Wyoming blog 2016

01/01/2016: New Year’s Day went on a CBC (Christmas Bird Count). There weren’t many birds but the hit of the day was a Long-tailed Weasel in its white winter coat putting on quite a show for our cameras.

Long-tailed Weasel
Long-tailed Weasel
Long-tailed Weasel
Trumpeter Swans
Bufflehead

1/10/2016: Took Michael to Jackson for a sleigh ride in the National Elk Refuge.

National Elk Refuge
National Elk Refuge
National Elk Refuge

Refuge shot of the day was taken by Michael

National Elk Refuge
Bison with Tetons
Trumpeter Swans
Common Goldeneye
Tetons

Back home, we still get to see sunrises like this almost every day from our bedroom window.

Wind River sunrise

1/31/2016: Western Grebe at Hot Springs State Park

Western Grebe
Western Grebe

2/12/2016: We’ve been searching for Mountain Goats and finally found them today in Snake River Canyon south of Jackson

Mountain Goats
Mountain Goat
Mountain Goat
Nanny and kid

03/12/2016: Even in the Rubicon we were not sure we would make it back from this drive, but we got to see some amazing hoodoo rock formations with Wind River peak in the background.

Hoodoos and Wind River Peak

03/13/2016: For my birthday, more Wyoming explorations. Here are 2 Yellow-bellied Marmots at Hot Springs State Park.

Yellow-bellied Marmot

Then to Medicine Lodge archeological site with petroglyphs

Medicine Lodge Archeological Site
Medicine Lodge Petroglyphs
Medicine Lodge Petroglyphs

Gooseberry Badlands. Even most Wyomingites don’t know about this one!

Gooseberry Badlands
Gooseberry Badlands
Gooseberry Badlands
Gooseberry Badlands

Did you know that in the 1920’s the USPS constructed a network of lighted arrows to guide pilots for expanding the transcontinental airmail route to nighttime flights? Wyoming still has about 13 arrows left intact. At one end was a generator, in the middle was a beacon tower to light the 65 foot arrow which would point the pilot to the next arrow about 10 miles away. Well, we found one amidst the sagebrush just north of I-80. The arrows are so large you can see them on Google Earth. If you want to see this one on Google, click here.

USPS airmail arrow

03/27/2016: Seedskedee National Wildlife Refuge

Northern Harrier
Northern Harrier
Mountain Bluebird
Mountain Bluebird
Golden Eagle

Didn’t have to go far for these Sandhill Cranes…our own backyard

Sandhill Cranes
Sandhill Crane

When I think of Great Blue Herons, I think of the Gulf Coast. Imagine our surprise when we found a large rookery right here.

Great Blue Heron
Great Blue Herons

04/23/2016: Our first trip to see Ayers Natural Bridge

Ayers Natural Bridge
Ayers Natural Bridge

Beautiful bark pattern on a very old cottonwood.

Cottonwood

We heard a Canyon wren singing on top of the rock bridge and decided to make that my target for the day. We climbed up with all my heavy camera equipment and set up on top of the bridge and got some really great shots.

Canyon Wren
Canyon Wren
Canyon Wren

05/07/2016: Stayed in Cody Mother’s Day weekend with 2 specific goals in mind…finding the rare Harlequin Ducks in Yellowstone, and getting to see wild mustangs.

Along the North Fork
Yellowstone Lake
Barrow’s Goldeneye
The United States National Mammal, the Bison
Cinnamon Teal
Eared Grebe
Eared Grebe
Bufflehead
Tree Swallow
Grizzly
Grizzly
Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone and the Lower Falls
Lower Falls
Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone
Common Raven

Now for the incomparable Harlequin Duck. This amazing duck is actually a sea duck, but for some reason can be found inland on the Yellowstone River for a couple of weeks per year.

Harlequin Ducks
Harlequin Ducks
Harlequin Ducks
Harlequin Duck

They are incredibly well adapted to rapids, and can speed against the strong current by “swimming” with their wings like the butterfly stroke!

Harlequin Duck
Harlequin Ducks
Harlequin Duck

05/08/2016: For Mother’s Day I promised Candy wild mustangs. Again we were very fortunate to find a band. The McCullough Peaks area horses are quite varied in color. 

