Saturday, May 31, 2008

Foreign travel

Sandy and I both got to use our new passports for the first time when we spent a few hours in Canada on Friday. We crossed the border north of Eureka, MT, then turned west through Cranbrook and Creston, British Columbia. Logging country, for sure, with beautiful peaks and lovely, broad, fertile valleys.

After shivering in Yellowstone for the past week, and traveling hundreds of miles further north, we were amazed to find how green and flowering this area is ... ahead of the Mancos Valley, even, although everyone was complaining about how late spring was this year. 

The streets of Creston had blooming flower beds and hanging baskets everywhere. Granny's Place served good portions (liver and onions for me) with pleasant service, and I can't remember when I last bought a lunch that included dessert (rhubarb crackle, made with fresh rhubarb) in the price of the lunch! We later found a stand where we could buy fresh asparagus ... heavenly!

We took a small detour to see the fertile fields and the orchards of the FLDS community in the Creston area. They call it Bountiful (Lister on the maps) and it is, indeed, bountiful. Though we respected the "Keep Out" signs, this is not a walled community like the YFZ Ranch in Texas that Warren Jeffs' close followers constructed. When I was last here, in 2006, Winston Blackmore said the Bountiful community was split between those who followed Jeffs ("Warren-ites") and those who were allied with Winston ("Winston-ites?"); can't imagine that it's any different now. 

Heading on west, intermittent rain was broken by a beautiful patch of sunlight on a rushing river. 

We were let back into the US, after being relieved of oranges we had taken with us into Canada (the fresh asparagus was okay, though, thank goodness!). So, I'm back in the US with a Canadian 10-dollar bill, which I got in change from the asparagus purchase. How to get rid of it? Last time, my local bank wouldn't make the exchange, so I figured I'd better ditch this near the border. Aha! I'll buy coffee in Matarine Falls, WA, (near which Sandy once lived) and get back change I can use. The little old lady in the cafe there was slow physically ... I had to wait while the (weak) coffee finished brewing ... but she was quick mentally: I now have a Canadian 5-dollar bill and a 2-dollar coin! 

Anyway, re-entry included experiencing rush-hour traffic in Spokane, which Sandy navigated us through adeptly, and a pleasant evening with my daughter and her family. 

Our intent is to slide down I-90 to Livingston and get back into Yellowstone Saturday night, so, if that plan works, we will be out of touch again for some time, probably till the 7th, when we emerge into the sunlight again. tv

Big Sky country

Thursday's travel took us from Helena to the Eureka area of Montana, in the northwest corner. Big Sky country!

Deer, disturbed in their morning foraging amidst miles of grass. 

Spring flowers in a burn just south of St. Mary's, Montana, the east entrance to Glacier NP. This fire had just been suppressed when I came down this road in August 2006. Not much regrowth in less than two years.

Miles of grass, with an abandoned farmstead in the foreground and snow-capped peaks as a backdrop.

The main street of Augusta, Montana, on a busy Thursday morning ... a charming little town, one the decades seem to have passed by. We waited to turn down the street while a dog ambled across the intersection. 

We did pass two large agri-business complexes that were very impressive. Both had small signs advertising fryers for sale and one also had a sign for flowers for sale. We learned later they are Hutterite colonies, stemming from the Anabaptist movement that gave rise to the Amish and Mennonites in northern Europe, contemporaneous with but not related to the Quakers in England. See for more on the Hutterites.

Silly me for not checking to see if Logan Pass was open yet ... it wasn't. So, after going to the St. Mary's entrance, we had to backtrack to Browning and take US 2 around the south edge of the park. Left-over Chinese food was good, sitting beside a railroad track and enjoying the warm sun. We found our way to my sister-in-law's in time for a beautiful evening of sunset, food and conversation. tv

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Blue Skies Ahead!

