Monday, June 20, 2011


Tomorrow marks the beginning of summer, not that it seems that way in the park. True, the days are long, but sometimes it doesn't seem that way when the sun isn't out.

Still, the signs are here. The snow is melting, even on Dunraven Pass where this photo was taken on June 18. The road opened just 8 days earlier and the snow is still higher than the snow stakes in some places. However, unlike the woman we almost plowed into the other day, I didn't park my car in the middle of the road, on a blind curve, in order to take a photo. This was from a pull off where I stopped to let fast cars go by and then realized it was a good view.

The grizzly bears have been common sights along the north shore of Yellowstone Lake all season. As the weather warms and the snow at higher elevations melts we expect we won't see them quite as often. Last year a couple of them hung around all summer, but that is not usual. So I am enjoying it while it lasts. This bear was close enough we could not leave the vehicle. Unfortunately the historic yellow bus was down for repairs and we were in a van. Th windows don't roll down and the side door opens outward, rather than sliding, which made it hard for my guests to photograph. The bear did hang around though and everyone got a chance at the open door. I shot over shoulders using my 18-105 lens set at 105. However, I had to crop the photos a little to get out the blurs of shoulders and the edge of the car door. I usually don't get a chance to shoot while giving tours, but we were there a long time and my camera was handy.

The beach and edge of the Lake show in the upper part of the photo. This is a small picnic area. The bear was the only one eating. The two legged animals were busy photographing. We moved on before I broke out the morning coffee, hot chocolate and muffins.

Today I saw a weasel, but for only 30 seconds. Those are fairly rare sightings. I've also seen badger this year, only the second time since starting in Yellowstone in 2008. The Sandhill Cranes near Fountain Paintpots were out this morning with their chick who looks like a ball of yellow fluff attached to two chopsticks. All legs with a puff on top

May you have a celebratory solstice and a wonderful summer with lots of outdoor adventures.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Milestone birthday

Some birthdays mark milestones. They might be decade markers, the quarter, half-century , and three quarter century markers, the year one is eligible for a driver's license or ability to legally drink.

This year marked two events. This afternoon after work I went to the visitor center and got my Golden Age Pass which allows free entry into National Parks, Forests, Corp of Engineer Parks and related and half-price camping in the same establishments. For my life style, this one-time $10.00 pass, good for the rest of my life, is the benefit of the century. What else gives you so much?

The other milestone was applying for Social Security. Last winter was a disappointment as I learned I am not eligible for a widow's pension due to my own public agency retirement, not a large one since I dropped out of the career race early. At thatvisit to their office in Phoenix they told me I didn't qualify for a social security pension on my own due to lack of quarters. I knew that was wrong since I had a letter, but not with me, from social security saying I had reached the necessary level. Well, this time it all worked out. Its not much, but it is something.
So, I guess all these events match my grey, growing white, hair.

And this grouse put on quite a demonstration on Saturday as I explored the finally opened roads of the park with three friends. I am sure he was looking for likely female grouse, but I will count it as a birthday present to me.

The four of us spotted 9 bears (three black bears and six grizzlies, a badger (rare sighting), elk, pronghorn, two moose cows with very young calves, this grouse, sandhill crane on her nest, bald eagle, bison, big horn sheep. For most of the animals we saw young as well as mature members of the species. Some wildflowers are coming out. With all the snow and rain, this should be a bumper year.

And speaking of snow, we have had plenty of it. But unlike my first year in the park where I awoke on my birthday to 7 inches of fresh snow fall, this year my day has been marked by heavy fog, some rain, and some sun.