Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Alpine Mountain Days 2017

Each year we participate in six or seven shows, (we could do a show every weekend but that’s too much and would take away the fun). Some are indoors but the four shows we do in Wyoming are all outdoors, so hoping for clear weather, we paid the show fee and set up our tent, tables, and rock art at The Alpine Mountain Days in Alpine, Wyoming.
This is the fourth year we have sold our work at this show and of course we always want to do well. It’s a real test of the quality of our work, the ultimate test really as we are asking people to inspect, critique, and spend their hard-earned money.
It’s not like anyone needs our cabochons, jewelry, or knives to live on as they are not really one of the necessities of life, (all though some would argue this point). There is a second reason for doing shows and that is to meet other people who also love rock hounding.
The show is a good one for us but some days drag and at this show it’s Friday. The crowd was just a trickle as most people are working and this year Friday was a slow as we have ever seen. We did however meet a couple from Afton who showed up all decked out with beautiful rock art.!
Herbert told of his love of working fire agates and brought some of his stones. Now we do have some fire agate rough ourselves but we have spent very little time working it as it is extremely time consuming. This may sound funny to some but retirement is not a slow day to day existence and we simply don’t have enough time to do everything we love.
His work is some of the finest we have ever seen. He also told us of his technique of first tumbling the agates before selecting the best ones to work on. Carefully removing a very small piece of stone he grinds away each layer, knowing full well that the fire agate layer is extremely thin and that with one careless move he can destroy any beauty in the stone.
Saturday also started slow but then the deluge hit, and our booth was crowded with tourists and locals, many repeat customers. You never know what people will like, but they certainly loved our work and we had an extremely good day. We also meet quite a few people that live in our same rv resort, several of whom are rock hounds!
Sunday was another slow day with not many people, but we did still manage to have an ok day. Reaching our goal for the show, it closed at three in the afternoon and we closed tore down and packed our displays. We don’t have a lot to tear down, compared to many of the other venders, and so we were on our way home in less than an hour.
We don’t have another show till the Solar Eclipse, August 21st, so it’s time to get caught up on some rv repairs, (replacing the carpet and kitchen floor), fly fishing, and wildlife watching. We also time to work more stone, replace the pieces we sold. and especially work on more opal. Clear skies

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Grey's Lake Refuge, Father’s Day 2017

We took a day off from our busy schedule, (we are getting ready for Alpine Mountain Days, our first big show of the summer), and headed to Grey's Lake Wildlife Refuge. It was established to provide a refuge for sand hill cranes but also provides a place for the summers breeding season of other birds.
Each year seems to give us a different view of the refuge. This year, as we approached the refuge large flocks of white faced ibis dominated the sky. They were the bird of the year and we found them at many places along the side of the refuge roads.
Their iridescent plumage is especially bright during breeding season, along with the white face stripe, and so we stopped often to watch them feed and to try to take images of them in flight. Their long-curved bills and trailing legs make them so distinctive during their flight.
At another place, we also spotted two different looking birds, also with long curved beaks. They were brown colored and large waders which Renita quickly identified as long billed curlews. The long-billed curlews are having difficulties with habitat loss, but here they have a sanctuary.
Red tailed hawks soared above us and you really must marvel when you think about their fantastic eyesight that allows them to see prey from such a height. We never got close enough for a great image but our binoculars, we have Canon image stabilized ones, allow us to easily watch birds in flight.
At one point the road is surrounded by flooded marsh and that place is dominated by yellow headed blackbirds. Their golden fathered neck and head makes them so distinctive when compared to any other bird. In flight, you can easily see the white wing bands, along with the yellow head and shoulders.
Red wing blackbirds also are in the area and woe to you if you get to close to their nest as they will go into attack mode! Flocks of seagulls fed on insects above the marsh and there were places where the road had been repaired from this springs flooding.
We did see many sand hill cranes, and at one spot we saw two cow elk being shadowed by a pair of cranes. Another place on the road loop usually holds deer and we were rewarded to see a beautiful black tailed deer growing a massive set of antlers.
It had shed its winter coat and the bucks new summer coat glistened in the morning sun. The deer are in some aspens groves that mark the end of the road loop and too soon we reached the highway.
Stopping at a roadside campground we met a family form Ireland who mentioned that they had just driven from Las Vegas and loved the cool Idaho temperatures. Taking a short walk we enjoyed the spring flowers.
As we drove back to Star Valley, we noticed that a trout stream, Tin Cup, was clearing and would soon be fishable. Maybe this year we will buy an Idaho nonresident license. It sure gets expensive buying licenses in Florida, Texas, Louisiana, Colorado, and perhaps Idaho. I used to golf a lot so I just compare the cost verses the greens fees.

