Wednesday, August 29, 2012

family fun

So a little background for the final post from our summer vacation: a couple of years ago (2010/2011) while we were still living in Thallichtenberg, Leah used her little camera to take this photo. See how everyone is in the photo and looks normal? Yeah, me too. 

I thought I'd take a photo of all of us in our tent at Grand Teton before we went to bed. So I held the camera out Leah-style, and this is what I got. I chimped the photo and saw that Ian's eyes were closed and my head/neck looked weird, so I gave it another go.

This was an improvement?!? No, no, no, no. I had to try again.

Only, everyone was laughing so hard at my "improved" expression, that we couldn't settle down for several minutes for another photo.

I think Ian's and Leah's stomachs must have been hurting we were laughing so hard!

But we finally settled down and I took an okay photograph.

You'll notice that it took me well over five attempts to Leah's one for a photograph. Oh well, we have a nice enough photo but a wonderful memory of a fun time while camping. Cheers,


Tuesday, August 28, 2012

When bears attack!

Okay, so I was never attacked by a bear...

But I did scare a grizzly bear. All that ranger training really came in handy. I've already fulfilled the "Ranger School Promo" promise of scaring babies, women, horses, cats, more women...and now bears. 

Be forewarned, if you google "Ranger School Promo", you will be offended. Just sayin'.

Anywho, I had gotten up early to photograph the sunrise looking over Wild Goose Island, towards the east. I had the place to myself, which was just 100 meters from the road. Literally as I was setting up my camera and tripod, I heard some rustling in some bushes.

So I called out in a loud voice, "who's there, is that a bear"? A big head showed itself briefly, then disappeared. That was also the last I heard of the bear, but I was a bit freaked out. It didn't stop me from taking a couple of photos, but I definitely didn't stick around.

I packed up my kit and walked back up to the car, but decided to take a different, less animal intense look at Wild Goose Island from right next to the road. There is a cliff overlooking the lake, and I got up close to the edge and looked over, and what did I see?

This guy. I snapped a quick photo with the lens I had on, but knew I wouldn't be able to tell much. So I changed lenses and took another photo.

This was the bear I had scared away. He eventually climbed out of the lake, and started making his way further down the shore.

So yes, I really did scare a bear. Who knew? Have a nice day everyone! Cheers,


Monday, August 27, 2012

Animal Extravaganza!!

It should come as no surprise that we saw loads of wild animals on our trip through Grand Teton, Yellowstone, and Glacier. We had a badger digging a hole just three or four tent sites down from us in Grand Teton on our first night there, and then the moose that wandered right past out tent the very next morning.

There were a couple of smaller herds of bison in Grand Teton, but nothing prepared us for the many hundreds we saw (and heard) in the Hayden Valley and Lamar Valley in Yellowstone. There were two bison at this pull-off (below), and the one obliging decided to take a dust bath, which I've crudely pieced together. We saw so many bison in Yellowstone in our first full day there that when we would pass them later on, it was like "meh, just another bison. Drive on Jeets".

We saw a fair bit of elk, but mostly mothers and their young ones, but just this one bull elk that was calming laying in the shade while half of the known universe parked their cars (me included) to stop and take photos.

While walking around Swiftcurrent Lake in the Many Glacier area of Glacier National Park, Ian and I came across this red-tailed hawk (we think) that was sitting right over the trail. He kept screeching and when other hikers approached from the opposite direction, he eventually flew off.

Not much longer after that, we saw these two (three really, there was another young bear with this mother) grizzly bears on the mountainside. The photos aren't great because even with a very powerful lens I had to crop in really close to get a good look at these two.

Shortly after that, we met up with the girls again and went to get lunch. This was on Ian's birthday, so you may recall that we waited out a thunderstorm, and then walked to this unnamed pond where we saw this moose eating his lunch.

That night, Leah and I went out to photograph the local lake at sunset. We had head back to camp a bit early, but the upshot to that was this silly coyote. He lost a fight with a white-tailed deer (which we watched) just moments earlier, and then proceeded to trot down the road for quite a ways. Leah and I tagged along beside him for a little bit, but then decided to give him a break. I saw him again the next day, but he was scarred away but some numbskull who jumped out of his truck very nearby in order to see the coyote better. So Wile E. Coyote decided to run off. Oh well.

