September28, 2016 Teton National Park, Wyoming

Mormon Row
Mormon Row

Last Days in the Tetons

Campground Moose
Campground Moose

Tomorrow I plan to break camp and leave the Tetons … and one of the best campsites I have had in quite a while.

Campground Bull Moose
Campground Bull Moose

And wouldn’t you know, now that I have decided to move on south to Salt lake City and Antelope Island State Park, the moose decide to move into the campground here at Gros Ventre. These shots were all taken from INSIDE my motorhome right at the crack of dawn today.

Teton Moose
Teton Moose

I have no idea what this chase is all about, kind of odd to see a cow chase off another cow, the bulls do it all the time but never saw cows doing this before.

Campground Moose Action
Campground Moose Action

When the moose come in, there are always photographers right behind them. This guy just about got clocked by the cow that sprang to life and chased after the other cow, with this photographer right in the midst of the action.

Teton Pronghorn
Teton Pronghorn
Teton Pronghorns
Teton Pronghorns

I continue to regularly locate the pronghorns along the dirt road to Mormon Row.

Teton Red Barn
Teton Red Barn
Snow Capped Tetons
Snow Capped Tetons

Nights have been getting a little chilly, being greeted by heavy frost to scrape off the windshield every morning lately. The rain that has been falling here in the campground is leaving the mountaintops covered with snow, though it still is melting away in the afternoon most days.

Snow Capped Tetons
Snow Capped Tetons
Mormon Row
Mormon Row
Teton Pronghorn
Teton Pronghorn

I took a drive out to Curtis Canyon to check out the ( closed for the season ) National Forest campground there, and had the good fortune to come upon this handsome fellow posing on the side of the road.

Teton Pronghorn
Teton Pronghorn

 

Tetons From Curtis Canyon Road
Tetons From Curtis Canyon Road

This is the view from the top of the hill by the National Forest campground looking down and across the National Elk Refuge to the Tetons.

Teton Boondock Campsite
Teton Boondock Campsite

There are a couple of wonderful boondock campsites up there, just not quite sure I would want to take my motorhome up the gravel road, a little steep and rough in spots.

Tomorrow I will be heading down to the Great Salt Lake and Antelope island State Park for a few nights as I begin my southward winter migration.

September 17, 2016 Grand Tetons, Wyoming

Teton Bull Moose
Teton Bull Moose

Finally! Moose, Plus a Meadowlark

Meadowlark
Meadowlark

Ran into this guy singing away on Mormon Row first thing in the morning. Had to stop because you never can have too many shots of these guys singing their hearts out.

Meadowlark
Meadowlark

Plus he did give me this bonus shot … never got that pose before.

Teton Bull Moose
Teton Bull Moose

Finally, I ran into a nice bull moose not mostly concealed in the willows.

Teton Bull Moose
Teton Bull Moose

Saw some antler tips sticking up out of the sagebrush and got myself set up with the sun behind me to be ready to get some nice shots when he finally decided to get up.

Teton Bull Moose
Teton Bull Moose

He was bedded down not too far away from a cow he obviously was shadowing while waiting for her to become receptive to his amorous advances. I had to wait patiently for over an hour and a half for the two of them to finally get up and get moving. Guess they never heard the tale of the early bird getting the worm.

Lookin For Love?
Lookin For Love?
Lookin For Love?
Lookin For Love?

He made his morning move, was rejected, and she went on her way.

Teton Bull Moose
Teton Bull Moose

With him following, of course.

Teton Bull Moose
Teton Bull Moose

Even with a long lens, this type of shot gives the photographer pause. You can tell that he has you dead in his sights and this time of year you just never know what his intentions are, at least as far as nosey photographers go. As seen through  a 400mm lens, he is far enough away that I can still easily get behind a nearby tree … hoping that would do some good. Turns out he was just looking to get into the shade where I was standing.

