Wednesday, July 4, 2018

The storms

     Mid-June to late June we had a series of cold fronts come over the Park.  Grey and gloomy everyday, (a week and a half to 2 weeks) with strong winds, rain, and 3 impressive hail storms.  The maintenance men came out with snow shovels to clear the sidewalks after the hail storms.  With Dolphin-kayak living under the pine trees covered with tarp for a few weeks, I went looking for indoor activities during those 2 weekends.  
     I visited the National Museum of Wildlife Art in Jackson to see their exhibit on "Invisible Boundaries:  Animal Migrations. " Part of the exhibit was dedicated to the current monitoring researchers are doing with the Elk herds in Yellowstone Park and the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem area.  Elk are tagged and followed on maps to learn their habitat needs.  Another portion of the exhibit displayed the art of Thomas Hill, a painter from the Hudson River School era.  He was able to capture in his paintings the great herds of Bison, and other animals, during the mid-1800's before the significant decline of the thundering herds.  
     The following weekend it was STILL cold and windy and gloomy. When it was raining during breakfast I decided to drive east to the Buffalo Bill Museum of the West in Cody.  I enjoyed their exhibits.  The display of Alfred Bierstadt's paintings in "Witness to a Changing West,"  was beautifully done.  Such magnificent paintings he created during that time period. The paintings of Thomas Moran also helped to convince Congress to set aside Yellowstone as a Park.
     I was finally to get out and hike Cascade Canyon last Saturday.  So beautiful, it is truly Heaven on Earth.
Photo to the right and below taken in Cascade Canyon.

Cascade Creek is very clear, and is a good place to see Moose.  I saw a Bear instead !!


Wednesday, June 13, 2018

June events

A local saying is that it usually snows for Memorial Day weekend.  At Grand Tetons Park, we had a few days of rain, very good for the earth and the forest.  It did snow in Yellowstone, which is over 8000 feet in elevation.  The following day I found the Spring wildflowers holding little diamond raindrops.  This is a Shooting Star.
     I have been out in the kayak twice.  This photo below from Jenny Lake.  It was the 2nd paddling trip for Fuji-camera and it did quite well.  I have a double set of waterproof bags for it live in during paddling trips.

Last weekend was a bigger adventure, I drove into Idaho to visit Craters of the Moon National Monument.  It was amazing to see different wildflowers growing on the lava fields.
 This pink Monkeyflower is about 1/4 " across, while the yellow one is only a few mm in diameter.  I am surprised this photo came out so well.  The photo below is a Phacelia in bloom.   This is an other-worldly landscape, extensive lava flows occurred from volcanic eruptions 15,000 years ago. I found roughly eroded lava along one trail with areas of more rounded lava formations nearby. At an area called Devils's Orchard I walked another the trail.  Pine trees, and other bushes were growing well, looking similar to Sunset Crater National Monument in northern AZ.

      The next morning I stopped at Camas NWR on my way back to the Park, and found nearly 35 species of birds.   Just north of Idaho Falls, this area is a wintering over site for many duck species.  Today I saw Mallards, Gadwalls, and Lesser Scaup males floating and sleeping on a small pond.  Their females may be on nests.  White-faced Ibis were fun to watch.
     Western Kingbirds harassed a Red-tailed Hawk nest their nest, Eastern Kingbirds and Black-headed Grosbeaks, and Yellow Warblers sang from the trees.    
Gift Shop update:   new barcode scanners are working, most of the time.  There is always the occasional item that does not scan.  It is so helpful that we can print our own price stickers now.  Last year it took a week for stickers to be requested and delivered.  Our campground is full, cabins are full,  and trailhead parking needs to be secured early in the day.  Summer is on.  This photo of Grand Teton with Symmetry Spires taken from Jenny Lake boat ramp.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Spring for real

Aspen trees have burst their pointed buds and are growing out tiny little leaves. Willow bushes no longer have naked yellow stalks waiting for Spring.  Yellow Warblers are perching  among the new Willow leaves, singing their territory boundaries.  Dusky Flycatchers have arrived ahead of the Warbling Vireos and Western Wood-Pewees.  I saw both Broad-tailed and Calliope Hummingbirds at Black Tail Ponds the other day.  Black-headed Grosbeaks are singing for a mate.
     Flowers, too, have felt the sunshine and are blooming.  First to flower were the Sage Buttercups and purple Rock Cress.  Recently I have seen Spring Beauty,  Yellow Violets,  deep purple Larkspurs,  and clusters of bright yellow Arrowleaf Balsamroot.  A surprise find 2 days ago:  the photo above is of a Clematis  "Sugar Bowl."    Lupines and Paintbrush are not far behind.

Yellowbells are a delicate meadow flower.

Shooting Stars are not abundant in the sage brush fields.  This cluster was a fun surprise.

Spring green Aspens and Willows along Snake River at Moose (southern end of the Park).

