All the Shades of Brown

A close-up of the face and shoulder of a male American bison, showing the many shades of brown in his fur, taken near Mormon Row in Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming in September 2011

As I sat beside the road, playing around with close-ups of the mothers and their young, the old bulls eventually ambled into view. These would be my favorite shots from this trip in the fall of 2011, what I love most about this one is that even though I often think of them as being one shade of brown, I am reminded, bison contain multitudes. As was often the case in Wyoming, many of my favorite encounters would be on the trails but many of my favorite pictures would be near the road. I hope you had a good life, not-so-little one.

Baby Pictures

A close-up view of the face and tiny horn of an American bison calf as it looks at me near Mormon Row in Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming in September 2011

An American bison calf gives me a quick look with mom as a backdrop. I had my big lens with me on that trip and was shooting the herd from the road so everyone was relaxed. Taken in the fall of 2011, it’s hard to believe that was my last trip to Wyoming but later trips were canceled due to government shutdowns and the occasional early storm. I doubt I’ll visit again for a long while as there are too many places closer to here I want to explore during my limited time off, until then my many fond memories will have to tide me over.

A close-up view of the face and tiny horn of an American bison calf near Mormon Row in Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming in September 2011

Look for the Stones That Breathe

An American pika looks out for the talus field that it calls home

Whenever I pass a talus field as I’m hiking in the mountains of Oregon or Washington or Wyoming, I always look for the rocks that live and breathe, although sometimes it’s my ears that find them first. The amazing pika spends its whole life here, in the rock fields of the high places, and doesn’t hibernate in the long winters the way so many other mammals do. The warming climate is going to be hard on these remarkable creatures as they rely on snow to insulate their homes during the coldest weather. At a younger age I couldn’t comprehend why the same people who insist in the truth of Noah’s ark would so eagerly condemn such a creature to extinction. The answer would break my heart.

[mr.burns] Excellent! [/mr.burns]

An American pika sits with its fingers held together in Grand Teton National Park

I came across this beautiful pika just below Inspiration Point on the trail into Cascade Canyon in Grand Teton National Park. I was delighted to see one again on this trip in 2006 as I fell in love with them the first time I saw one in 2005 (on the trail to Death Canyon). I had to turn around not much further up, as the trail narrowed to a small ledge on a tall cliff, and with my fear of heights even on my hands and knees there was no way I was willing to go on.

Turning Frogs into Katydids

A Mormon cricket in a meadow in Grand Teton National Park

My visit to the Tetons in 2011 got off to a slow start. I hadn’t seen much wildlife and while the scenery was beautiful as always, the light and weather weren’t cooperating. In the mood to try something new, I hiked a trail I hadn’t been on before, the Two Ocean Lake Trail. In the meadows I was startled multiple times by creatures moving in the grass that reminded me in size and mass of frogs, but they looked like giant grasshoppers. I had no idea such things even existed, not having seen them before (or since), but they were Mormon crickets. They’re actually katydids, not crickets, and lack the ability to fly.


A young elk bull grazes in a meadow in Grand Teton National Park

A young elk bull grazes in a meadow on a rainy fall day in Grand Teton National Park in 2006. He was eating with another young bull, both keeping a watch on the nearby harem of a mature bull.

It’s a little hard to see the rain in the picture at this resolution, but I had just purchased my 500mm lens before this trip and while the lens has weather sealing, I was still a little nervous about exposing it to the elements. Nine years later it’s been through a lot more rain and is still going strong.

Pika in the snow

Pika in the snow

In December this pika picture got linked to from a popular site and the resulting traffic spike pushed me over my monthly allowance, so I shut down the personal site I had run for almost two decades and started looking at other options. In the end I decided to give Flickr and WordPress a try for a year and then will decide if I’ll go back to self-hosting or not.

I’ve re-edited the picture and I think it looks better than it did on my old site, and even better you can download it at a much larger size. It’s also much easier for me to upload images both here and at my blog, so there are some definite advantages to my new setup.

I met this pika in the fall of 2007 on the trail to Amphitheater and Surprise Lakes in Grand Teton National Park, a trail I’ve hiked on multiple occasions. My pictures of this pika are my last pictures from the trip. The white in the background is snow, I had to turn around higher up on the trail as the snow was getting too deep for my hiking shoes. Originally I was going to spend the next day in the park but ended up cutting the trip short as the area got hit with a heavy snowstorm.

Life, like the weather, can bring unexpected changes, hopefully this one will be for the best.