Another beautiful day here in Jackson Hole Wyoming and a perfect cup of coffee to go with it. This picture seemed a bit unusual this time of the year with no snow on the ground and the warm sun shinning. Taken behind Miller Butte on the Elf Refuge… He looks chill. I hope this brings a smile to your face this morning…
Wow Christmas has come and gone again! Hard to believe how fast the time seems to pass these days. As many of you know winter came late to the Yellowstone basin this year and for a while we were actually starting to wonder if we would ever see the snow fall. Needless to say it did and it is now cold like it should be with plenty of white stuff on the ground.
This morning as the sun was starting to creep its way over the Wind River Range I decided I was going to get up and grab one of my favorite cups of coffee and head north of town to see what I could find. I had an hour or two to kill so why not. It was a bit over cast and cold to boot. But once my truck warmed up and I had my cup in hand I was all about finding something fun and cool to watch. And as usual I did not disappoint myself.
This morning in short I saw quit a few characters from the neighborhood. I counted more than 25 moose, hundreds of buffalo, deer, elk, eagles, coyotes and more. This was not my first rodeo with taking pics of buffalo but this morning was bit unusual. The female in the slide-show did not want to get out of my way. She just stood fast and stared me down..So after taking a few pics of her I tried to nudge my truck past her and she did not like this. She let me know with a few twitches of her tail and growled at me loud enough to let me know I was getting too close.
Then to the right of me after plowing down a barbed wire fence I saw her boyfriend at a full run coming right at me. At first I was not sure what he was doing but I figured it out quickly. So I swung my camera around, snapped this shot and hit the gas and moved just past him as he passed within feet of my rear bumper. All I could see was this big guy plowing straight into the side of my truck – head first.
For the next hour or so I just marveled at the sheer beauty of this morning and although I was alone I was not… I was surrounded by the majesty of the morning, the mountains, the rising sun and the wildlife that accompanied me on my morning journey. And of coarse, some really solid classic vinyl (XM Radio). I will have to do this again…
Some of you may be wondering what happened to our weekly posts and the truth be told is we have been enjoying the most amazing Fall weather. I can’t remember when the last time we saw such a beautiful, warm, completely awesome Fall in Jackson Hole. Weekends at the lakes with our kids, people still riding their bikes around town and on the trails and more tourists seemed to hang around longer than in years past. Simply a very nice surprise for those of us living in the Yellowstone Basin.
But as we all know the winds of change come quickly when mother nature decides that it is time. One of most unusual things I noticed this fall was the complete lack of snow on the Tetons. It seems that there is always snow somewhere on these majestic peaks but this fall snow was almost devoid of this precious white commodity.
One of the side effects of this wonderful warm weather was the total lack of water that we saw this summer. Jackson narrowly escaped one of the worst fire seasons on record and because of the heroic efforts of so many firemen and state and federal assets Jackson narrowly escape what could have been a tragedy. So with our rivers and streams down and our open spaces brown with thirst this warm fall season left many of the true locals lacking the very basic things they need to survive the upcoming winter. We saw a return of the Bison to the area north of town and it was clear to me that this past spring and summer was good to these herds as their young were everywhere. But the lack of tall grass like we saw last year seems to be on the thin side and so we ponder how they will fair this winter.
One clear sign that pickings are thin were the numerous bears we saw this fall all looking for something to eat. On the Moose Wilson road the Hawthorne bushes that are usually packed with life giving berries simply did not seem to materialize. The lack of water this summer showed clearly how devastating this could be when it came time for these animals to find food in preparation for winter. We watched bears climbing trees and pulling empty berry branches to their mouths eating what ever they could get their paws on (literally).
Another event that fall brings is the beginning of the hunting season. People are pulling permits for Elk, Bear, Antelope, Wolves (new this year), Bison and even birds. Especially for the elk, fall brings the double hazard of foraging for food while hiding from hunters doing the same. Small groups which to me look like little families run for cover after coming out of hiding for a well deserved drink and then it is quickly up the hill side to the safety of the trees. Although I enjoy a good elk steak I enjoy even more seeing these beautiful animals in the wild. Yes Jackson Hole and the surround area is a magical place to live. And with each change in the seasons you definitely know what time of the year it is.
My worry this year is that because of the amazing summer and warm fall weather we have enjoyed, this winter may bring a true struggle for life for all that inhabit the great Yellowstone Basin. Especially for the young, this first winter for them will be the test of how strong they are. Food is scarce and they need these calories to make it through the winter.
As of now they look strong to me, and I am sure the Great Spirit will lift her hand to comfort them and bring them through what is about to come. I leave you with a Native American Flute Song that shares with you a message of peace and hope. Written and produced by Nakoa Heavyrunner, Assiniboine Native American Music Artist, The Honoring is presented first in song, then by Native American Flute, then English and finally one more time in Northern Cree. We too wish all of you peace and good life this winter.