What a delight it was to encounter blue skies and great photo opportunities as we drove out of Yellowstone for a few days.   These are a couple of quickly grabbed favorites as we made a couple of stops while driving toward the North Yellowstone gate.  Beyond that was a variety of green fields, farms and interesting locations.  We made it a short day with our stop in Helena and enjoyed a swim and hot tub at the Comfort Inn.   Good Chinese food for dinner after a walk through the downtown made the day complete.   On the road again!  Wonder what today will bring??sf

Sunshine and civilization!

We exited Yellowstone in sunshine yesterday morning ... everything looked SO different!

Along the way to Helena, we stopped to enjoy the few little wildflowers that have suddenly appeared. Mists were lifting off the little lakes, and mists of a different sort are always coming off the hot springs and travertine terraces at Mammoth Hot Springs. This is where park offices are located, many of them in the buildings of old Fort Yellowstone, to the right in the landscape photo.

After leaving the park at Gardiner, we drove up the Yellowstone River Valley to Livingston. Like the rest of the area west toward Bozeman, the scenery was broad green valleys ringed with snow-capped peaks.

We stopped for a couple of hours midday in Bozeman, really enjoying the downtown area, which has some neat galleries. Great lunch at Sharky's Deli, with huge tasty hot sandwiches at good prices. 

We reached Helent mid-afternoon, with plenty of time to stroll the pedestrian mall on Last Chance Gulch. There are shops in the two-block amble, and lots of professional offices, but darn few shoppers ... in fact, of the 6-8 shops we entered, there was another customer/visitor in only one of them! The folks outside in the walking mall were mostly walking their dogs or passing from one office to another. The old buildings are beautiful, of course, and I especially liked the dragons chasing each other on a spire at the top of one building's facade. tv

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Still cold, though snow is going down ...

Little slower day at the museum. Bright sun in the morning, but that didn’t last long. Little warmer overall; snow is going away each day. Little yellow and little white flowers have popped out on the grass around the museum; got a picture of some of the yellow ones yesterday ... they look like violets.

I’ve been reading a report written by Dick Sellars on the creation of the National Park Service. He credits Iowas Republican Congressman Lacey with having had a lot to do with the writing and passage of the NPS Organic Act, as well as a later wildlife act that also bears his name. Dick doesn’t mention that a Judge Lacey from Oskaloosa, Iowa, was one of the people riding on a stage in Yellowstone on July 4, 1887, when it was held up by two bandits. Judge Lacey was relieved of a valuable Napoleon coin minted in 1811. At that point, the park had been in existence 15 years, but there was no NPS. Civilians had tried to run the park, with no money and no laws to support them; the Army had been called in in 1886 but, obviously, matters were still out of control. Judge Lacey became Congressman Lacey and, in 1894, began to craft legislation to get the situation in hand. Funny how such a personal experience can have such long-range consequences! tv

Visitors are always interesting

The speed picked up at the museum. Had about 150 visitors, and it was the same sort of weather as the first day ... mostly overcast, some rain, with only a few scattered minutes of sunshine. When the sun’s out, it’s warm - high altitude sun - but it wasn’t out long.

The visitors were an interesting lot ... a family of “neighbors” from Farmington, NM, only 70 miles from Mancos. One couple said they’d been in Zion NP a few days earlier and the temperature was 104 degrees! (They were not enjoying the 30-something temperatures of Yellowstone.) A few people had been or are seasonals, volunteers or interns with NPS, the Forest Service, Fish & Wildlife Service or Corps of Engineers, so we talked shop a little about rangering, resource management, silly visitor stunts, etc. 

One of the last visitors of the day was a lifelong resident of Milolii Mauka, an area in South Kona where I worked on a Bishop Museum archeological crew in the summer of 1965. We talked a little about Papa and Alika Bays and about Napoopoo (where I lived while working at City of Refuge). Brought back lots of memories! I was surprised to learn (shouldn’t have been) that the swarming red ants that infest Kipahulu on Maui are now in South Kona on the Big Island.

