Blogging A to Z Challenge – The Complete List for 2017 – #atozchallenge

During the month of April I participated with nearly 2000 other bloggers worldwide in the “Blogging from A to Z Challenge” which is now in its 7th year. This was my second year to participate and this year’s theme for my series was “Wanderlust.”  As a “Travelographer,” my posts tend to be photo heavy.  I travel and take loads of photos. This is my way of sharing the wonders of the back roads of America.

Corner of This Way and That Way in Lake Jackson, TX

Following are links to the complete A to Z set.  Just click on the banner for each and letter and enjoy the posts and the photos.  I hope all readers will Enjoy the Ride as much as I have enjoyed sharing it!

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W is for Wildlife – #atozchallenge

There are not many better things on a back road trip than running into unexpected wildlife. There is an abundance of birds and animals to be discovered on the road.  For me, my camera is always at the ready for the chance meeting of some interesting animal or bird.

Sandhill Cranes fly over high plains near Dell, MT

One such incident happened on a gravel road near Dell, Montana.  I was on the lookout for bison as I drive along Ted Turner’s massive bison ranch.  While stopped to look I heard a strange bird call that I had never heard and shortly thereafter a pair of large birds came zipping by.  I got some shots, but wasn’t sure what I had until I got to the hotel later that night and discovered they were a pair of Sandhill Cranes, my first ever sighting of these glorious birds.

Sandhill Cranes near Cecilia, KY
A pair of Sandhill Cranes at sunset near Cecilia, KY

Just a few years later in my own state of Kentucky I was able to track down a migration of 1000s of these magnificent birds.  I actually came close to walking among their huge flock and they were flying all around me.  Words can’t explain the awe I had.

These birds migrate north back to their homes in Michigan and Wisconsin and fly through Kentucky in late January.  They stop in the bounteous cornfields to eat the leftovers that remained after harvest.

1000s of sandhill cranes converse on a field near Cecilia, KY
Sandhill Cranes take flight
Sandhill Cranes fly over Cecilia, KY

Chance encounters are always a thrill.  On a morning drive in Grand Teton National Park on a snowy morning in March 2013, I caught a fox leaping in the snow out of the corner of my eye.  The lovely animal stopped and stared at me as I sought to nab a shot.

Fox on Snow in Grand Teton National Park
Migrating Snow Geese by the hundreds in Arkansas in February 2017

On another trip earlier this year, we were driving on a backroad in Arkansas when we saw a “field of white” ahead of us.  Turned out to be a massive flock of migrating snow geese.

There could have been 1000s of them here, much the same as the Sandhill Cranes I noted above.  But it was such an unplanned surprise.

Once again, camera was always at the ready, so I was able to get a few shots while still sitting in the van (though we had to go about a mile down the road to turn around and accommodate the photo shoot.

Snow Geese everywhere
A flock of Snow Geese darkens the sky
1000s of snow geese in a small field in central Arkansas

Just like the snow geese, I happened upon a large flock of white pelicans at Andes Lake in South Dakota.  I could see them from a distance and thought they were ducks.

Pelicans in Lake Andes, SD
Pelicans taking flight at Andes Lake
Antelope in open range along the side of Wyoming 120

Of course, its not always about birds.  There are plenty of opportunities in the high plains to come across America’s fastest animal, the pronghorn antelope.

On trips through Montana and Wyoming I always saw these lovely sleek animals.  Sometimes I got them right on the side of the road.

I did have one lucky trip in 2013 when I was driving through Colorado and saw a mother and her two calves go jaunting through the tall grass.  I was able to get a nice shot with my telephoto lens.

Antelope Doe and Calves as seen from CO Hwy 13 north of Craig, CO
Antelope just stared back at me…didn’t run
A small family of pronghorn Antelope scamper across a field near Pulis Lane in Wilsall, Montana.
Antelope on the Run in Wyoming
A big bison poses for me in Yellowstone

The National Parks are always a great place to get some nice wildlife shots.  I have been to Yellowstone three times in the past 5 years and have seen a nice variety of wildlife, but mainly its the bison that roam free that are a thrill.  I was amazed at how huge some of these guys get.  One that walked by my car was at least 7 feet tall.

