*****

Bison at Antelope Island, Utah State Park 2017

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Trying Out My New Camera on Antelope Island

Because we were staying in a large commercial RV park for over a week in Salt Lake City, we were able to order my new camera, a Sony RX10, on the internet with confidence it would arrive before we moved on. 


It was delivered on Friday, so on Saturday we drove out to Antelope Island State Park to experiment and see what it could do.


I started with a few simple flower close ups. There were a lot of Black-Eyed Susans along the park roads.








We went to the Garr Ranch site in the park. There was a lot of old farm machinery scattered about. Craig took this picture using my old Sony RX100. He says it looked like a giant mouse trap.


I started to snap away, concentrating on the parts and shapes more than the complete machines.


Discer








Farm device designed by Salvador Dali



Jayhawk Hay Stacker

Beyond the ranch location there is much open grassland where Antelope Island's 500 or so bison range. 

We saw several small groups that were recognizable as bison, but much too far away to photograph with my old camera.



These three were out for a walk on the very large sandy beach. 



The 600 mm zoom showed the texture of his shaggy coat.


This pair was pretty close to the road, but still far enough that it was safe for me to get out of the Jeep to get his picture. He was using the large rock behind him to get a good rub.



If he could talk, I think he would have said how good the scratching felt!



He then moved away a bit and began to graze.



Fantastic detail! You can see the grass in his mouth.

After shooting about 50 bison pictures, we went on up to the Visitors Center and found a place to have our little picnic lunch.

I am very pleased with my new camera. I have a lot to learn about how best to use it. When we bought my Sony RX100 about five years ago, I wanted a small camera that I would be comfortable carrying on hikes. It served me well, but we are doing less difficult hiking, and the RX10 is really fairly light, and I expect to have fun with it this winter.



Finally, this is a view of the Great Salt Lake from the Visitors Center. The road is the seven mile causeway linking its East shore with the Island.  That's a birdhouse to the right.

If you are ever in Salt Lake City, Antelope Island State Park is good for a day trip, and a place to see the lake. 

Note: Go on a cool day, there is no shade. Also you can swim in the lake if you want to (you can't sink).

Sunday, September 10, 2017

South from Alaska


A few last words about our two days in Hyder Alaska. We went over to the Fish Creek viewing platform several more times, but did not see any more big grizzlies.


We did catch several views of what I think was the same black bear across the pond. He/she was a bit shy and kept disappearing into the bushes. 







I found it quite interesting to see the fish spawning in the shallow water of the creek right below the viewing platform. 


They were all dark in color, except for one that was bright red. I asked the ranger why it was the only red one. His explanation was that it was a lost Sockeye Salmon. It had come up the wrong creek and was doomed to not find a mate!






The other interesting thing to see when in Hyder is the Salmon Glacier which is about 17 miles out of town, on a somewhat rough gravel road.




Because the road goes alongside and above the glacier you can get a good view of the surface texture and blueish color.



We did have a couple more wildlife sightings on the road. The first was as we left Fairbanks, a momma moose and her two babies walked right across the highway in from of us. We were not going fast and were able to stop, but it was a good reminder to stay alert.


The second was after our Hyder Alaska stop, we had just pulled back onto the Cassier highway when I saw what at first I thought were a couple of cutout bear silhouettes on the side of the road.






As we slowed to go by, we could see they were Grizzly Bears. Probably youngsters.



Craig did not put the window down, nor did I stop. This picture was not zoomed in. The bear was right on the edge of the road! 

Wow, we sure did travel back to the lower 48 quickly! We are now in the Salt Lake City area. Craig made this day by day chart.




We had two reasons to skip sightseeing and drive every day. Our destination was Salt Lake City because we have an appointment for our annual maintenance services at the Warner Freightliner Truck Center. They did a great job on our radiator a few years back. We also found a repair facility that would look at and hopefully replace one of the leveling jacks on the Alfa. It has been giving us some trouble, and finally stopped working at Dease Lake up in BC. Fingers crossed that they will be able to get the job done.

The other big motivation to keep rolling was the pernicious smoke from the Western wildfires. We encountered it from just south of Prince George, all the way to Utah. A little rain on our arrival day seems to have washed the air a bit.

So this is indeed the end of our Alaska Adventure. In the next few weeks we will get our services, return to California for the body work on the Alfa, and settle in at Jojoba Hills for the winter, plus lots of good time with the family in San Diego.

