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Ousel Falls Wander

Well, it is that time of year. Not really winter, not really spring. Ice on the trails, lots of brown popping through the dirty-looking snow that’s left. The evergreens are not their beautiful greens, more like a yellow-green and pale. So to make up for this “it’s so much better any other time of year” feeling, we are going to Ousel Falls outside the town of Big Sky, Montana.  A short walk down and up, switchbacks across, through a canyon, and then rewarded with a beautiful waterfall. With all this ice, though, be sure to put on your ice cleats. It is mostly overcast today, but the sun is peeking through a bit and it is supposed to reach 52°.  That’s warm without wind, but we’ll see if the predicted wind changes things. Have those cleats on? Let’s go!

Watch your step . . .

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SNAP*Shot: Red Foxes

The red fox (Vulpes vulpes) is the most widespread and adaptable mammal on earth. They are found in very diverse habitats from the Arctic to the dessert. The also adapt easily to human environments such as farms, suburbia, and even cities. Foxes have a nickname, “reynard”, from the French word renard, which refers to someone who is unconquerable due to his cleverness. The resourcefulness of the red fox has earned it a legendary reputation for cunning and intelligence.

Yellowstone has been home to red foxes for many years, first documented in the 1880s.  The red fox is the smallest canid (dog family Canidae) of three found in the park, coyote and wolf being the other two. Foxes rarely howl like wolves or yip and sing like coyotes, they bark. They do have many communication sounds, but primarily they bark. The average female (vixen)  weighs about 10 pounds. The male (dog) weighs 11-12 pounds. They stand about 16 inches tall at the shoulder and are about 3 feet long. One third of their length is that beautiful, bushy, white-tipped tail. Although the average lifespan in the wild is 3-7 years, red fox in Yellowstone can live up to 11 years. I guess they love it as much as we do!

red fox

Continue . . .

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Snowshoeing Upper Terrace

The sun’s out! What a change from the gray landscape and snowy conditions we’ve seen day after day in Yellowstone. Let’s head to the Upper Terrace at Mammoth Hot Springs for a winter hike around the loop called Upper Terrace Drive. During the summer season (April-early November), this road is cars only. When snow falls, it becomes the domain of folks on skis and snowshoes.

The Mammoth upper and lower terraces form a massive hill of travertine. Travertine is the result of thermal (HOT mineral-laden) water rising through limestone. The water carries large amounts of dissolved limestone (calcium carbonate) as it races to the surface. Upon reaching the surface, carbon dioxide is released depositing the calcium carbonate which forms travertine, the chalky white mineral that forms the rock of the travertine terraces. Travertine formations grow rapidly due to the “soft” nature of limestone. They also change quickly as we will see along the trail. One fascinating fact that continues to amaze me is that all the extremely hot water creating this entire travertine area comes through a fault line from Norris Geyser Basin about 20 miles south. That is some hot-water pipeline. So my friend, strap on those snowshoes and let’s go!

Come on . . .

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Ride~About: Winter Gray on Gray

How exciting to be traveling into Yellowstone via snowcoach on this winter day, although a very gray winter day. Our trip has been planned for about a month. It is totally overcast, snowing occasionally, but not too cold–in the mid 20’s. Since we are all photographers, we hope the weather will improve, but ya pay for ya ride and take ya chances!

We left West Yellowstone traveling through the West Entrance. We will be driving to Madison Junction then to Old Faithful, with stops all along the way at the various thermal basins. As we drive along the Madison River, we are hoping to see a bobcat or the pair that have been hunting in the river over the last few weeks. Keep your fingers crossed. We’ll also hope for some sun as the day progresses, then again, there is never a bad day in Yellowstone!

snowcoach gray view

 

Here we go!

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SNAP*Shot: Winter’s Sunrise

Sunrise is a good news/bad news scenario in wintry Yellowstone. The bad news is that it is extra cold before the sun comes up and winters in Yellowstone can be colder than -40° although -25° might be more usual. Still, that is pretty cold! So the good news? Well, the sun doesn’t come up until about 7:40am unlike summer when it rises at 5am! OK, later start time, colder weather–not a bad trade off since we can add layers. Let’s bundle up and head out. We’ll have breakfast when we get back.

Thirty minutes before sunrise, as the sky begins to brighten, we have gorgeous muted colors all along the western horizon. Be sure to keep your skin covered, it’s cold out here!


No slouching, let’s get out there . . .

