Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Winter returned to our part of NW Wyoming today and with it came the rosy finches. This is a small bird that travels in a large pack and likes the high country. The only time we see them on our place is in the dead of winter when it is just too cold and snowy up top. It is rare to see one alone and not uncommon to see several hundred in a flock. They have a strange habit of flying right at you if you disturb them and I have seen the ones at the back of the pack fly right into a rock because they were more concerned about the bird in front of them then where they were headed. I have also had them eat right out of my hand when it has been especially snowy. I think they are just not that familiar with humans and so have very little fear of us.

I am more concerned than ever about our coyotes. I haven't seen any sign of either one of them for several days now. The day after I took the photo of the female our house was buzzed by a small plane. I know it wasn't our friend Bill because he is one of the best pilots I know and this guy flew like he was taking lessons. He flew far too close to the house and the llamas for my comfort. I mentioned it at sewing yesterday and Tina said she heard the exterminator is back in the area which is what I was afraid of. In this case they exterminate coyotes. The plane and the sharpshooter are paid for by the State Sheep Growers Association and all it takes is a phone call from a concerned rancher to have them in your area. By law they cannot kill an animal on private property but our land is surrounded on all sides by BLM and the animals don't know where the lines are. To be fair, just about every cattle rancher in the state has cows that are calving right now and a coyote probably doesn't care too much whether it is a lamb or a calf he is having for dinner. On the other hand, like all predators the coyotes will go after the easiest meal and anything that has a mama looking after it is going to be harder to take down than a cottontail or a jackrabbit and heaven knows there are enough of both of those in the area to keep a lot of canine bellies full. With an inch of new snow on the ground I decided to go for a hike this afternoon to see f I could find tracks. Lots of bunnies, no coyotes.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Golden eagles are magnificent birds. For one thing, they are huge. Their wingspan is more than six feet across and if you are ever lucky enough to get close to one you feel a little bit like Alice in Wonderland. Although they haven't received the same amount of press as their bald cousins, they faced many of the same issues and for years their numbers dropped until their future was uncertain. Also like their cousins however, they have started to recover, and sightings are more and more common. We were delighted to find we had a pair that frequented our property when we purchased almost fifteen years ago. I do not know what their lifespan is but I suspect the ones we are seeing today are descendants of that first pair. During only a couple years of that whole time have we seen three eagles all summer long, meaning they raised a young. For the last two years the pair has pretty much moved in during the winter months and we see them on Tower Rock almost every day. They seem to have adapted to these strange two-legged creatures running by their perch once or twice a day and I suspect they may even look forward to our presence as we scare the cottontails out of hiding along our route. Yesterday as the sun came up I was greeted by the usual silhouette on the rock. Then, as I walked by the living room window, I caught sight of goldie's partner sitting atop the ridge much closer to the house. I grabbed the ever-present camera and walked out the back door to see if I could get a shot of the eagle in the light. Although they look like big black birds from afar, you quickly realize how they got their name when you see one sitting in the sun. Their heads are a beautiful golden shade that absolutely glows in sunlight. I had taken a half dozen shots when this one decided to fly. I am so thrilled I captured it in flight against the backdrop of the rocks. I really think I will have to paint this.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

I slept in a little this morning and woke to a world painted in shades of blue and salmon. It was much more subdued than our usual sunrise but no less beautiful. Maybe Mother Nature is wearing her Sunday dress. If so, the minister in the pulpit is the golden eagle perched atop Tower Rock. What a majestic silhouette he presents!

When I went out to feed the animals I noticed a flurry of agitated magpies about a quarter mile away. Magpie and raven activity is a great indicator of predator presence and being aware of bird activity is one of the secrets to successful wildlife watching. In this case I was frustrated by a large boulder that was blocking my view of whatever was upsetting the birds. By the time I finished feeding the commotion was over so I decided to walk down and see if I could find fresh tracks to explain the earlier hue and cry. What I found was a few fresh remains of a rock dove. The Falcon Strikes Again! (I just had to say that. Doesn't it sound dramatic? It brings to mind the cover of a DC comic book.) Anyway, I was sorry to have missed the event. I don't enjoy seeing anything killed but to see a falcon in action is really something. They streak out of the sky at phenomenal speeds and punch their victim out of the air. Then they follow their prey to the ground and finish them off. At least the end comes quickly for the pigeons.

