Category Archives: North America

Animals

Last summer we saw many amazing places and lots of wildlife.  Some were expected and others were a complete surprise.  The first surprise was spotting a young bighorn sheep in Zion National Park.  In Rocky Mountain NP we saw elk.  Driving in Wyoming I had to stop the car to get pictures of a herd of antelope.

In Yellowstone we were hiking on a trail and had to walk by that big bison.  Being that close did make me a little nervous.  After all, he was definitely a wild animal.  Further north in Glacier NP is where we saw the adorable young mountain goat sticking close to mom.  On the same hike to Hidden Lake we saw the furry little marmot.  Legend has that they will eat anything they can sink their teeth into.

It wasn’t until we got to Canada’s Glacier Waterton NP when we finally saw bear.  It’s hard to tell from the photo whether this is a brown bear or a grizzly.  A brown bear’s nose is fairly straight and a grizzly bear has a more rounded nose.  It’s hard to tell from the photo which it is and I stuck to using my telephoto lens instead of getting closer.  And finally we saw caribou near Jasper Alberta.  They are huge!

I am always happy when I can photograph animals in the wild and feel fortunate when I spot them.  When asked why I’m an environmentalist who wants to save habitats, these photos are my answer.  One of my favorite presidents, Teddy Roosevelt, recognized that states cannot be trusted to save the land and protect it from commercial exploitation.  I abhor what’s going on in the West with a few people who feel the federal government has no right to protect land for future generations.

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South Mountain Spring

Covering 16,000 acres, South Mountain Park in Phoenix is the largest city park in the U.S.  Spring is a wonderful time to hike in the park not only because of the ‘cool’ weather but also the flowers.  If the desert has been blessed with winter rains it explodes in brilliant color.  Fuchsia, yellow, orange, and blues.  And the Cacti have unworldly brilliant blossoms.  Enjoy spring in Phoenix.

 

Weekly Photo Challenge: Spring

Spring in the mountains comes later than in most parts of the US.   Flowers burst with color and wildlife comes out of the dens, nests and caves.  Moms shed their shaggy winter coats and the kids are adorable in their fluffy white fur.  This pair of mountain goats were sighted at Hidden Lake in Glacier National Park.

Pass the Salt

Raeski chooses to eat healthy and she has somehow managed to get Wooly on the bandwagon.  While Wooly has always been onboard the low salt train, he begrudgingly eats more green stuff than he wants.  But sometimes unintended consequences accompany our choices.

Canyonlands Wildflowers
Canyonlands Wildflowers

Driving into Canyonlands National Park we found the desert flowers bursting with color.  Spring has a late finish in the high desert and we were fortunate enough to catch it.  It’s a good time for hiking.  The extreme heat and summer monsoon rains with accompanying flash floods haven’t arrived.  However, it can still get quite warm.

The desert burst with color in surprising places.
The desert burst with color in surprising places.

We were riding top down in Miss Mini and as usual she attracted attention.  This time her suitor was a rather bold raven who audaciously strutted his stuff on Miss Mini.  Either that or he was hoping to snatch away some food or a bright shiny object.  Ravens are highly intelligent birds that play the role of a trickster in the lore of many Native American tribes.  Other cultures consider them harbingers of ill omen.

A Bold Raven

We were here to hike, so ignoring ancient raven legends and fully loaded with lunch, snacks, camera gear, and three gallons of water we set off on our six mile journey to the confluence of the Colorado and Green Rivers.  It was late morning and a little warm.  Had we know how hot it would become we would have started earlier in the morning.  This was the first of a series of life threatening mistakes.

We descend into a deep ravine
We descend into a deep ravine

In hindsight, taking four camera lenses also added way too much weight in the backpack.  This became one of those painful lessons and was miscue number two.  Why does it seem that every extra ounce ends up feeling like pounds later in the day?

Up we go!
Up we go!

Steep canyon walls, towering magnificent rock formations and stunning views accompanied our every step.  Canyonlands was once an ancient seabed that was uplifted thousands of feet and subsequently eroded into the awe inspiring shapes which we’ve bestowed with names and sacred status.  We followed the trail as it dropped into ravines and scrambled over ridges.  Each ridge crest unveiled a new view as the trail dipped and rose like a roller coaster.

The Needles
The Needles

With the sun beating down on us and reflecting heat from sandstone blackened from hundreds of years of weathering we sought refuge in what little shade the twisted junipers could provide.  Small puffy clouds gave fleeting respite from the heat.  As if to punish those who dare to enter its realm, the desert begrudgingly gives up shade.