Teton Bull Moose
Teton Bull Moose

There he made a few squawks, circled, made sure the female was in sight, and dropped down to rest, having travelled probably all of a hundred feet so far this morning. This guy was a pretty good sized mature bull that probably has already fought off another bull, or bulls, judging from the way he was limping. Hope this is just the first of several more encounters with these Teton moose.

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August 27, 2016 Estes Park, Colorado

Rocky Mountain National Park
Rocky Mountain National Park

Rocky Mountain National Park

Rocky Mountain National Park
Rocky Mountain National Park

I arrived at the Saint Mary Lake Campground on Tuesday after an uneventful drive from Twin Lakes, uneventful due to my new ignition wires and plugs. Most likely, I never would have made the long, torturous eight mile haul up the grade to the Eisenhower Tunnel on I-70 if I hadn’t replaced them. This is an expensive (though still less than the other Estes Park campgrounds), private campground laid out like most such campgrounds, rows of sites one after another, way too crowded, way too bright at night, and noisy during the day. Full hookups cost $45/night, making it the most expensive place I have stayed in 4 years, but the location is convenient, and, as I said, the $45 is actually cheaper than the other campgrounds around Estes Park.

RMNP Beast of Burden
RMNP Beast of Burden

There have been no bright, blue sky days since I have arrived so I haven’t been able to get any great mountain shots yet, but I have found a little wildlife during my early morning drives into the park. Despite the fact that school has started and most families are now done with their summer travels, there is still a lot of traffic through the park, way too much actually. I read that last year the park had 4.1 million visitors, more than Yellowstone or Yosemite.

MNP Bull Moose
RMNP Bull Moose

I have run into a couple of bull moose along the way as I climb to the higher elevations in the park.

Mom and Calf
Mom and Calf
Mom and Calf
Mom and Calf

The last time I was here was in the spring, in fact, entrance into the park was closed a couple of days due to a spring snowstorm. During that stay, I found many elk and bighorn sheep around town and along the lower elevations of the park, due to the deep snow in the upper elevations. This year, the animals are still up high and I am not encountering any large numbers of elk and I have yet to see a single sheep.

RMNP Bull Elk
RMNP Bull Elk
RMNP Bull Elk
RMNP Bull Elk

Along the highest point of the park road I spied this guy grazing along the downhill slope, about half a mile from the road. I parked and hiked down to where I could get a shot, carrying my tripod and 600mm lens on my shoulder.

RMNP Bull Elk
RMNP Bull Elk

Forgot that I was at 12,000′ elevation, so when it came time to hike back up the 30 degree slope to get back to the car, I was finding it a little difficult to breathe. Managed to make it, but I think I would prefer finding these guys at a little lower elevation. Guess I’ll have to wish for snow to drive them down the mountain.

RMNP Bull Elk
RMNP Bull Elk

Now this guy was at a little lower elevation, very early in the morning.

RMNP Bull Elk
RMNP Bull Elk

Looking at his left ear, I would have to guess that the bulls may already be sparring, and he must have caught an opponent’s antler, tearing that ear.

American Pika

Pika
Pika

A little background on these little cuties ( from the internet ).

“Pikas (Ochonta princeps) are small mammals related to the rabbit family, even though they look more like a hamster. Pikas are sometimes known as conies or rock rabbits. These cuddly-looking characters have small, oval bodies that are only around six inches long and weigh six ounces. Their ears are moderately large for their bodies and round in shape. Pikas have a very short tail that is usually covered by a coat of thick brown-gray peppered fur. They have sharp curved claws and padded toes to scamper around alpine rocks.

Excellent hearing and vision keep them very aware of danger in their surroundings.   Pikas are very vocal animals and use both calls and songs to communicate with each other and to protect their territories. A high-pitched “eek” warns other pikas of predators. Their voices are easily heard, but the animals, camouflaged against the rocks, are more difficult to see.

American pikas only live in mountainous alpine terrain above 11,000 feet in elevation. They live on rock faces, talus slopes and cliffs near mountain meadows. Pikas live in colonies often connected by burrow mazes underneath these rocky areas. Even so, individuals are very territorial over their own den and surrounding areas, and are usually seen darting around rocky areas alone.

