November 16, 2017 Antelope Island State Park, Utah

Finally, Back on the Road!

Horse and Sam Nose to Nose
Greetings!

At long, long last, I departed Bend, Oregon after a six month stay, and drove Route 20 east to Idaho and picked up I-84 east. Normally I prefer taking secondary highways over driving the Interstates, but I knew I was heading into potentially hazardous winter weather conditions and wanted to make time heading east then south, hopefully avoiding the snow. Heavy rain hit around 4 PM, but the temperatures stayed around 40 degrees as I made it though Boise then Twin Falls. Nasty driving in the darkness with continued heavy rain and lots of big truck traffic causing near continual truck spray blackouts, but I didn’t dare pull off for the night until I could be reasonably sure I was far enough south of the approaching snow to safely spend the night.

Around nine and after over 400 miles travelled, I overnighted in one of the I-84 rest areas, getting a few hours of fitful sleep amidst the belching diesels. After not having moved in six months, this was a rough way to restart my travels and I have to admit to waking up the next morning a little worse for wear. But at least I did  beat the bad weather, for I was greeted with morning temps now around 50 degrees and the rain had tapered off to just light sprinkles and the highway was thankfully free of ice. I continued on east I-84 then picked up I-15 south to Antelope Island State Park located in the Great Salt Lake near Ogden, Utah, arriving around noon and checked in for four nights.

Antelope Island State Park, Bridger Campground
Antelope Island State Park, Bridger Campground

Antelope Island State Park

After last night among the trucks at the rest stop and six months on the busy hospital grounds in Bend, I was really looking forward to some peace and quiet without a lot of traffic and close neighbors, and that was my reasoning for picking Antelope Island for my first stop on the road south. But the absolutely deserted campground was kind of a pleasant, yet shocking surprise. Of course, with snow forecast for Friday with temperatures plummeting to the low twenties, I guess most intelligent people would be somewhere other than here.

Bridger Campground, Antelope Island S.P.
Bridger Campground, Antelope Island S.P.
Bridger Campground, Antelope Island S.P.
Bridger Campground, Antelope Island S.P.

The Bridger Campground in Antelope Island State Park is a favorite of mine and I have visited here twice before.

Bridger Campground
Bridger Campground

The 23 primitive campsites are nicely separated, most have a paved, level pull through long enough for almost any type of rig, and have a concrete patio with shelter, picnic table, fire pit, and grilling platform. There is a dump station located within the park but there is no fresh water available anywhere in the park. Included for all the sites is a great view out over the Great Salt Lake. For four nights, the charge was all of $51.

Approaching Cold Front Over Great Salt Lake
Approaching Cold Front Over Great Salt Lake

After getting set up ( and taking a short nap ), I loaded up the camera gear and headed out to look for wildlife under some very threatening skies.

Antelope Island Horses
Antelope Island Horses

Making Acquaintances

” Hey, Sam, look! I wonder if those guys could be wild horses. Not aware that the island has wild horses, but there aren’t any fences around here and it seems strange that anyone would just let their horses run wild out here. ”

Horse and Sam Nose to Nose
Greetings!

Oops, guess they aren’t wild horses after all.

Horse and Sam Nose to Nose

 

Horse and Sam Nose to Nose
Nosey

 

Horse and Sam Nose to Nose
Greetings!

Almost as soon as I stopped to take the first shot above, the two horses rather quickly approached the car, seeming very interested in the small white dog popping her head out the window and growling warnings. Sam was a little intimidated, can’t say the horse were, but still went nose to nose with both of these guys. The whole episode just cracked me up and after about five minutes of nose nuzzling, I had to all but push the horses’ noses out of the car before I could eventually take off.

Bison Bulls
Bison Bulls

Only Bison Today

I covered all the roads within the park today and only ran into bison, no deer, no pronghorns and very few birds other some crows and a few magpies.

Antelope Island Bison Herd
Antelope Island Bison Herd

This late in the year the bison have split up and are segregated by sex, the young and their mothers gathered in a couple of large herds …

Bison Bulls
Bison Bulls
Bison Bull
Bison Bull

… and the bulls scattered all about in small groups or off by themselves.

Bison Crossing Road
Road Hazard

These are just enormous beasts!

I have to say it sure does feel good to be back out doing a little photography after six months off. The animals may not have been out and about today and the lighting was terrible and the weather bleak, but it still was one of the best of days for me.

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September 29, 2016 Antelope Island State Park, Utah

Antelope Island Bison
Antelope Island Bison

Three Days on Antelope Island

Antelope Island Bison
Campground Hazard

At Gros Ventre Campground in the Tetons I had moose wandering through the campsite and here at Antelope Island there are bison passing through. Pays to check wildlife conditions before stepping out the door these days … and I am certainly not complaining about that!

Great Salt Lake from Antelope Island Viewpoint
Great Salt Lake from Antelope Island Viewpoint

This is a panoramic view of the northwest side of the island taken from above the Bridger Campground where I am camped.

