Learn Something New Every Day!

Yellowstone National Park was the first national park, initially established in 1872.

Yellowstone National Park was the first national park, initially established in 1872.

logo jpgToday is the 100th birthday for the National Park Service.  It was President Woodrow Wilson who signed the mandate creating the agency on 25 August 1916.  Since then, its charge has remained the same: protect designated land for its beauty and wildlife as well as its historical significance for the enjoyment of future generations.  That goal expanded to include assuring public access to these protected areas.

That assurance of public access is what makes the National Parks the best gift ever.  Not only can visitors enter the areas, but they will find visitor centers, knowledgeable rangers and volunteers, established paths and scenic drives as well as parking and bathroom facilities.  Not all locations are 100% accessible, but most are upgrading their facilities and have at least some hiking options accessible for wheelchairs.  The access is not free, but the entrance fee is minimal, typically $30 for a car to have access for a week.* Annual and lifelong passes are options as well.

Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon

Book heacoxWhen you unwrap this gift, you will find a wide variety of places to visit and enjoy.  To see the magnitude of what the national parks oversee, I went to National Geographic’s The National Parks: An Illustrated History (May 2015).  Through photos and essays, the book explains how the National Park Service “represents freedom, adventure, diversity, dedication, respect, and restraint.”  Here is the book’s opening overview, by the numbers:

84,000,000 acres of land

75,000 archaeological sites

18,000 miles of trails

247 endangered plants and animals

407 park properties including

78 national monuments

59 national parks

25 battlefields

10 seashores

27,000 historic and prehistoric structures

20,000 employees

246,000 volunteers

292,800,082 recreational visits in 2014

Yosemite Falls

Yosemite Falls

Not everyone is a fan of the national parks, however.  Some visitors even offer some less than stellar Yelp reviews.  According to a few of these reviews, the parks are too crowded, which can happen in the height of the season. The potential of too many other visitors is why I try to visit places in early spring, before summer crowds start showing up.  Other complaints, of course, are just downright silly and say more about the complainer than the national park in question:  too lonely, too expensive, lack of cell service, poor food, no adequate showers, not seeing enough wildlife, but also seeing rattlesnakes OMG.

More specifically, someone felt Yellowstone National Park smelled too much like sulfur, which—of course—is a bi-product of the thermal features that make the place unique.  And one person advises to be careful when visiting that big hole in the ground, the Grand Canyon, because it is a long fall to the bottom: “Do not hover about the Canyon whilst drunk.  You will fall over the edge and you will die.”  I think my favorite comment was posted about South Dakota’s Badlands National Park:  “Waste of time.  Thank god I was drunk in the backseat for the majority of the trip.” 

Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park

YSNP bison sitting

YSNP bison scratch

IMG_2769I have had the good fortune of visiting many but not enough national parks as I wander on my nature treks, typically in the spring each year.  My most recent visits were to Yellowstone National Park, where I was able to see bison up close and personal, and Saguaro National Park, where I finally saw saguaro cacti in bloom. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most visited national park in the nation, with nearly 10.1 million recreational visits in 2014.   The Golden Gate National Recreation Area was the most visited property with 15 million visitors in 2014.  Utah offers many parks from which to choose, including Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands, and Zion National Parks.

Saguaro National Park

Saguaro National Park

GC deer close

Winter at the Grand Canyon

Winter at the Grand Canyon

Two of my favorite destinations are Yosemite National Park and the Grand Canyon.  They feel the same to me in their majestic and beautiful vistas that encourage quiet contemplation and spiritual connections.  But they are different in mood, I suppose.  The grays and blues of Yosemite are cool and calm, punctuated by the power of waterfalls.  The red and brown hues of the Grand Canyon are warm and soothing, inviting one to sit and enjoy the view of the often muddy Colorado River far below. If you sit quietly at either location, you are apt to see some wildlife as well.

Spring at Yosemite

Spring at Yosemite

Squirrel Enjoying the View

Squirrel Enjoying the View

Running Off with Lots of Nuts! Grand Canyon

Running Off with Lots of Nuts! Grand Canyon

Yosemite Cloud's Rest, Hazy Day

Yosemite Cloud’s Rest, Hazy Day

Yosemite Falls

Upper Yosemite Falls

Book shiveWhen you visit, wherever you visit, I am certain you will be delighted.  There are three great books that provide magnificent photos and details about the national parks and monuments.  The books themselves became my souvenirs this year to mark the National Parks’ 100th Birthday.

