Thursday, September 14, 2017

Wyoming Skies

We saw a variety of skies on our trip to Wyoming.
Unfortunately, often they were hazy skies, due to the many fires in the west.

Even this iconic view of Mt. Moran from oxbow bend In Grand Teton N P had haze, probably a combination of water vapor and smoke.
 On the day we all went to Yellowstone we had clear blue skies followed by a night time down pour as we drove back to our lodging in Grand Teton.  Kudos to d-i-l Mimi for driving us back safely.
 Misty Morning sky
Morning light on the Tetons
Night light

I'm linking to Skywatch Friday where you can see many more beautiful skies.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Where are the Wild Things?

Before I show you the wild things I want to get on my soapbox.We are fortunate in this country, we have parks and wilderness areas where we can go and experience nature.  Places where we can pretend that the modern world doesn't exist. While most of public lands are open to modern vehicles and equipment, these things have been excluded from wilderness lands.
Unfortunately, my own Congressman, Tom McClintock wants to change this.  His bill, HR 1349 would permit mountain bikes in wilderness lands.  Not only would bikes damage trails, they would disturb the very nature of wilderness.  If this passes I can't help but wonder what would be next, motorcycles?
Enough politics, let's find some wild things!
Our National Parks and our designated wilderness areas offer homes and refuge to a wide variety of wildlife.  Yellowstone offers habitat to a wide variety and one can see more large animals in a day in Yellowstone than most people will see in a lifetime.
I was surprised, then, to see nothing more than some squirrels while visiting the geothermal areas with my family, but I had already made plans to go back with Jules after the rest returned to their homes and I knew where to look.

We saw Trumpeter Swans in several places but it seems fitting that this one was in Swan Lake.

My destination, though, was Lamar Valley on the road to the road to the Northeast Entrance.  Our first sighting was of mountain sheep, right along the road.

Then we saw a herd of pronghorn.

I like these delicate looking animals and I was glad for my 400mm lens and new EOS 80 D which allowed me to get not great but decent images without invading their space.

Next, we encountered a herd of bison.  This guy was scratching himself on a rock, not far from the road.
I was a bit disappointed not to see wolves or elk as we had on a previous visit.  Many people know about Lamar Valley and the turn outs were full of people watching the animals.  Most were wise enough to respect the wildness and keep their distance.

  As we were leaving the park the next day I couldn't resist taking a picture of this blue heron.  We have plenty of them around here but I always enjoy seeing them.

Not the best image but one of my favorites, a shot of these bison along the Yellowstone river.  It is rutting season for this species and it was interesting to watch them square off against one another.

Check out Our World Tuesday to see more views of our wonderful world!

Monday, September 4, 2017

Traveling with a Disabled Individual

It is challenging to travel with a severely disabled person.  When planning our trip to Wyoming I had to keep in mind Michael's special needs.

 The ADA requirements here in the United States are a great help, most sidewalks have ramps at corners and most hotels offer one or more accessible rooms. The degree to which these rooms are accessible varies, though.  We were very pleased that the room at Springhill Suites had wide spaces between furniture making making it easy to negotiate with a wheelchair.  The tub had a fold-down bench and hand held shower making transfer and bathing easy.
Many hotels offer microwaves and small refrigerators, important items in accommodating those with special diets but the manager offered the use of a food processor when he learned that Michael required his food to be pureed.  We didn't take him up on it, though, as we had brought our own.


Accommodations in National Parks are a bigger problem.While accessible rooms are offered and some now have small refrigerators I have yet to see any with a microwave.
I was pleased to find Signal Mountain Lodge, a privately owned property on Jackson Lake in Grand Teton.  We didn't choose one of their accessible rooms, that room did not have a refrigerator or microwave.  After discussing our needs with a staff member we chose a room with easy access, a kitchenette and a lake view.  Michael enjoyed sitting on the deck and watching the boats bob on the water. 

Actually, we all enjoyed sitting on the deck enjoying the view!

When traveling with someone with special needs, know what is needed and ask questions.  I find most people want to help but they need to know what is required.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Vertical Harvest

From the window in our hotel in Jackson we could see a building across the street with what appeared to be blinking lights.  As it turned out, the lights were not blinking at all but trays of lettuce were passing in front of grow lights at Vertical Harvest, an indoor farm.

 The trays of lettuce move on what resembles a flattened Ferris Wheel.
 The top floor of the building is used for growing tomatoes.  Year around salads in a part of the country that has a short growing season.  According to their website the hire variously abled individuals to work in their operation.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

The Great American Eclipse Experience

Five years ago I learned that there would be a total eclipse visible in North America and I was determined to see it with my own eyes and with my family.  I chose Jackson Hole Wyoming for our venue, planning to then go to Grand Teton National Park.  Unfortunately, many others had the same idea and although I started looking more than a year in advance I could find no accommodations.  At last, Motel 6 opened their books for the period and I jumped at it.  Ten months later I called to make sure an accessible room was available for grandson Michael and his parents and was told that the reservation had been cancelled due to overbooking.  I had not been notified!
Fortunately I was able to secure accommodations at Springhill  Suites, much nicer and much more expensive.  The staff at Springhill was very accommodating and helpful.  All and all I felt we had actually been fortunate not to be stuck at Motel 6!

Eric Mimi and Mark did some exploring and decided that the park next to the visitor center would be a good viewing location.  It was a good choice, not too crowded and with a restroom nearby.  Perfect!

