Mountains, Wildlife, & Wilderness … Who Could Ask For More?

Back in February, after our visit at Yellowstone NP in its most beautiful season for visitors, we eventually made our way to Grand Teton NP.  We stayed in Jackson Hole, WY, which in the winter is primarily filled with snow skiers and snowboarders, but for us, we were armed with camera gear and snowshoes.  Travel within the Tetons is a bit more accessible than Yellowstone in the winter.  When we first arrived, it was quite beautiful, with no place offering a nicer view of the mountain range than from Oxbow Bend._DSC7187The roads were still being plowed from a recent snowfall, which was expected.IMG_0612What we didn’t expect was the strong winds blowing the snow all over the place, making driving interesting and photography quite a challenge.IMG_0605Before long, we spotted a lone coyote making its way across the deep snow drifts.  It was fun to photograph it, and its shadow, as it ran.  It paid us no attention._DSC7234Warnings were out in force to “Slow Down!  Wildlife on Road”.  Loved that sign, which actually reminded me of a previous trip when we would see “share the road” signs, with images of vehicles, bicycles, snowmobiles, and animals.  Yes, we’re no longer in the metropolis known as South Florida.  🙂IMG_0614Along side of the river, Tom spotted this huge moose, by lower 48 standards anyways._DSC4187We did a quick turnaround and found that there were actually 3 moose present foraging near the rivers edge … a male across the river, along with a cow and her young._DSC7313We watched them for quite some time and for the most part, they totally ignored us.  They never seemed to interact with the male, however, they always stayed in the same general area.  _DSC7338Oops, looks like we’ve been spotted.  Mama’s not so sure, but junior doesn’t seem to mind.  In no time, they settled in._DSC7377_DSC7394_DSC7408What a fun encounter that was with the moose family and they really made it even nicer being along that river.

Before too long we came across some footprints in the snow … which we followed through our binoculars until we came across the culprit … this adorable sleeping red fox.  I must admit that Tom is a pretty good spotter with those binoculars.  🙂_DSC4310Towards the later afternoon, we thought that we would try our luck again with the mountain goats that were hanging out not too far away.  We also met up with some friends that were going to be in the Tetons pretty much the same time as us.  Sure enough, the goats, this time without all of the “jewelry” were out and about.  _DSC4517This time they were cooperating nicely too … climbing up on the rocky outcroppings and posing for some nice photographs._DSC4477Look at this amazing close up!  I was so excited when it reached the top of the mountain and positioned itself against the blue of the sky above.  What a beautiful creature.  Can’t believe that after I was skunked out of seeing them on Mt. Evans (the road was closed when we visited last summer), I finally got to see them!_DSC4357The King of the Mountain shot … after which many photographers left.  This was the moment they were waiting for, for hours!  Glad that our wait time was much shorter.  As they say … timing is everything!_DSC7773No trip to the Tetons is every complete without a red fox sighting.  This winter’s visit didn’t disappoint._DSC7942There’s something so striking about finding a beautiful red fox in the midst of a snow covered landscape.  So isolated … so open … so focused on the task at hand.  That is, until they spot the camera.  Usually the interruption is brief and they carry on with the hunt momentarily.  _DSC8081Same is true of the coyotes, which are relatively easy to spot as they roam the vast wilderness of white._DSC7927As if the wildlife opportunities aren’t enough, how about some stunning landscapes featuring those iconic mountains?  When I think of mountain ranges, my mind definitely thinks of the Tetons.  Such a magnificent place any time of year and the winter season is no exception._DSC7199 Yes, it’s safe to say that we could get used to life in this neck of the woods.  Sunshine, blue sky, wilderness, wildlife opportunities, mountains, and just about everything else that you could ask for.  Yep, I’ll take it.  🙂IMG_0625

