Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Seasons Greetings!

View from Canyon Overlook, Zion National Park

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Two For The Price Of One

Along interstate 15 in southern Utah there is a lesser visited area of Zion National Park that many people, for one reason or another, choose to ignore. These folks speed away on their way north or south, eager to get wherever they are going, unaware of the geologic wonders that lie just off the asphalt slab of super highway. 

Well, OK then. I am happy to keep the Kolob Canyons section of the Park all to myself. 

Taylor Creek in the Kolob Canyons section of Zion National Park

Friday, December 7, 2012

Petrified But Not Frightened

It can be considered a bit of a stretch to look around today at the arid, rocky, shrub–covered desolation of southern Utah and see lakes edged by luxuriant green vegetation, swiftly–moving rivers, sinuous streams, and fetid swamps. Scenic? Absolutely. Frighteningly desolate? Perhaps. But luxurious and verdant? That would be a definite stretch of anyone’s imagination. 

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Southern Utah mesas capped by Shinarump Conglomerate

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Fish In A Rock

When the winter winds start to blow in southern Utah, it’s time for me to gather my pick and paintbrush, sit myself down at the microscope, and start picking at fish. 

Fossil fish, that is. 

Follow the red arrow to the fish fossil

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Missing Time

What is the estimated span of a human lifetime in these early days of the 21st century – 80 years or so? By comparison, the massive cliffs of Navajo Sandstone in Zion National Park are the remnants of a vast dune field that existed for nearly ten million years. 

Navajo Sandstone of the East Rim

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Giving Thanks On Two Wheels

We all give thanks in our own individual ways. 

 Paruus Trail meanders beneath sandstone cliffs of Zion National Park

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The Right Place At The Right Time

As difficult as it is for me to admit, there is more to Yellowstone than mind–bending geology. I know what you must be thinking. How can this be?
One day in Yellowstone, a black wolf walked past my car

Monday, October 29, 2012

The Desolation Of Skull Valley

The next time you sign up to work on an archaeological field assignment, as I did recently, you might first want to inquire of your potential employer one exceptionally important detail. 

“Just exactly what is it that I will be doing?” 

Skull Valley in Utah's West Desert

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Get It While You Can

The summer season at Yellowstone has been over for several weeks, and most park rangers have scattered to the four winds. So for the time being I’ve left that lavish government housing unit and have put away the flat hat. Some rangers are lucky enough to land a winter park service gig, but the rest of us pretty much scramble for any sort of respectable employment. 

I couldn't even get a job at the Potato Museum

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Eighty Million Tons Of Rock

You see it, but you aren’t prepared to believe it. The enormity of eighty million tons of rock sliding down a mountain in barely 20 seconds is almost beyond anyone’s comprehension. 

West entrance to Madison Canyon

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Hippies Use Back Door

Honestly, isn’t life the ultimate crapshoot? One day you decide to roll the cosmic dice, take your chances, look for Some Kind of Sign, and basically hope for the best. 

Recently I took a chance and rolled those polka–dotted cubes with absolute gusto. When I finally looked around this is the sign I saw. 

I took it as Some Kind of Sign.


Friday, October 5, 2012

The Beartooth Highway

Nearly three–billion–year–old rocks at almost eleven thousand feet above sea level? If you find yourself going to or departing Yellowstone you might want to consider driving the Beartooth Highway between Cooke City and Red Lodge, Montana. 

It does not even matter in what direction your travels ultimately take you.  

Just do it. 

Glacial valleys gouge the Beartooth Plateau

Friday, September 28, 2012

A Late Yellowstone Autumn Day

There is a definite crispness to the air in northwestern Wyoming during these late September days. In fact, I find a thickening frost on car windshields every morning after overnight temperatures dip below freezing. The glimmering, shimmering, steaming months of Yellowstone Summer 2012 have departed and left in their wake the vibrant hues and chill of autumn. 

Flaming aspens on Terrace Mountain

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Old Faithful From The Inn Side

Gushing geysers! Murky mud pots! Steaming sapphire pools! Thriving thermophiles!  I’ve got a creeping case of volcanic hydrothermal overload! Isn’t there anything else in Yellowstone to see? 

