May 27, 2018 Jackson Hole, Wyoming

Bear #399 and Cubs
Bear #399 and Cubs

A Beary Good Day in the Tetons

Grand Teton N.P. Unsettled Weather
Grand Teton N.P. Unsettled Weather

I arrived at the Gros Ventre Campground in Kelly, Wyoming, just outside Jackson Hole, on Thursday, apparently bringing the unsettled weather with me.

Grand Teton N.P. Unsettled Weather
Grand Teton N.P. Unsettled Weather

Storm clouds, a bit of sun, rain, hail … just can’t seem to escape this kind of weather this year. Does combine at times to produce some dramatic shots though. The above image is the scene as I exit the Gros Ventre Campground on what turned out to be a very rare, exciting day in the Grand Teton National Park.

Bear #399
Bear #399

Bear #399

Bear #399
Bear #399

( For a little background of Bear #399, arguably the most famous bear in the world, click here.)

On Saturday of the Memorial Day Weekend, I had originally planned to just stay home and avoid the holiday crowds, but at 5:30 in the morning when I caught a glimpse of a little bit of sun through the storm clouds at sunrise, I decided I would venture out, hoping the holiday crowds might be sleeping in..

Bear #399
Bear #399

I drove about thirty miles north on the main road to an area referred to as Pilgrim Flats and couldn’t believe my eyes when I spied a very healthy looking grizzly with two large cubs grazing in the flats not more than hundred yards off the side of the road.

Bear #399 and Cubs
Bear #399 and Cubs

And more amazing yet, early morning golden light and no rain!

Bear #399 and Cubs
Bear #399 and Cubs

I was able to position myself with the sun to my back and couldn’t believe that the bears seemed very content to do their thing and were oblivious to myself and some other early morning photographers who were able to take advantage of this incredible opportunity.

Bear #399 Nursing Cubs
Bear #399 Nursing Cubs

When Mom stopped grazing and called the cubs in to nurse, I just couldn’t believe how fortunate I was to have abandoned my plan to stay home on this holiday weekend.

Bear #399 Nursing Cubs
Bear #399 Nursing Cubs

Don’t think I would want to ever see those claws up close and personal.

Bear #399 Nursing Cubs
Bear #399 Nursing Cubs

Very healthy two year old cubs and obviously, a very experienced mother.

Bear #399
Bear #399

After spending the better part of two hours with these guys, and with crowds gathering, I departed Pilgrim Flats and continued up the highway to see what else I might run into.

A Second Encounter with Bear #399 and Cubs
A Second Encounter with Bear #399 and Cubs

On my return south on the highway, about two miles north of where I originally encountered these bears, I saw them coming out of the woods heading down to a small pond and pulled over to see if I could get any different type of shots. But by this time traffic was getting very heavy and my stopping started a huge ” bear jam ” on the highway. Just incredible how quickly the road backed up and people stopped in the middle of the road, on both sides, people darting in and out of traffic, just chaotic, and not my cup of tea. So, I left #399 and her cubs to the holiday crowds and hurried home to get my shots on the computer to see if I captured anything worthwhile in my early morning encounter with this star of the bear world.

An Obsessed Mountain Bluebird

Female Mountain Bluebird
Female Mountain Bluebird

While I have had other birds, at other campgrounds, be attracted to their reflection in the motorhome’s mirrors, I have never run into one as obsessed as this female Mountain Bluebird.

Female Mountain Bluebird
Female Mountain Bluebird

She shows up at sunrise and returns all throughout the day to try and discourage this interloper she sees in the mirror, trying to intrude on her territory.

Female Mountain Bluebird
Female Mountain Bluebird

Other times I have observed this kind of behavior, it has always been a male bird and I have never seen one so aggressively fight off this perceived intruder. She was making such a mess of the mirror that I finally had to go and wrap a plastic bag over the mirror, whereupon she turned her attention to the other other mirror, that she had previously ignored. Now both mirrors are wrapped in plastic, but she still shows up several times a day to check on the intruders she knows must be there but that she can no longer see.

Next post, another bear encounter at the same location, but a different bear!

