Wyoming blog 2015

1/11/15: Took a drive today up to Thermopolis today with Katherine and Jackson. We wanted to see the Wyoming Dinosaur Center. Believe it or not, I believe this is one of the top (if not THE top) dinosaur museums in the country. Yes in this town of only 3,000 population it is hard to believe. They have many fossils no one else has. For example, there have only been 12 fossils of Archaeopteryx ever discovered, and there is only one on exhibit in the United States; yes, here. The science is constantly evolving and they are up to date with the latest discoveries and theories. All I know is that everything I learned about dinosaurs in school is completely thrown out the window.

Thermopolis is also home of Hot Springs State Park. There are also bath houses where the public can soak or swim in the hot springs year round.

Hot Springs State park
Hot Springs State park
Hot Springs State park

The wildlife stay near the hot springs as well

Bison
Bison
Mule Deer buck

The way home passes through the Wind River Canyon

Wind River Canyon
Wind River Canyon

01/17/15: Katherine joined us on a trip to Casper for shopping. Along the way we wanted to see what Hell’s Half Acre looked like in winter:

Hell’s Half Acre
Hell’s Half Acre
Pronghorn

1/22/15: I have always wanted to see Yellowstone in the winter. The roads are closed so we took a snow coach in from the south entrance and stayed 3 nights at the Snow Lodge.

Elk
Moose Falls
Lewis Falls

Multiple shots at West Thumb Geyser Basin

West Thumb Geyser Basin
West Thumb Geyser Basin
West Thumb Geyser Basin
West Thumb Geyser Basin

We arrived at Old Faithful snow lodge around sunset and missed the last daytime Old Faithful eruption of the day. I went out later that night to see my first nighttime eruption of Old Faithful.

Old Faithful at night

1/23/15: This morning was rather gray and cloudy, so we decided to take our first cross country skiing lessons. Around noon the skies opened and the rest of the afternoon was a spectacular day as you can see from the following photos.

Old Faithful
Heart Spring
Grand Geyser
Grotto Geyser
Castle Geyser
Old Faithful at sunset
Upper Geyser Basin

1/24/15: Today we took a ride in the snow coach to some other areas along the Yellowstone inner loop road.

Silex Spring
Fountain Paint Pots

While most of the area is covered with ice and snow, near the geothermal areas there are areas of lush lichen growth and other small plant growth. Here is a mountain chickadee exploring such an area among some of the vegetation tipped with hoar frost.

Mountain Chickadee
Bison
I don’t think he liked us being on his road
Bison

The Bombardier: This snow coach has been used in Yellowstone for over 60 years. It is very noisy and rough, but the guides who drive them say it is the most fun job they’ve ever had. They will be phased out soon for the more modern ones seen in the background.

Bombardier
Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone
Lower Falls
Lower Falls
Upper Falls
Upper Falls
Trumpeter Swans
Size comparison Canada Goose vs Trumpeter Swan
Beavers
Beaver
River Otter
Dragon’s Mouth
Mud Volcano
Coyote

1/25/15: Time to head back home.

Keppler Cascades

The Tetons greeted us as we exited the south entrance.

Tetons
Teton winter pano

Got back home in time for another one of our beautiful sunsets.

Wind River sunset

01/31/2015: Decided to hike up to Popo Agie falls with Katherine to see the frozen falls.

Popo Agie Falls trail
Popo Agie Falls trail
Frozen Popo Agie Falls

02/08/2015: Took a drive up to Dubois to look for Bighorn Sheep and we weren’t disappointed.

Young males practice sparring
Alpha male with Black-billed Magpie
Big Horn Sheep

03/29/2015: One of the most bizarre and iconic Wyoming natural spectacles. Many Wyomingites have never seen the courtship display of the Greater Sage Grouse. The males of this species gather in the spring in open areas in the sagebrush country called a lek to perform a most unique display to attract females. Today Candy and I were honored to witness this spectacle first hand. All these photos are of the male of this species.

Greater Sage-grouse
Greater Sage-grouse
Greater Sage-grouse

Animated GIFs

Greater Sage-grouse
Greater Sage-grouse

I’m sorry I didn’t have a directional microphone to get the sound synchronized with the male in this video, but you get the idea.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=me5AWR2xKvE
Greater Sage-grouse

Watch the background in this video. Obviously the male in the background decided the display wasn’t working so he decided on the tried and true method of chasing the 2 females!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uk8H5TbxbWo
Greater Sage-grouse

On the way back from the lek, saw numerous Horned Larks amidst the sagebrush.

Horned Lark
Horned Lark

04/18/2015: Took a short drive up to Ocean Lake on a beautiful morning with interesting clouds over the Wind River Mountains.

