Monday, June 29, 2015

Alpine Mountain Days, 2015, Hot, Hot, Hot

The Alpine Mountain Days celebration had finally arrived!  Loading up our tent, tables and displays we headed to town on Thursday and set up our vender’s tent. The Alpine show is one of six shows we do each year, and last year we had enjoyed the new friends we met and people that stopped by. Many complimented our work and some gave us another form of a compliment by buying our work!
The first day arrived and started out slow, really slow. Some of the other venders groused about this and that, nothing different here as venders usually grouse, but the temperature reached ninety one degrees.
Between that and the slow sales we were a bit worried as, for us anyway, it’s a numbers game with more people meaning more sales. Still we are fishermen and so we are optimists. We did have some sales and several people mentioned they would return, but they rarely do and it’s a way they can be kind without buying.
It was so hot that three people were taken by ambulance, but we fell into our old hiking rolls of being water buddies. In others words we checked on each other all day and made sure we were staying hydrated. There was little wind but the tent canopy’s shade made a huge difference and we stayed comfortable.
Saturday arrived and we even had sales as we were trying to set up. That, of course was fine, and the number of people stopping by stayed steady all morning. The celebration also included a triathlon, mountain man events, and an air show was for later in the day.
As the day wore on the temperature increased to ninety six, but again we hydrated, hydrated, and hydrated! Molly did her best to attract customers and kept cool by staying in the shade and on the thick cool grass. She wagged her tail as people walked by and of course they stopped to pet her.
Renita pointed out an airplane performing acrobatics and three jets thundered overhead. One a Russian MIg, (privately owned so don’t go into your bunkers yet doomsday preppers), caused a sonic boom. Some people rushed out, looking for a plane wreck, and I am sure the elk, deer, mountain goats and all the wildlife jumped out of their skin.
The day ended and we went back to air conditioning. Renita added our totals and we had had our best day ever! With Sunday usually slow, we had already reached our goal for the show. Now if it would only cool off a little!
Sunday was another hot day temperature wise, but at least it was a short day. Not as many people attended but we did actually sell a pair of Wyoming green jade earrings to a Chinese tourist. I had read an article that they won’t pay the full price without haggling and sure enough I had a long and difficult sale. At one point the husband pointed out that our stone was junk. I then explained to them that Wyoming nephrite jade was better than the jadeite being used in China, (it probably didn’t help much). Still we made the sale after they left when the wife came back without her husband to buy the earrings.
The show finally ended and we were happy with the results. We had met two other rock hounds and they are going to come over to watch me show them how to I finish rocks on our Genie cabochon machine. Now if we don’t spend all of our profits on more rocks…….LOL.

Clear skies

Monday, June 22, 2015

Fathers Day: 2015

I had a pretty simple but really nice day yesterday. The weather here has been beautiful and our son Matt came over/around the mountain. We played eighteen holes together and its a good thing he doesn't play often or he would beat me badly,( he prefers tennis).
I also got a nice text from his wife Patty, who was busy studying for her clinical and a nice chat with our daughter Jenny who has just started her training in ICU, and is also working on her masters pursuing a degree as a nurse practitioner. Everyone is happy and smiling, how could a father ask for more?
Renita and I were also busy, busy, busy, with pickle ball and jewelry making. Our set up for the Alpine show is this Thursday. The forecast here is for clear skies and warm weather.  Last night the planets Jupiter and Venus lined up for a beautiful conjunction with the crescent moon over the Caribou Mountains. Hope your Fathers Day was also blessed. Clear skies

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Busy, Busy in Star Valley

It doesn't seem possible that we have gone a week without a blog update/post. Its not that we haven't been doing anything its just that we haven't taken many images. Our week has been busy trying to improve our pickle ball skills, getting ready for the Alpine Days Mountain Show, and even doing a little golfing.
We have also tried to do some birding, A great horned owl raised owlets on the golf course and on our way to Thayne we saw several people staring at a large cottonwood tree. Stopping to ask what they were seeing they pointed out the owl and her owlets. Unfortunately we didn't have a camera and so we returned the next day only to find a dead owlet alongside the road.
Don't know what killed it, a car or perhaps the falcon that has been hunting just down the road. I like to think it was the falcon as there wasn't much left of the body just a mass of feathers. Of course it could have been fed on by the vixen and her kits that are also just down the road. I don't know of many scavengers that will pass up a free meal.
We did drive to Alpine to deliver some more jewelry at the art shop, Raven Lunatics, and on the way back home we saw a huge flock of American White Pelicans . They were gathered at the mouth of the Salt River, whee it enters Pallisades Reservoir and there has to be a reason for the gathering. They should already be nesting so perhaps the high water, (all the rivers are high and muddy), has concentrated the fish for easy pickings.
Otherwise its been pickle ball mania as we have tried to improve our game. Lots of the players here are really good and so we have been given lessons and advice, lots of much needed advice. I wish my golf game was more consistent as I played the men's league and was doing pretty good till the last three holes.
On hole eighteen I scored a thirteen as I put two balls into the small pond that guards the green. Oh well, lets forget that and concentrate on the four pars I did make. I haven't played golf since last summer and it sure shows, ( I did play in Florida but I injured my foot and so that game doesn't count).
At least the rains have stopped and the snow on the mountain tops are melting. Its going to be a while before we can safely kayak the local rivers and the Snake itself, well that isn't going to happen, The local newspaper did have an article on how to keep from drowning when encountering a strainer, (which is a name for a log that wants to sweep you underneath it). Anyway its going to be a while before we venture out. Clear skies