The 30-minute video shown at the ranger museum begins with orchestral music. A visitor today heard it and identified it as “Rodeo,” by Aaron Copeland. He went on to say that Copeland had been falsely accused of being a Communist during the witch-hunts of the early 50s. He was called to testify before a Congressional committee, and did so. After they were through with him, according to the visitor, Copeland announced that he was going to go home and write a symphony that people would remember long after they had forgotten the names and actions of his inquisitors. “Rodeo” was the result. 

No pics for Tom; too busy. The power went out in the Norris area around 4 p.m., so we went into West Yellowstone for pizza, gas and a few groceries. On the way back, there was a herd of bison right beside the road, including two calves, the only calves we’ve seen in Yellowstone. Hopefully, Sandy has good pics of the calves. tv

Day one at the new job

First day at the museum. Opened successfully ... that means I didn’t set the alarm off and bring the rangers running! Had someone at the door before opening, a bus tour guide, trying to find out if he could take his group out the east entrance ... three passes were closed by snow the night before. As we spoke, Sylvan Pass was declared open. 

Visitors numbered 99, most of them in the morning while it was overcast and cold. There were a couple of hours in the afternoon when the sun came out ... I sat outside and soaked up the rays, watched the visitors taking pictures of the bison across the Gibbon River and no one came around. One buffalo mowed the grass around the flagpole in front of the museum. Though there were guests from Tanzania, Spain, France and several Asian countries, most of the visitors were American.

A bio is posted on an easel near the door, listing where I worked when, and there were a few conversations about experiences during my career. I was deeply touched by several different visitors who, as they left, thanked me for my service. That’s never happened to me before!

In the evening, Sandy and I drove into Gardiner (about 30 miles) to have supper in celebration of our two-month anniversary (yeah, yeah, teenagers in their sixties!). On the way we saw a beaver, lots of bison (ho-hum), a pronghorn, lots of elk and a bighorn sheep. On the way back, we stopped and watched a flock of bighorn sheep working their way across a talus slope above the road ... about six adults and two fuzzy young-uns. One of the adults came down for a drink beside the road, oblivious to the cars stopped and going by. 

The elk were bedded down in the developed area at Mammoth. Sorta takes the mystique away! tv

Exploring Yellowstone

After a leisurely wake-up, we went over to Canyon Village. Went out to the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, which was capture so indelibly by Moran ... can’t look at the scene without recalling how he handled the colors in so many streaks and shades. 

At Inspiration Point, a touring BLM biologist from Dillon, MT, pointed out an osprey nest to us. Our binoculars gave a fairly clear picture of the nest and the adults, but the camera doesn’t do justice, even with 20x zoom and using a tripod.

We explored the new visitor center at Canyon (opened fall of 2006) ... great exhibits and the most spacious bookstore I’ve ever seen! Got a couple of staples at the grocery store, a couple of coffees to warm up, made a couple of phone calls and headed back - snowing in the higher parts of the road on the way back.

I got oriented this afternoon; the area opened up this afternoon and I and the museum will get inaugurated for 2008 in the morning. We drove through the campground after supper and there are about a dozen tent and RV campers already there ... temperature of 26 degrees expected tonight!

We did a quick walk around some of Norris Geyser Basin before coming home. I can’t say the stinkin’ bloop-bloops are my favorite part of Yellowstone, especially in a cold drizzle. The drizzle continues and I expect it will turn to snow before morning.

Can’t wait to play with the people tomorrow! tv

Back again!

Some of these postings are going to be delayed, but it seems easier to make notes as the days go by, then post them when we get to where we can raise the Internet.

We pulled into Moose, inside Grand Teton NP, under a cloud cover such that you couldn’t prove we were in the mountains at all. The next morning, there was bright sunshine and our morning in Teton was joyous!

I think my two favorite shots were of the two gamboling bison calves and the flock of white pelicans whirling up from the Snake River.  Pelicans ain’t the prettiest of boids ... they look like modern-day pterodactyls ... but they fly beautifully. I remember watching them take off from the estero at Point Reyes and whirl upwards - the whole flying up a spiral aircase - until they reached their desired altitude and leveled off to fly in one direction. That’s what these birds were doing, and it was beautiful!

