June 13, Colorado, Utah & Wyoming

Margie and I have been having our usual blast on the road, having visited Silverton in Colorado, Dinosaur National Monument and Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area in Utah, and finally moving on to Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks in Wyoming.

We hadn't been to Silverton since late summer of 2003, but found it as beautiful as ever. There's a narrow gauge railroad connecting Silverton and Durango to the south, but we didn't ride it this time. Instead we used the BMW to check out the local roads, mostly unpaved. I made one attempt to go up a 4WD road toward Lake City on the motorcycle, but quickly gave it up--just too steep and rocky, especially with Margie on the back. It was a bit chilly around Silverton (over 9300' elevation) and there was plenty of snow in the nearby mountains.

Motorcycle Mama Margie

Mountain meadow

This was our first visit to Dinosaur National Monument--it's a little out of the way--but we found it to be gorgeous and will return another time. Weather was nice and warm, so we took a 3.5-mile loop hike on what was called the "Sound of Silence" trail one day and then used the motor home to check out the Green River and other sites. On our way out we stopped at the visitor center and museum where they've got a high tilted wall with several dozen dinosaur fossils left in place. The dig has been actively worked since the early 1900s and they still do some research on the fossils on the wall.

On the "Sound of Silence" trail

Green River near our campground

Next we headed up to Flaming Gorge for a few days, this time using the BMW to explore. One day we were out riding and some fierce winds came up that practically blew us off one of the dirt back roads--not fun! As in Silverton, we found a small cafe with Wi-Fi so that we were able to check mail and catch up on news from the Internet. On the way out of Flaming Gorge we took a side road labeled "Geologic Loop," which turned out to be in very poor shape, but well worth the pot holes for the impressive views.

Our rig on Geologic Loop

Spires on Geologic Loop

Our next stop was Grand Teton National Park, where we stayed for about a week. The Grand Teton range is quite spectacular with the peaks rising abruptly just to the west of Jackson Hole without any foothills, this because the mountains are the remnants of an up-thrown fault block and the valley is on the down-thrown block. Glaciation has carved the up-thrown block into many sharp peaks (with Grand Teton being the highest), and left many moraines in the valley that have trapped lakes behind them. Once again, with many days in one place, I got the BMW down from the rack on the back of the motor home so that we could tour without having to use the RV. We also took a short boat ride across Jenny Lake and then hiked a mile or so up Cascade Canyon to Inspiration Point, spotting a Yellow-bellied Marmot along the way. We caught a couple of Yellow-headed Blackbirds patrolling one of the parking lots another day.

Yellow-bellied Marmot

Yellow-headed Blackbirds

Inspiration point, with Jenny Lake behind us

The Grand Tetons

Finally, we spent another week or so in Yellowstone National Park, Margie's favorite National Park since she and her mother first visited in 1990. In addition to the usual geysers, fumeroles and mud pots, we also encountered lots of wildlife here, including many bison, elk, black bears and squirrels.

Bull Elk in velvet

Shedding Bison in yellow flowers

While many of the more famous features in Mammoth (north end of Yellowstone) are going dry (for reasons not clear), there are two there, called "Hymen Terrace" and "Canary Terrace," that we think especially pretty.

Hymen Terrace

Canary Terrace

Of course, no visit to Yellowstone is complete without a stop in the Upper Geyser Basin that includes Old Faithful. I remember first seeing Old Faithful in 1958 when my family made a two-week driving trip (in a '57 Mercury station wagon) from Los Angeles to Kansas, the Black Hills and then back through Yellowstone. At that time Old Faithful would erupt about every 60 minutes, but now, due to various influences (seismic activity mostly), the average period is just over 90 minutes. Although we got to see Old Faithful blow, it turned out not to be the most specular eruption we saw there. That honor was reserved for Beehive Geyser, which we were lucky enough to catch in one of its infrequent eruptions. The paths that run through Upper Geyser Basin all end at Morning Glory Pool, which we learned is changing color somewhat due to vandalism. It seems that the pool used to be all aquamarine, but because some fools throw stuff in the pool that partially blocks its source vent at the bottom, the water is cooling off enough that orange-brown algae are starting to grow around the edges of the pool. It's still a spectacular sight, though.

Beehive Geyser erupting

Morning Glory pool
In fact, the color of the thermophilic (heat-loving) algae growing in the hot waters is a very good indication of temperature, with orange-brown indicating hotter than green. One of the strangest things we saw while in Yellowstone was a linear "rainbow" that appeared in some wispy clouds one day. I'll include a picture of it on the Web page, though I don't know how well it will show up.

"Living Thermometer"

Linear "rainbow"
Riley & Margie

Bird Diary
May 26-30, 2006 Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area, Utah
Broad-tailed Hummingbirds
Mallards: m & f
Brewer's Blackbird
Cassin's Finch: m & f
Black-chinned Hummingbird
Common Raven
Cliff Swallows
Pine Siskin
Western Meadowlark
Barn Swallows
Mountain Bluebird
Turkey Vultures
Black-billed Magpie
Blue-Gray Gnatcatchers
Common Raven
Blue Grouse
Chipping Sparrow
American Robin
White-throated Swift
Northern Rough-winged Swallow
Mountain Chickadee: heard song
Yellow-rumped Warbler, Audubon
Gray Catbird
Snowy Egret
White-faced Ibis
Mallards: m & f
Cinnamon Teal: m & f
Mallard/ Cinnamon Teal Hybrids
Red-tailed Hawks
Northern Harrier
Brown-headed Cowbirds
Northern Flicker, red-shafted
Belted Kingfisher
Mountain Bluebirds: m & f
European Starling
Red-winged Blackbird: m
Yellow-headed Blackbirds: m & f
Song Sparrow
Western Kingbirds
Violet-green Swallows
Barn Swallows
Northern Rough-wing Swallows
June 6-12, 2006 Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
Black-billed Magpie
Canada Geese
American White Pelicans
Common Ravens
Tree Swallows
Violet-green Swallows
American Robins
Brown-headed Cowbird
Barrow's Goldeneyes: m & f
Dark-eyed Junco, pink-sided
Stellar's Jay
Northern Flicker, red-shafted
Red-tailed Hawk
Yellow-headed Blackbirds
Sand Hill Cranes
Red-wing Blackbirds
Western Grebe
Cliff Swallows
Western Bluebird
Lesser Scaup: m & f
California Gull
Hairy Woodpecker
Song Sparrow
Cassin's Finch: m & f
Mountain Bluebird
Common Loon
Common Merganser
Great Blue Herons
Mallards: m & f
Bald Eagle
Brown-capped Rosy Finch: f
White-crowned Sparrow
Chipping Sparrow
Black-capped Chickadee

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