Monday, April 30, 2012

Be Bear Aware, Caution in Thermal Zones, Congestion Ahead

Monday, April 30th:  With calendars about to turn to May are you prepping garden beds or salting the driveway?  40 degrees, blustery winds, and slow drizzles. Not feeling spring just yet. I guess the snowbanks roadside are another clue.
For those not heeding the 'Do Not Walk On Thermal Basin' signs, proceed at your own risk.  Let the remains of those past be your guide.

Or maybe, for those not ready to heed 'Do Not Approach Wildlife' cautions, this fella just might reset expectations before leaving your car for a closer look!

Enroute to Mammoth Hot Springs, Gibbons Falls provides a spectacular valley vista into the Yellowstone caldera. Paint-pots, thermals, geysers, and terraced springs. Pullouts along the drive treat us with occasional wildlife, serpentine creeks flowing amid brightly colored grasses, snow banks intersperesed with thermals hinting at steam vents and boiling water hotspots.

An ancient bubbling spring leaves behind a cone, a nourishing planter for a tree to take root, rising above the surrounding landscape.

Cascading terraces form around and below bubbling springs creating broad landscapes of rice patties in miniature.

Where bubbling springs overrun vegetation, calcification leaves behind well preserved tree and brush remains which survive ensuing decades. Stark and barren, could this be a forest fire aftermath?  That too, not far from sight throught our drive yesterday and today. In most other areas regrowth has begun, regreening most landscape and hill vistas. Here, the scene will remain barren until well after these springs dry up.

And finally, an 'identify this nature photo of the day' photo. All guesses welcome.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Bisons, Elk and Geysers, Oh My

Another name might have been - Boil and bubble, toil and trouble.  The geysers, pools and hot springs of Yellowstone National Park are amazing.  It was a bone-chilling cold morning - but we braved it and drove into the park.

Lots of the areas are closed - to protect the bears coming out of hibernation and their cubs, but the park is nearly empty. 

First thing we saw was a herd of Bison.  They took over the road ... and continued to be present in the park.  Very majestic animals - and turned sideways clearly looked like the buffalo nickel.  Park information made it clear ... bison do gore people.  So we stayed our distance.

Not long into the park, we started to see the smoke radiating from the ground ... hot spots, hot springs, pools and geysers.  We stopped and strolled through the pools -  constant changing shapes and colors.  Depths of blue and turquoise, oranges and greens - smoke, and geysers bubbling and exploding.  What a treat!


Along the trail artwork found....

Friday, April 27, 2012

Winter? Spring? Make Up Yer Mind Already!

We've come a long way in three weeks. Porpoise in the Pan Handle, river otter in the Rio Grande outside of Taos, and today marmot, elk, and bison on the range below the Tetons. Temps have floated with the natives as well.

 Ducking out of blowing snow we decided to visit the National Museum of Wildlife just outside of Jackson.  A tremendous collection of paintings and sculpture focused on wildlife of the American West.  An excellent children's exhibit as well, as presented by Karen in this diorama.  Very instructive as well as presenting a very hands-on opportunity for kids, small and large to get up close and personal with critter identifiers - footprints, scat, and of course, as seen below, an opportunity to act out as well.
OK, not some our best photography, but the rest of the museum contained many American classical works from artists we should know much better.

Leaving the museum the storm front was still teetering on delivering a good return-to-winter punch, fooling all those silly elk who had left the valley for their summer havens high in the Tetons.  After spotting a pair of marmots sunbathing atop a sculpture at the head of the museum entrance road we decided to brave the weather and cruise north as far as the open road and weather would allow. 

Voila! A few miles ahead, and just beyond the 'SLOW - Wildlife Crossing Ahead', right on schedule a herd of greater than fifty elk had just crossed the road and were skipping along to join several hundred kin further across the valley.  Several additional smaller groups were spotted along the miles to follow, each in turn receiving less and less attention. Seen 50 elk, seen 'em all!

Driving further north toward Yellowstone's South Entrance the weather began whipping it up good.  We made it as far a Colter Bay, glanced at the marina on Lake Jackson and quickly retreated to the car for safety from the now driving snow.  Mission accomplished better judgement advised heading back to Jackson before we'd be snowed in miles from any open accommodations.

