Sunday, May 29, 2016

Looking for Morels, Still Looking

I was extremely lucky growing up. My dad was an outstanding woodsman and he took us along when he hunted for springtime morels. He also taught us many of the plants and so we also picked wild leeks, enjoyed the beauty of jack in the pulpits, and savored the smell of Northeast Iowa's forests.
When we moved out to Wyoming I approached the wild places the same way, always hoping to find out what was and what wasn't available as I walked the mountain trails, (the ruffed grouse has nothing to do with the mushroom hunt but was an added bonus and Renita spotted it).
Yarrow root was quite tasty and reminded me of wild leeks but it is also sometimes confused with death camas. Hint, anytime the word death is used in a plants name don't pick or eat it. I also found death angels, a wild and poisonous mushroom. However I did occasionally find wild morels in eastern Wyoming, a real spring time treat.
So I decided to make an effort this year to find some morels. The first day we headed up the Grey's River Road. Stopping at each pull off we climbed in elevation until we reached the Little Grey. There we headed east but we never did find any tasty morsels. Part of the fun of hiking in the spring time is to find treasures and I did find a large femur, from possibly a moose or large bull, I hope its a moose.
We did see spring lilies and lots of service berry plants, all full of blossoms, so hopefully this August we can pack and can jars of delicious jam and jellies. There was quite a bit of snow and so it seemed to us to be too early.
Another day we went into the park looking for bears. We didn't find any but I did check out some dead trees and did find what I thought at first were morels. However when I picked one I discovered it had a detached cap and the inside was filled with a cotton like substance.
Now some people do cook false morels and boil them first in an attempt to get rid of the poisonous toxins. I don't like the idea of boiling first. Furthermore the toxin has a cumulative effect and so if you don't get it all out you eventually get sick and die.
So I left the false morels and hope to contiue the great hunt today. If I can only find a few I can saute them and add them as a sidedish and I will truely have a gourmet meal, did I say they are selling here for thirty five dollars a pound? Thank you Dad for all the times you took us along! We were truely blessed! Clear skies

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Bear 610 and Her Cubs, Grand Teton National Park

We had heard that the bears were out including one of the most famous, bear 399, (google). The number refers to the tag number on the animal but the reason she is so famous is because she inhabits an area where she and her cubs are often spotted. She is one of the most photographed bears in Grand Teton National Park.
So when we hard she was in the Two Ocean Lake area, along Pacific Creek, George and Val joined us and we headed to Grand Teton National Park. The park is fifty miles away but due to the highway construction it took us almost two hours to reach Two Ocean Lake.
Driving up the dirt and gravel road, thankfully dry, we stopped to glass large meadows. Having been told that the bears were hunting elk calves we expected to see elk in the area and Renita spotted a small herd of cow elk along Pacific Creek.
Reaching the trail head we stopped for a picnic lunch. Another car arrived and the driver asked us if we had seen any bears. We told him we hadn’t and he told us that bear 610, (google), a sow with two yearling cubs had been entertaining everyone at Willow Flats.
It didn’t take us very long to load up and head down the road to the Willow Flats area. Arriving we drove by rangers who had put out orange cones to block foolish tourists and keep the bears safe However the bears had moved into the dense willows and so we drove to a parking area nearer the dam.
Asking if the bears were still there a man nicely told us that the bears were moving our way and sure enough George spotted the sow and both cubs as they moved through a small meadow, (no surprise as George has hunted elf for fifty years and has made numerous trips to Alaska). By the time I got my camera ready they were already behind a big willow but shortly after they reappeared in another grassy patch.
They were several hundred yards away and so we used the 300 mm lens to take image after image as the sow and then the cubs mover out of sight. We repositioned ourselves further west but the bears didn’t oblige us by reappearing.
The willows were full of cow elk easily spotted by their white rumps. It was no wonder the bears were there as prey was plentiful! Talking with another man we were told that another bear had surprised a family eating lunch along String Lake.

