Tag Archives: bears

June 2: East! At last!

You don’t have to camp to see critters, apparently. This morning, I looked out my motel room window on the north shore of Lake Tahoe and saw a bear! A big lumbering black bear. He didn’t stay long, fortunately, and was gone by the time I was ready to pack up and leave. But still. A bear!

This morning's bear.  Sorry about the window screen, but I wasn't about to open the door to take the shot.
This morning’s bear. Sorry about the window screen, but I wasn’t about to open the door to take the shot.

I headed around to the east side of the lake, crossing my third state line into Nevada, stopping at a viewpoint to take some better photos, and drove down the steep eastern escarpment of the Sierras. I arrived in Carson City in the middle of the morning, where I have to say that the signage for east on U.S. 50 was not the clearest on the planet. I did finally find my way out of town, though.

A better view of Lake Tahoe.
A better view of Lake Tahoe.
Another better view of Lake Tahoe.
Another better view of Lake Tahoe.

I hadn’t realized until I’d pulled my map out while I was trying to figure out the aforementioned way out of town that Virginia City was only a few miles off of U.S. 50, just a few miles east of Carson City. I hadn’t been to this Virginia City since the weekend I got engaged to my first husband, thirty-mumble years ago. Since I visited another Virginia City (the one in Montana) early on during my first Long Trip, it seemed like a good idea to visit the other one this time. Besides, it was getting on towards lunchtime.

Virginia City, Nevada is kind of a hoot. It’s a tourist trap extraordinaire, but it’s also the home of one of the richest strikes in mining history, as well as where Mark Twain got his start as a newspaperman. It was fun to wander up and down the board sidewalks and peer into shop windows, and eat lunch in a saloon. I do have to say, though, that it wasn’t where I expected to see anything Seahawks. At this point I’m a lot closer to Forty-Whiner country <g>.

Virginia City, Nevada, and I suspect Mark Twain would be rolling his eyes at his "museum."
Virginia City, Nevada, and I suspect Mark Twain would be rolling his eyes at his “museum.”
The Storey County Courthouse at Virginia City.
The Storey County Courthouse at Virginia City.
Sea-HAWKS!
Sea-HAWKS!

After Virginia City, I kept going east! finally! (after almost a week of going south) on U.S. 50, which in Nevada is known as the Loneliest Highway in America. Once you leave the outskirts of Carson City behind, and the town of Fallon about an hour further on, it does get pretty empty, at least of human stuff. It was 110 miles from Fallon to the next town, Austin, a tiny old mining camp perched on the side of a mountain, and I think I saw one human habitation along the way. Oh, and a rest area with an exhibit about the Pony Express, the route of which crossed what would become the highway several times.

There’s a reason they call it the basin and range country. The geology is such that from the air, the state of Nevada looks like a piece of fabric stretched then rumpled repeatedly in neat rows. Across the plain, over the mountains, across the plain, over the mountains, lather, rinse, repeat.

The Loneliest Highway in America, or so it's called.  AKA U.S. 50.
The Loneliest Highway in America, or so it’s called. AKA U.S. 50.
A mountain range in basin and range country along U.S.50.
A mountain range in basin and range country along U.S.50.

I’m in a forest service campground just east of Austin, where I think I may have camped with my parents when I was a kid. It looks vaguely familiar, anyway. The altitude is 7200 feet, where it’s nice and cool, as opposed to the 90s I left behind in Carson City. There are wildflowers, too. My old friends mules’ ears and lupine, and my favorite wildflower of all, alpine phlox. My neighbors are friendly, too. It’s a good place to be for the night. I wonder if I’ll wake to find critters peering in my window again.

Alpine phlox at the Bob Scott campground just east of the hamlet of Austin, Nevada.
Alpine phlox at the Bob Scott campground just east of the hamlet of Austin, Nevada.

Off to the Canadian Rockies, Day 6

A cloud-shrouded Lake Louise.
A cloud-shrouded Lake Louise.

Thirteen days ago, June 17, 2015.

Yesterday got away from me. So we’ll start again with day six today.

Off to Lake Louise. The literature says that it was once counted as one of the seven natural wonders of the world. I can’t say it lives up to that sort of hype, but it was rather spectacular. And about as crowded as Johnston Canyon was yesterday, due mostly to tour busses carrying folks speaking at least a dozen different languages (primarily French, but several other European languages and at least that many Asian ones).

