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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4600 Miles of Back Roads Bliss

Following My Bliss
Following My Bliss!
Shaded hills on US Route 2 as the sun lowered in the sky east of Wolf Point, MT
Shaded hills on US Route 2 as the sun lowered in the sky east of Wolf Point, MT

As I returned home from my long nine-day trip across America I wanted to take a quick look back at all the events.

The Rugby Geographical Center of North America monument juxtaposed with the HUB Motel sign in Rugby, ND
The Rugby Geographical Center of North America monument juxtaposed with the HUB Motel sign in Rugby, ND

Over the course of this trip I have covered 12 states, over 4600 miles, taken almost 2000 photos (including over 100 “selfies” and have seen all kinds of things.

The famed Paul Bunyan and Babe statues made in 1937 in Bemidji, MN
The famed Paul Bunyan and Babe statues made in 1937 in Bemidji, MN

The big highlights of this trip were visiting the Paul Bunyan and Big Blue in Bemidji, Minnesota, driving up the Beartooth Mountains in Wyoming/Montana, and hitting Carhenge in Nebraska.

The Beartooth Mountains were breathtaking!
The Beartooth Mountains were breathtaking!
Carhenge in Alliance, Nebraska.  One of the highlights of the trip
Carhenge in Alliance, Nebraska. One of the highlights of the trip

Along with these, I saw many other interesting places. I had numerous oddball sites along the way including a pink elephant, big bears, Jackalopes and many other roadside attractions.

Jackalope statue in Douglas, Wyoming
Jackalope statue in Douglas, Wyoming

This trip took me along many US highways as I generally avoided the interstate whenever possible. I was fortunate enough to drive a big chunk US Route 2: all the way from Ironwood, Michigan to the eastern edge of Glacier National Park where US 2 intersects with US 89. That route has some amazing scenery, lots of variety and other wonderful things.

US Route 2 in Wisconsin
US Route 2 in Wisconsin
Miles of birch forest line Route 2 in eastern Wisconsin
Miles of birch forest line Route 2 in eastern Wisconsin
US 89 and US 2 meet up in northern Montana
US 89 and US 2 meet up in northern Montana

As I noted above, I took Route 2 all the way to where it met US Highway 89. I later drove US 89 from the US 2/US 89 intersection near Glacier National Park along the eastern rim down to the northern entrance of Yellowstone National Park. Throughout my years of travel I have covered a good portion US 89 all the way down to Mexico and all the way up to Canada but never in one fell swoop. In my opinion, US 89 is probably the most scenic of all the US highways. US Route 66 may be the most famous, but US 89 passes by a number national parks and monuments, as well as numerous other scenic places. From the north you would drive by Glacier, then Yellowstone, continue south through the Rocky Mountains, down through southern Utah near Bryce and Zion national parks, crossover Lake Powell at Glen Canyon dam, head towards Flagstaff and pass Wupatki and Sunset Crater National Monuments, then pass the Grand Canyon, and continue south all the way to Mexico. An amazing drive down nature’s “Grand Staircase.”

Scenes from US 89
Scenes from US 89
The Roosevelt Arch at the North Entrance of Yellowstone National Park
The Roosevelt Arch at the North Entrance of Yellowstone National Park

As with most of my trips, I also captured the abundance of wildlife, some of which I was able to photograph. I had close-ups of deer, antelope, bison and a few waterbirds. I drove through the wetlands of Minnesota, the marshlands of North Dakota, and the sandhills of Nebraska, all of which had an abundance of waterfowl.

Antelope in Wyoming
Pronghorn Antelope in Wyoming
A black-necked stilt in North Dakota
A black-necked stilt in North Dakota
A prairie dog scampers in the grass near Cut Bank, Montana
A prairie dog scampers in the grass near Cut Bank, Montana
A seagull on Lake Superior in Ashland, WI
A seagull on Lake Superior in Ashland, WI

I was fortunate to have the opportunity to meet some amazing people along this road trip. I met some expert woodcarvers in Wisconsin and I met with rice growers in Wisconsin. I had a long talk with the people in Bemidji, Minnesota. While in Douglas, Wyoming I got to meet with the people there about the Jackalope got my “official” Jackalope hunting license and other goodies from them. At Hell’s Half Acre in Wyoming I met a photographer from Wisconsin who also writes blogs and has many similar interests in travel. I hope to exchange stories and photos with him. Then at Carhenge I met a time lapse photographer and some other interesting people and even donated my MARDUP (Married Up) license plate to the Carhenge gift shop. I don’t want to forget the small Old Trail Museum in the small town of Choteau, Montana with dinosaurs and other unique things.