Why, yes, actually, there is. For something totally different, try a 45–minute guided tour of the Old Faithful Inn. 

Old Faithful Inn

Friday, September 14, 2012

Acid Trip – Norris Geyser Basin

It’s not easy to describe the wonder that is Norris Geyser Basin, and so I won’t even try. Words simply cannot do it justice. However, here are some photos and facts about this astonishing place. 

Porcelain Basin in Norris Geyser Basin

Sunday, September 2, 2012

What Not To Do In A Thermal Area

Eeew! It’s green, it’s slimy, and it’s moving! It’s alive! 

We must be on a trail in Yellowstone.


Thursday, August 30, 2012

Tower Power And An Archean Gneiss

Yellowstone is a massive piece of real estate. With around 2.2 million acres, you could spend a lifetime here and not see it all. With that thought in mind I am doing my part to experience as much of it as I possibly can while I’m here. 

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Tower Falls

Sunday, August 26, 2012

If You Like Trees, You Will LOVE Mallard Lake

Living in Yellowstone for the summer is living life on the edge. We probably won’t experience a violent explosion while we’re out there in the middle of the caldera. But then again, you never know. This is Yellowstone, after all – home to one of the world’s largest active volcanoes. 

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Biscuit Basin with the Mallard Lake resurgent dome just beyond it

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Outside The Caldera – Osprey Falls

From now on, if anyone asks me where they might hike in Yellowstone and not be consumed by the maddening summer crowds, I’ll know exactly what to tell them. 

Try the trail to Osprey Falls, I’ll say. You’ll probably meet so few people that you could count them on one hand.
Osprey Falls

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Ink Pots From Hell – Washburn Hot Springs

At first glance, the springs looked like purple motor oil cascading down the bleached hillside. I had read somewhere that there are small hydrocarbon deposits in Yellowstone, so I wondered if these might be some of those. 

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Washburn Hot Springs

Friday, August 10, 2012

More Than Just Mountains And A Volcano

I know this may be hard to believe, but there is much more to attract your attention in and near Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks than that dang supervolcano and a big bunch of mountains. 

If you can manage to drive past and then elbow your way through the throngs of bewildered out–of–state (and out–of–country) summer tourists and find a quiet place to ponder life’s mysteries, Jackson Wyoming has a lot of local color to offer the discriminating and thirsty traveler. 

SnakeRiver Brewpub

Consider this establishment, for instance. I recently chose a hotel in Jackson for a relaxed weekend getaway based on its walkable proximity to large vats of fermenting adult beverages. 

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Snake River Brewing brewpub

My first beverage choice was See You In Helles, described as a “full–bodied yet delicate helles lightly hopped with Tattnanger and Hallertauer hops.”  It was #1 on the list from lightest to darkest.
Very tasty!

My next selection was Hoback Hefewiezen, “a cloudy wheat brewed Ale with a smooth spicy refreshing taste. This Bavarian style beer is unfiltered for extra flavor.”  It was #2 on the light/dark list. 

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Is the lemon REALLY necessary?  It kept hitting my nose.

Should I have stayed at the brewpub and worked my way down the darkening list? Good luck with that!  I was already falling asleep after just two pints and it was only 3:00 in the afternoon. 

Next time.  #3.  After my nap.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Avalanche Peak – Worth Every Step

I’ll admit it. I was a nervous wreck. I’d heard all sorts of stories about Avalanche Peak, mostly about how stupendously steep the trail is. It’s a short trail, my young hiking buddies all said. It’s only two miles long, they reassured me. We’ll go slowly. You can do it! 

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Southeast bowl, Avalanche Peak

Friday, July 20, 2012

Bearly There On The Ice Lake Trail

The morning starts out drizzly yet uncomplicated. The 4.5 mile Ice Lake trail, just off the Canyon–Norris Road in Yellowstone, offers easy opportunities to admire a waterfall, enjoy lunch at a lake, and savor some post–hike ice cream.

Ice Lake trailhead on the Canyon–Norris road

Friday, July 13, 2012

When Is This Thing Gonna Blow?

Working as a seasonal ranger at Yellowstone National Park I get asked a lot of questions by a lot of visitors. Or more precisely, I get asked a lot of the same questions over and over again. 