Of course, we returned to Jackson under sunny, blue skies. What's the worry!  Well 10 minutes later we were watching a white-out, only this time from the mountain view windows of our living room.

Au revoir Jackson.  We'll return, during a warmer season hopefully. Off to West Yellowstone tomorrow, with forecasts threatening snow daily over the next five days :-)

Keep warm and remember your sunscreen! I'm still feeling the after effects of yesterday's overcast hike up to Taggert Lake over crunchy, oft timed post-holed snow trails, wind and sun hastening us along.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Weather or not

So jst two nights ago we were dealing with the heat - 90 degrees, and then we moved from Moab, Utah to Jackson Hole, Wyoming - and we are expecting snow.  What a little geography can make a change.

We spent today in the Grand Tetons National Park-  What a beautiful place!  We hiked up thru snow to Taggart Lake ...

And we are staying at a wonderful place with an upgrade to a suitewith a kitchen - so we are eating so well.  last night Ron fixed stuffed trout with crab- and crab omelets for breakfast - and I made steak and salad this evening.

Life is good.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Hold it, There's Fire In Them Thar Rocks

Monday, April 23rd: Having enjoyed dinner last evening catching up with our A2 friends Janet and Jeff, we met up again this morning at the Arches NP Visitors Center for check-in prior to our morning ranger led hike into the 'furnace', Fiery Furnace that is.
The walk scheduled to run between 2-3 hours into canyons and unmarked trails weaving in , out, up, and thru rock walls. A veritable maze with no view of either the horizon or a way out. Caution, don't get lost, remain in single file, and don't, don't lose eyesight of the person in front of you!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Fins to the left, Arches to the Right ....

Arches, Fins and buttes.  Arches National Park has been an amazing place.  We spent three nights camping in the park.  It was the first of our camping.  We had lovely views from our dining table, but no internet, phone coverage, or showers. 

But the weather was wonderful, and we had many wonderful hikes to enjoy the surroundings.  On the fourth day we moved out to a KOA in Moab .... which has the aforementioned missing amenities, but none of the charm.  And the weather turned very hot.

Here are a few pictures from our walks thru Arches.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Off the Grid Part 2

Living 'off the grid', as described to us by a gallery owner in Santa Fe, with 'no electricity, no phones, being near totally self-sufficient' is the vision of Earthship (, one of several communities in New Mexico.  In Taos, the Earthship Academy trains interns in all phases of home construction utilizing mostly recycled materials - tires, bottles and cans. Rammed earth berms and walls using adobe clay, walls of concrete with embedded bottles and cans, cisterns for holding rain water, grey-water recycling to feed plant and vegtable gardens, and solar arrays for powering household DC appliances.

Inspiring architecture dots the landscape of this community as coop members have designed and constructed their personalized 'Earthships'.  Imagination being the only design limitation.  The bottles and rounded edges give a strange appearance - but the insides are very nice and the utilities are less than $100 a year for propane gas for cooking.

Having topped up with sustainable dreams we head out to cross the plateau on foot, taking a trail along the rim of the Rio Grande.  Where to?  Oh, about four miles out to a vista point overlooking the river and multiple side canyons.  The miles click by slowly across a fairly beautiful, yet unchanging landscape of sage brush, sand, blue skies, and views of the nearly in-reach canyon rim. 

Being set back about a quarter mile from the rim we are urged to walk-on in hopes of reaching the vista ahead of an approaching storm now hanging over the mountain range to the north and west of Taos.  Taking a side trail we sneak a peak over the rim, retreat to the main trail, reaching the vista after following another hour of undulating sandy trail. 

Reaching the rim vista at Pecata Point the wind picks up cautionng too close a visit to the rim edge.  Down below we spy several campsites and river access pullouts, destinations for another day perhaps.

