Thursday, June 22, 2023

A Wolf in the Park

We were waiting for Grizzly 399 to emerge from the woods. Out of the corner of our eyes we saw a flash as a large bull elk ran full speed across the highway. Luckily it did not get hit by any cars and ran into the meadow before disappearing into the thick ponderosa and lodgepole forest.
Turning back to where we thought 399 and her cub would emerge, but we instead saw a flash of a canid. I snapped a quick picture as it ran next to our group of photographers.
It then stopped to watch the elk, hoping it had been hit by a car, but instead the elk was unharmed and the wolf caught its breath, looked at us, and then loped into the forest, going over a hill and disappearing as fast as it had appeared.
It was the first wolf we had ever spotted in Grand Teton National Park and spotting it made our day, (notice how sharp its teeth are and thta the wolf has been radio collared)!
It won’t be long before the grizzlies move high up in the mountains. Then, they will be eating carpenter moths and white bark pine nuts. The moths are about fifty percent fat, and the bears will turn over rocks finding and eating as many as twenty thousand moths a day, (I have been told that their fat content is so high that you can light a moth with a match and it will burn like a candle, and no I would never do that).
The moths account for about twenty to thirty percent of the bears weight gain in the summer. Because we rarely see bears in the hot summer months, we have been going to Grand Teton National Park every week. The last two times we did see Grizzly bear 399 and her cub but they were so far away that the pictures were poor, (that’s with our 600 mm Sigma Telephoto Lens). So you take what you can get and hope to see flowers, moose and elk.
We did hike about one third of the way up Grand View Point Trail and Renita took pictures of some of the wild flowers. In one picture of Phlox she captured a pretty black and white spotted butterfly!
It didn’t matter as we had a wolf closer to us than we had ever been.
It was a red-letter day, our first wolf sighting in Grand Teton National Park. Clear skies The bears eat lots of grass but one of their favorite foods is clover, so where you see clover is a good place to see grizzlies.

Wednesday, June 14, 2023

Kingman Turquoise

We had just about worked and sold all our turquoise and so we went to our favorite turquoise rock shop in Rockport, Texas. It’s the only place we purchase turquoise as it is often faked. Previously we had purchased old stock Sleeping Beauty Turquoise at that store and some Morenci Turquoise from our mentor. At the store, we learned to our dismay that the store was closing. The owner had planned on retiring and his son was going to take over the store. Sadly, his son suddenly passed away. As he told us he showed several pictures of his son working in a turquoise mine and showed him holding a huge slab of the rock he had helped to unearth. The owner still had some turquoise that he had not sold. It was Kingman turquoise, from Kingman Arizona. Realizing that our source of authentic stone rough was going to disappear, we bought all that he had.
I so wanted to work the stone in Texas but our clubs rock shop had closed and so I had to wait until we got back to our studio and equipment shop in Wyoming. A few weeks after we got back, I was able to finally take time to cut some of the stone, grind it, polish it, and finish it into jewelry. To finish the cabochons, (the finished pieces), I wire-wrapped them using sterling silver twenty-two -gauge wire. I did not wire wrap all of them as some clients prefer to simply have bails attached to them as the wire pieces can get entangled in long hair and fuzzy sweaters.
The finished Kingman Turquoise pieces all took an exquisite shine and represent the best examples of our shop. Next week our summer shows start, with the Alpine Mountain Man Days Show. Our schedule continues with the Fourth of July Festival on the fourth of July in Cody, Wyoming. Our last scheduled show is a small show at the Star Vallet Rv Park Craft show, which is at our RV Park in the large log Barn.
As with all our work we guarantee that the stone, rock or fossil is correctly identified, and we will gladly refund any purchase. We also tell our customers that we will repair or replace any piece that is damaged with a lifetime warranty, (my lifetime). We have never had any piece returned and we have repaired a few pieces including a wire wrapped bracelet that had been stepped on. Clear skies If you want to test your turquoise to see if it is real. Take a cotton ball and wet it with acetone, (fingernail polish remover). Then rub it on the stone. If the cotton ball turns blue it is fake. For example the mineral howlite, a white stone, is often soaked in tidy bowl cleaner and turns blue. Almost all turquoise, (97%), is stabilized as the matrix in the turquoise can react with humidity and weather badly. You can often see this in old pieces. All of ours has been stabilized, (always ask). Also ask the dealer which mine the stone comes from. If they don’t know be careful. We have bought old necklaces, taken them apart, and repurposed the stones, but again ask for a guarantee. Sleeping Beauty Turquoise used to come from the mine in Arizona. The name is now patented, and it can come from anywhere. We have been told that most comes from a mine in Mexico. Ask before buying

