Tag Archives: Oregon

The Discovery of Species

As tech-savvy human beings armed with our Pocket Ranger® mobile apps and other excellent technologies, it’s sometimes easy to forget that we’re not just curious explorers or chroniclers of the manufactured and natural worlds. We’re animals, too, and are part of the community of strange and exotic creatures that we investigate and dutifully record. In discovery of the world, we discover something integral to our own being. This year is already a fascinating foray into that very exploration, with several new species coming to light in some of the most inhospitable or least expected environments.

A Tiny Frog in Karnataka, India

This guy's chirp sounds like a cricket's.

Hey there, little fella. [Image: www.techtimes.com/]

The Laterite narrow-mouthed frog was recently discovered in the Indian state of Karnataka in a namesake laterite marsh area that occurs around rural and semi-urban human settlements. It likely remained undocumented because of its diminutive stature—it is roughly the size of a thumbnail. But its discovery in a developed area is instructive and a crisp reminder that, just because there’s an established human presence somewhere, doesn’t mean there’s nothing left to discover!

Creepy-Crawly in the Southern Oregon Coast Range, Oregon

[Image: www.phys.org]

What has eight legs, too many eyes, and probably wears a neon sign that blazes NOPE? Why, Cryptomaster behemoth, of course! [Image: www.phys.org/]

This spider was recently found in the woods of southwestern Oregon. It was named “behemoth” because its size outstrips nearly all of the other nearly 4,100 described Laniatores, and “Cryptomaster” because it’s good at remaining unseen. Thankfully the behemoth, like most spiders, is perhaps as disinterested in us as we are it and keeps itself hidden beneath decaying leaves and fallen trees of the old-growth forests in the Southern Oregon Coast Range.

Octopod says, “Aloha!” in Hawaiian Archipelago

Thanks, Okeanos!

Another previously unknown creature of the deep to grab our attention and make us think about ecosystems beyond our commutes? Thanks, Okeanos! [Image: www.itv.com/]

Researchers also made another many-legged discovery this year: a disarmingly cute octopod scientists are calling “Casper.” The indeterminately friendly octopus has un-muscled arms, with only a single row of the usual suction cups, and beady black eyes set adorably in its milky-white mantle. But Casper hasn’t been much described by researchers beyond its cursory appearance, as it revealed itself to NOAA scientists while Okeanos Explorer, the remotely operated underwater vehicle, explored the Hawaiian Archipelago. What we do know is that it dwells much deeper in the ocean than its known octopus cousins and that the wee cephalopod serves to keep our expectations in check.

I Don’t Think You’re Ready for this Jelly…Near the Mariana Trench

Cue Twilight Zone music.

In an environment called and characterized as the Midnight Zone, it helps to have glowing reproductive organs, which scientists suppose this jellyfish has in the golden orbs that are very likely its gonads. [Image: www.eutopia.buzz/]

The Mariana Trench is one of the last great terrestrial frontiers to thwart explorers and befuddle scientists, and it’s no wonder that it remains a consistent source of discovery and veritable fount of new species. What is a wonder are the extraterrestrial qualities of the creatures that thrive in that deep, dark pit beneath the ocean. The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration is in the midst of conducting a survey of the baseline formation and the areas around the trench that began April 20 and will extend to July 10. Already several new and exciting species have been encountered, but the jellyfish with a “jack-o-lantern meets the future of spaceship engineering” appearance has been a thus-far highlight of the exploration. With more than a month to go, we’d all do well to keep our eyes peeled for more live cam weirdness and intrigue!

Humans are one of the most adaptive and widespread species on the planet, thanks in large part to our combined intelligence and technology. This indispensable combo not only helps us persevere in all sorts of extreme conditions, but also allows us to engage with curiosity in our surroundings. As technologies improve, we are able to explore our world at deeper depths, in greater detail on microscopic and subatomic levels, across more of the electromagnetic spectrum, and sometimes—perhaps just to keep our collective ego in check—right in front of our faces.


Or even on our faces! (Happy belated, David!) [Image: www.primogif.com/]

The moral of the story is, of course, that you can get out, explore, and maybe even find a new species in places you have been to before. Our Pocket Ranger® apps are a technology that is here to help. Whether your discovery is new to the scientific community or to you in your observations, it’s your duty as a human to investigate! And it’s always worth the adventure.