Click to Play “the Honoring”
Over the past couple of days I have ventured north of town with Peyton as every day offers something new and different. No real stories to tell except that Antelope Flats is alive again with activity. We have seen Moose, Coyotes, Buffalo, Elk, Pronghorn Antelope, Deer, Ground Varmints, Badgers, Hawks, Eagles, beautiful vistas – awesome. Spring is definitely a time when all of mother nature is on the move. Although none of these pictures by themselves are spectacular, they are representative of what we see every single morning. Antelope flats is easy to get to and in 1 hour you will be blessed to be surrounded by some of this areas greatest inhabitants. The bears are out and we have ventured into the park to see if we could find them. Yellowstone opens in the next week or so and we will soon be traveling into the parks for more photo fun. Come to Jackson as see what we are talking about. Enjoy…
This morning as I lay in bed trying to drag myself out and head for the gym I pondered what I wanted to do today besides work. My wife and younger daughter were visiting family and my college girl had headed back to school for the final push before she ends her Junior year. The forecast was for rain and snow believe it or not and as I drove to the gym it was still too dark to determine what the morning would hold weather wise.
On my way home from the gym the sky was blue with just a cloud or two and it did not look like weather to me but in this part of the Rockies this is subject to change by the hour. I headed home, changed my clothes, grabbed a camera (wrong lens again) and headed to my favorite coffee shop. Paid for my cup of joe and headed north of town. For the most part all of the snow in the valley is just about gone or melting fast with some patches lying around. As I passed the National Elk Refuge I was surprised to see so many elk just hanging out. But then again, the snow was gone, the sun was out – why not just chill.
One thing that I like about this time of the year is the solitude you can find within a few miles of your home. For the most part I did not run into anyone this morning. Lonely? Nope! I had all of my friends around on this morning. I was surrounded on three sides for a while by three different groups of elk. I wish I had a better lens with me but I hope you can get the picture (so to speak). I sat at one point and watched a very healthy coyote hunt some ground varmints and I actually got a shot of him mid-air as he dived through a snow patch to grab his pray. You can see it in the pics above – very cool thing to watch.
There are no leaves on the trees yet but you can start to see the buds plump up in anticipation of warmer weather. Although I did not get any pics of moose they were hanging around this morning but just too far away for the lens I had. I kind of marveled at the stark contrast of the still brown grass, leafless trees, snow-covered mountains, all against the blue sky. I tried to get some shots that help illustrate this very thing. At one point I just stopped and sat down in the middle of the road and took the shot of the yellow line. All alone for sure!
Some of the other pics came from the Mormon Row area as they had just opened this stretch of road again. Along this small stretch of road you can see all kinds of activity this time of year. This is where I got the shot of the coyote and a couple of lone trees as well. Its funny, this part of the valley is so spectacular at any time of the year and I never get tired of just hanging out up here. Very soon the grasses will start to green up and the trees will burst with color. At just the right time Mother Nature will speak to the wild flowers and summer will be on.
If you are planning to visit this part of the country this summer you need to visit this area at least once while you stay. Feel free to contact me via email if you have questions about where to go while you visit – I am always happy to help share what I know. The summer of 2012 is shaping up to be a fabulous one especially if you are into fishing. Unlike last year when we had record amounts of snow and a very cool spring that left our rivers crazy mad – this year is looking awesome.
Watch for future Morning Coffee posts as the season changes and transforms into summer. We hope to share with you some really cool stuff this year. Feel free to email me at “firstname.lastname@example.org” if you have questions. Oh and one last thing… Please slow down while visiting as we lost 6 moose this winter to automobile accidents. People have been driving way too fast – besides you will miss too much if you are in a hurry.
It has been several weeks since my last post – not sure where all the time has gone but the truth is winters can be long here in the Rockies. As we move from the depths of winter into the Spring season you can just feel the change happening. Not only with Mother Nature but with the people of this area. People attitudes start to change very quickly when Father Sun finally peaks out of the clouds.
So what have we been doing for the past several weeks? Good question – but I thought I would post just a couple of things that have happened. One of the sad notes in Jackson has been all the moose that have been killed by cars this winter. These big beautiful animals just do not understand the dangers of the highways. This morning after we dropped our daughter off at school in Wilson we headed for the Elevated Grounds coffee shop on the West Bank. As we approached the coffee shop a mother and her two calves decided to cross the road and as we slowed to a stop we almost witnessed another accident. Although this is not a good picture you can see the mother walking down the driveway just after crossing in front of our Jeep. Her two calves followed but almost did not make it across the road. If you visit this summer please be aware that you can be faced in a heart beat with this kind of interaction with these big beautiful animals.
A few weeks ago we made a visit to the north side of the Elk Refuge during a blustery winter day. We came upon an entire heard of elk all moving to the east trying to get out of the wind. This picture does not capture the enormity of this heard but we were really close. This picture was taken with a 50mm lens and this group was almost 3/4 of mile long. At one point we just parked on the road side and watched them. It is really cool to see how the stronger males take charge and keep an eye on you. To be able to experience this so close to home is really a treat. It won’t be long before they start to move back up into the high country. It looks like a warm Spring is about to arrive.