Friday, June 5, 2015

Yellowstone June 1st, 2015

Success at last! We have been privileged to be in the right place at the right time. A wolf was feeding on a fresh bison calf kill. It was about five hundred yards away, across the Lamar River, but our binoculars allowed us to see the blood on the face of the wolf.
We woke up and got a little earlier start, about eight am. It was our last day in Yellowstone and so we had to decide where to go.  Starting off we first traveled over the Dunraven Pass. Stopping to glass the mountain meadows we saw elk and bison, but not as many as the day before.
The black bear near Tower Falls was nowhere to be seen and so we turned west towards Mammoth and its hot springs. Another wildlife watcher told us he had saw bears along that road and so we both scanned the valleys and trees as Renita drove.
Stopping at the petrified wood site we read that there used to be three petrified logs but two had disappeared to souvenir hunters. Still it was a nice petrified redwood trunk and who knows how many more are buried on the hillside.
Driving further we passed a nice meadow but the pull off was crowded with people waiting for bears or wolves to appear. There wasn’t any room for our rig and simply pulling off the road is not allowed and is a ticket able offense.
Reaching Mammoth and the park Headquarters we took some time to study the exhibits in the small museum. Returning to the truck we talked about our options. Should we continue on the loop road or should we retrace our steps, driving back to Tower Junction and then head back down the Lamar River Valley?
It was only a couple of miles back towards the junction when a coyote crossed the road before pausing to give us a photo opportunity. Several elk were feeding in a stand of big sagebrush, so named because the sagebrush is so tall that the elk can actually be hidden in the sage stand.
Crossing the damaged Lamar bride, we passed the site where the sow and cubs had put on yesterday’s show and drove past a possible bear jam but there was no place to park. Renita slowed but neither one of us could see what the people were pointing at.
We drove past Soda Creek and a large group of watchers and again there were no parking spaces. Besides the people were all visiting and so whatever they were looking for wasn’t there or at least was hidden from view.
Driving up to the Pebble Creek Trailhead we saw a group with their spotting scope out and they kindly let us look at the Mountain Goats on the distant cliffs. Now I had purchased a Celestron c90 telescope for just such an opportunity but when I got it out the tripod had broken. I was still able to hold it in my arms and get a good view of the goats but it wasn’t something I could share.
I felt stupid as I knew better then to rely on a cheap tripod, after all a scope is only as good as its base. It’s something I knew from thirty plus years of using telescopes during my stint as an astronomy teacher.
A lady at Pebble Creek asked if we had seen the wolf feeding on a bison kill and so we quickly loaded our gear and returned back up the Lamar. A large group of vehicles were still parked in the same spot and luckily a car pulled out ahead of us letting us into a nice level gravel space.
One of the wolf watchers told us that the bison calf had been killed by three grizzlies and that he actually had caught the kill with his cameras. Renita quickly spotted the kill, dah look for a large number of ravens, and there on top of it stood a wolf.
We watched for quite a while as the wolf tore, ripped, and then swallowed large chunks of meat and gristle. Finally reaching its limit it walked off before regurgitating some of its meal which it then tried to force down again. It wandered further off and laid down while the ravens feasted. A golden eagle fed a bit and then a coyote took its turn on the feast. The ravens continued to bide their time and returned to the kill as soon as the others left.

Many of the people were waiting for the bears to return and reclaim their kill, but we decided we needed to return back to our camp. It was getting late and it had been a great day, and to see a wolf actually feeding on a kill, well it’s the first time we have ever seen that happen.