Give a Warm Welcome to the Autumnal Equinox at a State Park

September marks the official end of summer, and almost on cue, the weather is becoming a bit chillier already and people are donning their sweaters. One of the best things about the cooler weather is that we can all do our favorite outdoor activities without ending up coated in sweat—plus, nothing is more entrancing than hiking through the woods surrounded by changing foliage. The autumnal equinox was officially on September 23rd, and here are some state parks that knew how to properly celebrate the arrival of fall.

A fairy covered in leaves changing their colors by Gary Curkan.

Gary Curkan’s fairy changing the leaves. [Image: http://ginadianneharding.com/]

Spiro Mounds Archaeological Center, Oklahoma

Oklahoma’s only prehistoric Native American archaeological site, Spiro Mounds Archaeological Center, is a great place to experience autumn. An easy one-mile guided walking tour will bring you around its beautiful grounds. You’ll gain an exclusive look into Oklahoma’s past and its prehistoric people that built the mounds. There’s even a theme-appropriate treat: learning why 12 of the mounds line up during the equinoxes and solstices.

L.L. Stub Stewart State Park & Rooster Rock State Park, Oregon

Stargazing at L.L. Stub Stewart State Park to celebrate the autumnal equinox

Look to the sky at L.L. Stub Stewart State Park this fall. [Image: http://www.cheapflights.com/]

Both L.L. Stub Stewart and Rooster Rock State Parks in Oregon host a Star Party to ring in the autumnal equinox. Guests were able to look through a variety of telescopes to stare at the stars, not-so-patiently awaiting the arrival of fall as they did so.

Toltec Mounds Archaeological State Park, Arkansas

Visitors learned all about Native American culture at Arkansas’ Toltec Mounds Archaeological State Park during the autumnal equinox. There was a weapons demonstration, and similar to Spiro Mounds Archaeological Center, there was also an explanation of the mounds in correlation with the sun’s placement.

Hugh Taylor Birch State Park, Florida

You may have visited Hugh Taylor Birch State Park during the summer solstice when the Moonpath Circle held a Tequesta Drum Circle. In fact, these drum circles are held during all equinoxes and solstices, honoring those who lived on these lands before we did. If you missed the autumnal equinox celebration, then make sure you head over there during the winter solstice where you’ll be comforted by a huge bonfire, poetry, belly dancing, and, of course, drumming.

Harriman State Park in fall.

Spending fall in a state park is a magical experience and full of beauty, just like this photo of Harriman State Park in Idaho. [Image: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/144326363032814914/]

Enjoy a relaxing scenic drive to watch the leaves change, or head out for a refreshing fall hike. Whatever your vice, make sure you download our Pocket Ranger® mobile apps to aid in your explorations.

Best Autumnal Scenic Drives

Watching the leaves change color is a special part of the year that any outdoor enthusiast can enjoy, whether its from the comfort of their car or with the accompaniment of a cozy pair of hiking boots. It’s as if nature understands that once Labor Day passes, autumn and its gorgeous foliage is pretty much here to take over. Well we’re standing here with our arms wide open to welcome to much-needed end of the heat! Here are some scenic drives that you can take this fall to watch nature do it’s thing and enjoy the leaves as they change color.

Hudson River Valley, New York

Leaves changing in the fall at Hudson River Valley with bridges in the background.

Explore the gorgeous Hudson River Valley. [Image: https://goingplacesnearandfar.files.wordpress.com/]

Rolling hills, access to New York’s serene beauty, and a bird’s eye view of the expansive Hudson River makes a drive through Hudson Valley a worthwhile autumn treat. Extending 150-miles out of the edge of Manhattan, you’ll be able to see a range of the state across ten counties (Rockland, Westchester, Putnam, Orange, Dutchess, Ulster, Greene, Columbia, Albany, and Rensselaer). Along the way, find a local farm to enjoy some apple or pumpkin picking!

Harpers Ferry, West Virginia

Changing leaves in Harpers Ferry with two bridges.

