Saturday, January 19, 2013


When autumn comes to the Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Park, the elk make their way down out of the mountains to the National Elk Refuge, a winter habitat set aside for them in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.  The refuge was created in 1912 to provide sanctuary for the largest elk herd (around 7,500) on earth.

The elk are easy to see from the highway which goes between Jackson and Yellowstone.
 A heavy and high fence, seen here in the foreground, keeps them off the road.

Elk are second only to moose in size as a deer species.

The Shawnee called them, “wapiti” which means, literally, white rump.

The big bulls stand taller than five feet at the shoulder 
and their five-tined antlers tower almost four feet above their heads.

In March the bulls shed their antlers.  After the antlers fall off they walk around for quite a while with their heads down.  I don’t know if this is because the empty place leaves a sore spot or if they are just embarrassed to loose their handsome crowns.

In the winter they feed on grass and shrubs in the snow.

The meals are probably pretty yucchy compared to their 
summer menu of green leaves and branches.

The herd is kept alive during the hard winters through feeding.  The refuge also provides horse drawn sleigh rides to the public during the winter months so that visitors have the opportunity to see portions of the herd up close.

The National Elk Refuge covers nearly 25,000 acres of real estate right next to the tony town of Jackson where celebrities come to be seen at the two high-end ski resorts.  Personally, I think the elk and the landscape are the stars of the show.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013


It was so cold--when we opened the door to the house the little light in front would turn on.  Shadows froze to the sidewalk, and the idea of weather-striping the border between Idaho and Canada sounded like a really good idea.  So what did we do?  DH and I went through with plans to visit an even colder place.

We drove over the border and up the mountains to Jackson, Wyoming.  We’d made reservations weeks earlier to enjoy a little out of town time, and once temperatures go below zero what’s a few more degrees?

We took our snowshoes but never saw a rational reason to use them.

 We just stayed in the Subaru and drove into Grand Teton National Park to see the sights.
If you look carefully in this photo you can see what is called "diamond dust,"
or tiny ice crystals in the air that reflect sunlight.  This phenomenon happens
when the air is well below freezing.

 Even at double-digit below, the scenery is jaw-dropping gorgeous.

Although the Grand Teton looked like she was trying to warm up 
by wrapping herself in clouds.

 Most of the time we had trouble even seeing the top of the 13,776 foot (4,199m) peak.

Still, you can see why she is called, The Grand.

 These mountains rise out of the valley floor like fangs.  
They change from moment to moment 
depending on weather, lighting and the viewing angle.

 Down at the end of the line is Mount Moran.  
We can see her from our home two hours away in Idaho.  
Up close she is magnificent.  
This kind of sight is well worth braving Arctic weather. 
Although it was nice to have a warm room to go back to.

I took a bazillion photos.  Next time I’ll show you the elk.

Sunday, January 13, 2013


Okay, I expect a week of double-digit below zero Fahrenheit this time of year.

 This photo is right-on, but stolen from National Geographic.
 It looks better than my picture.

 This is my picture.  The sign should read minus 8
but it’s so cold the rest of the digits don’t work.

It happens.  Every year.  That much I’ve learned.  What I haven’t learned is the part about getting out of the way.  I just sit here—year after year and watch the world freeze solid.

Yesterday I waited until the sun had warmed the air to a plus one and finally wrapped up until nothing but my eyes were showing and went out.  By the time I made it a whole block to my destination I had to remove my glasses because they’d frosted over.  Then my eyelashes grew icicles.  The friends I went to visit let me in out of pity even though they had no idea who I was.

This is nuts.  One week I’ll accept.  
But now, after a brief warm up to above zero, 
the Alberta Clipper  is back.

There are students all over town just arrived from places like California and Florida with cars not juiced up with double strength anti-freeze. They run out in their sandals to jump in their ride to make their before-sunrise class only to find wheels frozen to the ground and the engine block has become an ice block.

We saw a couple hurrying to church this morning in double-digit below zero.  He was just dressed in his suit and she was in a short skirt and heels.

Not her. But like this. 

Last week we gave a ride to some newbies in this same situation.  The couple this week were within a few yards of the warmth of the building so we let them go.

Sometimes even a tough winterized car just can’t take the cold anymore.  After a few cranks they will groan, gasp and go silent. Mine is there.  Two days ago she went into cardiac arrest.  I called in a code blue.  We got out the paddles, yelling, “Clear!” Coaxing. “Stay with me!”  Finally she revived and seemed okay, but this morning we found her cold and dead in the driveway.  We’ll keep her on life support and get a new heart for her tomorrow at Walmart.  She should make a quick recovery after that.  This kind of weather makes the long muddy “spring” look so good.

This is added in answer to joeh's question in the comments. 
 The answer is half-way between -14 and -9.