The walkout, muscles now aching and lunch-missed, we're already planning our evening feast.  Tonights visit, The Downtown Bistro, literally across the parking lot from our motel, turns out to be our second dining treat in Taos. Having worked the miles, earning our calories, we feast. A warm spinach salad and visit to the olive bar was followed by a duck creation for Karen and lamb stew for Ron.  A California Cab to accompany, of course.  Yumms. Stuffed and exhausted we retreated to our room, barely able to shower and plan tomorrow's adventure.  

Carson National Forest

Taos, a first hike of the season into the Carson National Forest above town.  Weather threatening in the distance. Will it return again this evening? Temps holding up so far, altho we have suited up with hats, gloves and fleece, along with our hiking boots.

 Views of the city below takes in the distant plains as well. Dark thunder clouds touching down in the not too distant mountains, maybe four to five peaks to the north. Feels great to be stretching feet after a week of heavy driving interspersed with beach and city walks. Pine scents fill the air. White capped peaks remind that spring is still fresh.

Off the Grid

Santa Fe grabed us  right off.  Taos snuck up on us.  It is known as a center of art .... but there were far more galleries in Santa Fe.  But as we explored more - we found hidden galleries everywhere.

Apparently it was only by a broken down wagon ride that Taos was discovered and became the home for the Taos Art Collective ... but its history is now intertwined in art.  The local museums give the colorful history.

And food is also a source of delight.  Last night we dined at Graham's Grill - both a visual pleasure as well as a gourmet joy.  Our meal begin with local brew, and grilled fennel uand artichoke.  It was - a description not overstated - to die for. And presentation was also lovely.

Then we moved to a selection from their large wine offering.  Out of good memories from our South African trip - Goats do Roam.  Ron had a wonderful lamb stew and I enjoyed a red trout. Sated we moved on.


Monday, April 16, 2012

Santa Fe to Taos

 Its Spring!
 It's snowing  ... mid-april in Taos.  Wer're sitting in our Inn, not quite the wonderful apartment we had in Santa Fe, but we are enjoying our wine and watching the snow out our window.

We had a vista filled drive from Santa Fe, short but lovely.  Santa Fe is a lovely, art filled city, visually full, and gastronomically wonderful.  We will return. 

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Its Not Texas...And Its Better Than Arizona

Thursday, April 12th.   Finally, two dTyhes of flat land driving across Texas and the land begins to take on contour, color, and a hurry!  Too many boarded up small towns on Rt 66, see Karen's last post, to remember.  Now the landscape   begins to look 'West', preshadowing of Georgia O'Keefe country, more to come on that later.

Land contours continue to rise, adobe style homes dot the landscape as we approach Santa Fe. Wow!  Scupltures adorn most lawns and driveways. Getting artsy here.

Welcome to Santa Fe. The first sign of culture since we left Wynwood behind in N. Miami.  Can't count the galleries in this town, might rename to this 'Gallery Compound City'. Wowsa!

Good walking, good food, good museums, and a comfy condo on the hill. A last minute search landed us a cut-rate lux condo on Fort Marcy Hill just overlooking the city. Way too cushy, this will certainly set the wrong expectation for camping once we reach Arches NP in Moab in another week.

A very cool walk through the Georgia O'Keefe museum on Friday.  Only wish we'd planned a little further ahead for reservations to visit her other homes in the area.

Next, on to a walking tour of town, the Railyards - more galleries, where we found an REI, mecca, and the SITE gallery hosting a multi-media show composed of several rooms, some inviting visiting participation into the 'art process'.  This museum could have been a full day experience with movies, dynamic-mix films, text-to-rap videos, and a room hosting media-character-of-the-sketches dating back to Nov 2011 (the artists project now inflight since 2007).

And of course a fitting end to our Santa Fe sojourn convenes at Cafe Pasqual, a small corner cafe with a veritable feast of tastes.  Fish tortillia with wonderful toppings for Karen, while I feasted on Plato Supremo - one chicken mole enchilada, one cheese relleno, and one beef taco.  Absolutely stuffed I couldn't pass up what appeared to be a thru-and-thru chocolate parfait - four layers of chocolates in a pie wedge.  It beat me, less that half-way thru we had it boxed for tomorrow.  Hmmm, I hear breakfast time approaching.