This winter I headed west to AZ with a dear friend. We took a new-to-us route across a large part of LA and TX avoiding the major cities. What a good decision that was! My thanks to Jerry and Wanda for the new route!
Our first night in AZ was spent at a wonderful small campground near Portal that friends had stayed at and recommended. We were very glad we stopped for the night. It was quiet except for the sound of the creek that ran along side the campground. I went out at night hoping for a clear dark sky and was well rewarded. I took a few images looking to the north (in this one you can clearly see the Andromeda Galaxy to the left of the Milky Way) and then some to the south. As I was standing on the bridge over the creek marveling at the night sky I noticed that the motion sensor light on the side of my trailer came on….. since there were lots of signs about bear activity I took the camera off the tripod, turned on my flashlight and started making lots of noise as I headed back to the trailer. I was happy with the images I had taken and was content to call it a night. Never did see what made the light go on and I was just as happy not to, it could have been a skunk or a bear!
After a few days visiting friends at Quartzite I went to visit another friend in Buckeye. One of the day trips we sometimes take is to the Desert Botanical Gardens. They often have special displays around Christmas and this year was no different. It featured a variety of very large plastic animals that were lit up at night. There were small info boards next to the displays with very brief info trying to tie the critters to nature or the desert in some way. The signs also said the critters were made of recyclable plastic. Personally I would have been more impressed it the critters were made of recycled plastic. Plastic critters aside it is always an interesting place to explore, I always find something new to enjoy there.
After going back to Quartzite for a week a few of us ventured west to Blythe, CA for a couple of nights at a county campground next to the Colorado River. Can safely say been there done that now. Blythe isn’t far from Q and has a couple of good grocery stores. The country around it is largely farming with hay the major crop. We did see a few Sandhill Cranes in the fields.
Not only are there moose around but if you get up very early and can locate some elk you my be treated to watching a bull elk taking care of his harem (this means watching over the cows and driving away rivals) and bugling.
As the moose rut progressed the bulls were getting more active. One morning we got to watch this bull drive away a younger one then chase the early cow first i n one direction then in another. They were moving at good speed and sent some photographers running. They can turn on a dime and are as agile as a lot of horses.
Down by the river the willows grow very tall and thick. This provides food for the moose and also hides them very well. I tend to not go into the willows, you never know what may be in there with you!
Still in the Tetons and enjoying the moose Had a clear night recently so I went out to see if I could capture the Milky Way. As always out here it is spectacular and humbling.
There is a river nearby and they tend to head towards it, the feeding is good there with the willows. But the willows are tall and thick so simply wandering in them to look for a moose is unwise. Fortunately when they decided to cross the river there was a wide clear spot upstream where we could watch.
Another September in the Tetons watching moose. I’ve been here a week and had some great opportunities so far. When I arrived it was very warm but that ended with a few rainy days and now it is clear and cold. Frost on the van windows the last two mornings. The rain down her bright new snow to the mountain tops.
The moose count has varied, one day 4 bulls and 4 cows, but mostly we’ve seen 3 bulls and a couple of cows. This morning it’s down to 1 bull and 2 cows. Not sure if he’s driven the other bulls off or what.
When the 3 bulls were here they were all sparring together with one exception, see the photos for more info.
The cows seem more active, watching people and chasing each other at times. We have to be very aware of where the animals are because they are big and fast and can get pretty darn frustrated this time of year. Watching a bull
thrash away at a bush then jumping around and trotting away can give you an glimpse of that. They are surprisingly agile given their size. Watching a cow chase another one away or a bull chase a cow brings home the fact these are not sedate harmless critters they are big and fast and not much will stop them.
Labor Day weekend in Yellowstone and the solar wind is arriving, this means possible Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights) sighting. Oh boy! I went out around 9 pm thinking I try to get some images of the Milky Way then stick around to see if the Aurora was
visible. Didn’t do much as far as the Milky Way went but I had picked out a good spot for the Aurora so about 11 pm I headed over there.