Next Up:  More from the Tetons …

© 2016  Debbie Tubridy / TNWA Photography

http://www.tnwaphotography.com

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A Special Memory in Denali

For some reason, we generally save Denali NP for the end of our trip.  Perhaps it’s to let the crowds thin out a bit, or maybe allow more time for the big bulls to arrive for the moose rut, or we like to end on a high – a definitive one pleasing for both wildlife and landscapes.  As soon as we arrived and saw the snow on the landscape and the trees, we knew that it was going to be a special week of Denali.DSC_0889As we made our first pass on the 15-mile public road within the park, while looking for moose, we spotted a bear … actually 3 bears walking the gravel bed of the braided Savage River.  What a great omen.DSC_0952We did find the moose as well … always fascinating to find them drinking near the kettle ponds._DSC6511_DSC6556Our arrival into the Denali NP was timed perfectly … for on August 31st, the Park Service officially gave back the name of Denali to the nations tallest peak – standing a proud 20,322′ tall – out for all to witness in all of its glory.  Not a cloud in sight … amazing!  Well once again we were inducted into the 30% club (seeing the mountain at all) and even the 10% club (seeing the mountain unobstructed).  Yes, we were blessed and quite proud to witness this historic moment of pride to the native Americans, Alaskans, and others who never understood why it was known as Mt. McKinley for so long._DSC3553If you look closely, you’ll see us at the summit of denali waving … LOL.IMG_1058Sometimes you just never know what you’re going to get when you venture into Denali’s interior.  For some strange reason, the sightings on this particular morning were few and far between, so when we arrived at the Eielson Visitor Center, the arctic ground squirrels running around in the deep fresh snow, got lots of unusual lens time._DSC3579_DSC3582_DSC3578Cute little guys too.  It reminded me that it’s not just bears, moose, wolves, caribou, and dall sheep – aka The Big 5 – that call Denali NP home.DSC_1286-2Of course though, I was there for bears, especially in the snowy landscape, so I was quite excited when this one came along, though I pretty much had too much lens.  For those of you who might wonder … we’re in the safety of the shuttle bus and this wasn’t cropped!DSC_1356An unusual sighting were these dall sheep ewes and their young traveling on the river bed.  In our 8 previous trips, I had never seen them that low.  DSC_1416Now when you arrive into Denali in early Spetember, you’re really there for two things … the fall colors and the moose rut.  Sometimes, you get both.  🙂DSC_1562DSC_1679These guys were out in full force for the rut and congregating together, sizing each other up I would imagine, and following the estrous cows in the area.  All of their antlers were clean, already shed velvet for the most part.  If you’ve only seen moose in the lower 48, you really need to see them in Alaska to appreciate their size.  It’s not just those giant vegetables that grow bigger in Alaska.  LOLDSC_1701DSC_1876A favorite of mine are the ptarmigan, especially this time of year when they’re transitioning from their usual rust color to white to aid in their camouflage from predators in the winters snowy landscape.  Quite unusual to find it perched in a tree … such beautiful birds.DSC_2052More landscape images of Denali looming in the distance, still roughly 33 miles away (as the crow flies).  There’s no denying the grandeur of Denali.DSC_7132Grizzly bears were out and about during the week – solo adults, as well as sows with cubs, and sub-adults too.  These bears can get quite big, but remain smaller than the coastal brown bears that feed on salmon.DSC_2351Caribou posing in the fall colored landscape is always a sight that takes your breath away.  Also primarily free from their velvet cover on their antlers, they are quite striking when their head is lifted and those antlers stand out proudly.DSC_2482Of course, just because their velvet-free doesn’t mean that they don’t itch, as you can see this one thrashing its antlers violently in the brush.DSC_2432One evening, while out looking for bears, we watched this bull caribou take off at full throttle over the braided river landscape and up the Savage River.  Not sure if something was after it or it simply got spooked, but it was amazing to see the territory that they could cover in pursuit.  Poor guy was exhausted and took a bit of a breather as he simply pranced about.DSC_2589Before long, off he excellerated again up towards the road and over the hill.  DSC_2593Yes, Denali is impressive … both the mountain and the national park.DSC_7144Next Up:  More from Denali

© 2015  TNWA Photography / Debbie Tubridy

http://www.tnwaphotography.com

Driving Through the Countryside

All set for our travels out of the Lake Louise/Banff area and on to our next destination … Waterton Lakes National Park, but first I had always heard of the Cascade Ponds, had never been there, and wanted to experience it for myself.  Our day turned out to be a blah one and I was totally unimpressed with the bright orange plastic fencing, etc in the background.  But I had to just take one anyway.  :-/

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So far during our trip, we encountered lots of black bears, a few grizzly bears, lots of elk, some mule deer, and bighorn sheep.  We hadn’t seen a moose yet, but our luck was changed when we found this moose taking a swim in a small pond.

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It’s funny, because after spending lots of time in Alaska, I tend to come across ponds near forested areas and I always say how it would be prime moose territory.  Well, that’s kind of how this afternoon went as well.  I had to laugh at how it casually swam around for a bit, eating the vegetation, and checking out the onlookers.  I couldn’t help but notice all of the flies that were surrounding the poor guy.  I’m sure the water provided a welcome relief from them … everywhere except for his head!

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Eventually the moose decided that he had enough of the pond and slowly, but surely made his way first towards us, then laterally out of the pond.  We watched as he disappeared into the forest.  I remember thinking how fortunate we were to spot him enjoying the water and quietly wondered how many other ponds had we passed where the moose had just exited the scene.  🙂

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A little fun along the road towards Waterton Lakes … when we came across a barb wire fence with wooden posts … but each post was adorned with a hat.  I would imagine that those driving by would see it and make their own donation.  It wasn’t just a few either …

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… as the fence went on and on!  I wished at that point I had a spare hat to “donate” and make my mark, but I needed the one that I had, as the sun was out strong.

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OK, so one of the most beautiful sights I remember seeing in the Palouse area of Washington state was the fields of canola crops along the way.  I thought that I had left it all behind, but alas, here were more.

