Friday, November 14, 2008

Apology

I owe an apology to anyone who stops by to read my blog on a regular basis or even on occasion. I assure you I have not fallen off the end of the earth, although it may certainly seem that way.
I do have excuses - several of them in fact:
1) My computer had a complete meltdown. This caused (and continues to cause) frustration beyond a level I could have imagined. We have a back-up external drive but in some ways that made everything worse. Getting things out of the external drive and back into the computer is just not an easy process. For one thing, all the programs are gone, so even though I can go in and retrieve documents I can't open them. I have three years of photographs that I have managed to recover but they are completely jumbled with no organization at all. And strange things seem to have happened to my settings in the breakdown - I just discovered yesterday that I had a bunch of blog comments stuck in my anti-spam filter. So it is not that I am ignoring those who have written - I just didn't realize you had!
2) My biggest excuse for disappearing from life as I know it is that the paperwork for my judging certification process is due December 31. I have been working on this for many months, trying to do some every day, but now that it is crunch time I am not even sure I am going to make it. I have been spending an average of 6 hours a day sitting in front of the computer typing for the last month and I don't yet see the end in sight. After the melt down I am terrified I will lose everything just as I finally get it done so I have been e-mailing it to my remote account at the end of every day. By the time I get through typing line after line of judging decisions I am too burnt out from sitting at the computer to even consider adding to the blog. It is too bad because we have had an exciting month with a grizzly sow and her cub traveling through twice and creating major havoc in the llama pen as she goes by.
3) My third and final excuse is that I have just plain taken on too much in the last few months. I had an email last week from a woman I like and respect, asking me if I would head up a fund raising committee for a cause of which she is the chair. I really hated to disappoint her but as I started hyperventilating at the idea of taking on another task I realized something had to give. I added up the number of committees and Boards in which I currently play an active part and the total was eight. Of those, I am the committee chair or executive member of six. Each one has its own unique and time consuming responsibilities and duties and I can't just blow them off. It became very clear to me that the time has come to just say NO! I need to work on limiting my involvement in the various organizations and not take on any new duties in the next year or two. I have not had time to paint or sew for several weeks and I notice a distinct effect on my attitude toward everything because of it.
So, having said the above, I think I am going to have to take a break from blogging at least until my judging paperwork is in the mail. I will continue adding my small contributions to the WAV blog and to the Fast Friday Fabric Challenge blog in the meantime, but I really need to concentrate on getting my paper out the door.

So Happy Holidays everyone and I hope to meet up with you again in 2009!

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Meet Pete

Our chicken coop is a necessary evil of sorts. We would rather allow the chickens to roam the yard freely, but we quickly discovered that was a death sentence for the tasty birds. So for a number of years we have kept them contained in a clean, spacious enclosure, free from the threat of owls, eagles, bob cats, coyotes, fox or numerous other dangers. In the summer they get a fan, in the winter they have heat and, I have to say, overall they appear pretty content. The coop has a totally enclosed inner area that contains the roosting boxes and a spacious outside area that is accessed through a windproof tunnel. The interesting thing about the chicken coop is the number of visitors it receives besides the resident hens. It is really amazing to see a full grown cottontail move back and forth through the chicken wire as if it isn't even there. The baby chukars often find their way in, although they seem to have a harder time getting back out, and we often have to rescue them at the end of the day. The pigeons will not go through the chicken wire. They just won't. They will, however, squeeze their way under the plywood door to the interior of the coop on occasion.

I tell you all this so you can picture the situation of Pete.

About a week ago Ken and I were in the llama corral when Ken pointed to a pigeon on the ground nearby. "I don't think he can fly." said Ken. I walked closer to the healthy looking bird only to have him move slightly away where he stopped again. After several times of performing this dance step I declared Ken's statement to be accurate. Throughout the day we watched the bird as he hung around the corral, carefully moving aside when the llamas got too close. He was easy to identify as he has a different coloration than most of the other pigeons. The bird books call it a "checkered" pattern. That evening we decided we needed to do something. We knew he would not survive a night on the ground and there was another, more insidious danger. One somewhat unique feature of pigeons is the amount of water they need to survive. They are heavy drinkers and we knew this guy had no place he could go to get the needed liquid. He didn't look sick so we decided to see if we could put him inside the chicken coop for the night. It really wasn't too hard to pick him up, although he made it clear he wasn't thrilled about the process, and I placed him inside with the bigger birds. We were able to put an extra water container on the ground just in case he couldn't figure out the system and we knew he could always slip under the door if it was too unbearable for him.



The next morning I looked in the coop and there lined up on the roost were three hens and Pete the pigeon. He tolerated us adding feed and water and later that morning we saw him walk out of the pen like it was the easiest thing in the world. As I got close to him he sort of fluttered away and I thought "Hmmm, I guess he's cured!" The next morning I went to feed the chickens and what did I see? Three hens and Pete on the roost. He had let himself in the night before. As he has done every night since. He comes out and walks around all day and then tucks himself in at night. He is welcome to stay as long as he wants. I know he doesn't lay eggs but he makes up for it in the smiles he brings each morning!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Birthday Fun

Yesterday was my 50th birthday. As a general rule, I don't pay a lot of attention to the annual passing of time, but there is something about marking a half century that makes it notable.

I received some wonderful gifts: a "tabula rasa" journal from my sister-in-law and her family (something I have been quietly coveting for a couple years now), a digital photo frame from my sister and her family, a shirt and a set of coasters printed with the image of one of my quilts from my mom and dad and a beautiful outfit from Ken.


Ken's other gift to me was a trip to Red Lodge for dinner and a visit to the Nature Center. I have wanted to visit the Center for some time but always seemed to be in a hurry to get somewhere else when I was in the area. It is a sanctuary for wild animals that were injured or abandoned at a (usually) early age and were unable to survive in the wild. They have a large number of creatures ranging from black bear and elk to sandhill cranes and a grounded magpie.

All the animals are safely enclosed behind wire fences, but I found if I focused the camera just right, I could minimize the appearance of the wire in the photo.

The wire is pretty obvious in this photo of "Bob" but it was such a great pose I decided to show it to you anyway. His yawn makes it obvious why I worry about Frank the cat running into these guys in the yard. Two nights ago we had an exact repeat of an incident that occurred three years ago except that in this case it was Ken who was involved instead of me. Ken was outside at about 4pm and just happened to look up and see Frank in the front yard nose to nose with the bobcat that has been hanging around. Ken jumped up which made the bobbie take off. Instead of running for the house like an intelligent kitty, Frank took off after the much larger animal, delighted to see he had him on the run! Ken chased the both of them up the hill until he and Frank collapsed on the ground out of breath and exhausted. The bobcat never even slowed down. One of these times Frank is going to meet up with a cat that isn't going to run and then he will be in real trouble!

