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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
From Tetonia we headed southeast towards Driggs, ID.
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.
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 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.
From Victor we headed up the Teton Pass, which crests at 8432 feet. Along the way we crossed into Wyoming.
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.
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.
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!!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
On the way back to the main highway we saw a fox out on the snow. So stark and unique.
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!!
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.
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.
In Kelly, we did NOT see a moose, but we did see one of my favorite things… a metal creature
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
And, as we finally return home past the Victor area, just a couple of more interesting photos of fun stuff…