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April 21, 2018 Marion, Kansas

Abandoned Kansas Farmhouse
Abandoned Kansas Farmhouse

Driving the Backroads of Kansas

I have been staying at another Army Corps of Engineers park on the shores of Marion Reservoir the last week or so. Cottonwood Point Campground is yet another great COE campground with 171 campsites spread out over many acres along the shoreline of the reservoir. The sites are mostly level backins with a few pullthroughs, most have gravel pads, picnic table under a shelter, fire pit and charcoal grill. Most have 50 amp electric  with water spigot and some sites have full hookups.

Since there is almost no one here this early in the season, I was able to grab a great pull through site at the very end of one of the four camping loops, guaranteeing me the solitude I love. This site, like most in this campground is waterside with lots of trees around the campsite. Very strong Verizon signal for my internet and this site allowed me easy access to the southern sky for my satellite TV. And for all this I have to pay all of $10.50 ( with my senior pass ) a night, pretty hard to beat that.

Cottonwood Point COE Campsite
Cottonwood Point COE Campsite

My only gripe is that yesterday I had to move from the wonderful site seen in these images to another pull through ( that proved to be every bit as nice ). The reason why ? Well, even though there are only about a dozen campers here amongst the 171 sites, this particular site has been reserved for the weekend. An all too common occurrence with campgrounds that allow reserving specific sites as opposed to reserving a guaranteed open space in the campground ( like the Texas State Park system does )

Cottonwood Point COE Campsite
Cottonwood Point COE Campsite

Notice the rapidly growing Pearl next to Sam. Weighed 2.4 pounds at her first vet visit a month ago, and now 4.4 pounds at her vet visit this week ( for the last of her puppy shots and her first rabies shot ). She remains bold and very independent, to the point of stubborn at times, but recognizes that she does have to pay attention, and respond, to my requests … at least most of the time. Continues to harass poor old Sam, but I do catch Sam actually playing with her quite often now, and even seeking her out to snuggle with once she sees that Pearl has finally shut down and fallen asleep.

Kansas Farmscape
Kansas Farmscape

The weather has been all over the map during my stay, from lows in the low 20’s to highs around 80, with rain, snow and a little bit of sun. The only constant has been the wind, blowing from all directions, but continually blowing, often up to 40 mph.

Kansas Farmscape
Kansas Farmscape

I have been driving all the back roads looking for old barns, but there are very few left standing, most farms now have metal barns, nowhere near as picturesque as the stately old wooden structures.

Abandoned Kansas Barns
Abandoned Kansas Barns

It’s not like the wooden barns didn’t once exist here, it’s just that what I see now are mainly just piles of wooden debris scattered through the woods that border the fields.

Abandoned Kansas Farm
Abandoned Kansas Farm

Once in a while I come across one that is still sort of standing, as in the images above, but these are few and far between.

Remains of a Stone Farmhouse
Remains of a Stone Farmhouse

I suppose that if a stone structure, like the one above located in the middle of a cultivated field, can’t survive here, it probably is little wonder that the old wooden structures have all disappeared.

Controlled Burn
Controlled Burn

Cheyenne Bottoms Wetlands

I made a 200 mile round trip to check out the Cheyenne Bottoms Wetlands west of here the other day after I went online and managed to reserve a spot on the last day of trips to a blind ( limited to only 6 people ) set up next to a Prairie Chicken lec to observe their mating rituals. The smoky scene above is what I encountered as I approached the wetlands. Unfortunately, there was a controlled burn in progress out on the wetlands and a lot of the area was thus inaccessible on the day I chose to visit.

Cheyenne Bottoms Birds
Cheyenne Bottoms Birds

I did manage to drive a bit of the roads in the wetlands and encountered a few birds here and there.

Avocet
Avocet

Certainly worth visiting again.

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher
Scissor-tailed Flycatcher

I will be returning there with the motorhome next week and hope to get a better chance to explore the area for birds. These wetlands are located along the Central ( migratory ) Flyway and are a main refueling stop for all kinds of birdlife heading north to their breeding grounds.