Fall Color

Last weekend Ken and I went up into the Beartooths for a late summer hike. We opted not to take the llamas because the area we wanted to visit sits in a section of the '88 burn and the downfall is prevalent. We have been to this particular lake several times and there is no trail that gets you there. It is a steep bushwack over varied terrain which makes it hard for even humans to navigate. The reasons for going to this spot are its solitude, its incredible beauty and its fat, hungry cutthroat trout.



The colors in the undergrowth were amazing. We are not used to seeing a lot of red in the fall trees here, but the huckleberries more than made up for it. The crop must have been especially good this year because we were still seeing the berries hanging off every bush. We were deep in grizzly bear territory and signs of the large bruins were everywhere. The picture to the left is of a bear scat that is much larger than the length of Ken's boot. You can see by its color and consistency that the griz are eating all the huckleberries they can stuff in their bellies before the snow flies.




One of the amazing things about the lake we went to is the presence of an ancient wikiup, probably a remnant of the Sheepeater Tribe. It is in much worse shape now than it was last time we visited. I think it has reached the point in its demise where it is deteriorating rapidly. I feel honored we have had the opportunity to see it over the years before it totally disappears.




The rain started just as we were finishing our dinner of fresh trout and rice and continued all
through the night. We were dry in our trusty two person tent, although it felt pretty close seeing as how we have been spoiled by having the llamas carry a bigger tent for most of the last decade. We got pretty wet on the trip out the next day but I was still glad we had gone.


A side note - After my last post Annmarie asked about Quatro's name. I'm afraid the answer is that I was lazy. Ken and I usually make a game of naming each new baby llama that comes along but since he wasn't home when Alexis had her newborn, I decided to name him for the order in which he arrived - the fourth baby of this year.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Introducing Quatro

Alexis lived up to her reputation for hanging onto her babies just a little longer than everyone else. Quatro, our fourth and last baby llama of 2008, is a male born on September 10 at 4pm in the middle of a cold fall rainstorm. In the photos he is about 18 hours old. You can see he has figured out how to nurse because he has milk on his mouth in the first picture.
Since the first three babies were all pretty much solid in color, this little guy comes as quite a shock! He definitely takes after his father. He is going to be much woolier than the other three as well.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Whooo's There?

For a few minutes last night, I thought I was in the middle of a Harry Potter movie! I had gone to bed, turned off the TV and the lights and was drowsing off into neverland, when suddenly, at the edge of my consciousness, I heard an unidentifiable sound. Unidentifiable sounds are not generally a good thing when you live miles from your nearest neighbor and have a bunch of animals you care for. I threw on my shoes and ran for the door, grabbing the giant flashlight along the way. As I opened the door the noise became much more distinct but no more recognizable. It was a loud, repetitive shriek but not the scream I associate with mountain lions. My first thought was that one of the baby llamas had been injured somehow. I stepped outside and pulled the door closed behind me, worried about Frank the cat following me into the darkness. As I took a step forward I realized the noise was not coming from the llama enclosure, but rather was directly in front of me and headed my way. I turned on the flashlight and couldn't believe what I was seeing. There, not 25 feet away and coming straight at me were not one, but two great horned owls, one behind the other and slightly to its side, both with wings fully outspread as they seemed to be coming in for a landing on my head!

No doubt the smart thing to do would have been to dive for the door, but I was totally frozen in place, completely mesmerized by a sight so beautiful I was having a hard time taking it in. They angled upward as they reached me and landed on the roof directly above where I was standing. I took a few steps forward to look up at them, turning off the flashlight so as not to blind them with the light. The security light from the pole by the llama pen allowed more than enough light to see their giant silhouettes on the roof. One of the two took off almost immediately and resettled on top of the llama shed 100 feet away. The other sat on the roof for several minutes while I looked up at it until it also flew off only to land close by on top of the hay pile. The whole time this was taking place they never stopped screaming back and forth for a second.

I was so pumped up by the whole thing I didn't get back to sleep for at least an hour after coming inside. I was also trying to make sense of what I had seen - for one thing, I have heard great horned owls before and they make the normal "hoo, hoo, hoo" sound you expect them to make, not the ear-splitting screech I had just heard. Also, my understanding is that it is rare to see two of the giant birds acting together like that. Then, in talking to Ken this morning, he came up with the most likely explanation. What I had witnessed was not a pair of owls hunting together, it was a fight for territory. That is why they were so unconcerned with my presence and focused on each other instead. With the number of bunnies and rodents we have around here, this must be considered a prime location for an owl and they don't want to share.

Last night's visit was actually my second amazing bird sighting of the day. Earlier I had been on my way across the yard to my studio when a prairie falcon suddenly came up out of a cedar bush right in front of me. I ran back to the house and grabbed the camera knowing there was probably a freshly killed pigeon in the bush and hoping the falcon would be back to finish his meal. As I went back to the studio I glanced in the bush to see if I could see the target and there, instead of the pigeon I was expecting, was a headless baby chukar (the first thing falcons do is chop off the head of their prey). Falcons will only take their victims in the air so the poor baby must have been spooked enough to fly rather than his usual mode of running away from threats. Little did he know his flight would be his downfall. The falcon must have been sufficiently scared by me because he didn't return. I felt badly about the kill for two reasons - first, I'd rather see the predator bird stick to his usual menu of squab and second, I hate that he didn't get to eat his prey after managing to kill it.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Here Kitty Kitty




I wasn't planning on posting this morning because I have a busy day ahead with lots to do and not a lot of time to do it. But I couldn't resist adding my latest photos of an early morning visitor. I had a feeling he was around last night just by the way the llamas were acting but I didn't actually see this guy until this morning. He is quite small - probably this year's litter, but with the three baby llamas around, the older llamas are incredibly protective right now and they chased the poor thing into a hole in the rocks where I was able to get a couple of nice shots. I would have liked more light but I will take what I can get with these elusive cats.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Christmas?