It was a beautiful day with lots of birds, wildlife, and mountains. After spending five months along the Gulf Coast, we do so love the mountains. Clear skies

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

The Chief Joseph Highway and The Buffalo Bill Center of the West

It was time to leave Yellowstone, and we had decided to go back to Star Valley by a different route. Never having driven the Chief Joseph Highway, (named for Chief Joseph and his band of fleeing Nez Pierce Indians), we first drove to Silver City and then turned onto the highway heading southwest to Cody.
Following the Shoshone river, we drove parallel to it’s beautiful and steep canyon. At one point in the drive, we passed a place where half the highway had collapsed into the abyss. A single lane was still open and so we could continue to Dead Indian Pass. This was named for the brave member of the band who, dying requested to be left behind.
Descending the pass, there is a forty-foot limit to vehicles, we finished the stunning drive to Cody, Wyoming. Just west of the city lies Buffalo Bill State Park and we could find a campsite for ten dollars a night, (it would have been twenty dollars for a nonresident. It was along the large reservoir and was dry camping, meaning no water or electricity).
It had been twenty years since we had last been to the Buffalo Bill Center of The West, and the next morning we returned to Cody. There are five museums at the center and of interest for us was the Firearms Museum and the Western Art Museum.
During college, I had worked a variety of jobs and at one point I worked for two years checkering gun stocks and forearms of various shotguns, (in that position I had also traveled to trap shoots, including the Grand National held at Vandalia, Ohio). The main interest at the museum was, for me anyway, to view inlays into the wood and metal inscribed receivers of the guns.
Inside the Museum we walked past beautiful artistic examples of such inlays. Often the artists had used ivory, colorful rosewoods, and ebony to name just a few. They had also carved and added many different figures made of gold silver, and even platinum, (one of the problems with such inlays was that they had to be able to withstand the recoil of the gun firing.
Besides the stunning guns there was a fully stocked inscribers workbench. We recognized many of the same jeweler’s tools we use ourselves. Of course, we enjoyed the beautiful craftmanship and we enjoyed our time at that museum.
Inside the museum we ate a brief lunch and then toured the Western Art Museum. Besides the many paintings by Russell, Remington, and others, (we both prefer Russell’s work), there were numerous examples of castings. Years ago, we had the chance to view the bronze foundry located in Lander, Wyoming and so we appreciated the different techniques used, (among other casts, the Lander foundry cast the Jaguar statues at the Carolina Panthers Football Stadium).
Another painting I enjoyed was the painting by a native American Indian who had painted Custer’s Last Stand from the Indian viewpoint. It contrasted sharply with the romanticized, and historically wrong legends of Custer’s last Stand.
On the way back to our vehicle, we walked through the Natural History Museum which even had examples of fossils and rocks! What could be a better to end our day! We only had time to visit three of the five museum complexes and   for us anyway, this center is a must stop place. If you are ever in the area be sure to visit the world-famous Buffalo Bill Center of The West Museums. Clear skies

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Renita's Story, Day Four in Yellowstone, May 30, 2017

Here’s Renita’s story of what she saw, in her own words.

Omg! What a phenomenal day we had today, our last today in Yellowstone! What we saw today was the highlight of our trip, in fact it is the highlight of all our trips to Yellowstone!
We were sitting at Slough Creek, in Lamar Valley, watching the Wolf Den with our binoculars and telescope waiting to see the wolves, (five adults and five pups make up the pack) There were several people there. I was looking through my binoculars when all of a sudden I saw five animals running from the den area.
At first I thought it was the five wolves but then I was realized what I was seeing was a grizzly bear, (big bruin), being chased from the den by four of the wolves from the pack! I screamed, “There they are”!
When I saw there was a grizzly bear, I screamed, “It’s a bear! It’s a grizzly bear! They are chasing a grizzly!” They chased the bear up the hill The grizzly ran into some evergreen trees with the wolves following.
The grizzly came out of the trees and ran for his life! The four wolves sauntered back down toward the den! And then right after, “the chase”, we saw a pup nursing right outside the den! I was way too excited to even think about taking pictures, (and I wanted to be sure I saw the entire thing unfold).
Mark was busy with the telescope… but another person did get a picture of, “the chase”, and is going to email it to us! We will never forget the experience! The best was saved for the last! It was the best day of this trip and the best day of all our trips to Yellowstone! I am still getting goosebumps!