Yesterday was a day of several great surprises. I got the notice saying my "Hollyhocks and Hummingbirds" coat has been accepted to the Mid-Atlantic Quilt Festival (MAQS). This is the first time I have applied to this show and the first time I have entered my quilted clothing anywhere so I am pretty excited about the acceptance. Then, yesterday evening, I noticed Pepper running full speed to the side of her corral. Knowing there had to be something disturbing her I grabbed the camera and quietly opened the front door. There, just 50 feet away, was one of the coyotes. She turned and looked right into my eyes as I started snapping. I am really mad at myself because I was so excited to see her there that I didn't pay any attention to my shutter speed and out of a dozen photos only the two of her rear end are in focus! I am also a little worried because I only saw one dog and they always seem to travel as a pair. I heard shots in the distance yesterday morning and I hope her mate has not been killed. Coyotes are regarded much the same as rats to most ranchers. In fact there is a bounty on their heads so shooting a coyote is actually profitable, unlike killing a rat. I'll be watching for the pair for the next few days. I hope I am wrong and he was just over the hill and out of sight.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

I belong to several quilting guilds, the most traditional of which is the Paintbrush Piecers based out of Cody. Each year the Guild presents a challenge to its members. I try to participate, in part because I want to support the group and it is sometimes like pulling teeth to get people to contribute, and in part because I just can't resist a challenge! Different people make up the challenge rules each year and as a result we have some very interesting contests. I will admit I whined quite a bit this year. For one thing we were given six (yes, six!) fabrics that we had to use. On top of that, the main fabric was a fat-quarter of novelty fabric with bright hot-air balloons all over it and we were told we had to use at least half of it in our piece. Then the theme we were given was "Go Wild" which didn't seem to me to correspond with the fabric at all. I guess you can tell I am still whining about the rules! A few months ago I sketched out a design for a round quilt that looked like you were looking down at the top of a balloon. I just couldn't get excited about it however, so I let it sit on my drawing board for weeks. Then a few weeks ago during my daily morning meditation (aka my five mile run) I suddenly had a brainstorm. I would interpret the theme as "Into the Wild Blue Yonder" and I would turn my round flat quilt into a three-D fabric sculpture. From that point on the project became much more fun and I finished it yesterday. I started by blowing up a balloon and then taking a Sharpie marker to it and dividing it into eight segments. I took some measurements, transferred the drawing to paper, added quarter inch seams and presto - I had my balloon pattern. I then pieced each section, quilted it with Timtex as a middle layer, sewed the sections together and turned it right side out. I have to say the last part was a bit like giving birth. Ken insisted there was no way I could turn all that fabric through that small opening and it took me about an hour of pulling, pushing, tugging and some swearing to prove him wrong. Once I had my balloon I needed a basket. That part was easy but it soon became obvious that it needed some occupants. I have never worked with polymer clay but I've never been one to let a little thing like ignorance slow me down so I charged ahead with making a clay boy and girl to ride the balloon. My only regret was that I spent so much time on their feet which no one can see. You will have to take my word for it that he has really cute bare feet in sandals and she is wearing darling little Mary-Janes. I have no idea how the finished project will be accepted at Guild. But at this point I figure even if they disallow my entry it has been well worth it in the entertainment it has provided me for the last few weeks!