The pika breeding season is in late May or early June while snow is still on the ground in their mountainous habitat. Pika territoriality is at its lowest during this time and males sing to female mates. The female gestation period is 30 days and litters of two to six hairless, blind infants are born. Femals can have a second litter during the same season, and raise their young alone. After one month, the babies leave their mothers to establish their own dens, even though they won’t fully mature for another few months.

Pikas are herbivores and eat a variety of plants including sedges, grasses and wildflowers. After breeding season, pika activity intensifies as they must make the most of a short tundra growing season.

The maximum life span of a pika is three to seven years. Pikas do not hibernate, so they must spend the short alpine summers gathering food for the winter ahead. This frenzied activity consists of gathering large quantities of plants in their mouths and scurrying back to designated storage areas called “haystacks” to let the plants dry. Haymaking is their primary activity, and this is when pikas become extremely territorial and vocal to defend their haystacks.

They can remain active all throughout the day if the outside temperatures stay cool enough. When winter arrives, pikas bring all of their haystacks into their dens and will remain in the burrows most of the winter. One pika must gather enough food to fill a bathtub. Their survival depends on a successful harvest as they remain active underneath the winter snows.

The primary threat for the pika is climate change because as it gets warmer, pikas must go higher up the mountains until they top out and have no where else to go. When temperatures exceed approximately 70 degrees Fahrenheit, pikas can die within hours if they cannot escape from the heat. Pikas are early warning signs for global warming in western North America since they are a species that depends on mountain ecosystems for survival. Go to the National Park Service (NPS) Pikas in Peril website to learn about recent pika research that included Rocky Mountain National Park. Researchers and NPS staff are trying to address questions about pika vulnerability to future climate conditions.”

Pika
Pika
Pika
Pika
Pika
Pika
Pika
Pika
Pika Taking Winter Stores to the Den
Pika Taking Winter Stores to the Den
Pika "haying"
Pika “haying”

I spent about an hour one rather cool morning ( 30 degrees ) at a spot on the park road known as ” the rock cut ” taking shots of several pikas that had dens in the rock fill on the lower side of the road.

Pika "haying"
Pika “haying”

They would race down the talus type rock slope and quickly venture out no more than 20 feet into the grass, chop down a mouthful of grasses and sometimes flowers, then race back up into the rocks to their dens.

Pika Taking Winter Stores to the Den
Pika Taking Winter Stores to the Den
Pika Taking Winter Stores to the Den
Pika Taking Winter Stores to the Den
Pika Taking Winter Stores to the Den
Pika Taking Winter Stores to the Den

After just a few minutes stowing their harvest, they would reappear and repeat the same process, each round trip taking about two or three minutes. They each did this continuously for most of the hour I was with them, only disappearing once for about ten minutes, just after a group of Harley idiots roared up and stopped to use the restrooms across the road from where I was shooting. Now one of my pet peeves are these infantile jerks with their roaring machines scaring off all kinds of wildlife, but I’m not quite sure why they would scare off these little guys. They certainly are not familiar with gun shots from hunters since they live well within the national park, so unlike deer, elk, and moose, that probably do associate the motorcycle racket with gunfire, I don’t know why these little guys are scared off by the motorcycles. But they did eventually come back out and resume their harvesting a while after after the bikes left.

Pika Taking Winter Stores to the Den
Pika Taking Winter Stores to the Den
Pika Taking Winter Stores to the Den
Pika Taking Winter Stores to the Den
Pika Taking Winter Stores to the Den
Pika Taking Winter Stores to the Den

Kind of challenging trying to catch these little guys in motions, they are only 6 or 7 inches long, flying up the rock slope, hopping from rock to rock at top speed. Being preyed on by hawks, as well as coyotes and Long Tailed Weasels, they obviously don’t want to be caught out in the open dilly dallying around.