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It reminded me of a golden carpet … all woven and full of texture.  Tom denied me the right to run through them, probably for good reason.  LOL

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Tom doesn’t like this shot due to the power lines, but hey, I love it anyway for showing the contrast between the golden canola fields and the irrigation trench that ran through it.  Oh, did I mention those magnificent building clouds?

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Along the way I had a flashback to my early college years, where I started out pursuing agriculture and I began to wonder why I changed from that to nutrition science.  Funny how things turn out, though I guess they are somewhat related.  I believe that this drive was one of the most beautiful drives I’ve ever taken.  OK, back to the present!

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Once we arrived at Waterton Lakes National Park, the first sight most visitors see, and drool and marvel at, is the Prince of Wales Hotel.  It sits perched high and overlooks the Upper Waterton Lakes.  It was built by an American, versus a Canadian, railway company (still the only one in Canada) and opened in 1927.  It was built to lure American tourists across the border during prohibition.  In 1995, it was designated as a National Historic Site of Canada.  It’s simply a site for sore eyes!

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We didn’t stay there though I’m sure it’s lovely.  We stayed just a bit away in a town called Mountain View at a lovely B&B.  Gorgeous countryside, gorgeous views, and an incredible sunset.

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More on Waterton Lakes National Park on the next blog.  Stay tuned.

© 2014  Debbie Tubridy / http://www.tnwaphotography.com

2012 Review: Part 4 – Denali National Park & Other AK Areas

Off to Denali we went for another week or so – actually we loved it so much that we returned to Denali for another 4 day stint when Kelli & Mitchell flew out to join us in Anchorage.  Hoping to see the moose rut, it seems that we were still a bit too early to see the real jostling that goes on, but we did see some early “practice sessions”.  We did see many sightings of grizzly bears this year – many times they were sows and their cubs.  As they frolicked in the amazing autumn-kissed tundra or sometimes even in the snow covered landscape, they thrilled me to no end, as I clicked off images to my heart’s content.  Wolf sightings were achieved, as well as coyotes, caribou, golden eagles, harriers, dall sheep, just to name a few.  Conspicuously absent for us in 2012 was the lynx, though I tried really hard… new found friends of ours were successful in seeing one, so I lived vicariously through their sighting.

When we first arrived, we were treated to a vast array of autumn’s best colors.

Autumn color changes were everywhere, as even the caribou has to stop to enjoy the view

Autumn color changes were everywhere, as even the caribou has to stop to enjoy the view

Young grizzly cubs frolicking at play

Young grizzly cubs frolicking at play

Lone wolf cruising the tundra in search of a meal

Lone wolf cruising the tundra in search of a meal

Cow moose feeding

Cow moose feeding

Then the weather began to change, as the fog and rain rolled in
Where's the pot of gold at the end of this rainbow?

Where’s the pot of gold at the end of this rainbow?

Then it happened ….. SNOW  (remember, we’re quite excited – being from FL and all)
The snowfall started in the afternoon and continued on through the evening

The snowfall started in the afternoon and continued on through the evening

The next day, it was beautiful!  The snow had stopped, the skies were clear, the weather was cold, but plenty of sunshine to help warm us up.  Even the wildlife seemed to enjoy it.
Grizzly bear stop in the snow flurry blanketed landscape

Grizzly bear stop in the snow flurry blanketed landscape

What a fabulous day!

What a fabulous day!

Taking in the view from Wonder Lake

Taking in the view from Wonder Lake

The freshly fallen snow contrasts so beautifully on the mountains and against the sky

The freshly fallen snow contrasts so beautifully on the mountains and against the sky

Not a cloud in the sky - viewpoint of Mt. McKinley (aka Denali) from Stony Hill Overlook

Not a cloud in the sky – viewpoint of Mt. McKinley (aka Denali) from Stony Hill Overlook

Having some fun along the way!

Having some fun along the way!

A mother-daughter moment of happiness  :-)

A mother-daughter moment of happiness 🙂

We also traveled to other areas of Alaska, of course, as we always do.  There’s never a shortage of experiences or sights/animals to see and photograph.  I encourage everyone out there that has never visited AK to do so … you won’t be disappointed.

Hatcher Pass vista

Hatcher Pass vista

The newlyweds along the Turnagain Arm @ Beluga Point - yes, we did see the belugas!

The newlyweds along the Turnagain Arm @ Beluga Point – yes, we did see the belugas!

And our most favorite of all sights, though very different viewing in 2012, is the spectacular aurora borealis.  First experienced by us in 2007 in Chena Hot Springs, outside of Fairbanks, it continues to be sought after by us when we visit AK in the later summer.  This year, the aurora didn’t “dance” across the sky like a blowing curtain, but rather made it’s presence know with an almost glow in the sky.  Not much movement at all, though still very beautiful.

Northern lights over Chena Hot Springs

Northern lights over Chena Hot Springs

What a wonderful place … ever-changing, awe-inspiring …. warms the heart and soul  🙂

Stay tuned for 2012 Review:  Part 5