McCullough Peaks wild horses
Dappled Gray
Bay (Candy’s favorite)
Pinto after dust bath
Staring me down

Drive along the South Fork Shoshone River

Castle Rock
Lower Fork Shoshone
Beaver Dam
Lower Fork Shoshone
Lower Fork Shoshone
Lower Fork Shoshone

Some bird photos from May and June 2016

Spotted Towhee
Spotted Towhee

One of my favorites, the American Dipper, also known as the Water Ouzel. This bird builds a nest just above raging river rapids so the splashing water keeps the moss nest moist and for very effective predator protection. (The nest is on the boulder at the extreme right edge of photo.) They can dive and swim under water and even walk the bottom in strong currents like this.

American Dipper photo shoot
American Dipper
American Dipper
American Dipper
Northern Flicker
Bullock’s Oriole
Brewer’s Sparrow
Brewer’s Sparrow
Yellow-headed Blackbird
Yellow-headed Blackbird
Blue-grey Gnatcatcher
Blue-grey Gnatcatcher
Chipping Sparrow
Chipping Sparrow
House Wren
House Wren
Lincoln’s Sparrow
Lincoln’s Sparrow
Vesper Sparrow
Spotted Sandpiper
American Goldfinch
American Goldfinch
Swainson’s Hawk
Swainson’s Hawk
Swainson’s Hawk

06/10/2016: We can’t go long without visiting Grand Teton National Park. Here are some magnificent views from a place called “The Wedding Trees”.

The Wedding Trees
The Wedding Trees
The Wedding Trees

Here we are back at the Shane cabins. I shot a similar view on a previous post, but I just can’t resist doing it again.

Shane Cabins
Shane Cabins

For the first time, we rode the Teton Village tram to the top of Rendezvous Mountain (10,500 feet) to get a completely different vantage point for seeing the Teton range.

Rendezvous mountain
Rendezvous mountain
Rendezvous mountain

Next we repeated the hike to Phelps Lake.

Giant Lupine
Ruffed Grouse
Phelps Lake

06/20/2016: Most “Wyomingites” know about the Castle Gardens east of Riverton. However, few know there is a second place also named Castle Gardens, this one is south of Tensleep. In this first view, you can see the Big Horn Mountains in the distance.

Castle Gardens
Castle Gardens
Castle Gardens
Castle Gardens
Big Horn Mountains

We then headed on to drive up into the Big Horn Mountains

Big Horn Mountains
Big Horn Mountains

06/21/2016 and 06/23/2016: Those who have followed this blog from the beginning know how often I’ve commented on the almost daily spectacular sunrises and sunsets we have here. Here are 2 sunsets in June taken from our back yard:

Wind River sunset
Wind River sunset

07/12/2016: Osprey here in Riverton

Osprey
Osprey
Osprey

07/16/2016: This weekend we visited the Snowy Range for the first time. The Snowy Range is a small sub-range (only about 8 miles long) at the northern end of the larger Medicine Bow Mountain Range. The first day was dark and cloudy which made scenic photography difficult, but made for great wildflower photogrpahy. We first went on a hike at a little over 10,500 feet altitude. The wildflowers were in peak bloom.

Indian Paintbrush
Indian Paintbrush
East Glacier Lake
Along the trail
West Glacier Lake
Along the trail
Glacier Lillies
Alpine Aster
Indian Paintbrush
Mountain Penstemon
Wild Columbine
Mountain Bluebells
Snowy Range from Libby Lake
Mirror Lake

07/17/2016: Today the weather was perfect for scenic photography. Here are 2 views showing almost the entire length of the Snowy Range from the Medicine Bow overlook.

Snowy Range
Snowy Range
Lake Marie
Columbine with Mountain Penstemon
White-crowned Sparrow
Lake Marie Falls
Pine Grosbeak with a Mountain Bluebell backdrop
More of Lake Marie Falls

Moving out of Wyoming for a bit, we went to Colorado to help Katherine move into her new apartment to start her Master’s degree coursework. While there we explored some scenic areas around Golden, CO with Jackson as our tour guide. Many thanks to Kerri and Dot for graciously sharing their home with us.

