Making an Orographic Effect (A Geo-cocktail For Those on the Windward Side of High Places)

I wanted to make one more small addition to our January blog carnival topic, by introducing a final drink: The Orographic Effect. This is just a take on the Spanish coffee specially designed for those of us in the Pacific Northwest that have to deal with the veil of clouds that covers the western side of the Cascades for 2/3 of the year. This drink will give you a boost, and tastes great!

Recipe for an Orographic Effect:

  • 1 oz. Rogue Hazelnut Rum
  • .5 oz. Triple Sec
  • Fill glass with freshly brewed coffee
  • Top off with honey sweetened cream

Watch as the clouds of coffee billow through the cocktail and then sip with great enjoyment.

Here’s a not very helpful video I made using the new Vine app that’s available for iPhone…

The brewing method I used for the coffee is a vacuum pot.

Changing Themes

New Cascadia

It’s been a minute since I’ve published on this blog. There are a good number of reasons for that, from work obligations to home complications, but my lack of attention to my writing has stemmed largely from two things: Near complete burn-out from school & work and holding myself to a too-restrictive format.

Issue number one is being resolved by taking a year off of school. For several years I maintained a schedule of full-time work and full-time school. Looking back, I ‘m surprised that I managed to maintain that hectic pace for so long. A year of no classes is a welcome change, and I feel myself slowly returning to balance.

The second issue is one of my own making and I believe I’ve solved it with this format change for the blog. No more wondering whether such-and-such a thing would be better off on my Tumblr account, or on this geo-blog, or simply to make it a Google+ post. By self-enforcing a geology-only format on Uncovered Earth, I successfully dissuaded myself from writing about things that would have been interesting and informative. This new blog theme is a bit more open, and gives me room to explore topics beyond just local geology; to talk about exploring the wilderness, local news, and just about anything that tickles my fancy. I’m sure none of you would have minded if I’d have done this on the old blog format, but for some reason I did mind, so I’ve done away with it.

All of the old posts are still here, and if you deep-linked to anything on the site, those links should continue to work. As for what you can expect to see here going forward: It’ll still be mostly geology and related science stuff as it pertains to the Northwest, but I’ll be writing more about hiking, and backpacking, and food, and local interest things that feel important or noteworthy to me. If you only want the geology stuff, then all you have to do is click the “geology” category on the sidebar & you’ll never be bothered by anything else.

While I’m being all meta, I thought I’d make a note about this blog’s tagline: “Notes from the leading edge of the continent.”  
I do mean that literally, as the Northwest is literally the leading edge of the North American continent. We are the region where new terrains are accreting; we are in front of the continent’s general movement to the west. We pay a price for it, too, in all of the hazards of subduction from earthquakes to volcanoes. But this chaos brings us many gifts as well, from beautiful and dynamic mountain ranges, to a gloriously rugged coast. We have healthy soils, and varied climates. We play host to major industries, and attract a vibrant culture of Earth-lovers, and entrepreneurs.

I’m proud to be a part of this leading edge, both the literal one and the metaphorical. This’ll be the place where I show that pride.

A Call For Posts: Accretionary Wedge #54


A night of drinking can really get geologists thinking. …Thinking about geology. …and thinking about more drinks.

Such was the case a few months ago when @Glacial_till, @Seismogenic, and I were enjoying cocktails at a NW Portland bar. Though we are, none of us, mixologists, we became enamored of the idea of creating our own geologically themed drinks. Thus the concept for January’s Accretionary Wedge was born: On the Rocks: Geo-brews and Geo-Cocktails.

It’s the holiday season. You’ll be drinking anyway. Why not take the opportunity to bring your love of geology to the tumbler or martini glass? We challenge you to devise your own beverage concoction based on some geological theme. Name a martini after a mountain range! Mix a cocktail based on the cryosphere! Brew a beer inspired by a batholith.

We’re giving you plenty of time. This AW will be published in mid-January, so you’ve got more than a month to perfect your creation and make a blog post about the recipe. Once you’ve done so, please provide a link to your geo-cocktail blog post in the comments here so that Ryan, Julian and I can see it. One of us will host the final carnival post when your submissions are in. Alternatively, if you have an idea, but don’t have a blog to post it on, just post the recipe and description in the comments below & we’ll be sure to highlight your idea in the official AW #54 post.