When I was chairperson of the Yellowstone Quilt Fest five years ago, I was trying to think of a way to raise money for the event that wouldn't put the burden all on one or two people. The typical solution for quilting groups and events is a raffle quilt, but it is often a big job that falls to a few hard working individuals. About that time I read a post on quiltingarts.com that talked about a block challenge. Ah Ha! A way to share the work - at least the task of creating the pieces for the quilt top. The quilting and finishing is still usually the work of one generous volunteer. To get people to participate we offered prizes for the top three blocks based on "people's choice" of the displayed blocks during the show. The concept worked and the challenge has continued to this day. Every year I say I am not going to make a block because I don't have time, and every year I find myself scrambling to get one done at the last minute. This year is no exception. I finished my 12" (finished) block this morning and I will put it in the mail to this year's chairperson tomorrow. The theme this year was "Cowboy Christmas" and I thought it might be a perfect chance to use some of that "barbed wire" trim I bought a few months ago. It should lay flat once it is quilted.
I haven't seen the mule deer hanging around for a few days so it was with surprise that I opened my blinds to discover a group of five standing right outside my window yesterday. They did a great job of trimming the weeds and pruning the cedar bushes before making their way over the hill.
I sometimes feel I am a prisoner in my own home these days. It is totally self-inflicted. I just can't bring myself to open the door when there are 20 or more baby chukars milling around my front yard. And it seems like there are always 20 or more babies milling around my front yard! The exception is the early morning when they are tucked away in the rocks from the night before. I would never claim the chukars around here are tame, but there is no doubt they are trained to my voice. As soon as I go out in the morning and say "hello" to the llamas, I hear the instant "chuc, chuc, chuc" response from the comical birds. They know full well I always have an extra scoop of llama feed that will get thrown on the ground for them to share (not always graciously) with the cottontails. The group in this picture is one family that lined up this morning waiting for me to finish with the llamas so I could get to the all important task of providing them breakfast!
One more baby llama picture, if you can stand it! This photo shows the complete unpredictability of color results. Licorice is rubbing noses with her sister, Dusty, born to Jake's Girl a year and a half ago. Neither one of them resembles their mother or the father and they obviously don't look much like each other!

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Speed!


I have two photos I want to share even though they are never going to win me any prizes for ability!
This first one is my favorite photo of Licorice so far. It is hard to describe the simple joy to be had from watching all baby llamas find their legs, but I will admit to having a special spot in my heart for this little one. She has more energy than the other two combined. She rarely sits still and when she does slow down it is usually due to curiosity about some new discovery in the corral. She has already managed to get her nose scratched by a haughty Frank the cat more than once!

This second photo is of one of a pair of Sphinx moths that showed up in the garden last night. Also called Hawkmoths, they are often mistaken for hummingbirds. If you look at the wing action it is easy to see why that is the case. If you click on this photo to enlarge it you will get a better view of the amazing proboscis this creature has for getting at nectar deep in flowers.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Babies

Ken and I raise llamas solely for our own use and pleasure. I remember back when we first became aware of the possibility. We were on an airplane flying from Cincinnati to Wyoming, headed out on another of our many backpacking trips. We had already purchased property in the Equality State (Wyoming was the first state to allow women to vote) but were not yet living here full time. I was in my mid-thirties, Ken in his mid forties, and we were lamenting the fact that our packs seemed a little heavier on every backpacking trip we took. Ken is severely allergic to horses and we knew that would never be an option for us, so we were discussing the fact that there would come a day when we would no longer be able to take extended trips into the backcountry because of our inability to carry that much weight for days on end. Ken was reading a Smithsonian Magazine when he suddenly turned to me and excitedly said "You've got to read this!" It was an article on llamas and their suitability as pack animals. It talked about the fact that they were much more plentiful in the U.S. in recent years, that they had come down substantially in price as their utilitarian purpose was outweighing their show animal status and - this is the big one - that they were non allergenic!

We could hardly wait until that trip was over to arrange a visit to a llama farm near our home in Cincinnati. It was truly amazing to see Ken enter the barn and touch the animals without the least indication of his asthma setting in.


As soon as we moved to Wyoming and built a place to stay we set about finding a pair of pack llamas. We ended up purchasing three experienced male packers that were soon followed by two females and two very young, untrained males from a ranch that was going out of the show llama business. Since then we've witnessed the births of 17 babies, we've lost one of our original males to old age and we've given away 6 animals that were never going to be packers and are quite happy as lawn ornaments at their new home.


We decided last fall that we would breed four of our females and that, no matter the outcome, this would be our last round of babies. In just a few weeks I will turn 50 and Ken will be 60 before the end of the year. We had three new males born last year and, with proper care and training, they will be packing for us for the next twenty years. I hope we will still be taking trips into the backcounty 20 years from now, but I suspect they will be more in the way of day trips than extended camping adventures. To keep making more llamas when we will only be faced with finding homes for them someday just doesn't make a lot of sense. So it is a little bittersweet to watch this year's crop come forth in the last week. Babies are just so much fun!



All four of our females were due the first week in September but llamas tend to be incredibly unpredictable. On Sunday we arrived home to find two new babies in the yard, one obviously several hours old and the other being born minutes before. The first one, a male born to Cinnamon, we named Olympus to celebrate the games ending that day. The second was precocious from her first seconds and hasn't changed a bit in the few days since. She is our first and only completely black llama and we call her licorice. Her curiosity and courage are amazing and I just hope she can stay out of trouble! She just couldn't help coming up to smell the camera everytime I tried to take her picture. The third was another little female born yesterday at noon to Pepper. She is the only one of the three that shows any variation in color at all and we have named her Nutmeg. We have one more chance to get another male for packing when Alexis delivers, but we may have to wait a while for that. Her last baby was called Tardy because she held onto him for 380 days, more than two weeks longer than usual gestation!

Monday, August 25, 2008

White Elephants



Ken arrived home Thursday night and couldn't wait to head to the mountains for a hike. On Friday he suggested we spend the next day walking back to our property from the top of the Beartooths. This is a hike we have done several times in the past and it is not for the faint of heart. It requires leaving a vehicle parked on top of the plateau and walking about 7 miles across the bumpy tundra to the edge of the mountain, then taking the old cow trail straight down
another 5 miles - a descent of almost 6000 feet - followed by a final 3 miles across the baked prairie desert to our home. It is a hike you only do every two or three years because it takes that long to forget the pain from the time before. Of course I said "let's do it!"