Bison and calves relax by a lake in Yellowstone
Bison roam freely along the Grand Loop road
Bison relax along Lava Creek in Yellowstone while pronghorned antelope look on from the background
Buffalo in southern Montana on Ted Turner’s sprawling ranch near Dell, MT
Another Bison in Yellowstone Park
A solitary elk bull relaxes in the meadow at Yellowstone

Elk are another great large mammal to look for.  I have seen them in Yellowstone and Grand Teton, as well as some of the mountain drives I made.

These are lovely animals.  And, like the bison, are huge.

 

Elk Bull in Sugar City, Idaho
An Elk Bull near Elkton, Oregon
One antlered elk bull on a breeding farm near Archer, ID
An elk was seen roaming the area around Mammoth Hot Springs in Yellowstone
Deer at sunrise in Shenandoah National Park

The great culprit of car accidents and frequent recipient of roadkill awards are deer.  These can be seen along highways everywhere both day and night.

I recently made a trip to Shenandoah National Park and got some very nice shots of deer. I have many more from other places, but these are my best.

Deer jumping away in Shenandoah National Park
Deer looking on
Deer on the road from Paradise in Mt. Rainier National Park
Deer grazing in the snow in Lewistown, Montana
Bald Eagle shot taken in mid April 2017 near Cave Run Lake, KY

Sometimes I make trips to find the wildlife myself.  Such was the case recently on a visit to the fish hatchery near Cave Run Lake in Eastern Kentucky.  I was in search of some of the bald eagles that hang around there.  Found one!

There have been more sightings recently of these lovely and regal birds.  I have seen one or two almost every week at Jacobson Park locally and also have been able to see a nest with three adults and two offspring near Taylorsville Lake west of Lexington.

Love these eagles.

Eagle at Jacobson Lake in Lexington
Eagle at Taylorsville Lake, KY
Great Blue Heron

My most favorite wildlife subject is the Great Blue Heron.  These huge birds hang around lakes and rivers in Kentucky and many other places.  I literally have 1000s of photos of them.  Here are a few recent ones from Lexington.

I have photos of these birds in Texas, Arkansas, Tennessee, Ohio and other places as well.

Blue herons in Taylorsville Lake
Blue Heron in Flight over Jacobson Lake in Kentucky
Breakfast time

I could post dozens and dozens of other photos, but I will only add a few other wildlife shots to this post from my travels.

Cormorants in flight over Kentucky
Turkey vulture gathering on a road in central Kentucky
Prairie Dog – Cactus Flats, SD
Prairie Dog — standing watch in Cactus Flats
A prairie dog scampers near the Camp Disappointment Monument
Mama Doggie – Cactus Flats, SD
Pelicans in formation over the Gulf of Mexico in Galveston, TX
A pelican starts its dive for a meal into the gulf
Pelicans fly in formation over the beach in Galveston
Christmas morning sunrise in Ocean City , MD and greeted by a dolphin in the foreground.
A closeup shot of a seagull taken on Bremerton Ferry while crossing the Puget Sound in Washington
Seagull in flight with the Gulf of Mexico behind it
A couple of seagulls “converse” as they enjoy the view over Lake Superior in Wisconsin
A pair of seagulls glide by in Galveston
Caught some nice seagull shots in Egg Harbor, WI
An osprey in flight
Mountain Goat in the Badlands of South Dakota
A Great Egret relaxes in the swamp near Uncertain, Texas
A red squirrel with a mouthful in Nebraska City, NE
Cattle Egret seen in Angleton, Texas
I found a gator in Brazos Bend State Park in Texas
Another Gator in Brazos Bend State Park

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A Visit to Heaven: Jackson, Wyoming and the Grand Tetons

Grand Tetons
Grand Tetons

March 13, 2013:  Today was heavenly…WOW!! I spent the day with my niece and her husband and we traveled east from Rexburg over Teton Pass to Jackson, Wyoming and then north to Grand Teton National Park.


Jackson, WY and Grand Tetons

Mountain Man by Steve Horn - Horn Mountain Gallery in Tetonia, ID
“Mountain Man” by Steve Horn – Horn Mountain Gallery in Tetonia, ID

Our first stop on the road to Jackson was in Tetonia, ID. We made a stop outside of Horn Mountain Living to get the shot of the “Mountain Man” sculpture above, which was done by Steve Horn.  Steve moved to Teton Valley over 30 years ago and lived as a mountain man prior to that. He is completely self-taught and gives his Creator full credit for his abilities. He has since become one of the country’s top hand carved furniture makers and his favorite medium is stone.  Another item we saw outside the gallery was this bear…

Bear by Steve Horn - Tetonia, ID
Bear by Steve Horn – Tetonia, ID

I also got a kick out of the sign below:

Dave's Pubb - Tetonia, ID
Dave’s Pubb – Tetonia, ID

We also saw a nice mural at the Teton Mountain View Lodge in Tetonia.

