Saturday, September 28, 2019

A Hike Along Taggert Trail, Fall 2019

Last year we took a hike around the Taggert Lake trail and this year we invited our neighbors to join us. We told them of the beauty of the trail, and also told them of the elk bugling and the possibility of seeing bears as we drove the Moose-Wilson road.
They offered to drive as they needed to drop their dog off at the doggy day care center, (dogs are not allowed to hike the trails due to the danger of them attracting a bear). It’s a good rule!  Arriving early, the parking lot was barely half full as we donned our day packs, binoculars and cameras.
The first part of the hike is the steepest part. We both had our Fitbits on, and we were pleased to see that we did not exceed our maximum heart rate goal. However, we did stop for images and took rest breaks as we climbed the steep trail. Our friends kindly waited for us even though we told them they could go ahead.
Cresting the old terminal moraine, formed by the glacier that once filled the valley, we passed through a field of boulders including one glacial erratic that was a perfect example of gneiss, (pronounced “nice”). Our friends had taken a raft float on the Snake River and their boat guide had told them the story of gneiss. Becky actually correctly identified it and brought it to our attention.
Passing thought a forest of lodgepoles pines and a few aspens we reached Taggert Lake. There were some people that had beat us to the lake, but we took turns with them poising on rocks with the Grand Teton in the background. A sign that Becky spotted told us that the lakes elevation was six thousand nine hundred feet.
Renita spotted a moose across the lake, perhaps it was Becky and while it was a long way, we could see it easily with the binoculars, (do you notice a pattern as Becky and Renita are the nature interpreters on this trip).  A reddish hooded merganser splashed across the lake, they are great fish birds, oblivious to the people lining the shores.
We crossed the bridge at the mouth of Taggert Lake and sat down for a bit before deciding we would hike a little further before eating lunch. A few switchbacks remained before we crested the trail and Fred took a great picture of us surrounded by the fall foliage.
As we started down the trail a couple passed us going the opposite way. They said there was a bear ahead and that the bear was eating berries, (not that it mattered they were choke cherries). Renita followed me as I hurried to a hill while our friends continued down the trail. We should have followed them.
Renita heard them say, “Bear”, and she went back seeing the black bear as it went up and over the hill. I only caught a glimpse of the rear end of the bear.
The bear had been eating choke cherries and upon being interrupted it decided to leave by the easiest way. Fred meanwhile had been crouched on the trail taking pictures until Becky told him the bear was getting to close.
Looking up from his camera, he realized the bear was only ten feet away. Fred stood up, he is a tall man, and the bear swerved off the trail. It was a two-year old black bear and heading for Taggert Lake, it crossed the wooden bridge. Another couple came down and showed us the video she had taken of the crossing.
We ate lunch in the berry patch and were treated to hearing the elk bugling. I was happy now with my hearing aids as I could clearly hear them. Becky pointed out the high grassy park where they seemed to be, but we couldn’t spot them, (a grassy mountain area surrounded by forest is called a park).
The rest of the hike was uneventful, and we talked about how lucky we were to see a bear on a trail. I congratulated Fred on his close encounter with the bear, it was not planned, and told him he now had another story to share for the rest of his life. Reaching the truck, we loaded up and headed for the Moose-Wilson Road.
The road was open and after walking along the Moose Pond, no moose or bears, we were told that a bear was just around a bend in the road. The rangers were directing traffic and there was no place to stop as a black bear cub climbed high up in a tree while its mom was eating berries in the brush below. I gawked took long and all I got was an image of the cub I the dense trees.
Driving further we saw cars backed up, it was another bear jam. This jam was caused by a cinnamon black bear, (a black bear with a light brown coat), unloading away from the bear we walked along the roadbed and reached several people who told us that the bear was behind a small copse of trees.
It was a little while before the bear became visible and I took a poor image of the bear as it was partially hidden. The bear suddenly charged toward us, it moved really fast and I froze too long before taking a picture. It was a bluff charge and the bear stopped as the ranger prepared his bear spray. Luckily the bear retreated into the trees and decided to go another way.
Fred went and got the truck but we never did get a good image of the bear. It didn’t matter as it had been a great day of wildlife watching! Anytime you see four bears and a moose you know the day was really special. Maybe next time I will get a good image of a bear. Clear skies