Hell's Half Acre in Wyoming
Hell’s Half Acre in Wyoming
Hanging with the Grizz Works guys in Maple, WI
Hanging with the Grizz Works guys in Maple, WI
Donating "MARDUP" license plate at Carhenge
Donating “MARDUP” license plate at Carhenge
The Old Trail Museum in Choteau Museum has scary dinosaurs
The Old Trail Museum in Choteau Museum has scary dinosaurs

As with most of my trips, I didn’t visit all of my planned locations. But along the way there were many in expected surprises that I ran across. These are what really make these trips worthwhile! Perhaps two of my most exciting surprises were visiting Rock City in northern Montana ( with my Grandkidz) and Hell’s Half Acre in Wyoming. Both of these are basically uncharted geographic and geologic formations that are really amazing.

Rock City near Valier, Montana
Rock City near Valier, Montana

As always, I was delighted to be around the mountains! I was fortunate to be able drive along the eastern rim of Glacier National Park at sunrise and see the beauty of the snow-covered mountains there. Driving down US 89 from Shelby towards Yellowstone, I saw an abundance of wonderful mountain vistas. Then one of my bucket list trips was accomplished on this as I drove the Beartooth mountain range which sits atop the border of Montana and Wyoming. That was an amazing adventure as I drove all the way up 11,000 feet to the “Top of the World” as they call it there. Deep snow surrounded the roads and the vistas looking down on the mountains were absolutely breathtaking.

A scene from the 'Top of the World" looking down on the Beartooth Range
A scene from the ‘Top of the World” looking down on the Beartooth Range
The Beartoth Range as seen from Boysen Reservoir in Wyoming
The Beartoth Range as seen from Boysen Reservoir in Wyoming
Camp Disappointment west of Cut Bank looks out towards the mountains of Glacier National Park
Camp Disappointment west of Cut Bank looks out towards the mountains of Glacier National Park

This trip will actually provide me enough content to warrant a number of blog posts for me as I visited so many locations and saw so many different things. In the past, I have tried to throw it all into one giant blog. But this time around I met with people and I dug a little deeper and took more pictures of various locations so that I can focus on the smaller picture items. For sure I will have blog posts about US Route 2, US Route 89, the Beartooth, Bemidji, Douglas, and probably a few others.

Mountain Scene in Montana
Mountain Scene in Montana
The Big Fish in Bena, Wisconsin
The Big Fish in Bena, Wisconsin
Top of a replica of an old Scandinavian Church in Minot, ND
Top of a replica of an old Scandinavian Church in Minot, ND

With the new technology of wireless devices, I was able to take a lot of “selfies” along the route. My goal was to get 100 selfies, but I actually got 96 on this trip. Using Instagram, I hash tagged them with #100selfies and shared them on Twitter, Facebook and other social sites. Ultimately, I plan on a “100 Selfies” blog post including all of the photographs and the stories behind them.

Selfie with Pink Elephant of DeForest, WI
Selfie with Pink Elephant of DeForest, WI
Selfie at Rugby, ND
Selfie at Rugby, ND
Selfie at an old school house near Havre, MT
Selfie at an old school house near Havre, MT
Selfie with Hiawatha in Ironwood, MI
Selfie with Hiawatha in Ironwood, MI

Of course, I cannot neglect noting the real reason I took the trip which was my grandson Kade’s baptism. It was amazing to be able to spend time with my four grandchildren and my daughter Amaree and her husband Aaron for four days in Shelby, Montana.

With grandson Kade for his baptism
With grandson Kade for his baptism
Hanging with the Grandkidz in Montana
Hanging with the Grandkidz in Montana

During the course of this trip, I probably took over 2000 photographs. Much of them were scenery and unique sites. But I also captured the sense of the fading America – the old neon signs, the old abandoned houses and barns, schools and churches, the small-town theaters and their marquees. I captured small-town murals and Wall art.

Old Americana in El Paso, IL
Old Americana in El Paso, IL
Old Neon sign for Bahr's Motel outlived the motel, which is no longer in Deer River, MN
Old Neon sign for Bahr’s Motel outlived the motel, which is no longer in Deer River, MN
Bay Cinema, Ashland, WI
Bay Cinema, Ashland, WI
An Old Truck by a pond in North Dakota
An Old Truck by a pond in North Dakota
Part of the front display of a "collectibles" shop west of Odanah, WI on US Route 2
Part of the front display of a “collectibles” shop west of Odanah, WI on US Route 2

I also captured an abundance of nature including beautiful sunrises and sunsets, amazing cloud formations, wildlife, wonderful vistas of the prairies and mountains and many many shots of scenes from the road

Sunset along Nebraska Hwy 2 in the Sandhills
Sunset along Nebraska Hwy 2 in the Sandhills
A lonely tree along the highway in Nebraska
A lonely tree along the highway in Nebraska
The roof of a barn is silhouetted in the sunset east of Glasgow, MT on US Route 2
The roof of a barn is silhouetted in the sunset east of Glasgow, MT on US Route 2
Mountains, mesas and prairies south of Cody, Wyoming
Mountains, mesas and prairies south of Cody, Wyoming
Unique Cloud formation in Wyoming points the way for me to go
Unique Cloud formation in Wyoming points the way for me to go

For me, these trips are not about the destinations. These trips are about the experience. It is all in the trip! This nine-day adventure, as with other long trips I have taken the past couple of years, will leave me cherished memories to the day that I die.  Watch soon for detailed posts about the trip.