Here are the book titles—they do make great gifts:

The National Parks: An American Legacy (2105) with photographs by Ian Shive.

The National Parks: America’s Best Idea An Illustrated History (2009) by Dayton Duncan and Ken Burns.

Book Burns

National Geographic’s The National Parks: An Illustrated History 100 Years of American Splendor (2015) by Kim Heacox (mentioned above).

Of course, it is the visit to any of the parks that is the real gift.  I encourage you to accept the present and get out there visiting a park or monument near you soon!  It will be a gift that keeps on giving!

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE NATIONAL PARK? 

WHAT PARK ARE YOU HOPING TO VISIT NEXT?

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

*For price comparisons:  Entry fees to Disneyland are $110 per adult per day; San Diego Zoo, $50 per adult per day, and Los Angeles Zoo, $20 per adult per day.  National Parks are certainly a great value!

Me ReadingI have always loved reading, even when I was a kid. 

But if you need an excuse to read a book, this is it:  Today is National Book Lover’s Day! 

Still—it seems to me—every day should be considered National Book Lover’s Day.  Books are the best gifts and the best friends in the world.  They open doors to adventure, people and ideas.  They build bridges and create communities.  Books inspire awe and wonder, outrage and determination, insight and understanding.  They teach lessons, build awareness, spark imagination, and present possibilities.  They can awaken readers to love and prejudice, commitment and injustice, degradation and renewal—and the courage to make a difference.

One of the best things about being retired is I can spend so many hours reading, without the worry of having to attend an early meeting after a sleepless night, just because I could not stop turning pages!  I always have books going, usually one at a time, but sometimes with several open wherever I sit and relax.  One of the best things about owning a kindle is that I can bring a decent library with me wherever I go.  Getting stuck in traffic as lanes are cleared of an accident’s aftermath or waiting much too long for the doctor to get back from an emergency is not so bad, if I can read.

ladies 16My fall back for fun reading is a good murder mystery.  If a dog or animal is part of the plot, even better.  I do have favorite authors who I wish would publish new books more often:  Tony Hillerman and now his daughter Anne Hillerman, Barbara Kingsolver, and Alexander McCall Smith come to mind.  A favorite I have only recently discovered is Stan Jones, who brings life in small town Alaska to life.

Robert bookJust recently I finished a novel by a cousinit is so cool to know actual authors! His novel turns the fear and hatred from current headlines into a war novel about a terrorist invasion in America in 2016.  I posted my review of his book—Robert Owens’ America’s Trojan War—on Amazon, if you want to take a look.  Yesterday, I reread The Little Prince to be filled again with the love and hope that silencecomes from being tamed as well as the appreciation of flowers and foxes and little travelers that only someone who never truly grows up can understand.  Several books ae coming up next on my to-read list:  Joyce Carol Oates’ In Rough Country: Essays and Reviews; Louise Erdrich’s The Game of Silence; Katherine Anne Porter’s Ship of Fools, and Carl Safina’s Beyond Words: What Animals Think and Feel. 

terribleWhenever someone asks me for reading suggestions, I mention my favorites.  But, of course, no one can go wrong with the classics from Shakespeare animaliato Angelou, Faulker to Morrison.  And there is not much better than Flannery O’Connor’s A Good Man Is Hard to Find.  More recent authors you might like are J.K. Rowlings for her Harry Potter series, Stieg Larsson’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo trilogy, or any title by Sherman Alexie.   For kids, anything by Dr. Seuss is always fun as are Norton Juster’s The Phantom Tollbooth and Judith Viorst’s Alexander and the Terrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.  Even Graeme Base’s picture book Animalia is a great place to start.  The title does not really matter.  If it captures your fancy, it is worth the effort.

The point is to read!

Personally, I would love to hear what you have been reading, so I can add more titles to my neverending list of books-to-read-next.  There’s another fun book, The Neverending Story by Michael Ende.