Our son Brock was asked to play a few of his songs at an event at the Jackson Hole Playhouse and Saddle Rock Saloon recently and it was really kind of a cool little event. For those of you who may be planning a visit here this summer you absolutely need to make time to go to the play this summer. The plays are really a must see event here in town. This summer the play is Cat Ballou and the season opens June 1st and runs through September 29th.
One of the cool things about the playhouse is that you can make reservations for dinner prior to the show. Having dinner at the Saddle Rock Saloon is a really fun family event. The casts are your waiters and they sing and perform during your meal. This is a really good way to get to know the cast prior to the show. The playhouse is one of the oldest building in Jackson Hole with a really interesting history. The cast will share with you all the things that have taken place over the last 100 years at this very location during the Pre-Show event. If you are looking for an opportunity to do something with your entire family that will stay in your memories for a lifetime then you must put the Play House on your bucket list.
Since our last post we had one of the better winter storms roll through the region leaving a solid blanket of snow. On these mornings when we wake up to heavy snow we like to cruise the town as it turns into a winter wonderland. The heavy snow creates such a beautiful atmosphere and one of our favorite things to do is just park and take a walk. If you have never taken a walk in the middle of heavy snowfall then make sure you make the effort to do it at least once in your life. Yes its cold but it is almost hard to put into words what the experience is like.
Finally I wanted to share with you that there are wonderful things to do outside of our valley. It is a good thing when you can take even a day trip to another place. Winters can be long and it helps if you can get away even if for just a few hours. One of our favorite day trips is to head to Bozeman Montana for the day. On this day which was just a week ago we found the town of Bozeman to be free of snow and almost 70 degrees. Brynn and her friend told us it was summer in Bozeman and how happy they were to see the sun. We stopped by the Museum of the Rockies which a very cool place to visit. The girls wanted to take a picture next to this big horse and just get out of the Jeep and run around. Look for more Morning Coffee Posts now that Spring has arrived and as we venture from our homes into God’s country this summer.
While we still wait for the Jet Stream to drop in on North West Wyoming Peyton and I did something a little different earlier this week. We went off the main roads onto a snow-covered dirt road that follows some power lines. We ran smack dab into three moose that were jousting with each other.
We had Brynn with us this morning and she was loving the sights before us. Basically we just sat in our Jeep and watched the show. You could hear the sounds of their antlers clashing against each other and at times they looks as though they were stuck together. The light was low and these are not tac sharp pics but you get the picture. This was an amazing morning and fun to watch.
This morning like most before I headed towards Antelope Flats as the amount of wildlife found there has been amazing. One big difference was that when I went to the gym this morning early, the temperature on my Jeep said it was 34 degrees. A far cry from -15 of the past two weeks. But very welcome change for sure.
I found some of my favorite subjects but getting close enough to them to take a solid picture can be a challenge. I found two cows together about 100 yards off to the west of me and on the east side of the road was a very young male. I stopped and position myself between them with anticipation that eventually the two cows would cross in front of me. After a while I could tell they were watching the young male and moving closer. These four shots are from this morning. Two of them are the same cow and she was clearly the younger of the two. She crossed right in front of me once she realized she was being left behind.
As I was making a lens change and screwing around with my camera I looked up as I heard something strange and right in front of me was about 100+ elk at a full on run crossing the road within yards of my jeep. I got so excited I forgot to turn my camera back on and yep – I missed any chance of catching them on film. Very exciting to see. Something had definitely spooked them. Hauling chili’s would be a good description. That is whats cool about all this – you never know what you will see.
This mornings coffee run took me 40 miles north of Jackson into Teton National Park to one of the most photographed places in the United States, Oxbow Bend. Oxbow is just north of Moran Junction about 4 or 5 miles and on this morning it was -15 degrees as I arrived just before dawn. In the summer there is always a multitude of photographers waiting for the sun to bathe the mountains with its warmth. Today I was all alone, with the exception of my father-in-law who made the journey with me.
We arrived as it was still dark and set up for the shots I wanted, some of which I am sharing with you here. As the sun makes its way over the eastern range it begins to bathe the Teton Range with a warm glow. This all happens in about 12-15 minutes so you need to be ready with your camera. Now I am no professional but you would have to try pretty hard to screw this up. Here are a few pics of the Oxbow Bend with Mount Moran in the back ground all taken within minutes of each other. You can see the difference in the shots as to how the sun bathes the mountains and the river. Oh yeh – this is the Snake River for those who do not know this area. Amazing is all I can say. Put this on your bucket list for sure.
On the way back I took a detour and found some of my favorite subjects. I counted over 18 moose this morning all within a few hundred yards of these shots. I almost got stepped on when this big guy came within a few feet of my Jeep. A few feet is no exaggeration! I never tire of seeing these beautiful creatures of nature. They are so unique and awesome to be this close to. If you venture out – be careful because they can hurt you. Enjoy!