Saturday, September 21, 2019

A Short Hike on the Lupine Trail, Grand Teton National Park

The weather was supposed to turn cold, so we decided to head to Grand Teton National Park. Our goal was to look for bears and take a hike along the Moose Pond Trail. Unfortunately, the Moose Wilson road was closed due to Grizzly bear activity, (its been closed for the past week). Several weeks ago, we had seen a grizzly bear and a black bear. That day,upon telling the volunteer park interpreters, one of them told us there were no grizzly bears in the south section of the park). Hmm, I guess we did see a grizzly.
Changing our plans we decided to take a hike on the Lupine Meadows trail. Arriving at the parking lot, we found a space even though the lot was pretty full.  The trail head offers quite a few treks, but we were only interested in hiking to the Bradley Lake Junction. It’s about a 3.7-mile hike, round trip, and we thought that would be a good warm up for the Taggert Lake trail, (we plan on hiking it next week).
The first part of the trail was pretty level, but it then begin to climb. As we hiked, we enjoyed the scenery as Black tail Butte,
Sleeping Indian Mountain, and the Gros Ventre Slide all peeked at us as we climbed above the trees.
At one point a viscous chip monk threatened to attack but it backed away as it must have seen we were armed with bear spray. A haze filled the valley from distant fires, but it wasn’t bad enough where it affected our breathing. We stopped often to check our heart rates and after Renita tested her blood sugar level we stopped for a snack.
We were high enough in elevation that we could see Jenny Lake through the trees. The Grand Teton rose above us in all its splendor and it looked like we could see a climber on the south ridge. Looking further south gave a us a great view of another of the Teton Mountains and the solid rock beckoned us to climb higher.
We knew our limits and our goal for the day so after taking pictures we headed back down to an open spot for lunch. Quite a few hikers passed us as we sat and when we started back down the trail, we met a lady who told us she had seen a flock of ptarmigan. Stopping for a bit a nervous ruffed grouse flushed and flew by us, but I was unable to get an image of it in flight.
We never did see any ptarmigan, (the bird book says they are not there), but we have seen them in Alaska, so we had them on our bird list. Its amazing how easy it is to hike down the trail but it’s the most dangerous part of the hike and Renita’s knee gave her a warning twinge. We had forgotten our hiking poles.
My feet hurt from the quick down-hill pace, but it wasn’t much further till we would reach the car. Driving back to the Moose Wilson road we saw that it was still closed and so we decided to call it a day and head back home. It was a good day and we survived the near attack of the chip monk. Clear skies

Friday, September 13, 2019

A Busy Week of Opals, Doctors, and Boat Repairs

It’s been an extremely busy week! Besides working on some of the opals we recently purchased, (there are three types of types on the plate, Welo, Spencer and Virgin Valley), we also took a quick trip down to Flaming Gorge. If that wasn’t enough, we also had to go see my cardiologist in Riverton, Wyoming.
There is actually quite a bit of work/joy in working opals. It’s a multi-step process. Once you have found the best color/fire we next saw and grind the rock down to the opal layer. Then very carefully grind until the fire shows, (yes, I have ground too deep and destroyed the opal).
The next step is to glue the opal on a black slab to highlight the color, (we use black Wyoming jade as we have a lot of it). Once the glue hardens, we next saw the excess off and then grind the flat surface down till its extremely thin. This highlights the opal’s fire against the black jade.
Next we glue the piece to a flat piece of glass. We purchased some glass chunks from a store that specializes in glass for stained glass windows. Finally, we return to the trim saw removing the excess jade and glass.
The final step is to return to our grinding wheels, our machine has six diamond coated wheels, and grind and shape the finished opal. This process is used to make opal triplets and its used when the opal layer is thin. It also protects the soft opal and magnifies the fire. Whew!
A trip to Flaming Gorge was in order so we could prepare our boat for the winter. Loading our pickup camper, we headed down to Buckboard Crossing Campground. It’s a two hundred- and forty-miles drive. Arriving at the campground, we were lucky and found a space that had electricity.

