Thursday, July 31, 2014

Yellowstone Flowers and Rivers

We decided to go north to Yellowstone next since it was so cold in the Tetons, which are higher. The original plan had been to camp in both places since the room rates are ridiculous. With this option taken away by the weather, we got a room for one night in West Yellowstone and did a quicker two day visit. The main Yellowstone drive is a figure eight.

We drove the bottom loop the first afternoon. Though it was mid-June, it was still spring here. Flowers were abundant--but most of them we had no names for.

This looks like a phlox.

This is a lupine.

There were several rivers that attract fly-fisherman.

And there are rushing waterfalls.

For size reference, note the pick-up truck at the top of the picture below.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

A Change of Plans

We had planned to go to the Tetons to camp the following day. Well, a cold front blew in and it snowed and didn't get out of the 30s all day in that area, so we went a little further north into Idaho and spent a hotel night.

Along the way, we saw more interesting sights--including lots of irrigated potato fields, that have been created out of near-desert conditions. I had to stop and take pictures of the big potato!

But other areas were less desert-like.
Groundhogs are known as marmots out west.  There were two playing around these rocks.

In a pond, we saw a trumpeter swan swimming in the rain.

Sandhill cranes were out, too.

This is a terrible picture of a yellow-headed blackbird, but it was the only time we had ever seen such a thing: another for the life list. They hung out singularly with red-wing blackbirds.

The  best  part of that evening was an amazing dinner at a chain restaurant called The Sandpiper. We had some of the best steaks we have EVER had--and for a very reasonable price. I said those cowboys really know their way around a cow. This ginormous wrench was the support for the rail leading down the outside steps to the restaurant.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Animals on Antelope Island

Antelope Island was named by French trappers who were the first to record the place. They saw several pronghorn antelope living there and we came upon several individuals, who kept their distance from our car.

I think they are such striking animals with their beautiful markings. I always think I should be on the plains of Africa when I see them.

We also saw whitetail deer.

Sometime in the 1800s, a small herd of bison was brought to the island. They have continued and expanded so that most years, the herd is culled to reduce the numbers. We saw about a dozen at different places on the island. We assumed without knowing for sure that they were shedding their warm winter coats. 

The island is known for the birds that stop over on migrations. It was not spring or fall, but we saw some interesting ones anyway. 

I am not really sure what this bird was. I think it is perhaps some kind of thrush.

Western Meadowlarks sang along the roadside, but for all their loud voice, they were somewhat shy.

Below is a long-billed curlew. That was a new one for my life list. They are sometimes seen along the Florida coasts in winter but they nest and summer on the Great Plains. When they nest, they favor short grass, but may move to taller grass as the babies leave. Both adults incubate the eggs but the male raises the brood after the female abandons the family. However, the couple gets back together and starts a new family the following year.

These shorebirds are quite large and that bill seems to go on forever. It is used to dig out shrimp, worms and crabs.

Several kinds of owls call the island home. We did not see any, but we noticed this and liked to think it was the home of a burrowing owl, that lives there.

B also saw a jack rabbit!

Antelope Island was definitely a highlight of our trip.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Mailbox Monday: Dog Tag

Note dog on sidewalk and "dog tag".

Friday, July 25, 2014

Awed by Antelope Island

How is it that we had never heard of Antelope Island in the Great Salt Lake? It is spacious--28,000 acres--fifteen miles long and five miles wide. It is beautiful. It is a Utah state park. But we had no information about it until I started planning this trip.  North of Salt Lake City, there is a long, two-lane causeway that leads out to Antelope Island, seen below.

It had the feeling of being off the continent. When the sun shown, the water was a beautiful turquoise. But most of our hours there, it drizzled. It was quite a hike to the shoreline from any parking area, so we opted to not.

There were a few folks in the visitor's center, but we pretty much had the road that runs along the shoreline for the length of the beautiful island to ourselves. 

Looking across to the town of Layton, where we spent the night.

The shore is 4,200 feet above sea level and Frary Peak is the highest point on the island at 6, 596.
Antelope Island was a ranch for 150 years before it was purchased and became a state park. Most of that time it was a Mormon church holding. The island also has a history of copper mining and some oil wells. Now, visitors come for the nice old rocks--1.7 billion year old gneiss which are about the same age as those found at the bottom of the Grand Canyon--and to see the roaming animals that are featured on the next post.