro lens for my DSLR so I could take some crazy up-close and pictures to show off just how intricate each plant was. But alas, all I had was my portrait lens and my iPhone. The portrait lens wouldn’t let me get as close to the plants as I wanted, so it was up to the iPhone camera! It did a pretty good job I think. I really like the spiky patterns in these plants. I find them mesmerizing. I also like that the bigger leaves look like hearts.
It was so fascinating to see such bright green plants here in eastern Washington. I’m used to seeing them in wet western Washington, but not so much here. We live in what’s called a “Shrub steppe,” which is sort of a desert but with small bushes and shrubs (think: tumbleweeds) everywhere. No small green guys. So it made me happy to see them again.
All in all, it was a good day full of adventure and marveling at this crazy earth we live on. So beautiful.
PS: I took the top picture with my DSLR, not my iPhone.
PPS: It’s scarily warm here for this time of year. :-/
Today I thought I would share my newest revelation about my current job/life situation. But first we have to talk about cameras. Why? Because I like cameras. And also because this is my blog and I say so.
So let’s start at the top.
My camera has two settings for focusing: auto and manual.
For autofocus, I tell the camera what to focus on and then it controls the lens and brings my subject into view. I use it almost all the time because it’s fast and usually the camera and I agree about what I want it to look at.
Sometimes I can’t use autofocus though. Sometimes the camera and I disagree about what should be drawing the viewer’s eyes. Sometimes, like when it’s dark outside, the camera has a really hard time “seeing” what I see, and it’s easier for me to just switch the camera to manual mode and focus for myself.
It can be a challenge. When I use manual focus, I often second guess myself about what “perfect” focus looks like. I bring my subject in and out of focus as I test the possibilities. It’s even harder when it’s dark and I can’t really see much better than the camera can.
Here are some examples:
Last summer, I noticed a bunch of birds sleeping in a tree by my house. It was so cute to see their little bird butts sticking out of the leaves, and I grabbed my camera to capture the moment. It was 10 pm. The camera said “I see a vague tree-like shape here… ummm… not really sure what you’re going for…” so I switched to manual, which was hard because I could barely see the birds myself! After some trial and error, I finally captured the birds the way I wanted them, and I left them alone to dream.
This past weekend, Cobalt’s best friend T was hanging out in Seattle. So we headed “over the hill” and into the city. It was lovely! We talked books with T and his family, we ate an epic brunch with my sister, and then we hung out with my friends from grad school, Titanium and her boyfriend whom we will call “Iron.” Titanium and Iron took us on a ferry so we could go have dinner on Bainbridge Island. On the way back, we spent the majority of the ferry ride in the crazy cold wind outside because we wanted to witness the Seattle skyline draw closer and closer. I brought out my camera to photograph the skyline. That was pretty easy for autofocus: point camera at space needle. Camera sees the lit-up space needle against a dark sky. Camera brings space needle into focus. BAM. Picture.
But then I thought, hrm. How would I capture the fun we are having right now on this ferry? And I decided to take some pictures of Titanium and Iron. The lighting was not ideal for humans. It was 10 pm (again). Titanium and Iron were either backlit from the light inside the ferry or the Seattle skyline and my camera was not finding their faces. So I switched to manual focus. But again, the same problem with the birds popped up – it was hard for me to see when their features were that crisp though the eyepiece either.
This is where the story gets a little different. For the birds, I just used my on-camera flash to illuminate the birds once I got them in focus. This past weekend, however, I decided that since I was manually focusing in the dark, maybe I should play around with some of my camera settings. What would happen if I didn’t use my flash and instead turned the shutter speed waaaaay down (longer exposure=more time for light to illuminate Titanium and Iron)? Well Titanium and Iron would be blurry because we were on a moving boat. But maybe that would be a fun effect. Let’s try it. And so I did. And here are my pictures.
I was thinking about these pictures yesterday, and how much I enjoyed the fact that they were not “perfect” and crisp. I loved the blurriness and the crazy Seattle-skyline bokeh around Titanium. And that’s when I realized that this is how I feel about my life right now. I have a lot of education now (PhD, Scicomm certificate, lots of multimedia experience), and I’m not quite sure how I want to use it to make the world better. I have some idea what I want to do and where I want to end up. But it’s all pretty hazy. No real way for a camera to autofocus on it. So instead I’m using manual focus. And then the pictures come out like this – I can just make out my subject there smiling in the future. It’s there! And I’m coming for it.