After setting out our chairs we drove to the marina. Signing out a key for the secure area, the Marina owner casually mentioned that they had sold the marina and we needed to remove our boat by October first. Talk about a shock and a complete lack of warning!
Returning to our campsite, we first got out our new air compressor and then added air to all four of the tires. As we hadn’t repacked the bearings in a few years, the next step was to jack up each tire and spin it listening for any noise from a worn bearing/race.  All four wheels sounded fine and so we added a few shots of grease to each hub.
Tired, we ate dinner and watched as deer moved into the campground. The area is surrounded by the Red Desert and the deer love the watered grass. At one point there were ten deer and three fawns who took turns watching uncontrolled kids as they chased the deer away. At one point their black lab got loose and ran the deer for a little bit, (running wildlife is a crime here and anyone seeing it is allowed to shoot the dog/dogs. The people were lucky there was no game warden around.
The next morning arrived with rain and we did a light check requiring a continuity check. After cleaning all the contacts and replacing several bulbs the light worked and we left for home. Heavy rains plagued us for much of the drive, but we arrived home four hours later.
Tired we crashed for an early evening knowing that on Monday, (it was Saturday), the cardiologist awaited me in Riverton, Wyoming. Its two hundred and fifty miles east of us and out course the first snowstorm of the year moved in!
Driving over Towgotee Pass, elevation 9658 feet, was kind of pretty as huge snowflakes coated the hillsides. Making it to Riverton, we both cringed at the thought of driving back over the mountains, but we had forgotten our medicine and so return that night we must!
Our appointment was for two fifteen and the doctor was one and a half hours late. The good news was my heart was fine and after sitting patiently, the doctor said I was too fat and needed to lose weight, like I didn’t know it.
We were in such a hurry to head home we forgot to get gas and barely made it the hundred miles to Dubois, Wyoming. Filling up, we could have made it forty more miles, we headed overt the pass. It was a pretty drive and the melted snow had not yet froze, so there was no black ice. We did let a car pass us, they were in a hurry, and it allowed us to watch and see if they went into a skid.
Safely crossing the pass, we watched as the sun set on the Tetons. A crazy driver in a red pickup almost ran us off the road as we drove down the Snake River Canyon, (there is a reason I do not carry a gun). Nothing else happened for the rest of the drive and we arrived back home after driving almost five hundred miles in a day, that may not seem like a lot to some of you, but it’s way too far for us.
Today we are resting and trying to find a place to store our boat. It has to be inside as the snow here is too deep. Only one more doctor and dentist trip and we will be ready to head south. We plan on leaving about mid-October. The trees here are just starting to change color so we are in no hurry, (Oh, and the doctor told me to eat lots of fruit so I baked a blueberry pie)! Clear skies

Friday, September 6, 2019

Looking for Bears in Grand Teton National Park

George and Val finally arrived back in Star Valley and after they rested for a few days, we all decided to look for bears and other wildlife at Grand Teton National Park.
They picked us up, it was their turn to drive, and we first drove to Jackson and then took our favorite bear and moose road into the park.
Shortly after we entered the park two cars ahead of us flashed their brakes and then stopped, could it be a bear? Sure enough, I saw the bushes move and then a black bear showed itself as it hunted for berries. It quickly moved through the berry bushes searching each bush, and quickly gleaning any berries it held.
It reached a large pine tree and looked up, (were there cubs above?), before knocking over a large service berry bush, eating the berries and then pushing over another and another. It moved closer to the road and somewhat behind us and so we left it confident that we would see more bears. It was the last bear we saw that day.
We continued up the road to the ponds which is a place that often draws moose but there were no moose present. Arming ourselves with bear spray, we hiked along a trial, stopping to glass each forest glade.
Usual we find lots of bear sign, claw sharpened trees and scat filled with seeds, but not this time.
Paying special attention to the spots we had seen bears last week we stopped, and Renita listened, but she didn’t hear any branches breaking.
At one point a squirrel became extremely upset at our presence in its territory and gave us a loud chewing out. Luckily, we didn’t have to use the bear spray.
Having seen recent images of grizzly bears near Towgotee Pass we drove that way.
The fall foliage was starting to turn, and the high meadows were touched with a crimson red and shades of brown.
No bears made their grand entrance, nor moose, deer or elk.
We next headed into the park and drove to one of our usual picnic spots and after lunch decided to rive to the Gros Ventre campground.
The campground had signs warning of moose on the road, but it was nearly full of campers and people. The moose had apparently decided to move elsewhere.
It was time to head back to Star Valley and even though we offered to give George a break he insisted he was ok to drive. It was a nice day in the park with friends and we got to see a bear, which always adds a bonus to a day. Clear skies.

Ps if you ever come out here you may spot a bear anytime, but the best time to see a bear, grizzly or black, is in May or September.