Thursday, June 28, 2012

Lucky Photo Day

Driving back up to the geysers in Yellowstone yesterday, we again spotted the huge nest sitting atop a dead tree. No place to pull over, and traffic behind us, this was the best I could do in that direction. These are not little twigs, obviously. I'm thinking it must belong to a very large bird.
On the way back there was no traffic around, so we pulled as far off the road as we could.
As we were snapping away, a truck came from the other direction and stopped along side us.
"Just up the road and across the river, there's a Bald Eagle perched on a tree limb."
"Thanks," and off we went.
When we spotted him, we pulled over, got out of the truck, and made our way through the trees to the river, with only the slightest thought of any bear in the trees.
How cool is that! So that seemed to answer whose nest that was. As we watched and marveled at our good luck, a crow started dive-bombing this poor eagle, who had been doing nothing other than minding its own business. The crow in hot pursuit never quite got to the eagle, but it was close.
How many times have we watched the crows being chased by smaller birds? It never crossed my mind that they would take on an eagle. The crow cawed and the eagle called, and in a matter of a couple of minutes the chase was all over.
The chase was over, but it was several minutes before the eagle was finished talking about it.
What a gift this was!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Just a few things I've been working on

Brycie's Bear. He's knit with Lion Brand Eyelash yarn. The pattern can be found at under Gypsycream.
I'll have to start on one for Lexi, as well. Hers will be made with a green fuzzy yarn. Brycie's bear took a while to make, although it's a fairly easy pattern, because I was busy making these for my daughter's friend, who's getting married.
I think they were going to sit on the gift table at the shower. I also finished these.
I would never have imagined I could make socks! And if I can do it, anybody can. They're knitted with a washable wool blend, so they're toasty warm. Now I just have to wait for winter to wear them.  I may try a little fancier pattern next time. Hehehe.
I made up a few dish cloths just so I could try out some new-to-me stitches. This next one I made when the opportunity to give a gift card came around. It's called a Gift Card-igan.
It was fun to make, and easy peasy. It's a free pattern on I'm finding that I really love knitting these days. There was a time 25 years ago when I made a few sweaters, then I was done. For a long time. I think with all of the online videos to help with how-tos, there will always be a knitting challenge for me. :)

Tomorrow I'll get back to posting more travel photos.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

On Our Way to the Grand Tetons

As we drive around in the building on wheels through more northern states, we've encountered road construction. Some have been easier to get through than others, and some have gone on for miles. A couple of areas were completely rebuilding the road.
But we can't say they didn't warn us.
I know it's blurry, but it was also bumpy! I just love the sense of humor in Wyoming. As we drove along this stretch of almost highway, a mamma bear with two cubs turned away from the highway when she saw us coming.  It was so unexpected that I didn't have a chance to get a photo.
The drive was beautiful, and it didn't matter that it was slow through the construction zone.
This was our destination.
The Grand Tetons.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Devils Tower, Wyoming

Teddy Roosevelt made Devils Tower the first National Monument in the U.S. back in 1906. The tower itself has been around for millions of years.
 Devils Tower was named in 1875 when the interpreter for Colonel Richard Irving Dodge's expedition translated the native name as "Bad God's Tower."

I don't know if you'll be able to read this or not after I post this. Basically, the thought is that it was crystalized magma that never made it to the surface. In fact, this was buried a mile and a half below ground! All of the land above and around it has eroded over the millenium.
We hiked around the base of the tower, a 1.3 mile trek. It certainly felt a whole lot longer than that to me. Being so close to it though, we could tell it was covered in lots of lichen, giving it a somewhat yellow appearance. This is still sacred ground to the Indians, including the Lakota Souix, Crow, Cheyenne, and more. You can see occasional prayer bundles and cloths tied to trees. Climbers are asked to not climb in the month of June out of respect for Native American religious ceremonies being held during the month. However, we saw a number of climbers on the tower.
Devils Tower is composed of phonolite porphyry, a grayish rock studded with feldspar crystals. As the magma cooled underground, it formed hexagonal or six-sided columns although columns have from four to seven sides. The last large column fell about 10,000 years ago.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