***WARNING: Photo-heavy post. It might take a while for all the photos to load but I think it’s probably worth it.***
EVERYONE. I got to see orcas for my birthday. It was amazing.
For those of you who don’t know, I LOVE orcas (also known as killer whales). My love of orcas actually predates my shark love by at least 15 years, if not more. Plus, Washington state is a great place to see orcas in the wild because we have a bunch of different kinds of orcas that live around here. So ever since I was a wee undergrad in Washington, I have wanted to go and see them. But I never got the chance… until this year when I told Cobalt that all I wanted for my birthday was to see the orcas.
So he and my friend Titanium put together a trip for my birthday. And then my sister (Deoxyribolove), my sister in law (she’s going by Strontium now), and our friends M and P decided they wanted to come too! Yay whale-watching party!
So this is the story of our adventure, complete with tons of pictures. Sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride.
We got up super early. Like 6 am. Then we picked up Strontium at her hotel and headed north to Anacortes, WA. There we met Titanium and her bf J and M and P at the ferry terminal! We boarded the ferry and headed to Friday Harbor on San Juan Island. It was a beautiful ferry ride. Not too cold, not rainy, just cloudy and cool with mountains jutting out all around us. We spent the majority of the ride outside catching up.
Once at Friday Harbor, we stopped for a bite to eat. Then it was time for whales.
It was raining as we walked to the San Juan Safaris shop but it soon stopped and the rain decided to stay away for the rest of the afternoon. We met our two guides who told us about all the animals we could see on our trip: bald eagles, minke whales, orcas, humpback whales, porpoises, seals, sea lions, and more! As they were talking, a bald eagle flew overhead! It was a sign…
Then we loaded onto the boat and headed out into the Salish Sea.
To give you an idea of where we were: we had to turn our cell phones to airplane mode because our they might try to pick up Canadian cell towers. So yeah, we were basically as close to Canada as we could be. At one point, we even passed the most northwest lighthouse in the United States.
Anyway, we weren’t out very long when we discovered another bald eagle. So regal up in the tree!
Not long after that, someone spotted tall black fins sticking up out of the water. ORCAS! Our guides quickly determined that we had found T101 (a transient/Bigg’s killer whale), her two sons (T101A and T101B), and her adopted son (T102). One way to ID an orca is to look at the dorsal fin (the one on the whale’s back). We could easily tell T101 apart from the boys because female orcas have smaller dorsal fins. But it was harder to figure out who we were looking at when it came to the boys. T102 had the biggest fin because he’s the oldest. His fin was huge and kind of wobbly (no bones in these fins!). But unless they were all in a line, it was hard to tell the other two apart.
Time for a short killer whale lesson: there are two types of killer whales in this area: residents and transients (or Bigg’s). Residents were named because they were thought to reside only in this one area while the transients were thought to roam up and down the coast. But it turns out that both kinds can be found anywhere between Alaska and Monterey Bay, California, according to our guides. So the names “transient” and “resident” are kind of misleading. Annnnnnnyway – resident killer whales eat Chinook salmon but Bigg’s killer whales, like T101 and her family, eat everything. Especially seals. Which is what they were hunting when we found them.
So killer whales are super smart. And Bigg’s killer whales are super stealthy so they can sneak up on their prey. It was fun watching their crazy shenanigans. The water was pretty dark though so I think we missed out on most of the plotting.
We followed the orcas at a respectful distance, slowing the boat down and/or turning off the motor when we got closer. I loved when that happened because we were drifting in our boat near these giant creatures. We could hear them breathing. It was incredible to be so close to one of my favorite animals. And I got to coexist with them. I was breathing, they were breathing. I was drifting, they were… doing whatever they were doing… It was beautiful.
At some point, we left the orcas to try to find some other critters. We saw a few porpoises but they weren’t interested in hanging out with our boat so they left. It also turns out there was a HUGE sailboat regatta happening on Saturday though so we found a lot of humans out on the water! It was fun to watch them too.