SOME QUOTES ABOUT THE LOVE OF READING

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Dr. Seuss always offers good advice:

reading-across-america

“To be allowed, no, invited into the private lives of strangers, and to share their joys and fears, was a chance to exchange the Southern bitter wormwood for a cup of mead with Beowulf or a hot cup of tea and milk with Oliver Twist.”  Maya Angelou

“Oh, how scary and wonderful it is that words can change our lives simply by being next to each other.”   Kamand Kojouri

“Free time is a terrible thing to waste.  Read a book.”  E. A. Bucchianeri

“With a library you are free, not confined by temporary political climates.  It is the most democratic of institutions because no one—but no one at all—can tell you what to read and when and how.”  Doris Lessing

“Books are the plane, and the train, and the road.  They are the destination, and the journey.  They are home.”  Anna Quindlen

“All good books are alike in that they are truer than if they had really happened and after you are finished reading one you will feel that all that happened to you and afterwards it all belongs to you; the good and the bad, the ecstasy, the remorse and sorrow, the people and the places and how the weather was.”  Ernest Hemingway

“She reads books as one would breathe air, to fill up and live.”  Annie Dillard

“The world is never the same once a good poem has been added to it.”  Dylan Thomas

“Some women have a weakness for shoes.  I can go barefoot if necessary.  I have a weakness for books.”  Oprah Winfrey

“You can find magic wherever you look.  Sit back and relax, all you need is a book.”  Dr. Seuss

“If you want your child to be intelligent, read them fairytales.  If you want your child to be more intelligent, read them more fairytales.”  Albert Einstein

“You will be transformed by what you read.”  Deepak Chopra

“There are perhaps no days of our childhood we lived so fully as those we spent with a favorite book.”  Marcel Proust

“We shouldn’t teach great books.  We should teach a love of reading.”  B. F. Skinner

“You can’t get a cup of tea big enough or a book long enough to suit me.”  C. S. Lewis

“This is part of the beauty of literature. You discover that your longings are universal longings, that you’re not lonely and isolated from anyone.  You belong.”  F. Scott Fitzgerald

“Never trust anyone who has not brought a book with them.”  Lemony Snicket

“From your parents you learn love and laughter and how to put one foot in front of the other.  But when books are opened, you discover you have wings.”  Helen Hayes

“No matter how busy you may think you are, you must find time for reading or surrender yourself to self-chosen ignorance.”   Confucious

“There are many ways to enlarge your child’s world.  Love of books is the best of all.”  Jacqueline Kennedy

“I don’t believe in the kind of magic in my books.  But I do believe something very magical can happen when you read a good book.”  J. K. Rowling

“Just the knowledge that a good book is awaiting one at the end of a long day makes that day happier.”  Kathleen Norris

“To learn to read is to light a fire.”  Victor Hugo

“The book to read is not one that thinks for you but the one which makes you think.”  Harper Lee

“A book is a gift you can open again and again.”  Garrison Keillor

“All I have learned, I learned from books.”  Abraham Lincoln

“A room without books is like a body without a soul.”  Cicero

“The man who does not read has no advantage over the man who cannot read.”  Mark Twain

Some last words from Dr. Seuss:

dr.-Seuss-hat

IMG_2947For three weeks in May 2016, I was on the road, enjoying my annual Nature Trek.  This year my major destinations included Yellowstone National Park; Canyonlands National Park, Island in the Sky District; and Saguaro National Park.  I traveled 4,548 miles and stopped to play in five states:  Nevada, Utah, Montana, Wyoming, and Arizona.   The drives were glorious, filled with wonderful wildflowers, ever-changing clouds, and speed limits often posted at 70 to 80 mph.    And there were no mishaps:  no accidents, no tickets, no problems with the rooms, not even any rude or ugly encounters with fellow travelers.

I will eventually post some blogs about my major destinations, but the day-to-day travels were fun as well.  For one thing, gas was pretty cheap, especially in comparison to California prices that always include high local taxes and fees.  But mostly, the trip was punctuated with quirky roadside attractions and out-and-out surprises.

It is the fun of driving:  Seeing the unexpected!

IMG_9800Have you ever been to Baker, California, to see the World’s Largest Thermometer? It was initially built in 1990 by Willis Herron and then—after it was not working for several years—it was working again in October 2104, thanks to Herron’s daughter.  It stands 134 feet tall.   I get a kick out of it every time I pass en route to Vegas.  On this hot day, the thermometer recorded that it was a scorching 95 degrees Fahrenheit.

IMG_9801

IMG_0398When I think of Utah, my mind always envisions the brilliant red cliffs and canyons of so many of its national parks.  Thus I was pleasantly surprised to detour through Provo Canyon when I was driving from St. George to Salt Lake City.  Highway 189 North weaves its way through this cool, green, winding canyon, following the Provo River and passing at least nine local parks.  I also took the detour up to the Sundance Resort where snow and aspens dotted the route.  It was a glorious scenic detour!