Fall foliage in Harpers Ferry is a must-see. [Image: http://travelchannel.sndimg.com/]

West Virginia is well known for how it transforms come autumn. Knowing this, there are multiple tours that visitors can partake in to explore the state’s unique look. The Golden Gateway Tour traverses through Harpers Ferry National Historical Park to showcase its autumnal beauty. Once there, guests can take a dip in the mineral rich water at Berkeley Springs State Park or travel further to truly escape reality at Cacapon Resort State Park.

Blue Ridge Parkway, Virginia and North Carolina

Leaves changing around a parkway.

A serene drive along the Blue Ridge Parkway is just what the doctor ordered. [Image: http://www.blueridgeparkwaydaily.com/]

Known to some as “America’s Favorite Drive,” the Blue Ridge Parkway spans from Shenandoah National Park in Virginia 469-miles into Great Smoky Mountain National Park in North Carolina. It follows the Appalachian Mountain chain along this beautiful highway and features more than 100 different species of tree.

Columbia River Highway, Oregon

Changing leaves around a moss-covered highway.

Let the Columbia River Highway take your breath away this fall. [Image: http://www.buckyandhisbike.net/]

The 75-mile Columbia River Highway was built in 1913 to highlight the natural beauty of the Oregon area. Not surprisingly, it’s an especially perfect place to visit to see the changing foliage. From the 900-foot cliffs it winds through, it overlooks expansive valleys and a lulling river. While there, make sure you check out the breathtaking 620-foot Multnomah Falls from Ainsworth State Park!

Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway, New Mexico

A road leading into a beautiful town in New Mexico surrounded by changing leaves.

Get away from reality at the Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway in New Mexico. [Image: http://www.davidmixner.com/]

If you have a preference for stunning aspens, then you might want to head to Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway, which loops 83-miles to and from Taos. Follow this route around New Mexico’s highest point, Wheeler Peak, and watch the leaves change from yellow to dark orange.

Download our Pocket Ranger® mobile apps to explore the changing fall foliage near you. But be quick, because autumn slips into winter suddenly and quickly!

The Middle Fork Of The Snoqualmie River

Contributed by Michael Restivo of Mike off the Map

A river runs through a misty coniferous forest

The Snoqualmie River [Image: Michael Restivo]

Fog lingers between the pines of this pristine Northwestern Forest. The Snoqualmie River snakes through the landscape with a gentle roar, slicing through towering granite walls, snowcapped mountains, and marshes of spindly trees, which hang limply on an early-winters day. The Middle Fork isn’t about the difficulty of the trail, or even the scenery, which is nonetheless spectacular. It’s about the atmosphere. It’s about displaying what is so loved about the Pacific Northwest. Not just a trail that leads to breathtaking vistas, wide-open panoramas, or endless miles of mountains, this trail is about mystery, cold setting in through the branches, and everything that is iconic about Washington hiking.

A-frame bridge over the Snoqualmie River

Image: Michael Restivo

Just over 40 minutes east of Seattle, the pockmarked road that leads to the trailhead is crowned by a long row of shedding Douglas firs, pines, and evergreens, their needles turning to shades of brown. From the parking lot, the trail immediately enters a dense old growth forest, and crosses one of the most iconic footbridges in Washington. The A-frame shaped bridge perches over the Snoqualmie River, the brown-gray water rushing towards the Alps of North Bend and Issaquah. Here, the mountains near Snoqualmie Pass, their tips blasted in white, give the sensation of being in the jagged Cascades.

Foggy view of jagged peaks in the Pacific Northwest

Image: Michael Restivo

The trail follows along the river, both its ends shrouded in a deep fog, a blue and copper-colored haze that rolls over stony barrier islands in the middle of the waterway. The trail grade is easy, only lifting slightly, weaving in and out of the pine forest, and traversing under imposing walls where thin, long, waterfalls cascade down granite steps.

A verdant rainforest in the Pacific Northwest

On the trail [Image: Michael Restivo]

Curving away from the river, the muddy path cuts deeper into the forest, where pine needles fall in showers, and a large bend in the trail rises over a vantage point above the river. While this leads to the supposed end of the road, experienced hikers know where to find hidden surprises in these deep woods. By tracking just slightly off course, a short bushwhacking jaunt through sharp branches leads to a secluded beach. On the beach, you will find the remnants of a well-worn fire pit and a pile of musty logs. Tracing a line upriver leads to one of the barrier islands, stacked with polished stones and boulders, set in the dramatic scenery between the mountains.

