Friday, June 29, 2018

Crazy Busy, The Alpine Show and a Day of Fishing

It has been an insane week. Last weekend we participated in the Alpine, Wyoming Mountain Days Show and then we spent a day fly fishing Salt Creek, with our friends George and Val. In addition, our patio furniture and landscaping blocks were both delivered.
We have participated in the Alpine Mountain Days Show since 2015. It ha been one of our best shows and this year we set records for a single day and for the best show ever! We set up last Thursday afternoon and Friday, as usual was an average day, (it's so encouraging when people give compliments on our work and spend their money on our jewelry).
Saturday also started out slow, but the crowd increased, and we got so busy we forgot to take any images. Besides setting a one day record we also found time, before it got busy, to make a few purchases ourselves. One of our friends, Jim, is a stone napper and besides his knives he knapped a stunning blue arrowhead out of fiber optical glass, (I had to buy it)!
Sunday was a lot slower and it gave us time to rearrange our jewelry cases, and plan on what we needed for the special orders we had received. One of the orders was to make a right-handed knife sheath replacing the left-handed sheath, (I made left handed sheaths for four of the knives I had made, isn’t everyone left handed?).
Returning home, we unpacked and rested for a day before going fly fishing with George and Val. They had fished one of our favorite small streams and had caught and released quite a few Bear Lake Cut throats, (also called Bonneville Cut throat Trout).
We fished a popular area and boots prints were everywhere. The fishing showed the pressure, but we still managed to catch and release sixteen of the cuts and one rainbow. The rainbows are not stocked here but swim upstream from Idaho. The cuts are all native fish!
The next day our landscaping blocks arrived. We had had them shipped from Idaho Falls, we had to pay the shipping, but it was a lot cheaper then if we tried to haul them in our pickup. They weigh a little over twenty pounds each and so it would have taken us two trips to haul the four thousand pounds of blocks.
On Wednesday we got a call that our patio furniture had been found and was going to be delivered. We had ordered it from a major home improvement company on June 2nd. The shipment had been lost in Aurora, Colorado where Renita prodded the shipping company into locating the case and then shipping our furniture to us. A week later Renita fond out that the shipment had been lost again, with possible locations being Jackson, Salt Lake City, or even Provo, Utah.
We were surprised, two days later, when the company called to inform us that the furniture had been found again and would be delivered soon. It arrived three days later and so now we finally have an almost completed patio.  Just a few more landscaping blocks, one hundred and eighty six, to set in place and we will be done for the year! 
We have lots of company coming and now we have a place where we can sit outside and enjoy the mountain view. We still have some more landscaping plans, but we will save them for next year! We are also doing three more shows this summer, the first the Coy Wild West Extravaganza, another which is a half day long and the last isn’t until Labor Day weekend. So, it’s almost time for fishing and kayaking and white water rafting.
! Clear Skies

Thursday, June 21, 2018

A Fathers Day Drive and Picnic at Togwotee Pass

A grizzly bear had been spotted near Togwotee Pass and so we decided to take a drive to the pass for a Father’s Day picnic. Besides the bear we also, ever the optimists took along our fly rods, cameras, and sacks for morel mushrooms.
The weather was great, as we left Thayne and it stayed sunny till we neared the pass. It started to rain and about the time we reached the pass we were in a downpour, Fog moved in and even though we would stop and glass the meadows we never saw a bear.
Heading east we reached the spot where we had gathered mushrooms. The Wind River was bank full and was projected to reach flood stage, so it was with a little trepidation as we drove over the old bridge. The road was still gravel and so we drove to our mushroom picking spot.
Renita stayed in, as the downpour grew worse, but I put on my rain suit and headed out. I made two passes one north and south of the road but never found any mushrooms. I did find out that my boot repair didn’t work and that my right foot quickly became soaked. Trying to salvage something I looked for Wind river iris agates but again had no luck.
Renita meanwhile had ventured from the truck and took some photos of the spring flowers and even took several images as I walked away from the vehicle. I did find some old bones with chew marks and picked up one. I figured if I ran into a bear at last I would have something besides my pocket knife and walking stick to temporally distract it, (I haven’t bought any bear spray yet and refuse to carry a gun. Two people have already killed different sows, thereby by condemning their cubs to certain death).
It rained harder and so we left the area heading back up the pass. The river was muddy and high so fly fishing was out of the question. Stopping at the Tie Hack Monument, we walked up the trail and first passing a flume, we read about the tie hack lumbering and how the logs were floated down the Wing River, (tie hacks were used for railroad ties).
It was a nice monument but of course some idiot had used the sculpture for target practice. You can tell you are in Wyoming when you notice that traffic signs, and other stationary objects are riddled with bullet holes.
As Renita drove back to Star Valley, the deluge continued and so we gave up any hope of any fishing. It still had been a pleasant time as we viewed the cloud covered mountains, (at least it didn't snow). We are fortunate here to be surrounded by Mountain Ranges and this day we had driven though/past the Salt, Caribou, Tetons, Wind River, Gros Ventre, and Wyoming Mountain Ranges. It’s a far cry from our winter spot on the flat Coastal Bend of Texas.  Clear skies

