Wednesday, September 27, 2017

When leaves are

as pretty as the summertime flowers.  Huckleberry bushes, Mountain Ash, and Dogwood are out-competing each other for brilliant color.

 Aspens are still holding onto their green leaves for another week or two. 

Bears have come down from the high country to eat berries and other good things before hibernation.  This one caused quite a "bear jam" on a narrow road when it stopped to drink from a puddle.

Moose are fun to watch. Mama Moose had 2 little ones in early summer.  They were foraging near a creek one morning.

Smoke from the wildfires in Idaho, Montana, and Washington has finally blown out. Mid-September a series of storms came across northern Wyoming and persisted for 10 days.  Rain, snow, cloudy skies, more rain and low temperatures had us thinking winter was coming early.  Yellowstone Park is higher in elevation and received alot more snow.  3 entrances and several roads were closed, trapping some guests in Yellowstone until the roads could be cleared and opened.

Friday, September 1, 2017

noticing August flowers

In early August I walked around a small pond to the north, and re-visited a mountain top that had been covered with flowers. Wildflowers have noticed the subtle changes in soil moisture and sun intensity.  Lupines are giving up for the season, as are the Salsify, and the Scarlet Gilias.  Bluebells, Yarrow, and small Sunflowers are doing well.  Musk Thistles are in full bloom by August, and are a favorite food for Goldfinches.  Buckwheat, an early bloomer, is turning pink and setting seeds. Geranium flowers are passed, leaving their large Delphinium leaves to turn  yellow and red.  The bright yellow flowers of Arnica and Balsamroot are gone, only the leaf clusters remain drying quickly in the August heat.
     Paintbrush, Fireweed, and Asters are maintaining their bright colors along the trails.

above red leaves from the Wild Geranium.
Asters to the left.

This is a mountain meadow I had not visited before.

Smoke from wildfires in Montana and Idaho has been giving a hazy look to our mountains, not the clear summer views guests hope to photograph.  Yellowstone is also affected by the smokey skies.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Total Eclipse of the Park

     So much preparation !  Designated eclipse viewing areas were announced, extra porta-a-potties, and extra dumpsters were in place in the park by the weekend.  Park Service waived entrance fees for the day to facilitate the heavy flow of traffic that was expected to enter the park. While preparations were good, crowds were less than expected inside the park.  All the campgrounds and rented cabins are usually full during the summer, anyway.
     Umbra-philes stayed in the southern part of the park because the Gros Ventre area was forecast to have 2 1/2 minutes of totality. Signal Mountain Lodge area had 2 mins of totality.  And what an amazing 2 mins it was !  All guest services were closed for 45 mins so that all employees and guests could be out enjoying the eclipse.  Everyone was given eclipse glasses to watch the show. 

     I sat near the wooden fence with a view of the lake and mountains to the west, and the sun to the east.  Slowly the moon nibbled away at the sun, hiding more and more of it.  Even as a tiny thin crescent the sun was brilliant without the eclipse glasses.  Suddenly the land went dark, the mountains went dark, and the temperature dropped significantly.  A different type of dark, quite unlike a sunset.  The corona shone brightly, it was almost a spiritual experience.  The guests stood up and cheered.
     It was over too quickly, the "diamond ring" effect moved from a small "diamond" to a tiny crescent.  The corona disappeared into the brilliance of the sun. My co-workers and I continued to monitor the sun's re-appearance after lunch.  We were blessed with beautiful weather. 
     Heavy bumper-to-bumper traffic was reported in Idaho on hwy 15 and on the highways leading to Teton Pass.  In Wyoming, Lander,  Riverton, and Casper had large crowds watching the eclipse, and many miles of  slow traffic on their highways.  I did not see any of the traffic problems, as the employees were cautioned to stay home and avoid the potential gridlock.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Mid-summer photos

Wildflowers are blooming in so many colors and species.  All are simply beautiful.  This is a Columbine coming up thru a low-growing Fir branch.

 A hike on the west side of Jenny Lake became exciting when a Black Bear cub was found in a tree.  Mama Black Bear was not far away, so the Rangers closed the trail.

