Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Pickleball, Sunsets, and A Penumbra Eclipse

We decided to go play pickle ball and went down to find the courts half full. There are special rules here, the main one being that you should play with your own partner and so Renita and I played three games against the same twosome. We got beat all three games, but the players were fairly good, and it was the only time we have played since last August.
Taking a water and rest break, I walked around the area to keep my steps up and promptly rolled my left ankle as I had been on a steep edge and it gave way. I rolled onto the gravel besides the concrete and was lucky missed the concrete. Back home we did the ICE treatment, (ice, compress, and elevate), and later decided to go see my doctor.
After x-rays, I found out that it was a moderate strain with no broken bones, but they did discover I had rheumatoid arthritis, bone spurs, a bone chip.  That pretty much wrapped up the exercise program. Besides the Ice treatment, the doctor told me to take naproxen sodium, and that evening I broke into a rash.
I stopped taking the pain pills but the next night the rash reappeared and spread all over my body. Concerned about a drug reaction we took off and went to the emergency room, eighteen miles away.
The service was prompt, but the doctor said that we may never find out what cuased my allergic reaction. She also prescribed a steroid, and we returned home. Now we are trying to figure out what is causing the hives.
So, the rest of the week was uneventful, besides reading books, we watched sunsets and listened to fireworks. The sunsets are especially pretty as smoke from fires in Utah are causing a reddish color. Renita took some images of the sunsets.
On the fourth of July we stayed home, and, in the evening, we walked down to the east side of the park to watch some fireworks and to try to take some images of the penumbra eclipse of the moon. The fire works were nice but very few and the moon rose, while eclipsed, over the Salt Mountains.
Having hosted numerous star parties, comet watches, and lunar eclipses, and traveled to two solar eclipses, I knew that penumbra eclipses are usual pretty mediocre and this one was its usual disappointment. It was ok as the moon slightly darkened. Turn your flashlight on an object to see its shadow. Your will also notice a lighter area around the shadow and that was what the moon was passing through, (I used the wrong lens and the image is overexposed).
It has now been a week since my accident and the ankle is improving but still needs to be placed in a brace that the doctor gave me. We hope to go fishing, camping, and rock hounding next week, but it will all depend on how my ankle is doing. Clear skies

Monday, June 29, 2020

Our first Day of Fly Fishing and another Trip to the Park

I watched Renita cast and as her fly drifted through the hole. A huge Bonneville cutthroat trout rose and inhaled the fly. She set the hook and the fish started downstream, as large trout often do. Before she could chase it the five-pound test leader snapped, the fish was gone, and she now had a great fish story to tell of the big one that got away.
A cattle drive was going on as we reached our parking spot on the stream. We had decided to take a break from bear watching and instead go fish one of our favorite streams. Arriving we saw a truck from Nevada parked at the lot and sure enough another fly fisherman had beaten us to the spot. Its never good to follow a good fisherman as they can work the holes so thoroughly that the fish are spooked.
Walking downstream I cast to several spots and nothing rose. They were good spots and they must have been fished. Renita and I took turns fishing spots and finally I caught a small cutthroat. She missed several as she was having problems keeping her line tight enough to set the hook and so I watched her and gave her advice on how to mend and strip her fly line.
The other fisherman left, we had kept a social distance of a hundred yards, and we headed upstream hoping to get past where he/she had been fishing. Fishing places where there were not any boot prints, we started to catch fish and in one place caught three trout at the tail of a large hole.
It was a good day and returning to the car we drove to the Salt Pass where we stopped to have lunch before returning home. It rained for the next two days and so we stayed home waiting for a break in the weather.
The rain finally stopped, a friend had remarked that we had move to Seattle, and we decided to make another trip to the Grand Teton National Park. Driving to our usual spots, we stopped to glass the forest and the meadows but only spotted a few elk.
The bears were elusive, and we hit spot after spot without seeing anything. After stopping for lunch at a picnic area we turned back south and suddenly we both spotted a two large Trumpeter swans walking along the road. We had to stop to keep from running them over and the reason for the daring road crossing was that they were escorting their brood of signets.
Renita managed to get a close shot of the birds and we drove on. The rest of the day was lots of pretty scenery. We drove to String and Jenny Lakes, but the parking lots were so full that we could not find any place to park. The park is getting busy and on the way home, we decided to take a break from bear watching till the berries ripen in the fall.
It had been a good week, fishing, swans, and we even played a couple of games of pickleball, (we lost both games, but we played surprisingly good for not picking up a paddle in nine months). Our friends George and Val are returning today, they have been haying, and we hope they bring a change of weather with them.
Normally we would be participating in shows now but the shows have all been canceled. We do keep social distance and always wear masks when we do have to go into a grocery store or do anything where we are near people. Because of the increase in covid cases in our state new rules are coming out. There are few who wear masks here and we see people hugging and forming large groups. Fools all. Clear skies