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Building a Pergola

Last year we hired a contractor to pour a cement pad. This year we planned to finish the pad as an outdoor living space, by constructing a pergola, laying landscaping blocks and planting flower beds and lilac bushes.
We have extensive covenants here and we first had to get approval for the pergola design. We had built our shed/studio from scratch but this time we found numerous pergola kits available and after taking the plans to the office secured approval.
The pergola arrived a week later!  I first opened the box and did an inventory of the parts. Everything was there and so the next day Renita and I begin the, “Fun”, task of sealing the stained wood pieces with two coats of sealant.
By the next day everything was dry and laying out the pieces we started to assemble the structure.
The directions were easy to understand, and the assembly should have gone smoothly, except for the tools provided for the assembly. It was a Sunday and so I had to use them as the nearest open hardware store was twenty miles away, (I should have driven there to buy inserts for my drill).
As we started to assemble the pieces I dropped one of the two tools, picked it up, tightened the provided bolt, and dropped the tool again, (I ended up dropping the tools over one hundred and thirty-one times but who was counting).
Slowly the pieces went together, and we were finely ready to lift the frame. It was too much for Renita and I, we dropped one piece, but luckily our friend George came over to help, (He was not feeling well as he had been forced to drink too much scotch the night before.
We got the frame up and after thanking him we sent him home. The rest of the job was straight forward, and the slightly warped cross members came together as we bolted together piece after piece.
As I would tighten each piece Renita would pick up the tool and hand it to me after each drop. Taking several long breaks, we had the pergola mostly done by dinner. We waited for it to cool a bit before finishing the pergola by adding twelve perlons. (long square two by two wood pieces), across the top.
Many of the perlons were severely warped but by slowly aligning each piece and screwing it into the cross member, we were able to straighten out the pieces and the finished the pergola before sundown.
Putting out two lawn chairs we watched the sunset over the Salt Mountains. It had been a long day and we were both exhausted from the ordeal. We decided we would not go into the pergola construction business as grinding rocks and making jewelry is a heck of a lot easier!  Clear skies

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Yellowstone Memorial Day Weekend 2018, Our Last two Days

By checking out friends posts on Facebook, Renita had found that a sow and fully-grown cub were digging grubs and roots at the Butte lake View. Its located on the east side of Yellowstone lake, just before Sylvan Pass. We decided to spend the day with George and Val and so we headed to the overlook.
Driving through Hayden Valley we saw lots of buffalo and elk, but we didn’t see any bears. Driving further we reached the Fishing Bridge and turned east toward Cody, Wyoming. Just after the Fishing Bridge we neared a buffalo that was in a having a difficult day.
The park service had cut down trees to widen the road and the bull buffalo was pissed about its path being blocked. It proceeded to attack one of the downed treed, butting it and rolling on the branches! Luckily it only looked at us once to see if we were an issue, before crossing the road and heading on its way!
Arriving at the overlook we saw a crowd of bear watchers that told us that the two bears had been digging on the hillside right next to cars. The bears had feed for a while before climbing the steep hill and apparently taking a morning siesta. The day before two people had followed them and had almost surprised the sleeping grizzlies.
The two bears have been given the names of Raspberry, (the sow), and Snow who is a three-year-old male that should be on its own. Everyone expected the bears to return to the grubs and so we waited and passed the time visiting with other bear lovers, taking images of a blue grouse, and even finding some bear scat that was full of wood chips, (from when the bear had been tearing apart deadfall looking for grubs.
We waited for three hours but the bears never reappeared and so after lunch we drove to Sylvan Pass where there was so much snow that there was no sign of any wildlife. Returning to the Butte Overlook we stopped to take some images of the wildest place in the lower forty-eight.
It’s a place called the Farrow Pit and a trail leads into it where a person would be almost fifty miles from the nearest road. We know people that grouse about places without coffee shops and easy internet access!
The rest of the day was anticlimactic as we never did see any bears. Still it was a pleasant day in the park, lots of wildlife but no bears or wolves. It was obvious that we had been spoiled and it was the first day this year in which we had not spotted any bears.
Day four arrived and we changed our plans deciding to head back to the Lamar Valley. The black bears, that had been entertaining everyone had disappeared from near Tower, but when we turned into the Lamar Valley we ran into a large bear jam. The black bear sow, with her three cubs had moved down the valley.
Nearby a black bear boar fed and so mamma kept her cubs near the top of a tree. The park interpreters said that she would probably cross the Yellowstone Rive bridge and when we returned later she and her cubs had wandered off. Crossing the bridge another traffic jam was happening but this time it was Bighorn sheep and their lambs.
 Parking to take images, one of the sheep looked at us and as it approached we retreated to the truck. It finally walked into the ditch and we watched them for a bit before heading up the valley.
Deciding to head up the Lamar Valley we spotted two cars that were watching a grizzly sow and cub clear across the valley. We set up our own scope to join the viewing,
As we watched the two grizzlies one of the other watchers got a message that a male grizzly was hunting elk calves. Turning his scope around he quickly spotted the boar and we all watched as it searched through the sagebrush looking for young elk.
It disappeared from our view and so we headed further up the valley, in search of more bears.
Reaching Pebble Creek, a crowd were watching mountain goats across the creek and up a steep cliffside. There were two goats visible and easily spotted with a good pair of binoculars. We set up our scope and tried to take some images with the cell phone.
Heading back to camp we stopped but just missed the badger mom and her three kits that had been digging for gophers. In Yellowstone you are either the hunted or the hunters, the same as everywhere else but more obvious.
It had been a good day with three grizzlies and four black bears! If you really want to see bears and wolves you need to come to Yellowstone in late May and spend your time in the Lamar Valley. They are either hunting elk and bison calves down on the valley floor or feeding on the lush spring grass!
Our wildlife total was twenty bears, both grizzly and black and eight wolves. We had also spotted lots of other wildlife bison, elk, deer, and of course birds. In comparison while driving the Alcan Highway to Alaska, we had spotted seventeen bears in three weeks of driving, (we took our time). Clear skies.