We parked the car and started walking about 10 am on Saturday. It was much cooler at an elevation of almost 11,000 feet but still warmer than we expected at 55* or so. The first few hours were extremely enjoyable with the rolling hills and arctic wildflowers still in bloom. The arctic gentian were everywhere. This is the only place I ever see them on a regular basis and it is such a treat. My favorite wildflower, though, has always been the elephant head. I remember the first one I saw near Banff back when I was still in my teens. I couldn't believe the amazing resemblance of each little bloom to the actual head of an elephant, complete with ears and trunk and even tusks. So imagine my joy when I discovered this incredibly rare occurrence at a remote location on the very top of the Beartooth Mountains - a cluster of albino elephant heads! I GPS'ed the spot so I could find it again when I had my close up lens in hand.





We stopped for lunch about 1:30 as we reached the front edge of the mountains. There are only a few routes off the top on this side and of those, probably half, like this one, are virtually unknown to all but a few. The trail we were on was the one used by the Tolmans to move their cattle up and down to their summer grazing allotment on the Shoshone National Forest. For a number of reasons - primarily losses due to predation by bears and wolves - they have not used the allotment for the last two years and there is some concern the trail will simply disappear from dis-use. The next 2 1/2 hours proved to us once again why this trail is used so infrequently. Going downhill at such a severe angle for a prolonged period of time is absolute hell on knees, ankles and hips. By the time we got to the bottom our packs felt twice as heavy as they had starting out and every muscle in my lower body was protesting in pain. One thing people tend to forget when getting ready for a big hike is to cut their toenails. Mine were fine but Ken had a big toe that was severely cramped the whole way down. He was limping badly for the last few hours and every step on the downhill was agony for him. His toenail was totally black by the next morning and I am sure he will lose it.





As we got lower in elevation the vegetation, wildlife and temperature all changed significantly. As we neared the prairie at the bottom of the mountain I heard the telltale ch-ch-ch-ch-ch of a rattle snake. Sure enough, there he was, stretched across the path in front of me until Ken chased him away with a stick. I tell you, I can find those critters anywhere! A friend once told me he thought my middle name should be Medusa and I think he may be right! A little further along I discovered one of my favorite high desert creatures. Horny toads are not very fast so they have to rely on blending in to avoid being eaten. They do a pretty good job of disappearing into their surroundings.





Once home we collapsed into chairs. It was a while before I could summon up enough energy to make a light dinner and then it was off to bed with the dirty dishes left in the sink until the next day.


The next day we woke up sore and stiff. We both know the best treatment for such a condition is a little bit of the "hair of the dog" so it wasn't too hard to convince Ken that we should take a short hike back to the white elephant heads when we went up to get the vehicle we had left behind. The plan was to take my close up lenses and get some photos of individual blooms but I was totally bummed to find that, despite a solid hour of searching everywhere I could think, I simply cannot find my lenses. I know where and when I had them last but they have disappeared. I am sure they will turn up eventually but for now it is a real disappointment. We went up and did the approximately 6 mile loop anyway just to stretch our sore legs and to get a few more photos of the area.





We have had three more Search and Rescue calls in the last few days and I am hoping we don't get a call for at least another day or two that requires a lot of hiking - particularly downhill. As it is, the three that came in have followed the path of the last few: the first was for a missing pair of horse riders that did not return to their vehicle after going for a ride north of Cody. The problem was that during the time they were gone the forest fire burning in the area had tripled in size due to strong winds. We were not looking forward to having to go into the fire zone to search but before we made it that far they showed up at another trailhead further north. They had been scared by the increasing smoke and had changed their plan. The second came at 11pm at night and was for a missing three year old. The child was located before we made it as far as the pavement. The third page woke us up at 3:30 am Saturday morning and was for a 17 year old who had been partying on a mountain near Cody. She had headed back to her car but became disoriented and had called 911 on her cell phone. We were at the mailbox when the call came in that she had been located wandering along a dirt road by a sheriff's deputy in the area.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Chukar Time

Spring is the time of year we tend to associate with the birth of baby animals and birds in this part of the world. Chukars are an exception to the seasonal rule. It is sheer conjecture on my part, but I assume the late hatch is due to their diet of grass and other seeds. Why try to raise a brood before the harvest is mature?

Every year it seems that late July rolls around and Ken and I lament the fact that there are no baby chukars. Then, within a week or two in early August, it seems as though the little grey balls are crawling over every space imaginable. This year was no different, other than I think it is truly a record crop. I have verified at least four flocks with 6, 11, 14 and 15 chicks. It is always the same: the two parents share in the duties of guiding and protecting their young. On rare occasions you will see a single parent with one or two babies - never more - and they may try and join another complete family unit. It is sometimes permitted but it is made very obvious to all that the joiners are at the bottom of the pecking order and are expected to follow and eat at the end of the line.


Yesterday I looked out the back window and was astonished to see the family of 11 plus mom and dad all in the enclosed patio out back. That is pretty bold! Mama walked back and forth across the bridge while keeping a close eye on her exploring young while papa stayed on top of the rock as lookout.





The funniest thing was when one of the babies discovered a shady hole in the garden wall. He hopped on up and all the rest soon followed. I was rolling on the floor laughing as I watched them. They resembled nothing more than a Volkswagen full of high school students trying to break the world record for how many bodies they could stuff in to a small space! Meanwhile, mom and dad started going nuts as they suddenly lost sight of all their small charges. Eventually the youngsters had enough and jumped out to rejoin their frantic parents.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Catch Up

The months from June through September of 2008 will go down in my personal history book as the summer that wasn't. It isn't just that we had the wettest spring in history, making the prairie green and the mountains white far later in the year than normal, or that the brutal heat of the season didn't even manifest itself until August was well under way - no, it is the combination of those things plus many more. The biggest thing preventing this feeling like summer even now is that Ken and I have not been to the mountains even once. In fact, Ken hasn't even been around for most of the last few months. His work has kept him in Cincinnati and he has only been home twice in the last 45 days - the first time for three days which we spent visiting his folks in Jackson Hole and the second for four days, three of which I spent in Douglas helping judge the State Fair!

That is the other thing that is different about this year - I have been traveling a lot in an effort to work toward my NQA Judging Certification. Getting the required experience means attending a lot of shows which means putting in many miles. I have also been spending a crazy amount of time doing the paperwork required for the program. It is surprising how intense and time-consuming the whole process is.

Many months ago we talked to Ken's daughter about having her son spend a couple weeks with us in July and August. The plan was that Allmon would arrive, we would load up the llamas and we would head into the Beartooths for a week or so. That was before we realized I was going to be a work widow for much of the summer. Allmon and I got along fine despite the change in plans but it was surprising to find out how little time I had to call my own while caring for a 12 year old for 14 days! Ken actually came home for a couple days while Allmon was here and we drove through the Park and down to Ken's mom and dad's place for a few days. While there I took the obligatory photo of Ken and his grandson next to the "mushroom" rock.