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

early Spring at Grand Tetons

When I arrived Jackson Lake was frozen.  In the past few days significant melting has taken place.  The lake is not completely ice-free, but the cove at Signal Mountain Lodge has finally melted.  I saw a Common Loon, and a pair of Common Mergansers yesterday in front of the lodge.  Aspen trees are still winter dormant, they don't believe Spring has arrived.  Early blooming Sage Buttercups are flowering at Lupine Meadows.  Spring Beauty flowers are not far behind.
     The celebrity bears are showing at roadside meadows during the day and on some evenings.  Grizzly # 399 raises her cubs in the forest and meadows north of Jackson Lake Lodge.  Tonight they were out foraging for roots and digging for insects.  The 2 cubs are yearlings, having survived their first year in the Park.  Strong backlighting from the sun made focusing a challenge.  This is maximum zoom on the camera.   2 Rangers were present to make sure that everyone stayed a safe distance away from the bears. 

The bears went into the forest leaving the group of photographers and visitors without a subject of interest, until a pair of Mountain Bluebirds came by.  The male perched on top of a pine tree to watch all the people in his territory.

Yesterday morning and this morning the clear lake waters showed spectacular reflections.
Mt Moran is on the right, with Mt. Woodring  and Rockchuck Peak.

Grand Teton is on the left with Symmetry Spires,  Mt St John, and Rockchuck Peak.

2 beautiful mornings in a row.

Monday, April 23, 2018

April and on to Wyoming

The long windy winter is over.  Hooray for Spring !   I returned to Texas to pick up my truck at my friend's house and started south.  High Island is southeast of Houston and is well known to birders as a good place to see migrating birds in the Spring.  I camped 2 nights at an RV park across the street from the entrance to the bird sanctuary.  Unfortunately,  warblers, vireos, orioles, buntings, and their friends were not visiting High Island in large numbers this Spring.  I saw a few birds, but not like this place can be on a Spring day.
    Further south on Bolivar Peninsula, shorebirds were gathering in large noisy groups.  I saw 7 species of Terns, Black Skimmers, Gulls, Ruddy Turnstones, Marbled Godwits, and more.  The following day, at a different location, I saw another Tern species (species # 8).  It did surprise me that many of the Terns, Dunlins, Plovers are not yet in breeding plumage. 
    Then it was time to find the big highway.  I had originally planned to go north thru Oklahoma, Kansas, and Nebraska, before turning west toward Wyoming.  Big wildfires in Oklahoma, a snowstorm and unsettled weather in Kansas and Nebraska caused me to re-think my route.  I headed west on highway 10 across Texas, and into New Mexico.

Photos of Roseate Spoonbills from a rookery on land owned by Houston Audubon as part of their network of Bird Sanctuaries.  Great Egrets already had little chicks in the nests.  Photo to the right could be titled "Mixed Company."   Black Skimmers, Royal Terns, Laughing Gulls standing on a beach together.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018


Colorado is over,  Hooray !!  I am so glad to be away from that place.  Management was horrible, condescending, double standards against certain employees, and more.  We spent most of the work shift standing around waiting.  I would have 3 or 4 phone calls, maybe 2 check-ins, maybe not.  The younger employees watched videos on social media and talked among themselves.  I can't stare at the screen for that long.  Why so few guests ?   Snow conditions are just not so good.  It's plenty cold, but there is not enough moisture for large snowfalls. 
     Recently someone said to me,  "Copper Mt used to be such a good family place, now its so uppity."      I could not agree more.  Why do ski resorts need to be so pretentious ?

     I have had a few interviews at Texas State Parks.  We will see what happens there.

Saturday, December 23, 2017


The big excitement in mid-December was the Grand Prix Snowboard championships.  Riders who did well in this qualifying event have a good chance of being selected for the Olympics, coming up in February.  I could not see the competitors well enough to take any photos.  The Half-pipe course started much further up the slope.  Big Air is a new event for the Olympics, and it was exciting to watch.  The rider comes down the slope, gaining speed, then launches UP a steep slope and does several flips and twists before landing.  I could see the landing area quite well.
     I have wondered (for quite some time) how they learn those flips and maneuvers without being injured.  Now I know.  Next door to the Lodging office is a training facility for skiing and snowboarding.  The kids start on a trampoline and later progress to wooden slopes using a snowboard on wheels.  They land in a pit of foam blocks until the  "trick"  is perfected.   Similar to how gymnasts learn their high-flying moves.

There will be a door decorating contest with Christmas themes.  In my casual walking around I have not seen any decorated doors yet.  This building used to be a Club Med property and is not set up in a standard manner.  Labyrinthine halls, sudden short hallways lead to dead ends, and sometimes past an elevator that travels to the 5th floor of this 7th floor building.  Maybe it will be posted where to find the decorated doors.

I walked the path between the creek and the buildings one afternoon, and found one Mountain Chickadee.  The large 3 and 4 story dark brown buildings where most of the guest rooms are, looked old, almost medieval, from that angle.  In reality these buildings are about 30 years old, trying to look like something they are not.

Top photo taken from Lake Dillon looking south.   Photo of 2 Ring-necked Ducks taken at Silverthorne's  Water Treatment facility.