Wind River Mountains
Marsh Wren
Marsh Wren
Red-winged Blackbird
Red-winged Blackbird
Song Sparrow
Song Sparrow

04/26/2015: Candy and I spent the weekend in Cody, staying in the Buffalo Bill suite in the famous Irma Hotel. Here are some sights from around Cody.

Big Horn Sheep
Bison
“The Holy City”
North fork drive
North fork drive

05/03/2015:: This morning went to check on a local Great Horned Owl nest. Here is a parent watching me carefully…

Great Horned Owl

…and where we thought there was one baby, I found TWO!

Great Horned Owlets

05/25/2015: After spending the weekend in Sheridan, we discovered Wind River Canyon was closed due to rock slides. We decided to take a 6 hour detour through Yellowstone to get home. Before we did that, we took another detour to see BigHorn Canyon.

Big Horn Canyon
Big Horn Canyon
Big Horn Canyon
Few-flower Shooting Star

In Yellowstone we drove through West Thumb Geyser Basin.

West Thumb Geyser Basin
West Thumb Geyser Basin
Barrow’s Goldeneye
Thermophilic Algae
Black Pool

05/30/2015: As many times as we’ve been to the Tetons, we had never driven over Teton Pass to the west side, arriving in Idaho. We hiked a couple of miles in Teton Canyon shown here…

Teton Canyon
Trumpet Lichen

On the hike we saw a cow moose with one baby but the baby stayed well hidden from my camera.

Cow Moose
Teton Canyon waterfall
Grand Teton

Coming back over the pass, we had a wonderful view of Jackson Hole with the Gros Ventre mountain range behind…

Gros Ventre Mountains

…and a little to the south of that we could even see “our” Wind River mountain range.

Wind River Mountains

Back in Grand Teton National Park

Tetons with Lupine
Schwabacher Landing

One of the iconic photos in Grand Teton NP is of a tree called “Old Patriarch”, an ancient Limber Pine. Not seen or photographed by the casual tourist because it requires hiking where there is no trail and using only GPS to locate it. This was our first attempt to find it and although I planned the sun angle all wrong, it was still exciting to finally see it. First photo is just  a view along the hike.

Tetons
Old Patriarch

After crossing Togwotee Pass on the way home there is a spectacular waterfall that is not described in any guide of the area, Brooks Falls. Even more spectacular is that a mountain feature known as The Pinnacles can be seen behind the falls.

Brooks Creek Falls and Pinnacles

One last gift along the road home, a close view of a Pronghorn buck.

Pronghorn buck

06/03/2015: From our back yard: Full moon setting over Wind River peak

Moonset over Wind River Peak
Western Meadowlark, Wyoming’s state bird

06/07/2015: Spent the day in Sinks Canyon with the specific goal of photographing Lazuli Buntings. Ended up pretty happy getting several other species as well.

Horned Lark
Green-tailed Towhee
Green-tailed Towhee
Lazuli Bunting
Lazuli Bunting
Lazuli Bunting
Broad-tailed Hummingbird

06/13/2015: Went back out into the sagebrush in search of Sagebrush Sparrows and Lark Buntings and managed to find both.

Sagebrush Sparrow
Lark Bunting
Lark Bunting
Desert Evening Primrose

06/20/2015: After making a special trip to Sinks Canyon a few weeks ago to find the Lazuli Bunting, I woke this morning to hearing several of them singing in my back yard.

Lazuli Bunting
Lazuli Bunting
Lazuli Bunting

06/28/2015: To break in our new Jeep Wrangler, we decided to try to cross the Owl Creek Mountains on an old trail through Blondie Pass. From the looks of it, I don’t think any vehicle has gone that way in a year or more, but we made it through.

Wild horses
View of Wind River range from Blondie Pass
Prickly Pear cactus
View of the Absaroka range from Blondie Pass

Back down on the other side, we went to see the Legend Rock petroglyph site. This wall has a very large number of well preserved petroglyphs.

Legend Rock Petroglyph Site
Dinwoody Petroglyphs
Dinwoody Petroglyphs

However, there is a particular type of petroglyph unique to this area of Wyoming called “Dinwoody style petroglyphs”. Here the humanoid figures are very large, with geometric patterns in the body and horned headresses.

Dinwoody Petroglyphs
Dinwoody Petroglyphs

07/03/2015: We spent the day on a loop through the Big Horn Basin and into the Big Horn Mountains. First stop was the Red Gulch Dinosaur Tracksite.  The land area below was essentially a beach overlooking the Sundance Sea. The dinosaurs walking along this beach left footprints about 167 million years ago. Here you are allowed to walk over this area searching for the footprints.

