Sunday, December 11, 2011

Another cycle completed

Happy Holidays to all my friends. May you be surrounded by good friends, good memories, good times, and plans for times to come.

As the days get shorter, and even here in Arizona, colder, I am encouraged to relax with a cup of Mexican hot chocolate and reminisce about the year. My memories of 2011 will include Ecuador, another great season in Yellowstone, and a special new friend in my life.

Memories include all the friends and family; the ones I saw this year and the ones I didn't see but was in touch with by email, letters, phone or messages passed along by others. In a few cases, we missed any communications but you still hold a special place in my heart and mind and we will reconnect when the time is right.

Since my last holiday letter, I celebrated the solstice and Christmas in Ajo, AZ. This year I promise myself I will get some photos of the Christmas Eve in the Plaza, a good old- fashioned family, non-commercial style event. Then I can include them in my blog for next year's letter.

In January I took off for Ecuador. My incredible hosts, Ana Maria and Ted, were fellow Yellowstone employees. Each season Ana Maria invited me, but last year when she asked what dates I would be there, I knew the invite was for real and not just polite talk. Take a look at my January and February 2010 blog postings for a review of the trip. There are photos and descriptions of Inca ruins high in the Andes, hummingbirds in the rain forest, outdoor markets in Otavalo, a hot spring, colonial cities, visits to farms, the bustling and beautiful mountain city of Quito, and the Galapagos Islands.

It was my first trip to South America and a perfect one in every way.

Spring included wildflowers in the southwest, rambling north with visits along the way, time in the Bay Area, and then off to Yellowstone. The Bay Area is always bittersweet. I have many old and dear friends there but there is never time to see them all. I try to rotate from year to year, but that isn't always enough.

This was my 4th and last season in Yellowstone. For four years I have had the enviable job of driving one of the Historic Yellow Buses. These are restored White Motor Company 1936-1938 vintage, open top (weather permitting) touring buses. For the last three of those years I led photo tours. I took people out to places which are special to photograph, getting them there for the best lighting, and giving them help with their cameras and photo techniques. I've had a great time. But I don't call myself a nomad for nothing. I was beginning to feel restless, feel that it was time for a change about mid-way through the season.

And that was just about the time I got an email from cousins Bonnie and Sharon saying they were going on an African safari next summer and they hoped I would join them. So, in July (winter there) I will be in South African communing with their wildlife instead of the grizzlies, pikas, eagles, pronghorn, marmots, bison, blue grouse, white pelicans, and elk of Yellowstone. Trip will include wildlife parks and a side trip to Victoria Falls.

Since the plane flight is horrendous, I will break up the trip with some time in Europe before and after. I hope to visit Gayle in Leeds, England on one end of the Africa trip. We started kindergarden together and had many years living in the same neighborhood. I am not sure on the rest yet, but another week at Pueblo Ingles is a thought

September is my favorite time during the work season in Yellowstone. The pace slows a bit, the travelers are more seasoned, the early mornings are crisp and the mists from the warmer waters fill the air. This year September had a special bonus. Three old friends from the Diablo Valley Camera Club, of which Lin and I were founding and long time members, came for a visit and took my tour. But they did not come alone. They brought Chris. As common parlance has it, we are now "an item." He is a delightful person, a great photographer and a wonderful companion. It's not perfect....he is still working in the Bay Area and my wanderlust won't let me settle back there at this point. So, we will be supporting the airline industry and already have several trips planned back and forth between Concord and my winter locations. He will be seeing in the New Year with me in a quiet spot in the Sonoran Desert, listening to coyotes rather than football.
While I am not returning to Yellowstone, at least this year, my boss told me I am always welcome back. So who knows? I love the place. and I had a great work experience with terrific co-workers and boss. But then I loved Bodie, Patrick's Point, the hot spring resort and the Oregon Coast too. There are still places I want to experience and working in a special spot allows me the time to explore in depth.
This year marked the loss of my mother's next younger sister, Eilleen. I am glad I went back for a visit a couple of years ago and spent time parked in her driveway in Lacota, Michigan, visiting, hearing all the childhood stories of the family including the different takes she and my mother had on incidents from their childhood. She was warm and open and I always loved seeing her. Aged 97, she is another example of the long lived genes in the family, on both sides, and the ability they have had to stay active and alert well into their nineties.