Monday, June 4, 2018

Day 2 Yellowstone: Watching for Wolves at Slough Creek

There are very few places where you can drive up, park and take a stand that allows you to see the wolves on a regular basis. We had decided that we would spend our second day watching the wolf den at Slough Creek.
Getting up early, I discovered that our heater didn’t work. It had started up and ran perfectly at our place in tar Valley but here but the elevation at Canyon Campground was about eight thousand feet above sea level and so the heater started but then shut off as the low oxygen sensor shut the heater down.
Making coffee and breakfast warmed the camper up and we were soon heading toward the Lamar Valley. Crossing Dunraven Pass, we looked for bears but the sow and cubs from the day before had moved and there were no bear jams along our route.
We were some of the first to arrive at Slough Creek and so we set up out telescope at our favorite spot and got out the lawn chairs for a laid-back day. Not long after we set up I spotted a black wolf loping toward the den. As she neared the den, black pups poured form the den and she stopped to nurse them. It was a mass of black fur and we really couldn’t get any good images as the den is a long way away.
Still we took some images and we tried to hold our cell phone to the eyepiece of the telescope, (we have a small celestron 90 that I purchased on eBay for less than two hundred dollars). The female went into the den and the pups followed her, so we really didn’t get any good shots.
George and Val had decided to check out Pebble Creek looking for bear and other wolves, but we had already decided to spend the day watching the den.
There are always other wildlife to watch and a herd of nine bighorn sheep grazed, heading toward the wolf den. However, they stopped when they got close and smelling the wolves turned back.
Lunch time arrived, and Renita went back to the truck. AS she sat in the truck I spotted a grey wolf walking down the trail that heads to the den! I got her attention and ran back to the telescope to watch the black wolf come out to greet her fellow pack mate, (we never did see any male and others told us that the male had disappeared).
The den couldn’t contain the pups and they came out! The black and grey females were surrounded by the pups, six black and two greys. All found their mother and started to nurse. It was quite a sight to see two adults and six pups wandering around the den site.
(The den is the bright area in the center. Above the den stands a black wolf on the left with a mass of black pups nursing and to the right a white wolf with two grey pups nursing. Obviously I haven't quite figured out how to use the phone camera on the telescope. Many of our sightings are a long ways away).
 The grey wolf walked down to a pond below the den, but the pups stayed near the protection of the den. Another wolf watcher told us that days before, two of the pups had been carried away by a male. The black wolf stayed near the den mouth and the pups wandered around a bit exploring and enjoying the warm sunny morning.
As we watched the wolves George and Val returned and were able to see eight wolves. They hadn’t spotted any wolves or bears and had missed the mountain goats at Pebble Creek. They did comment on the considerable number of elk and bison with bison calves, all food sources for the wolves and bears. They decided to head back to our campground and they later told us they had been able to watch the black bear with her three cubs.
Too soon the wolves returned to the den. The pups went inside, and the black wolf joined them. The grey female climbed back up the hillside and laid down in a copse of pine trees before getting back up and disappearing over a small hill, (Last year we had leaned that there was another pond and a second den nearby).
Three otters were fishing in Slough Creek and one submerged before returning to the surface with a fresh caught Yellowstone cutthroat trout. It quickly swallowed the fish, before I could get, and image and they swam upstream where I was able to get a poor image of one of the otters peering over a log.
Later in the afternoon a buffalo grazed toward the den and got quite close before it raised its head to smell the air. The wolves must have marked the area well and the bison turned around and headed back to a nearby meadow. It was a bull bison and really would not have been in any danger from the small pack, (we were told there were a total of four adults).
Late afternoon the wolves made another appearance, staying out of the den and entertaining us with the sight of playful pups and watchful moms. Finally, they retuned to the den and we decided it was time for us to head back to the campground.
It had been at day at Slough Creek! Eating dinner at the restaurant we discussed the next day’s activities. New images had appeared on Facebook, of two other famous grizzly bears.  They have been named by other bear enthusiasts Raspberry and Snow, (the park service does not name bears), and had been feeding on grubs and tubers near Sylvan pass and so bears would be tomorrows quest! Clear skies