And finally, the little ground squirrel. These little beggars were very bold in approaching anyone and anything at the Hidden Lake Overlook. I couldn't hardly set my tripod down without one of these creatures coming over to verify I hadn't left some food behind.

Of course there were bald eagles, pronghorn antelope, otters, trumpeter swans, and other birds galore that never got in front of my camera, but we had a good time looking at the different animals. It was a part of the Junior Ranger Badge requirements, so hopefully the kids will remember this fondly.



Sunday, August 26, 2012

Glacier National Park

After Yellowstone, we made our way to a buddy of mine from waaaay back in the day - my old roomie from Battalion. He and his wife have two daughters roughly Ian's and Leah's age, and they have just started a distillery in Ennis, Montana. The facility was beautiful, as was the country around Ennis, and it was great to catch up on what everyone has been doing in the many years since we've gotten out. We had a nice lunch together, and then we headed out to spend the night in a hotel in Helena. That was a much needed break to do some laundry and sleep in a warm, soft bed.

We drove to our corner of Glacier National Park the next day, which was easily the prettiest National Park we've seen (though Olympic National Park does come close!). We got to our camp site, set up our tent, and then went on up the Going to the Sun Road for a little bit of exploring before dinner.

We went to the Sun Point pull out, and hauled out the stove and made a nice dinner there, while we waited for the sun to set a bit (so I could get some nice photos). It was a very short walk from the parking lot/picnic area to the Sun Point point. The camera is set up just next to the plaque pointing out the various mountains. I love the timer for whole family photos!

And this is the view 180 degrees from the photo above, just a bit later in the day.

The next day we went to the Many Glacier part of Glacier National Park. We did some hiking (Ian and I saw a hawk from very close up, some grizzly bears from very far away, and some other less interesting fauna), then caught a nice lunch followed by a birthday-boy ice cream. There was a brief, strong thunderstorm while we ate in a restaurant, which meant we got to stay dry. After it cleared up, we met up with a park ranger for a guided hike, where we met up with this guy below.

The moose was a good bit away, but just on the edge of comfortable. Any closer and we would have been making our way away from him. I took a couple of photos of just the kids and the moose, when another photographer asked if he could take a photo with all of us in it. Sure!

The next day we drove the Going to the Sun Road all the way up to Logan Pass and the continental divide. The kids had completed their Junior Ranger Badge requirements, so we stopped at the Visitor Center at Logan Pass and got the kids sworn in as the newest Junior Rangers. We then hiked to the Hidden Lake Overlook. I had wanted to hike all the way to the lake, but it was closed due to bear activity which was just as well since the hike took a bit longer than expected. The ground squirrels were out in force, as was the stunning scenery.

And the mandatory post-swearing-in ceremony photo with the kids proudly wearing their badges.

Of the many parks we've visited this year, Glacier is easily the most stunning park we've seen. Even Catherine remarked at how beautiful it was! The photo below is from the very popular Wild Goose Island overlook. It was packed the first morning I went, and I was literally never alone here even when Catherine and the kids were "sleeping in" while I was out. It is the kind of place where I'd go back to time and time again - even though I'd like to explore much of the park under a backpack.

Ian asked several times if we could go back to Glacier for his birthday next year, to which I answer with an enthusiastic "YES"! We'll see what time brings, but I don't think I'd ever say "no" to a trip to Glacier.



Saturday, August 25, 2012

Yellowstone National Park

We're home now, vacation is unofficially over. BOOOO!!!!

We had a great time. Catherine and I got to relax a little bit and the kids had a nice time earning their Junior Ranger badges at all of the National Parks we visited. I'll recap a bit from each Park, then I'll wade into the weeds a bit with the animals and a funny (to us) story in future posts.

So last National Park I wrote about was Grand Teton, which was very pretty. Next up was Yellowstone which is jam packed with all sorts of outdoorsy goodness. It wasn't a long drive from Grand Teton to our camp site in Yellowstone, which was nice. We were able to set up our tent site and then head back up the road back to the Old Faithful area to go see the geysers in action. We stayed for a dusk geyser "eruption" at Old Faithful - but I gambled and lost. The kids and I went for a walk around the upper geyser basin anticipating Old Faithful's eruption at a specific time, which is plus or minus 10 minutes. In this case, early by 10. Which is why all you see here is steam, because the water was already gone by the time we made it to where I wanted to photograph Old Faithful. The timing never worked out again for a nice sunset eruption, which was a major bummer for me.