Thursday, June 8, 2023

Anniversary Bears, 399 with its cub and Bear 1063

We had been in the park for four hours and arriving at a new spot, we saw people moving away from their cameras and tripods. Asking if there had been a bear, they replied yes but added that the bear had just moved into the forest and was no longer visible. One of the ladies showed Renita a picture of the bear, a grizzly with a single cub. It was 399, the most famous grizzly bear in North America.
Hoping for her to reappear, we heard a voice behind us yell, “There she is”! She had circled the forest and was grazing on the lush grass. Photographers grabbed their cameras, many set on tripods, and the shutters started up. We had left our place in Star Valley at 6:30 am. Nothing special about the time but it’s an hour plus drive to Grand Teton National Park. We wanted to spend a full day in the park. Our friends Fred and Becky had agreed to meet us at the Park Headquarters, and they waved at us when we arrived. The plan was to take the Teton Park Road to the places we had seen bears. There wasn’t much traffic and so we stopped at places but did not espy any bears. A few solitary bull elk were feeding on the grass and sagebrush bench. Some vehicles were at the Potholes, which are a serries od depressions caused when block of ice had been buried In the last ice age. As the ice melted the surface rocks collapsed forming kettles or potholes. No bears. There is usually a bull elk that grazes near the Chapel of the Sacred heart, but not today. Crossing the Jackson Lake Dam we drove across Willow Flats, which is one of the calving places for cow elk. It’s a good place to see a grizzly as they hunt the newborn calves. No bear were visible.
We next drove to Pilgrim Creek, Colture Bay, and Leeks Marina. Nothing except sunny skies and spectacular views. Fred took our picture on the dock.
Next, we drove north but no bears were visible. Stopping we continued to glass but no luck. We then decided to head to one of the fields alongside the road. There were a few people waiting but only one person and he was taking pictures of flowers, hmm. Still we parked for awhile before deciding to check another place only to find the road was closed. Parking at another open field we talked with a member of the bear management team who said the closed road was now open and after a lengthy discussion we headed to the road, (its always a tough call if we should go or stay). As soon as we drove to the parking lot we saw about thirty people, many with cameras all talking about the bears they had seen in the opening paragraph. Suddenly she reappeared in a different spot. It was 399 and her new coy, (cub of the year). She grazed on the rich grass and clover and her cub stayed with her often touching her backside with one paw as it stood and looked at us.
At one point the cub ran to the forest edge and turned to look at 399. IT wanted to be fed but she ignored it and it returned to its mother. They got closer and the bear management people told us she was too close, so we retreated to keep a safe distance.
The bears finally disappeared into the forest. What a great viewing. A little later they reappeared in a closer meadow and crossed the grassy spot before passing into the trees. Meanwhile hikers were coming down the trail, MOST WITHOUT BEAR SPRAY! They had passed a sign warning them to carry bear spray but the tourons had ignored it! (tourons is a word to describe a tourist who deliberately gets to close to wild animals, bears, buffalo, elk, etc). As they approached us a ranger walked out to escort them to safety. We figured the bear photo ops were done when another person yelled bear! This time it was a different grizzly, bear 1263.
She grazed and got near the cars. The Bear management team told us to retreat to our vehicles. She continued to approach, and the team told us we all had to evacuate the lot. As we left the road was closed and guarded by a different team member. It had been one of our best days of bear watching.
We celebrated our anniversary by going to the pizza place at Leeks Marine. Tired from the long day we headed back home, what a great anniversary. Clear skies It is extremely rare to be attacked by a bear. The rules state that you should carry bear spray, stay one hundred yards away from a bear and at least twenty-five yards away from other animals. The biggest danger, we think, is to accidently disturb a grizzly bear guarding a cache, (a place where a bear has covered a dead animal with leaves and brush. It will often lay on top of the cache to guard it from being stolen. We have discussed it and we both agree that if we are attacked it is our fault and the bear should not be harmed. We have been bluff charged by a black bear but it stopped when we did not run, (don’t run from a bear)!