Craig has just ordered a new camera for me. (My birthday is coming.) I am excited to get to know it, join the photography group at Jojoba, and post some of my new images here. The pictures in this blog have always been a combination of those taken by Craig with his Nikon "big boy" camera, and those taken by both of us with my small, but pretty good, Sony RX100. But after five years, it is time for an upgrade. 

RV life is good! 😊 

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Bear Watching in Hyder, Alaska

My last post was about our "final days" in Alaska. We left Denali on August 29 and drove 250-325 miles per day for 5 consecutive days. We passed through the Yukon, and in British Columbia, turned south onto highway 37, also know as the Cassiar Highway. On our fifth day, we took a little detour out of Canada to the small town of Hyder, Alaska, which is one of the few places that you can actually drive to, to see wild bears. The US Forest Service has a wonderful observation deck from which the public can watch the bears as they feed on spawning and deceased salmon in Fish Creek.

In Hyder, we arrived at a little RV park with the amusing name of "Camp Run-A-Muck", early enough to go over to the Fish Creek Bear viewing station for an hour or so. When we arrived this big grizzly was in the creek. 



We could see many large salmon spawning in the shallow water. They rapidly swam out of his reach as he plodded along. In the picture above, you can see two dead fish by his front leg, but he ignored them.





A little while later, in another part of the creek, he went after  something.



It was a pretty decrepit dead fish.



He took it over to the bank and ate some of it, and then wandered into the forest.

Later, a black bear showed up, but it stayed in the deep shadows so none of his pictures were worthwhile.

Our plan is to go back early Sunday morning, late Sunday afternoon, and again early Monday morning. Hopefully we will see more bears, but if we don't, these images already make the detour well worth it.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

The Best Of Denali

I thought I’d start this post about our days in Denali National Park with the best wildlife pictures we were able to take from the park bus.

Wildlife on the roads were far more common in the past when people fed them. But now the bears still like to take the easy path, and ramble down the roads instead of crashing through the tangled brush. We were lucky to see these three:


 Bears are generally solitary animals except for mothers with cubs, and pairs during the mating season. These were probably a set of three year old siblings, who had left their mother this summer, and were still hanging out together.

They are opportunist omnivores and will eat almost anything. They were carrying around the carcass of a snowshoe hare.



This one had possession of it, and after tearing it up a bit, he eventually left with most of it and moved on with the others, leaving a scrap or two on the road.  A magpie quickly took advantage of this nourishing find.

Most private vehicles are only allowed to drive 15 miles into the park. We were allowed to drive the Alfa in 30 miles to the Teklanika campground where we had made reservations eight months ago.

We  also purchased our bus tickets in advance ($34 each), and because we were at the campground we were able to use it on multiple days, which we did. 

On Friday and Saturday we spent a total of fourteen hours on the bus, broken up by a few rest stops and one short hike.

The bus seating is very tight, and the double windows are sometimes hard to see out of, particularly when most of the 48 passengers are up trying to take pictures out of them. But it is one of the only ways for the public to see the park.

The following pictures are the best of those Craig was able to take with his Nikon D3 and Tamron 28-300 lens. They have all been cropped.  The animals are more clearly seen here than what I could see, since they were all very far away.

Dahl Sheep
Mother Moose and her calf

Caribou
Mother grizzly nursing her cubs


To see this mother grizzly nursing her two large cubs on a hillside was a very special treat.  

The cubs appear almost as large as she was, but probably weren't.

As distant as most of the animals were, it was good to see them living their natural lives in the wild. 

However, I am very glad there are places like the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center near the Alyeska Resort, where we were able to see them up close.










Sometimes we weren't sure what something in the distance was. Was that a bear or a bush? Is that white spot a rock or a sheep? Can you find the critter in the above picture?


If you look closely and use your imagination, you may be able to see the giant Alaskan mosquito that crashed in the snow on the side of this mountain.

It was very hard to limit the number of images I put into this post. The landscape was so vast and beautiful, and it seems no pictures can compare to what my memory has stored. 



In the above image you see a sweeping view, and yet it is only a small portion of the panorama. 



Looking closer at just this magnificent mountain, one of so many, is a magnificent view. 


Here's one of the Polychrome Mountains.  They still, or is it already, have snow in the high country. I could have posted twenty more, but you just have to come here yourself.