The weather worsened as we got into Yellowstone, and so did the snow, with some snowbanks higher than the car. There’s a snow drift right outside one of the doors of the house, but it’s deceptive ... it’s really kinda patchy.

On the way up to Norris, we stopped to watch Old Faithful, and then went inside the Old Faithful Inn. What a marvelous craftsmanship went into its construction. 

Due to a water problem, we found out the ranger museum wouldn’t be able to open on time, so we moved in and relaxed. In the evening, we drove north toward Mammoth a bit, saw some sandhill cranes and a couple of elk. tv

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Dreary day

We're in Grand Teton, staying with friends at the HQ area. Dreary, cold, snowy day all the way up here today. It was really bad going over Soldier Pass ... very poor visibility, though the road hadn't got bad yet.

Our path went along the Wyoming, Utah, Idaho line, northward on 89. Generally good driving, just dreary (did I mention that it was dreary?).

Tomorrow we'll zip back into Jackson, get groceries and then head for Norris Geyser Basin and get checked in. May be a few days before we return to the air. tv

Morning in Price, Utah

This don't look so good! Cold and rainy in Price, snowing up in the hills. We're headed for Grand Teton today, and we need to go over Soldier Pass to get there and then hit the southern end of the Salt Lake City metropolitan area before heading northeast. Oh, well, we've traveled in snow before.

Yesterday was quite a day. As you may be able to tell in the first picture, taken inside Arches National Park, the air was filled with dust and it was blowing hard (and yet the park was FULL of people on a Wednesday in late May!). The picture of Sandy in the window doesn't show her grabbing for a rock as wind almost blew her over!

Still, the storm clouds and occasional sunshine gave a dramatic effect to the red rocks; definitely a place to go back to. Sandy's saying it sounds like a visit to Moab in March might be a good break from Mancos weather.

We almost canceled out on my plan to go west of Green River, Utah, and go through the San Rafael Swell. But, it cleared, and we got through without mishap (the bikes are encrusted with mud, though).

Buckhorn Draw (Wash, in some usages) is a fantastic red-rock canyon, narrow with vertical cliffs on both sides. At a double elbow in the canyon, Archaic period folks painted tall, haunting figures on a fresh "flake" of the cliff some 2000 years ago. They're now called Barrier Canyon style. There were several different artists, and only one of the panels of figures is shown here.

When I was still with BLM, I was one of the people who worked on interpretation of these figures. When the dedication was held on an autumnal equinox, I went up for the event, camping the night before on top of the cliff above. Fascinating! 

During the ceremony, being a natural hermit, I left the crowd and walked across the river to a stretch of bedrock that gently slopes toward the pictograph site; the last picture was taken from that location. I suddenly realized that I was sitting at the focal point of sound that was echoing off the walls of the amphitheater formed by the canyons at this point ... I could hear everything happening at the dedication and I could see the figures reasonably clearly. 

One theory about art of this sort is that it is performance art, meant to serve as a backdrop for shamanic ceremonies. That experience made me a believer! Sandy and I went over to the "bleachers" ... at the very least, it gives you a sense of the grand sweep of the site. tv

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

It's time to go ...

Perhaps that's what this spiral petroglyph, centered on a crack in the cliff, was telling Pueblo Indians a thousand years ago. 

We're off in an hour or two (some say I've been off a lot longer than that!), headed for the wilds of central Utah and then on toward Grand Teton and Yellowstone. It's been hectic these last few days, but it seemed like lots of things came together in a good way yesterday. tv

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Touring America

Those of us who live in high tourism areas constantly wonder about the cost of gasoline, the value of the dollar, etc., and what those factors will do to tourism.

Mesa Verde is out our living room window about 10 miles, and I have several forms of involvement with the park, including doing occasional group tours, talks and serving on the board of the cooperating association that sells books in the park. 