Old Faithful does its thing approximately every 90 minutes

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Sulfurous Sunday

Visit any thermal area in Yellowstone National Park and you are sure to come upon at least one surprise. No two geyser basins are alike. Some are shimmering, steaming blue alkaline springs such as Grand Prismatic (the largest hot spring in North America). 

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Grand Prismatic Spring in Midway Geyser Basin

Friday, June 15, 2012

How To Track A Moose (or a Wolf or a Grizzly)

In my last post I mentioned slogging through muddy, mucky river beds and boggy sage and/or willow flats. That’s pretty much how it’s done. If you ever want to track that charismatic central Rocky Mountain megafauna (or even the elusive Yellowstone two–lipped beaver), you might as well resign yourself to some serious slogging. 

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Tracking in Soda Butte Creek

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Keeping Up At The Buffalo Ranch

Yikes!  Time sure has a way of slipping by, doesn’t it? I was gone from Grant Village for a week at the end of May, taking a “Tracks & Mammal Signs” class with the Yellowstone Association Institute. Internet access is non–existent at the Lamar Buffalo Ranch where I stayed, and so I got waaaay behind on keeping up with Watching For Rocks and tweaking my summer programs. But honestly, spending time up in Lamar Valley in the Northern Range of Yellowstone is well worth being out of touch with the world for a while. 

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Stream through Lamar Valley

Friday, May 25, 2012

Would You Believe Springtime In Yellowstone?

Today was the final day of training for this summer’s crop of interpretive rangers here at Grant Village in Yellowstone National Park. Tomorrow our visitor center opens and we hit the ground running until the end of September. One of our all–time favorite duties is to lead Park visitors on a two–mile hike from West Thumb geyser basin up to an overlook with views of Yellowstone Lake and the Absaroka Mountains to the east. 

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Yellowstone Lake and the Absaroka Mountains

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Riding Out The Storm

After a fairly mild winter season by Yellowstone’s standards, winter weather returned with a vengeance today. Yesterday was serious sunny t-shirt weather, while today gray skies spit sleet and hail and rain blew sideways in the squalls over Yellowstone Lake and West Thumb geyser basin. 

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Fishing Cone hot spring in Yellowstone Lake, West Thumb geyser basin

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Back In The Caldera

It’s been eleven days and 790 miles since my last post (does it sound like I’m confessing some grave sin here?). Well, I had to get where I was going, and I did travel 2oo sightseeing miles out of my way to get there. Plus it’s hard to type in a tent when an Idaho wind is threatening to blow you all the way to Kansas. 

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City of Rocks, Idaho

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

A New View In Salt Lake City

The Utah Museum of Natural History in Salt Lake City has recently moved into its new home high on the foothills of the Wasatch Mountains. Since I was going to be in the city for a few days on my way to Yellowstone, I decided to stop in and have a look around. I hatched a big–city plan to take Trax light rail from my deluxe downtown couch–surfing accommodations in the morning, wander around the museum for several hours, hop back on Trax, and catch a late afternoon movie. 

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Level 3 walkway at the Museum of Natural History leads to First Peoples gallery

Sunday, May 6, 2012

The Rangerous Adventure Continues

We packed the car this morning and it was an exercise in practical physics trying to fit as much mass as possible into that enclosed blue space. I honestly thought I was bringing less stuff than last year, but it turned out to be just as much – it’s just different stuff. If I tried to cram one more half bag of cereal or even a pair of socks into the appropriately named Space Cadet cargo carrier I would have had to climb up on the roof and sit on the bleeping thing so it could close. 

Ready to roll

Monday, April 30, 2012

My Hiking, Biking Friend

We hear a lot these days about the seemingly insurmountable health problems of retired folks. We might be inclined to think heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure are all we youngsters have to look forward to in our “golden years.” Oh, and don’t forget about arthritis! I guess we should all just get out the old rocking chairs and park ourselves on the porch for the duration. 

Well, now… If this is all you think you have to look forward to in your golden years, let me introduce you to my hiking, biking friend John.

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John pauses on the Virgin River bike trail in St. George

Friday, April 27, 2012

Friday Feet Photos

 Do you enjoy taking photos of where your feet have traveled?