As the sow and her cubs hadn’t reappeared we drove to String Lake but only spotted cow elk. Still it had been a successful outing as we had spotted three grizzlies. Bear 610, who is a daughter of bear 399 promises to provide lots of sightings in the future. We have spotted black bear in the Tetons but it is the first time, other than Yellowstone and Alaska, that we have seen a grizzly mom with her cubs. Clear skies

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

From Casper to Star Valley, A Long Day, Fraud at the Cokeville Pilot Station

We left Casper early, eight am, and headed for our base camp in Star Valley. Its a very long drive for us, about four hundred miles and along the way we had to cross two mountain passes. Once there we plan on spending most of the summer fly fishing, working rocks, playing pickel ball, and watching Wyoming wildlife.
It's an easy drive to Lander, Wyoming before your start over South Pass. That is a short but steep ascent over the southern Wind River Mountains. I forgot to put tow hall on and so I heated up and we had to pull over to cool down. Renita and I took turns rock hounding but we didn't find any more rocks so we made it over the pass.
Once over we  made the easy descent into the Red Desert. Reaching Farson we decided to take the less traveled route to Kemmerer. We didn't see any wild horses, the BLM conducted a large roundup last year, but there was lots of standing water so the horses could be anywhere.
From Kemmerer we turned north to Cokeville. There we stopped for diesel at the Pilot station. I inserted my debit card and the purchase was declined, so Renita went in to pay. When she came out she said her phone had pinged but neither one of us could get a signal to call the bank.
Driving to Salt Pass we skirted Salt Creek. Its one of our favorite streams to fly fish but it was high and muddy. Stopping at the pass, its only seven thousand feet. we had out kayaks checked by the Wyoming Boat inspector, they stop all boats in an attempt to stop the zebra mussel, before heading to our place at Star Valley Rv Resort.
Upon arrival we got a message from our bank that a five hundred dollar purchase had been declined by our bank. It had happened as fast as I had swiped the card, three minutes before Renita used the same card on the inside to pay for the fuel.
Calling our bank we went through all of our purchases for the past month and luckily the only fraud was the attempted theft in Cokeville. So we are waiting for a new card to be mailed to our mail forwarding service and then mailed to here. As we say in Wyoming, hanging is too good an option for anyone who tries to scam retired people. Right now placing such scum as bear or wolf bait seems more in line.
On second thought they would probably cause the bear or wolves indigestion. It';s good to be home. Clear skies

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Carrie Underwood and The #StoryBook Tour

After arriving in Casper, we set up, scanned the channels, and while watching the news saw that Carrie Underwood was performing at the Events Center. What was really amazing was that they still had tickets available, (this area of Wyoming is in a bust). I knew that she was one of Renita's favorites and so she went on line and actually found us both tickets for less then sixty bucks!

Taking along a pair of binoculars we were really surprised to find out that we were only about ninety feet form the stage! The place filled up, (Wyoming has such a small population that we saw two people we actually knew), the lights went out and then the music started with the opening act. The Swon Brothers had just been on the Voice last year and they definitely had good ones. Still people were coming in and I wondered if they didn't know how to tell time or perhaps they had driven from out of town.
We enjoyed the Swon Brothers and they were followed by another contestant from the Voice, Easton Corbin.  He also entertained the crowd and  he really has a great voice. No wonder he went so far on that show. I am always amazed at a really great singer, jealous really as I kind of sound like a frog, (that's why I played in band for eight years). Those years in band did make me really appreciate the great musicians that accompanied all three of the performers.
Finally the lights went out and Carrie Underwood opened her act riding a lift up onto the stage. She started to sing and she is probably the best vocalist I have ever heard! The stage was built in the round and so she sang some of the songs right in front of us. We didn't need the binoculars!
As each set ended the lights would dim and the band would play while she disappeared. As the song ended she would then reappear for the next set in a new costume.We both enjoyed the seamless transition from set to set and the choreography of the music and light displays, simply it was the best we have ever seen!
Set after set played and when she sang the song, "I will always love you", Renita cried. To hear such a great voice, to be moved by the energy of the performers, made it a night that we both will remember! Thank you Carrie Underwood! Clear skies