Teton Mountain View Lodge
Teton Mountain View Lodge mural (2005 by Terri Furness)

From Tetonia we headed southeast towards Driggs, ID.

Driggs, Idaho
Downtown Driggs, Idaho

Driggs is really at the base of the Tetons on the Western side and has the unique small town feel yet also a touristy place.

Buffalo Statue - Driggs, ID
Buffalo Statue – Driggs, ID

Just south of Driggs is the fairly famous “Spud Drive-In Theater.” The theater is one of only two drive-ins theaters listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  One claim to fame is the big spud on the back of a 1946 Chevrolet flat-bed truck.

The Spud Truck - Driggs, ID
The Spud Truck – Driggs, ID
The Spud sign - Driggs, ID
The Spud sign – Driggs, ID
Little Spuds at entry gate
Little Spuds at entry gate
Sumoflam with the Spud Guys
Sumoflam with the Spud Guys in the truck
Spud Pooh
Pooh Tater

The Spud was a lot of fun!! But, we needed to move on to Victor, another small town on the way to Jackson.  We made a quick stop at the Victor Emporium to get a shot of the mural on their wall.  They are known for their Huckleberry Milkshakes, which they have been serving since 1950.

Victor Emporium Mural - Victor, ID
Victor Emporium Mural – Victor, ID

From Victor we headed up the Teton Pass, which crests at 8432 feet.  Along the way we crossed into Wyoming.

Welcome to Wyoming sign on Teton Pass
Welcome to Wyoming sign on Teton Pass

At the crest of the pass we were granted a spectacular view of the Jackson Hole valley below.  The first white man to see this view was John Colter, in 1807.  As a member of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, he returned to the area and recorded descriptions of the valley and its features in his journals.  Colter was also the first man of European descent to see the Yellowstone region. Much of what he wrote about was unbelieveable to many due to the fantastic nature of the scenery. There is a great write-up of Colter’s history on Wikipedia.

Jackson Hole Valley as seen from Teton Pass
Jackson Hole Valley as seen from Teton Pass
"Howdy Stranger" Sign at Teton Pass summit
“Howdy Stranger” Sign at Teton Pass summit

From the summit we made our way into the valley and came into beautiful Jackson, Wyoming.  Last time I was in Jackson was in 1975.  I came with some other guys from church while living in the Salt Lake City area.  We came to Jackson to go canoeing down the Snake River for a three days.  My canoe partner, John Janssen, and I lost our canoe in a log jam after running a rapid.  A memorable time.

Welcome to Jackson, Wyoming!!
Welcome to Jackson, Wyoming!!
Jackson, Wyoming and Ski Slope
Jackson, Wyoming and Ski Slope

Our first stop was breakfast.  We found a place called E Leaven Food Company and had a good breakfast. Their bagels are awesome!!  Thomas, my niece’s husband, ordered the biscuits and gravy.  Check this out!!

Biscuits and Gravy from E Leaven Food in Jackson Hole, WY
Biscuits and Gravy from E Leaven Food in Jackson Hole, WY – Yummiferous!!

After breakfast we took a walk around the town, saw some fun statues, the famous Antler Arches and other things.  There are some sites that indicate that it requires nearly 10,000 pounds of antlers for each arch.  Many of these come from the National Elk Refuge north of Jackson.

Antler Arch of Jackson
Antler Arch of Jackson

AntlerArchSumoflam1

Close up of Antlers - Jackson, WY
Close up of Antlers – Jackson, WY
Famous Cowboy Bar Sign in Jackson, WY
Famous Cowboy Bar Sign in Jackson, WY
"Cowboy" by Bud Boller
“Cowboy” by Bud Boller in center of town square in Jackson, WY

The statue above is in the middle of town and is the symbol of Wyoming and sits atop the Veteran’s Memorial in Jackson.  The bronze was created by Bud Boller, a registered member of the Shoshone tribe. The Cowboy depicted in the sculpture is “Stub” Farlow and the horse’s name is Deadman. It was completed in 1976.

