Another trip to Cody
This is yet another ‘drive by’ shot – taken out the window of the truck as we headed north for a quick trip to Cody with another load of stuff. This was taken not far north of Muddy Pass. They had received a tremendous amount of snow since our last trip, and the wind had carved amazing sculptures around trees, and in culverts. The fences in most spots were completely covered or just had the top few inches showing.
The roads were pretty awful in Northern Colorado with slush and wind narrowing the already narrow roads. Obviously this logging truck tried to get out of the way and we were guessing the rear tires went just a slight bit too far over and were sucked into the ditch. We know this because the only plow truck we saw along that stretch was in the middle of the road, forcing us closer to that edge (hauling a tractor) than we cared to be.
But once we hit the Wyoming line, the extra space the Wyoming shoulders give appeared and the roads were pretty much dry. The two photos below were taken about a mile apart. We passed a couple of snow plows finishing up the tiny bit of ice that was still left. Thanks, Wyoming DOT. Your work is greatly appreciated!
More to come when there’s time…
It’s amazing how things come together when something is supposed to happen. We had our second showing of the house over the weekend and have what seems to be a very solid offer that should turn into a contract. If not, we’re still on track to land in Cody for good in March. So – the last frantic blast to move to Wyoming starts.
The items in my shop that aren’t automatic downloads will be turned off on Wednesday, February 12. So if you want to order Binders (I only have a couple more here – the rest are already in Cody), paper or Custom Family Seals – get those orders in this week. Once we land up north, they’ll be added once again.
My blogs may be a bit more silent than normal, but I imagine a few posts will make it here and possibly on Geyser Watch.
Such an exciting and hectic time. But it’s…
A Rainbow Palette
Last summer while hanging out at a lake, there was quite a bit of time on our hands while the guys were out on the boat fishing. I noticed all the various colors in the rocks in the water and started to wonder what type of a palette they could provide. With the kids helping, we sorted out the rocks into a rainbow swath. This kept all of us interested and busy for quite awhile and sparked a bit of interest in geology for a couple of them as they wondered what made the rocks different colors. It almost made a shape of a fish, but the guys came back and the game was abandoned, so I simply took a photo.
However, I love this idea of doing this again at some point and creating small works of temporary art fun to leave. Just one idea of what to do with your kids out in nature – or just on your own.
Favorite Photos from 2013
While watching the amazing Brooke Shaden on Creative Live today, I’ve pulled ten of my favorite images from 2013. A way to look back – look for connections in these photos to see where to explore next. It was hard. So many were emotionally charged with Dad’s decline, and Taylor’s (our Samoyed). I deliberately didn’t choose those simply because I cannot remain objective with them.
What struck me the most, though, was how few photos I really took. Nearly all of them came from assignments – assignments given to me by others or by myself. But a ‘go capture this’ type thing. Yes, there were the documentation photos of the thermal features in Yellowstone – but those weren’t the ones that drew me in. That surprised me, but I do know why.
My latest upgrade of a Canon camera slowly killed the focusing ability on each and every one of my lenses. I thought it was me. I thought perhaps I was doing something wrong. But no. By August, I knew something was really wrong – a reason why I refused to put a lens on that back that didn’t belong to me, despite lots of very generous offers. Before I had even shot a couple of thousand photos, I got errors pointing to a faulty sensor. My 70-200 and beloved 10-22mm and 100mm macro are now rocks. Useless rocks. The 85mm is on its way out. I look at many of the photos taken earlier in the year in Yellowstone and I find myself disgusted because so many nice shots are just not at all in focus.
Late in the year I purchased a Panasonic Lumix with a couple of lenses. For now, this will do, though I do plan to eventually shift over to Nikon. The Panasonic, though, does a nice job and I’m interested in a couple more lenses. It’s appeal is the smaller and lighter size for days on the boardwalks. And, I may fall completely in love with it. But the sting from Canon failure still hurts.
Yet I did select ten photos I liked. In them, I see my ever continuing love for details:
Details I fully expected, as did I find a Sense of Place – something I adore – I want to look at a photo and feel something about that moment. But what struck unexpectedly were skies and silhouettes.