Wooden Shoe
Wooden Shoe

After hiking four miles we encountered a 10’ slick-rock drop.  Slidingdown the steep drop was our only option.  On the way down my pack snagged and knocked me off balance.  Dropping the last 6 feet my heel struck a rock.  OUCH!  That really hurt!  With only two miles to go I decided to ‘walk off’ the injury and continue.  That was a terrible idea.

Not much shade here.
Not much shade here.

After limping another mile I gave up hoping my denial would magically erase the pain.  My painful heel wasn’t getting better.  With only a mile to go we made the difficult choice to turn back and walk the five mile trek back to the car.  While climbing back up that devilish 10’ slick-rock obstacle my legs started cramping.  No big deal, I thought.  It’s only because I’m tired and need a little rest.  No problem, right?  Well, maybe not.

The rock walls gives more shade than the tree.
The rock walls gives more shade than the tree.

Remember the healthy low salt diet?  That diet isn’t a great idea when spending extended time exercising in the heat.  Like most people, I didn’t know heat exhaustion has two primary causes.  Not drinking enough water to stay hydrated is the first.  Profuse sweating sometimes accompanied with nausea are symptoms as the body tries to cool itself.  However, Wooly, never willing to go half-way unwittingly went the extra mile for heat exhaustion version two (HE-v1.2).

Politician Tree
Which way does the wind blow.

HE-v1.2 comes with a couple more symptoms along with a different cause.  Low levels of salt and electrolytes in your body places you at risk for this less popular version.  The ‘bonus’ symptoms are cramps along with dizziness.  And to think I used to joke with Raeski about how our healthy diet was killing me.  Kind of ironic isn’t it.

Rocks tower over us
Rocks tower over us

Coping with cramps and dizziness I trudged along as the day became hotter and hotter while the backpack seemed to get heavier and heavier.  With two miles to go we ran out of water.  As our thirst grew we desperately sucked on dried cranberries for what little moisture they contained.  Soon my only thoughts were, “Just a little farther.”  Step by torturous step, nausea, cramps, dizziness and thirst beckoned me to quit.  Soon a few hundred yards was all I could muster without having to rest.  With a mile to go Raeski took the backpack so I could keep going.

Down we go.
Down we go.

The day’s best view greeted us when we crested a ridge and could see the parking lot and Miss Mini patiently awaiting our return to reward us with her precious cargo of water.  All we had to do was follow the roller coaster trail into a ravine, climb a ridge, drop into another ravine and finally claw our way to the top.  Maybe it wasn’t the best scenario but it still energized us.

At last!
At last!

Exhausted we trudged on.  At the bottom of the last ravine I sent Raeski ahead so she could get water.  I followed behind at the only pace I could manage – very slowly.  Finally at the end I was a caricature of the desperate thirst driven cowboy in old western movies – scratching, crawling and using every last ounce of energy to survive.

Important lessons learned were start EARLY on long hikes, take lots of water, put the backpack on a diet, and dump the low-salt diet about a month before we go on any long hikes.  I tested and stretched my limits and hope to never do it again.

On a sad note, one week later, the desert heat claimed the lives of two hikers in a nearby area called “The Wave”.  When hiking know your limits and turn back when you are in trouble.  No great view is worth your life.

New Name Wanted

Denial doesn’t slow it or stop it.  Facts remain unaffected by opinion and political rhetoric.  By 2030 the namesake glaciers the park is named after will have all melted.  When I look at the pictures I took on our travels last summer I am saddened with the knowledge that soon all that may be left are images like these of Glacier National Park.

After working two decades in science and research fields, Wooly finds the practice of construing opinion as scientific fact misrepresentation at best and using statistical outliers to promulgate bogus science that promotes a hidden agenda an even more abhorrent practice.

Enjoy these pictures and please consider we have the privilege of experiencing the real thing, something future generations may be denied.  Which plants and animals will survive after the glaciers melt?

I will leave you today with these final thoughts.  Allowing the most serious issue humanity has ever faced to become a political football is wrong.  Doing the right thing for future generations will require honesty and sacrifice by virtually every human being on the planet.  What legacy will you leave to your grandchildren and great grandchildren?

And remember, nature bats last.

