Thursday, July 18, 2019

Our last Scheduled Show of the Year, Now its fishing Time


Our last scheduled show of this year was a local one. It was held in the Barn, which is a large well barn like log structure in our rv park. Its not really the crowd we aim at but we did okay for a three-hour show.
Two days later found us making another trip to Idaho Falls, this one for dentist appointments. It’s beautiful where we live but the remoteness means we spend a lot of driving time when we see doctors and dentists and this summer has been a real pain in the rear end.
As we traveled down the Snake River Canyon, we can mark the seasons by the colors of the crops. The barley is beginning to ripen, the potatoes are in flower, and the rapeseed, (used to make canola oil), has just started to flower.
There were quite a few drift boats fishing the Snake and we did see one angler fighting a big trout. Today we are heading back to Idaho Falls to another dentist appointment because the dentist had run out of supplies, (I am not kidding it was Prime Day), and they didn’t arrive on time.
Yesterday Renita had a hair stylist appointment and she let me take her car to a nearby creek, so I could spend an hour fishing. It was my first fly fishing of the summer and I had heard good reports. Nearing the steam, I spotted three other fishermen and I hoped they hadn’t fished the water I was going to wade.
It started out slow and I was pretty sure that the stream had been fished as I cast to three beautiful holes without any rises. On the next hole I cast to a cut bank and had a rise, but the fish slapped at the fly and I didn’t hook it. Three more holes and three more missed fish and I started to feel frustrated.
We are spoiled here as the fish are all native fish and so they are usually easy to catch. Crossing a fence, I stopped to put on a new fly, hoping that it might change my luck. On the second cast, a nice Bonneville cutthroat trout inhaled the fly and I was able to land the fish for a quick photo. Carefully unhooking the fish, the hook was in a safe spot for the fish to be unhurt, I released it and watched as it swam back to its hiding place.
A little further and I missed another fish before hooking and landing a smaller cut. Running out of time, I only had an hour, I hurried along the bank, only casting to the most promising spots. I was rewarded with four more cuts, all safely released, before it was time to walk back to the car.
Quickly doffing my gear, I was able to make it back to town with one minute to spare. Renita had gotten done early but she didn’t mind as it gave her a little time to shop. It had been a great morning, I had caught and released six nice fish, the first one was fourteen inches, and I had made it back to town in time!  Clear skies

Ps I mentioned our car and I don’t think we have told anyone that we bought a new Subaru Forester. Our thirteen-year old truck has 280,000 miles on it, and we will now be driving the car during our winter travels.
PPs If you ever come out here to fly fish be sure to be here from late July till September as the steams are usually clear and the fishing is excellent

