Oregon Wild Safari

June 19, 2008


Two weeks ago joel andrew and i took a drive out to the oregon high desert. Joel called out of work and we hit the road early. We took rte 26 out of portland (where it’s been unseasonably chilly) and things got foresty pretty quickly, then we went up a mountain pass where it was foggy and snowing. So much moss, i loved it. 


foggy mountain top in oregon


We traversed the North Mountain Pass and came down into the open, sunny, warm prairie. Mt. Hood was right there, and you could see Mt. Jefferson and the Three Sisters in the distance. Joel knows his Oregon topography. We stopped for milkshakes and smoothies in Warm Springs. We saw a coyote cross the road and bound off into some tall grass. 



more driving and things got more arid. the change to sandy desert was slow and subtle. then we saw the first painted hill. bam!


painted hill


we drove over to this paleontological site and walked around the painted hills and they were really lovely and pretty mind-boggling.


painted hill texture

made by ancient lave flows.


i heard a little cheeping in a tree and saw a mom sparrow sitting on her nest. it’s hard to see, it was difficult being 2 feet away. 


joel made friends with a sagebrush lizard.

sagebrush lizard



we saw these awesome little partridge-like birds called chukar. i took my first video with my new camera. 


 we went to this pile of rocks that was allegedly a massive fossil deposit of ancient plant impressions, but i didn’t see any. there was a nice didactic panel with an animal called an oreodont exploring the marshy landscape of “the ancestral cascades”



we took a different path home, instead of going back up 26, which was a fine road. so we took some winding roads through high hills and rocky cliff walls. around one bend we came to a halt when a herd of cattle were being driven by this classic elderly cowboy. i wanted to stick my arm out the window and pet them, but then i saw that many of the little calves had obviously been trailing their mom’s a little too closely and had dung on their faces. no thanks. but they were cute and loud. 






patriotic horse


ok, now as great as this day has already been, it was about to get a lot better. we pass these looming, craggy rocks, sort of like smaller versions of the ones in east arizona. “these look like prime peregrine falcon nesting sites” i nerdily comment. we drive on. ten minutes later, joel points out a bird flying low on the roadside embankment ahead of us. we pull up next to it, and i see it’s small, brownish color and white belly and little black “hood”. we were less than twenty feet from a peregrine falcon! the fastest animal currently known to man! i’ve never seen one in the wild. it was amazing. it wheeled off and perched on a shrub. i didn’t move fast enough to get a picture of it in flight, but here is a pic of it perched.


peregrine falcon


totally stunning. then we continued on to a little town called Antelope. this sleepy little one road town was the scene of a pretty wild “invasion” by this cult in the 80’s called the Rajneeshee. there’s this little jailhouse,



and the cute antelope diner. while we were in there buying postcards and perusing a wall of newspaper articles about the cult, it’s hold on the town/bioterrorism plots and it’s aftermath, a local landscaper came in and asked if we wanted to see a baby deer. we said yes and he directed us to a quasi-vacant lot where he or someone had been mowing the lawn and then had to stop because they had come across a little fawn who’s mother had hid it in the tall grass next to this little shed. we got so close. we could easily have touched it but we didn’t want it to smell like us. it was so calm looking. 



as we left antelope i was trying to remember what i had read about the status of the pronghorn in the wild. “i think they are extinct in the wild.” i say. i think actually they were just hunted and pushed out by livestock and their numbers were really low in the earlier part of the century. now i guess they are pretty common. but i didn’t know that, and soon after i said that i start projecting the image of a pronghorn into the sky above the horizon, like some kitschy painting of a native american stoically staring out of frame, with his spirit animal watching over him from the heavens. i kept snapping myself out of it, there is no antelope there. we come over the top of a hill and BAM there just beyond the fence on the side of the road is unmistakably a female pronghorn. we pull over as fast as we can, and she starts to trot off but stops to look at us a couple times and i got some pictures.




turning around and look at this amazing view



then we saw some deer (still exciting) 



and ate some quinoa (yum!).



Oregon Wild Safari!


before i left to come out here to portland oregon i stopped by up at the bronx zoo. i rode the asian monorail twice (the ride had been closed for the winter but is now operational again), came so close to getting a camel ride, and investigated the new changes to the jungleworld building.

well, right off the bat i was a little saddened to find that the binturong, which i had nicknamed russle because of his heightened activity level as of late (rustling around on the ground and on his branches), is no longer lounging about in his comfy, leaf-lined nests in the first room. i’m not sure what has happened to him, but he had a good thing going there and i hope wherever he is it’s nice. i will miss his lazy ways.


the binturong at the bronx zoo


i guess he is being replaced with the small clawed otters that used to hang out in with the sureli. i thought that was a good match up because the sureli like to just sit and look around all day and i felt like the boisterous otters gave them something to watch besides gawking humans.


red sureli monkeys at the bronx zoo


aside from some new labels featuring watercolors by deborah ross (who is basically my idol and living my dream), things seemed pretty much the same in jungleworld. the building had been closed to the public for a little while earlier in the spring, and i was expecting some more drastic renovations. maybe it was just behind the scenes stuff.

there is at least one new baby silver leaf monkey, and the two little ones from last year are still causing trouble, jumping on the other monkey’s heads. 


silver leaf monkeys at the bronx zoo


everything looked as usual in the tapir habitat. i didn’t see the gibbons as much as usual but they were there and so was the little sand piper guy and the prevost’s squirrel. twice in the past i’ve seen them grooming the tapir and eating little bugs off of him, which is what’s going on in this drawing.


white-cheeked gibbons and malayan tapir at the bronx zoo


that’s about all i saw while i was there. i rode the skyfari by myself and then had to leave to make it to union sq for the wrestlers and wildlife release.