Since Allmon left I have been trying to catch up on my quilting and other chores but I still feel like I am behind for now.

Even Search and Rescue has been a little strange over the past few weeks. We seem to be getting lots of calls but they are resolved before we get to do anything. For example, we had three calls in the last week - the first was for a horse wreck in an area of the Beartooths with which I am totally familiar and I would have loved to hike in to assist. But it just so happened there was a med-evac helicopter in the area and he was able to fly right to the guy and load him on before we could even get to the trailhead. Then, a couple nights ago, there was a call for a missing child in Cody. Happily for all concerned he turned up at home before I even made it as far as my garage. The latest call came yesterday morning when it was announced that four kayakers were overdue on the Clark's Fork River. The Sheriff sent up our plane to locate them just to find they were all fine and had just decided to spend an extra night on the trail.

My photos are completely out of sync so I will just stick them all at the end and hope you enjoy seeing them.










This first one is called "Dreams of being a peacock". This bunny knows exactly where the shade is and he spends every day next to this aptly named "rabbit bush".

Allmon and I went for a hike while he was here and discovered this pack rat trying out his climbing skills in this crack in the rock!

















Here are Ken and Allmon at "the mushroom".

















Last but not least - A photo of a baby swallow. Doesn't he look mad?!

Friday, August 1, 2008

Dog Days








Red sky in the morning, sailor's warning... Unless you happen to be living in the American West during fire season. Then every morning is rosy and every evening too. We have two large fires burning near us: one in Red Lodge, Montana just to our north and one west of Cody to our south. Some days the smoke goes right over the top of us and we don't notice it much. Others, like today, it seems to land on us and it is hard to even breathe. Right now it is 102* outside my door and, since I don't have air conditioning, not far behind that in here.





It really was a dog day of summer a couple days ago. We have a very small pond in back that we fill with water from the hose. We keep it topped off in the summer as a watering hole for the local deer and the birds. Since we don't stand there and ask for ID, however, we often find the coyotes and the bobcats stopping by uninvited to partake. Since they tend to get their drinks at dusk or during the night when Frank the cat is safely in doors, we don't begrudge them their sips. This guy is a bit of an exception. He is probably this year's pup. He is not very big but he is bold. I chased him away three times only to turn around and see him sneaking back into the yard. I finally gave up and brought Frank indoors for the morning, much to his chagrin. But I have a feeling this guy's boldness may have caused his downfall. Two days ago I was on my morning run, trying to breathe shallowly so the smoke wouldn't burn my lungs quite so badly. I was about a mile from the house, near the front gate when I suddenly I caught a whiff of something even more foul than ash. I made like a search dog and followed the scent cone to its peak where I found a dead coyote about the size of my visitor. I don't know if he was taken down by another coyote, a big cat or the neighbor's dogs but I was sad to see him go.

One of the funnier sights I see around here in the summer months is the plethora of pooped cottontails. We have so many of the smaller rabbits and they are not the least bit spooked by our presence. When it gets above 90* or so, I sometimes have to watch where I walk so I don't inadvertently step on top of a lethargic lapin. This guy had all he could do to open one eye as I took his photo.





I saw this pair this morning and had to take their picture. What do you suppose they are doing? Dancing? Mating? Dry land synchronized swimming? Don't they know it is too hot for any of the above?!

Friday, July 25, 2008

Flying HIgh




Today was the day to capture a couple of photos of local flyers.





This morning, as I finished feeding the llamas, I looked up to see this goldie on Vertebrae Rock right beside the house. Although I am used to seeing golden eagles in the area, and they seem quite used to us as well, it is rare to see them this close. He (she?) seemed unconcerned by my presence and I was able to get at least 20 shots - all in RAW - before he simply walked to the other side of the rock and out of sight. I will say, I didn't like the way he was looking at Frank so the poor cat had to stay inside for the rest of the morning through no fault of his own.






This afternoon I snapped a couple shots of this swallowtail on the butterfly bush. He is pretty beat up but the colors are still beautiful.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

potpourri

The last thing I said in my previous post was that I was going to try and be more regular in my writing. That was certainly my intention, but then things went a little screwy. Two days after my last post I sat down to write and discovered I was unable to access any blogger sites. Not only couldn't I post to my own space, I couldn't even pull up any site that had anything to do with blogger.com. Nothing else on my computer seemed to be affected and I soon ascertained that no one else I knew was having the same issue. For the next five days I spent far too much time trying to figure out what was wrong. I changed my browser, I deleted cookies and temporary files, I closed one eye and then the other, I even deleted the last update from Microsoft thinking that had something to do with it. Nothing worked. Then I got up one morning, clicked on my blog and up it popped. I will probably never know what happened. I don't think it had anything to do with my actions; it just decided to start working again. I decided to catch up the next day as I knew I would soon be leaving on another trip and would not have computer access for a while. I sat down at the computer and realized I didn't have any Internet access. Period. Not only that, I soon realized I had no long distance telephone service either. When watching the news at noon I found out that service was down all along the State line and would be out for the rest of the day. So much for my good intentions!


Last Wednesday I left for Colorado Springs for a week. The trip was related to meetings that Ken had to attend for a company for which he sits on the Board of Directors. We have attended this gathering every year for the last fifteen and it is really the week of the year when I become totally and absolutely spoiled. The meetings are held in a different location each year - last year we went to Rome - but they occasionally return to old favorites, like the Broadmoor. This was my fourth visit to that amazing place. This is no small gathering. This year the attendance was almost 800 people. One of the most amazing things about the week is the entertainment provided. They typically break the group into two and each section has a night at a location with a private concert. In this way I have seen The Beach Boys, Glenn Frey (The Eagles), Emmy Lou Harris, Ricky Scaggs, Alison Krause, Vince Gill, Amy Grant and, this year, Huey Lewis and the News, up close and personal. In almost all cases I have had my picture taken with the performers as well as with many other wonderful entertainers and speakers including my favorite, several years ago in Switzerland, Margaret Thatcher. The week is amazing for many other reasons as well - the food is incredible, the events are spectacular and the company is thoroughly enjoyable. I was still glad to get home once the week was over!