Monday, June 22, 2020

Eight Bears in a Day, Part 2 continued

Part 2 continued..........People had started to leave, and we hurried back to our car as others had told us that bear 399 and her four cubs were on the south side of the Snake River and were trying to cross. Turning into the dam parking lot, on the same side as willow flats, we found a parking spot and hurried to the river.
We could see a group of people standing near the gauging station, and as soon as we reached it, we could see the sow, bear 399, feeding in a clearing. Bear 399 is the most photographed grizzly bear ever and at twenty fours years of age had surprised everyone when she emerged from her den with four coys, (a coy is a cub of the year).
Several of her cubs appeared in the tall grass and we did not get any really good images. They all headed downstream and we joined a group of about thirty people all with binoculars and cameras ready. The first cub appeared and then all four.
The mother bear came around the bushes and walked to the river’s edge. Would be lucky enough to see them cross?
She looked at her cubs and we could see her mouth moving. They all looked at her. Pay attention to your mother, and she waded into the stream and begin to swim.
They all watched her as she reached midstream but none entered the water. Turning around she swam back to them.
Our friend Fred later told us, he heard her huffing and even barking at the cubs, trying to encourage them into swimming with her.
One of the cubs entered the water but then waded back to shore. She could not get them to join her and se she climbed out of the water and led them downstream. She was headed to a meander and we could see that the river was narrower, so we walked back to our car.
Driving back to willow flats we drove parking further downstream we waited and hoped that the bears would reappear. A high bank was across from us and we could see that there was a hidden depression. Up popped a cub and then another and another. All four cubs were watching us and then mamma bears huge head appeared!

She led them down to the water before standing up to look at all the people. Deciding it was not safe she first headed downstream before turning around and looking for another crossing further upstream.
The bears went behind some trees and never did cross that day. We had been blessed with seeing eight grizzly bears and watching the hue sow swimming part way across the river, (the next day a photographer posted pictures of the four cubs easily swimming across the river, where mom had been watching their progress).
Later we stopped and took a walk along the Moose Wilson road and saw our first moose of the year, a young bull.
This was a once in a lifetime day, without a doubt our best bear day ever! Clear skies

Sunday, June 21, 2020

Eight Grizzly Bears in One Day, Our Best Bear watching day Ever, (Part 1)

It had been a busy week and we still planned on taking a day to travel back to Grand Teton National Park. We had still not yet spied bear 399 and her four cubs but we did hear that the bears were in an area near the Potholes, (small depressions that formed when the buried glacial ice had melted). The bears had been quite a way away, so we took our small telescope along, (a Celestron C90).
Entering the park, we drove past Lupine Meadows and when we reached the Potholes turnoff, we saw that there were no parked vehicles! Obviously, the bears were not there and so we continued on and upon crossing the Jackson Lake Dam, we saw the huge bear jam along both sides of the highway.
Volunteers were directing traffic and as there were no places to park Renita got ready with her camera and binoculars and I stopped for a few seconds so she could hop out. I drove past the line of parked cars and parking at the end got my camera out before walking briskly back to find the bear. I quickly spotted an adult grizzly in a willow clearing and took a picture before continuing on to the no stopping area.
It was not long before a yearling grizzly bear came out from a clump of willows and stood up looking at all the people. It went back into the brush and I finally spotted Renita. Motioning her to me, she had just arrived when the young bear appeared and shortly after her sow, (mom), bear 610), joined her cub.

She grazed and headed toward the road and the third bear; her other cub joined them.
They grazed toward some bushes and I was able to get more images. The rangers shut down the road as the bears were getting ready to cross and of course a truck stopped blocking our view.
However, the female, 610 reached the other lane and then stopped as her two yearlings were hesitant because of all the people.
She recrossed the road and encouraged them to follow here and I finally got a view of all three bears as they reached the ditch and disappeared into the thick willows. End of Part 1

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Grizzly Bears!

