Thursday, June 26, 2014

Backpacking to Lake Blanche

June 14- Last weekend Paul, Dustin, and Lacee and I backpacked up to Lake Blanche in Big Cottonwood canyon. To get to the lake it's a 3 mile hike with a non stop elevation gain of 2700+ feet. The lake itself was gorgeous with a dramatic view of sundial peak (really a highpoint in the ridgeline and not so much a peak) and snowcapped Dromdary peak. After a truly surreal sunset we ate dinner and got ready for a big hike the next day. We had initially planned to summit sundial but without any guide and no marked trail on the map, we headed out to see what we could see from the ridgeline. It was a strenuous 4ish mile hike, but we made it and the view was quite worth it. Next time sundial! Below are some pictures I took. Click on the photos for a larger version.

Fresh legs

Nothing but gorgeous Aspens

We're almost there! You can see sundial behind me. 

A gorgeous waterflume by camp. The water we filtered from this stream tasted divine.

Chowing down

Truly epic. Wish I could post every phase of this sunset.

There we are. Two lakes for the price of one!

Dustin caught this snake

The rocks offer endlessly interesting compositions

Looking at the razor shark ridgeline!

The view from the ridgeline and another spring

Paul and I orienteering 

Getting ready to head out

The way back

Can you spot the moose???!

All in all it was a successful trip and I even fulfilled my lifelong dream of seeing a moose! You can't see it but this moosey lady has a calf with her.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014


Interested in what life as a nature guide is like, I headed up to Yellowstone this weekend to visit Owen who is currently working as an instructor for the Yellowstone Association. They are affiliated with the park and offer a wide variety of tours and classes. Owen is living in Gardiner which is located very near the northern entrance of the park.

After a long drive I made it to the west entrance of the park. Due to low speed limits and traffic associated with wildlife viewing it takes 2+ hours to travel the 50 miles between the west and north entrance. Upon entering the park, I quickly encountered a "Bison Jam" and got my first up close encounter with these lovely beasts.

The Yellowstone experience

There was even more excitement later in the drive when a "bear jam" lead to viewing a grizzly bear mating pair romping and rolling around. It was pretty cool! This made me regret not having a decent camera since my iphone was only able to capture two very large ant-like figures and no grizzly bears at all. Luckily, I had my binoculars on hand which made for a better show. Notice how green it is here!

The next day, Owen took me out to look at wildlife around the park and we went on a short hike around trout lake near the northern range. During this outing we spotted a nesting osprey, a peregrine falcon pair and lots of wildflowers. We must have looked funny trying to snap iphone photos through Owen's spotting scope.

Looking official in his staff vest

Through the spotting scope!
Trout lake looking lovely

When a very large bison bull parked himself in the middle of the trail we decided to hike to a fire hollowed tree and take some time for writing, reflecting, and sketching.

Sheltering from the wind
On the way back up to Gardiner, we got stuck in another bear jam, this time for a black bear momma with two cubs hanging around a tree stump in a meadow covered in balsamroot. Lamenting my lack of a way to photograph this adorable scene, I did a quick sketch in the car.

Mom is peeved because there are so many spectators

The next day we had a few wildlife sightings straight from the road. A cayote walked right out in front of the car and just stood there for about 5 minutes. We also had a herd of pronghorn sheep pay us a visit. There were more birds to add to my list including three very lazy white pelicans, another nesting Osprey in the canyon beneath upper yellowstone falls, and bald eagles soaring overhead.

The money shot. You can't see it but there is another nesting osprey down there.

Going off of a tip from one of the other instructors, we headed down to Le Hardin rapids to see if we could spot some harlequin ducks. We were pretty excited because they are somewhat rare and have a very specific habitat living on rocky shores or in swift rapids. Sure enough, we spotted 9 ducks diving and bobbing and having a blast in the rapids. Later, we watched as they rested on a rock in the sun.
All in a row

Sunning on the rocks

Another through the spotting scope

Due to limited time and bad weather that included marble-sized hail we didn't end up making it to old faithful, but I'm sure I'll make it up there again before long. On the drive back to Salt Lake, I was met with stunning clouds and beautiful spring mountainscapes.

I'm so glad to call the rockies my home!