The next day we explored the rest of the geyser basins, to include some hikes. This geyser below is Riverside Geyser, which is apparently impossible to predict when it will erupt. Luckily for us, it was when we were walking by it.

Same place, just a hundred yards or so further up the trail is Morning Glory Pool, which was one of my favorites.

We decided to treat ourselves with a swim in the Gibbons River that ran right by our camp site. We even had our own hot spring to help keep us warm, but it wasn't necessary. The kids and I had a nice time swimming in the swift current, while Catherine enjoyed wading.

Good thing the kids' camera is waterproof!

And yes, both Ian and Leah earned their Junior Ranger Badges from Yellowstone. Total parks visited so far: 3. Total Junior Ranger badges: 3.

We made our way to the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River on our second full day, which was an early morning for all of us. We had the place pretty much to ourselves, but that could have been because it was almost freezing. Literally. It was in the low 30's when we first arrived, and it didn't improve much while we were there. Which was true pretty much every morning. It made for some cold sleeping, but nothing that we couldn't handle.

Once the sun came up though, the tourists started arriving in great numbers. Catherine tells me that three buses arrived while I was tinkering around trying to get a good photo (this one above is from the afternoon, so no - my morning shots did not turn out). I believe her, and I must say that my behind will be the most famous butt in all of Asia judging from the number of people taking their pictures next to me on the overlook to the falls. I kept taking my own photos through the whole ordeal, which was a bit funny while it was happening.

Next stop, Glacier. I don't want to ruin the surprise - but trust me, if you haven't made it to Glacier National Park, start planning your trip now!



Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Grand Teton National Park

After we were done at Craters of the Moon, we made our way to Grand Teton National Park, where we set up our tent to camp for the next three nights. No sooner had we set up our site when a kind stranger told us about a badger that was digging around just down the street. A short one-minute walk got us to the badger's hole where he or she was indeed digging a hole and just badgering around. The kids loved it. We saw a moose out in a field in the distance, that wandered just between our tent and another tent the next morning. It was only 10 yards, 15 tops, away as it wandered through the campgrounds. Again, the kids loved it.

We made our way to the Visitor's Center and got the kids enrolled for the Junior Ranger Program at Grand Teton. They eventually completed the requirements, and instead of patches they both chose the badges, which you can see them proudly wearing below.

I got up early every morning to go take some photos, but it was a complete wash the first two mornings from the wildfires in Idaho, Oregon, and Nevada. The smoke was just being pushed up the Snake River Valley, and as a result the Grand Teton mountains were almost completely obscured by smoke and particulate matter; however, the last night camping we had a strong windstorm come through that helped to clear things up significantly but it still didn't clear up the skies completely. I was happy enough with the background that morning, but now the smoke obscured the sunrise! Oh well, you can't win them all.

We had a nice breakfast at the Silver Dollar Grill at the Wort Hotel in historic, downtown Jackson, WY. I had eaten their many years (20+) ago with my father and stepmother on a vacation, and remember quite vividly the HUGE breakfast I had there. While I didn't exactly replicate that breakfast this time around (they served Starbucks coffee!?!), it was still a roll-me-out-in-a-wheelbarrow-I've-eaten-way-too-much kind of breakfast. Amazing.

We saw a bunch of animals while at Grand Teton NP. Bald eagles, moose, pronghorns, bison, woodpeckers, and of course the badger, but no bears. We took a wade in the Gros Ventre River, which was cool and refreshing. It was a fun three days/nights of exploring, but this park would be best appreciated by hiking and backpacking the backcountry (yes, it's on my to-do list). Next stop, Yellowstone!

Have a wonderful day. Cheers,


Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Happy Birthday Ian!!!

Today our wonderful son turns 8!!

Happy Birthday Ian, you're the best. We'll have a proper birthday party for you when we get home, but until then the bison party we crashed in Yellowstone (it's just an intimate get-together!) will have to do.

Marc and Catherine

Monday, August 20, 2012

Craters of the Moon National Monument

After our overnight in Boise, we made our way to Grand Teton National Park. Along the way, we made a bit of a detour to the Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve. I had never heard of it prior to a week or two ago while previewing our trip on Google Maps. Apparently NASA sent the Apollo astronauts there to learn about geology prior to the lunar landings since it was thought that the terrain and geology would be similar. We decided the night before that we would make the detour and check the place out. 

