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Archive for August, 2013

Old Faithful

Old Faithful

If one mentions Yellowstone Park and most people will think of “Old Faithful” Geyser. And no wonder for many. many years this famous geyser has faithfully displayed the show to thousands. The hot water eruption occurs approximately every 80-90 minutes currently. We finally were able to witness this interesting display! The water shots from around 135 feet to 180 feet in height. Approximately 3,200 to 8,400 gallons of hot water is shot into the air each time it erupts.                                                             DSC_0115

Old Faithful was discovered in 1870, but I am sure the Indians of the area had known of the display many years prior to this.

 

 

The fact is there are over 300 geysers in Yellowstone. We saw a few others too.

IMG_1205           The variances in geysers is interesting as well. Fountain geysers erupt from broad pools. Cone geysers burst through narrow rock vents. however, Old faithful is the most recognized of them all.                                            DSC_0095

Another unique feature of this area are the hot springs. These continually yield water flowing to their surface and leaching out and about. Steam is usually present  too. The water temperatures vary from around 150 to 170 degrees.  These may produce very deep pools of beautiful green to blue colors. Colors vary due to temperature and the bacteria growth within.

Mammoth Hot Springs

Mammoth Hot Springs

DSC_0167  Mammoth Hot Springs is one of more viewed of these hot springs. They are created by hydrothermal waters flowing through and interacting with rock and limestone deposits. These dissolve into calcium carbonate. The water flows from out and the deposits settle and grow. The Mammoth Hot Springs is very high with deposits and growing. The park has board walks throughout to walk and wonder.

Other sites are known as “mud pots.” These plop and make gargling sounds. hydrogen sulfide is converted to sulfuric acid which break down the rock and clay into mud. The mud is of a consistency of a milkshake. The smell of “rotten eggs” is noticeable here.                              DSC_0094

 

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DSC_0017    We stayed two nights within easy walking distance to Yellowstone lake. This allowed two mornings to capture sunrises over the lake’s eastern sky. The haze due to distant forest fires and another east of the lake allowed the sun to explode with reddish hues.

Distant smoke

Distant smoke

Yellowstone River

Yellowstone River

Yellowstone Lake is the largest natural high-elevation lake in the North America. The waters consist of 132 square miles of surface area and 141 miles of shoreline. This is not a small body of water. The depths are around  400 feet.

DSC_0171   Yellowstone is famous for its geysers and hot springs. There is evidence of underwater geysers and hot springs too. Despite the hot springs the lake is frozen over half of the  year.

The Yellowstone River is a part of the lake obviously. This water exits the lake  forming the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. (A few photos of the canyon were in the #6 entry.) This river is the longest undammed river in the lower 48 states as well.                         IMG_1236

Smoke from closest fire

Smoke from closest fire

 

Laurie and I were up early the first morning to hike to the lake. Unfortunately, she froze out since the temperatures had reached the upper thirty degree mark overnight.  She elected to head back to the lodge when she saw a small fox-like mammal in her terms. This was a pine marten. (We would see one at the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone the next day.)

IMG_1235  I explored the shores and nearby forests anxious to what was around the next bend. Mergansers and gulls and even pelicans were viewed around these waters. Much to soon, I had to exit this exploration to visit other unique sites.            IMG_1186

The lake is having an issue to deal with. The native specie of trout is called the Cutthroat Trout. It is in decline due to the introduction of the Lake Trout.  The deeper  water Lake Trout feeds on the young Cutthroat Trout of the shallower water. The Cutthroat doesn’t return the favor and the results are obvious. The park service has been hiring commercial fishermen with special nets to remove as many lake trout as they can catch.                                                                      DSC_0028

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DSC_0003   I have heard of Yellowstone all of my life. I never expected to actually make a trip to see the United states first national park. The park was established in 1872 and has around 2.2 million acres of, mostly forest and grassy lands. Pines, namely Lodgepole Pines are the dominant specie of evergreens.

New growth

New growth

Just as the Grand Tetons, many species of wildlife make this land their own. Of course, bear and wolves are present here, as well as, bison, elk and mule deer.

Badly burned area

Badly burned area

Chipmunk

Chipmunk

The most well-known river is the Yellowstone River. This waterways flows approximately twenty miles through the park. The Yellowstone Lake is, also, found within the park’s boundaries. (A separate entry will be written on the lake.) 

Falls

Falls

The river yields to some great, scenic views, namely the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. Two waterfalls are predominate here. The Upper Falls is 109 feet high and the Lower Falls is 308 feet high. They are spectacular to see. The canyon formed by these waters is steep and high with a host of beautiful colors. The colors vary in regards to the how the sun strikes their surfaces. We stood in awe at the breath-taking view!

Coyote

Coyote

Pine Marten

Pine Marten

Laurie and I were walking along a trail when a reddish-brown streak went streaking by. I recognized the mammal immediately as a Pine Marten. The speed and terrain allowed for several quick photos, but none are of the quality I would have liked. the little guy just wouldn’t turn for me! (Laurie saw one earlier near the lodge and said she saw an animal that resembled a small fox. It was a marten.)                                  IMG_1197                          

Grand Canyon of Yellowstone

Grand Canyon of Yellowstone

Natives inhabited this land in times past. the Kiowa; Blackfeet; Crow and Shoshone are better known names. I can imagine these people struggling with the elements of this potentially harsh winter climate. The park shuts down many aspects of the park from around November til May due to the deep snows.

