Saturday, May 23, 2015

Geo 1095: May 23, Day 873: Upper Proxy Plunge Pool

This is far from an ideal panorama; the left photo has too much motion blur, the center one is fine, and the right photo is overexposed in comparison to the other two. Nevertheless, it's the best I have to capture the "rather unique twist" I mentioned in yesterday's post. That photo was facing toward the falls; this one is taken standing a bit to the west, looking back toward the base of the falls. You can see the run-out coming in from the right side, flowing into the pool at the base. Given the amount of talus and downed logs at the bottom of the falls, this isn't technically a "plunge pool," but for the title, I liked the alliteration. The trees and their roots on the left pretty well obscure the fact that the slope there is the southern margin of the Collier Cone Lava Flow. Can you spot what's missing?

There's no outlet to this pool. This stream emerges from springs at the top of the glacially-carved valley, tumbles off the edge as a hanging valley waterfall, then promptly goes right back underground, into the side of the lava flow. Neato!

Photo stitched in HugIn, otherwise unmodified. July 6, 2013. FlashEarth location.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Geo 1095: May 22, Day 872: Upper Proxy Falls

Upper Proxy Falls is smaller than Lower Proxy (shown in yesterday's post), both in terms of height, about a hundred feet shorter, and flow rate. This one appears to be two streams converging in a waterfall, while the other appears to be a single stream splitting in a fall; in that sense, they're kind of opposites of each other. This one, though, has a rather unique twist to it, which I'll get to tomorrow.

Photo stitched in HugIn, otherwise unmodified. October 9, 2014. FlashEarth location.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Geo 1095: May 21, Day 871: Lower Proxy Falls

This is actually a single photo, which I don't think is as good as the very similar-looking panorama I posted shortly after our visit last October. Comparing the two, I think the higher top of this one includes brighter light, and it looks as if that has caused the entire photo to have poorer saturation than the panorama. However, for the sake of completeness during this segment, I'm including another shot of Lower Proxy Falls, which, on our trip with Anne the previous summer, we skipped. It probably wasn't really necessary to skip it; this waterfall is no more than a hundred yards from the junction, so to this viewpoint, it's an easy walk. Dana and B. walked down to near the base, but as is often the case with me in recent years, I didn't want to earn "back uphill" points. I just sat here until they came back up the hill, dazed by the beauty of this spot.

Photo unmodified. October 9, 2014. FlashEarth location.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Geo 1095: May 20, Day 870: Hard Evidence

Can you spot the hard (pardon the pun) evidence of running water in this photo? And we're not talking about a minor trickle, but a fairly competent flow. If not, take a look at the crop below. The Douglas fir cones scattered around are typically 2-3 inches long, for a sense of scale.
Look how rounded that gravel is! This is very clearly not simply a lava gutter, though it may have started out as one. I don't know if water has ever been actually witnessed flowing through this channel, but clearly it has at some point. Eyeballing the woody debris, and its generally not-too-decomposed state, I'd bet it hasn't been very long, maybe in the range of a decade or so. During the winter season, the road to this trail is closed. People do visit during the winter season, but it's a fair trek in from the gate (~7 miles round trip), so the number is limited. Take into account that the kind of weather that I'd guess is responsible for burst floods that might behave like this is heavy warm rain on a heavy snow pack, it seems likely that even those venturous folk might hesitate to visit on days when this might happen.

Photo unmodified. October 9, 2014. FlashEarth location.

Geo 1095: May 19, Day 869: Channel Conveyor?

If Anne hadn't pointed these channels on our trip the previous summer, I would've either not noticed them, or I would've assumed they were probably lava gutters (here are a couple of examples of lava gutters). However, these may actually be water carved channels, or possibly water-modified lava gutters. I'm relying on a short discussion a couple of years ago, and I'm not sure how clearly I remember it. But look at how verdant the vegetation is here! There are rhododendrons in the upper left, a young cedar on the center left, and another in the lower right. This does not look at all like an extremely young lava flow; it looks more like a late-stage second growth conifer forest. The general idea, as I understand it, is that rare burst floods from the slopes above this glacially carved valley may be responsible for carving or modifying channels like this one, and provide a potential explanation for how portions of the Collier Cone Flow in this area have been so rapidly reforested. Such floods may have provided sediment and plant debris, allowing a jump start to soil formation. Otherwise, the slow breakdown and colonization of fresh lava would taken several times as long. Similar flows with similar climatic and environmental conditions nearby are nowhere near as heavily vegetated.  As I pointed out in the previous post, the distribution of heavily tree covered areas on this flow is patchy. Here, close to this channel, we're in lush, mature forest.

Photo unmodified. October 9, 2014. FlashEarth location.

Geo 1095: May 18, Day 868: Pretty Pathway

The geology here is redundant and relatively trivial with respect to the High Cascades: blocky basaltic andesite. But I really like this photo. It's pretty, and just screams "PNW autumn!" If you look at the FlashEarth link, you can see that the tree cover is highly variable on this flow. The outline of the lava lobe ir easy to pick out, but the tree distribution is very uneven. It's pretty clear that some areas are more hospitable to colonization than others.

Photo unmodified. October 9, 2014. FlashEarth location.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Geo 1095: May 17, Day 867: Big Doug(s)

I think, but I'm not sure, that these two shots are of the same Douglas fir, at a nice viewpoint along the Proxy Falls trail. A couple years ago, I posted a panorama to show the glacial aspects of the north side of the valley the day after we visited the area. Those shots were taken in between these two, so I had moved to a different perspective between, and Chris and Anne got into the frame for scale in the second.
One of the features that can help accelerate the colonization of barren rock is abundant organic material. You can see there's plenty of it on the ground here, but I suspect most of what we're seeing has fallen off the big tree(s) in the photos. Vegetable debris, such as fallen leaves, needles, and slowly rotting woody material, are very effective at retaining moisture and providing nutrients. These are two of the most lacking environmental conditions on newly repaved volcanic landscapes. However, what we're seeing here likely can't be used to explain how this ground was colonized so quickly, as it post-dates the establishment of the trees we're seeing.

However, unexpected additions of organic matter may provide at least a partial solution to the problem I described in yesterday's post.

Photos unmodified. July 6, 2013. FlashEarth location.