Drying Feathers.

A double-crested cormorant drying its feathers.
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great-cormorant-602782
Image by Ben Kerckx is licensed under CC0 Public Domain

In the last 15 years or so, cormorants have been regular winter inhabitants down in the Arkansas River Valley.  Large numbers often perch, many with wings spread wide, on the cross braces of an electrical transmission tower rising from the water between US 64 and the Union Pacific Railroad tracks, where both cross the Illinois Bayou area of Lake Dardanelle.

The double-crested cormorant mainly eats fish, hunting for food by swimming and diving.  Like all cormorants, its feathers are not completely waterproof.  After diving, it stands for long periods in a characteristic wings spread pose, which allows the feathers to dry.

A member of the cormorant family of seabird, the double-crested cormorant occurs along inland waterways as well as in coastal areas, and is widely distributed across North America, from the Aleutian Islands in Alaska down to Florida and Mexico. Measuring 70–90 cm (28–35 in) in length, it is an all-black bird which gains a small double crest of black and white feathers in breeding season. It has a bare patch of orange-yellow facial skin.  (Wikipedia)

critters, photography, wildlife
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Tragedy in Yellowstone.

Searching online for material related to a photo of the Lower Falls of the Yellowstone  (below), I learned a tragic accident had occurred there while we were in the park last summer.  An eight-year-old girl, hiking with her family to the observation platform at the brink of the falls, was two-third’s of the way down the trail when she fell 550 feet into the canyon. She had apparently stepped off the trail when she lost her footing.

Lower Falls of the Yellowston River

We last took the trail to the brink of the lower falls in 2010.  The high usage, 1.5 mile paved trail, round trip, is steep, dropping 600 feet over multiple switchbacks to the viewing platform.  The climb back up is strenuous.

Trail to Brink of Lower Falls of Yellwston

Trail to Brink of Lower Falls of Yellwston

Trail to Brink of Lower Falls of Yellwston

Numerous signs along the trail warn visitors to stay on the trail.  Some are intended to limit human caused erosion.

Warning Trail Sign at Grand Canyon of the Tellowstone

Some people choose to ignore the signs.

Shorcutting on Trail to Brink of Lower Falls of Yellwston

Shorcutting on Trail to Brink of Lower Falls of Yellwston

Other signs warn of danger.

Warning Trail Sign at Grand Canyon of the Tellowstone

imageUnfortunately, some people ignore these signs, too, some quite flagrantly.

Hiking a portion of the South Rim Trail last summer, we were passed several times by a large group, all of whom looked to be in their early 20s, except for one or two.  It was an organized group, possible a guided day hike.

If it was a guided hike, their trail discipline was very poor.

We saw several of the group venture off the trail to have their picture taken with the canyon in the background, including one young man repeatedly, including some balancing poses that could have ended badly.

Trail Sign at Grand Canyon of the Tellowstone - Uncle Tom and South RimOn the day the girl fell into the canyon, we took Uncle Tom’s Trail down into the canyon. The trail is asphalt with switchbacks and steps, including a metal staircase with 328 steps terminating at a  view platform about 3/4 of the way down into the canyon.

It’s across the canyon from where the accident occurred and slightly downstream.  The photo below is the observation platform at the brink of the lower falls, through a zoom lens.

Observation platform at Brink of the Lower Falls of the Yellowstone

We were on Uncle Tom’s Trail in the middle of the afternoon.  The accident occurred in the morning, with the body recovered around noon.

Brink of the Lower Falls of the Yellowstone

hiking, in the news, mountains, parks, people, photography, places, safety, travel, Wyoming
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Natural Bridge on Petit Jean Mountain.

Natural Bridge, Petit Jean State Park, Arkansas

Today, we drove over to Petit Jean State Park and hiked the Seven Hollows Trail.  It’s a 4.5 mile hike that is quite strenuous in places.  The trail-head sign said to allow 4 hours to hike it.  We finished in about 2 hours and 45 minutes.  The parking lot was full when we got there so we parked in the parking lot of a different trail a short ways down the road.  That added a bit to our hike so we may have been closer to 5 miles.

My fitness level is not yet where I would like.  I was struggling on the steepest areas of the last half of the trail.  The last mile or so was a steady upward slope.

We were close enough to home that we actually ran into someone we knew, a young man who works at the gym we go to.

One of the features along the trail referred to as a natural bridge, but it is actually a natural arch.  To get this picture – which is better than the view from the trail – I climbed up through the arch.