I also finished a couple more postcards for the Heart2Heart project yesterday. The top one is called "Storm at Sea" and was made up as I went along. The background is a small piece of hand-dyed satin I had left over from another project. I wish I could find more uses for the satin as I love the way it takes dyes and the beautiful sheen it retains. The bottom one is called "Birdwatching" and it was fun to make as I just used my scissors like a pencil and cut an image of my cat from the gray and white fabric as he sat looking out the window of my studio. The bird leaves a little to be desired (okay, a LOT to be desired) but I decided to not get too picky about the whole thing. You can see another of the finished postcards in Tuesday's post. I plan to mail them all out on Monday.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Timing is everything and we just didn't have it yesterday! Mary called at 8am just as we were getting ready to feed the animals to tell us Wyoming Game and Fish were on their way to her place with the chopper. They just had to collar some elk on Heart Mountain first and they would be at her ranch within the hour. We hurried through the feeding and jumped in the car to go see the action. It takes almost a half hour to get to Mary and Luis' ranch even though it is just a few miles from us as the crow flies. In my opinion their place is one of the most beautiful in the world and I am so happy they are adamant about protecting the land and wildlife. The weather has warmed up some but it is always colder near the river and the wind was starting to pick up just a little. We decided to climb a steep hill across from the house to get a better seat for the event. The view was unbelievable. We could see one herd of several hundred elk grazing in Mary's pasture and their presence in front of the mountains and the river was simply breathtaking. There was another smaller herd of about 100 just to the south in another of their pastures. The very light icing of snow on the ground changed the colors of everything. It looked like Mother Nature had placed a piece of organza on the land. To give a little perspective - in the picture to the left there are a half dozen elk in the front right side. These are not small animals so you can get some idea of the expanse. At one point a pack of coyotes started howling in the distance. Then another pack answered them from behind our location. Even though the scene was remarkably peaceful and relaxing we decided after almost two hours that we had better go back to the house to warm up. It was obvious something had delayed the helicopter. We had a cup of tea but decided to head back home as it was approaching lunchtime. Just as we walked in our front door the phone rang. It was Mary saying the chopper had arrived and they were capturing elk. She described a scene of total chaos with animals scattering in all directions. The men from G&F decided to zero in on the smaller herd and had flown low enough to drop a net over several individuals. Then one fellow jumped out of the aircraft and tranquilized the captured animals so they could apply the GPS tracking collars. In retrospect, I think it was better to remember the peaceful view from atop the hill rather than the madness that followed.

Simply driving out of our place is often an experience as we get to view quite a bit of wildlife within a few miles of our house. The pronghorn travel in groups this time of year and these two are part of a small herd that is grazing the BLM land next to us. Between getting to see them and seeing the elk herds I feel like the drive to Mary's was worth it even though we missed out on the main event!

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Tina left a message last night saying our usual local Tuesday sewing get-together would be cancelled this week. To tell the truth, I was relieved. Because of the month beginning on a Monday this was one of those odd times when my Billings art quilt guild (WAV) and the Cody guild (PPQG) met on consecutive days. As much as I enjoy the social aspects of quilting it does tend to cut into the actual time spent creating! The trip to Billings on Sunday was a little scary with icy roads but by the time I came home that afternoon the roads were clear. Last night at PPQG in Cody it was time for the wrap-up for our 2006 secret sister. I have had fun this last year designing and making a different bag each month in which to put small gifts. The one pictured here is the last one. It was fun to make with all the bright colors. It has a solid round bottom and is reversible. I added belt loops for the ribbon closure. I hope my secret sister enjoyed receiving them as much as I enjoyed making them. She moves to Arizona for the winter so I guess I won't even know until she returns in the spring.
Today I worked on postcards for the Heart2Heart Project spearheaded by Karey Bresenhan. She has quilters from all over the world making fabric postcards which she will then collect and send to injured service men and women for Valentine's Day. I have avoided getting caught up in the whole fabric postcard thing till now but I have to admit, it is kinda' fun. The postcard shown here is titled "Chocolate Sunrise over Purple Mountains". The sun is made from a candy wrapper (Valentine's Day - get it?) that was first fused, then stitched to the hand dyed background. I added a little gold metallic paint to make it glow. The background fabric is left over from the yards I dyed for my "Stardust" quilt.
We are waiting for a phone call from our friend, Mary. If the winds aren't blowing too badly tomorrow, she is expecting people from Wyoming Game and Fish to show up at her place to collar a bunch of elk. She has a herd of about 250 animals on her place right now. They are planning to fly over the herd in a helicopter and dart about 15 of them to be collared so they can track their movements. Mary has invited Ken and I to come along and photograph the event. As much as I hate the idea of the animals being disturbed so much, it is truly a once in a lifetime chance to record the whole thing. I hope to have some great photos to post if it happens. If the wind is blowing too much they will have to postpone. To be continued...

