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I have been hiking in the Clackamas River watershed for decades- first as a recreationalist, then as a volunteer with Bark groundtruthing proposed timber sales, and more recently as a paint maker. A few years ago I found some beautiful greenish teal colored rock chips coming out of a low basalt cliff. I took some home and it made a stunning watercolor paint. I have been wanting to share it with you ever since, but needed to find it in sufficient quanitity to feel comfortable collecting more of it. Last month I found some new sources along a road where it is tumbling out of unstable steep slopes.

I am very excited to offer it to you now. All of the pigment was gathered ethically, taking only a small amount of what is evident, and from areas already heavily impacted by human activity. I did not use any tools. These pieces have eroded out of the hillside naturally. 12% of the ink sales will be donated back to a local Native American run non-profit in acknowledgement that this land belongs to the Native tribes who have lived here since time immemorial.

I would love to tell you the name of this mineral. I believe it is chlorite based on lab testing done by another pigment hunter, Scott Sutton, who gathered in this same area. In any case, it is either chlorite or celadonite. Kelsey Hanson will be testing some samples I sent to her in the next few weeks. I will get back to you with a final determination. Here is a recent talk by Kelsey about the pigments found in Chaco Canyon. As a kid I went camping at Chaco Canyon with my grandparents many times. It is a place that has long fascinated me. I am so grateful Kelsey offered to analyze the Clackamas River samples!

This mineral occurs in basalt. Sometimes it fills little cavities in the basalt and sometimes there are whole veins of the soft material amongst the basalt flows. You can see examples of this in the photos above. Click on this link to read more about the Columbia River Basalt Flows, which cover a large area including the some of the Clackamas River watershed.

I have named the watercolor ink Evergreen for multiple reasons. First, it is fully lightfast, as are most minerals. Second, it reflects the color of the evergreen conifer forests here in western Oregon. And finally, the Clackamas River watershed was hit hard by wildfires 2 years ago and it has been closed (some still is) to visitors until recently. Going back and seeing all the new growth coming up, elderberries, native blackberries, vine maples, fireweed, and others is extremely heartening. May our forests be evergreen!

Note sun loving blue elderberries thriving in Clackamas River post-burn forest below.

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Zahra Ammar
Zahra Ammar
Feb 05, 2023

Beautiful post. I am in love with the hue and a bit jealous that all I have been able to forage here in Houston is the Iron Oxide. I can't wait to hear what the mineral is, but even then, I love you naming it Evergreen, perfect.

Carolyn Sweeney
Carolyn Sweeney
Feb 06, 2023
Replying to

Thanks for your comment! I bet your iron oxide is beautiful. It’s not that common here. We have so much basalt which is extremely hard and grey. Who knows what you’ll find if you keep looking.

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