Don’t think that your drink has to be alcoholic, though! We want each of you to find your own way to participate whether or not you are able or choose to imbibe spirits.

To get your creative juices flowing, here’s an example cocktail created by yours truly:

The Magma Chamber (a spicy take on a traditional Manhattan)

  • 2.0 oz  Rye Whiskey
  • 0.5 oz Sweet Vermouth
  • 0.5 oz Chili Pepper Infused Simple Syrup (see video for instructions)
  • Dash of Angostura Bitters

Mix the above ingredients with ice, then strain into a martini glass. Serve as is or with an optional cherry garnish (a.k.a. a xenolith).

Good luck to all of you! We look forward to drinking to your success.

And also, please keep in mind that there is still a December Accretionary Wedge being planned by @lockwooddewitt at Outside the Interzone, so don’t neglect that one! We just wanted to make sure that you have plenty of time for the creative process for January’s wedge.

Take A Hike: Silver Falls State Park

Upper North Falls Header

There’s an apocryphal story that Silver Creek got its name when an Oregon pioneer – saddle packs filed to the brim with silver – attempted to cross the creek in high water. The man and horse, it is said, made it across, but the packs were lost in the rushing creek and the silver was never recovered. That might inspire you to take a trip to Silverton, Oregon to seek lost riches. But silver or no, you’ll find the trip enriching as long as you spend time within the glorious canyons of Silver Falls State Park.

This parkland hosts a varied geologic history, from ancient beach, to rich forest, to burning hellscape, and back again to forestland. The earliest records of life here are of clams and other aquatic forms as preserved in the sedimentary layers of the Scotts Mills formation in the northwest portion of the park. Later, as the land rose from the sea, forests dominated the landscape and the ancestral Columbia River carved a channel through here, dozens of miles south of its current route. That forest haven was destroyed, though – repeatedly – by the massive Columbia River Basalt lava flows that filled this ancient river channel, charring and burying the forest as they passed. These lava flows (classified as the Ginko Intra-Canyon Flows) passed through here 15.4 million years years ago, and since then little Silver Creek has been carving into them the breathtaking canyon into which you can hike.

There are several ways to enjoy a hike at Silver Falls State Park. First determine just how long of a walk you’d like to take. This guide gives you options for a 2.5 mile hike, a 5-miler, and an 8-miler. Regardless of which route you choose, it’s best to start at the South Falls parking lot where you can pay your entry fee, use the facilities, and pick up any interpretive materials you desire at the South Falls Lodge.

The trail begins at the overlook for South Falls very near the parking area, but before heading that way I encourage you to check out the CCC building that’s just behind the gift shop. You’ll find many fossils there, as detailed in this post.

Upper South FallsSouth Falls creeps up on you. You’ll hear it first, then – as you follow the path – you’ll notice that you stand above it and the tinkling south fork of Silver Creek is transformed into a thunderous falls, pouring over a rock amphitheater of its own making.  The trail winds down the hill and under the frozen lava flow which supports the waterfall. From here you get a “behind the scenes” view of the falls as the sound of water pounding on rock echoes against the canyon walls. Behind and above you lichens and mosses grow against the bare rock face, splashing color upon the scene.

An interpretive sign here will tell you that the gaping holes in the rock above you are erosional chimneys. That may well be, however I remain skeptical. I suspect that the true origin of these holes, like the ones you’ll see under North Falls later, is tree casts… trace fossils of ancient trees which instantly froze the encroaching lava, leaving a hollow imprint where a massive pine once stood.

Map-CloseupThere is a bridge near South Falls that makes an excellent vantage point from which to admire the massive lava flows.

The orange line on the map to the left represents the path of the Ginko Basalt Flows (Click the map for a full version). Intra-canyon lava flows like this are a gift to geologists, as they give us clues as to how long the Columbia River has flowed, and what routes it has taken in the past. We can trace this ancestral river route all the way back to the present day Columbia River Gorge between the towns of Mosier and The Dalles. From this evidence, we know that the river once ran through land now occupied by Mount Hood and its foothills.

