Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Next adventure: Across the Pond

I am taking a short break from packing and organizing.  It's almost done but I needed a change of pace.  Thursday morning my neighbor, Joyce, will take me to the Amtrak Station in Fresno for the ride to the Bay Area.  Friday evening, Chris and I board Norwegian Airlines for the flight to London.

Watch this space for tales and photos of England, Scotland and Wales.  Return to the States on Oct. 26th.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

The Eclipse and end of the season in Yellowstone

The eclipse had its biggest impact in Yellowstone in numbers of visitors and not the actual event.  In fact, I was a bit disappointed.  I thought the 97-98% estimated coverage would result in more dramatic lighting.  Instead, my shutter speed dropped a bit and the light had a greater softness, but the impact was slight.  Since I worked that day, I didn't drive south to the area of totality. Friends saw that and said it was impressive.

Here the impact included a huge drop in visitors for the day.  I had only one person for my tours and roads and parking lots resembled early May rather than August.  Delightful to have such peace, quiet and sense of space.   But that was just the lull.  The park was more crowded than usual for several days before and the day after was impossible.  In fact, the Park Service eventually closed admission to the park for those who hadn't yet checked through the entrance station and closed the  entrance into the Old Faithful area for those already in the park.    I had the day off, did chores around the house in the morning.  Our employee area showed no impact.  But as soon as I hit the road to go to West Yellowstone for some grocery shopping and other errands, I realized my mistake.  Traffic was stop and go for the two miles until I reached a turn around spot and then getting through that parking area to turn around took about 15 minutes for a small lot.     

My season is quickly coming to an end.  Normally I work until about the 1st of October, but this year my contract ends Sept 5 so that I can get back to California and get ready for a departure to England on Sept 22.  In between is my 50th high school reunion, also in California.  It will be hectic, but I have already planned most of my wardrobe, camera equipment to take, and various details related to travel.  

Here are some photos from the last month or so.  I love getting the feel of the geothermal basins without taking the iconic photos.  Early morning steam and sun rays at Black Sand Basin has become a favorite.

The next few views are from the boardwalk at Grand Prismatic in the Midway Geyser Basin.  The largest hot spring in the park, it is an iconic photograph, one every visitor wants.  The first two include the reflection of the trees from the hill beyond, just to give them a little difference from the usual.  The third is a detail of the patterns created by mineral deposits and thermophiles which give the area around the pool its rich colors.

View of Grand Prismatic from the new overlook.
The big event in the park this year was the opening of the new overlook to Grand Prismatic.  In the past, people created what are known as "social trails."  These are informal trails, not maintained by the park service.  After numerous accidents on the hillside, a maintained, safe trail was built last year.  It didn't open until sometime in mid-July of this year  to allow additional time for the old social trails to begin healing and for the Park Service to enlarge the parking area for Fairy Falls trail head to accommodate the large numbers of people who would want to hike to the new overlook.  That parking lot was immediately overwhelmed.  Still, this is a great new experience.  I took some photos of the full pool, but prefer this one of just a portion.   My favorite photos from the overlooked turned out not to be the pool but the patterns on the ground with a couple of single "Bobby Sox trees."  These are trees that have drowned when flow from geothermal features changes, flooding areas which once had healthy trees.  Since all but a few species of trees do not like being in constant water, they drowned.  But not before soaking up the water containing minerals.  After the trees die, the water evaporates leaving the trunks and base with mineral deposits.  These white deposits make the tree look like they are wearing white sox, hence the name Bobby Sox trees.  Looking down on them from the platform, diminishes the effect of the white, although you can make it our in the photos.

Rich deposits of thermophiles and minerals make textured colorful beds along the boardwalk at Biscuit Basin.  

These thermophiles are at Black Sand Basin

Here are a couple views of the terrace at Mammoth Hot Springs.

One of my favorite views is along the Firehole River just south of Midway Geyser Basin.   Afternoon and early evening  thunderstorms are frequent here and can make for dramatic skies.  

Early morning at Black Sand Basin

"My" Historic Yellow Bus (or touring car) at White Dome.  Usually my camera does not go with me on tours, but on the day of the eclipse, with only one passenger and desire to get some photos of the eclipse effects I carried my camera.  I liked the steam behind the bus and snapped this one  quickly.

Cave Falls in the Bechler region of the park (accessed by either a 38 mile hike from Old Faithful or by car from Idaho) this is a quiet corner of America's first national park.   The waterfall is the widest in the park.  It is fun to photograph with a neutral density filter to get the slow, silky appearance of the falling water.

And finally, here is my photo taken at the peak of the eclipse.  It looks like I used a polarizer, but this was taken without, with no editing to accentuate the colors.   If I didn't tell you it was during the eclipse, I doubt anyone could tell.  This is at Black Sand Basin, which is close enough to where the bus is stored and maintained that I could get there after I dropped my solo passenger.  He was going to meet his family to experience the eclipse and I dropped the bus, returning later to clean it and do my paperwork, and rushed to Black Sand.  This is a better example of "Bobby Sox trees" than the ones from the Grand Prismatic Overlook.  