Red Gulch Dinosaur Tracksite

The three-toed footprints are about 6-8 inches long and scientists still don’t know which particular dinosaur this was because very few theropod fossils have been found from this middle Jurassic period.

Red Gulch Dinosaur Tracksite
Red Gulch Dinosaur Tracksite
Rock Clematis

07/05/2015: Started our 5 day road trip. Here is a neat sandstone formation just outside Thermopolis.

Sandstone formations
Sunlight Gorge

Beartooth Highway, called by some the most scenic drive in America. At 10,000+ feet, it is also one of the highest.

Lake Creek Falls
Beartooth Falls

I had read that the first week in July in the Beartooths can be spectacular with wildflowers and we were not dissapointed. Here is Indian Paintbrush with Lupine…

Beartooth wildflowers
Beartooth wildflowers
Beartooth wildflowers

Scenes from the top with clouds below and above us…

Beartooths
Beartooths
Alpine Forget-me-nots

Amazing to see alpine lakes at the same level as the clouds.

Beartooths

07/06/15: We spent the night in Red Lodge, MT so we drive back along the Beartooth Highway a second time. Knowing that the weather can change rapidly, we wanted the best chance to see it in good weather. When we started, it looked just like yesterday and we had to drive the 180 degree switchbacks up through the clouds with zero visibility. But look what happened once we rose above the clouds…we could see the Beartooth Range in all its glory today!

Beartooths
Beartooths

View below is the same as yesterday with the alpine lakes and clouds, but now you can see the Beartooth Range in the background.

Beartooths

The small pointed peak here is called the Bear’s Tooth

Beartooths
“The Bear’s Tooth”
Beartooth Butte above Beartooth Lake

On the way back down we were lucky to find these 2 young Grizzlies rolling around in the grass eating wildflowers!

Grizzlies

Near the western end of the Beartooth Highway, we got a better look at Pilot and Index Peaks which are actually part of the Absaroka Range.

Pilot and Index Peaks

The road continues as the Northeast Entrance to Yellowstone. There we drove through Lamar Valley, famous for wildlife. The bison were there in large numbers.

Lamar Valley Bison

Families with young bison “red dogs” as well

Bison with “red dog”

and big Daddy’s too

Bison
Tower Falls

07/07/15: This morning we woke to some beautiful conditions in Grand Teton National Park

Tetons
Tetons
Tetons

Went to the new Rockefellar Preserve to hike to Phelps Lake, hiking along Lake Creek.

Lake Creek
Lake Creek

We suddenly came across a several groups of hikers stopped in the trail because there was a mother black bear and 2 cubs in the way. We were later joined by a Park Ranger who helped move us around until it became safe to continue. Here the mother rolled over a log and ripped it apart looking for grubs. Note the dirt and rock area in the foreground is the trail on which we were supposed to continue.

Black Bear
Phelps Lake

Going back a different route, we saw an amazing variety of Wild Columbine. Although we had seen them in gardens, this was our first experience seeing them in the wild. The color combinations were endless, here are just a few in a montage…

Columbine montage

07/08/15: We spent the next 2 days in Pinedale, WY hoping to hike in the Winr River Mountains, but the weather spoiled that plan. The first day we were able to get in a horseback trip into the Winds, riding in drizzle most of the time. Here we are at the headwaters of the Green River with Squaretop Mountain in the back.

Green River with Squaretop Mountain
Roaring Fork Valley

That evening we ate dinner at the shore of Fremont Lake with the Winds in the background.

Fremont Lake

08/01/2015: We decided to do a repeat trip from exactly 1 month ago to drive from Cody up the Chief Joseph Scenic Hwy then on to Beartooth Hwy, this time bringing Katherine and Jackson along. There are many of the same views as on our last trip, just better weather!

Chief Joseph Scenic Byway
Pilot and Index Peaks
Beartooth Highway
Beartooth Highway
Beartooths
Beartooths

08/02/2015: After staying in Red Lodge, MT overnight,  we cameback via the Bighorn Basin to see the Bighorn Medicine Wheel, one of the best preserved Native American Medicine Wheels in North America.

On the hike up to the Medicine Wheel, we saw wildflowers growing out of sheer rock and several types of wildlife.

Rock Wren
Medicine Wheel wildflowers
Yellow-bellied Marmot
American Pika
American Pika

Numerous fossils visible along the way. This looked to us like a scaled reptile fossil. Turns out it is a fossil of a type of algae!

Medicine Wheel fossil
Medicine Wheel wildflowers
Harebells

08/23/2015: We took a white water rafting trip in the Wind River Canyon. Fairly easy white water rafting with areas like this between the white water portions.

Wind River white water rafting
Wind River white water rafting

08/29/2015: Drove up to Brooks Lake on Togwatee Pass. Weather was poor so very few good pics. Here is Brooks Creek Falls with The Pinnacles behind.