It was a difficult year for Lin's daughter, Jacque, who suffers from heart and kidney failure. I went back to the Bay Area in the Fall specifically to see her. They are trying some new meds and she was doing a bit better by the time I left. She is making sure she spends time with her family, including a camping trip to the Redwoods and adding recipes to the annotated family cookbooks which she started a few years ago.

Do take a look at the hummingbirds and llamas, the craft and livestock markets, the iguanas, blue footed boobies, the magnificent scenery of Ecuador on my blog. And grizzlies, geothermal features, flower close-ups, waterfalls, moose, baby bison, etc of Yellowstone. My blog is my way of sharing some of my travels with all of you, posting some photos, letting you know about my adventures. Looking at the blog is the best way to get a feel for my travels and experiences in 2011 and it is more photos than text...just hit the "older posts" notation at the very end of each page to scroll back through the year.

Happy holidays. I look forward to hearing news of you and your families. Whether I am reading it in the computer screen or sitting in the plaza in Ajo, AZ with the packet of mail that has arrived from Livingston, I love hearing from all of you.

Introducing Chris

A change has occured in my life. I met Chris when he came to Yellowstone with three people I have known for a long time. But the romance waited until I returned to northern California to see my late husband's daughter, Jacque, who is in poor health.

Chris and I got together to discuss photography. But we found we shared a lot more than the interest in photography. And so I extend my stay in the Bay Area and we spent time getting to know each other better. On weekend trips we had fun exploring, looking for interesting places to eat, regaling each other with stories, photographing,and I taught him about life in a motorhome. And to give you an idea of my level of trust, I actually let him drive it....for a short bit.

And during the week I accompanied him to some of his work sites and, as he is a roofing consultant, I now know about flashings and water proof membranes and water tests and all kinds of things I never even thought about before. One project is the Moffit Hospital at UCSF and besides seeing the project I was the San Francisco skyline on a day with terrific clouds and sunlight. Its not a view most people get. I got to know his family, four generations of them, and he met my cousin and some of Lin's family.

We talked at great length about how we could balance his career with my nomadic lifestyle. It will be a challenge. He is coming to spend a week with me in one of my favorite, quiet spots in the Sonoran Desert over New Years and I am flying to the Bay Area and then on to Hawaii in January where he has a conference. We are talking, dreaming and researching other adventures. It is too late to add him to my African safari next summer, but we will do something fun on our own.

One of our trips was to Bodie for photographer's day. This one was already planned, through the Diablo Valley Camera Club before I arrived in the Bay Area. We handed one of our cameras to a passing visitor and asked him to take a photo of us, using the weathered wood as a backdrop. The ground must be uneven as he is a good deal taller than I am.

Chris with grandsons Conrad and Walter.

And finally, here we are, in a golf cart, on a golf course. WHAT? No I haven't taken up golf and neither has Chris. But we were asked to photograph a tournament. We had a great time, although my favorite photo of the day was of an egret on the course

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Different View

On a recent trip to the eastern Sierras, I took this shot in a grove of aspen. I had forgotten about the effect of zooming while the lens was open until late this summer when fellow photo guide, Wim, reminded me. Did a bunch of zoomed photos but this is my favorite.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Teton Neighbors

This moose was a regular in the Gros Ventre campground in the Grand Tetons National Park where I stayed a week after completing my last tour in Yellowstone. A day after this photo was taken, he got into a fight with another bull over the local females. He ended up with a cut which looked to be in his eye, although the healing, which came quickly, showed the eye was okay. He also lost a piece of that antler.
Fights can get pretty rough. That rack of antlers weighs about 75 pounds.

The female, below, was more interested in browsing and scratching her neck on this old buck-and-rail-fence that she was in the male. The photo is small but you can click on it for a larger version.

Air quality was poor due to wildfires and prescribed burns. But this particular morning Teton peak showed from the campground with the siloutte of the bull moose. The little bright dot which looks at first glance to be his eye, is a willow leaf stuck to his hair.