Wyoming state law prohibits getting closer than 25 yards to bison and 100 yards to wolves and bear. I would find myself breaking this law more than once over the two days here. however, all encounters like this were totally by chance and unintentional.                                                                                            IMG_1199

Indian Paintbrush

Indian Paintbrush

Native wild flowers abound in the park. Spring would be wonderful to see I am sure. Several species I found were the Mexican Hat; Wild Lupine and Indian Paintbrush.

The pine forests are dominant as I said earlier. however, many acres were burned at various times. The fire of 1988 burned the most acreage. The remnants of this fire can be witnessed throughout the park with charred limbless trees and downed logs. Over twenty years later a young forest is emerging and growing.

The bear...sorry!

The bear…sorry!

Sunrise

Sunrise

One morning, I exited the lodge at 5:40 to work towards a T-intersection of mixed forest and grassy lands. Yesterday, we had seen some cow elk feeding and I hoped to se a bull early this morning. this intersection was over a mile away.

I eventually entered the woods for a personal experience. I adjusted the camera for some flower photos. I entered the roadway again and walked a short distance when twenty paces ahead and to my right a big black bear emerged from the pine growth. I fumbled for some pics and I was disappointed to get one clear photo. however, the bruin was entering the woods again and my whistles were ignored. The big guy’s head was behind the greens. Oh well, I am including the shot!                                                  DSC_0158

DSC_0123  I, eventually entered the woods again and heard an elk bugling a few hundred yards away. I circled the grassy areas but never say the elk. On my return towards the lodge, I spotted a large bull elk with dangling and bloody velvet on his antlers.

We saw bison, mule deer, pronghorns and a coyote this day.

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DSC_0227  What event to view nature could be better that a ten-mile float trip on the Snake River? Fortunately for us, this is not a Class 5 float!!    DSC_0225

Immediately, upon entering the Snake River an eagle was observed. The mature bird was settled on a bluff’s edge with his wings slightly opened to dry off.  The rest of the trip just had to be a good one!

The Snake River consists of clear, cold water favorable to fish species such as the native Cutthroat Trout. Our native trout in Pennsylvania is the Brook trout. Eagles, otters and osprey prey on these trout when opportunity exists. This might be why the eagle was drying out. The bird may have attempted to catch a trout.                                                                              DSC_0281

The float guide knew the waters well as we drifted south. We were all in constant state of alertness for various wildlife species. We wouldn’t be disappointed! In total we saw seven different bald eagles including one immature eagle of the year. the big birds seemed to tolerate us very well.

Pronghorn

Pronghorn

Bald eagles

Bald eagles

We continued on and suddenly we saw a young bull moose. What a thrill this was! Unfortunately, the vegetation did not allow for any quality photos. Fishermen, farther along, reported just seeing a cow elk, but she had disappeared.

Other bird species observed were Common Mergansers, a sandpiper and Canada geese. We saw a raccoon looking for food along the water’s edge. the ‘coon didn’t seem concerned our presence at all.

Bull Moose

Bull Moose

A small heard of pronghorn antelopes  were grazing in the lush grasses. They allowed  several photos.

Immature Eagle

Immature Eagle

DSC_0274 So, with seeing all of these varied species of wildlife with the majestic Grand Tetons contrasting the green pines how could we have asked for anything else!

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DSC_0156  The breakfast was completed and the tour north began in earnest. We would soon be witnessing the beauty of the Grand Teton Mountain range! We left the famous Jackson Hole area of western Wyoming.                                    DSC_0160

Jackson, also, known as Jackson Hole  is a tourist community. Everything one sees in geared towards the tourism economy. Those high forested hills that surround the town are stunning too. Looking backwards from where we stayed we could see ski lifts.  Winter is big in this area too!                                                                     DSC_0146

Laurie and I watched as two hand gliders leapt from the top to begin floating about the sky. The evening before we watched a cowboy shoot out.

We were thrilled once the sight of the Grand Tetons was visible! We were in unbelief upon viewing the spectacular mountains. We found taking our eyes off of them to be difficult. Photos just can not show the grandeur of such things of nature! The only negative thing, I can think of,  was the fact of a slight haze due to distant forest fires. Many fires were west of us in nearby Idaho. The haze reminded me of a humid condition here in good old Pennsylvania.                                                          IMG_1158

The 310,00 acre national park was established in 1929. (I was just a boy then.) The park’s size was increased in 1950. The highest elevation is of the Grand Teton mountain at 13,770 feet. Snow from last winter, and spring, was still visible at certain places amid the rocky outcrops.                                IMG_1167

Chapel of the Transfiguration

Chapel of the Transfiguration

Other named peaks include: Mount Moran at 12,605 feet; Mount Owen at 12, 928 and South Teton at 12, 514 feet. People do climb the mountains and injuries are common, as well as, some deaths. Trails exist on and around the peaks too.