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Rose Creek in Winter White

Yellowstone’s Lamar Valley is  a sparkling winter wonderland, and the Lamar Buffalo Ranch is an ideal mid-valley location with a bit of civilized warmth from the frigid winter surrounds. The ranch was instrumental in saving bison from extinction in this country in the early 1900’s. Today, although not open to the public,  the ranch hosts educational opportunities through the Yellowstone Forever Institute and the National Park Service’s Expedition Yellowstone.

Let’s walk up to where Rose Creek splits into three separate creeks as it races down into the valley to join the Lamar River. The trail is hard packed, but let’s put ice-traction cleats on our boots for safety. It is a little after 10am and about 8 degrees, but with no wind, it feels much warmer.  What a beautiful day! Don’t forget your sunglasses.

Let’s go . . .

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Roundabout Ramble in Henry Coe

I’m sitting here at home, watching the snow fall and the temperature drop. Currently the snow is almost 10 inches deep registering a balmy 1° and forecast to hit -24° overnight. Taking a rest from shoveling, which is best done in 3-4 inch increments, let’s reminisce about a delightful day hike in California’s beautiful Henry Coe State Park this past November. With the unusually high, and desperately needed, rainfall levels in October, the greens have sprung back to springtime shades. Henry Coe is California’s second largest state park (largest in Northern CA) encompassing 89,164 acres. It is a sprawling wilderness of ridges and steep canyons in the Diablo Range. Today we will wander a bit and see what we can see, so grab your gear and let’s go.

Come along into the woods . . .

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Winter Wayfaring at -12 Degrees

It dropped to -22° last night, but with the crystal-clear blue sky this morning, the sun is warming up the landscape. At -12° and not a breath of wind, it’s time for a winter wayfaring experience near home. It is just so beautiful. The sparkling snow clings to everything it fell on over the last 24 hours. Be sure to dress warm though, it is still very cold outside and we don’t want any frostbite on fingers, toes, or nose. It is so nice to still have farmland within our city limits. Wintertime aspens, long piles of hay, and the Bridger Mountains that define our eastern edge, all covered in sparkling white.

Bridgers frame aspens

Wayfaring with me . . .

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Mummy Mountain Meander

There is one thing I can always count on when I make my biannual visit to California, and that’s another great hike with my good friend. This time we head to Coyote Lake-Harvey Bear Ranch, a 4,595-acre regional recreation area off U.S. Highway 101 in the hills east of Gilroy. We are at the southern end of the park entering through the Mendoza Ranch Entrance. It is early afternoon on an overcast day, but the Bay Area has had so much rain in the last month the bright green grasses look more like spring rather than mid-November. Let’s see what other surprises await us as we climb Mummy Mountain.

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Continue to the trailhead . . .

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Five-Geyser Day

What an absolutely gorgeous day in the Old Faithful area. The sky is so blue it looks like God Photoshopped it! There is no wind making 50° feel much warmer. Most everything except the Visitor’s Center is closed for the season which translates into very few people and bring your own lunch. I want to check if the rangers are still noting eruption times for the most predictable geysers at the Information Desk in the VC. I’ve yet to see Castle Geyser erupt and I’m hoping today is the day. WOW, we are in luck. Old Faithful is due to erupt in two minutes. Well, that’s give or take ten minutes, but Castle Geyser is expected to erupt 45 minutes later. A beautiful day and very few people making for a quiet, relaxing stroll around Upper Geyser Basin. Thar she blows!

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Continue our geyser walk . . .

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Firehole Sunrise

The three-mile loop road known as Firehole Lake Drive is amazing in the autumn. At sunrise we see the warmth of the sun battling the cold air, low clouds, massive amounts of thermal steam, and fog. It can take hours for the sun to finally break through. During that process, we meander through an eerie, cloaked landscape that envelops us. Welcome to a Firehole sunrise.

pre-sunrise

Making our way to the lake . . .

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Artist Paintpots Sojourn

Along the Gibbon River, between Norris and Madison Junctions in Yellowstone, is the often ignored Gibbon Geyser Basin. Unless there are bison, elk, other ungulates (hoofed animals), or the occasional coyote feeding in Gibbon Meadows, people pass by this area on the way to Old Faithful or Norris Geyser Basin. The most popular and most beautiful collection of thermal features in the Gibbon Geyser Basin are found along the 1.1 mile loop trail called Artist Paintpots. We walk about 1/3 of a mile through a young lodgepole pine forest which is reestablishing itself after the 1988 fires. So let’s head out and take our time in this colorful collection of thermal features.

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Onward to beautiful colors . . .