It was pouring rain when I left Banff townsite to drive the thirty-odd miles to the lake, but by the time I got halfway there, to leave the Trans-Canada Highway for the upper half of the Bow River Parkway, it was just barely spitting.

Memorial for WWI internment camp along the Bow River Parkway.  Men in that camp helped build roads and trails in the park.
Memorial for WWI internment camp along the Bow River Parkway. Even unfairly imprisoned (shades of Manzanar, etc., in the U.S.), men in that camp helped build roads and trails in the park.

It was much cooler, though, and today was the first day I really appreciated the fact that I’d brought my insulated jacket. I was also glad I’d taken as many photos of the mountains as I had over the last two days, because the cloud deck was low enough to drape like a shawl over the shoulders of the mountains, and I wouldn’t have nearly as many unimpeded photos as I do if I hadn’t (I uploaded my photos to my laptop that night, to discover I’d taken about five hundred on the trip so far — thank goodness for digital cameras, is all I can say, and you’re getting the cream of the crop).

Lake Louise.
Lake Louise.
These lakeshore memorials to early pioneers in the area made me think of Han Solo, for some odd reason...
These lakeshore memorials to early pioneers in the area made me think of Han Solo, for some odd reason…
Clark's Nutcracker at Lake Louise.
Clark’s Nutcracker at Lake Louise.

So. Lake Louise. One of the most famous lakes in the world, or so I’m given to understand, named after one of Queen Victoria’s daughters, bright turquoise, nestled in a glaciated valley just below the Victoria Glacier, and ringed by mountain peaks. Really beautiful, actually. The hotel at the foot of the lake, also famous, I gather, is almost exactly like the one in Banff. Big and fancy and run by an international hotel chain, so without the kind of character and uniqueness a hotel in a place like this should have.

The big, blocky Chateau Lake Louise.
The big, blocky Chateau Lake Louise.

There’s a nice, paved path around the west side of the lake which I strolled for some distance, hoping for mountain goats on the mountainsides above, but no luck, alas. Perhaps tomorrow on the Icefields Parkway. And, my curiosity satisfied, I head back down to the turnoff for Moraine Lake, which I’ve also heard good things about.

Moraine Lake.
Moraine Lake.

Moraine Lake, is, if anything, more gorgeous than Lake Louise, backed by a whole range of mountains. The outlet of the lake is marked by a huge natural rockpile, with a trail going to the top. By then it had pretty much quit raining altogether, and the clouds were beginning to rise, so I took the short hike up there to goggle at the view, spotting more wildflowers along the way as a bonus.

I think these are some kind of currant blossoms.  Along the rockpile trail at Moraine Lake.
I think these are some kind of currant blossoms. Along the rockpile trail at Moraine Lake.
Arnica along the rockpile trail at Moraine Lake.
Arnica along the rockpile trail at Moraine Lake.
Least chipmunk at the rockpile viewpoint at Moraine Lake.
Least chipmunk at the rockpile viewpoint at Moraine Lake.

One of the exhibit signs said this was where the picture on the back of the Canadian twenty dollar bill was taken, but I took one out of my wallet and apparently they’ve changed the design. Still, the view was well worth immortalizing, so I did.

The view from the rockpile viewpoint at Moraine Lake.
The view from the rockpile viewpoint at Moraine Lake.
Doesn't the water look almost opalescent?  Especially next to that dark green tree?
Doesn’t the water look almost opalescent? Especially next to that dark green tree?

On my way back to Banff townsite, I stopped in the village of Lake Louise (a couple of miles from the lake itself), and went in their visitor center. Unlike the ones for Kootenay National Park (actually in Radium Hot Springs), which only had a tiny exhibit section, and Banff townsite, which was just a bunch of information desks (although, to be honest, with the Whyte Museum and the Cave and Basin site it would have been redundant to do more), the Lake Louise visitor center had a great set of exhibits on the geology of the area.

And so back down the upper section of the Bow River Parkway, where I saw a wild canine! It was either a very large, very healthy coyote, or a lone wolf.  Or maybe, from the tail, even a huge fox. From the distance at which I saw it, it was hard to tell (this photo has been cropped and enlarged to a faretheewell).

