2012 Review: PART 5 – Family Reunion – Yellowstone, Tetons, & Zion NP

Barely unpacked from AK, I had a family reunion to get to out west.  See, we decided to gather up the gang – Kelli & Mitchell, my mom & her husband Murray, and us – to spend some time together out in the great outdoors, appreciating each other’s company, as well as the company of lots of wildlife and beautiful surroundings.  Tom & Kelli took a road trip out west, stopping along the way to get their mountain biking fix, and met us in Salt Lake City.  After a brief stop in SLC, we ventured out to Yellowstone NP & Great Teton NP.  To my surprise, we were a bit late for the explosion of fall colors that we had enjoyed 2 years ago – same time, same place.  Oh well, didn’t matter because the trip more than made up for the lack of fall colors by the abundance of wildlife.  Bears, moose, bison, wolves, coyotes, pronghorn, and elk were plentiful!  The weather was crispy cool, OK maybe even cold at times, but this Florida girl enjoyed it immensely.  Tom & I would get up really early every morning and shoot, while the family took in a bit more sleep.

Family reunion

Family reunion

Bison battling it out for superiority

Bison battling it out for superiority

Bull elk readying for the rut

Bull elk readying for the rut

After spending several days trying to track down the elk in the very early mornings, there’s a few things that I can remember as if it were just a moment ago ….

1.  The sound of the elk when they bugle.  If you haven’t heard that amazing sound, you need to google elk and listen to their call.  It’s one of the most amazing sounds that you will ever hear.  For literally miles and miles you can hear the echo within the vast wilderness of the landscape.  So soothing ….

2.  Another sound ….. see we ran across many sightings of coyotes – hunting in the fields, running to and fro ….. but on 2 occasions, we saw them run back to what I figured out afterwards must have been their den, most likely with a meal, and you could hear the yips of their young.  I’m not talking a yip or 2, I’m talking about 1-3 minutes of continuous calling out.  That is another sound that if you’ve never heard it, you should.  I wanted to tape it on my video in my camera, but I was paralyzed by the beauty of their sound.  Big time smiles after hearing that one!

Three generations

Three generations

Moulton Barn, Grand Tetons NP

Moulton Barn, Grand Tetons NP

Enjoying the view from Signal Mountain, Grand Teton NP

Enjoying the view from Signal Mountain, Grand Teton NP

Yellowstone NP, WY

Yellowstone NP, WY

Several days were also spent in and around Park City also, as Mitchell joined us for an extended weekend or so.  Then off towards AZ and NM we went – taking a few detours along the way – some intended, some not.  What a beautiful country we live in!  One of our unintended detours involved St. George (we won’t go into that one), but things happen for a reason and the detour turned into a visit to Zion NP – so incredibly beautiful and a treat from the summertime visit we did several years ago – much less crowded.

Looking up at the tall stand of aspens kissed by autumn

Looking up at the tall stand of aspens kissed by autumn

Paria, Vermilion Cliffs National Monument, UT

Paria, Vermilion Cliffs National Monument, UT

Zion NP, UT

Zion NP, UT

Zion NP, UT

Zion NP, UT

While the beauty of the southwest was difficult to leave, we had a more definite destination.

Stay tuned for 2012 Review:  Part 6

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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

2012 Review: PART 3 – Brown Bears of the Kenai Peninsula & Katmai

Of course, our sights were also focused on our return to Alaska – our 6th annual trip!  This time we visited with our good friends, Todd & Susan, who were experiencing Alaska for their first time.  Really made it fun to see and hear their thoughts on a place that has become so near and dear to us over the years.  We spent about a week on the Kenai Peninsula – visiting with the Russian River bears (always a thrill), eagle watching in Homer, walking Bishops Beach near Home Spit,

Hanging on to the prize

Hanging on to the prize

Like a child playing in their bathtub

Like a child playing in their bathtub

Out on the Russian River

Out on the Russian River – photo courtesy of Todd Stein

and of course, spending some time with the coastal brown bears in Katmai NP.  This year, we spent time at Kuliak Bay, where we were treated to numerous bears, including some sows and their adorable cubs.  What a sight these cubs were, as they scurried by us, not sure of what we were or what we were doing in their world.

Spring cub is not too sure about us

Spring cub is not too sure about us

Salmon fishing at the falls

Salmon fishing at the falls

Chasing down the river towards us (after the salmon, of course)

Chasing down the river towards us (after the salmon, of course)

Retreating into the tall grasses to rest

Retreating into the tall grasses to rest

No matter how many times we visit Katmai NP, it’s never the same.  We have been fortunate to visit new locations within the vast Katmai landscape each year and 2012 was no different.  We even got to spend some time with crew members of the BBC film crew shooting a documentary in the area.

... missed ....

… missed ….

The skillful fisherman

The skillful fisherman

The flight over to Katmai is always a treat for the eyes, but this year we were treated to an incredible fly-over of the glacial landscape and mountains of the coastal areas and a bit of the interior of Katmai – on an amazingly beautiful day.  I can’t thank Jon enough for that added bonus thrill for us!

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What an incredible place!  Make it a destination for yourself one day!

Stay tuned for more of the 2012 year in review!