Category Archives: Travel

WEST OF HERE – YELLOWSTONE AND SOUTHWEST MONTANA

 

My husband and I flew into Bozeman International Airport (yep, INTERNATIONAL airport), picked up the rental and headed straight for Yellowstone National Park. An hour later we were driving through the spectacular landscape of the world’s first national park.

Near the North Entrance of Yellowstone NationalPark, area of Mammoth Hot Springs

Near the North Entrance of Yellowstone National Park.

Aspens  Yellowstone National Park

Aspens in the Lamar Valley of Yellowstone National Park

 

 

Anyone who has spent any time in Yellowstone knows that the best way for a beginner to see wildlife is to follow the crowd. The scopes and telephotos of this group along the North Road were focused on a black Gray Wolf. The folks from the Yellowstone Wolf Project had identified it as being about 4 miles away. Serious equipment was required to catch a glimpse.

Searching for the Black Wolf

Scoping out the black Gray Wolf

All of a sudden someone yells out “Bison coming your way”.

Bison Crossing

Stampede! Bison crossing the road.

 

 

Looking for Grizzly, but satisfied with Wapiti (elk to the rest of us).

Elk Atop a Ridge

Elk atop a ridge.

 

 

Finally we see our first Grizzly. It was old Scarface, a long time resident of Yellowstone with a storied past and a ravaged face to prove it. One woman announced that she had seen him four years before and thought he was on his last legs at that time. Word quickly spread throughout the Park that there was a Grizzly at Petrified Tree and for two days Scarface drew crowds of admirers. He had found a fresh carcass and claimed it. The old Grizzly lay on top of it, ate it, slept on it, eliminated on it, watched the tourists from it and then ate some more of it until there was nothing left but bone. The park ranger said Scarface was too old to fight for his food these days, so he knew a good thing when he found it. Even prone and at his advanced age, Scarface commands respect. At one point a black bear lurked in the nearby woods, but thinking the better of it, waddled off and left Scarface alone.

Word got around about a Grizzly at Petrified Tree.

Word got around about a Grizzly at Petrified Tree.

24 year old Grizzly named Scarface.

Twenty-four year old Grizzly named Scarface.

 

 

Very pleased with our sightings for the first day in Yellowstone, we headed back to our cabin at Mammoth Hot Springs. It was wonderful waking early the next morning to the stillness of a dusting of snow.

Cabins at Monmouth Falls, first snowfall

Cabins at Mammoth Hot Springs (taken with my iPhone).

 

 

The weather changes fast in Yellowstone and by mid-morning we were on the trail of another Grizzly (or at least the trail of others looking for a Grizzly).

Stopping to See the Grizzly

Stopping to see the young Grizzly between Mammoth Hot Springs and Norris.

This young grizzly made it easy for us to watch him. He was eating in a meadow about 50 yards from the road seemingly without a care in the world.

Grizzly in a Meadow

 

 

We still had not seen a moose. It appeared that moose sightings were hard to come by in Yellowstone this year. “If you want to see moose,” we were frequently advised, “go to the Tetons.”  Our plans had us heading south, but not that far south. Late the second day, we headed down to the Hayden Valley and the stunning Lake Yellowstone.

The refined, Victorian ambiance of the historic Lake Yellowstone Hotel, with its stunning vantage point overlooking Lake Yellowstone, was a marked departure from our first night’s accommodations at the cabins. There had been a time in my life when staying at such a grand 19th century hotel, taking in the landscape from the inside, would have satisfied my requirements for “being out in nature.” It occurred to me while we were at the hotel that I’m changing out of that person; I belong elsewhere, now. Walls and windows are creating an interruption or a disturbance in the field between myself and the outside landscape.

The Sitting Room at Lake Yellowstone Hotel.

The Sitting Room at Lake Yellowstone Hotel.