IMG_0412

IMG_0400

IMG_0409

IMG_0415

IMG_0423

IMG_0439

IMG_0452

IMG_0455

IMG_0513I was traveling in May and heading at various times into mountains.  I was expecting to see remnants of winter’s snow at some of the higher elevations.  I was staying several nights in Bozeman, Montana, which sits at an elevation of 4,820 feet.  As I was driving in late in my first day there, the clouds were getting darker and darker.  A storm was obviously on its way.  I had already seen rain the day before, but—still—I was not expecting snow.  It was great.

IMG_0535In fact, this odd spring storm continued all of the next day.  Downed trees knocked out a transformer, cutting electric for about 4,000 people—including those of us at my hotel!  While snow accumulation was only several inches in town, several feet of snow accumulated in the mountains.  Although it did not stick around very long, the snow-covered mountains were pretty the next day.

IMG_0549

IMG_1104mom with lilacsBozeman was the location for another delightful surprise on this year’s trip:  Lilacs.  Bozeman was my hotel anchor for several days as I explored Yellowstone National Park.  Every day, I drove several miles through town.  Those few miles contained literally hundreds of lilac bushes!  I counted.  They were everywhere:  outside the hotel, a row along a farm house, several bushes here and there by every other business.  I love lilacs in great part because my mom loved lilacs.  She would have loved this place.

IMG_0547

IMG_1103

IMG_1410

IMG_1413

IMG_1418

IMG_2277Have you even visited Moab, Utah?  It is a great little town, located just outside two national parks:  Arches National Park and Canyonlands, Island in the Sky District.  There is a myriad of outdoor recreational activities to enjoy in the area.  When you visit here, you do not have to be scared about anything bad happening along the road.  Moab seems to have its own security patrol.

IMG_2276

IMG_2268

Have you ever driven south from Moab, Utah, on U.S. Highway 191 South, heading to Kayenta, Arizona?  Me neither.  I love Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park—it is one of my favorite destinations.  However, every time I have visited, I have accessed the park by driving north from Flagstaff through Kayenta, Arizona.  This year—although not stopping to visit Monument Valley—I drove to the area from the north, coming through Bluff and then Medicine Hat, Utah. I was officially traveling on U. S. Highway 191 S and then U.S. Highway 163 S. The route covers about 70 miles between Bluff and Kayenta, which is just south of Monument Valley.

IMG_2306

IMG_2313Oh my goodness!  That stretch of road is absolutely stupendous.  It stretches straight through open fields for mile after mile.  The clouds and flowers on this spring drive were spectacular.  The best parts, however, were the twists and turns and dips that sprang up occasionally as the road passed through various canyons.  At times, it felt like I could have reached out to touch the rock walls reaching up along the side of the road.  And then the open vistas would return again.  The view of Monument Valley as its iconic rocks and buttes rose in the distance was mesmerizing.  I have to drive this road again!

IMG_2314

IMG_2319

IMG_2323

IMG_2325

IMG_2328

IMG_2342

IMG_2347

IMG_2333IMG_2348

IMG_2359

IMG_2366DO YOU HAVE ANY FAVORITE SURPRISES FROM YOUR TRAVELS?

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

A FEW QUOTES ABOUT SURPRISE

“Each day holds a surprise.  But only if we expect it can we see, hear, or feel it when it comes to us.  Let’s not be afraid to receive each day’s surprise. Whether it comes to us as sorrow or as joy, it will open a new place in our hearts, a place where we can welcome new friends and celebrate more fully our shared humanity.”   Henri Nouwen

“The moments of happiness we enjoy take us by surprise.  It is not that we seize them, but that they seize us.”   Ashley Montagu

“Life is the greatest gift which life can grant us.”   Boris Pasternak

“Searching is half the fun:  life is much more manageable as a scavenger hunt as opposed to a surprise party.”   Jimmy Buffett

“What a lovely surprise to finally discover how unlonely being alone can be.”   Ellen Burstyn

“How ridiculous and how strange to be surprised at anything which happens in life.”   Marcus Aurelius

“No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader.  No surprise in the writer, no surprise in the reader.”   Robert Frost

“Life is a celebration of awakenings, of new beginnings, and wonderful surprises that enlighten the soul.”  Cielo

“A story to me means a plot where there is some surprise.  Because that is how life is—full of surprises.”   Isaac Bashevis Singer

YS Bison alone 2

YS Bison close upTatanka.