So I was focusing the telescope on the den and missed the chase. I did see three of the wolves returning to the den and I did see the bear running full speed over the mountainside like it was still being chased . No pictures but our three hundred mm lens wouldn’t have gotten anything at that distance.
We waited the entire day and never saw the wolves again. We did see bald eagles, a coyote and a buffalo bison that walked twenty feet away. We never saw it as we were focusing on the den. We also got to see a badger digging out ground squirrels, and a herd of big horn sheep grazing above the den.

Sandhill cranes waded in a closed off oxbow bend and a black tailed doe fed among the grassy banks.
Later in the day another person spotted a black bear peering from the edge of the black forest.
Oh and a research plane decorated with antennas for tracking the wolves flew overhead. What a day, what a day! From now on we will probably spend our time in Yellowstone by taking a den stand. Clear skies

Monday, June 5, 2017

Yellowstone Wolves: Day Three

The next morning, we decided to return to the Slough Creek Pack. Arriving we found a large crowd of people had already gathered in the parking lot and scopes of all sizes were lined up on the two dens. Setting up our scope we waited for the wolves to return from the hunt.
Constantly glassing the mountainside, I spotted a wolf running along the ridge. Telling the others that I had seen a wolf, I followed it down the steep slope toward the den. It met two other wolves coming from the left and then paused as it was surrounded by the pups.
The pups immediately demanded food and for a brief minute she paused before retreating to a place out of sight. It happened so fast that Renita never did see the pups. We continued to glass the den area but the wolves had decided that it was nap time and we never saw them again that day.
Another person told us that there were three wolves feeding near Pebble Creek and so we drove up the Lamar Valley toward the east entrance and the town of Silver Gate. As we parked in the lot we saw that there were some people standing and glassing from the bridge.
Renita went to join them and then turned to wave me over. You could see two black wolves, part of the Pebble Creek Pack, working their way downstream. They separated and then the one found a carcass partially submerged in the river. It pulled the remains onto the bank and then began to rip and tear meat from the bones.
It hadn’t feed very long before two coyotes arrived and they tried to drive the wolf from the food. The large black wolf grabbed the carcass and looking back at the coyotes carried the rib cage the while running away from the river.
Finding a safe spot, it fed and of course ravens showed up. The wolf paused several times from its meal to drive away the pesky birds. At last it had its fill and walking a bit further it laid down.  We continued to watch both wolves until they finally disappeared into the tree line.
The show was over for the day and so after viewing a herd of mountain goats we headed back to our campsite. On the drive back, Renita said she was disappointed at not seeing the pups and so we planned to return to Slough Creek for our last day in Yellowstone.

The drive of course involved the usual bear jam and a new jam where three Bighorn ewes were grazing in a tree covered slope alongside the road. Finally reaching camp we saw that our picnic table now showed its top in the snow drifts. Nothing like spring camping in Yellowstone! Clear skies

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Yellowstone National Park, Days 1 and 2, May 2017

The forecast was for snow, but we had made our Yellowstone National Park reservations in January so we loaded our slide in camper and headed north. Sure enough, it snowed hard but most of it melted and as we neared Canyon Campground it finally stopped.
The campsite had been shoveled out by employees and we just fit! Still we were surrounded by up to three feet of snow and it was a freezing night. The next morning, we awoke to sunny blue skies, and after a cup of coffee and reheated egg sandwiches headed for the Lamar valley.
 Our first bear jam occurred just after Tower Canyon where a sow black bear and her two cubs had taken residence. Staying close to the road it was obvious that the mother bear had learned how to protect her cubs. The females will stay close to the roads as the people frighten off the larger male bears. They will kill the cubs, if given the chance, so that they will have the opportunity to breed.
Winding through the traffic we quickly reached Tower Junction. Passing a coyote, we saw six during our four days, we headed toward Slough Creek in hopes of seeing the Slough Creek Wolf Pack. They have a den that is located about a mile away and we had brought our Celestron telescope in hopes of seeing the pack and their pups.
We had just missed them, but at least they were still in the den. Several helpful wolf watchers showed us the location of the two dens and told us the wolves had moved the pups to the upper den. When large bull bison had moved to near the lower den and the wolves decided that the simplest answer was to move the pups farther away.
Others told us that the wolves were resting on the other side of a small hill and so we never did see the wolves on our first day. We did see bison, bald eagles, and a curious coyote who had little fear of the wolf watchers.
In fact, one of the persons brought their small dog out. The dog let out a yip and the coyote turned its head to the small pet. Several people told the dog owner to put the dog away as the coyote would take it if it had a chance.
On the way back to our campsite, the bears were still putting on a show. The bear jam had grown quite large and we sat in a line of traffic for about a half an hour before we saw them. The rest of the trip was uneventful, if you ignore the ever-present elk, hot springs, and beautiful scenery. Clear skies