We picked our spot and waited for the show to begin.  We came prepared with eclipse glasses, viewers, camera filters and even special eclipse binoculars.
Some creature in the nearby wetlands (I think it is a muskrat) provided some diversion while we waited.

I found it difficult to get satisfactory images.  It was hard to get the camera to focus, these are the sharpest of the many I took.  It didn't help that I left the tripod back in the room.  I saw the diamond ring but didn't get a shot.
It was a wonderful experience to share with the family, I'm glad we were able to do it.
I am sharing this with SkyWatch, Friday.  Join us their to see more views of the sky.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

The Interdependent Web of Life

Before moving here to Lincoln Hills I never gave thought to the interdependent web of life.  As I walked our open space trails, observing the change of seasons I became aware of cycles.  The first thing I noticed was the flowers.  Of course in spring there were many blooms but as Spring changed to Summer and Summer to Fall I noticed that there was always something in bloom, something to feed the pollinators.  The pollinators depended on the succession of bloom and the plants depended on the pollinators to reproduce. When I heard about the problems caused by monoculture, the growing of a single crop on large tracts of land, I understood.  Once that tree or crop has bloomed it is a desert for the native pollinators.
Recently I noticed another instance of the interdependence of nature.  
Before the grass grew high we often saw egrets hunting in the grassland.  As the grass grew high the egrets disappeared, we wondered why
Then the homeowners association had sheep brought in to eat and trample the grass as a fire control measure.
Then the egrets were back.  With the grass beaten down they could more easily find the voles.
Voles they needed to feed their chicks.
Voles, rabbits and mice eat the grass and multiply.  In nature deer would come, eat and tramp down the grass (probably not as efficiently as the sheep) making it easier for birds of prey and coyotes to find a meal. 
Nature has a balance, a balance that we too often disturb.  The use of sheep to graze the grass helps to restore that balance.  The sheep are moved every couple of days, leaving plenty of grass for habitat but reducing the fuel for fires.
Find more views of our world at Our World Tuesday

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Joshua Tree National Park

After visiting Death Valley we headed further south to Joshua Tree National Park.  Since we no longer camp I looked on the internet to find a place that might still give us a comfortable outdoor space.  What I chose was Spin and Margies, about halfway between the two northern entrances to the park.
There were five units, four of which have kitchens, just what we wanted.  Retro?, funky?, I don't quite know how to describe this place but we enjoyed our stay.
Driving into the park we soon encountered some "Joshua Trees".  A variety of Yucca said to get its name because it reminded some of Joshua lifting his arms in prayer.  I'm not sure if the blossoms are of young Joshua Trees or the Mojave Yucca, also found in the park.  Probably the latter.
Next down the road we came to a turnout for an exhibit of the cholla, also called "teddy bear cactus", you wouldn't want to hug these teddys, though.  Also at the turnout is a nice stand of ocotillo and some beaver tail cactus.  The ocotillo, greener than I had ever seen them, due I imagine, to this years heavy rains.
 We continued on down to Cottonwood Spring, lots of wildflowers along the way.  We didn't spend as much time as we might have as Jules was not feeling well.  I now realize that he was beginning to feel the effects of gallbladder trouble that would hit him hard after we got home.

I like the rock formations of Joshua tree almost as much as I do the spring flowers.
At the end of the day we were treated to a beautiful sunset.
Heading home we took the somewhat longer route that brought us by the road to our summer cabin.  The county had not yet begun to plow the 5 1/2 miles.  It looks like summer is still a ways off at Virginia Lakes.

Find more view of our Wonderful World at Our World, Tuesday

Friday, April 21, 2017

Signs of Spring

 These signs of Spring were spotted this week near my home in Lincoln, CA.
This egret family was in a tree between two shopping centers.  They had plenty of company with many nesting egrets and herons in the same tree.  The chick isn't as cute as some of the other babies I saw.
Hooded merganser and chicks in a nearby pond.
 Family of geese walking down my street.

 Lambs whose moms had been brought in to graze the open space in our community.
The circle of life continues.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Death Valley

Last month we took a trip to the desert in the hope of finding some desert wildflowers.  Our first stop was Death Valley.  It was unusually hot for March and there were no wildflowers.  No problem, there was still plenty to see and do and we had a good time.
Oasis Garden
We stayed at Furnace Creek Inn.  In the past we had either camped or stayed at the Furnace Creek Ranch, a motel style lodging.  The Inn proved to be a perfect choice.  During the hot afternoons we could wander the corridors of the hotel for exercise or go down to the oasis garden.

Zabiskie Point
We did our sightseeing in the morning, before it got hot.
Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes

Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes
There were plenty of people out exploring the dunes.
Creosote Bush
Did I say there were no wildflowers?  That is not quite true.  The creosote was in full bloom.  

Although we didn't see the critters that made them, there were plenty of tracks out on the dunes.

Old borax wagons were on display at the remains of the borax works.
Salt crystals
No trip to death Valley would be complete without a visit to Bad Water 282 feet below sea level.  Due to recent rains there were water filled potholes in which salt was crystallizing.  Unfortunately, it seems visitors found the potholes irresistible and most of them had been disturbed and the newly formed crystals destroyed. 
At the end of the day we found a spot to watch the sunset and see the stars come out.
On our way to our next stop we finally found our wildflowers.

Find other views of our wonderful world at Our World Tuesday