Petit Jean Natural Bridge is actually an abandoned natural arch eroded through Hartshorne sandstone. It is located in Petit Jean State Park in Conway County, Arkansas. Access is via the Seven Hollows Trail, a 4.5 mile loop. It has a span of 30 feet, a height of 22 feet, a width of 23 feet, and a thickness of 20 feet.  (The Natural Arch and Bridge Society)

This type of natural arch is invariably isolated and the lintel is arched. There are two roughly vertical abutments, each having a vertical rise greater than its horizontal extent. For many natural arches of this type, the lintel and abutments form a single strand of rock whose breadth varies little over most of its curved length. In other examples, one of the abutments is noticeably broader than the lintel and other abutment, but this broadening is roughly in the plane of the opening aperture. Natural arches of this type are considered old, i.e., at the end of their lifecycle. Although there is no conclusive evidence for a specific formation process, it is clear that the natural arch continues to survive due to compression strengthening. Compression strengthening made the remnant rock more resistant to erosion than the rock that once surrounded it, and hence, gave it its characteristic arched shape. This type of natural arch is rare. (The Natural Arch and Bridge Society)

Arkansas, destinations, hiking, mountains, parks, photography, places
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Bears and Pole Bridge.

Exploring in and around Glacier National Park, August 28, 2014

With all the bears that we saw on this trip, there was only one that we didn’t get a picture of.  One of the previous two nights, just before we turned onto Apgar Road from Going to the Sun Road, a black bear started to cross the road in front of us.  We were already slowing down for the turn to go to the campground and another car coming from the other direction also slowed after seeing the bear.  The bear wheeled around and headed back into the woods before we had a chance to even grab our cameras.

Headed to the Pole Bridge area of Glacier, on Camas Road, we saw four more black bears, a sow and 3 cubs, crossing the road in front of us.

Black bears, Glacier National Park, Montana, August 28, 2014

Black bears, Glacier National Park, Montana, August 28, 2014

Black bears, Glacier National Park, Montana, August 28, 2014

After the bears went into the grass and woods next to the road, we were able to to get a few closer photos of the mother from the car.

Black bear, Glacier National Park, Montana, August 28, 2014

The route to Pole Bridge goes outside the park as the inside the park road is closed, at least when we were there.  Glacier National Park requests that all bear and mountain lion sightings be reported to them as they want to track any possible interactions with humans and intervene if needed. We reported the bears at the entrance station as we left.

I had reported the first bear to a campground host, telling him that it had been on the Going to the Sun road about to cross over the road into our loop of the campground.  While we were talking he told me that the night before, about 11 o’clock, the mountain lion was spotted in ‘E” loop, walking down the campground road.  That was the opposite side of the campground from us, but still…! He also said that a mountain lion was seen several days before in the campground with several cubs.

Meadows, Glacier National Park, Montana, August 28, 2014

Cradled between the Continental Divide and Whitefish Mountain Range and located a mile from the northwest entrance to Glacier National Park is the electricity-free community of Polebridge. Made up of a handful of houses, cabins, a hostel and small ranches along the North Fork Road, the hub of this area is the historic Polebridge Mercantile and its neighboring Northern Lights Saloon—both powered by generators.  (Glacier Country Regional Tourism Commission)

Pole Bridge, near Glacier National Park, Montana, August 28, 2014

Pole Bridge, near Glacier National Park, Montana, August 28, 2014

Pole Bridge, near Glacier National Park, Montana, August 28, 2014

Huckleberry bear claws and other assorted pastries – we got a couple of the bear claws for a morning snack. Open-mouthed smile

Pole Bridge, near Glacier National Park, Montana, August 28, 2014

Northern Lights Saloon, Pole Bridge, near Glacier National Park, Montana, August 28, 2014

Northern Lights Saloon, Pole Bridge, near Glacier National Park, Montana, August 28, 2014

Once back at the campground, we decided to stick around the campsite for the rest of the day.  Our site was nice, except for a short period in the afternoon when a little extra shading was needed.

Apgar Campground,  Glacier National Park, Montana, August 28, 2014

After supper, we walked down to Apgar Village and  had some ice cream.

Apgar Campground to Apgar Village, Glacier National Park, Montana, August 28, 2014

Apgar Village, Glacier National Park, Montana, August 28, 2014

Mountain Lion warning, Apgar Village, Glacier National Park, Montana, August 28, 2014

Apgar Village, Glacier National Park, Montana, August 28, 2014

Lake McDonald, Glacier National Park, Montana, August 28, 2014

Lake McDonald, Glacier National Park, Montana, August 28, 2014

Next: A hike to some falls.

campground, camping, critters, forest, hiking, lake, landscape, Montana, mountains, parks, photography, places, town or city, travel, wildlife
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Hanging Garden Trail to Hidden Lake Overlook.

Exploring Glacier National Park, August 27, 2014.

When we took this trail with the kids back in the early 90s, it had been a lot earlier in the year and a good part of the trail was over snow fields remaining from winter.