Buffalo.

Bison.

It does not really matter what this magnificent animal is called.  It will still be a powerful wild creature that embodies the American Spirit, bringing to mind both the wild freedom and destruction of the American West.  And now, it holds special status as the official National Mammal of the United States of America.  On May 9, 2016, President Obama signed the National Bison Legacy Act.  This new elevated status is meant to emphasize the bison’s cultural and economic significance in American history.

IMG_1425

A BIT OF HISTORY

IMG_1213

IMG_1279Ancestors of the current American Bison have been traced to a land migration from Asia thousands of years ago.  Although smaller than those ancient beasts, today’s bison have been a part of America for hundreds of years.  As recent as the early 19th century, the bison numbered in the multi-millions and ran free over much of North America.  These formidable animals were integral to the lives of many Native American tribes, providing not only spiritual imagery and stories but also food, clothing, fuel, tools, and even shelter.  This scene from Dances with Wolves shows a buffalo hunt as it may have happened those many years ago.

Then settlers and hunters moved across the country and killed roughly 50 million bison often for their coats or for sport, leaving the corpses to rot.  Some of the slaughter was intentional as an action to decimate Native Americans, given their interdependence with the herds.  By the end of the 19th century, the enormous herds had been reduced to a few hundred surviving animals.

In 1883, Teddy Roosevelt traveled to the Dakota Territory for a bison hunting trip.  After several years and a changed outlook, Roosevelt became committed to preserving what was left of the bison.  In 1905, he was instrumental—along with others—in forming the American Bison Society, which developed a bison breeding program through the then New York City Zoo (now the Bronx Zoo).  In 1913, the Society donated 14 bison to the Wind Cave National Park (South Dakota), starting major bison re-population efforts that continue today.

IMG_1128Today bison live in all 50 states, and herds are being re-introduced in Mexico.  American numbers have increased to a total of nearly 500,000 animals, but most of these show evidence of inter-breeding with cattle so are considered semi-domesticated.  Currently, many bison are raised for their meat, which is slowly growing in use and popularity.  About 20,000 truly wild bison remain on various preserves and public and native lands.

IMG_0740As of 2015, Yellowstone National Park was home to the largest wild herd of almost 5,000 animals. This herd has the special distinction of being direct descendants of the original herds that have continuously inhabited the area since ancient times.  This herd’s lineage can be linked back to 23 bison that escaped the slaughters of the 19th century.  Most other free-ranging herds had to be re-introduced to the various farms and nature preserves they now inhabit.

SOME BASIC BISON FACTS

Postcard Art by Paul Goble

Postcard Art by Paul Goble

IMG_1212This year, I visited Yellowstone National Park and witnessed these formidable beasts in action. I was there in the spring so saw family groups that included “red dogs,” the term used for the light golden-colored calves.  There were also a few isolated bison wandering the fields, a typical activity for younger males that leave the family groups once they reach about two years of age, joining together eventually in small all-male bands.  The male bands rejoin the groups of females and juveniles, forming large groups during the late summer mating season.  After a nine-month gestation period, cows give birth in the spring.  Most cows have single births, and the new born calf weighs about 50 pounds.

IMG_1383

IMG_1360

During the mating season, males battle for mating supremacy, but these bouts rarely turn dangerous.  When I visited the park this spring, I saw what I assume were two “teens” practicing this battle behavior as they played in the field.  Later, two frisky calves even practiced the behavior.  These videos are not the best—sorry.  [I did learn that I should invest in a tripod if I am going to videotape activities when the camera is set to the highest magnification.]

 

What impressed me the most about the bison I was able to observe on this trip was their sheer physical prowess.  These animals are the largest mammals in North America, so it is no wonder they appeared massive and powerful.   An adult male bison stands 5 to 6.5 feet tall at the shoulder and can weigh over a ton.  Females stand 4 to 5 feet tall and weigh up to 1,000 pounds.  Both males and females have the characteristic sharp, curved horns that typically reach lengths of two feet or more.  Their coat is so dense that when snow accumulates, it rarely melts since it never makes it below the surface.

IMG_1216

I sure would love to run my fingers through that dense coat.