Monday, May 9, 2016

Rapid City, Friends, Teepee Canyon Agates, and Golf

From York we drove to Ogallala, Nebraska. It was an easy drive and we stopped in time for a quick trip to the Petrified Wood Art Museum and Gallery. The main reason for the stop was to study the unique music boxes made from blocks cut and shaped from petrified wood. I tried to make one this winter and as most projects it left a lot to be desired.
The next morning we hooked up for a long days drive to Rapid City, South Dakota. There we would meet up with our friends Bob and Nancy Bentley who had retired this year and moved to Rapid City. I taught with Bob in our Science Department and Nancy had just retired from her position as a Junior High Counselor.
Last year we had made the trip to the Black Hills hoping to hunt for the rare Teepee Canyon agate. Unfortunately a late spring winter storm dashed our plans shutting down the area and covering the rocks with a heavy snow.
This year warm weather allowed us to head out for Teepee Canyon and Bob and Nancy joined us for a day of agate hunting. The hardest thing about agate hunting is that most people have no idea what they are looking for but after a few hours Bob and Nancy both found great agates!
The next day Bob and I went golfing at a course right next to their new apartment and Bob gave me some much appreciated lessons. He was a golf coach at our high school, and had three teams that won state championships. Taking on a harder task he taught me how to play golf and he gave me pointers as we walked eighteen holes, (your hitting the ball straight but you are aiming to the right).
I didn't set the course on fire but I did have three pars and I was pretty happy with that as I haven't picked up a golf club since last July. When I took up golf  Bob told me to just have fun and try to play bogey golf. The idea is to enjoy each day and to smile when I hit a nice tree, and I hit several.
We also spent several days looking for clothes for our daughters August wedding, but to no avail.
The wedding theme is for a nineteen twenties wedding and I don't like the zoot suit gangster look. I also don't want a flimsy Halloween costume so the search continues. I will probably be forced to buy something online, hoping it will fit my expanded waist.
We had a great time in the Black Hills and now Star Valley beckons so today we are going to hook up and drive to Casper, Wyoming. There we plan on spending several days as winds of forty plus miles per hour are forecast and I don't drive in such conditions. Thursday the winds should abate and then we are going to try to make it to our summer base camp/home. Clear skies

Sunday, May 1, 2016

The University of Nebraska State Museum, Lincoln Nebraska

We extended our stay here in York, Nebraska as a winter warning was issued for west of us. Here the forecast was for high wind and rain while up to eight inches of snow was supposed to fall in North Platte and Ogallala.
Luckily we are used to entertaining ourselves and so we decided to drive to Lincoln to visit the Nebraska State Museum at the University of Nebraska Morrell Hall. Its website said it had the most complete elephant fossil collection in the world.
After a short drive we actually found a parking place for our large truck. We kind of stuck out but what the heck surely the campus police will not write a ticket for visitors to the museum? In front of the place a huge Colombian Mammoth bronze cast sculpture demanded that we take a picture of it.
Entering we bought tickets and we climbed to the third floor to the mineral and rock exhibits. Lots of meteorites were on display along with many minerals we have in our collection. Still it was pretty cool to be able to study so many excellent specimens. The third floor also contained quite a few Jurassic specimens and dinosaur exhibits which always draw us in.
One exhibit was a huge dinosaur femur. It reminded me of the brontosaurus femur I had seen while doing my geology summer field work in Wyoming way back in 1973. That bone was still in situ, in place, and had just been discovered but not yet dug up.On the same floor a weapon display contained a beheading sword, a heavily jeweled Turkish flintlock pistol, and many native American atlalt points.
The next level was dominated by the elephant, mammoth, and mastodon skeletons. Many were of mastodons and mammoths we had never heard of. Mammoth teeth were in many of the displays and we marveled as we viewed  shoveler, four tuskers, and scooped mammoths. Of course there were the usual Woolly and Colombian mammoths.
Other displays showed different types of fossil rhinoceros, camels, extinct pronghorns, burrowing giant beaver fossil and casts. We both liked the giant armadillo fossil and we concentrated on studying the teeth as they are often found in the Peace River in Florida.
The lowest level had lots of exhibits of fossil fish, and one of my favorites a huge limestone slab made almost entirely of complete crinoid fossils. Called the lily of the sea they are actually an animal that was attached to the sea floor on a long pedestal, at the top of which the animal was crowned with multi armed segments that caught food as it flowed by.
The Museum really does have the best elephant mammoth, and mastadon displays we have seen, and for any fossil buff it ranks up there as one of the best we have visited. Now we can go back and look at our collection, adding to our stories we tell when people stop by our booths! Clear skies.