Then we found our orcas again! So we hung out with them more! By this point, we were starting to get pretty cold…
Then it was time to start heading back to land. So we said goodbye to the orcas and tried to cram into the inside part of the boat to get warm. But the tour wasn’t over! On our way back to Friday Harbor, our guides took us past some of the other islands to look for other wildlife. We found more bald eagles, some sheep, deer, and more!
We arrived back at Friday Harbor tired but content after such an amazing day of hanging out with some of Washington’s finest creatures. The ferry ride back to Anacortes was filled with snacks and laughter as everyone looked over their photographs and recounted their favorite parts of the day. Everyone mostly stayed inside this time, which was good because it was SUPER windy outside. I went outside to watch the last of the sun go down and I loved the feeling of the wind on my back. It made eerie tones as it wrapped around the ferry too. It was such a neat ethereal experience to close out the day.
Well. That definitely became one of my top birthdays ever. Now it’s your turn – what’s your favorite picture? What was one of your favorite birthdays? Why was it so amazing? This bald eagle wants to know.
Hellooooo everyone! I hope you are all doing well, especially people affected by Harvey, Irma, or fires. You are all in my thoughts right now. Tell me how I can help!
Today’s post is about ramen. First of all, I love noodles in almost every form but I have an ridiculous amount of affection for noodles in broth, like udon or ramen. Then Cobalt and I watched Tampopo, a Japanese western movie about ramen (yes you read that right), and now we are on a mission to eat as much ramen as possible.
We even made our own ramen to eat while we watched Tampopo! It was okay. We still have much to learn….
So the other weekend, when we were driving to Glacier National Park, we had to drive through Spokane, Washington. It was around lunch time when we hit the city so we decided to stop and grab some food. Two ramen places popped up on Yelp: NUDO Ramen House and King of Ramen. Who knew Spokane had such tasty ramen options? Because we were going to drive back through Spokane in a few days later, we decided to try one ramen place on the way there and the other ramen place on the way back. Then we could compare the two places and I could practice my on-the-go (read: with an iPhone, not a DSLR) food photography.
Conclusion: Though both places were pretty delicious, it appears that King of Ramen really is King, at least with this current dataset (once a scientist, always a scientist).
We started with King of Ramen (photo up there!).
This one felt more like an authentic ramen shop. It had all these small pots for the noodles in the kitchen, which was separated from the restaurant with cute curtains and a bar. They had a variety of tasty ramen and curry options on the menu. Cobalt ended up ordering something spicy while I went with the vegetarian option. We also got some fried tofu and I got an iced green tea. The tofu was fried to perfection: crunchy on the outside and soft in the middle. It was tasty on its own or as an addition to our ramen. Also my tea was yummy too. But the ramen itself felt like something was lacking in the broth and/or my soup was missing a key ingredient. Not sure what though. We’ll have to come back and try it again!
Oh and also we have to go back so I can try the curry because I love Japanese curry.
On the way back, we stopped at NUDO.
This restaurant is definitely more “hipster-y.” It had ramen-themed pop art on the walls and it just had a cool, sleek interior that seemed to be catering to the millennial crowd (as a millennial, I think I’m allowed to say this). Even the bathrooms were fancy – they had weird sinks.
Okay okay the ramen, Potassium, the ramen. So this time we both ordered a beef ramen and also got spring rolls. The beef ramen was good – the meat was tender and the broth was really flavorful. Plus I liked the bok choy in my soup! The noodles weren’t as good as King of Ramen’s noodles. And there was no egg in my ramen, which was sad because eggs in ramen are the best.
NUDO had one other problem: our waitress pretty much completely ignored us. Not like I need to be entertained by my waitstaff, but it’s nice when someone refills your water. Or at least brings you a carafe so you can refill your own water. I just wanted water! Plus she was so engrossed in a conversation with the only other patrons of the restaurant, that she didn’t even bring us our check. Some other server had to bring it to us. And then he asked us if we wanted to pay together or separate, which we thought was weird, considering it was only the two of us, and not a group. Is it weird? Discuss below.
One last thing. It was insanely smoky here last week (you can even tell that the light is off in that NUDO picture). The smoke was so thick that it felt more like we were eating the air instead of just breathing it in. Not great. But it’s cleared up a little and I even managed to catch a pic of Sunday night’s sunset. I’ll end this post with that.