It seems to me that we're seeing more bus tours this spring, and we're definitely seeing more foreign visitors, due to the low value of the dollar.

But I've never seen anything like this bus, seen in the park yesterday. It's a Mercedes, licensed in Alaska and British Columbia (you think they go up and down the Alaska Highway with this?). I would have inquired more about it, but the driver curtly rebuffed me twice when I tried to ask questions, informing me that he was on his lunch break. He may have overhead and not appreciated the humor in my observation aloud that it looked like a chicken coop on wheels! The passengers seemed all European, with few having any facility in English.  

This highway Pullman coach apparently carries sleeping accommodations for 26, with a scenicruiser section up front. I'd hate to guess what it costs to fill it up, but it's probably less than 26 separate smaller vehicles would use. You can already bet that any rental motor coach you see at Mesa Verde is going to be driven by a German, so this might fit right in with the travel preferences for singles and couples. Kinda sardine-ish, though.

Think this is the travel mode of the future? tv

Monday, May 19, 2008

In my own backyard!

Yesterday was a wonderful day in Chaco.  Great weather, great company and as always when I've been to Chaco, I saw things and heard information that I had not encountered on previous visits. It is a  magical place and intriguing history.    This morning I glanced again at the area that surrounds me and decided I better take a photo safari out my own backdoor before the wildflowers there fade.   Tom is getting such beautiful close ups on his new camera and I am thinking of these as more a fun tour,as I was disappointed at the quality of the shots.  One is photographer is action(forgot about my shadow). Another of Indian Paintbrush which is in abundance(So beautiful!) And then just a colorful daisy patch to show the variety.   Although I know there are many more to come in the surrounding mountains and valleys, the most beautiful wildflowers I have found are in my own backyard!sf


We went to Chaco with friends yesterday ... long day, and "Chaco" always equals dusty. Nonetheless, it's always a rewarding trip. The day was hot, but not windy.

We did some of the usual "downtown Chaco" things, including touring Chetro Ketl and taking the rock art walk along the cliff toward Cliff Palace. 

We did a late lunch under the shade arbor near Pueblo del Arroyo, where this little beggar and a couple of his cousins mooched potato chips and whatever else was available. Antelope ground squirrels are natty little critters!

After lunch, and a quick tour of Casa Rinconada and the small sites, we headed for the outliers. The two-track out to Kin Klizhin was actually in better condition than a month ago. This time, instead of turning back after Kin Klizhin, we journeyed on to Kin Bineola. This is one of my favorite Chacoan outliers ... E-shaped with lots of standing walls of exquisite masonry (second picture). Hosta Butte was visible almost straight south, looking across a flat, sloping field area that provided for the residents. tv

Sunday, May 18, 2008

"Home on the Grange"

Wow! We had WAY more fun at the Kal Paddy Productions (yes, it's a pun on cow patty) taping of "Home on the Grange" yesterday at the Lewis Grange northwest of Cortez. Folks from around the western part of the county got together to do this funky stage show and record it for later play and as a sale item on CDs. I can't even remember what the benefit is ... doesn't matter; it was a hoot!

It was a beautiful spring Saturday afternoon, so kids could play outside when they weren't part of the audience. As you can see, the Lewis Grange is an unpretentious block building in a little rural crossroads community. People of all ages were in the cast and band, and the audience responded appropriately to the cue cards, even upside down (the hard one was to sound like mollusks!).

During the potluck after the play was recorded, there was live music ... sort of a jam session, with whoever wanted sitting in, led by the tall wild man in the corner with the sunglasses and cowboy hat.

One of the sweetest things, for me, though, was the song by the Lindells with two young players sitting in. Chris and Kim are really good musicians, very popular in the region and very giving of their considerable talents for benefit causes. What a treat it must have been for the young lady on the violin and the young man on the mouth harp to sit in with such accomplished musicians and perform for their audience of family and friends! And Chris and Kim were SO supportive of them, stepping back from time to time to let the young people be featured (with an old dog standing in the middle of the group).