Raven (note large beak)

Raven (note large beak)

The clear waters of the Snake River flow through the lands. Several lakes are present too. We saw Jackson Lake and Jenny lake. (More on the Snake River under a separate entry.)

Many species of wildlife are present in the Grand Teton area. We saw a lot of wildlife while touring and floating the Snake River.

Aspens

Aspens

Bison!

Bison!

We saw a number of bison (buffalo) in open areas. Someone shouted “BEAR” and we turned to get a brief glimpse of a young grizzly bear! Ravens were common. I was tolerated by one. I managed a few great shots of this raven. Other species in the area are elk and mule deer. I saw a Mountain Bluebird and, of course some pronghorn antelopes. I saw both of these species. Wolves are surviving here too. I would have loved to see some wolves!                                             DSC_0180

Bison will cause more injuries than any other species of wildlife here. It is no wonder! I saw some people try to get very close. These people would NOT have been able to escape if these big mammals decided to charge. State law forbids anyone from getting closer than 25 yards. We were told of one lady who was told to get back from bison because of the potential danger. She became angered exclaiming how dare they allow dangerous animals in the park….. DUH!! These are wild animals not a zoo! Other interesting sites included a small log church known as the Chapel of the Transfiguration. (In fact a wedding was occurring at this church.)  We visited a small rural old-fashioned store. I bought some huckleberry honey! We saw remnants of an old ferry known as Menor’s Ferry.      DSC_0247

Much of this area close down by mid-November due to snow. the snow may be present into May and even early June.

IMG_1162

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IMG_1143  The vast prairie lands are visible in a 360 degree field of view. All directions are covered with the pale-blue sage brush and white-colored rocks and ground. The sight is magnificent to behold to a couple of easterners. The sage sends down deep tap roots and then lesser roots parallel to the surface. Some of these plants may be over a hundred years old.

Close-up of a sage specie

Close-up of a sage specie

IMG_1140

The trail is now headin’ north as we approach the area known as Jackson Hole. The unbelievable mileage of flat sage-covered land is mind-boggling.   We did see a couple of Prairie Falcons and more antelopes.

Wild horses in a corral.

Wild horses in a corral.

Wild Horses

Wild Horses

In this area of Wyoming are living wild horses. The location is north of the community of Rock Springs, The buttes and vistas are home for approximately 2500 wild horses. A thriving population is surviving on these barren lands. Those in the know make claims the horses grow by 20% and up to 40 % annually. Reproduction is, apparently, going well for the horses.

Prickly Pear Cactus (Note insects)

Prickly Pear Cactus (Note insects)

With that in mind a number of wild horses are taken into corrals periodically in an effort to maintain a stable herd number. We stopped at one such corral.

The horses are placed up for adoption while in captivity.                                                                              DSC_0031

IMG_1146  Eventually, as we continued north, we began to see higher terrain again and some steep and grandeur mountains were present prior to our descending into Jackson Hole. The hollow featured clear mountain waters flowing towards the Snake River. I was blessed to briefly see a Bighorn Sheep ram. The ram was a younger one since he lacked the full-curl horns.    DSC_0038

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DSC_0059   The terrain changes rapidly in many areas of our travels. We are seeing lush farm country lands of Nebraska and suddenly we are witnessing prairie lands pale blue with sage brush and rocky outcrops. This day brought about our first view of the “true west” country.

The place we stayed in Cheyenne

The place we stayed in Cheyenne

DSC_0117

We stayed in Cheyenne, Wyoming and later moved through Laramie. Obviously, I remember these names from western history and old western television shows.                                        DSC_0080

DSC_0096 In southern Wyoming steep hills become more prevalent in certain areas. These were the Laramie Mountain ranges of the Medicine Bow National Forest. We were impressed with their stature, but the mountains of our future would dwarf these ridges.

Big Sky

Big Sky

We traveled across this area when suddenly we emerge in a vast basin going on for miles. We were impressed! The sage country was now in full view. We were in a very unique and beautiful land.

A sage

A sage

The very common sages are unique plants. They tend to have a pale bluish hue. The plants have a remarkable and pleasant aroma when rubbed between the fingers. Sage was used by the Indians and early settlers as a deodorizer. These people might rub some on their bodies and place in their abodes to help as a freshener.     DSC_0077

Blue Prairie Flax

Blue Prairie Flax

We stopped at a visitor center or two. I noticed a small, pale “groundhog-like” mammal. They were known locally as a pocket gopher. The correct name is Uinta Ground squirrel. Laurie was fascinated with them and we managed to get close enough to observe them and take  photos. They were cute little rascals, but by the amount of ground piled up I could see they could be damaging to property.

Uinta Ground squirrel

Uinta Ground squirrel

Sage brush was very common by this time of our travels. Miles of the plants were everywhere. This was a strange beauty. Pronghorn antelopes became routine. We saw hundreds of them. Most would be over two hundred yards from the roads with few exceptions.

DSC_0101

Pronghorn Antelopes

Pronghorn Antelopes

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