Hanging Gardens Trail to Hidden lake Overlook, Glacier National Park, Montana, August 27, 2014

After seeing how difficult finding parking was the day before, we took the shuttle from Apgar.  When we got to Logan Pass, the parking lot was full again.

The trail begins on the west side of Logan Pass Visitor Center.  It has outstanding views, including alpine meadows and, often, wildlife.  The trail to Hidden Lake Overlook, the destination for most that hike it, is 3 miles round-trip, with an elevation gain of 540 feet.  The highest elevation reached is 7152 feet.

The trail is rated as easy.  However, that rating assumes good physical condition.  People out of shape or unused to the elevation may well have difficulty.  We saw a few people having difficulty.

Hanging Gardens Trail to Hidden lake Overlook, Glacier National Park, Montana, August 27, 2014

After the snows melt, the ground in this high alpine hanging valley – a valley carved out by a small tributary glacier that joins with a valley carved out by a larger glacier – is covered with colorful wildflowers, thus the name for the trail, Hanging Garden.

Hanging Gardens Trail to Hidden lake Overlook, Glacier National Park, Montana, August 27, 2014

Hanging Gardens Trail to Hidden lake Overlook, Glacier National Park, Montana, August 27, 2014

We saw several hoary marmots along the hike.

Hoary Marmot, Hanging Gardens Trail to Hidden lake Overlook, Glacier National Park, Montana, August 27, 2014

Hanging Gardens Trail to Hidden lake Overlook, Glacier National Park, Montana, August 27, 2014

Hanging Gardens Trail to Hidden lake Overlook, Glacier National Park, Montana, August 27, 2014

Hanging Gardens Trail to Hidden lake Overlook, Glacier National Park, Montana, August 27, 2014

I spotted our first mountain goat on this trail at the top of a snow field remnant.

Mountain Goats, Hanging Gardens Trail to Hidden lake Overlook, Glacier National Park, Montana, August 27, 2014

We saw more a little ways up the trail on cliffs on the opposite side of the hanging valley.

Mountain Goats, Hanging Gardens Trail to Hidden lake Overlook, Glacier National Park, Montana, August 27, 2014

There were quite a few mountain goats.  As they moved down the rocks, more appeared.  Unfortunately, I left my camera in the wrong setting and most of the photos I took are badly over-exposed.  Shooting RAW format, though, lets me recover some of the detail that would be lost shooting JPG.

Mountain Goats, Hanging Gardens Trail to Hidden lake Overlook, Glacier National Park, Montana, August 27, 2014

Mountain Goat, Hanging Gardens Trail to Hidden lake Overlook, Glacier National Park, Montana, August 27, 2014

We got to the Hidden Lake Overlook just in time for lunch – mine was trail mix (nuts, fruit, and chocolate), though I had granola bars and peanut butter crackers along as well.  The image below is a panorama created with my iPhone.

Hanging Gardens Trail to Hidden lake Overlook, Glacier National Park, Montana, August 27, 2014

Hanging Gardens Trail to Hidden lake Overlook, Glacier National Park, Montana, August 27, 2014

A lot of other people were there when we were, eating their lunches or snacks and taking in the scenery.  The trail is one of the most popular in the park, but, for the most part, we didn’t have any issues with overcrowding.

Hanging Gardens Trail to Hidden lake Overlook, Glacier National Park, Montana, August 27, 2014

Another mountain goat showed up along the trail not long after we started back towards the trail head.

Mountain Goat, Hanging Gardens Trail to Hidden lake Overlook, Glacier National Park, Montana, August 27, 2014

Hanging Gardens Trail to Hidden lake Overlook, Glacier National Park, Montana, August 27, 2014

Below, part of the eastern stretch of Going to the Sun Road and, in the distance, St. Mary’s Lake.

Hanging Gardens Trail to Hidden lake Overlook, Glacier National Park, Montana, August 27, 2014

Hanging Gardens Trail to Hidden lake Overlook, Glacier National Park, Montana, August 27, 2014

Hanging Gardens Trail to Hidden lake Overlook, Glacier National Park, Montana, August 27, 2014

At the visitor center, while I was waiting for Karen to get back from the restroom, I spotted a bighorn ram and ewe about 50 yards or so to the east.  By the time Karen got there, there had disappeared into the trees.

Bighorn ram, Hanging Gardens Trail to Hidden lake Overlook, Glacier National Park, Montana, August 27, 2014

Bighorn ram and ewe, Hanging Gardens Trail to Hidden lake Overlook, Glacier National Park, Montana, August 27, 2014

On the way up in the morning, we had to transfer to a smaller bus at Avalanche Creek.  In the afternoon, we rode the same bus all the way to Apgar.

critters, hiking, lake, landscape, mountains, parks, photography, places, plants, travel, wildlife
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