The photos below actually belong with the previous blog....but ended up here. The first is a photo of Joe and I near the entry arch to Yellowstone. We were photographing pronghorn in the meadow. This photo and the next, of me taking the photo of the bison hair (see previous blog post) were taken by Chris Nelson. Joe and his wife, Mary, and Theron are old friends from the Diablo Valley Camera Days. Chris is Theron's son. This was an avid group of photographers, but not so serious about it that we didn't do a lot of laughing, kidding, and socializing.

Doug, my fellow photo guide, used to kid me about taking photos of bison hair....He should enjoy these photos and the lengths I went to to photograph the hair on the vegetation.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Fall in Yellowstone

September is a special time in Yellowstone. The crowds are reduced and more mellow. The bison rut is diminishing while the elk rut gets underway. The air is rent with the sound of elk bugling as dominant males call together their harems.

Leaves and late season blossom are edged with frost. Small geo-thermal features, hardly noticeable in warmer air, are now obvious. The water of Yellowstone Lake, exceeds the morning air temperature, creating spectacular fogs along the Yellowstone River.

The end of the season was bittersweet. I have made the decision not to return next year. It was an incredible four years; I have made great friends, I have made Yellowstone my back yard, and I have regained my interest in photography which became almost nil after Lin died. I have made the transition to digital, I love going out with my camera again, and I am learning new skills. Thank you Doug (Doug Hilborn, fellow photo guide in Yellowstone) for that tour in 2008 that re-sparked my interest and for your support in my becoming your co-photo guide.........OKAY! for doing "YOUR" tours on your days off! I worked for a great department, had a wonderful boss, was impressed by the level and commitment to training the guides, had fun driving the classy 30's vintage bus, seeing grizzlies and ospreys, elk, marmots, eagles, white pelicans, wildflowers, geysers, waterfalls. I enjoyed watching the scenery and wildlife change as the seasons moved from spring to fall as I toured early in the morning, or went exploring on my days off,. Fellow employees and park regulars shared information on where things were happening. Thanks to Wim, the other photo guide, for reminding me to "play" with my camera, zooming while the shutter is open, or lying on the ground looking up.

And while I won't be back next year, I know I will be back for visits and possibly to work again some day, when I get the wanderlust out of my system. My boss, Rob, assures me that I would be welcomed back. The photo guide position, working between two locations, might not be available, but there is room for me in a driving\guiding position.

Here are a few more September images. A visit by some members of my old Diablo Valley Camera Club was special and many of these were made during that visit. Special people, special time.

Canada Goose feather on frosted log. Click to enlarge to see better

Bison hair caught on vegetation.

Small hot spring near Mud Volcano. The foggy effect is a combination of steam from the hot water in the hot spring and fog above the Yellowstone River in the distant background. Chris and I got up early on the last day the camera club group was visiting and photographed the beautiful sunrise lighting.

Moose Falls. I stopped here on my way between Gros Ventre campground in the Tetons (see next blog) and my official employment check out.

Across from Mary Bay on the north shore of Yellowstone Lake during my last week.

Sunday, September 18, 2011


I have had fun this summer doing some macro photography. Here are a few samples. Fall has arrived, blooms are quickly disappearing and snow will arrive soon.

Salsify is an exotic, i.e. not a native plant to this region. As such it is not revered by park naturalists, but it is beautiful to photograph and is not as invasive as some species which require digilent removal to save native plants.

Fringed Gentian is a native and is the official park flower. This beautiful bloosom is found in geothermal areas of the park and along many of its streams. Remember that you can click on any photo to enlarge it for better viewing.

Glacier Lilies are early season delights, often appearing while there is still snow on the ground. These were behind my motorhome in the employee RV park. Rain the night before added to the photos one day; and ant was the bonus on another.

A full view of the salsify seed head. It looks a dandelion, of which there are many in the park, but is over twice the size.

Shooting Stars are another early season flower, shortly after the Glacier Lilies. Delicate little blossoms are common in moist areas throughout the park. I spent a morning photographing these with my friend Ronnie Silver. Unfortunately I seem to have deleted those photos, which were even closer views. Somehow several files have disappeared including the ones I took that day and the ones in Meteetse a few days later with a group of friends from the park, standing with the exceedingly handsome cowboy chocolatier.