Lone wolf?  Really big coyote?
Lone wolf? Really big coyote? Enormous fox?

And then, further down the road, another bear! My second one of the trip.

Bear!
Bear!

Add to that the loads of Columbian ground squirrels and least chipmunks (the latter of which were all over the place at Moraine Lake), and the ravens and magpies and Clark’s nutcrackers (the latter of which were all over the place at Lake Louise), and I’ve seen lots of critters so far.

Once back in Banff townsite, I filled Kestrel’s gas tank against the drive to Jasper tomorrow, which I was seriously looking forward to. Especially if the weather improved.

My 20th? annual trip to Sunrise

Actually, it may be my 19th.  I moved here twenty years ago this month, but I don’t remember if I went up there that year.  I know I’ve gone up there twice in a summer at least twice, so does that count?

I love both Paradise and Hurricane Ridge, and I’ve been to a lot of other wonderful wildflower hunting places (including Yellowstone, which doesn’t seem like a likely place to find a lot of wildflowers but most certainly is, and an incredible little state park in Indiana called Clifty Falls, which is absolutely amazing in April), but my favorite wildflower hunting grounds of all time are at Sunrise at Mt. Rainier National Park.

The Mountain from Sunrise.
The Mountain (as it’s referred to locally) from Sunrise.

This year I was slightly late getting up there — my beloved alpine phlox was all but over except in a few favored places — but I still managed to rack up 36 different kinds of flowers.  That’s my best total this summer!

One of the really neat things that the rangers do up at Sunrise (and at Hurricane Ridge) is put little signs near clumps of blooming plants that tell you what they are.  I also have a couple of ID books, and I take photos of everything I see, so I can examine them better when I get home.

Here’s a sampling of what I saw today:

Pink and one yellow monkeyflower on the road to Sunrise.
Pink and one yellow monkeyflower on the road to Sunrise.
Small-flowered penstemons (their name as well as an accurate description).
Small-flowered penstemons (their name as well as an accurate description).
Partridge foot.  I don't think I've ever ID'd this one before.
Partridge foot. I don’t think I’ve ever ID’d this one before.
Subalpine daisies (genus Erigeron).
Subalpine daisies (genus Erigeron) and one of those nifty park service signs.
Magenta paintbrush -- see, they're not endemic to the Olympics!
Magenta paintbrush — see, they’re not endemic to the Olympics!
A clump of scarlet paintbrush in a field of subalpine daisies.
A clump of scarlet paintbrush in a field of subalpine daisies.
Jacob's ladder, aka Polemonium.  One of its relatives is a self-inflicted weed in my garden.
Jacob’s ladder, aka Polemonium. One of its relatives is a self-inflicted weed in my garden.
A field of sickletop lousewort (what a horrible name to inflict on a perfectly nice wildflower!), in a damp spot where it's happiest.
A field of sickletop lousewort (what a horrible name to inflict on a perfectly nice wildflower!), in a damp spot where it’s happiest.
Elephantella.  The flower book calls it elephant head, which is an accurate description of the flowers, but I grew up calling it elephantella.
Elephantella. The flower book calls it elephant head, which is an accurate description of the flowers, but I grew up calling it elephantella.
Dwarf alpine lupine at Sunrise Camp.
Dwarf alpine lupine at Sunrise Camp.
White rhododendron, which doesn't look much like a regular rhody to me.
White rhododendron, which doesn’t look much like a regular rhody to me.

Cusick's speedwell, whose formal name is Veronica.  I didn't see Betty.
Cusick’s speedwell, whose formal name is Veronica. I didn’t see Betty [g].
 And here’s the list, pretty much in the order I saw them:

Monkeyflowers (Mimulus), pink and yellow

Small-flowered penstemon

Pearly everlastings

Broad-leaved and dwarf lupines

American bistort

Potentilla

Gray’s lovage

Thread-leaved sandwort

Common yarrow

Partridge foot

Subalpine daisy

Cascade aster

Pale agoseris

Fan-leaved cinquefoil

Pasqueflower seedheads

False hellebore

Sitka valerian

Spreading phlox

Paintbrush, scarlet and magenta

Polemonium (Jacob’s ladder)