07/29/2016: Day 1: We drove “the highest paved road in North America”, the Mount Evans Scenic Byway. Not sure why this is named Summit Lake (it’s nowhere near the top), but it was a beautiful place to stop.

Summit Lake

Above the tree line we found a group of Mountain Goats. Despite being the end of July, because of the altitude, they were still shedding their winter coat.

Mountain Goats
Mountain Goat

The view from where the Mountain Goats were…

Mount Evans

At the top of Mount Evans (14,130 feet) we were even above some of the clouds.

Mount Evans

On the way back down, we stopped and explored an area just below timberline  with a large number of the amazing Rocky Mountain Bristlecone Pine. This particular species of Bristlecone can live up to 3,000 years old.

Bristlecone Pine

They can survive amazingly harsh conditions. This particular tree looked like it had been uprooted by the wind many years ago, but continues to produce a lot of healthy new growth.

Bristlecone Pine

Look closely and you can see why they have the name “bristlecone”, here with Indian Paintbrush.

Bristlecone Pine with Paintbrush

Even those that have died are a thing of beauty, here the old with the new: Bristlecone with baby spruce.

Bristlecone Pine
Bristlecone Pine with Paintbrush

After Mount Evans we drove Guanella Pass. Here is an un-named waterfall along the way:

Guanella Pass
Guanella Pass wildflowers
Guanella Pass

Sunset that day…Can you believe this is the view from their living room?

Sunset, Golden, CO

07/30/2016: Day 2: First stop this morning was Dinosaur Ridge. This is a view from the ridge looking back at Red Rocks Park.

Red Rocks Park

This ridge is amazing with one side having fossils from the Jurassic period and the other from the Cretaceous. Along the ridge there are many areas where one can see exposed dinosaur bone fossils. Here the areas that look a dark rusty red color are the fossils (these from the Jurassic).

Dinosaur Ridge

During the Cretaceous age, western Colorado and Wyoming were essentially the shoreline of a vast inland sea. Here you can see rock showing the imprint of water ripples along the shore (65 million year old waves).

Dinosaur Ridge

Here also are preserved footprints of dinosaurs that walked on that beach.

Dinosaur Ridge

Katherine’s hand just for size reference.

Dinosaur Ridge

Next stop was hiking around Three Sisters Park

Three Sisters Park
Three Sisters Park
Western Bluebird

Closing out the day, here are a couple of views from Lookout Mountain above Golden, CO. This is also the burial place for Buffalo Bill Cody. There is a long-standing feud between Wyoming and Colorado as to where Buffalo Bill wanted to be buried: his own ranch at Cody, WY, the town he founded, or Lookout Mountain, CO. Wyomingites say the state of Colorado bribed the family to bring the body to CO. Some even go so far as to say the body was stolen from Colorado and is actually buried in Wyoming. We had quite a lot of laughs reading numerous different plaques on Lookout Mountain, and every one of them put in bold red letters: Buffalo Bill was buried here ACCORDING TO HIS WISHES.

Lookout Mountain
Mountain Mahogany (foreground)

07/31/2016: Day 3: I didn’t have to go far this morning to photograph another life bird, a Pygmy Nuthatch, finding it in the front yard.

Pygmy Nuthatch
Pygmy Nuthatch

Later we hiked to St. Mary’s Glacier. Here the lake was surrounded by more Bristlecone Pines.

St. Mary’s Glacier
St. Mary’s Glacier

Then we took a quick drive through Rocky Mountain National Park.

Rocky Mountain National Park
Rocky Mountain National Park
Rocky Mountain National Park

08/01/2016: Day 4: Before heading out, I finally got to photograph a life bird, the Lesser Goldfinch in the front yard. First I got one of a male Broad-tailed Hummingbird.

Broad-billed Hummingbird

Then, just before we had to leave, I got him!

Lesser Goldfinch
Lesser Goldfinch

While Colorado was beautiful, we were glad to get back to Wyoming and leave the horrible Colorado traffic behind.

09/10/2016: It’s that time of year again! We heard that the red maples in Snake River Canyon were already changing, about 2 weeks before the aspen. So we took a run down to check it out. The Snake River there is a wonderful emerald green color.

