You probably know that the bedrock along the entire coast of California and southern Oregon is comprised of a chaotic mix of rock types, generally referred to in the literature as Franciscan mélange.

Pillow basalts are among the most common of these types and are recognized by their distinctive pillow-like shape, glassy margins and interstitial calcareous mud. They form under water, in this case the Mesozoic ocean floor prior to subduction.

In addition to these rocks, there are so-called exotic blocks within the mélange. Their origin is much more problematic because they have been thoroughly metamorphosed at great depth during the subduction process. They have since been uplifted and are now found in various localities including the Bandon area. The minerals in these blocks, some as large as houses, are hard and dense, imparting great resistance to erosion. They form some of the best sea stacks along the coast.

 

The second image here is a close-up of some of these minerals. The blue mineral is glaucophane, the spherical red mineral is garnet and the green mineral is pyroxene that is rich in jadeite. People occasionally find gem quality jadeite along the beaches there. All of these minerals are strictly metamorphic, having formed at depths on the order of 20 km and temperatures on the order of 500 degrees Celsius!

 

(Thanks to Dr. Jim Stout for his insights into local geology!)

You can enhance your next visit to the coast by hiring a professional guide to reveal some stories of the fascinating coastal rock formations! One such company is Wavecrest Tours in Coos Bay

Steller’s Jay (Cyanocitta stelleri)

The Steller’s Jay (Cyanocitta stelleri) is the largest jay in North America measuring in at 12-13 inches. Like many humans, this bird knows it never hurts to have a few tricks up your sleeve. They have a few unique skills that might surprise you.

The Steller’s Jay is related to the Blue Jay but has a slimmer bill and longer legs. It is also the only western jay with a crest. The front part of this jay is black while the back, wings and tail are dark blue. This coloring helps the Steller’s Jay easily blend in with the evergreen forests of the mountainous West where it is typically found, although this bird is also known to frequent campgrounds, parks, and backyards.

This bird is very intelligent and opportunistic. Steller’s Jays usually travel in pairs or family groups. They have a complex social and communication system, with a variety of calls, postures and displays. For instance, a spread wing shows submission, and a raised crest might mean attack. Steller’s Jays may also mimic the screams of hawks and Golden Eagles. This bird feeds mainly on acorns and pine seeds, but will raid other bird’s nests for eggs and nestlings. They will also eat small reptiles, nuts, berries, fruits, and insects.  Curiously, these jays have distendable esophagi that they are able to use to carry acorns and nuts. These foods are often cached for the winter or saved for eating at a later time. What unique skills do you have up your sleeve?

Pacific wax myrtle (Morella californica)

Adaptability is a valuable skill to have in this day and age. The Pacific wax myrtle is an expert in adaptability and could teach those of us who want to improve in this area a few important tips. This evergreen shrub is native to the coasts of California, Oregon, and Washington, growing from 10-30 feet tall and 10-12 feet wide. Pacific wax myrtles flourish along streams and sand dunes in this region thanks to their ability to adapt to a variety of environments. They can thrive in wet soil, but are also drought tolerant and can grow in sandy, loamy, or clay soil. The Pacific wax myrtle also transfers nitrogen and other nutrients to plants in its vicinity and is often used in habitat restoration for this reason.

The leaves of the Pacific wax myrtle are a bright, glossy green with black dots. The plant’s small purple berries ripen during autumn and fall to the ground in early winter, attracting birds such as flickers, finches, and robins. The berries are coated with white wax that can be extracted from the fruit and made into scented candles and soap.

Next time you find yourself in a challenging situation, think about the Pacific wax myrtle and its unique ability to thrive in a wide range of environments. It may provide just the inspiration you need to succeed in the task you want to accomplish.