The Secret of South Dakota

We have thoroughly enjoyed our stay in the Black Hills of South Dakota. They are covered with Ponderosa Pines. At certain times, the lighting is such that the trees look black. Thus, the name. We've been here for three weeks and have visited most all of the touristy things in the area. We have come to the conclusion that that SD is one of America's best kept secrets.
Not that THIS is a secret...
Or this...
or this.
Well, actually, that did surprise me. I had heard of the Badlands, but I didn't really know what it was.
Then there's Needles Highway, full of granite outcroppings and spires.
Along Needles Hwy, is an 8'4" wide tunnel you have to drive through.
Highway 16A is a gorgeous drive, and also has several tunnels you drive through. The interesting thing about those tunnels? As you drive through, you see Mount Rushmore.
You just don't know where they'll turn up. Drive around a winding corner, and there they are.
Sylvan Lake is a pretty little man-made lake.
Sylvan Lake is the trailhead for Harney Peak. We had planned on hiking to the top of HP because you can see five states from up there! At the trailhead, there was a sign saying that the hike would take 4-5 hours rountrip. Although we hiked the Volksmarch, a 10K walk to Crazy Horse, I knew we were unprepared to make this trek.
Whatever the property is in granite that is shiny, it's everywhere. On the faces of Mount Rushmore, Crazy Horse, and even the ground looks like it's covered in fairy dust.
We've had several pretty good thunderstorms while we've been here, but fortunately have been on the sidelines of any real damage.
Throughout the Black Hills there are piles of pines that have been cut down due to a beetle infestation. From what I overheard, it's not the beetles eating the trees that's killing them, it's the chemicals in the slime that they leave. Huge sections of forest are dying. It's very sad, not to mention a terrible fire hazard. But there are still gorgeous views everywhere.
So what is the "secret" of South Dakota?
It is just breathtaking!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Bear Country

Nestled over 250 acres amidst towering pines and along rolling meadows just eight miles south of Rapid City, Bear Country U.S.A. offers visitors intimate views of most North American mammals. Visitors take a leisurely three-mile drive through several enclosures and encounter black bear, elk, reindeer, deer, cougars, bobcats, rocky mountain goats, bighorn sheep, dall sheep and buffalo.
There are signs at the entrance to keep your windows rolled up. But how can you take good photos through the window?
Artic wolves. I saw them walking around until we got close, then they all decided it was nap time. Of course, I rolled down my window, trying to get a better photo. A voice over a loud speaker asked me to roll it back up. Oops!
Imagine banging heads with this baby! Ouch.
Of all the animals, the mountain lions seemed to have the most energy. I could feel their intensity. They paced constantly.

All of the animals are separated by wire fences, but their areas are large. The biggest population was the bears.
A little funny business to keep that population up.
This fellow spent all of his time pacing in front of the cattle grate, trying to figure out how to get past it. Each car had to wait while he passed in front of them. 
But by far, the absolute cutest animals in the park were the baby bears. Talk about teddy bears!
There were probably 40 of them in the baby bear enclosure. They were having a blast chasing one another, climbing the logs and little wooden houses, and knocking one another off.
The cubs are born in early January while their mothers are in hibernation. The cubs stay with their mothers for eight weeks. Then, in early March, Bear Country handlers remove the cubs from their dens, and staff members bottle feed the babies for another six to eight weeks.

Bear Country U.S.A. takes the babies from their mothers for three simple reasons: survival rate, manageability and marketability.

"In the wild only 40% of cubs see the end of their first year," says Pauline Casey. "At Bear Country our survival rate is substantially higher (98%). By human-imprinting the animals shortly after birth (2 months) we are able to manage them as adults making vaccinating and moving them much easier and safer. Lastly, we have earned a strong reputation among zoos, wildlife parks and even movie studios for even-tempered, manageable animals."

We could have watched these guys all day.