Bees on Cone Flower, a late summer bloom.

more views of Fringed Gentian

Despite two tutorial sessions on using "Adobe Lightroom" in Bozeman this summer, my skills are still limited. I didn't have time to practice after the sessions and lost most of what I learned. With time, I will be able to fix the bright yellow stem behind the flower here. But I am including it anyway.

And one final view of Fringed Gentian.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Heart Mountain Opening

Heart Mountain, WY

On August 20, the hard work of many individuals and organizations resulted in the grand opening of the Heart Mountain Visitor Interpretive Center between Powell and Cody, Wyoming. During World War II, people of Japanese ancestry were moved from their homes, with what they could carry in their arms, to internment camps. This was one of those camps. Like Manzanar (see my photos and text near the end of the Oct 27, 2010 entry titled "Eastern Sierras") this was a remote, desolate, yet starkly beautiful setting, far from their homes and the way of life to which they were accustomed.

The center design resembles the tar-paper covered barracks of the internment center.

For the grand opening, several hundred former internees returned to the site. Joining them were their children, grandchildren and many people interested in this reminder of how hysteria can lead us to forget basic constitutional rights. I didn't make reservations in time and so did not attend the banquet at which Tom Brokaw was the featured speaker. I did get to hear Senator Daniel Inouye of Hawaii. Senator Inouye, as a resident of Hawaii, was not subject to internment, even though the bombing of Pearl Harbor, which precipitated the Executive Order moving Japanese-Americans and residents of Japanese birth from the west coast occurred in the Hawaiian territory. He was a highly decorated soldier during the war, and bears serious physical scars from his service. He is best known to many Americans for his calm, reasoned questioning during the Watergate hearings.

Perhaps most touching were the presentations by Norm Minetta and Alan Simpson,. Minetta, former Congressman from California, former Secretary of Commerce under President Clinton and former Secretary of Transportation under George W. Bush, an unusual situation in which his skills were recognized by two administrations of differing parties and outlooks, was a child when his family was moved to Heart Mountain. He was active in a Boy Scout troop in the camp and was there when the Heart Mountain Boy Scouts invited Scouts from Wyoming and Mountain to come to the camp for some activities. Since the internees could not leave the camp, it made sense to invite the other boy scout troups from the area to come to them. Initially the invite was declined by troops who felt they should not associate with the internees. But a second letter, stating that they were all Boy Scouts, all of them pledged to the same Boy Scout oath brought some troops to the camp. One of the troops was from nearby Cody and included a young Alan Simpson.

Minetta and Simpson became friends. It was a friendship that has continued throughout their lives. From letters to each other from their college campuses to Washington DC when were elected to Congress; Minetta, a Democrat in the House of Representatives, Simpson a Republican Senator from Wyoming. Together they worked to bring about the apology to all the internees and the Civil Liberties bill of l988, signed by President Reagan.

Displays from the new center. Below are members of the Heart Mountain Camera Club. Initially cameras were banned; eventually internees were allowed to have cameras, had their own newspaper. Photos by these photographers help fill the walls of the center with the story of life in the camp.

This initiated a period of healing for many internees who began to tell their stories. Although some had been speaking up for a while, this act opened the hearts and memories of many people. The efforts at Manzanar and at Heart Mountain honor those memories and remind us we need to be cognizant of the dangers of repeats of this shameful chapter in our history.
A co-worker and friend, Nan, and I headed to the event, stopping for coffee along the way. As we sipped our coffee, we talked with two women at an adjoining table, two women who lived in the camp as youngsters, returning to celebrate the opening of the Visitor Center and to reconnect with people they had known there.
Later, sitting under the huge tent erected for the couple thousand attendees at the event, I talked with the woman next to me. Born and raised in Powell, she had worked at the camp, erecting barracks before the first internees arrived. Later her family hired people from the camp to help on their ranch during harvest time,picking them up and returning them to the camp. The center and what happened there was also part of her history and her first encounter with the Japanese-American culture.

Instead of a ribbon cutting, the dignitaries cut barbed wire, symbol of the fencing that surrounded the site.