DSC_7401
Bison poses for me in Yellowstone National Park
Smiley Water Tower in Grand Forks, ND
Smiley Water Tower in Grand Forks, ND
Sandhills Drive - Nebraska Route 2
Sandhills Drive – Nebraska Route 2

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America the Beautiful: The Song in Photos for the 4th of July

Nicholson, Pennsylvania
Nicholson, Pennsylvania

I have traveled the broad expanses of this beautiful nation we call America and have seen and enjoyed this country that I call home.  On this July 4th birthday,  I would like to celebrate by adding photos to the words of the song “America the Beautiful“, which was written by American Poet Katharine Lee Bates. All photography by David “Sumoflam” Kravetz

Katharine Lee Bates
Katharine Lee Bates

AMERICA THE BEAUTIFUL

Sunrise over Keller, Texas
Sunrise over Keller, Texas
Badlands of South Dakota
Badlands of South Dakota

Oh Beautiful, for Spacious Skies

Spacious Skies over South Dakota
Spacious Skies over South Dakota
Spacious Skies over the Grand Canyon in Arizona
Spacious Skies over the Grand Canyon in Arizona

For Amber Waves of Grain

Amber Waves of Grain near Shelby, Montana
Amber Waves of Grain near Shelby, Montana
Amber Waves of Grain near Bloomington, Illinois
Amber Waves of Grain near Bloomington, Illinois

For purple mountain majesties

Purple Mountain Majesties - Sawtooth range in Central Idaho
Purple Mountain Majesties – Sawtooth range in Central Idaho
Purple Mountain Majesties - near Glacier Bay, Alaska
Purple Mountain Majesties – near Glacier Bay, Alaska

Above the fruited plain

Above the Fruited Plain - Central Idaho
Above the Fruited Plain – Central Idaho

America!

Monument Valley, Utah
Monument Valley, Utah
Wisconsin Farmland
Wisconsin Farmland
Empire State Building - New York
Empire State Building – New York

America!

Buffalo in southern Montana
Buffalo in southern Montana
St. Louis Arch
St. Louis Arch
Multnomah Falls in Oregon
Multnomah Falls in Oregon

God shed His grace on thee,

DSC_7795

Grand Rapids, Michigan
Grand Rapids, Michigan
Rexburg, Idaho
Rexburg, Idaho
Somewhere in Kansas
Somewhere in Kansas

And crown thy good,

Cincinnati at night
Cincinnati at night
Agave in Sedona, Arizona
Agave in Sedona, Arizona
Old Schoolhouse near Havre, Montana
Old Schoolhouse near Havre, Montana

With Brotherhood

Independence Hall, Philadelphia
Independence Hall, Philadelphia
National Cemetery, Lebanon, Kentucky
National Cemetery, Lebanon, Kentucky
Pioneer brotherhood - Pioneer Memorial, Omaha, Nebraska
Pioneer brotherhood – Pioneer Memorial, Omaha, Nebraska
Mt. Rushmore
Mt. Rushmore – South Dakota
Brotherhood - Lexington, KY July 4, 2009
Brotherhood – Lexington, KY July 4, 2009

From Sea

Atlantic Ocean at Hilton Head, South Carolina
Atlantic Ocean at Hilton Head, South Carolina

to Shining Sea

Pacific Ocean near Reedsport, Oregon
Pacific Ocean near Reedsport, Oregon

May we celebrate this day as we enjoy our freedom and our liberty…..

Freedom

Bethlehem, Pennsylvania
Bethlehem, Pennsylvania
Flag of Freedom
Flag of Freedom
Western Ohio
Western Ohio

LIBERTY

Statue of Liberty and Twin Towers, Dec. 1990
Statue of Liberty and Twin Towers, Dec. 1990
Flag Bench, Kadoka, SD
Flag Bench, Kadoka, SD
Liberty Bell - Philadelphia - Let Freedom Ring
Liberty Bell – Philadelphia – Let Freedom Ring

AMERICA THE BEAUTIFUL

America the Beautiful - Glacier National Park
America the Beautiful – Glacier National Park

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