Pika Taking Winter Stores to the Den
Pika Taking Winter Stores to the Den
Pika Taking Winter Stores to the Den
Pika Taking Winter Stores to the Den
Pika Taking Winter Stores to the Den
Pika Taking Winter Stores to the Den
Pika Taking Winter Stores to the Den
Pika Taking Winter Stores to the Den

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July 27, 2016 Cimarron, Colorado

North of Crested Butte
North of Crested Butte

A Week of Exploring the Back Roads

Lupines
Lupines

I have spent the last week traveling over 600 miles on the gravel back roads searching for fields of wild flowers and wildlife. Haven’t been terribly successful with either.

Sheep Grazing Among the Lupines
Sheep Grazing Among the Lupines

The best shows of wildflowers seem to occur at an elevation of over 9000 feet, so the Prius has had to work hard this week and has taken me places I probably shouldn’t be going. Even had the thrill of having to change out a flat tire while coming down a 10% grade at an elevation of over 10,000 feet, got to gasping a bit for breath while doing that task.

Colorado Wildflowers
Colorado Wildflowers
Colorado Wildflowers
Colorado Wildflowers
Colorado Wildflowers
Colorado Wildflowers

Though finding a few spots where the meadows were quite colorful, just not finding all that many areas where there are more than two or three types of flowers in bloom at the same time, not as nice as some of the images I have seen online over the years.

Colorado Wildflowers
Colorado Wildflowers
North of Crested Butte
North of Crested Butte

I made a day long 240 mile trip to check out the mountain roads around Crested Butte, the “Wildflower Capital of Colorado” that yielded some dramatic mountain scenery but not all that much in the way of wildflowers.

North of Crested Butte
North of Crested Butte
Backroads near Crested Butte
Backroads near Crested Butte
North of Crested Butte
North of Crested Butte
Sunrise, Black Canyon National Park
Sunrise, Black Canyon National Park

Also did a quick morning trip into Black Canyon National Park, a place I have visited before, and not one of my favorites.

Black Canyon National Park
Black Canyon National Park

If you are ever here, the road down to the East Portal is something to see … and drive, a 16% grade that runs for over two miles down to the river. The Prius complained a bit on the way down but really moaned driving back up and out. One very SERIOUS descent and ascent, needless to say, no trailers or motorhomes allowed on this road.

Mulie Buck in Velvet
Mulie Buck in Velvet

Despite all the miles covered on back roads at high elevations, wildlife sightings have been few and far between. I have yet to even spot an elk.

Mulie Buck in Velvet
Mulie Buck in Velvet

This is one of a group of four mule deer bucks, still in velvet, that I did encounter.

Mulie Buck in Velvet
Mulie Buck in Velvet
Shiras Moose
Shiras Moose

And this is Shiras Moose, the smallest of the moose subspecies, and not all that numerous here in Colorado. Though I couldn’t get a good shot of it, this cow was accompanied by her young calf, but the calf was a little camera shy.

Black Canyon RV Park
Black Canyon RV Park

I have been staying at a private RV park on Route 50 just a little past Cimarron, Colorado called the Black Canyon RV Park and Cabins. A very neat and clean park with a wonderful owner and surprisingly quiet. Most of the campers here are long term with just a very few overnighters. The sites are reasonably spaced on fairly level grass pads. Full hookups with the absolute best campground WiFi I have ever encountered, which was a big plus, since there is absolutely no Verizon signal here whatsoever.

My thirteen year old refrigerator died when I first pulled in here and I have spent a good deal of time trying to find anyone who would be able to install a new one and get me back on the road. Campers World in Colorado Springs said they could squeeze me in on September 10th ! The RV dealer in Montrose could maybe get me in by the middle of August. I finally found a place in Delta, CO that will replace the refrigeration unit only, and they are going to do it for me tomorrow. Though this saves me about a grand, versus a new refrigerator, I am not completely certain this is the way to go, but I need to get the refrigerator back on line so I continue of my trip with a series of paid reservations down the road, as I make my way to Leadville and on to Estes Park.

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