Hiker photographs the foggy Snoqualie River

Image: Michael Restivo

As the river steadily groans and rushes through the North Bend and Snoqualmie Valley, we’re subtly reminded of what makes Northwestern hiking unlike anywhere else. These are trails veiled in mist, under gray, evergreen-lined mountains, setting off an ambiance of mystery that you can’t feel in the high mountains. So, while the high-mountain season has seen their last trails tread for the year, the shorter trails leading through these forests, scented of pine and old wood, are what make these winter jaunts extraordinary.

Walking the Katwalk: Hiking Kendall Katwalk

Contributed by Michael Restivo of Mike off the Map

Between soaring columns of snow-capped stone, lush northwestern forests, and glacial-blue alpine lakes, is one of the longest yet most unusual hikes in North Bend, just 40 minutes outside of Seattle, Washington. The Kendall Katwalk is an exposed passage, perched on top of a cascading white cliff that has all the best features of Washington hiking: hills of green, towering peaks, a breathtaking view of Rainier, and an alpine landscape. It’s hard to believe that it’s so close to the city. From dense forest to the shores of two lakes, the Kendall Katwalk is a must-do excursion for any hiker.

Kendall Catwalk Trail

The Kendall Katwalk portion of the trail [Image: Michael Restivo]

A sign at the trailhead boldly announces that the Katwalk is a portion of the Pacific Crest Trail. The seven miles to the lake is long, but despite the elevation gain into the spectacular surroundings, the trail maintains an easy grade. The hike starts on a well-maintained path, weaving through a pine forest, then gently starts to rise through a series of long switchbacks. As hikers slowly gain elevation, several streams and small, mossy waterfalls cut through the middle of the trail, forcing hikers to make small water crossings on slick rocks.

Kendall Katwalk Panorama

Kendall Katwalk Panorama [Image: Michael Restivo]

The trail then ascends into open meadows where abundant summer wildflowers bathe the hills in color. Just to the south is the awe-inspiring Mt. Rainier. After several more long switchbacks, which alternate between forest and open field, the trail cuts under a talus field of gray rock and patches of flower-dotted grass. At this point, the trail becomes noticeably rockier. Just as the scenery on one side of the catwalk starts to get familiar, a bend in the trail cuts over to the other side, and the landscape changes completely.

Mt. Mt. Rainier from Kendall Katwalk

A view of Mt. Rainier from the Kendall Katwalk trail. [Image: Michael Restivo]

A short, rocky section bridges the trail with the Katwalk, which then reveals snow-patched granite spires, the North Bend Valley, and miles of pristine wilderness. Passing over on the other side, it’s easy to see why this trail is so revered. A cliff suddenly drops off to one side and the trail passes by this dramatic drop overlooking the trees and boulders below. The gray serrated ridges give the landscape a very California-esque appearance, and passage on the trail is quite exposed.

Kendall Katwalk meadows

The forest and mountains seen from the meadows. [Image: Michael Restivo]

As the trail evens out, there is a spectacular break and a perfect lunch spot overlooking the mountains. For some the trail ends here, but others continue on to the two alpine lakes less than a mile away. Hikers climb through boulder and talus fields and will find the occasional patch of snow late into the summer. There are several tree-lined avenues that give some shady respite from the exposure. They open up onto the shore of Ridge and Gravel Lake. Ridge Lake is small and accessible – a great place to fill water bottles. Gravel Lake is more scenic and requires a short scramble to its shores; the glacial ice blue water reflects a mountainous backdrop. The long walk back to the trailhead follows the same path and while there are a few short climbs, it never feels strenuous.

The Kendall Katwalk is a fun and easy hike for those who are looking for a unique and adventurous day-hike. While its easy grade makes it a great spring and summer trip, in the winter, the Katwalk becomes ice-covered and slippery. The views here are among some of the best of the North Bend-Snoqualmie Hikes and there is no doubt that this is a Washington classic.

Suggested Gear List: 

  • CamelBak Eddy Stainless Steel Insulated Water Bottle
  • CAMP USA Xenon Trekking Pole
  • ALPS Mountaineering Olympus Backpack

Check out our Pocket Ranger® Gear Store for these items and more!