Yellowstone | Two Highlights of Our Day

When this is the first thing you see while waiting in the car at the Yellowstone entrance, you know it’s going to be a good day. We also saw black bears, bison, antelope, coyote, pica, and much more.

The scenery is such a marvel. We walked about 2 miles throughout the Norris Geyser Basin. The brilliant sunshine brought out colors of the algae in the hot waters.

Our most challenging part of the day involved a hike to the rim of the lower falls of the Yellowstone River. It included a 600 ft descent via a trail that switched back and forth more than 10 times. Of course, that meant you had to ascend the same trail. We are in good shape and made it up easily. Others were not looking so good.

Once at the bottom of the trail, we got this view of the rapidly flowing river as it plunged 308 ft to the floor of the canyon. The rainbow was a special treat.

Pine Creek Falls | Montana

A few miles south of Livingston, Montana, is Paradise Valley. East of route 89 is a National Forest recreation area called Pine Creek. From the east-most parking lot is a trail that follows Pine Creek upstream. There is an elevation gain of about 460 ft up to about 6100 ft. The trail is often rocky with some tree roots. The trail is about 2.5 miles total out and back. The 100 ft falls tumbles down the rocks and under a simple foot bridge.

Yellowstone | Panorama | Beaver Ponds Trail

We decided to hike one of the trails in the park instead of driving from site to site negotiating traffic and crowds. Beaver Ponds Loop was a good choice at 5.4 mile. It started from the terraces at Mammoth Hot Springs and ascended 800 feet through the trees along a creek. Views were offered of the terraces from higher vantage points. The trail emerged into a meadow offering this broad panorama.

 

Miss Pickerell and Me

Jim’s memories of a favorite book and author from his childhood.

How I See It

One of the first books I remember reading was Miss Pickerell Goes to Mars written by Ellen MacGregor and illustrated by Paul Galdone. It was published in 1951. It had a strong influence on me. Many other young readers apparently felt the same way as evidenced by the comments on this page at Goodreads. That book made me hungry for more adventures in science by the independent spinster with a pet cow who was willing to say what was on her mind.

I read about her trips to the Arctic and the Undersea as well as her adventure with a Geiger Counter. The science in each book was explained in ways a young person could understand. I have no doubt those books helped reinforce my interest in science. I became a teacher of physics for my career. Thank you, Miss Lavinia Pickerell and Ellen MacGregor.

MacGregor first wrote…

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Murals | 1934 Works by Local Artist

Several weeks ago, fellow blogger shoreacres posted a story about murals she enjoyed while poking around the environs of Arkansas and Missouri. A visit to her post is well worth the time. I found her pictures of them and the background stories very interesting.

Soon after her post, I visit our local shopping mall which opened in 1998. It has 4 large murals on walls of the walkway depicting scenes of Iowa. They add some visual interest to the mall.

This past week two much older murals were put on public display. Originally, eight were commissioned for display by the Hotel Jefferson in downtown Iowa City in 1934. The works were done by Mildred Pelzer but were not part of the Works Progress Administration murals in which started in May 1935. After Pelzer’s murals were finished, the eight were listed as a tourist attraction on display in the hotel.

In 1949, the hotel was remodeled. The murals were taken down for storage and never put back up. In 1970, the two shown here were discovered in the basement of the hotel. Three others were discovered later in the old city hall building. Three others are still missing. These two, Railroad Arrives and Stage Ready, are now on display in the Senior Center and the Public Library in Iowa City.

Railroad Arrives | Click to embiggen

Stage Ready | Click to embiggen

More of the story about the paintings and the artist is available in this sign posted next to the railroad painting.. It needs to be enlarged for readability.

Mother’s Day Hike | Ryerson’s Woods

by Melanie and Jim

After our early morning breakfast, we drove across town to Ryerson’s Woods. It was acquired by Iowa City in 1985. The park has about 50 acres and includes less than a mile of trails. Last time we visited was in mosquito season. We got a short distance into the trees and ran back to the car with several bites each. This time there were no mosquitoes.

We met two men and their dogs who were on the way out. The men were chatty. One dog reminded us of the Good Dog, Carl. The children’s book series about Carl is wonderful. We saw only two other people from afar.

There is a bit of up and down in the park, but the trail is well maintained with mulch under foot. Clean-up of fallen trees needs to be done in a few places, but the path was only blocked in one spot, and we climbed over easily.

As the park name implies, it is a wooded site. The ground vegetation struggles in many places to capture sunlight. Even so, it is lush and dense with green, as well as with wildflowers.

We saw a lot of Jack-in-the-pulpit Arisaema triphyllum plants in many different sizes. Most were about a foot tall. There were a few two feet tall and shaded a red color.

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Praying Mantis | Babies Hatch

A spirea bush in front of the house had two praying mantis egg cases attached to twigs. We first noticed them last fall. Each warm day this spring we checked to see if the young were hatching. It finally happened. They were about 1 cm (<1/2 in) long. They sat for a while to dry and firm up their exoskeleton.

Soon after that they scurried along the twigs and leaves for cover. This one stopped long enough to look back at us before it disappeared. More about the mantis in an earlier post when one of last year’s brood looked into our front window.

Birdsong

by Melanie and Jim

We’re fortunate to have an extensive paved trail system in our area. The trails connect with broad sidewalks in many places, giving both safe recreation and transportation space for walkers, runners, and bikers.

This morning we went for a walk in our neighborhood, looping away from our house to the west, then northward around a pond, and back in on a deer trail behind the house. The birds make a joyful noise this time of year, attracting mates and defending nests. Redwinged blackbirds trill, wrens chatter, and the red-bellied woodpecker repeats its hoarse, cough-like call.  We hear birds we can’t see, and even the birds we see, we can’t always identify.

Today’s first notable bird-spotting was a male Eastern Bluebird. They like areas that are mostly open. It was perched on a small tree, but it flew away before Jim could capture it with the camera. Beyond that, above the tall trees, floated a red-tailed hawk.

Jim especially hoped to photograph a meadowlark today. We often see them in the grassy areas, but they don’t stay still very long for photos. Instead we saw a speckled bird (little brown jobbie?) a bit smaller than a robin. Any ideas for identifying this one?

On the way back toward the house in an area more thickly wooded, we both heard a mystery-bird. High in the trees, we couldn’t see it. We kept moving toward the sound until we found the correct tree. The song tripped my memory and I said, “It’s an oriole.” Why I was so certain, I don’t know, as we don’t enjoy orioles around here much. But that gave us a color to look for. The bright orange of these birds would make it easier to spot. Finally Jim saw it and was able to get a couple of good photos. Handsome fellow, isn’t it?

I remember long ago hearing a radio talk show. The hosts were visiting with a caller who talked about birding outings, and how they sometimes would have blind people join their group. The radio hosts were surprised that blind people could identify birds. In fact, often the call is the easiest way to “spot” them.

One last note, if you aren’t aware of the great website All About Birds, you should take a look. It’s like having the best bird book ever, including audio recordings to boot.