Search and Rescue is in full swing right now. We get one or two calls a week and have to be ready to run at a moments notice. The night before I left for Colorado we had a call to a lake near here. Because of the location I was the first to arrive upon the scene where I found a gentleman in severe pain from a spinal injury. I knew he was going to be a perfect patient when the first thing he did was offer me his bug spray even though he was in terrible shape. We ended up transporting him by boat to the boat ramp where we were able to get him up the bank and into the waiting ambulance. I hope he is okay.


It seems like I have had one issue pop up after another over the last month. When I think nothing else can possibly go wrong, it does. My three year old computer totally died, as did my 7 year old front-loading washer followed almost immediately by my refrigerator of the same age. In both cases they said they couldn't be repaired so I have had to replace them. The replacement fridge, delivered the day before I left for Colorado, is defective and I have not yet been able to convince Sears they need to replace it. They keep insisting I need to have it fixed under warranty even though it was a defective product, not one where something broke down after I had it for a while. My car, with just about 100,000 miles on it, is making really bad noises and they are saying they will probably have to replace the 4-wheel drive system. They are also saying it will be incredibly pricey to do so. On last month's credit card bill there was a charge for a stay at a motel in Jackson Hole where we have never stayed. Numerous calls resulted in them admitting they had made a mistake and promising to credit our bill. Instead, this month I open the bill to discover not only haven't they issued a credit, they have charged us again! Many more calls resulted in profuse apologies from them with another promise that it will be fixed next month. We will see. Then I arrived home Monday to find one of my front windows shattered. I suspect the culprit was a pigeon although there is no sign of the poor thing anywhere. Because of our remote location, the estimate to fix the window is almost $1000. That's what I get for bragging about my good luck last month!


It is funny how the wildlife seems to know when we are gone for a few days. I always see more animals within a few days of returning from a trip than I do at other times. Yesterday there were mule deer everywhere. We have two huge bucks hanging around plus several mamas and a few babies. This bambi has terrible scars on its face. I suspect it met up with the resident coyotes at some point.

This morning I went on my usual run. For some reason I decided to stop about halfway across the lower field, pretty much in the middle of nowhere. All of a sudden a big jack rabbit sprung up from a sagebrush not two feet away from me. What magnificent animals they are! Their ears are way too long, their eyes are too far apart and their feet are beyond belief. It makes me wonder how many of the creatures I pass every morning without even being aware of their presence!

I saw the first group of chukar babies yesterday. There were only six little ones tagging along behind mama so I hope there will be other groups around soon.
If I can ever finish dealing with all the issues that have been popping up I have a number of quilts to finish. I can't believe it is almost August. Winter will be back before we know it!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Summer has Arrived!

Carol asked to see a photo of my new do, so here it is. Short and grey. I like it - I am not so sure Ken is too crazy about it though. I will let it grow out a little but I think the grey is here to stay.

I may have spoken too soon about the lack of snakes this year. Ken got home last evening and had an encounter with a rattler this morning. The little sucker was curled up inside one of the laying boxes in the chicken coop. That is why it is not a good idea to stick your hand in blindly searching for eggs unless you have looked first. Luckily, Ken had. Unlike me, he decided to give the grabber pole a try and has declared it a success. He was able to relocate the angry asp quite a ways behind the house.

I have convinced Ken I have become rather attached to the darn pack rat living in the grill. So when we go into town later today we will buy a live trap and see if we can add him to our pest relocation program.

I haven't had my road bike out for a while so when I got up yesterday morning and saw the total lack of wind I decided to forgo my normal run and do a bike ride up the canyon instead. It is not a very long ride - a total of about twenty miles round trip - but it offers some interesting challenges. The first ten miles are uphill into the wind. I would not even consider riding the canyon if there was any breeze at all at our place. It could be dead calm at every other spot on the planet and you could still be assured the wind would be howling down that stretch of road. But as long as you are willing to tough out the west bound leg, the ride offers some amazing rewards. The scenery is spectacular, the traffic is nonexistent and the return trip is ten miles downhill with the wind at your back! So I loaded my bike in the back of the Tahoe and drove several miles down gravel roads until I hit pavement. There I unloaded my bike and pointed west. I struggled to maintain a speed of 13 miles an hour on the out leg but once I turned around I thought I was Lance Armstrong! I easily kept the speed at 20 miles an hour or more on the way back and even topped 42 mph on the one short, steep downhill. I will have to make a concerted effort to trade in my run for a bike more often.

The mule deer have been incredibly active lately. It seems like every time I step out the door I startle several. This gal came by yesterday and she was so intent on eating the sweet yucca blooms that she didn't seem to mind getting her picture taken.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Critters