Monday, July 8, 2019

A Wild Time in Cody, Wyoming



We finally finished rebuilding our slide in pickup camper and left for Cody, Wyoming. We are vendors there, at the Wild West Extravaganza. It’s our biggest show of the year and we had high hopes for a repeat of last year’s three-day show.
The trip there was a wildlife adventure! First a buck mule deer darted from the trees and stopped in the middle of the road. It forced me to slam on the brakes and the drivers behind me luckily stopped before hitting me. The speed limit was only forty-five and there were caution signs of wildlife on the road, (I was going the speed limit).
A little further a cow and calf moose decided to test my brakes, (there is a reason for the speed limit in the parks), and as we passed two stopped cars, with no place to pull over, Renita saw a huge grizzly bear! The rest of the trip was uneventful as we saw more deer and elk, but they all stayed off the road.
Driving down from Sylvan Pass is about as scenic as it gets, and the canyon reminded me of how lucky we are to live in Wyoming. Arriving at Cody we checked into our rv park and waited till five pm as setup didn’t start till six.
On a hunch we went to the setup early and sure enough the other vendors had started to setup their booths.
The next day we got up early and returned to our vendor tent, covering the tables and setting up our jewelry displays. People had already arrived, and chairs were set up along the parade route. The first day’s parade was small,
(the next two days parades lasted for an hour and a half. About the time the parade ended it started to rain and so we sat there hoping for some sunshine.
The rest of the first day alternated with rain and sun and the crowds were small. We were disappointed with the days sales and after some fast food we returned to our camp spot with rain, lightening, and thunder. We stayed dry, (our repairs seemed to work), and the next day we left early.
A much larger crowd had gathered for the second days parade, and it didn’t take us long to display our cabochons and finished jewelry. We have an advantage as we make all our pieces, including the rock lapidary. We also specialize in Wyoming jade and fossil and mineral pieces and we don’t have any competition, (that our shops niche).
After the parade the crowds passed through the vendor area and we were happy to be greeted by many new and returning customers. The returning customers were residents, and the others were tourists from all over the USA and the world. One man told us that he was from North Carolina and it had been his life-long dream to see Yellowstone National Park.
Our work was well received and we ha d a great day, even though we had intermittent rain. That night it rained, and we had a small leak along the front of the camper. Luckily the sleeping bags stayed dry and we had a cold but comfortable night.
The Fourth of July started with early rains, but the skies cleared, and the rain stayed away for the rest of the day. The parade was the same as the day before, but the crowds were huge, and we were swamped for the rest of the day. We had record sales as people wanted to have a keepsake from Wyoming.
Exhausted, we tore down, packed everything away, and returned to the rv park. After a late dinner, the fireworks started, and we were very close to the exploding mortar rounds and starbursts. Shortly after it ended the rain and lightening returned to add its own excitement to the Fourth of July festivities.
The next day we broke camp and headed home. There had been reports of a cub grizzly bear that had become abandoned by its mother and as we crossed Towgotee pass we saw the bear jam. The little cub was digging for roots and tubers and seemingly ignoring the crowd. It had grown since we last saw it but there is not much hope a wolves and boar grizzlies are in the area and both will kill such a small bear.

We left after a bit. It’s tough, to see a cub of the year, (coy), being abandoned by its mother. It won’t learn about berries, moths, and white pine nuts which are all important parts of a bear diet. It doesn’t have a chance or a very small one.
We arrived home and didn’t unpack till the next day. Our last show of the year is on July thirteenth and so now we can concentrate on fishing, hiking, and wildlife watching. Now if the rivers will only clear up and go down………. Clear skies.

Sunday, June 23, 2019

A Trip Up the Grays, Looking for Morels



Last week we decided to take a trip up the Greys River, again in search of the mythical morel mushroom. This time we were going to travel to the Martin Creek Fire, which is located only seventeen miles away, (as the crow flies and so the one-way trip of sixty five miles took almost two hours).
However here is a mountain range in the way, the Salt Range, and we had to drive north to Alpine and then turn up the Greys river road for about forty-five addition miles of good and not so good gravel. At first the gravel road was good but after a while it bean to narrow.
The road became rough and at one point a busy beaver had constructed a new dam causing a channel of the river to partially flood the road. It was a narrow channel and the base gravel looked good, so I put the truck into four-wheel drive and drove through the submerged road.
Before you think that is crazy, or stupid, there were two other sets of fresh tires tracks on the other side. It wasn't any problem getting through and so we continued up to the burned area. No one was there so we parked the truck and hiked through two different areas of burned trees.  The end result, was that we didn’t find any morel mushroom.
There were no people tracks, so it hadn’t been walked, and we didn’t find any evidence of cut stems, which show up quite nicely in a burn area. It seemed to us that with the abnormally cold weather. It was still too early.
We only spent a few hours searching, before we headed back down stream. There was a bit of concern that the river may rise, due to the afternoon snow melt, and that we could be stranded till the next day, (mountain streams can turn from trickles into raging torrents as the afternoon snow melt accelerates).
It was all needless concern as the river hadn’t risen, and we easily forded the flooded road before finding a nice spot for a picnic. After our picnic lunch, we headed back home. We did spot several deer and at one point a doe with two fawns crossed the road before us.
It had turned out to be a nice day, and what more could one ask for than to spend a day in the mountains together, after all there is a blessing in every day, (we later learned that a few people were finding some little grey morels). Clear skies