The next day we would leave for Star Valley. Our check list was almost complete. With the wolf added we had seen grizzly and black bears, bison, elk, mountain goats, coyotes, a golden eagle, blacktail deer, and antelope, ( I know I am leaving out much more). The trip was a success and we already are planning on a return next year! Clear skies

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Yellowstone May 31st, 2015, Looking for Bears

It rained most of the night and so we didn’t get off to an early start. Finally we left camp about nine am and headed for Dunraven Pass and the Lamar Valley. Pulling over often, we scanned the mountainsides with binoculars looking for any signs of life but to no avail.
Crossing the pass we headed down towards Tower Falls. The open mountain meadows were alive with elk and bison. The view was so incredible that we talked off simply sitting there and hoping a bear or wolf would appear but instead we continued on.
At one of the turnoffs a group of overseas visitors, German or Austrian perhaps, showed us the image they had just taken when a wolf appeared behind them and seemed to pose as if to say hello. Lots of the viewing here depends on being lucky and the wolf had already disappeared.
As we neared Tower Falls a bear jam was in progress and there was no place to park our rig. A ranger was directing traffic and waved us past but Renita was able to snap two great images of the bear! It was the backside, but it was close and she took the images with our small camera.
Reaching Tower Junction we turned toward the Lamar Valley, which is perhaps the best place to view wildlife. We had to slow down to cross the bridge, as it has separated from the east side of the cliff and the gap has been spanned with a metal plate. The bridge looks like it could collapse any second.
A few miles further and another bear jam. At least here we were able to find a parking spot and hike back for some great images of another black bear, this one a sow with two new cubs. The bear family put on a great show and it was really cute to see the cubs peering over logs as they tried to figure out all the tourists.
The biggest danger in a bear jam is watching the people driving by and avoiding getting run over. Our next stop was at Slough Creek, where in 2008, we had watched a wolf pack den and had actually spotted a wolf. While the den site had been used last year it appeared abandoned but we still had a wildlife moment as a yellow headed blackbird posed for the camera.
Reaching the Lamar Valley we passed herds of buffalo, elk, and antelope, all grazing quietly as if they were no bears or wolves anywhere in the vicinity. The bison calves were snoozing as their moms grazed in a circle around them. Renita spotted a pair of bison twins asleep with one having a leg over the other.
We drove and stopped and drove and stopped, scanning the fields and mountains.  After parking at the Pebble Creek trailhead, we looked for mountain goats on the cliffs perched high above the valley floor. Another wildlife admirer told us he hadn’t seen the goats all day and we didn’t either, did I say that there is a bit of luck involved?

We still glassed the area but we finally gave up and headed up the valley and back to our camp at Canyon Village. The day had been good as we saw four black bears and lots and lots of buffalo, (the herd here has grown from fifty animals to about three thousand,). As we crawled into our sleeping bags we still hadn’t decided where to go on the next day’s wildlife hunt. Should we go to Mammoth and then drive the loop or should we return to the Lamar Valley? Clear skies

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Yellowstone May 30, 2015, Day 1

So many people we talk to never see any bears in Yellowstone. The main reason they don’t is that they visit the park at the wrong time of the year. Right now, late May, is the time to be here as the bears with cubs are along the parkway roads crowded in the low country by the snow. Another reason they are there is because they use the tourists presence to deter any attacks by the boars, (male bears kill cubs to bring the female into heat).
As we are only one hundred twenty miles from the park from the park, we loaded the camper and headed out in search of bears and maybe even a wolf. Our route was about as scenic as a trip can get. First we drove though Star Valley, which is between two mountain ranges and then through Grand Teton National Park. 
The next leg was through the Rockefeller Memorial Highway and then into Yellowstone itself. Stopping along Yellowstone Lake we had a cold and windy picnic before heading further toward our campground.
Our route took us through the Hayden Valley, where we had watched, (eight years ago), a sow grizzly with cubs feed on roots and grass. As we drove we passed buffalo herds before Renita spotted the bear jam ahead! Sure enough a grizzly bear was feeding in almost the exact same spot!
Finding a parking spot about a quarter mile away we grabbed the cameras and walked back to join the crowd. The bear was about as close as you want one to be, several hundred yards away, and as it feed it headed away from us but we still got to take a few images as it stopped and dug.
In one of the images you can see a raven following the bear and that’s a tip to finding bears and wolves. Watch for ravens as they follow the predators hoping for spoils after a kill!  Always watch the ravens and especially look for a flock on the ground as it may be a kill site.
After watching the bear, it final crossed a ridge and disappeared from view. Walking back to the truck we quickly arrived at Canyon Campground and set up for the night. The campground itself is nestled in a Lodgepole forest. Setting up camp we talked of the next day’s plans, a trip into the Lamar Valley. There we really hoped to see a wolf if we could only get lucky!

Our furnace didn’t work properly and so we crawled into our new sleeping bags and prepared for a cold night! End of Part One.  Clear skies