Skies and silhouettes are something to focus on in the future. Interesting to find. The other thing that struck me is that every single favorite is outside – often with morning or evening light.
I love this process. I’ve felt lost after last year – feeling like I dropped my photography completely – this shows me I didn’t completely lose it – and there’s something here to pull me forward.
Take some time to go back through your own photos and find your favorite 10 from 2013. Leave a link here if you’d like – I’d love to see what your favorite top 10 were.
Phenology notes reconnect you with nature
It’s the depths of winter and here in the Colorado mountains, spring is still months away – May is when things make their big shift here – but that doesn’t mean I don’t look for signs of spring now. They are here (ravens are pairing up and the black capped chickadees are singing their spring song on nice days), there just aren’t many of them yet.
But in other parts of the country, spring is just around the corner, and people pay closer attention to the changes that signal the coming of warmer weather. Because of this, now is a great time to consider starting a Phenology journal. Phenology is a doorway – an entry point – to connect with nature. Simply jotting down all those small observations builds into a fascinating collection.
Knowing when to look for various key points (data points if you will) is something I think is buried in our DNA. Hunting and gathering used to include this intimate knowledge of local phenology. Now it takes place more in a grocery store that has most anything you want any time of year; the “seasonal” aisle simply means the next batch of goodies for the next holiday on the calendar. This has dulled our connection to the world around us.
To create a phenology notebook, you simply need a means to make entries by date. I have examples here online that I continually add to. You can use a 5 year calendar, or a 3-ring binder, or whatever else seems to work for you. I’m still experimenting with what physical system will work best for me to blend in with the other field journals I keep.
Keeping phenology notes is also a great continuous project to take on as a family, a class or as a homeschool project. Phenology provides a jumping off point to lifelong learning and opens the doorway to being more in tune with nature. And, it means there’s always a great excuse to simply get outside more often and see what’s happening.
The Story Behind the Click: Indian Summer by the Madison
We had planned our vacation for late September, knowing full well that good weather was not a guarantee in Yellowstone. We packed for anything from snow to hot sunshine. What we got was an amazing week of Indian Summer weather. You know, those golden fall days when the mornings are crisp (and frosty), but the days warm up to that perfect weather where you stay warm, and are not ever uncomfortable.
We had come back early from time in the geyser basins so Mike could get in some fishing. He grabbed his fishing gear and I grabbed my camera and notebook and portable creek side chair I use when he fishes and slipped into my water shoes. We crested the hill separating the Madison Campground from the river to find it empty of people, but a lone bull elk napped under a pine tree across the river.
Wading across the first section, we settled in on the island between that ribbon of river and the next. Of course, I had to wander a bit to see what was around. I found bits of down clinging to grass stems, human footprints mixing with those from elk and backlit grass. The light on the grass captured the feeling of that warm September sun on my face and with the river blurred out in the background, it added the joy I’ve always found accompanying those who fish.
Moments by a river with a loved one – this, we decided, was the high point of this vacation. And perhaps you, too, have a favorite moment this image captures. It’s now offered as a fine art print or just as quality notecards.
See the full gallery of Fine Art Prints available online. I’ll continue to add in a few – and to tell the story behind the click of ones already in the gallery or those to come.
Product Announcement: 52 Numbered Overlays
A new product has been added to the field journaling shop:
A few people have requested this because the 52 Weekly Journaling cards are a bit trickier to work with when using them with photos. These are transparent and simply plunk down over your photo using photoshop. If the number doesn’t show as well as you might like, simply duplicate the layer – I did that on this photo. Easier to make a lighter one more intense than to drop the opacity just on the numbers. And they recolor easily as well. This set also includes the word WEEK as well as 2013, 2014, and 2015. Head on over and pick them up for the introductory price of $2.50 (regularly $3.50) which will last for a couple of weeks (price to go up on the 8th).
Update on Topic Life
I cannot express how giddy I get when working on my 2014 album. Zero pressure and tons of fun.
Here’s an example of a quick image I took for virtually no particular reason except the clouds look like rays of a sunrise. It will be filed under C. And likely there will be more cloud photos throughout the year. Why not?