Friday, June 14, 2019

Mushroom Hunting in last year’s Roosevelt fire area



We have been crazy busy. Besides getting ready for our summer shows, (three shows in the next four weeks), we also must take time to go hunting for morels. This year there are two fire areas near us the Martin Creek Fire along the Grey's River and the Roosevelt fire along the Upper Hoback.
The weather has finally warmed up and we decided to hunt the Roosevelt fire area. Now the fire is only forty miles away, but the problem is that there are two mountain ranges in the way. To get there we had to first drive to Alpine, then up the Snake River Canyon to Hoback Junction, and finally along the Hoback River to Bondurant before turning up a forest service road along the Upper Hoback.
Its always a pretty drive here and this one was no exception. The rivers are all high and muddy, so we are not missing any fishing and Renita snapped images as we drove. Turning up the Upper Hoback Road, we passed ranches that were definitely on the high end.
One ranch had a large herd of buffalo and a little further up we spotted what looked like white cows, before we finally realized they were a small herd of white buffalo.
They had been kept separate and the older cow’s white fur had discolored from the long winter, but the calves were a very bright white. It’s a good thing that the cows protect their young as any grizzly bear wouldn’t have any problem spotting them in the green fields, (my sister Connie wrote me that white buffalo had special meanings in Indian lore and if so, this concentration must  be really bad omen).
After stopping for pictures, we drove further up the road until we reached the start of the burn area. Posted signs told us we in the commercial morel hunting area, (we are allowed to collect three gallons a day, while the commercial hunters must buy a three-hundred-dollar permit form the forest service and don’t have limits).
A vehicle was pared alongside the road and we drove a bit further before starting our own hunt. There were places where the fire had crowned out, (the hottest fires), but also places where the fire had burned the ground cover sometimes killing the trees.
We hunted four different areas and got in some good exercise, but we didn’t find any morels. (Renita spotted an interesting track, which might have been left by a bear but it was pretty degraded).
Talking with another mushroom hunter he told us that the little grey ones had been found but we didn’t see any places where they had been harvested. He also suggested that the ground needed to warn up a bit before they emerged.
Still it was a great day to be out wandering around in the forest and we did see several deer browsing the new forest floor growth. Fires are an important process in the health of a forest and several successions will take place before the pines reclaim the burned area, (the new grass spurs an increase in elk and deer herds).
Today we are heading out to look in the Martin Creek fire area. Its only twenty miles away but it will entail an almost two-hour drive. If you have ever eaten morel mushrooms you understand our passion.
Clear skies


Saturday, June 8, 2019

Another Day in Grand Teton Nation Park, Friends, Birds, and Wearing Bear Spray



Most people who travel to the park never do see a bear. The best times here are in May and September. Those times are predictable as in May the female bears are alongside the roads with their cubs while in September, the bears are in the berry patches.
So, when our friends invited us to go with them, we packed our picnic lunch, binoculars, bear spray, and cameras. They offered to drive their car and soon we were off looking for local wildlife. After stopping in Jackson for a sticky bun, we got caught in a road construction traffic jam, just after entering the park.
Finally getting flagged through we passed buffalo and Antelope before reaching Moran Junction and driving up Towgotee Pass. We missed the cattle drive, whew, and made our first stop just past the bear warning traffic sign.  No bears were visible at either of the usual spots and so we continued up to the pass.
From there we turned around and headed back down looking but not seeing anything unusual, so we turned into the park at Moran Junction. Our next stop was at Pilgrim Creek and the road was open!
Slowly driving up the road to its end we didn’t spot any bears. The two female grizzlies, bears 399 and 793 have both sent their cubs off to fend for themselves and there have been reports of lewd and lascivious behavior with a male grizzly bear named Brutus.
The only sight that greeted us were the stunning views of the Tetons as we drove though sagebrush flats interspersed with lodge pole and ponderosa pines. There were also aspens, cotton woods and the occasional Englemann spruce, (a straight tree with a sharp pointed spire like crown).
Turning south we passed Willow Flats and we did spot some elk on the edges of the willow trees. They should have calved by now, but the calves are hiding from the bears by staying still and hidden. The calf elk are scentless and spotted so a bear must almost step on one to find it.
As it was lunch time, we drove to our favorite picnic area where the tables were all taken. Continuing past the flats we stopped at another picnic area that overlooked Jackson Lake. As we ate, we watched for rising fish and I mused on the stability of the dam. The dam itself is built as a floating dam sitting on six hundred feet of loose sediment.
A study was done that recommended that the dam should not be built in its current location. However, the politics demanded that the water should be stored for future use by the potato farmers in Idaho. The best site for the dam would have flooded and blocked the elk migration route from Yellowstone thank God a non starter, (One dam, just over the other side of the mountains failed shortly after being built, look up the Teton Dam Disaster).