IMG_1408

IMG_1237As I spotted bison throughout the national park, they always seemed to be eating.  Actually, they do spend 9 to 11 hours a day grazing on grasses and shrubs.  But do not be deceived by their placid, calm demeanor.  They are considered unpredictable and at times even irritable.  They can run for long distances, reaching speeds up to 40 miles per hour.  When they roamed free, they were considered savage and more dangerous than a Grizzly Bear.

IMG_1125

IMG_1432

DEath in Yellowstone book coverLee. H. Whittlesey wrote the book Death in Yellowstone: Accidents and Foolhardiness in the First National Park.  One chapter is devoted to the death and destruction caused by bison, especially when tourists get too close, somehow forgetting these are indeed wild animals.   As of the second edition’s reprinting in 2014, there were only 2 deaths from bison since 2013, but the potential is always there.  Rangers constantly warn, “Keep your distance!”

IMG_1434

I am sure I will return to Yellowstone again and again, mainly to see these magnificent animals.  Thankfully, they are no longer endangered and will hopefully continue to stay safe now that they are America’s National Mammal.  Of course, free-ranging herds can be seen at other locations besides Yellowstone:  There are herds at Wind Cave National Park (South Dakota, about 350 animals), Antelope Island State Park (Utah, 700 animals), the Henry Mountains (Utah, 500 animals), and the National Bison Range National Refuge (Montana, 400 animals).  Also, every September, tourists can watch a Buffalo Round Up of more than 1,000 animals at South Dakota’s Custer State Park.  These places are all going on my must-see list!

IMG_1204

FINALLY, WHAT ABOUT THE NAME? 

Bison is the term most often associated with these magnificent animals, now.  It is the more scientifically correct term, and it comes from the Greek meaning ox-like animal.  Bison was first recorded in use in reference to the American Bison in 1774.  The term buffalo seems incorrect because there is not a hereditary link between the American animal and the true buffalos from Asia and Africa.  However, the term buffalo comes from French fur trappers calling the American animal boeuf, meaning ox or bullock.  The conversion of boeuf into buffalo dates to 1635 when its usage was first recorded.  Given this information, either term is equally correct.  Personally, I really like the Sioux word tatanka!

YS Bison alone 1

Have you ever seen these wondrous animals in the wild?  Do you have a favorite wild animal you have seen or hope to see in the wild?

GT and YS mapGT mapGrand Teton National Park, sitting only 10 miles south of Yellowstone National Park, was originally created in 1929 by Herbert Hoover, preserving 96,000 acres.  In 1943 Franklin Delano Roosevelt created the Jackson Hole National Monument, preserving the unique features of the adjacent valley.  John D. Rockefeller donated public lands—lands that he had purchased over the years to save them from development—to the federal government in 1949.  In 1950, the three areas—Grand Teton, Jackson Hole, and the Rockefeller acres—were combined together under the name Grand Teton National Park, now covering 310,000 acres.  Today, it is one of the most popular national parks, visited by 3.2 million visitors in 2015.

GT Grand Teton view from road 2

The first time I visited Grand Teton National Park was in 1993, but it really was not my destination.  I was heading toward Yellowstone and passed through Grand Teton because the road passed right through it.  To say the rugged mountain range surprised me is an understatement.  I was driving along and—boom!—the mountains were just right there. One of my first stops was the Teton Point Overlook that showcased the entire mountain range.

My Glued Together Panorama from Before Photoshop

My Glued Together Panorama from Before Photoshop, Teton Point Overlook

The Grand Teton Range, the youngest sub-range of the Rocky Mountains, is impressive.  What makes this range stand out is how it juts straight up from the valley floor, rather than ascending gradually through a range of foothills.  The tallest peak is Grand Teton, reaching 13,770 feet above sea level.  There are eleven other peaks, each one reaching close to 12,000 feet above sea level. Surrounding these peaks are numerous lakes and rivers, such as the Snake River and Jackson and Jenny Lakes. Remnants of glaciation are evident, including at least a dozen u-shaped valleys scoured into existence by ice-age glaciers.

Grand Teton Mt Names

On part of that long ago drive, I took the Teton Park side loop past Jenny Lake and then looped back towards Jackson, Wyoming, stopping at Oxbow Bend Overlook and Sleeping Indian Overlook.