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Soltice in Yellowstone

June 20 from Yellowstone:  Tomorrow will be the longest period of daylight for the year.  And while it will be sunny, it won't be terribly warm.  Today reached the mid-70's but tomorrow the expected high is 66F with a low of 32F. Since a criteria for my summer work locations is that they be areas which don't get hot, I am happy.

I treated myself for my birthday with an overnight at Chico Hot Springs, north of the park.  I drove there in snow.   It began the night before and snowed for most of the trip, until I arrived at lower elevations near the park entrance.  Chico is a resort in Paradise Valley.  the Main hotel was built in 1900 and is an elegant old building.  Two pools, one is a large swimming pool  which is generally in the 90 degree range and a soaking pool which is around 103 degrees. are outside behind the old inn.   I arrived and soaked, relaxed for a bit and then had a truly sumptuous dinner in the pleasant dining room.  The restaurant at Chico is considered one of, if not the best, restaurant in Montana.  My meal certainly lived up to their reputation.  And the service was just as memorable.

Satiated, I opted to walk about a bit after dinner, rather than soaking again.  In the morning, I was the first one into the soaking area and had it to myself for a short while.  A few others arrived but it remained quiet and peaceful.  A great breakfast followed.  

 It was the perfect way to celebrate another year.  It was most convenient that my birthday fell on my "weekend" off.   After Chico, I headed to Bozeman for all my city activities and errands, including hair cut, shopping, visit to Bozeman Camera Store for a thorough cleaning of my camera.  

June is the arrival time for most of the elk calves.  It is also a great time for all kinds of wildlife and wildflowers.  Included here are a sampling.   My friend, Jackie and I, were looking for a Peregrine Falcon nest in a crevice of the rocks in Firehole Canyon that I had been told about.  We didn't find it, and I hear that it is almost impossible unless you see an adult bird fly in or out, or someone who has seen that occur is with you to point out the spot.  But we did spot an wapiti (elk) cow clearly ready to deliver.  There is a photo of her here.  The next morning I returned on my photo tour and guests were treated to the site of she and her calf, still on wobbly legs, on a ledge on the far side of the river.   Although easily visible, and we could not have asked for better light, the location was high and safe for the newborn.   I don't photograph on my tours, but returned in the late afternoon and got some photos of the calf.  The conditions and the location of the calf was not as good as it had been in the morning when it moved slightly further from the mother, trying out its long legs, but I am delighted to have the photos of this less than a day old elk.  Wapiti is a Native American term for elk and means "light" or "white" rump which is most appropriate.

Elk cow in the evening

Elk cow and her very young calf the next afternoon

Last season I only saw one moose in the park.  I was delighted to see this bull early in the season.  I figure I have a greater chance of seeing more  after this early season as the months go by.
Co-workers were kidding me as I had seen no bears during my first several weeks in the park, while they were reporting all kinds of sightings.  But I was just saving up.  I saw the moose, and 5 grizzzlies within an hour and within a mile of each other.   This mother  with her two cubs of the year was nervous.  I figured there was male grizzly nearby.   She stood ,checking, then ran with her cubs following as fast as they could.  She stopped again, stood, and then continued running.

Cubs tumbling over themselves as they worked to keep up

Mother grizzly stands for another look at another bear approaching.  If you enlarge this photo you will see a Sandhill Crane at the far left just before the tree line

This handsome coyote was behind a log barricade in a small parking area.

Pine Martin, member of the weasel family, in a snag.

Wildlife on the travertine terraces at Mammoth Hot Springs in the northern part of Yellowstone

Yellow Bellied Marmot

Early morning sunrise on a foggy morning.  This large grove of "bobby sox trees" is near Firehole Lake.  The trees drowned when hot mineral water from ever changing routes of geothermal waters changed and flooded this forest.

Osprey in flight.  I was waiting for Grand Geyser to go off when this osprey flew over.  It was a long ways away and I  didn't think I could get a photo but, while not great, I zoomed it up a bit and it is clear enough to see the bird's markings. 

This time of year the Mountain Bluebirds are in breeding plumage.  The males are a brilliant blue.

Great Blue Herons are  one of my favorite birds.

Harlequin ducks.   These are beautiful little ducks.  They were a long ways out in the Yellowstone River so I hope you can see them well enough.  Click to enlarge

Barrows Golden Eyes, swimming in an opening of otherwise still frozen Sylvan Lake

Meadow Lark near Chico Hot springs

The old hotel at Chico.  Newer accommodations are adjacent to it, but I stayed in the old part, which is more in my budget.

abandoned trucks in Old Chico, a mile or so beyond the hot springs resort.

View from Old Chico with fresh snow on the mountains

Views from Paradise Valley, home of Chico Hot Springs and also the route between the north entrance of the park and Livingston, MT.

From West Thumb, this geolthermal feature is famous as a former place to cook ones freshly caught fish.  It was more of a tourist gimmick than a reality as most fish dropped in here on hook and line probably fell apart before being retrieved and eaten.

Evening view across marshy area due to the high snow melt this year.  This is near the old Soldier Station north of Gibbon Meadows.

Elephant Head is blooming.  Each tiny blossom has petals looking like elephant ears and the appearance of a trunk.

Larkspur against the snow.

Fringed Gentian is the park's official flower.  It is now blooming in many areas of the park.