I was happy to see the Trumpeter Swan family with 5 little cygnets at the Elk Refuge (Flat Creek area).

I found this Wilson's Snipe in Idaho along a meandering creek.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

June in Paradise

Its been a month of clouds and sun.  Two slow-moving weather systems came across NW Wyoming bringing much rain and wind to the valleys, and snow in the higher elevations.  The tremendous snowpack has begun to melt, flooding rivers, creeks, and roads.  Part of Gros Ventre road has eroded away and access to other riverside locations has been closed.
    These 2 photos were typical views for quite awhile.  Where are the mountains ?  When the fog (or clouds) clear away the guests can see the  mountains.

I finally was able to repair the roof racks I use for carrying Dolphin-kayak, and was able to go out on String Lake.  Its a pretty lake, sheltered from wind, and now quite flooded.  I paddled into the forest and into grassy areas that are usually high and dry.
 Below photo shows the west edge of the lake.

When paddling in the forest, many logs need to be avoided.

The creek through this grassy area is all melt-water from a huge snowpack in the high elevations.

Those of you who are birders can look at  ebird  for Teton county to see the checklists I have submitted for this area.  Photo of a Ruffed Grouse who was surprised I found him while he was drumming from a log.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

first few weeks in GTNP

One week ago a snowstorm blew into Wyoming, cold temperatures from the north and moisture from the northwest combined for a chilly week.  Grand Tetons received 3 to 4 inches,  Yellowstone (at a higher elevation) had enough snow to close down most of their roads for Wednesday (17th), and Casper (in central WY) was buried in a foot of snow, enough to close Interstate 80 for quite some time.
     Plants continued moving toward flowering despite the storm.  Dandelions, Yellowbells, and Spring Beauty were the first to bloom.  A week later I found Larkspur, and Buckwheat joining in the Sage prairie's color.  Today I saw Arnica, Lupine, and Phacelia along the trail.  Oregon Grape is an amazing plant;  its leaves survived the winter intact (whether green or red) and yellow flowers have started to open. Above photo is Cinquefoil, edged with frost on a cold morning.
     Birds are returning as well.  Chipping Sparrows are singing, Cassin's Finches and Kinglets arrived before I did.  Yellow Warblers are singing in the marshy places, Yellow-rumpeds are often heard along the trails, and Dusky Flycatchers have found open perches to announce their arrival.  I found a MacGillivray's Warbler in the same place along Jenny Lake trail as in previous years. My surprise photo above.
     Another  "surprised this photo came out so well"   is my Red-naped Sapsucker.  I had walked down to the Registration building to watch sunset, and was hearing a soft  "bird"  noise.  There was not much light remaining for photography.
     A  "large mammal"  event.  I had heard that the well-known Grizzly Bear female called 399 had emerged from her den with 2 little cubs.  Her territory is to the north of Signal Mountain Lodge.  Last night after dinner I drove north looking for bears, and the consequence of them feeding close to the road,  a bear jam.  North of Colter Bay I found the long line of cars parked on both sides of the road, and 2 groups of people on the west edge of the Hwy.  Mama Grizzly and 2 little black cubs were feeding a distance from the road, still in sunlight.  This was Bear 793, I was told, a much younger female.  Pretty exciting !!!

Above is Mama Grizzly and one cub,  photo to the right is the other cub running to catch up.  (used maximum zoom on my camera)

Below a large bull Elk with velvet on  his antlers walks across Teton Park Road leading his harem thru the Sagebrush fields.

Monday, May 15, 2017

a New Motto

"When Life gives you Mountains, put your boots on and start hiking."  That's the way to be.  I will do that soon, once the snow melts off the trails.  The ice has melted off the lakes, and I been out in my kayak twice.
     It has taken us a week to set up the Gift Shop with the help of 2 women from the corporate office who are Head Buyers and  set-up people.  New floor plans have been created, and its all looking very good now.
    Photos from the first week of living in Paradise.

Bison at Elk Flats.

Mountain Bluebird

Sunset sunbeams behind the Tetons

Black bear, my first bear of the season

Yellowbells,  Fritllaria pudica

late afternoon light on snowy peaks