Jenny Lake

Jenny Lake

Jenny Lake

Jenny Lake

Cascade Falls

Cascade Falls

Oxbow Bend

Oxbow Bend

Mount Moran

Mount Moran

Lupine with the Grand Tetons in the Distance

Lupine with the Grand Tetons in the Distance

Arrowleaf Balsamroot

Arrowleaf Balsamroot

View from Oxbow Bend Overlook

View from Oxbow Bend Overlook

Sleeping Indian Formation

Sleeping Indian Formation

Later during that same trip, I took the monorail ride available from Teton Village near Jackson, Wyoming, to see the glorious peaks from an aerial view. 

Elk Antler Arch in Jackson Town Square

Elk Antler Arch in Jackson Town Square

Monorail for Aerial View of the Grand Tetons

Monorail for Aerial View of the Grand Tetons

Some Aerial Views of Peaks within the Grand Teton Range

GT Arieal view 1

GT Arial view 2

Hanging Ice Glacier U-Shaped Valley, Mount Moran

Hanging Ice Glacier U-Shaped Valley, Mount Moran

Snake River

Snake River

This year, my main goal for my Nature Trek was–once again—to visit Yellowstone National Park.  This time, as part of the trip, I planned to spend several days exploring Grand Teton National Park as well.  Unfortunately, a day of snow in Montana as I was first heading into Yellowstone via the west entrance forced me off the roads and mountain passes, requiring an adjustment to my itinerary. I no longer had an extra day to spend at Grand Teton National Park.

But I still wanted to view these magnificent Grand Tetons again!  Thus, as I left Yellowstone out the south entrance, I traveled U.S. Highway 191, heading to Jackson, Wyoming. This route is also known as the John D. Rockefeller Memorial Parkway, named in 1972 for Rockefeller’s significant contributions to national parks, including Grant Teton National Park.

The scenic route showcases mountains, grasslands and wildlife, reminiscent of the area over a hundred years ago.  It was a late spring afternoon.  As the light was growing dim, I stopped at various pullouts and overlooks to capture some shots of the mountains that at times seemed to hide as the road twisted and turned along the route.

Along the John D. Rockefeller Memorial Parkway

Along the John D. Rockefeller Memorial Parkway

Along Jackson Lake

IMG_1709

IMG_1714

On the Road Again

On the Road Again

Willow Flats Overlook

IMG_1724

IMG_1722

IMG_1726

Oxbow Bend Overlook

IMG_1738

IMG_1740

IMG_1742

Elk Ranch Turnout

IMG_1748

IMG_1750

Teton Point Overlook

IMG_1756

IMG_1757

The Cathedral Group

Middle Teton, Lower Saddle, Grand Teton, Gunsight Notch, Mt. Owen, Teewinot

Middle Teton, Lower Saddle, Grand Teton, Gunsight Notch, Mt. Owen, Teewinot

IMAG00082

I can hardly wait until I get a chance to come visit the Grand Tetons again.

Are there some places you hope to visit again, again, and again?

 

 

 

 

 

 

75 Years Ago Today

On this day 75 years ago, Dorothy Birkemoe and Raymond F. Ross were married in Chicago, Illinois. 

wedding 1

wedding 2

wedding 3

They are my parents, and I miss them dearly.  Mom died in November 2012 and Dad in February 2014.  I expect they are together in heaven, celebrating this anniversary.  Me?  I am reminiscing through many good memories as my nod to celebrating with them.  I even bought a bouquet of yellow roses—like Mom carried in her bouquet.

Today, if you are able to visit with your parents or grandparents, give them an extra hug for me.  I sure wish I could still reach out and hold Mom and Dad in a big old bear hug.  But I think they know I am thinking of them.  “Happy Anniversary, Mom and Dad.  I love you!”

A LITTLE PHOTO REVIEW OF MOM & DAD THROUGH THE YEARS

Thanksgiving 1938

Thanksgiving 1938

on bike

Mom with Dad in uniform

1955

1955

Not Long After Moving to California

Not Long After Moving to California

Mom and Dad back yard

25th Anniversary, 1966

25th Anniversary, 1966

Mom and Dad by roses

Whale Watching out of Ventura

Whale Watching out of Ventura

My Apartment in Chatsworth

My Apartment in Chatsworth

50th Anniversary, 1991

50th Anniversary, 1991

MD with Me restaurant

Free Valentine's Day Dinner at Home Buffet, If Could Prove Been Married 50+ Years! They Loved It!

Free Valentine’s Day Dinner at Home Buffet, If Could Prove Been Married 50+ Years! They Loved It!