Lake Yellowstone

Lake Yellowstone

 

After spending two great days in Yellowstone, it was time for a short visit with our friends in Bozeman. A few of us drove out to the Spanish Peaks of the Madison Range of the Rocky Mountains. Ted Turner’s Flying D Ranch takes up 114,000 acres of this awe-inspiring landscape and although we weren’t invited in, parts of the ranch can be viewed from the National Forest Service road that borders it. We spent a couple of hours up there; doing what we always do – look for wildlife and take photos. Once again the Montana weather turned and as dusk approached, a cold rain settled in as the descending fog and mist softened the contour of the Spanish Peaks. The enormity of this unfamiliar  landscape left me with an isolation that I can only describe as electrifying.

 

Ted Turner Ranch in the Spanish Peaks, Gallatin Range, Bozeman, MT

Ted Turner Ranch in the Spanish Peaks, Madison Range, Bozeman, MT

 

 

On Monday, my husband left Montana for a meeting in Seattle. I planned to go up to Lolo, MT, around Missoula, and do a little horseback riding.  A friend decided to come along and I’m glad she did. I knew my trip would be enjoyable with her because she is a Montanan but more importantly, she is one of those people with loads of ideas and energy. On our way to Missoula, past Butte, she suggested we get off the highway and head towards Dillon, MT (Patagonia Outlet!) to see the “ghost town” of Bannack in Bannack State Park.  Bannack was the first capital of the Montana territory and was a successful mining town, as well. Today Bannack is owned by and is being authentically preserved by the Montana State Parks Department  – “Gold Town to Ghost Town”.  The day we rode into town, Bannack was quiet and we had the place to ourselves. We ambled down the planked walkways, peeking through the original glass panes and going inside the saloon, schoolhouse, jail and hotel.  Throughout the year special events take place there, in particular the very popular Bannack Days, when “the old ghost town comes to life” in a two-day celebration of life on the Montana frontier. Bannack Days is held the third week-end each July.

Jail in Bannock, Montana Territory, 1870

This is the Bannack jail with a sod roof and Aspens in the background.

Hotel Meade flanked by one of Montana's ubiquitous Cottonwood trees.

Hotel Meade flanked by one of Montana’s ubiquitous Cottonwood trees.

 

 

As we continued our ascent towards Lolo, the dry air we had enjoyed around Dillon disappeared and the temperature dropped.  The road became icy as we drove through the pass along the Idaho-Montana border. Good thing the weather caused us to slow down because we rather suddenly came upon a cow moose in the middle of the road. Her calf was back in the woods off the road.

Finally, the elusive moose sighting, Idaho-Montana border

Finally, the elusive moose sighting along the Idaho-Montana border.

 

 

We arrived in Lolo MT and  Dunrovin Ranch after dark and knocked down a few Rainiers before sleep. Next morning it was off for a horseback ride up into the Bitterroot Mountains. Dunrovin is an intimate ranch with comfortable, modern, fully furnished and stocked cabins. There are special programs throughout the year, a very friendly and accommodating staff and a myriad of animals. One of the aspects of the ranch that owner SuZan Miller takes great pride in is the osprey nesting cam which allows people from the world over to monitor the nesting osprey and chicks. There are also cams of the barn and the horses. I can always catch up on how Whiskey, the horse I rode while there, is doing. Great Place!

We  crossed the Bitterroot River with the horses. What an interesting sensation it was, too.  The trick is to not look down!

Our trail ride took us to a beautiful vantage point in the Bitterroot Mountains.

Our trail ride took us to a beautiful vantage point in the Bitterroot Mountains.

 

I hope you enjoyed seeing my photographs and reading about my time – well spent -“west of here.”

 

Robert Macfarlane, author of The Old Ways – A Journey on Foot, succinctly and cogently reminds us that “landscape has long offered us keen ways of figuring (out) ourselves to ourselves….. (and how) …. particular places might make possible particular thoughts.”