Other items added:
M for Membership – we joined the Buffalo Bill Center of the West simply because it was time. I see I need to dig out the date stamp and add that to the bottom of this card.
C for Classes – Starting to add in the various classes I’m taking now or will be taking later on this year (not quite ready to share yet).
Things that tickled my fancy – this meme came through on Facebook, so I printed it out on cardstock, cut it out, punched holes and added it straight in – under O for optimism.
Switching from chronology to a topic based system is the best – the creativity and ideas of tidbits and stories to add have increased 100 fold from last year. No way to get behind. Ever. Simply jump in when there’s time. Take field notes when there’s not.
Wyoming phenology – Mid January
Moving is definitely a process. We’ve got the 3rd load moved and another set of observations from the back route we take to get from Colorado to Wyoming.
We drove this route just three weeks ago. On that trip up, we saw an amazing number of Bald and Golden eagles. This time – three. One Bald Eagle soared next to us as it paralleled the road in South Park, clocked at about 65 mph. They are amazing birds. The other two were Golden Eagles seen around the Saratoga area. All we can figure is that they are now hanging closer to their nests as nesting time should be starting here soon for them if it hasn’t already. We also saw fewer hawks as well.
Between Saratoga and I-80, we saw this tightly packed band of elk racing along. No sign whatsoever of what spooked them into this run. We wondered if this was one of the desert herds or if they had just come down out of the mountains. Either way, it was interesting to see them running in such tight formation.
Another bit of phenology was seen in Cody itself. After washing the road grime off the truck, we noticed a Rock Dove or Rock Pigeon holding a twig in its beak and wandering around with it. Looking them up to learn more, it seems that was likely a male who had found a nest site and was bringing nest material one twig at a time to the female he had attracted. He will help incubate the eggs and feed the young, and at least one resource says they can have 5 or more broods each year. They, like the Eurasian Collared Dove, were are not natives here, but the Rock Doves were introduced in the 1600s and have flourished throughout North and South America. These were also the messenger pigeons used in WW I an WW II. Interesting to note they’re already nesting.
We took a drive out to look at another house and while passing Buffalo Bill Reservoir, just west of Cody, there was a large chunk of open water. The locals we were with said it was frozen over just last week. At one point that line of open water was quite distinct, and we figured out why. The wind blew the ice off. The wind has been bad this winter up here. And, with the hot springs in various spots in the reservoir, the ice isn’t solidly thick. Give that Wyoming wind an inch and it’ll take miles.
Beck Lake in Cody also showed some open water on the northeast corner. When we arrived at dusk it was thick with birds. So we drove out Friday evening to see who was there. Mallards, Canada Geese and Common Goldeneyes were all well represented.
The bucks around here still seem to have their antlers in tact. They also still mingle with the does, but the interest level from the bucks seems to be down considerably.
Get outside and see what all is going on in your neck of the woods!
Wednesday Wrap-up: Glamping in Yellowstone Pt 4
Time for a Wednesday wrap-up. This is a story I didn’t get to finish, but needs finishing. We all have stories that should have been told from last year but for some reason or other, we didn’t get to them. Join me and pick just one story from last year – large or small – and take a few minutes and write – gather the photos and share it somewhere. Feel free to link to it in the comments.
This Wednesday, I’m choosing to get a bit farther on the story of Glamping in Yellowstone.
Last August, I had the opportunity to join in on a media trip for Far & Away Adventures – outfitters who pamper you out in the backcountry. It was a bucket list item for me to make it at some point to the back country of Yellowstone, and they made this dream come amazingly true. And, as my sights start to focus on the upcoming summer, it’s time to finish this tale.
I left off at the end of our day arriving in camp on the South Arm of Yellowstone Lake. You can read the part one, part two and part three (or the condensed version) to catch yourself back up to where we are in this story if you’re new to this blog (so glad to have you here!).
