Monday, September 17, 2007

My summer project

For many years I have wanted to build a garden pond but being a renter it just wasn't feasible. Last year Kriss and I bought our first home and for the first time I can create some great features, pond, sauna, climbing wall, etc., and if and when I move again I will get some benefit instead of an ungrateful landlord. I have the climbing wall well under way and I am currently planning the sauna. The pond on the other hand has been my summer project, or as some have said, my summer obsession. For the site I chose a preexisting depression in the yard.

On the first day I used a level and spray paint to mark out the perimeter of the pond, then it was time to remove sod.

After quite a bit of digging, the liner was placed and filled with water.

This is the beginning of the first waterfall which was later torn down and rebuilt.

At this point you can see what was initially going to be the finished product.

Within weeks the pond was teeming with wildlife. Frogs, dragonflies, quite a variety of birds, and a couple of garter snakes moved into the waterfall and hatched their young.

This is the point where obsession starts to take hold. Just when I thought I was finished I came up with the brilliant idea of a second pond with a stream. Of coarse that also means a bridge to get to the other side.

This stream originally flowed into a sump that I built by burying a garbage can in the ground. The problem with the design was that if both ponds and the sump were full I would turn on the pump and the sump would be pumped dry before the water started to flow sufficiently. In other words the sump was too small. Rather than making a larger sump, it was much easier and more cost effective to build a third pond.

For about three weeks we had literally thousands of these little toads everywhere on our property.

This is the pond as it stands today. You can see the new waterfall that is being constructed in the background.

The addition of plants brings the whole project to life. I also have several goldfish and there were two Hypostomus Plecostomus until a Great Blue Heron decided he liked one of them more than I.

My thoughts for anyone who wants to build a pond: It is a lot of fun, creates a very relaxing environment, and can be done very economically if you do your own labor and collect your own materials. I have spent about $600.00 for the entire project and that was all for pumps, filters, and liner. I saved well over $1000.00 by collecting my own rock as opposed to buying it. I also saved a fortune in labor. To have this pond commercially constructed would cost nearly $20,000.00. The biggest warning I would give is that it can be addictive. I spent more of my summer working on this pond than climbing mountains. Anyone who knows me understands the implication of that statement. Another warning, part of the cost savings was due to the fact that I did nearly all this work by myself without any kind of machinery. This can be very back breaking work. Many of the rocks in the waterfall are in excess of 300 pounds and I placed every one of them by hand. It took a lot of time and planning, but if you use your head more than your back it is amazing what one person can accomplish.

Friday, August 10, 2007

OBSIDIAN (nature's glass)

Kriss and I decided to take a little extra time coming home from our trip to California. So I did a little searching and found a couple places that, as a new geology student, where very interesting to me. I even managed to get Kriss a little excited about it. The first place is a rather geologically active area known as Newberry Caldera.
Here you can see a relatively young lava flow made up of obsidian grading to rhyolite. This lava flow was mostly homogenous so the obsidian and rhyolite have a nearly identical mineral composition. Actualy, the only difference between these two rocks is that the cooling was so rapid closer to the surface that the minerals had no time to crystalize and the end result is obsidian. Deeper within the flow the lava cooled much slower allowing time for crystylization which created the rhyolite.

Here you see the lava flow, the obsidian is the black and the grey is mostly pummice.

In this shot you can see the black obsidian layered with grey pummice.

This is the trail that winds across the lava flow with Paulina Lake in the background.

Here Kriss kneels next to a wall of obsidian along the trail.

It's amazing where life can sometimes crop up. This tree is growing out of about an inch of soil.

After leaving Newberry Caldera ,where it is illegal to pick up rock much less take it home, we dicided to go to Glass Buttes. This is probably the most aptly named mountain I have ever seen since it is actualy two buttes about two thousand feet tall, and made entirely of obsidian. There are two things that set it apart from Newberry, first there are many different types of obsidian, not just black. Secondly, it is perfectly legal to collect. Unfortunately I was so busy collecting obsidian that I didn't take time to shoot many shots.

A scree field of Mahogany obsidian.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007


On Friday, July 13 Kriss, myself, and several of our friends and family met at Lassen Volcanic National Park for our wedding on the summit.
Kriss at the trailhead.

Gabe was kind enough to pack a couple folding chairs up the mountain for Kriss' aunt and mother.

After two and a half miles and nearly 2000' of elevation gain everyone made it to the top.

This is Gabe surveilling the area for the elusive mountain goblin which is know to attack large groups on the summits of south Cascadian mountains.

This is my idea of a church.

Kriss' little sister performed her first wedding. Thaks Jess.

In the far background you can see Mt. Shasta and in the near background is Mt. Lassen's crater rim.

The ceremony was actually held on level ground about 40' below the summit. After the ceremony several of us climbed the remainder of the way to the top. In this photo we see Kevin on the summit looking down at the area where we held the ceremony.

Kriss nearing the summit.

Jessica on the summit

Gabe...need I say more?

Friday, May 18, 2007

Geology fieldtrip

In this photo you can see the fine-grained sediment of an outwash plain that was burried when the glacier advanced and deposited till on top.

This photo and the next two are very twisted examples of orthogneiss in the Skagit metamorphic suite.

The polished spot on this rock is known as slick-n-side, it is a result of rocks sliding past one another in a fault.

In this photo you can see the Columbia River Basalts. Basalt is a mafic rock and as such its' lava is particularly hot and fluid. This fact causes it to flow like water. Each layer in the rock represents a seperate flow. These flows covered most of south east Washington and the Columbia Gorge all the way to the Puget Sound in addition to parts of Oregon and Idaho.

This photo and the next are of Dry Falls. This is the largest waterfall on earth, albiet dry. When Glacial lake Missoula let loose the force of the water here was greater than the force of all the earth's rivers combined.

This is possibly the largest erratic I have ever seen. Unlike most erratics that are moved by glaciers, this one was rafted to its current possition on an ice raft during the Missoula floods.

This cave, and many others like it, were carved into the Columbia River Basalt by the Missoula floods.

These columnar joints are near Vantage. I can't wait to go back and climb.

These next three shots are petrified wood in the Ginko Petrified Forest.

Of course rocks weren't the only photographic subjects of the trip. This is a Northern Pacific Rattlesnake