 

 

My Short Dalliance With a Lake

Lake Wentworth

Lake Wentworth

In 1967 I was spending  the “summer of love” at sleep-away camp  in the Poconos with an undiagnosed  case of mononucleosis. One afternoon my cabin mates and I set out to swim to the raft in the middle of the lake when half way across I realized that I wasn’t going to make it. I began to panic.  I can only describe the smell and the taste of the lake water that afternoon as some horrible combination of the liquid in canned vegetables and rust. The still water of the lake actually felt like it was working against my staying afloat. It seemed there was only one  way to go…. Since my rescue that day I’ve had no interest in lakes, preferring instead the salty tasting and swift  moving, often tumultuous water of the ocean.

Nonetheless, some of my best friends are loyal lake people. I’m even aware that up north, in places like New England and  the Adirondacks, vacationing at a lake is very popular. These lake vacation places, I’m not surprised to learn, are referred to as “camps”.

Unlikely as it seems, last week I drove eleven hours north to do what was for me, the unthinkable: to spend a few days at a friend’s camp at a lake in New Hampshire where I was to see for myself that “camps” are not synonomous  with “camping” and, in fact, the comforts of some of these lakeside “camps” belie any  definition of  the word. More importantly, I was to discover that there exists a lake in New Hampshire that holds a pleasant pull on me.

Lake Wentworth New Hampshire 5AM

Lake Wentworth New Hampshire 5AM

My friend’s camp on Lake Wentworth  has been in her family since 1905.  Upon entering the bright modern great room, the lake came into view. After so many hours in a car, I was helpless in resisting the pull of this inviting body of water. As I moved onto the screened porch, a mere ten feet from the lake, I finally exhaled. I quickly made up my mind: I would be sleeping out on that porch during my stay. There we stayed for the remainder of the afternoon, enjoying a Smuttynose or two. As the sun set we  headed into town for dinner.

Wolfeboro, New Hampshire seems a pleasant lakeside town of courteous adults and well-behaved youth. Shops sell fine art, books, boutique chocolates and a lot of high end mouse-inspired merchandise. In keeping with the traditions of New England towns, the center of town has a church with a clock tower and a bandstand.  After dinner that first evening we strolled towards the bandstand where a group of musicians was entertaining  both young and old with popular songs  the words to which everyone seemed to know. The band wrapped up at 9:30, thanked everyone for coming and within 30 minutes the main street of Wolfeboro was rolled up. Like I said, all very well-behaved.

Vacationers, renters and second-home-owners, come to Wolfeboro all year long for  Lake Winnipesaukee.  It offers a range of traditional summer water sports, and since the lake freezes, there is snowmobiling and ice-fishing – as well as skiing in the nearby Belknap Mountains – during the winter.   The Romneys have a camp along the shore of this lake. The scene in On Golden Pond in which the character played by Henry Fonda capsizes his boat with his on-screen grandson was filmed here. I know this because the captain of the  Winnipesaukee Belle explained it all to us on our  tour around the lake (and a lot more).

Wolfeboro, New Hampshire from the Winnipesaukee Belle

Wolfeboro, New Hampshire from the Winnipesaukee Belle

Back at the camp, the sleeping arrangements were very agreeable. The screened porch was to be all mine. Each evening I fell asleep to the sound of the lake lapping against the shore and the gentle clatter of small boats and rafts knocking against each other in time to the rythym of the water. Sound carried over the lake in an unfamiliar but comforting way  and  I caught bits and pieces of conversation from neighboring camps as I drifted off to sleep.  One evening it rained and the gentle lake rhythm was replaced by a more steady, insistent  tapping.  Several times each night  I was awakened by the haunting calls of the several pairs of loons that lived on Lake Wentworth.  After a few evenings sleeping on the screened porch I came to realize that the loons had several different calls each communicating something.

