Variations on a (cute animal) theme

I used to keep pet rats, and at some point I decided to breed them. A litter of baby rats is usually between five and fifteen babies. They start out tiny and pink, and by the time they are a few weeks old they have fur and start opening their eyes. When they are little like this they are very tame, inquisitive, and friendly. I found homes for them all.

This led to endless variety of cute baby rat photos like the ones shown here. They like to cuddle and form little piles, so it was easy to take multiple photos of the same group of animals. Posted in response to the weekly photo challenge Variation on a Theme.

The key to naps is to get everyone in a pile.

There is more than one configuration of the nap pile

Time to sniff the butts!

Time for another nap. Naps are important.

Out of this (inner) world

I used to go caving nearly every weekend. I have since stopped, because I prefer to spend my weekends warm and dry, but I do miss the beauty and wonder of caves.

Caves are a beautiful “inner” geological world that may as well be out of this world, they are so foreign and unusual. Caves are one of the last unexplored territories on earth. There are very few places with as much unseen territory as caves (the oceans are another example). Because they can be difficult to get to, caves often remain unspoiled by trampling feet and human development. There are many detailed mineral formations and beautiful objects in caves, and they also provide valuable scientific research.

Soldier’s Cave is a limestone cave in California with many intricate features, including cave bacon and helictite. You can see bigger photos here.

Helictite is is a type of speleothem found in limestone caves. Helictite is formed when water and minerals are extruded from the wall over a very long period of time. The results are the beautiful, spindly, almost-transparent formation like the one shown below.

Helictite detail

The rock formation below is called cave bacon. Cave bacon is formed in limestone-based caves when a thin stream of water dribbles down the edge and slowly leaves deposits over a very long time. In the end you get thin ribbony formations of minerals. These formations are also called “draperies” because they look a lot like fabric. They have to be lit from behind in order to show the stripes so vividly.

Posted in response to the photo challenge Out of This World and the daily prompt Fabric.

Pears simmering in wine sauce

These food photos are posted in response the photo challenge Sweet.

I don’t have much of a sweet tooth, but cooked fruit is always delicious. These bubbling pears were from a friend’s Thanksgiving meal. We spent the weekend at in Gualala, California. Gualala is north of San Francisco along the Pacific coast a little south of Mendocino. I spent Thanksgiving there with my old friend Andrew a few years ago.

You know what’s really sweet? Old friends. I’ve known Andrew since 1988. Sweet.

From the same Thanksgiving we ate this pear upside-down cake:

Rhyolite, Death Valley

On the northeastern edge of Death Valley is an abandoned ore mining town called Rhyolite. The weathered old ruins, some still standing, are breathtakingly beautiful. Rhyolite was a thriving town at the beginning of the last century. It declined as soon as the ore was depleted. At its peak, the town hosted several thousand residents. Now it’s a ghost town with rusting cars and crumbling, abandoned buildings.

I like the structure of this crumbling building. Rhyolite is a study in the sad beauty of decay. Decrepit buildings crumble and wilt against the stark desert background. Man-made structures weather like the nearby ashy bushes that struggle in the arid climate. The environment is harsh for urban and plant growth alike. It’s a perfect setting for photography. I went a little nuts taking photos.

I am glad the crumbling buildings haven’t been dismantled. Dusty and weathered, they are perfect accompaniments to the dry desert environment and are reminders of our fragile existence. Without a constant influx of resources and water, a town becomes a dry husk. These buildings are an elegant reminder of mortality. The ruins complement the harshness of the Death Valley environment perfectly.

Posted in response to the photo challenges Structure and Weathered. Read more travel stories here.

Rhyolite, Death Valley, crumbling ruins

Quinault Rainforest

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6094 U.S. 101, Amanda Park, WA 98526

A cluster of ferns in Quinault Rainforest

Quinault Rainforest

Quinault Rainforest, part of Olympic National Park, is on my shortlist of places to visit again. In July 2013 on my way from San Francisco to Boston, I visited this mossy, verdant wonderland in the northwest corner of Washington State. I could have spent a month taking photos there. The park features overflowing ferns, moss growing off giant trees, and numerous other epiphytes that only grow where it rains all the time. Epiphytes are plants that grow on other plants in a non-parasitic way. Examples include ferns, mosses, spike mosses, and lichens. It rains almost fourteen feet a year in the park, so the place is very green.

Quinault Rainforest is verdant and amazing

The paths were particularly beautiful because the sunlight shone through the hanging moss and ferns and created a green backlit effect. Much of the lush greenery was brightly dappled. The mixture of shadow and light was spectacular. Many fallen trunks in stages of decay were thick with moss growth. Shades of green were very intense. This place is loaded with ferns and moss.

Quinault Rainforest could have been a lovely home for elves and gnomes

Plants grew from every square inch of the earth. Moss draped from every tree. Light filtered through everything. The park was scenic and postcard-perfect. There are hikes of shorter and longer durations, all radiating out from Lake Quinault in the center. It’s a very family-friendly park. There’s even a seafood restaurant on one edge of the park with a view of the sunset.

More ferns and moss in Quinault Rainforest

Quinault Rainforest

Even more ferns and greenery

Quinault Rainforest

Posted in response to It IS Easy Being Green!