The Bridger Campground where I am staying is one of the nicer primitive state park campgrounds I have ever run into. No hookups, but with water and a dump station just a little way from the campground. Mostly nice level pull through sites with nice separation and a great view out over the Great Salt Lake. A large concrete pad with picnic table, fire ring, and shade cabana come with every site. Good Verizon signal and no trees to interfere with satellite reception. Unfortunately, all but two sites are reservable, so weekend stays are all but out of the question, unless you plan a year in advance.

Bison on the Beach
Bison on the Beach
Yellow Flower in Rock
A Survivor!

Got a kick out of this lone flower proudly laying claim to the top of of this rock.

Antelope Island Bison
Antelope Island Bison

Sitting low in the Prius, these male bison can seem more than a little intimidating.

Antelope Island Bison
Antelope Island Bison

No arguing with these guys over right-of-way on the roads throughout the park.

Antelope Island Bison
Antelope Island Bison

Last time I was here all the bison were down on the south end of the island, this time around they all, as in several hundred, seem to be up on the north end, where the campgrounds are located. A fire burned large portions of the southern end of the island and perhaps that is why they are all up here this year. A small group of seven or eight bulls were hanging around, and in, the campground the first two nights I was here, providing many opportunities for closeup shots. But it is a little unnerving to step out your door and have a bison’s butt just fifteen feet away, leaning against your shade cabana’s roof support post.

Antelope Island Bison
Antelope Island Bison
Antelope Island Bison
Antelope Island Bison

I could actually hear this guy groaning as he scratched an itch, must have just hit the spot for him.

Antelope Island Bison
Antelope Island Bison
Magpie and Bison
Magpie and Bison

This guy was rubbing his side against the picnic table shelter’s supporting post, and the whole structure was shaking.

Magpie and Bison
Magpie and Bison

The magpies must be harvesting insects, perhaps ticks, from the bison. They must dig a little deep and cause some pain as I saw the bison trying to shake them off each time they would land.

Antelope Island Pronghorn
Antelope Island Pronghorn

Pronghorns and mule deer also roam the island.

Antelope Island Mulie Bucks
Antelope Island Mulie Bucks

This small group of mulie bucks were grazing a distant hillside at dusk one evening, but I just couldn’t get any closer to get any good shots. Pretty impressive rack on the one closest.

Avocets
Avocets

There are thousands of ducks and coots on the lake feeding on brine shrimp and algae, and hundreds of avocets and other small waders patrolling the water’s edge for brine flies. Because of the extreme salinity, there are no fish in the Great Salt Lake.

Feeding Ducks
Feeding Ducks
Threatening Skies Over Antelope Island
Threatening Skies Over Antelope Island

This is a view of the shallow waters on the east side of the island looking towards the hustle and bustle of the greater Salt Lake City corridor.

Storm Brewing Over Antelope Island
Storm Brewing Over Antelope Island
Storm Brewing Over Antelope Island
Storm Brewing Over Antelope Island

My last night here, a storm moved in from the south, and the sky blackened as the sun was setting in the west creating some wonderful light conditions over the water.

Storm Brewing Over Antelope Island
Storm Brewing Over Antelope Island
Storm Brewing Over Antelope Island
Storm Brewing Over Antelope Island

With the sun still shining on the western part of the island and with rain squalls and winds coming up the east side of the island, conditions were ripe for a rainbow and I got to watch as it formed.

Storm Brewing Over Antelope Island
Storm Brewing Over Antelope Island

The sky turned all kind of weird colors, from grey to green to almost red/yellow as the sun sank lower and the storm advanced. I wish I could have taken more shots of this dramatic weather event, but I was rushing home to close windows I had left open, not knowing it was supposed to storm like this.

Storm Brewing Over Antelope Island
Storm Brewing Over Antelope Island

All in all, a pretty spectacular last night of my stay on Antelope Island.

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September 22, 2016 Grand Tetons, Wyoming

Pronghorn Buck
Pronghorn Buck

Teton Bison and Pronghorns

Clouds Over the Tetons
Clouds Over the Tetons

Been fighting the weather here recently, very mixed bag of conditions, lots of clouds, heavy morning fog, and late afternoon rain. The early morning image above is a good example of the mountains creating their own weather conditions. This was taken several days ago and was one of the last mornings the Tetons were even visible.

The Oxbow and Mount Moran
The Oxbow and Mount Moran

Fall has officially arrived here as the trees are starting to put on their autumn show.

Mount Moran
Mount Moran
Teton Foliage
Teton Foliage
Teton Foliage
Teton Foliage
Cottonwoods
Cottonwoods

Mormon Row

Teton Bison
Teton Bison

Mormon Row is a north/south dirt road connecting the Gros Ventre Campground to the Antelope Flats Road. I drive this road every morning that it is not raining because there is a large herd of bison grazing in the area, plus a couple small bands of Pronghorns, and, if the animals are on the correct ( west ) side of the road, in just the right portion of the fields, they can be photographed with the Tetons in the background with the mountains being bathed in the early morning light.