Our friend Mary said she has seen more snakes this year than any in recent memory. I was surprised because we have had the opposite experience. I can count the times I've come across a snake on our place since April on one hand; definitely not the norm for around here. Still, I'm on full alert every time I enter the feed shed. That is where the mice hang out so it only makes sense the snakes will show up eventually. Yesterday I approached the shed with my usual caution. There is a wooden door jamb at the entrance and I always stomp my feet on it a couple times to announce my arrival. Snakes don't see or hear too well but they are good at sensing vibration and will usually let you know if they are around. I listened for a minute after signalling my presence and, not hearing anything, entered to go about the feeding. The shed is not very big. It measures about 10' x 10' and seems much smaller once you are inside because of the hay bales on one side and the four large garbage cans filled with llama treats and chicken feed on the other. There are two old coolers stacked behind the garbage bins that the big feed pail and scoop sit on top of. I reached out and lifted the pail and there behind it, right at the level of my belly button, was a good sized rattle snake coiled and ready to strike. I backed up and considered my options. Now I know logically that a rattler cannot strike more than about half its body length and I knew he wasn't about to launch himself through the air at me, but I have to admit I was feeling a little uncomfortable with his obvious irritation at my presence. I did some quick calculating and decided that as long as he would keep himself visible I could go about the feeding and leave him to hunt down mice the rest of the day. I also know from past history that the vipers don't usually hang around the same place for more than a day, so I thought I could let him be and he might just get rid of a few rodents for my kindness. After Ken got bit by a rattler in the shed last year, I bought a grabber pole like the kind used in zoos. But I wasn't real excited about trying it out for the first time on a snake that was at waist level and pretty irritated. It took me about twenty minutes to finish feeding and that snake didn't stop rattling for any of it. Which I appreciated because it let me know exactly where he was every time I went in or out of the shed. Once I was done I closed off the cat door so Frank wouldn't stumble into a bad situation and I left the snake to his hunting. You can bet I searched the shed well before I entered this morning but, as expected, the slinky visitor had moved on.
We had a short, violent storm move through last night. It couldn't have lasted more than ten minutes but it still managed to cause some flash flooding in the coolies around the house. This morning I looked out and realized the blooms were all gone off the yucca in the garden. I am sure glad I took a photo yesterday when it looked so perfect! At first I thought the denuding must have been caused by the wind and rain last evening but then I heard a "ping, ping" coming from the gas grill and I suspected a different culprit. Sure enough, I went outside, pulled the cover off the grill, opened the lid and there, lounging in a bed of fresh cut yucca blooms was a lousy packrat! They have got to be one of the most destructive animals alive for their size. They collect everything! This guy looked at me like I was interrupting his morning tea and obviously expected me to close the lid and let him get on with it. Where was that rattle snake when I really needed him?! I called Frank the cat and showed him the critter and Frank did just what I expected - he turned tail and ran. He has been on the losing side of a battle with a packrat before and the memory was obviously still painful. So I did what I had to do. I got a broom and I chased his little butt out of the grill and into his hole in the garden wall. I am sure he will be back tonight and will probably collect the columbines this time!
A couple things I forgot to mention in yesterday's post:
1) I represented Search and Rescue by riding a four wheeler in the Fourth of July Parade in Cody on Friday. I am pretty sure that is the first time I have ever been in a parade and it was kind of fun. I was shocked by the hundreds of people lining the streets - I think the citizens from all the surrounding burgs must have come to Cody for the event.
2) I went totally gray on Wednesday. No, I wasn't scared or worried into it. I just got tired of putting chemicals on my head every few months to keep my hair blond. I have been dying my hair for more than twenty years. For the first few years it was just highlights but it wasn't long before I went to all over color to hide the incoming gray. My hairdresser said she would need to cut it short to get rid of all the color and I told her to go for it. I now have much less hair than either my father or brother. Debra warned me that people will assume I have been sick and she is probably right. Yes, it is that short. I had a friend take a photo of me so I could email it to Ken. He gets home in a couple days and I wanted to give him a chance to get used to the new look before he arrived. After all, he will have to look at it a lot more than I will. Lucky for me, Frank the cat and the llamas and chickens don't seem to care.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Catching up - again

Whew! What a month June was! It felt like I was away more than I was home - probably because I was.

For ten days of the last month, I was living out of a hotel room in Columbus, Ohio. I was there attending the National Quilting Association Annual Quilt Show and Convention. Even though the Show was only a three day event, I had to be there days ahead of time for the judging. As a Candidate to become an NQA Certified Judge I am required to assist at the judging of the Annual Show at least twice during the five year process. I must assist at least once before I can even submit my paperwork so I was anxious to get this first experience under my belt. It was all I hoped for and more. The certification program has a lot of candidates right now so there was no lack of helpers in the judging rooms. The judges were excellent and I learned more than I ever thought possible from observing their actions and words for the three full days of judging show entries. What I didn't expect from the experience was that I met a lot people with the same interests as me and made some new friends.

After the judging was complete I had a day off before the official opening of the Show and its classes. I spent the morning visiting nearby galleries with another Candidate from New Hampshire and then I helped out with last minute Show details in the afternoon.

The next two days were spent in the Quilt Judging Seminar taught by Klaudeen Hansen and Anita Shackelford. It was especially helpful taking this two day class after having spent three days in the judging room. Klaudeen and Anita are excellent instructors and I am amazed at how much they packed into 16 hours of instruction.

I had few chances to get out and actually take in the Show, but when I did, it was a real treat to see my two entries hanging amidst the more than four hundred quilts in the Show. I was actually represented by a third quilt, "Island 2" which was there as part of the special exhibit from "Sacred Threads". This was my first chance to see some of the quilts from that exhibit up close and the experience was every bit as powerful as I expected. "Sacred Threads" is the brainchild of Vikki Pignatelli and I was scheduled to take a full day class from her on my last day at the Show. It was wonderful! I would recommend her as a teacher to anyone. She is generous with her knowledge and accomplished at her art and I am so glad I finally got to meet her and take her class.

Since arriving home I have been trying desperately to get caught up with everything. It has been a struggle with one thing after another demanding time and attention. While I was gone I missed two search and rescue calls. The first was for a horse wreck in the back country. The guy was pretty busted up with broken ribs, flail chest and a punctured lung. Ken was out until 2am Columbus time helping out. I know because I called every half hour until he got home. He has always told me the hardest thing for him when he travels is when I am out on a call and he imagines all sorts of things going wrong. I have always accused him of over-reacting but now I know exactly how he feels! The second call was for a guy that fell off his raft in the river and went out of sight of his friends. He was found safe and sound a few hours later. Shortly after I got home we had another call. This one was for a car in the river near Powell. We had to send a couple guys into the river to check the vehicle for bodies before we could call in a wrecker to haul it out. Ken and Chris and I were stationed along the bank with throw bags in case the two guys in the boat needed help. The rivers are at an all time high right now and currents are unpredictable. It turned out the car was empty and it showed up as stolen from a ranch several days earlier.
It has been hot since I got back. The flower garden is in full bloom, including the volunteer yucca that we have allowed to flourish. I was out watering yesterday when I heard the tell-tale noise of a tiny visitor. I looked around to see this little hummer making the most of the honeysuckle blooms. I don't know how they do it - every year we have a couple of the little creatures hanging around for much of the summer even though there seems to be very little for them to eat in this desert environment.
I have a few more days home before I head out again. I will try to be a little more regular about posting this summer, even though I would rather be outside than sitting in front of a computer!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Summer in West Yellowstone

Each June, Ken and I attend the Annual Meeting of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. With the exception of last year, because of building renovations, the meeting is always held in West Yellowstone, a small community just outside the NW corner of the Park. I love attending this function, in part because the speakers are incredibly knowledgeable and inspirational, but also just for the adventure of the event. It is hard to explain to people who have never been to West Yellowstone why it has such a feel of the rugged west of old, but it truly does. When we left our place on Thursday morning, it was sunny and hot and I once again asked myself if I really needed to pack my down jacket and winter hat and gloves. Then I recalled previous years at the meeting and decided maybe I should throw in my long underwear just to be safe.






We took the direct route through the Park which meant up and over Sylvan Pass, through Fishing Bridge, Canyon, Norris, Madison and along the Madison River to West Yellowstone. It was a beautiful drive and we saw all the usual Park inhabitants along the way.