Two PillarsThe trail takes you from here along the south fork of Silver Creek to the next major beauty, Lower South Falls.

Like all of the waterfalls in the park, Lower South Falls varies dramatically depending on the season and the weather. At times you’ll see only a few pillars of water pouring over the edge and kissing the rocks along the edge of the pool below. In the wetter months, this waterfall is a full curtain of water, rushing on its way to lower elevations.

Lower South Falls is another which the path meanders behind, though this one is often a bit wetter, and the stones underfoot a bit slicker. Be careful, and enjoy!

From here, you’re just a short jaunt to where the Canyon Trail (which you are on) intersects the Maple Ridge Trail. If you’re only in for a short hike, this intersection is your turnaround point. The Maple Ridge Trail will take you back to the South Falls Lodge and your vehicle. All others can continue on the Canyon Trail for another 1.5 miles to enjoy Lower North Falls, Double Falls, Drake Falls, and Middle North Falls.

The five-mile trek requires you to take the Winter Trail route (which you’ll intersect shortly past Middle North Falls) to the Rim Trail, which will take you through a peaceful hemlock and doug fir forest back to your car.

If you reach the Winter Trail turn-off and your feet still feel happy, then I highly encourage you to continue along the Canyon Trail to the iconic North Falls and Upper North Falls (pictured at the start of this post).

North Falls is an excellent bookend for the hike. Almost like a mirror image of South Falls, you can hike into the cavern behind this falls, and (again like South Falls) you can see tree casts – this time indisputably so – in the lava flow above you.

Upper North Falls is just a little further down the path, and you must pass under the road to get there, but it is absolutely worth the short additional leg of the hike. It’s a great place for a lunch and often fairly private compared to the rest of the waterfalls, probably because it’s little advertised and usually overlooked.

This, at last, marks the ultimate turn-around point for the hike. Take the Rim Trail all the way back to the Silver Falls Lodge and your vehicle.

If your journey through Silver Falls State Park touches you in the way that it does for most, I encourage you to check out Friends of Silver Falls and investigate ways to contribute to maintaining the integrity of this beautiful natural area for all time.

On Mount Hood: Book Review

Trail to the Top

“If you ask a little kid to draw a mountain… he’ll draw Mount Hood.”

With that simple insight, Jon Bell begins his tale of this iconic peak that we Oregonians call our own.

On Mount Hood: A Biography of Oregon’s Perilous Peak is a book much like the mountain itself: accessible, vibrant, and filled with stories of times long past & those still in the making. Part travelogue and part natural history, Bell weaves a personal narrative of his backpacking trip around the mountain on the Timberline Trail with chapters filled with historical facts and anecdotes relating to the mountain.

For the book, Bell tapped the knowledge and expertise of some of Oregon’s most prominent earth scientists including Willie Scott, geologist at the Cascade Volcano Observatory, and Andrew Fountain, glaciologist at Portland State University. With their expertise, the peak’s geologic history of more than half-a-million years comes alive for the reader, providing a strong starting point for anyone seeking to understand this volcano and its context within the High Cascades.

Of course, the most stunning stories included in this book are those of the human endeavors on the mountain. Being one of the most climbed peaks in the world, Mount Hood is the setting of many triumphs and, unfortunately, many deadly failures. Most notable among them is the incident in 2002 when a rescue helicopter crashed on the mountain while attempting to save the lives of nine climbers who fell into a crevasse; A story which Bell tells in full in what is, arguably, the best chapter of his book. (You can see video of the crash here.)

While not the most gripping read of its genre, On Mount Hood is a supurb introduction to the mountain for anyone new to the region or who may be living in its shadow, but has never taken the time to explore and understand the volcano. I give it three out of five rock hammers for being an easy and pleasurable read.


On Mount Hood is available at Powell’s and other Portland-area bookstores, so support your local economy if you can. But if you live far away and your local store doesn’t carry it, then please buy it though the links on this page and help support this blog.