Endangered glaciers
Endangered glaciers
Shrinking glaciers
Shrinking glaciers
Something smells good here.
Something smells good here.
Breaking rules
Breaking rules
Staying close to mom.
Staying close to mom.
Keeping it cool on the ice.
Keeping it cool on the ice.

Iceberg Lake

Having a Park Ranger friend has its advantages.  With over 700 miles of trails, choosing a hike in Glacier National Park is made easier when Peggy shares her favorite.  Of all the trails we hiked this summer, this was our favorite.

Click on me for a larger panoramic view from the trail.
Click on me for a larger panoramic view from the trail.

Approached from the eastern side of Glacier National Park; Iceberg Lake’s five mile trail starts with a section park rangers affectionately and appropriately call the stair-master.  After huffing and puffing up the stair-master the trail levels and the rest of the hike is filled with stunning panoramic views that accompany each step.

Bears are abundant and hikers are encouraged to be noisy.  Many people wear bells but isn’t that like ringing the dinner bell for those mostly hairless squishy things that are pink and tender in the middle?  In seriousness we were given an informative tip for bear encounters on the trail.  Essentially bears are lazy and use the trails because of the easy walking.  If you encounter a bear you should do two things; make a lot of noise and get off the trail.  Climbing uphill is recommended because you are getting off of the bear’s path and counting on his laziness to continue on the trail leaving you alone.  If they follow you up it’s time to break out the bear spray.

A glimpse of what's to come.
A glimpse of what’s to come.

Glacial fins, ancient sea-beds lifted up into mountains, and finally carved by glaciers ages ago tower above you.  Flowers are blooming and color fills the meadows and valleys.  Cresting over a ridge a small lake comes into view below the flower filled slope.  Yet the trail passes by up another hill and then you see it.  Ice filled turquoise waters surrounded by massive rock walls and the trail leading to the shore’s edge.

Ironically passing clouds photographers normally desire are shading the lake turning the

Spot light on the water.
Spot light on the water.

brilliant colored waters to dark blue.  As we eat lunch we watch patterns of sunlight breaking through the clouds and passing over the lake spot-lighting the brilliant colors only rock flour laden waters can produce.  A large whale shaped block of ice reflects brilliant blue as the sun’s rays pass over.  The frigid water’s siren song calls until

you are compelled to dip a toe into the water.  A teenager creates a memory he’ll never

Spot light on the icy whale.
Spot light on the icy whale.

forget as he jumps into the water.  In a flash he’s out, wrapped in a towel and shivering.

Birds serenade us as we take in the beauty.  Every direction reveals nature’s majesty and we are thankful for the 1910 decision to preserve the land for future generations.

The lake invites you to test the frigid water.
The lake invites you to test the frigid water.
Ice suspended in the water
Ice suspended in the water

Choosing an Image

If a picture is worth a thousand words, what image would you use to promote your blog?  In our travels we’ve met people who wanted our blog’s address so they could follow us.  At Lake Louis in Alberta, Canada, we came to the realization a business card with our blog name would be helpful in these situations.  But the card needed an interesting image to reflect who we are and what we’re trying to do.  Venturing further down the rabbit hole the next question was, “Of the thousands of images we’ve taken, which one captures our essence?”

“So how does one go about defining who they are in a single photo?” we asked as the rabbit hole got deeper.  In a moment of brilliant inspiration Raeski coined the term ‘nomadic retirement’.  Taking it further, because quite frankly we don’t believe retirement is a good definition of who we are, we landed on ‘nomadic adventures’.  This was great until I checked online and found a company with this name.  Not wanting to risk being served a cease and desist order over a name we came to an even better by-line, ‘Nomadic Adventurers’.  Okay, we have some words to work with now.

We plan to live in a new city every year.  Nomads, right?  We want to explore and do fun things.  Adventurers, right?  Now we have to find a photo expressing those words.  That darn rabbit dug a deep hole.  Do you think we’ll meet Alice soon?  The first thought was using a photo of a stamped passport page but that didn’t leave enough space for lettering.  An image must have enough clear space to print what you want on the business card.  Clutter distracts so a different image was needed.

I don’t take many pictures of the two of us which narrowed the field of eligible photos.  Finally we decided on ‘The Photo’.  In it our hair is messed up because of a frigid wind sweeping down the glacier we’re standing on.  Craggy mountains, icy blue colors, clouds on the horizon and we’re smiling.  Yes, it’s cold, who cares?  We’re not sitting in a cubicle staring at a monitor or stuck in a rocking chair.  We are in our element of exploration and discovery.