Friday was the first day of meetings. The schedule at the event goes like this: Five or six incredible speakers each morning after which you grab a bag lunch in preparation for the afternoon field trip which gets you back to town with just enough time to make the 6pm cocktails and dinner at 6:30 during which you get to hear another amazing speaker or two. I have to confess that the field trips are the reason I really love this event. This year I signed up for a painting workshop on Friday with Jennifer Lowe-Anker and an 8 mile hike overlooking the beautiful Centennial Valley in Idaho on Saturday.




As the last speaker was finishing up on Friday morning, we heard the distinct sounds of a storm moving in. All of a sudden the building was being shaken by wave after wave of crashing thunder. As we grabbed our lunches and pulled open the doors, we were all stopped in our tracks by the sight before us. Not only was the lightening flashing overhead like a mid-summer brown out in NYC, but it was snowing - hard! The white stuff was actually accumulating on the ground and it was cold! Many of the field trips ended up making alternative plans for the afternoon, including mine. Instead of painting out of doors as originally planned, we grabbed a conference room at a nearby hotel and settled in for a cozy afternoon indoors. Ken's hike was cancelled so he decided to play tourist and took the car back into the Park to Old Faithful where he spent the afternoon getting absolutely soaked on a wonderful solitary hike along the Firehole River.




There were 10 of us in the class being led by Jennifer Lowe-Anker. Jenny is an amazing individual for a lot of reasons. She is an accomplished painter, author, mother and adventuress extraordinaire. She is the widow of the world renowned climber Alex Lowe to whom she was married for almost 20 years before he died tragically a few years ago in an avalanche in Tibet. Her book, "Forget Me Not", is a memoir based on the life they had together with their three children. Her main medium for her artwork is cattle markers and she manages to create masterpieces with the lowly paint sticks. For the afternoon with us she put aside her traditional materials and concentrated on working with watercolors. Much of the afternoon was spent watching Jenny create three beautiful paintings and then we all got to practice on some small pieces of hand-made paper she brought with her. At the end of the class many of the participants had drifted away and there were only four die-hards left in the room with Jenny. She asked if we wanted her practice paintings and of course we said "yes!" We drew straws for the works and I got my second choice which is the bison painting you see here. The small painting of the yellow-headed blackbird was my attempt at using the hand-made paper. You need to know the bison painting was completed in about 10 minutes. One of the participants had asked for a demonstration on painting snow and this was the result of a few well placed brush strokes from Jennifer.


The snow continued Friday evening and we all marvelled at the cold even as we heard reports of temperatures in the high nineties on the East Coast of the country. One of the speakers Friday morning was an expert in the subject of "Global Weirding" (her term) and I have to admit it seemed an apt description of what was taking place.


On Saturday morning Ken and I got up at 5am so we could join the pre-conference bird watching outing. We picked up 51 species including numerous bald eagles, osprey, western tanagers, sand hill cranes and a peregrine falcon. By 8am we were back in the hall listening to a new round of wildlife and wildland experts. At noon 17 of us loaded into cars to head into Idaho for a challenging hike. It was a lot of up hill bushwacking over difficult terrain so most of the group went about half way and turned back while six of us continued on the entire length to get the full reward of the view down into Centennial Valley. I have never seen so many Glacier Lilies in my life. They were truly spectacular and I loved capturing some close up images.
One of the funny things that happened on the hike was that Laurie asked me if I had purchased my raffle tickets yet. The GYC meeting is also fun because they have a huge silent auction each year with dozens of great items up for sale and they have a raffle of about a half dozen spectacular prizes worth several thousand dollars a piece. They sell thousands of tickets to members from all over the world and then they draw for the winners at the annual meeting. It is a bit of a joke because the winners are invariably from somewhere far away and are never present at the meeting. Of course that doesn't stop us from buying tickets every year. So I answered Laurie that yes, I had purchased my tickets and I really thought I was going to win this year. I should explain that my father is one of those people who has the "lucky gene". Of the three kids in the family, I seem to be the one who has inherited at least a little bit of the magic. While I don't win as often as my Dad, and he certainly doesn't win all the time, my streak of luck is better than seems to be explainable by random chance theory. So it was that I was probably the only one not really surprised when they drew my name from the more than 30,000 tickets in the box. I had purchased six tickets and put my name on three and Ken's on the other three. I did not win the Grand Prize which was a luxury trip for two to Mexico; I won the fly rod and reel valued at $1000. The funny part was the reaction to my good luck, particularly by a certain portion of the male species. While many friends congratulated me enthusiastically, there was a portion of the population that exhibited obvious signs of envy. After the dinner, as Ken and I were standing by our table, a big man with a florid face came huffing up and stood directly in front of Ken. Ignoring me completely, he stuck his finger in Ken's face and said "You'll regret this you know! She doesn't want that rod! Do you know what this is going to cost you? She's going to want waders and clothing and all sorts of things and then she'll decide she doesn't want to fish in the first place. What a waste! I'll take it off your hands for $100!" I felt Ken's hand firmly grasp my arm and I knew the message he was sending was "Please don't punch him in the nose! Even though I know you really want to!" I wasn't sure I could control myself so I turned and walked away as I heard Ken saying "She can't wait to use it and its not for sale!"
As I walked over to the table to claim my prize I was stopped by two more men. Each said the same thing - "Do you understand what you have won? This set-up deserves respect and I hope you are going to take it seriously!" I was actually glad to grab the rod and make my way back to the room where I could examine it in peace.
The next morning Ken went down to the lobby to get coffee. When he returned he had a big smile on his face. I asked him what was so funny and he explained he had run into Phil in the elevator and Mike at the front desk. The first thing each man said "Tell Kathy congratulations. I sure wish it was me who won that rod!" Ken said the way they spoke was so wistful that it was obvious to him that, were I not already married, I would have at least two proposals coming my way. So after almost fifty years on this earth, I have finally discovered what men really want - a nice fishing rod!


For the drive home on Saturday we decided to take the scenic route through Mammoth, Lamar Valley, Cooke City and over the Chief Joseph Highway to home. It is a little longer that way (although we later found out Sylvan Pass was closed because of an avalanche and it would have taken us hours more to come home the "quick" way!) but it is worth it for the views in Lamar Valley. We saw a grizzly bear and a sand hill crane nest along with all the other animals and a lot of their young. I love this photo of two bull moose near the NE Entrance. There was a third animal - a cow - just out of sight but these two in the snow made for a great image.
So now I have a couple days to catch up before I head to Ohio this weekend. I know this was a really long posting and I am sorry for that but I will not get a chance to post many more this month and I really wanted to share the wonderful journey to the other side of the Park.