Broadleaved arnica

One lonely Columbian tiger lily

Sickletop lousewort

Elephantella

Beargrass

Harebells

Pink heather

White rhododendron

Cusick’s speedwell

Mertensia

Newberry’s knotweed

Mountain ash

Pussy-toes

Oh, and I saw a bear!  In all the times I’ve gone hiking up at Sunrise, this is the first time I’ve seen a bear.  It was at the Sunrise Camp, which is an ex-auto camp that’s been turned into a backpacker’s camp about a mile and a half behind Sunrise visitor center.  There were about twenty of us watching it browse from a safe distance when I was there.  It obviously knew we were there, and it equally obviously couldn’t have cared less.  It was a bit closer to the trail than I was comfortable with, so instead of making my usual loop, I went back the way I came, along by Shadow Lake.

The first bear I've ever seen at Sunrise -- the ranger had me fill out a report when I went into the visitor center to tell her about it like the sign says to.
The first bear (photo taken with the zoom) I’ve ever seen at Sunrise — the ranger had me fill out a report when I went into the visitor center to tell her about it like the sign says to.

And I saw this bird.  It’s got some blue on its back and rust on its front, and it’s about 6-8″ long, maybe?

A bird I'm hoping my friend will ID for me.
A bird I’m hoping my friend Katrina will ID for me.

Once upon a time on a trip to Alaska, day 27

Elmendorf Air Force Base, Anchorage, Alaska

Thursday, July 12, 1973

I wasn’t feeling well yesterday, so today you get two posts to make up for it.

And we head back to my aunt’s before beginning the long trek home.

But not before having a close encounter with an Alaskan brown bear:

Alaskan brown bear

My father and I were awakened in the wee hours of the previous night by something thrashing around outside.  My diary says the bear was raiding the garbage can.  I remember it as having something to do with that piece of leftover roll, but upon further consideration he couldn’t have possibly been making that much noise with just a piece of roll.

Anyway, Daddy and I peered out the windows of the trailer, and saw, in the long twilight of Alaska at that time of year, an enormous brown bear.  I did not know at the time that brown bears are the same species as grizzlies, but apparently they are.  All I remember is that he was absolutely enormous, and that when my father tried to wake my mother up to see him, she just rolled over and ignored him.  Then the next morning we had to convince her we’d actually seen it.

That was as close as we got to any large animal on the trip.  Less than 10 feet away, which was more than close enough, thanks.  He could have opened the trailer like a can opener with those claws.

After that, the drive back to Anchorage, including another stop at a Dairy Queen (why DQ every time we ate out on this trip is something of a mystery to me now), was something of an anticlimax.

Teenage me was rather glad to watch some TV at my aunt’s, though.

True Gold, a novel about the Klondike Gold Rush, is now available through Amazon and Smashwords

Once upon a time on a trip to Alaska, day 16

 Mt. McKinley (now Denali) National Park, Alaska

Saturday, June 30, 1973

 We caught the 7 am shuttle bus into Mt. McKinley (now Denali) National Park  on this day.  The shuttles were old school busses with basically no shock absorbers, and the road at that time was completely unpaved past the gate.  But we were so excited that being bounced off of the seats repeatedly was a minor inconvenience.

 It amazes me how I didn’t even mention the animals we saw in my diary, when we saw so many.  We saw multiple Dall sheep up on the mountainside above the road.  We saw an arctic fox on the road.  We saw blond Alaskan ‘brown’ bears grazing.  And we saw caribou.  They were all absolutely amazing, and I remember all of them like it was yesterday.

Arctic fox

 

Caribou

 And then we stopped at Eielson visitor center and ate lunch, and after that caught another bus out to the end of the line at Wonder Lake, where we saw this:

Denali itself, all 20,328 feet of it.

 It was incredibly beautiful and impressive, and we were unbelievably lucky.  Most of the time Denali is shrouded in clouds, and the day we were there was only the third time that summer it was clear enough to see it.  My father took lots of photos, according to my diary, and one of them is framed and hangs in my mother’s house.  It looks about like the one above.  Almost the same angle and everything.

 Then, on the way back, the brakes went out on the bus, and that’s what most of my diary entry for that day was about.  Apparently it was pretty scary.

 Judging from photos I can find online, I can see why.  But we did get back safely.

 And that was our day to see Denali.

 True Gold, a novel about the Klondike Gold Rush, is now available through Amazon and Smashwords