 

On my last morning, the loons woke me. All that was required of me that morning at 5;15 was to open my eyes. I was greeted by a still weak early morning sun rising over the mist covered mountains and soft shades of pink coating the undisturbed surface of Lake Wentworth. This was a sight I had only seen in photographs. I was torn between lying there, appreciating how unique this moment was for me or getting up and trying to capture this beauty in my own photographs.  Being as I have a web site and business cards that both identify me as a photographer  I got my camera. I have posted a few of the best images here but none, I’m afraid, captures the serenity of that place and that moment.

I would like to be able to tell you that my relationship with lakes came full circle during those four days at Lake Wentworth, that I finally completed that aborted swim to the raft from nearly 40 years ago. Certainly the opportunity presented itself as you can see from the photograph above. But that would not be true. In fact, not expecting to use it, I didn’t even bring my bathing suit with me up to New Hampshire. I did happily splash around in the lake like a kid, in a T-shirt, with my friends and for the time being that’s how the story ends.

Lake Wentworth Dock at Fern

Lake Wentworth Dock at Fern

The “Social” in a Natural Landscape

 

 

View of the Sea From Penzance

View of the Sea From Penzance

When I visit a town or city for the first time, I like to stroll through a public garden or park.  I’ve found that the number, variety and the care given by citizens to their public parks and gardens can be an expression  of the values and sensibilities  generally embraced by the townspeople. This practice is what brought me to the Morrab Gardens in Penzance in Cornwall, England

Penzance is a seaboard town situated at the convergence of the English Channel, the Atlantic Ocean and the Celtic Sea along the south-west coast of England. It’s “hard by” (as the English would say) Lands End,  a 5 to 6 hour train ride (about 300 miles) from Paddington Station in London. My husband and I stayed with Diane and Norman Cope, the gracious proprietors of the The Corner House,  a lovely bed and breakfast located along the Penzance Promenade over-looking the waters.

One of the very attractive aspects of Cornwall is its climate. The  mild, almost Mediterranean, climate allows a variety of tropical and sub-tropical plants and flowers to thrive there. People are always surprised to learn that palm trees grow in Cornwall.

Penzance From St. Michael's Mount

Penzance From St. Michael’s Mount

The  sub-tropical three-acre Morrab Gardens is a public garden. The morning I visited, mothers and children, couples, both young and old, solitary readers and a few tourists were enjoying the park.  It’s a well-manicured park with a variety of beddings and plantings, stone pathways leading off into several different directions around the grounds,  well-placed benches, fountains and a bandstand.  Discreetly placed signs tell visitors about the plants and wildlife of Morrab Gardens as well as its history. Clearly the people of Penzance are proud of Morrab Gardens.  None of this was unexpected, of course, after all, this is still England.

However, one surprise did await me in Morrab Gardens. Along the path which circles the bandstand was a bedding of  well-established agave plants with very large fronds (perhaps as wide as 6 to 8 inches across). Given the mild climate there, agave plants are quite common in Penzance, but what fascinated me and made these agaves so unique  was that the surfaces of several of the fronds were being used  for public social communication – that is to say – there was graffiti etched into the plants.

Morrab Gardens, Penzance

Morrab Gardens, Penzance

 

Morrab Gardens, Penzance

Morrab Gardens, Penzance

Clearly this was the handiwork of Penzance youth, carrying on somewhat in the tradition of their  outlaw pirate forefathers who had put Penzance on the map, as it were. Amused, I thought about the universality of graffiti and how any readily available surface is always fair game for it. Using the fronds of their ubiquitous agave was exceedingly clever, I thought. It did finally occur to me to consider  the adults who put time, money and care into Morrab Garden.  I wondered what they thought and  how they address the “problem” of plant graffiti? Or do they even consider it a problem at all? Clearly the adult perception of and reaction to the activities of their youth tell me more about the values and sensitivities of the people of Penzance than even their  gardens. Perhaps I’ll drop a note to the Friends of Morrab Gardens and find out.

Note: After four days in Penzance my impression is that it is a lovely, peaceful, quiet, clean, friendly and graffiti-free town! Great restaurants, too…but that’s for another blog.