Due to the huge number of people at the opening ceremony, only internees were allowed in the first two waves of visitors to enter the building to see the exhibits. Nan and I decided that we would return in a few weeks and allow the internees first and then folks who had come great distances to enter the buildings. But chose not to see the inside that day, but went back a couple weeks later. I had already seen the film, "All We Could Carry," directed by Academy Award winning Steven Okazaki. Co-workers Ruth and Leslie Quinn bought the video and shared it. But I watched again and then worked my way through the exhibits, looking at the photos and reading the text. This blog includes photos from the Grand Opening and from my later visit.

Click on this photo to enlarge it and read the text. In case you are unable to do so, a very short synapses is included below.

Clarence Ito served as a member of the US. armed forces during WWI. In recognition of his service, he was awarded US citizenship, something which was forbidden to anyone other than whites and people of African descent who were born outside the USA. Mr. Ito was born in Japan, but lived and worked in the US. He enlisted and served during WW I. Congress later awarded citizenship to men who served during the war. But being a citizen and a veteran did not prevent Mr. Ito from being sent to an internment camp. Sent to Heart Mountain along with other US citizens of Japanese Ancestry, he died while in the camp, behind barb wire, denied the rights of citizenship.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Coyote pups and other wildlife

Each day in Yellowstone is an opportunity for wildlife sightings, spectacular scenery, new knowledge of a complex ecosystem, friendships, and adventures. Here are just a few of my wildlife sightings.Coyote pups playing. Their den was near the road and I watched them for a couple of days. Eventually their mother moved them. I don't know if it was that they were big enough and it would have happened anyway, or if it was people leaving the roadside and getting too close. This little bison calf was following its cow which easily stepped over the downed trees. The calf had to work at it, with a couple belly landings along the way.

This male Blue Grouse regularly strutted his stuff at Lake Butte Overlook. Long after mating season should have concluded, to give the chicks time to mature, he was still thumping (a deep sound which seems too large for this chicken sized bird), fanning his tail feathers, pumping up his chest and showing the red chest patches. Even if it was too late to impress females of his species, he impressed me and folks on my tours.

This is a White Pelican photo from last year. I didn't get any good shots this year. The Yellowstone River was swollen with snow melt and I failed to get photos I wanted....more Cutthroat trout jumping the rapids and White Pelicans fishing for them.

On one of my days off I hiked Elephant Back, a peak behind the Lake Lodge views of Yellowstone Lake. This view of the north shore shows where I live. The small light line in the lower portion is the road leading into the employee housing area where I live. You can barely see some bright spots to the left of the road. Those are RVs in the employee RV park. Not a bad place to live!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

bison and cars

This is why I avoid driving in the park at night if at all possible. Luckily the young lady driving is okay. Her airbags deployed and saved her. The bison was not so lucky, although death was instantaneous which was good. The hit head on as you can see by the horn holes in the car. She was not speeding, but even at the 45 limit here, if you come around a corner and the bison is there, you are in trouble.

Bison on the road are not too bad yet. Rut season usually begins in August and then park roads through Hayden and Lamar Valleys resemble LA freeways at rush hour. Except that commuters don't leave their cars, doors open, in the middle of the lane of traffic while they run out to get a photo. Enough to drive us tour drivers and other employees to tear out hair out.

Another, more recent collision killed another bison. The driver of the one-ton pick up and trailer was going over the speed limit.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Wedding in the Park

On May 13th, Sandra Berthuis and Doug Hilborn were married on the shore of Yellowstone Lake with immediate family in attendance. Doug is my fellow photo guide. Our third photo guide, Wim, and I were asked to be the photographers. Neither of us is a wedding photographer and were a bit nervous with the assignment but assured ourselves that with two of us, we ought to manage at least some successful shots.


Members of the Lake String Quartet played before and after the ceremony, then the full quartet entertained family in the Lake Hotel Sunroom while Wim and I photographed the bride and groom outside.

I haven't had time to carefully sort through yet, but this is a sample. The weather cooperated. At the time to head down from the hotel we had a brief thundershower and wondered what was going to happen, especially to the string trio who had agreed to play. I loaded the bride and the families into the historic yellow bus and we headed down. We only had to wait a few minutes for the sun to break through. With dark clouds across the Lake and sun on our site, it could not have been better.