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.
1/10/2016: Took Michael to Jackson for a sleigh ride in the National Elk Refuge.
Refuge shot of the day was taken by Michael
Back home, we still get to see sunrises like this almost every day from our bedroom window.
1/31/2016: Western Grebe at Hot Springs State Park
2/12/2016: We’ve been searching for Mountain Goats and finally found them today in Snake River Canyon south of Jackson
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.
03/13/2016: For my birthday, more Wyoming explorations. Here are 2 Yellow-bellied Marmots at Hot Springs State Park.
Then to Medicine Lodge archeological site with petroglyphs
Gooseberry Badlands. Even most Wyomingites don’t know about this one!
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.
03/27/2016: Seedskedee National Wildlife Refuge
Didn’t have to go far for these Sandhill Cranes…our own backyard
When I think of Great Blue Herons, I think of the Gulf Coast. Imagine our surprise when we found a large rookery right here.
04/23/2016: Our first trip to see Ayers Natural Bridge
Beautiful bark pattern on a very old 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.
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.
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.
They are incredibly well adapted to rapids, and can speed against the strong current by “swimming” with their wings like the butterfly stroke!
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.
Drive along the South Fork Shoshone River
Some bird photos from May and June 2016
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.
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”.
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.
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.
Next we repeated the hike to 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.
We then headed on to drive up into the 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:
07/12/2016: Osprey here in Riverton
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.
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.
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.
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.
The view from where the Mountain Goats were…
At the top of Mount Evans (14,130 feet) we were even above some of the clouds.
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.
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.
Look closely and you can see why they have the name “bristlecone”, here with Indian Paintbrush.
Even those that have died are a thing of beauty, here the old with the new: Bristlecone with baby spruce.
After Mount Evans we drove Guanella Pass. Here is an un-named waterfall along the way:
Sunset that day…Can you believe this is the view from their living room?
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.
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).
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).
Here also are preserved footprints of dinosaurs that walked on that beach.
Katherine’s hand just for size reference.
Next stop was hiking around Three Sisters Park
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.
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.
Later we hiked to St. Mary’s Glacier. Here the lake was surrounded by more Bristlecone Pines.
Then we took a quick drive through 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.
Then, just before we had to leave, I got him!
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.
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.
When we arrived, we were greeted by a very low arc rainbow…
…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.
On the way home, some fall color in front of the Dubois Badlands.
We started the day with a rainbow, and ended it with one in the 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.
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.
The weather was dreary, and we couldn’t even see the mountains, so we took a first ever side trip to 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.
Then the clouds parted…
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.
Later, dramatic mountain vistas peeked through the fog
String Lake hike
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.
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.
We continued on to drive the Big Spring Scenic Backway in southwest Wyoming
We also stopped off at Fossil Butte National Monument…
…and ended the day with another 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…
…and ended the day with another rainbow as we headed home
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:
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)
There are always plenty of Bison in Lamar Valley, with a European Starling joining the hunt for food. (photo by Michael Turner)
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)
At the other end of the northernmost road in Yellowstone is Mammoth Hot Springs.
11/05/2016: Started the morning back in Mammoth Hot Springs.
Intricate patterns of mineral deposits at Mound Terrace (photo by Michael Turner)
On to the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone and Yellowstone Lower Falls.
This is the first time we did the steep hike down Red Rock Point Trail to get a better view of the Lower Falls.
Norris Geyser Basin
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…
Midway Geyser Basin
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)
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).
So while Castle was still erupting, we raced over to Grand.
…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.
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.
Of course, what’s Yellowstone without catching Old Faithfull
Leaving the Upper Geyser Basin breathless (both meanings of the word), we passed by Kepler Cascades…
…and on to West Thumb Basin. Here is a thermal feature actually IN Yellowstone Lake.
Heading out the South Entrance of Yellowstone we passed by Lewis 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.