Brooks Creek Falls with Pinnacles

A short hop over the pass got us a distant view of the Tetons.

Tetons from Togwotee

As beautiful as all our trips are, it’s still great to get back home where we are greeted by backyard scenes like this…

Mule Deer

09/04/2015: Labor Day weekend explored southwest Wyoming for the first time. On our way to Rock Springs there was great late day sunlight on Red Canyon so we just had to stop for a photo.

Red Canyon

09/05/2015: Today we started with the Pilot Butte Wild Horse drive.  We saw several bands of wild mustangs (how much more Wyoming can you get?). Even better was to see them with Pilot Butte in the background.

Pilot Butte wild horses
Pilot Butte wild horses

The town of Green River has many unique rock formations.

Teakettle and Sugarbowl
Tollgate Rock and The Palisades
Castle Rock
White Mountain Petroglyph site
White Mountain Petroglyphs
White Mountain Petroglyphs

On our way to see the sand dunes, we spotted our target for later in the day, the very unique Boar’s Tusk.

Boar’s Tusk

The Killpecker Sand dunes are the second largest active sand dune field in the world.

Killpecker Sand Dunes

Ah to be young again. Katherine was the only one with the energy (and the guts to dodge the dune buggies) to hike down to actually walk on the dunes. The tiny speck in the lower right corner is her taking a photo of the largest dune.

Killpecker Sand Dunes

After a very rough, as the map defines it, “undefined road”, we finally approached Boar’s Tusk, the core of an ancient volcano.

Boar’s Tusk
Boar’s Tusk
Boar’s Tusk

09/06/2015: Today the target was the Flaming Gorge. These first views are from an area called Firehole Canyon.

Firehole Canyon
Firehole Canyon
Firehole Canyon
Red Canyon overlook
Bighorn Sheep also enjoys the view
Sheep Creek overlook

We then drove a side loop called the Sheep Creek Geological Loop.

Sheep Creek Geological Loop
Sheep Creek Geological Loop
Sheep Creek Geological Loop
Sheep Creek Geological Loop
Moose
Firehole Canyon

09/24/2015: For our annual fall color trip to the Tetons, we arrived Thursday evening in time for sunset.

Teton sunset

09/25/2015: Every time we go, we try to find roads and hikes we’ve never seen before. However, I can’t pass up iconic Teton shots like sunrise at the Moulton Barns.

Moulton Barn

A new drive for us was going up the Gros Ventre Road to Lower Slide Lake. This lake was created in 1925 by one of the largest landslides in history.

Slide Lake
Tetons
Shane cabins
Shane Cabins

Back along the main Teton Hwy…

Tetons
Oxbow bend
Oxbow bend
Oxbow bend

A new hike for us was String Lake.

String Lake
String Lake

Mount Moran showing the “Black Dike” clearly from String Lake.

Mount Moran

This was taken later that night with only the moon for illumination.

Tetons at night

09/26/2015: We woke early this morning with my primary goal to see and photograph “bugling” elk. Fall is their rutting season, and we had heard the bugling at night many times but never actually witnessed it.

With a little advanced planning, we did get to see bull elk bugling.

Bugling Elk

As well as getting a nice closeup shot of a bull elk.

Bull Elk

Our new hike for today was at Jenny Lake to Moose Ponds then on to Hidden Falls.

Teewinot Mountain
Jenny Lake
Least Chipmunk

Along the trail we came along a once in a lifetime close encounter with three moose, including a mighty bull moose…

Bull Moose

a cow moose…

Cow Moose

and a 1 year old bull moose with the cutest little antlers.

Young Bull Moose

We finally made it to Hidden Falls.

Hidden Falls

Finished the tiring day off by driving south of Jackson to the Snake River Canyon in search of more fall color.

Snake River Canyon
Snake River Canyon
Snake River Canyon

09/27/2015:  Today the weather did not cooperate for lots of photography, but we got up early in hopes of seeing more wildlife. We were fortunate to get to watch a cow moose feeding in the grassy ponds along the Moose-Wilson Road.

Cow Moose
Cow Moose

11/07/2015: Went to Ocean Lake in search of the American Tree Sparrow which is here only during the winter.

American Tree Sparrow
American Tree Sparrow

11/27/2015: Took Candy to Jackson for a long Thanksgiving weekend. This is the best time of year in Grand Teton National Park to find wildlife.

Bull Moose
Trumpeter Swan
Big Horn Ram

11/28/2015: Next morning I found out that shooting in -5 degree weather is a little hard on the fingers.

Moose with Tetons
Bull Moose
Bull Moose
Teton moonset
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