As we left, we spotted a flower which we think is named purple fringe. Renita and I are not very good botanists, even though we have both taken wildflower identification classes, (we had great instructors but we are not smart enough and so we usually only identify rocks).
After lunch we hoped to drive the Moose-Wilson road. The road was close, but we did get far enough to a place where we often take a short hike. As there are bears in the area, I took my bear spray along, it doesn’t do any good left in the vehicle. We didn’t see any bears or moose, just other birders. There were reports of great gray owls, nesting in the area, but we never found the nest or spotted the owls.
A hoary woodpecker entertained us, along with a buffalo head duck, a rufous crowned sparrow, and several yellow warblers. On the way back to the car, Renita spotted several elk on a ridge. Besides the cow elk she also spotted a huge bull elk. The elk have started to grow their new antlers and this one will be a monster bull come this fall.
As we hiked, we disturbed a sandhill crane that flew off with several loud croaking call, but that doesn’t really describe the sound. As you would expect its call is extremely loud!
The drive home was uneventful, after we got caught in a buffalo traffic jam, (it always funny to watch the tourists get out of their cars to take closeups), and we finished the drive in the rain. Another nice day in the park! Clear skies.

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Memorial Day Weekend, looking for more Bears


Two days later, we decided to return to Towgetee Pass and the park and look for more bears. Our first stop was up the pass and we didn’t see any sign of the sow and cub grizzly we had seen on Thursday. Heading further up the pass we stopped at an overlook and Renita spotted an animal running across the snow field. Unfortunately, it was too far away to identify even after I took several images with the three hundred mm telephoto lens.
Driving back down the pass, there was a bear jam right where we had looked earlier. This bear jam was for a cinnamon black bear boar and we watched it as it ran between trees.
A school bus unloaded by us, and teenagers crowded in. Among the crowd we did see our son, his mother in law, and his wife as they were also on a bear watching adventure.
The black bear disappeared into the trees and so we decided to head to Pilgrim Creek, (it’s a prime spot to see a grizzly in Grand Teton National Park. As we neared the first pull out the sight of a huge bear jam greeted us. Not surprising as it was a holiday weekend, but it forced us to park half a mile away from the bears.
Didn’t matter as we both needed the exercise and we soon joined the crowd of photographers watching a sow grizzly and her two-year-old cubs. We listened to the ranger as she told us it was bear 793 and her cubs. The sow has been given the name Blondie by her fans, but the park service only refers bears to their tag number.
The ranger also mentioned that bear 610, which had been missing for a year had been reported and confirmed in a recent sighting. If true it means that the sow had not been shot by a hunter as rumored by a local newspaper.
We watched as the bears grazed on the new grass. They finally decided to cross the road and the sow had a talk with the cubs before she returned to grazing.
The cubs choose to frolic in the snow, as they wrestled in mock combat.
The mother bear finished eating and looking at the stopped cars, the rangers blocked the traffic both ways, she crossed the road. This of course raises the old question, “Why did the bear cross the road”?
After she made it across both the cubs followed and they all disappeared into the trees.
It had been an entertaining hour and a half as we had watched the bears. So, we next headed south to Willow Flats. Its another of our favorite areas to spot a bear as it’s a place where cow elk congregate to calve.
While there were quite a few elk there didn’t appear to be any bears.
Returning up Towgotee Pass, we saw a fox that was busy hunting mice in a patch of grass and sagebrush. We did not see any more bears, regardless of that we were happy that we had seen four bears in one day, which is a great day for us. Clear skies