We usually have mixed success looking for bears in the month of June. By June, the bears are actively hunting elk calves. The calves and their mothers are hiding in the willows and so the bears are only spotted when they are cross an opening. When they make a kill, they feed and cache it and are harder to spot.
So, we hoped to see bear 399 and her cubs but most of the day we had to resign ourselves to the beautiful scenery and the numerous spring flowers, tough huh? Arrow Leaf balsam root was everywhere along with lupine.
Other red and smaller yellow flowers were also blooming but in spite of our flower classes and excellent instructor, (sorry Paul Lussow you tried so hard), we were unable to name them. It is reported that Niels Bohr once stated that if he had a better memory, he would have been a botanist.
Our first stop was at Pilgrim Creek, next Willow Flats, followed by the boat landing at the Oxbows, and last the trailhead at Two Ocean Lake without seeing any bears. In fact, the elk were hiding so good that we couldn’t see any elk, even at Willow Flats. Deciding to drive back to Sargent Picnic area Renita spotted a coyote but when we turned around it was too late; the coyote had disappeared into the woods.
Turning around again we saw two cars parked along Leeks Marina Road. A lady was pointing into the woods. Renita decided to turn around and we spotted the bears. They were moving through the trees and were barely visible.
Luckily, they stopped in an open space and even though they were a couple of hundred yards away we were able to take a bunch of images.
They moved into the trees again and they reappeared in another opening. It was than that I looked at my camera and saw I had it set for close up on flowers. Changing the settings and setting the camera on manual focus I got a couple of images as the crossed the meadow and then moved back into the trees.
We relaxed as we had finally got some great images of the two sub adult grizzlies, (they are three years old and have just been kicked out by their mother, (we are not sure if their mom was 693 or 610). It seems like everyone we talk too has their own opinion and opinions are like noses, everyone has one.
The drive home was anticlimactic but it was still beautiful as we drove along the Snake River down Snake River Canyon, (the Shoshone name for it is Mad River). We have now seen bears three out of four trips to the Tetons and we plan on returning as soon as we can!  Clear skies

Friday, June 12, 2020

Spending our Anniversary at the Grays Lake National Wildlife Refuge

Every once in a while, you find moments where you forget all your worries and life is so beautiful that all that matters is the moment. Renita and I were both in that moment as we were surrounded by a calliope of sights and sounds that filled our senses.
We were standing on a gravel road in eastern Idaho, surrounded by water and reeds and yellow headed blackbirds were calling to each other and their mates.
White faced ibis flew and landed displaying their iridescent wings and sporting beaks and legs with purple flashes of color.

American avocets waded and one even posed near us, unconcerned about our nearness.
It looked at us as it wondered what we were doing there, this was its marsh, it’s home.
A Wilsons phalarope swam by, but we kept watching the white-faced ibis with their beautiful colors. Renita said that the colors reminded her of the ink pen shells we find on the Gulf Coast beaches and we wondered if the feathers were grown from similar colors and materials….
It was our forty ninth anniversary and we had both decided that we would go birding to the Grays Lake National Wildlife refuge. It’s a short fifty miles away and we reach it by driving to Freedom, Wyoming before crossing into Idaho and then following Tin Cup, a meandering stream, until we reach the refuge.
Spring is the best time to be here and this is the first time we spotted sandhill cranes sitting on their nests. The ever-present ravens flew by along with a Harris hawk, (one time in the fall, we had seen a family of Harris hawks hunt together).
First stopping at the overlook, we continued our drive north passing a small marsh where a mallard pair swam away concerned but not enough to fly away.

We passed so may cranes and they were so near the road, for the most part feeding.
Our favorite part of the drive is when we reach the flooded marshes on both sides of the road. There time seemed to stand still.  Driving on we turned left at the first intersection and the road continued on to the south.  The land rose and we were now above the marsh allowing us to see the flooded areas below us.
Just before reaching the highway we crossed an irrigation ditch where the refuges water flows to a reservoir. All the water out west is claimed, but luckily some water was reserved for the refuge.
From there we turned east on the highway and we headed home, but the trip wasn’t over, and we stopped for a picnic at a small National Forest campground. Perhaps next year we will travel to a place we have never been, but that’s next year. 
Today we were at one of our favorite places. Clear skies