Snake River Canyon
Snake River Canyon
Snake River Canyon
Snake River Canyon

09/18/2016: The following weekend we did another drive not far from home to the Double Cabin Campground above Dubois. This was a view along the way up.

Horse Creek Road

When we arrived, we were greeted by a very low arc rainbow…

Double Cabin

…and we realized we had discovered another of Wyoming’s hidden gems. Here we were surrounded on 3 sides by an incredble moutain cirque of peaks. Just try toimagine all of the following views from one location.

Double Cabin
Double Cabin
Double Cabin
Double Cabin
Double Cabin
Double Cabin
Double Cabin
Double Cabin

On the way home, some fall color in front of the Dubois Badlands.

Dubois Badlands

We started the day with a rainbow, and ended it with one in the badlands.

Dubois Badlands

09/23/2016: For the 3rd year in a row we tried to hit Grand Teton National Park (GTNP) at peak fall color. This year was possibly the best yet. This is on the way up over Togwotee Pass.

Pinnacles
Oxbow Bend and Mount Moran
Oxbow Bend
Snake River Overlook
Schwabacher Landing

09/24/2016: Need to get out very early in GTNP to look for wildlife. Fall is the rut season for elk, and the bull males can be heard bugling for miles around.

Bugling Elk
Cow moose with yearling

The weather was dreary, and we couldn’t even see the mountains, so we took a first ever side trip to Granite Creek Falls.

Granite Creek Falls

09/25/2016: Again too cloudy for a good mountain sunrise, so we searched for more wildlife. Here is a bugling bull elk with “breath fog” on a chilly morning.

Bugling Elk
Pronhorn

Then the clouds parted…

Tetons
Tetons
Tetons
Tetons

09/30/2016: The following weekend we planned to explore an entirely new region of Wyoming for us, the Wyoming and Salt River mountain ranges in southwest Wyoming. Of course we again passed through GTNP to get there. Every time we go, we stop at the Togwatee Overlook for the first panoramic view of the Teton Range. This is the first time we have see this particular sight, where we could see all of the range, but Jackson Hole valley was completely socked in with fog.

Tetons

Later, dramatic mountain vistas peeked through the fog

Tetons

String Lake hike

String Lake
String Lake
String Lake

10/01/2016: Found another hidden gem this Saturday morning. Just east of Afton, on our way to the mysterious Intermittent Spring, we passed through a small canyon called Swift Creek Canyon. It was very special with the fall colors.

Swift Creek Canyon
Swift Creek Canyon
Swift Creek Canyon
Janee Falls
Shawnee Falls

Intermittent Spring (also know as Periodic Spring) is the largest of only 3 known “cold water geysers” in the world. It “turns on” for about 18 minutes, then “turns off” for 18 minutes, and continues to cycle like this, especially in late summer and fall. (During the spring snow melt it runs continuously.) Here I’ve compressed about 40 minutes into a 10 second time lapse video.

Intermittent Spring

We continued on to drive the Big Spring Scenic Backway in southwest Wyoming

Big Spring Scenic Byway
Big Spring Scenic Byway
Big Spring Scenic Byway

We also stopped off at Fossil Butte National Monument…

Fossil Butte National Monument

…and ended the day with another rainbow

Rainbow

10/02/2016: Today we drove down Grey’s River Road between the Salt River Range and the Wyoming Range, and saw our very first American Badger…

American Badger
Grey’s River Road
Grey’s River Road
Grey’s River Road

…and ended the day with another rainbow as we headed home

Grey’s River Road

11/04/2016: Michael hadn’t been to Yellowstone since our family vacation almost 15 years ago. We decided to go on the last weekend before the roads would be closed on Monday morning. What a great decision! The weather was spectacular, and we’ve never seen the roads so open and the parking lots so empty. We decided to go up Chief Joseph Scenic Byway and enter through the Northeast Yellowstone Gate. Here are some sights along Chief Joseph:

Chief Joseph Scenic Byway
Chief Joseph Scenic Byway
Pilot and Index Peaks

From the Northeast Entrance one drives through Lamar Valey. This is the only road in Yellowstone open year round, and I hope to drive it one winter because it is famous for the wildlife. Here is a coyote we watched hunting for a while. (photo by Michael Turner)

Coyote
Soda Butte

There are always plenty of Bison in Lamar Valley, with a European Starling joining the hunt for food. (photo by Michael Turner)

Bison

Many are not aware that Yellowstone is one of the few places in the world where you can find petrified trees still standing upright. This petrified tree is 50 million years old and still standing. This one is easy to access. There is an entire grove of petrified trees near here with a difficult, steep hike to get to them. I hope to do that hike someday in the future. (photo by Candy Turner)

Petrified Tree
Undine Falls

At the other end of the northernmost road in Yellowstone is Mammoth Hot Springs.