I could see faint color with an easily visible spike so I decided to stick around. I was there until after 2 am and it got darn cold but it was worth it! As time went on the color got better and pillars were visible.
I did move slightly so to be closer to White Dome geyser as it
went off. Imaging capturing the Aurora in the sky and the geyser with all it’s power from underground. The are some other geysers in some of the images, they were further away and I don’t know any names (if they are named).
After leaving the COE east of Badlands NP some friends and I headed to the Black Hills. We were thinking the higher elevation might be a bit cooler and a NFS campground might be rather quiet after the COE. Sure enough Robaix Lake NFS campground was just what we were hoping for. The evening we arrived I took a walk down to the lake. On the way I spotted what looked like a giant dandelion gone to seed.
Later that night I went back to the lake in hopes of capturing the Milky Way over the water. Sure enough it was there in all its glory, a sight neat never fails to awe me.
The next morning I was up and out to gain take the walk to the lake. I was thinking it
might be interesting to see some of the wildflowers with dew on them.
Later that morning I headed out to do the scenic drive called Spearfish Canyon. It is mentioned in so many of the travel magazines about the area I was curious to see it. Well, it is definitely a canyon, with the trees (fir or spruce for the most
part) coming right down to the road. About 1/2 way along I could start to see some rock outcroppings up high but nothing to make me want to stop. There is one very popular and impressive waterfall, Roughneck Falls, it’s well worth the detour and walk along the boardwalk.
At the end of the drive I hopped on I90 east and took 85 south through Deadwood to get to 385 and the campground. Definitely better than retracing the canyon.
As you approach the Missouri River in South Dakota you see this 5-‘ statue titled Dignity near I 90.
I recently met up with some friends at a COE campground right on the Missouri River near Ft. Thompson in SD. Lovely campground with electric hookups at each site. Normally that wouldn’t be a selling point with me but the temperatures were abnormally high and being able to run the AC made the stay much more pleasant.
Later one afternoon the camp host came around warning us that a severe thunderstorm was headed towards the area. Everyone prepared by putting everything away, and watched the storm approach with
impressive lightning and thunder. After it passed we went out to see if anyone had been affected. The setting sun was lighting up some clouds across the river. None were but I realized that the storm was SE of us and the lightning was still pretty impressive. Needless to say I got out the tripod and camera and spent quite a while with a front row seat so to speak.
My trip from FL to UT this month was pretty uneventful and I stopped at Goosenecks SP to relax for a couple of days before continuing. As always the goosenecks created by the San Juan River are memorable.
Ever since traveling route 95 northwest from Blanding, UT, to Hanksville I’ve wanted to take that road again and stop along the way. This May I finally got to do that. Most of the road is included in the Bears Ears National Monument and goes through BLM land. I had studied various maps and had some idea where I might be able to stop for overnight. My first stop was just past a butte called Cheese Box Butte. There is a pullout that leads to a sort of circle and beyond that a pretty rough road that goes down to more open space. I decided to stay at the circle but did see a car head down the road and then a couple set up their tent in an open area much closer to the river than where I was.
I had an idea to camp at Fry Canyon, but the entrance of that road was posted so I kept on going a ways. I saw a turn off to the right and saw a pickup truck parked near a sign, but by then I had gone by the turn. Just ahead I saw a sign “Jacob’s Chair Viewpoint”. OK! I turned around there (doesn’t take much room to turn my truck & Casita around) and went back to the turnoff. It lead to another very large circle where I found a relatively level spot to park. The sign posted showed all sort of trails and from my viewpoint I could see tent campers below and across the river. This would be an ideal spot to explore with a 4WD vehicle and a nice place to just hang out for a bit. There was a nice breeze so it wasn’t too hot even with no shade.
I think if I’d been a week later the desert floor would have been covered with cactus blooms. I managed to get some images of most of the flowers in bloom, it’s amazing what a variety there is in that dry climate.
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