We drove through the high Idaho desert, which was pretty in its own way but it is hard to imagine how people make a living out there. It was largely sagebrush, until we got very close to Craters of the Moon, at which point large stretches of bare black rock cut through the desert. We went to the Visitor's Center and learned about the "Lunar Ranger Program", which is similar to the Junior Ranger Program found at the National Parks. So we did the short seven-mile auto tour through the front country of the Craters of the Moon, stopping at various places to explore a bit. The photo below is of a "spatter cone" (so Ian reminds me, since I had forgotten). Ian and Leah had come up with the idea of holding the spatter cone up, which is why they have their hands up.

We spent about an hour and a half to two hours driving around and exploring the Craters of the Moon, which culminated in Ian and Leah being sworn-in as the newest Lunar Rangers.

Very clever, and handsome/pretty to boot!

Once they found out about the Junior Ranger Program, the kids have been keen to do the tasks at the other National Parks. More to come on that.

We are taking a break last night/this morning between Yellowstone NP and Glacier NP. If I can get a couple of posts in the bank for delayed posting, I will. Not much time remaining though. Anyways, have a wonderful day everybody. We have about four hours to Glacier, but I'm seriously looking forward to getting their!



Sunday, August 12, 2012

Summer Vacation, Day 1

Don't let the title fool you, I won't be posting daily. However, since we are slowly making our way out East to camp at some of the National Parks, I figured I'd post while I could. I always want to say "out West" out of habit, but from where we live now that would put us squarely in the Pacific Ocean. So east we go...

Yesterday we made our way to eastern Washington where I've been wanting to come photograph the Palouse Hills. I've seen photos of them on Flickr and other places, and since then have wanted to see them for myself. The Palouse region of Washington is where the majority of farming in Washington takes place. It is very rural, with large rolling hills.

The photo below is from Steptoe Butte State Park, which rises several hundred feet above the Palouse. We had to wait a bit for the sun to set, but it was worth it. The photo doesn't do it justice. When you are driving amongst the hills, they are actually quite large.

Leah hopped out of the car and allowed me to photograph her. I don't know that she has ever said "no" to a photograph. The girl likes to ham it up for the camera!

And this final photo is sunset on our way to our hotel after driving down from Steptoe Butte. There was a barn that I wanted to photograph, but those photos didn't turn out too well.

Have a wonderful day everybody. Next stop, Boise!


Sunday, August 5, 2012

Mt. St. Helens

I took a quick trip to the Mt. Margaret Wilderness Area within the Mt. St. Helens National Volcanic Monument/Gifford Pinchot National Forest this weekend for an overnight backpacking trip. It was the hottest day of the year by about 10 degrees (Fahrenheit), with no real shade to speak of. It was a long, hot, uphill slog. The reward was the beautiful views, and lingering snow fields. Those dropped the temperature several degrees, and felt great!

I set up my hammock-tent at Bear Camp and decided to wander further west along the trail, but got turned away by several imposing snow fields with impressive drops. Discretion won out over valor, probably a good thing many miles from civilization.

So I wandered back to Bear Camp and decided to have dinner while I waited for sunset. Bear Camp sits on top of a ridge with great views of both Mt. St. Helens and Mt. Rainier, you just have to face the opposite direction to take them both in. A 200 meter walk down the trail, and you can get good views of Mt. Adams, Mt. Hood, and just visible in the distance Mt. Jefferson. So five volcanoes in one good sweep.

While exploring for some good sunrise photos for the next morning, I saw this cliff in the distance just shining in the sun with Mt. Rainier in the background. I wandered over that way and was thrilled with the wildflower display, the snowfield, and the background. It all came together pretty nicely for this photo.

I was up good and early for sunrise, just out of habit, but I was glad I did! In the other direction, sunrise was coloring the sky beautifully. The photo below is from the trail I had hiked in on, and those are the first snow fields I had encountered.

We are trying to stay cool, since we don't have AC in this house. Thankfully the weather is supposed to be more normal starting tomorrow, but we've enjoyed the heat!

Have a wonderful day! Cheers,


Friday, August 3, 2012

And now Leah can ride her bike

Leah was pushing herself around on her bike (without pedals) prior to the Miami trip, and she picked up right where she left off. I convinced her to put the pedals on, and she got it pretty quickly.

Only now I've created a monster. She wants to ride her bike to the park every day! She likes to ride fast too.

Have a wonderful day everybody.