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April 3, 2018 Twin Points COE Campground, Oklahoma

 

Maltese
Pearl

Still Waiting Out Weather

Twin Points COE Campground

This morning I took this shot of my campsite here at Twin Points COE Campground on Skiatook Lake in Oklahoma. Don’t let the blue sky fool you, the rough weather continues, unabated. The howling wind out of the south woke me this morning, actually shaking the motorhome. Around 10 AM the wind started to turn around to the west, then the north, and this blue sky lasted about ten minutes as the wind changed. Temperatures Sunday night dropped into the 20’s, warmed to the low 40’s Monday, up to the 60’s today and predicted to dip back into the mid 20’s tonight with winds up to 35 mph. And of course, rain and possibly ice and/or snow.

Twin Points COE Campground is yet another very nice Corps of Engineers campground. Almost all the sites are located amongst the oaks, all are paved and most can handle a large rig, though a lot of them are sloped enough to make leveling your unit difficult. There is 50 amp electric at all sites and water spigots are located throughout the park. When I arrived there were only three or four others camped here and I snagged this great site on the water, though, as is way too often the case, I will have to move to another site as this one is reserved for the upcoming weekend.

Maltese
Constant Motion

Warning: Nothing but puppy shots from here on!

If you aren’t into cute little puppy shots, no need to read any farther. Though I have been making several road trips out into the surrounding country, I just haven’t yet found much of anything to shoot and the gray rainy weather has not been conducive to landscape photography.

Maltese
Pearl

Pearl is now at thirteen weeks and is growing rapidly, fortunately, also learning rapidly. Full of energy and developing her muscles with a lot of playful, exuberant exercise.

Maltese
Showoff

Constantly tormenting thirteen year old Sam running circles around her and attacking from all angles.

Maltese
Do I have to put up with this little twerp?

Sam dutifully puts up with her for the most part, but quite often looks at me to please get Pearl to leave her alone.

Maltese
Sight, Scent, Taste

Every trip outside, and there are a lot of them, about every hour and a half to encourage her house breaking habits, is an opportunity to explore as well as play.

Maltese
Takeout

She almost never comes to the door to be let back in without hauling something out the woods to take in with her.

Maltese
Diving In !

The drainage ditch along the driveway at this site is chock full of this winter’s oak leaves, about a foot deep, and this ditch has become Pearl’s favorite play station.

Maltese
Digging Down

Dives in …

Maltese
Pearl

… digs down ….

Maltese
Got One !

… and comes up with something …

Maltese
Digging In

… then repeat, repeat, repeat.

Maltese
Digging Deep
Maltese
Pearl
Maltese
Got One !
Maltese
The End Result

The end result, remember I told you the weather has been less than wonderful, a formerly white pup, needing a bath …

Maltese
The End Result

… but enjoying every minute of her time outside.

She still amazes me with her bold, shy away from nothing personality. She now has encountered several large dogs, many admiring people, hyper active kids, a pair of mallards, squirrels, heavy winds and rain, as well as cold weather, and nothing fazes her. Tail curled up ALWAYS and throwing caution to the wind, probably a little too bold for her own good. As a result, I am on constant alert trying to anticipate her next move, to make sure she doesn’t bite off more than she can chew.

She already is well aware of her name and comes when called … unless she is into something interesting, then she lifts her head to acknowledge hearing me, but then resumes pursuing whatever has her interest at that particular time. She always does eventually come back to the motorhome steps and bounds up them with ease now. Just three weeks with us and only 13 weeks old and yesterday we had our first 24 hour period with no accidents in the motorhome, not bad for a pup that age. Not saying she is housebroken yet, but she sure is getting the hang of it. Goes to the door and whines to go out when she feels the need and as long as I am paying attention, we’re OK. Quite smart, very bold, and fiercely independent. She is going to be a lot of fun to have around, but I think she is going to challenge me all along the way.

I originally planned to only stay here through Thursday and then head a bit farther north to another COE campground but the weather forecast once again calls for cold weather with possible freezing rain, so I am going to hunker down here through the weekend, still waiting for warmer springtime weather to make it’s appearance. Guess I can always watch the Masters on TV, it must be springtime in Augusta.

