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Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Ruby red and the wide, wide river

We rarely have more than two warm days in a row, and then the storms are pulled back in from the ocean. I don't know the technicality, but it seems to work that way. It started raining again yesterday, but over the sunny weekend I photographed this view of the Columbia River, the Astoria-Megler Bridge, and the hills of Washington in the distance. The downtown buildings of Astoria (600 feet below us) can be seen just this side of the bridge. I've taken the photo from the parking area of the Astoria Column (yesterday's post), with the actual column only a few yards behind me. A green park slopes away in front of these bushes, then trees, then the residential streets, which can't be seen from this angle.

You can see the mouth of the great Columbia River at the horizon line. You wouldn't know it from this tranquil photo, but it's the most dangerous river entrance in the world, having caused the wrecks of nearly 2,000 vessels. The currents are strong, storms come up regularly throughout the year, and a river of this size washes plenty of sediment out to sea, much of it dropping off near the mouth of the river, causing the bars to form and shift. Just to the right of the center of the picture, you can see a light area, which is a huge sand bar that becomes exposed at lower tides. The shipping channel is very close to our side of the river. Ships coming in or out of the river need pilots who know how to navigate these specific waters. Both river pilots and bar pilots are stationed in Astoria, and we love to watch the pilot boats go out to meet the ships. I guarantee there will be more about this later. The pilots and their boats make up a romantic part of Astoria's working waterfront, and we all love to watch them at work, which they do rain or shine, storm or calm.

I would have said that the red flowers here that I chose for Ruby Tuesday were rhododendrons. That's true, but I wasn't sure whether they might be azaleas, so I looked them up. According to Wikipedia, azaleas ARE rhododendrons. I picture azaleas with smaller leaves. If anyone can tell me, I'll be interested. We probably have more of the big-leaved plants here than the small ones, and while there are over 1,000 species of rhododendron found in profusion on most continents, I've lived in dry climates before now, so I've never lived where they thrive the way they do here. You can see them in full bloom all over town right now in an astounding array of colors. It's truly a delightful part of living in this location!

Do rhododendrons thrive in your area?

8 comments:

frenchie4moi said...

No, rhododendrons do not thrive here at all. Every year, I visit my friends in the Puget Sound and last year I was there when the rhododendrons were in bloom. It was amazing! Every garden had them; the colors so vibrant.

Your photo of the river is great. My heart is in the Pac. Northwest. I wish I was there!

Martha said...

The soil is too alkaline in Los Angeles, there are some that thrive, but not many.
Great picture, really scenic. Visiting for Ruby Tuesday.

Lee Spangler said...

Sheryl: Your writing and photos humble me. As you know I lived in the area for 39 yrs and I still found the photo and description fascinating.
XXOO

Auntie E said...

Yes we have them here. Your photo is so nice it makes me wish I was there in person. Happy RT

Jacob said...

Overall, this is just a superb photograph...the flowers are magnificent, but the scene wraps up the viewer. And thanks for the commentary about the river...I've read a lot about Astoria and the Columbia River and forgotten most of it, so this was especially welcome!

Monica said...

What a beautiful scenic Ruby Tuesday you provided. I love Astoria and the Oregon coast ... I'm a NW girl, what can I say.

gogouci said...

Most beautiful photo of the world's most terrifying bridge.

Lynette said...

Both photos, in both directions, are great, as is all of the information. I for one am totally amazed at the rhododendrons in Portland, too. Really an amazing variety of colors and sizes of the plants, too, some the size of mini-vans, taller even.

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