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.
The wildlife stay near the hot springs as well
The way home passes through the 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:
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.
Multiple shots at 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.
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.
1/24/15: Today we took a ride in the snow coach to some other areas along the Yellowstone inner loop road.
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.
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.
1/25/15: Time to head back home.
The Tetons greeted us as we exited the south entrance.
Got back home in time for another one of our beautiful sunsets.
01/31/2015: Decided to hike up to Popo Agie falls with Katherine to see the frozen falls.
02/08/2015: Took a drive up to Dubois to look for Bighorn Sheep and we weren’t disappointed.
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.
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.
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!
On the way back from the lek, saw numerous Horned Larks amidst the sagebrush.
04/18/2015: Took a short drive up to Ocean Lake on a beautiful morning with interesting clouds over the Wind River Mountains.
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.
05/03/2015:: This morning went to check on a local Great Horned Owl nest. Here is a parent watching me carefully…
…and where we thought there was one baby, I found TWO!
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.
In Yellowstone we drove through West Thumb Geyser Basin.
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…
On the hike we saw a cow moose with one baby but the baby stayed well hidden from my camera.
Coming back over the pass, we had a wonderful view of Jackson Hole with the Gros Ventre mountain range behind…
…and a little to the south of that we could even see “our” Wind River mountain range.
Back in Grand Teton National Park
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.
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.
One last gift along the road home, a close view of a Pronghorn buck.
06/03/2015: From our back yard: Full moon setting over Wind River peak
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.
06/13/2015: Went back out into the sagebrush in search of Sagebrush Sparrows and Lark Buntings and managed to find both.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
07/05/2015: Started our 5 day road trip. Here is a neat sandstone formation just outside Thermopolis.
Beartooth Highway, called by some the most scenic drive in America. At 10,000+ feet, it is also one of the highest.
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…
Scenes from the top with clouds below and above us…
Amazing to see alpine lakes at the same level as the clouds.
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!
View below is the same as yesterday with the alpine lakes and clouds, but now you can see the Beartooth Range in the background.
The small pointed peak here is called the Bear’s Tooth
On the way back down we were lucky to find these 2 young Grizzlies rolling around in the grass eating wildflowers!
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.
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.
Families with young bison “red dogs” as well
and big Daddy’s too
07/07/15: This morning we woke to some beautiful conditions in Grand Teton National Park
Went to the new Rockefellar Preserve to hike to Phelps Lake, hiking along 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.
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…
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.
That evening we ate dinner at the shore of Fremont Lake with the Winds in the background.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
A short hop over the pass got us a distant view of the Tetons.
As beautiful as all our trips are, it’s still great to get back home where we are greeted by backyard scenes like this…
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.
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.
The town of Green River has many unique rock formations.
On our way to see the sand dunes, we spotted our target for later in the day, the very unique Boar’s Tusk.
The Killpecker Sand dunes are the second largest active sand dune field in the world.
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.
After a very rough, as the map defines it, “undefined road”, we finally approached Boar’s Tusk, the core of an ancient volcano.
09/06/2015: Today the target was the Flaming Gorge. These first views are from an area called Firehole Canyon.
We then drove a side loop called the Sheep Creek Geological Loop.
09/24/2015: For our annual fall color trip to the Tetons, we arrived Thursday evening in time for 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.
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.
Back along the main Teton Hwy…
A new hike for us was String Lake.
Mount Moran showing the “Black Dike” clearly from String Lake.
This was taken later that night with only the moon for illumination.
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.
As well as getting a nice closeup shot of a bull elk.
Our new hike for today was at Jenny Lake to Moose Ponds then on to Hidden Falls.
Along the trail we came along a once in a lifetime close encounter with three moose, including a mighty bull moose…
a cow moose…
and a 1 year old bull moose with the cutest little antlers.
We finally made it to Hidden Falls.
Finished the tiring day off by driving south of Jackson to the Snake River Canyon in search of more fall color.
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.
11/07/2015: Went to Ocean Lake in search of the American Tree Sparrow which is here only during the winter.
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.
11/28/2015: Next morning I found out that shooting in -5 degree weather is a little hard on the fingers.