August nights in Yellowstone can be chilly, and frost is never really out of the question. Because of this, I brought a few layers of clothes to sleep in, but in the end, I was still a bit chilly and added my fleece jacket. That did the trick and I was sound asleep in no time. I woke once in the middle of the night to a bit of noise which turned out to be one of my traveling companions on this trip. She was out enjoying the stars. I smiled and fell back asleep.
Here on the lake, where you’re just about as far away from roads and city lights as you can get in the lower 48 states, the stars shine amazingly bright. There were a few times in my youth that I got up in the middle of the night at camp and wandered outside, amazed that, yes, you really can see by starlight – once your eyes adjust. The trick is to not turn on any light as you get up. This experience alone is worth a trip like this. Everyone should have “See the world by starlight” on their bucket list.
My alarm clock this morning was the call from a Common Loon – quickly answered by its mate. That sound, like the howl of a wolf, touches something deep and ancient inside us all. And on this morning, was just another touch of the Magic of Yellowstone
Being a morning person, I was up and dressed – ready to take on this full day here at camp. I stepped out of my tent to a world of color. The sunrise with the smoke in the air tinted the view.
Coffee was waiting for me by the fire as was a warm wash cloth to wipe my face. Really, that’s such a nice detail they provide. They were waiting to hear movement from our tents before arriving at each with the morning wake-up service.
After a hearty breakfast, we had a couple of choices for the day – to do a long kayak trip and short hike, a short kayak trip or hang out at camp and relax. I chose the short kayak trip. Those on the long kayak trip would have lunches packed for them and we would have lunch on our return. The Far and Away crew have enough guides to allow everyone to do the activities they wish to do.
A quick check to make sure the pedals in the kayaks were fitting correctly, and we pointed our kayaks south. We headed first to a small bay where a moose has been seen often by the guides, but as we passed, he was nowhere in sight this morning. Lots of dead-standing trees along the shore had numerous holes in them from birds. I wished I had brought my binoculars – this would make a great birding trip. We were told normally they see a ton of Bald Eagles out here, but their numbers on the lake have dropped – likely in conjunction with the rise of the numbers of Lake Trout – fish too large for them to catch, and fish that compete for the smaller ones the eagles could catch. But as we paddled along, we did see one soaring up high.
I looked to my left and there, not more than 20-30 feet from us is a Common Loon, checking us out. He disappears as quietly under the surface as he rose. Loons are a Species of Concern for Yellowstone on the bird list, so I make a note that I should fill out the reporting form and send it in.
I soon notice small green balls floating in the water. They look like a deep green leather. Seed pods of some sort. I grab one to take a photo and examine it. I still have no idea of what plant it was, but each ball was hollow (allowing it to float) and half full of water. Each had a seed encased in a smaller ball at the ‘top’ that appeared to be full of a sticky substance. That makes complete sense for a water plant to distribute its seeds farther out. The ball would eventually fill with water, sink and then the sticky substance would hold it in place to germinate and send down roots. At some point, I want to ask the Park Botanist about this and see the herbarium sheet they likely have of the plant and fill in the gaps in my knowledge and make some sketches to add this bit of phenology to my notes.
Our guide asks us how we’re doing. Marvelous, thank you! Would we like to try for Peale Island and see the old Patrol Cabin. Yes! It’s a nice spot to fish from as well. So off we headed with purpose to our strokes. However, just as we were about to the narrowest spot where the waters are not open to watercraft with engines, the wind picked up. Without skirts on, it was unwise to continue. Yellowstone Lake while often calm in the early mornings, can become dangerous and even deadly within a short time. Agreeing with our guide that Peale Island would have to wait for another day, another trip, I snapped a shot to document my furthest venturing into the backcountry.
The trip back was enjoyable, and I noticed a few more birds, and scolded myself again for not bringing the binoculars. Before we knew it, we were back in camp where lunch was being prepared. We relaxed and watched the fire across from us (the Alder Fire) build again thanks to the wind. I spent much of the rest of the afternoon reading, sketching and visiting.
The other group arrived back full of smiles and tales of their adventures of the day.
Dinner again was a sumptuous feast and the stories continued afterwards around the campfire as the sun set on another day in Yellowstone and the Common Loons again were heard bidding us good night.