Saturday, January 20, 2007

The coyotes were extremely vocal last night. They woke us several times with their howls - not an easy feat since we live in a fairly sound-proof house. Each time we got up to check on the llamas. They seemed awake and wary but safe. We went for our normal run at about 8am and a half mile from our house we were suddenly stopped in our tracks by a particularly enthusiastic round of coyote howls. It seemed like it went on forever. Then all of a sudden a new tone entered the symphony. A much deeper lone howl sounding like a train whistle - the wolf! The coyote voices were silenced immediately. It is my theory, based on limited observation and not one shred of scientific proof, that the coyotes howl like that during the daytime hours when they have a kill. Ken and I decided to alter our normal course and run into the breaks to the north of our house to see if we could find some evidence of what was causing the uproar. The idea was that if we could find a carcass we could set up a blind at a safe distance to get some decent photos of the coyotes and maybe even a wolf. Despite a solid hour's worth of searching high and low we were unable to come up with anything worthwhile and so headed back to the house to get ready to go to Pahaska Teepee for a day of snowshoeing. We picked up our good friend Mary and headed toward the East entrance of Yellowstone Park. One of the perks of driving down the Northfork this time of year is the certainty of seeing bighorn sheep. We weren't disappointed as we came across three separate gatherings of the animals and managed to get a few good shots.We spent the next few hours enjoying the snowy trails and then headed home. It is snowing a little bit right now. Good for finding fresh tracks tomorrow, bad for my drive to Billings.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

The elk left yesterday. We could barely see them up on the hill of Section One to the north of us. I wondered if maybe they were following some sort of herd memory to the spring in that area but we discovered a more likely reason for their movement later in the day. Ken and I took the 7 boys for a four mile cross-country hike in the afternoon. He trailed four and I had three and we decided to go look at the area where the elk had been hanging out. Along the way we came across some fresh wolf track, the probable cause of their sudden departure from our prairie.
It felt a little like Noah's Ark here yesterday as both the golden eagle pair and the coyote pair decided to pay a visit. The eagles assumed their usual position on Tower Rock, keeping a close watch for any unsuspecting cottontails foolish enough to cross below them. The coyotes are getting bolder. They decided to cross right through the llama corral. That was until CrowFoot spotted them and ran after them at full charge. Knowing Crow his main goal was to see if these strangers wanted to play but the coyotes weren't taking any chances and they turned 180 and beat it to the other side of the fence. That, of course, just got Crow more excited and he ran even faster with a flurry of black-tipped feet and a few jubilant head tosses thrown in for good measure! Coyotes have their wily reputation for a reason and once they were on the other side of the fence they just sat and watched the llamas antics. I swear I could hear their little coyote voices singing "na-na-na-na-na!" This pair has been coming around for about eight or nine months now. I assume they are mates but I really don't know for sure. One is certainly bigger than the other and seems to be the leader while the small one just follows along and often sits and waits while the larger one hunts. As much as I enjoy watching them I am saddened that they seem to have chased off our bobcat population. We used to see cats at least once a month or so but we haven't seen a single one since the coyotes arrived.
I have spent much of the last day making little clay people for a project I am working on. My brother Garth and his family gave me a book on making clay figures last Christmas and this seemed the perfect time to try it out. I hope to have photos of the finished piece by next week.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Not only were the elk still hanging around this morning, they were closer to the house than ever. For some reason the llamas were much more aware of them today and the same seemed true of the elk. I'm not quite sure what 15 llamas thought they could do to hold off 80 elk but they did have the advantage of the high ground as well as being on home territory.
It seemed to work as the elk were obviously nervous and eventually retreated to the back pasture where they have settled in once again. What a treat it has been having them here for the last few days!
The weather seems to have finally broken and Ken and I were actually able to get a nice run in this morning after the elk retreated. As we approached the irrigation ditch we saw one of our two resident golden eagles rise out of the cottonwoods. Since that is not a spot we see them too often we were curious to see what the attraction was. When we arrived at the spot the eagle had been we found the feathered remains of a magpie. It is unlikely the eagle killed the smaller bird - it was more likely the victim of one of our frequent falcons. The eagle was simply cleaning up the pieces. It was pretty amazing to find such a collection of black, white and iridescent magpie feathers. For some reason they are pretty illusive. I will have to check but I don't think it is legal to collect the feathers so they may simply have to be gifts to the wind.