Mom and Dad valentines day

2003

2003

2004

2004

kiss

One of Their Last Visits Together

One of Their Last Visits Together

A GLIMPSE INTO SOME OF THE DETAILS OF LIFE IN 1941

United States Population:  133,402,471

Franklin Delano Roosevelt Starts Third Term as President

Unemployment Rate:  9.9%

Japan Attacks Pearl Harbor and USA Enters World War II

“Manhattan Project” of Intensive Atomic Research Begins

New York Yankees Win World Series over Brooklyn Dodgers, 4-1

U. S. Savings Bonds Go on Sale

Bob Hope Entertains Soldiers in First USO Tour

National Gallery of Art, Washington, D. C. Opens

The Carving of Mount Rushmore Completed

FILMSCitizen Kane, Dumbo, Sergeant York, The Maltese Falcon, Dr, Jekyll & Mr. Hyde, How Green Was My Valley (Best Picture Award)

Wonder Woman Comic Begins Publication

Teflon Patented, First Aerosol Can Produced, Cheerios Introduced

POPULAR SONGS:  “Bewitched, Bothered & Bewildered,” “Deep in the Heart of Texas,”  “I Don’t Want to Set the World on Fire,”  “Chattanooga Choo-Choo,” “I Got It Bad and That Ain’t Good,” “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy”

COSTS FOR SOME EVERYDAY ITEMS

Weekly Income for 40-Hour Work Week $60     First Class Postage Stamp 3 cents      Bread about 8 cents/Loaf     Milk about 54 cents/Gallon     Pepsi & Coke about 5 cents/Bottle     Coffee about 5 cents/Cup     Eggs about 20 cents/Dozen     Hershey Candy Bar about 5 cents/Bar

IMG_2660Saugaro NP Rincon & West 144I would bet most everyone has seen a Saguaro Cactus, at least in pictures.  It is an iconic image of old time westerns, even though it does not grow throughout all of the southwest.  A great place to view Saguaros is in the Saguaro National Park, outside Tucson, Arizona.  Driving through this national park is an incredible experience with its open vistas and extensive cactus forest.  But it is the Saguaro Cactus itself that is so amazing, especially when it is in bloom.

IMG_2707

IMG_2823

Saugaro NP Rincon & West 286

IMG_9179

For me, some of my amazement over the great Saguaros comes from knowing the basic facts about this wondrous plant:

The Saguaro Cactus is the defining plant of the Sonoran Desert, which runs from Mexico into Arizona and small sections of California.  Its blossom is the state wildflower for Arizona.

IMG_2700

This cactus is grown only from seeds, not from cuttings.

Saguaros grow very, very, very slowly.  At 10 years old, a cactus may be less than 2 inches tall.

Saguaros can live to be 200 years old, reaching heights of 40-60 feet tall.

IMG_9241

The largest known Saguaro is Champion Saguaro, and it is 45 feet tall with a three-foot girth. The tallest Saguaro ever measured was 78 feet tall before it blew over in a wind storm in 1986.

A Saguaro with no branches is called a spear.

Saugaro NP Rincon & West 069

The branches start growing once a plant is about 75 years old.

IMG_9225

Saugaro NP Rincon & West 235

Once a Saguaro dies, its woody ribs can be used to build such things as fences and roofs.

IMG_9161

IMG_9163

Saugaro NP Rincon & West 249

The whole life cycle of this magnificent cactus rests on its flower and pollination cycle.  Each plant can have hundreds of flowers, which bloom in late spring, generating red fruit throughout the summer.  Each fruit contains thousands of seeds.  The flowers are pollinated by insects, birds and even bats.

IMG_2955

IMG_2766

IMG_2975Saugaro NP Rincon & West 085I have visited the Saguaro National Monument as well as the Tucson Desert Museum many times over the years, always enjoying the Saguaro Cactus.  However, I never managed to visit when the Saguaros were in bloom.  This year, I finally noticed the details shared in a brochure that stressed that the blooms were most prevalent in May—not earlier in the spring—and that one needed to be there early in the day to see them at their best.  It seems each blossom is short-lived, initially blooming after sunset and closing by noon the next day.

IMG_2842

IMG_2869

When they are in bloom, they are gorgeous! 

IMG_2819

IMG_2838

IMG_2849

IMG_2987

IMG_2990

Tag Cloud

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 401 other followers