Devil’s Thumb and Palette Spring
Orange Spring Mound

11/05/2016: Started the morning back in Mammoth Hot Springs.

Devil’s Thumb and Palette Spring
Mound Terrace

Intricate patterns of mineral deposits at Mound Terrace (photo by Michael Turner)

Mound Terrace
Cupid Spring
Main Terrace
Rustic Falls (photo by Candy Turner)

On to the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone and Yellowstone Lower Falls.

Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone

This is the first time we did the steep hike down Red Rock Point Trail to get a better view of the Lower Falls.

Lower Falls

Norris Geyser Basin

Steamboat Geyser (minor eruption)
Green Dragon Spring
Vixen Geyser
Cow Elk in Gardiner River

11/06/2016: Today was absolutely magical. We have been to Yellowstone several times and always check the geyser predictions. Usually we see Old Faithful and 1 or 2 other major geyser eruptions. Today, well you’ll just have to read on…

Gibbon Falls
Bison with thermal vents

Midway Geyser Basin

Excelsior Geyser Crater
Outflow from Excelsior
Firehole River

I never post pictures of myself, but I though this shot by Michael was cool, me walking along the boardwalk at Grand Prismatic Spring. However, there was so much steam on this cold morning that we couldn’t get good photos of Grand Prismatic Spring itself. (photo by Michael Turner)

Grand Prismatic Spring

Then we made our way to the Upper Geyser Basin and the show began…

We saw we were on schedule to possibly catch an eruption of Castle Geyser, when we saw it begin to erupt from a distance. We raced as fast as we could and got great views of the eruption from up close. While we were enjoying this sight, we saw Grand Geyser start to erupt (see the plume just to the left of Castle Geyser below).

Castle Geyser with Grand Geyser in background
Castle Geyser (video by Candy Turner)

So while Castle was still erupting, we raced over to Grand.

Grand Geyser
Grand Geyser
Chromatic Pool

…then came accross Grotto geyser eruptuing. Grotto is on the right. The small geyser to the left is Rocket Geyser. We were completly unaware of the history of Rocket Geyser. It is connected to Grotto, so it usually has small sprays at the same time as Grotto. What we were not aware of until we met a group of professional “geyser watchers”, is that Rocket occasionally puts on its very own show. 

Grotto and Rocket Geysers

Our next goal was perhaps my favorite Geyser in Yellwstone, Riverside Geyser. Here we were able to rest up and actually waited about an hour for the eruption. During the wait, Rocket Geyser suddenly exploded in a large eruption. The plume even cast a shadow over where we were. We could see it well but not photograph it from where we were. If I had known the significance of it, I would have left Riverside Geyser to go photograph it. Then Rocket went off a second time, and even a third time when Riverside started to erupt. The “geyser watchers” told us we just witnessed the rare “Triple Rocket” eruption. Anyway, here is the beautiful Riverside Geyser.

Riverside Geyser
Riverside Geyser

Of course, what’s Yellowstone without catching Old Faithfull

Old Faithful
Old Faithful (video by Candy Turner)

Leaving the Upper Geyser Basin breathless (both meanings of the word), we passed by Kepler Cascades…

Kepler Cascades

…and on to West Thumb Basin. Here is a thermal feature actually IN Yellowstone Lake.

Lake Yellowstone at West Thumb Geyser Basin
Black Pool

Heading out the South Entrance of Yellowstone we passed by Lewis Falls…

Lewis Falls

…Moose Falls…

Moose Falls

…and ended the day with sunset over the Tetons, specifically Mount Moran.

Never before had we witnessed 6 major geyser eruptions (and several minor) in one day. We continue to be awestruck by Wyoming and can’t believe we actually live here now.

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