Sumoflam and Lincoln in Jackson Hole
Sumoflam and Lincoln in Jackson Hole – one of a series of Gary Lee Price’s sculptures on the square

Across the street from the town square is the Mountain Trails Gallery which offers some unique and large art work. In front of the shop are a series of works by artist Gary Lee Price.  Entitled the “Great Contributors“, there are life size bronze works of Abraham Lincoln (above), George Washington, Mark Twain, Benjamin Franklin and Albert Einstein.

My niece Natalie with George Washington
My niece Natalie with George Washington by Gary Lee Price in Jackson, WY
Natalie and Thomas with Benjamin Franklin in Jackson Hole
Natalie and Thomas with Benjamin Franklin in Jackson Hole
Sumoflam with Moose
Sumoflam with Moose by Terry Lee in Jackson, WY
Sumoflam and Bear in Jackson, WY
Sumoflam and Bear in Jackson, WY

After our stroll through town we headed back to the car and prepared to head north to the Tetons.  We made a quick stop at the Jackson Hole Visitor’s Center to get road information in for the park, since many roads were likely closed due to snow.

David and Elk Statue
David and Elk Statue at Visitor’s Center

Finally, we were on our way to see a place I have always dreamed of – the Grand Tetons.  It was a beautiful clear day with a few clouds, but the mountains were magnificent.

First view of the mountains just north of Jackson on the way to Grand Tetons.
First view of the mountains just north of Jackson on the way to Grand Tetons
Mt. Moran in Grand Tetons as seen from US 89
Mt. Moran in Grand Tetons as seen from US 89 in Grand Tetons N.P.
Mt. Moran from US 89
Mt. Moran from US 89

Once in the National Park, there are signs you see occasionally that warn travelers of bears.  The “Food Storage Required” means that you need to pack up your food securely so bears don’t sniff it out.

Be Bear Aware Sign
Be Bear Aware Sign

We continued north until Moran and then headed west on the John D. Rockefeller Jr. Parkway.  This roadway links Grand Teton N.P. to Yellowstone N.P.  We took the road to Teton Park Rd. and then along Jackson Lake to Signal Mountain Lodge, which was as far as allowed. This crossed us over the Jackson Lake Dam. The snow was deep in this part of the park.  Jackson Lake was frozen and there were guys parked at Signal Mountain that had hiked out on to the lake to do Ice Fishing…

Ice Fishing on Jackson Lake - the little dots
Ice Fishing on Jackson Lake – the little dots on the lake
Snake River as seen from Jackson Lake Dam near Signal Mountain
Snake River as seen from Jackson Lake Dam near Signal Mountain Lodge

On the way back to the main highway we saw a fox out on the snow.  So stark and unique.

Fox on Snow
Fox on Snow

After getting back on the road, we continued north as far as the Colter Bay Village turnoff.  The road took us along the completely frozen Jackson Lake and then to the village visitor center, which was closed except for one restroom…that was heated!!

Scene near Colter Bay
Scene near Colter Bay
Mt. Moran as seen from Colter Bay Lodge - Taken with my iPhone!
Mt. Moran as seen from Colter Bay Lodge – Taken with my iPhone!

After these scenes (and feeling again like I was in heaven), we headed back to Jackson on the same path.  There were dozens more photos taken of the beautiful mountains before we got to the next turnoff near Jackson at Gros Ventre Rd. Here are a few more shots that were taken along the way.

Grand Tetons along US 89
Grand Tetons along US 89
Grand Tetons on US 89
Grand Tetons on US 89
Grand Tetons from US 89
Grand Tetons from US 89

We eventually got to Gros Ventre Rd and headed towards Kelly, WY. We took this drive both for the scenic appeal and for the opportunity to possibly see a moose, as we had heard that there were some sightings.

Moose on Gros Ventre Rd.
Moose on Gros Ventre Rd.
Another Moose Sighting
Another Moose Sighting
Yet Another Moose Sighting
Yet Another Moose Sighting

In Kelly, we did NOT see a moose, but we did see one of my favorite things… a metal creature

Metal dinosaur in Kelly, WY
Metal dinosaur in Kelly, WY – chewing on a bone no less!!

On the way into Jackson there are more neat sculptures.  As we passed by the National Elk Refuge on the way into Jackson, we could see a bronze herd of buffalo

Bronze Buffalo near Jackson
Bronze Buffalo near Jackson – up on a hill

And, as we finally return home past the Victor area, just a couple of more interesting photos of fun stuff…

Old Truck near Victor, WY
Old Truck near Victor, WY
Old Barn in the Mountains
Old Barn in the Mountains

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