Teton Bison
Teton Bison

The past week, I have had a few opportunities to almost get the perfect shot. But something is always just a little less than perfect. The sun is covered by low hanging clouds leaving nice light on the mountaintops but the bison and foreground in shade …

Teton Bison
Teton Bison

… or I manage to get some light on the foreground and the sky clouds up over the mountains …

Teton Bison
Teton Bison
Teton Bison
Teton Bison

… or the clouds throw some part of the image, trees in the mid ground above, in weird dark shadow.

Teton Bison
Teton Bison

What seems to happen most often though is that the herd will be grazing on the wrong side of the road, west side in the afternoon so you are shooting into the sun, or the east side in the morning …

Teton Bison
Teton Bison

… resulting in this kind of impossible shot.

Teton Bison
Teton Bison

But still, I have some really nice reference photos for when I finally get back to painting, where I can then paint in the perfect sky or well lit foreground.

Teton Bison
Teton Bison

You might ask why I don’t just hop out of the car and hike out in the field to get the herd between myself and the mountains with the sun at my back? Well, these fields  ( flats, meadows? ) are hundreds of acres in size, on both sides of the road, and there is not a single tree anywhere in those hundreds of acres, so I don’t really feel it would be too wise to go tromping around out there amongst hundreds of bison with nowhere to hide if one of them happened to take offense with my being out there.

Teton Bison
Teton Bison

These guys are seriously large, and even with the car as my protection, when you are right in the midst of them, they can be very intimidating.

Teton Bison
Teton Bison
Teton Bison
Teton Bison
Teton Bison
Teton Bison
Teton Bison
Teton Bison
Teton Bison
Teton Bison
Teton Bison
Teton Bison

Pronghorns

Pronghorn Buck
Pronghorn Buck

These beautiful animals are one of my favorites out here in the west. But, like the bison, they just refuse to cooperate for this photographer and are always located in the worst possible lighting conditions when I encounter them up close enough to get some nice shots.

Pronghorn Buck
Pronghorn Buck

In dead shade wth the rising sun behind them, like in the two shots above.

Pronghorns
Pronghorns

This group I actually encountered in a place where I could get them out in good light, with the sun at my back, as you can see with the sun on the mountains behind them. But just when they arrived at the perfect spot for a ridge top photo, a cloud blocked the sun behind me … just can’t seem to catch a break when it comes to these guys.

Pronghorns
Pronghorns

And they are moving fast, so there is no waiting for the sun to pop back out and get that great shot.

Pronghorn Buck
Pronghorn Buck
Pronghorn Bucks
Pronghorn Bucks
Pronghorn Bucks
Pronghorn Bucks

These guys put themselves in position to get some great light on them, so, of course they moved out onto a section of the flats that is being reclaimed  for native grasses to take over.

Pronghorn Bucks
Pronghorn Bucks

Someday I’ll get that perfect shot!

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September 30, 2015 Grand Tetons

Horses and Grand Teton
Horses and Grand Teton

A Gorgeous Morning in the Tetons

Teton Bison Dawn Move
Teton Bison Dawn Move

As I moved down Mormon Row just as the sun was coming up, I had to wait for a herd of forty or more bison to trudge, single file, across the road, coming down from the hills to spend their day grazing in the meadows.

As always, click on any image for a larger, sharper version.

Sleeping In
Sleeping In

When I arrived at the pastures where the Triple X keeps their horses, I found this one sleeping in, enjoying every minute of the sun’s early rays on a cool autumn morning.

Horses and Grand Teton
Horses and Grand Teton
Horses and Grand Teton
Horses and Grand Teton

I had been hoping for a morning like this since I arrived here, clear blue skies and the herd on this side of the pasture where I could use Grand Teton for a backdrop.

Horses and Grand Teton
Horses and Grand Teton
Horses and Tetons
Horses and Tetons

The image above is made up of four separate photos stitched together yielding a print size of well over four feet.

Teton Bison Family
Teton Bison Family

Just a little farther north of the horse pasture is a field of several hundred acres where these free roaming wild bison can usually be found. Today they were slowly moving north along a rough gravel road on the east side of the field, again allowing me to use Grand Teton as a backdrop. A little patience was needed as it took the herd over an hour to graze their way to a point where they came out of the shade and far enough along the road to be able to fit Grand Teton in behind them.

Bison and Grand Teton
Bison and Grand Teton
Bison and Grand Teton
Bison and Grand Teton
Grand Teton and Cottonwoods
Grand Teton and Cottonwoods

Much farther out along this same rough road I came across yet another way to shoot Grand Teton. Exploring these back roads gets a little hairy in my no clearance Prius and today was no exception, almost getting bogged down not too far from where I grabbed this shot. I have visited this area several times over the years and never seem to tire of searching the area for wildlife and/or mountain shots.

 

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