Monday, January 15, 2007

It was an amazing weekend with lots of visual and cerebral stimulation. Because of the unrelenting cold - five days in a row now since we've seen more than 5 above 0 - it has been impossible to run comfortably. Instead, we've replaced our morning jog with afternoon walks, bundled up in fluffy down and layers of fleece covering every exposed body part. The slower pace has forced us to take in more of the details of our surroundings and allowed us to enjoy tracking the many wild animals that cross our property. I've even convinced Ken to join me in my regular yoga sessions, done in front of the DVD player in the downstairs rec room. Oh, he's whined some about the idea of a mountain man nearing the age of 60 doing something so, well, so girlie, but I promised him no one would ever know. Y'all won't tell, will you?
On Saturday evening we went to the home of some good friends for "movie night". We watched both "Rivers and Tides" and "What the bleep do we Know?" Talk about overload! "Rivers and Tides" is an absolutely amazing documentary about the work of Andy Goldsworthy and should be required watching for every artist in the world. "What the bleep..." is a classic with a cult type following and really should be required watching for everyone. Needless to say I slept very little Saturday night and the sleep I did have was inhabited with very large, graphic images of amazing things.
We got up on Sunday morning and as Ken cooked eggs from our chickens (which, against all odds, continue to lay in this frigid weather!) I looked out the window and wondered whose horses were wandering into our yard. I then realized there were far too many animals for horses and it suddenly dawned on me that our front pasture was being taken over by elk!
We have had elk on our property before but not since the oil rigs arrived a few years ago and never in such numbers. I counted eighty head and I am sure I missed some. We spent the next couple hours watching through our spotting scope and snapping hundreds of digital photos. It felt like we had received some very special gift and we both felt extremely blessed. It is now a day and a half later and the elk have moved to our back pasture but they are still there and I hope they stay for a while.
Once we finally got outside to feed the llamas, who were wondering what on earth these intruders were and why their breakfast was later than usual, the chukars moved in to get their share of spilled grain. With the light the way it was I couldn't resist and I pulled out the camera yet again to take a dozen chukar shots. I think they are some of the best photos I have taken of these birds. I shot everything in RAW so I plan to blow up several of the photos into poster size. I am just so happy we are able to play a part in keeping these beautiful animals alive through this cold spell as they are really susceptible to this kind of weather.
I am finding that I have had idea after idea for new quilts, clothing and paintings in the last 24 hours. All I need to do is figure out how to go without sleep and life would be good!

Sunday, January 14, 2007

I received three nice pieces of quilt news in the mail yesterday:
1. A letter from Primedia Gallery (owners of Quilter's Newsletter and other quilt related magazines) asking for permission to show my quilt "Yip-EEEE, Wyoming" in their six-month show featuring recipients of the Colorado Quilt Council's Award of Excellence.
2. A letter from "Cody After Five", a women's group in Cody providing details of my role as feature presenter at their February gathering. I will be speaking on "The Quilt as Art".
3. A contract from the Board of Mallo Camp to teach 2 classes at their June gathering in Four Corners, Wyoming. I don't teach many classes but I really enjoy teaching there, partly because of the location in the Black Hills and partly because of the people and their willingness to try new things.
I really feel like 2007 will be my year to make major headway in my creative endeavors!