When they do it again this fall, we'll definitely be back if we can! tv

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Paul Winter concert

Well, I think we both enjoyed the Michael Martin Murphey concert more, but the Paul Winter show at Ft. Lewis last night was interesting. Long, with lots of dim lights and "environmental" music ... zzzzzzzz! 

Though he's recorded jazz and Celtic music, he's into natural sounds now, and he described how that pursuit has led him to Grand Canyon NP, Rocky Mountain NP, Yellowstone NP and Glacier NP, and he mentioned Great Sand Dunes NP as being close to the focus of his latest album, "Crestone," which is named for a multi-cultural community on the eastern edge of Colorado's San Luis Valley. Kinda nice to hear this testimony that the natural places preserved in our national parks, and the wolves, bison and elk that reside there, can provide such an important touchstone for a musician of Winter's prominence.

Part of his performance was enhanced by the wierdest assortment of percussion instruments I've ever seen. A local group handles those in the top picture ... drums, "drumming devices," xylophones, you name it.

"Crestone" just won a Grammy, and Winter had it there. He said it's nice, but it's incomplete. He completed the scene with a model of the RCA dog, Nipper, from his grandfather's store in Pennsylvania! tv

Friday, May 16, 2008

Spring to Winter

We wandered at dawn ... up to Bauer Lake, down Cherry Creek in Thompson Park (where these pictures were taken) and up above snowline on the Echo Basin Road. Not much in the way of spring flowers yet, but a clearer morn than usual and a beautiful morning to be out.

It was about 35 degrees when we left home and about 45 when we were above the Ramparts NE of Mancos mid-morning. Finally, it warmed up to the 60s and we finished Scooby Doo's pen; she seems to be adapting to it okay.

Sandy got our six prints framed for entry into the Mancos Mix show in June at the Cortez Cultural Center. We've got a few items to get at Wal-Mart tonight and then we'll be ready to take them to someone to hold for the entry date (we'll be gone). 

As we go up and down the back roads of this area, I'm thinking we should try to put together a "County Road Show" exhibit somewhere. So many avenues leading to so many different rewarding experiences, just in Montezuma County.

Shortly we're off to the Paul Winter show at the Fort Lewis Community Concert Hall in Durango. Nice end to a productive day! tv

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

It's Spring! Yeah, right!

If it's "spring," how come these frost fronds were all over the hood of Sandy's car at 6:30 a.m.? Because we're in Colorado, that's why!

Oh, well, it gives us a brisk start for the day. It was only down to 30 degrees last night, and a clear day is dawning, so it promises to be a fairly warm day. 

Busy day ahead. Sandy and I are going in this morning to sit in on nine senior English portfolio presentations, ranging from falconry (from a girl) to changing suspension on a four-wheel-drive vehicle to hypnotism and cupping as alternative remedies. We read the portfolios yesterday afternoon ... interesting insights into young folks today. They learn a lot about the perils of procrastination in this class, especially the one who didn't have his/her portfolio in yet!

Then a marketing trip to Cortez, where we'll also pick up some paint for the trim work that needs redoing, try to get to the Rec Center, pick up a book at the Cortez Cultural Center and then get home in time to finish building the pen for Scooby Doo. We're hoping she can be domiciled at home, rather than going to a pet B&B, while we're gone to Yellowstone.

In the meantime ... brrrr! tv

Monday, May 12, 2008

What's happened to the air?

This morning, as I was going in to Mesa Verde NP, the Mancos Valley was filled with haze and the Montezuma Valley, looking west toward the Sleeping Ute, wasn't much better. It's been hazy for months! Rarely is there a fairly clear day, and it's never like it used to be. I've noticed in the last year or so, taking pictures of the Four Corners area, that the vistas and long views are NEVER clear, not like they were only a few years ago. We saw haze all the way down to Tucson and back, too.

Have we reached some sort of tipping point at which the air will just never get clearer again? tv