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March 31, 2018 Hickory Creek COE Park, Arkansas

My Campsite at Hickory Creek Park
My Campsite at Hickory Creek Park

On to Oklahoma

Tonight ends my two week stay at Hickory Creek Park, yet another great COE campground. This park is, theoretically, closed until April 1st, but they apparently always leave one section of the campground open for winter camping, although I could not find anything about that with an internet search. The sites are paved, level, and some can accomodate a large rig, I had to detach my tow dolly and move it to the side of the campsite to fit my 32′ rig in and still have enough space to park the Prius off the roadway.

The sites do have 50 amp electric but no water nor sewer. There is a dump station within the park and maybe water ( not sure since I am planning to fill up before I leave ). Fairly strong Verizon signal here and I was able to grab one of the few sites in this section that would allow my satellite dish to see out from under the tall trees.

Rapidly Rising Waters
Rapidly Rising Waters

My winter of lousy weather continued while here, with maybe three or four nice days and a lot of rain. The base of those trees you see behind my motorhome, now under a couple feet of water, were about 100 feet or more from the water’s edge two weeks ago when I arrived.

Flooding
Flooding

In fact, some of the campsites across the lake, with that section of campground set to open tomorrow, appear to be underwater, and there is more rain coming today. Notice all the flood debris floating on the water.

My Campsite at Hickory Creek Park
My Campsite at Hickory Creek Park

Pearl has been with us almost three weeks now and is growing fast, probably doubled in size since she came aboard. Doing pretty well with doing her business outside about 75% of the time, can’t wait to get to 100%, but that’s not too bad for a 13 week old pup. Already responds to her name and has mastered the four steep steps up into the motorhome after I had to lift her up the first two weeks. Very independent nature and absolutely fearless, kind of unusual for one so young, and small.  Does not want to be picked up and will back away if I want to pick her up to do something, but will actually position herself in my hand when I reach down for her when she wants to get up in the recliner with me. In other words, OK to be picked up when she wants, but not OK if I want … pretty sharp independent puppy.

Loves terrorizing poor old Sam, not sure I did Sam a favor by bringing on a companion for her, but for now, she can escape by hopping up into the dog bed by my recliner, about two feet off the floor. Pearl will probably master that jump in another week or two and then Sam will get no more relief from puppy exuberance. However, Sam does seek her out when she shuts down for naps and almost always will be laying with her when they are both sleeping.

Prius damage
Ouch!

I didn’t bother to mention it when it occurred a couple weeks ago, but my year of living lousy seems to be continuing, and the Prius, as well as my wallet, got the worst of it.

As I was exiting I-49 in Fayetteville, on my way to investigate whether Hickory Creek Campground was really open or not, I was rear-ended at about 60 mph by a driver who was later led from the scene in handcuffs. DUI in a stolen car! The rear panel of the Prius was crushed, the hatchback door thrown out of whack, and the force of the impact actually broke the back of the driver’s seat from my being thrown against the steering wheel and whipped back into the seat. Fortunately I was wearing my seatbelt. Unfortunately, the dogs and my photo gear were not, and all were thrown into the dash. The dogs came out of it OK, not so the photo gear.

My poor Prius, rear end ground off in the Yukon, pelted with golfball sized hail in Oregon, and now crunched by a drugged out car thief. Yet it keeps on going, though I am starting to be a little embarrassed by it’s appearance.  Three quarters of the exterior look like the surface of a golf ball, the windshield is cracked, and now the rear end is held on with duct tape, while I drive around with a driver’s seat that looks like I am laying down trying to get some shuteye while cruising down the highway.

Because of the car being  supposedly stolen ( the investigating State Trooper suggested there probably was a relationship between the driver and the car’s owner ), USAA, the owner’s insurance provider is giving me the runaround, trying to drag this out to discourage me from pursuing the claim for damages, even though Arkansas law provides that they are responsible for damages even though the vehicle was ” stolen “. In the meantime, I will continue on my journey with my sad looking Prius, but without some of my expensive photo gear.

Sunday I head a little north and west into Oklahoma to another COE campground. With cold weather still hanging around in the plains where I am eventually heading, I am in no hurry to proceed farther north at this time. In fact, the forecast for tomorrow calls for the possibility of freezing rain where I am heading, but I am hoping I can arrive at my destination and get set up before it hits. We’ll see.

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