Friday, January 12, 2007

Our wolf-watching trip to Yellowstone did not have an auspicious beginning. This was an organized event through the Greater Yellowstone Coalition and was to take place at the Yellowstone Association Institute in Lamar Valley. We were to start our drive around 11 am Monday morning which would allow for an unrushed 5 hour drive that would get us there in lots of time for appetizers and a glass of wine. I woke at approximately midnight on Sunday night feeling so sick that I knew the chances of my going anywhere that day were slim to none. My night was over at that point as I went from bad to worse with some pretty ugly gastrointestinal symptoms. Anyone who has had the joy of experiencing the seemingly omnipresent norovirus will know what I mean. I tried to convince Ken to go on without me the next morning but he insisted it was both of us or neither of us. I'm actually glad he did as I don't think I could have looked after the animals if he had left. I spent most of Monday sleeping or wishing I was dead and than awoke Tuesday felling quite a bit better although still ridiculously tired and sore. We decided to go ahead to Yellowstone at that point and arrived at the Institute at about 1pm Tuesday afternoon. Everyone else was already out doing something so we had the option of relaxing around the cabins until they returned or doing something ourselves. We opted to strap on our snowshoes and hike the couple miles up behind the institute to the original wolf pen that housed the Druid Peak Pack when wolves first returned to Yellowstone in 1995. I have been to the pen numerous times over the last ten years and it always gives me chills to imagine those amazing animals creating a new home in this unfamiliar territory. I swear Ken has been there before as well but he insists he has not. By the time we got back to the cabins it was 4pm and the others were returning from their activities so we all boarded an Institute van and headed down the road to the site where the wolves from the current Druid Pack had been hanging out earlier that day. They didn't disappoint us as we soon sighted nine of the 11 known individuals in the pack in our spotting scopes. They were too far away to get any decent photographs but it was incredible to watch them interacting with each other through our scopes. I am glad I had that chance to see the big dogs as that was the only time I saw them while we were there.
We got up early Wednesday morning to make another effort to catch sight of the wolves. Although we were unlucky in our primary goal we had a great time watching five coyotes feeding on the few last remains of a bison carcass. Our canid triumvirate was complete when we spotted a red fox crossing the plateau near treeline.
A little later a group of us decided to strap on our skis and try out the Bannock Trail that runs from just inside the Park two miles to the town of Silvergate and then back. Of the eight of us that went Ken and I were the only two with back country gear. The rest had cross country skis which put them at an advantage on the relatively flat trail over our much heavier and bulkier set ups. No one was in a hurry however so it was a very pleasant couple of hours skiing in the beautiful river bottom. When we returned we took a few minutes to drive into Silvergate and visit the photo gallery of Dan and Cindy Hartman, Wildlife Along the Rockies. Their work is beautiful, from the smallest martin to the magnificent wolf shots.
On Wednesday evening we had the pleasure of watching and listening to a presentation by renowned Yellowstone filmmaker, Bob Landis. His footage of wildlife - particularly wolves - in the Park is unequaled.
One of the unexpected joys of the trip was the chance to catch up with old friends. I first met Wynelle when she volunteered at the Institute six years ago. She returned the following winter with her husband Chuck and the two of them are some of the nicest people you will ever meet. They have volunteered every year since and I was just so happy to see them both there.
It was unusual to have a class at the Buffalo Ranch catered as you are usually expected to cook your own meals while there but everyone who ate the catered meals said they were delicious. Unfortunately I wasn't able to stomach anything until Thursday evening so I could only take people's word for it!
We woke on Thursday morning to a changed world. The temperature had dropped dramatically and the snow was falling and blowing steadily across the roads. The drive home was slow and careful with some of the worst roads being inside the Park and after we turned south at Laurel.