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View from Big Mountain overlooking Whitefish Lake, northwest Montana - July 2005

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Wrestling With Excuses

Two weeks? Has it been that long? 

This stuff will be going to Yellowstone with me

Monday, April 9, 2012

Grand Day On The North Rim

On the day after Easter I found myself riding 120 miles one–way with a friend to reconnoiter a future hike location.  It was an all–day affair. 

When the setting is this Grand, the distance driven is worth the effort. 

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Near Monument Point, North Rim Grand Canyon

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

It’s All About The Stone

It definitely had my name written all over it and so I bought it. All winter I had been on the lookout for a new watch to wear during the upcoming summer season at Yellowstone. A small attached card noted its attributes: “Represents inner strength and lasting beauty. Strengthens your endurance to any situation or issue in your life. Assists in the rebuilding and reconstruction of any disarranged skeletal structures. Found in Utah.” 

The coolest watch in the world

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Ecstatic In Southern Utah

There are many things that I like about living where I live – its proximity to national parks, balmy sun belt winter weather and dry desert climate, as well as near endless opportunities for outdoor fun. One of the nicest things in particular about life in St. George, Utah is its small–city bike trails. Although nowhere near completed, this system of trails has got to be one of the most scenic in the world.

St. George city bike trail along the Virgin River

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Springtime Pedal Power

March weather in southern Utah can be iffy. We might have perfect clear blue skies and temperatures in the 70’s, but we are just as likely have snow flurries in town with a foot of new powder in the mountains. 

Last week it snowed.

Today the weather was, well, perfect. 

Cruising the Parkway south of town

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Springdale St. Patrick’s Day

If you happen to be anywhere near the vicinity of southwest Utah next St. Patrick’s Day, you may or may not want to find your way to the tiny burg of Springdale at the entrance to Zion National Park. 

Springdale Jello Queens head up the parade

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Not So Seriously Mysterious Rock

Mystery question of the day:
What is this crumbly white rock scattered all over the red sand, and what do you think it’s doing along the Gila Trail? 

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What is all this white rock doing in this red sand?

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Rim With A View

The hike was called "Little Creek to a T."  And although I quickly learned we were on Little Creek Mountain, it never was clear to me what exactly a T had to do with anything. 

I looked for that T in six miles of dirt road. 

I looked for that T in eight miles of trail.

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Edge of the trail

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Sunshine and Petroglyphs

When an early March forecast calls for sunshine and 60°F temperatures, it is fairly easy to find any excuse to be out of doors. Add to that forecast a vivid desert landscape with panoramic views of tilted red rock mesas stair–stepping their way towards snow–capped mountain peaks, and it would be a crime to stay indoors. 

As the lucky inhabitants of southwestern Utah often say, it’s just another day in paradise. 

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Red Mountain with Pine Valley Mountains in distance

Friday, March 2, 2012

Oldest & Best – Yellowstone National Park

The West of which I speak is but another name for the Wild; and what I have been preparing to say is, that in Wildness is the preservation of the World.”
(from Walking, by Henry David Thoreau) 

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View from Mt. Washburn of bighorn sheep and the Absaroka Range

Monday, February 27, 2012

Skiing Cedar Breaks

I’ve accomplished my winter 2012 weekend ski assault on the mountain and have returned home unscathed. 

On second thought, perhaps “assault” is a bit of a stretch.


Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Music City Walkabout

I was in Tennessee recently, catching up with some old friends and revisiting some familiar sights. I have a 25–year history there, having lived in Knoxville for nearly 10 years and then middle Tennessee for 15 years.

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Shelby Street pedestrian bridge spans the Cumberland River near downtown Nashville

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Back Road Into Town

If I stopped at every road cut I came across I’d never get anything else done. 

This is not necessarily a bad thing. 

Geological lollygagging in southern Utah can easily become a full–time obsession. More than many other places on the planet the geology here is utterly in your face, unencumbered by pesky vegetation, exposed for the entire world to see if that world would just take a few moments to look a bit more closely. 

Tonaquint Drive road cut exposes an unconformable contact between Moenkopi and Shinarump deposits