Also fascinating were the places where the road pullouts overlooked vast gravel river bars. The water takes many paths giving them the name  "braided" rivers.  Their water flow varies with the seasons and rainfall each year, and the overall riverbeds were laid down over thousands of years as the glaciers receded.

Visitors to the park come hoping to get a good sighting of Mt. Denali. It was interesting to see its many views. There were times when it was completely hidden by solid overcast skies.


There were times when only parts of her were visible. The above image was  zoomed in and later cropped.


This was taken from the same place at the same time, and shows the complete scene as we really saw it. As you can see the mountain is very far away.


As we rode along, Mt. Denali would disappear behind other mountains, and then on a turn suddenly loom largely over the distant horizon.


Another good sighting!  But every time she came into view, I felt a renewed sense of the good luck we had had that day on our jet boat ride and our flight from Talkeetna. Such wonderful, visual memories to have.

Our days in Denali have come to an end. Our days in Alaska will soon be over. We are headed back to the lower 48, but we will always treasure our time in this distinctive place.

And so to renew a charming tradition of an old blogger friend, Judy Bell:



The End

Monday, August 28, 2017

Autumn is coming -- hiking in Denali National Park


We really haven’t done much hiking this summer. It seems the rain is always just a few hours away, and we hesitate to go far from shelter.

On our first day in Denali we stayed at the Riley Campground, close to the entrance. We walked about a mile and a half from our campsite to the Visitor Center, and then back again by a different trail. I guess that counts as a three-mile hike.



It was an easy path, and as you can see, a few of the trees were starting to show fall colors. We had noticed this up in Fairbanks a few days before. The air has also had a bit more of a nip. It is mid-August, and autumn feels like it is coming quickly in Alaska.


The trail went under the railroad tracks. We have heard and seen the Alaska Railroad that runs along here many times in our recent travels.


















We wondered why this structure was here, over the trail under the bridge, and decided it must be to protect hikers from things falling from the train.

Our second short hike was on the first afternoon we were up at the Teklanika campground.



We decided to take a quick walk along the gravel bar of the Teklinika River which was just beyond a tree line from our camping loop. This was where I first noticed the broad yellows and oranges starting to show in the ground cover, and the much lighter greens of some of the deciduous trees. It reminded me of hillsides covered with wildflowers in the spring, just large masses of color.



The river water was opaque with silt from the glacier feeding it, and the low sun gave it a metallic glow.


On our fourth day in Denali we took a rather short hike along a trail near Wonder Lake.

We have been seeing the seasonal change in the Fireweed which is common along the Alaskan roadsides. 

When we were in Valdez we were told that summer had not yet arrived because the Fireweed had not yet started to bloom. 

Then when it was blooming we were told summer ended when the top flowers of the plant had opened and dropped, and the leaves turned dark red.



The trail started out very narrow and wound through dense blueberry bushes.


For days we had been lectured about what to do if we encountered a bear on the trail, and about how much bears loved blueberries. 

We had been told that "bear bells" were not recommended for Grizzly bears, since it seemed they attract rather than discourage them.

We were told if we came upon a bear we should back slowly away. But how? This path was very narrow, windy, with many stones and roots one could trip over, trying to walk backward. 

I felt a bit apprehensive to say the least.



Then although the trail remained narrow, the surrounding landscape opened up as we came to a large gravel bar, dotted with smaller pools.

Craig taking the image below

We ended up turning back at this point rather than walking all the way to the lake. We did so for several reasons. The stones on the path became increasingly rough. Although I had my poles, I felt my ankles were in danger with  every step. Craig was not very comfortable because he had worn his regular shoes rather than his sturdy hiking boots, and finally the fluffy white clouds were turning dark and we could see rain falling across the valley.



Along our return path we noted more signs of Autumn.


This type of ground cover is called tundra and goes on for miles. The tundra looks a bit like it has vast swatches of red and orange wildflowers,  but it is all low growing brush and plants. There is very little actual grass.



Finally, as our bus drove home from our walk at Wonder Lake,  I asked Craig to catch a picture of this remarkable stand of Poplar trees blazing gold on the side of an otherwise barren hillside.

I have much more to share about the things we saw in Denali National Park, but they will have to wait until my next post.


Winter may be coming on the Game of Thrones, but in Alaska it is still only August and it is fall color that is showing!