One of my best sightings of the entire trip came on the drive home between Fromberg and Bridger. I looked out the side window and saw, just at eye level in the branch of a sagebrush in the ditch, a meadowlark. He was puffed up to three times normal size and was seated such that I was staring right at his brilliant yellow breast. There wasn't a hope of getting a photograph as the roads were far too icy to think of pulling to a stop let alone getting turned around somehow. It was a very poignant as well as beautiful sight because there is no way a meadowlark should even be anywhere near this far north this time of year. He must have been injured and his chances of surviving this bitter cold spell are surely none. It was a great trip and one that I will remember for a long time despite the unfortunate stomach virus that arrived exactly at the wrong time!

Sunday, January 7, 2007

On Friday Ken and I went to Cooke City to do some back-country skiing. It never ceases to amaze me that we live in an place that gets less than 10 inches of moisture a year - meaning very little if any snow - and yet we have an area less than 60 miles away that gets some of the biggest snow fall of the country. Of course getting there is not so easy. Especially in the winter. Cooke City is really a place that shouldn't even exist in this day and age. It is truly one of the last of the old west towns. Once the first snow flies there is only one road in and out of town and that is through the northern part of Yellowstone National Park. For us to get there from our side of the mountain this time of year we have to drive several hours over treacherous mountains roads, park at Pilot Creek Trailhead and then snow machine 9 miles to Cooke. I have a Yamaha RX1 4-stroke. It is pretty sweet. I admit I have had it up to 80mph on the groomed flat but it really just a means of transportation for Ken and I to get us to some decent back-country skiing. I have had it stuck just enough times to know I really don't enjoy digging it out.
We took our machines to the top of the trail at Henderson Mountain then donned skis and skins for the mile hike back to some great tree skiing. Avalanche conditions have been rather scary lately and it is something that is always on your mind when you are out in the mountains on skis. We use randonee gear (sometimes called all-terrain skis) with bindings that allow us to switch between climbing up or skiing down. When we climb we have skins on the bottom of the skis that have a heavy nap allowing you to grip the snow. We made a few nice runs and then started our climb back out to our machines. By the time we got home it had been a 10 hour day with maybe four hours of skiing. It was worth it! It certainly beats standing in line at the hill after paying your $50 only to ski down marginal snow.
We leave tomorrow for four days in YNP and hope to do some more skiing plus some snowshoeing while we are there. I will take all the camera gear and will try to get some good winter animal and terrain photos. I will also take some beading along to work on. I am giving the presentation at WAV (art quilters guild) this month on beaded edges and I have created a couple samples that I am pretty pleased with.

Thursday, January 4, 2007

This is the start of my site discussing life in and around the Northwest corner of Wyoming.
I am part of another blog as a member of "Women of Artistic Vision" but I have decided to create my own site because I find myself wanting to post about things other than those having to do with the group.
For example, Ken and I drove down to Cheyenne on Tuesday to attend the Governor's Inaugural Ball. It was a long, dangerous drive for a short event but the Ball was fun. We had been watching the weather for some days and it looked like we would have clear sailing. We were wrong. Cheyenne has an entirely different weather system than the northwest part of the state where we live and the roads were icy and treacherous for the last 50 miles or so. We woke yesterday morning to find the highway closed due to dangerous conditions and so decided to drive the long way home through Laramie and Riverton. I-80 lived up to its reputation and we had a few heart-pounding moments as the car slid sideways down the road. We saw lots of jack-knifed tractor trailers and more than a few vehicles in the ditch. Needless to say we were happy to get home last night!
One of the messages on our machine when we returned was from a man with the Federal Agriculture Department. He wants to come out and talk to us about the wolves that have been traveling across our place. It seems they want to collar these guys to track them. They are concerned about the pack settling into this area that is relatively populated with ranches. We have yet to actually see the animals as they go through at night but we have had a lot of fun following their tracks in the morning.
Strangely enough Ken and I are headed to Lamar Valley in Yellowstone for four days next week on a winter wolf-watching expedition. Of course for us it is just an excuse to spend some time in the Park skiing and snow-shoeing. Winter really is the best time to see things (except bears!) in Yellowstone as the crowds are non-existant.
I have been working on a variety of quilting projects the last few weeks and will have images to post soon.