Ironically neither one of us likes the cold but to experience life sometimes you must move out of your comfort zone.  How else can you truly experience what the world has to offer?  Can you drink ancient waters from a glacier, visit the driest place on earth, walk inside a volcano and smell the pines from a rocking chair?

So without further ado, here’s the essence of Wooly and Raeski.

Essence
Essence

What Should Be

It should have been a beautiful drive.  We were expecting a lush green spruce forest.  We thought we would be able to stop along the way and photograph the grandeur of the Rocky Mountains.  Instead we were greeted by signs stating there is absolutely no stopping for the next 35 miles.

We were in luck today because Wolf Creek Pass in Colorado was open.  The forest fire was no longer threatening the road and anyone on it.  The pass itself should be one of beauty, lush forest and grand mountains.  While the mountains were still there the forest wasn’t.

For over twenty miles we drove through a forest of dead trees.  There was only an occasional live tree showing its green needles among the sea of dead trees.  So why are all the trees dying?  There is no single answer to the problem.

First there has been almost 100 years of mismanagement of the forest.  For years the prevailing method of management was to try to extinguish every fire that started.  Early on this worked in conjunction with logging.  Timber companies cut the large trees and thinned the forest while the forest service fought every fire.  As time passed logging companies went out of business due to environmental restrictions that made it impossible to make a profit while the Forest Service still fought every fire.

But a new threat was on the horizon that was not anticipated.  The population of the tiny spruce bark beetle exploded and they are attacking the trees.  But that is what they have done for as long as the trees have been there.  They prefer older weak trees and dead trees.  They bore into the tree and lay their larva which feast on the trees.  In a healthy forest the trees can withstand the beetles and only a few die.

But what has changed to allow the beetles to thrive and their population explode?  Only two things will kill these beetles in large numbers; fire and temperatures of -30F.

What has changed is two decades of drought and increasing temperatures.  Yes, GLOBAL WARMING is a significant factor that has allowed the beetle population to explode.  Temperatures don’t get cold enough in the winter to kill the beetles anymore.  The last two decades of drought and heat have severely weakened the trees and their ability to withstand the onslaught of the beetle.  With warm winters and more dying trees nothing stands in the way of the beetles killing the rest of the trees.

Except for one thing…  Sadly the only way out of this mess is may be to let entire forests be consumed by fire; the other way massive numbers of these beetles can be killed.  The entire forest is a tinderbox waiting for a spark.  And when that spark happens the fires roar to life and grow by tens of thousands of acres in a single day.  And while our children wait 30 to 40 years for the forest to come back they get to look at hillsides that are either barren or showing the first signs of revival of Gambel oak or young aspen trees..

Hopefully by then the climate change deniers will be rare and the politicians will no longer listen to the lobbyists who profit from polluting the earth and contributing to global warming.  Until then I would like to force every politician in the U.S. to drive Wolf Creek Pass and view the devastation that comes from their inaction.

A dying forest
A dying forest

Sadly this is not a problem that is isolated in one area.  All the Southwestern forests of the U.S. are slowly dying.  Each type of tree has its own beetle population that is on the rise.  It is not as evident yet, but if you visit these forests look for dead trees.  You will be surprised by the number and maybe angered enough to write your Senators and House representative.  Tell them it’s time to get off their behinds and point the nation in a new direction that embraces solutions that improve the environment.

Dead trees don't look any better up close.
Dead trees don’t look any better up close.

I give anyone permission to copy and use the two pictures in this story as a visual aid to their pleas to their Representative and Senators to take action and become more environmentally friendly.

Canyonlands Road

The road into the southern part on Canyonlands National Park (the Needles section) is very photogenic and not nearly as busy as the more heavily frequented northern part.  Wooly likes taking pictures of these seemingly deserted roads

Scenic road into the Needles.
Scenic road into the Needles.

One of the stops on this road is Newspaper Rock which I wrote about previously.  Along the way we started getting hints of what the Needles section was all about.

The Needles Hint
The Needles Hint

Springtime is a great time to visit our National Parks.  The late spring bloom was very evident at the entrances of Canyonlands.

Canyonlands Wildflowers
Canyonlands Wildflowers

This was the most colorful park entrance we encountered on this trip.  One of the reasons I love desert climates is because it only takes a little rain to make the ground come alive with color.