Insert Game of Thrones Cliche Here

Enjoy some nice wildlife and scenic photography from Yellowstone National Park this fall.







Winter Storm Watch

The annual vigil of carefully watching the weather and waiting for the flakes to fall has begun. This year’s summer felt too brief with the majority of it spent rehabbing my knee. Nonetheless, I did get out on some hikes and enjoyed the wonderful Paradise Valley just out my back door.

Mount Wallace (10,620′) in the southern Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness.

My lovely wife, Sarah, biking in Paradise Valley on her way to brunch at the Pine Creek Cafe.

Passage Creek in the southern Absaroka-Beartooths.

Passage Falls in the Mill Creek watershed.

Fireweed (Chamerion angustifolium)

Fishermen on the Yellowstone River

Yellowstone Lake, look closely and you can the Teton Range in the distance.

Paradise Valley, perhaps the best place on earth?

Summer 2013 Wrap-Up

With the temperatures consistently falling below freezing I feel that autumn has finally arrived and summer has wrapped up. As I look forward to colder days and deep powder it is always nice to reminisce about my adventures over the warmer months.

This summer was notable because we had several very strong thunderstorms, which led to lots of wildfires and a fairly hazy August and September.

Lightning flash within an incoming thunderstorm

The weather was nicer early during the summer Sarah and I spent a fair amount of time in our canoe. We mostly floated the Madison River and Hyalite Reservoir enjoying the warm days and doing some fishing.

Tim and Amber joined us on a float of the Madison River

Steve G floating in his pack-raft along the same stretch.

Sarah and Amber enjoy a calm float on Hyalite Reservoir

Canoe camping on the far side of Hyalite

We also took our annual trip to Lewis and Clark Caverns State Park west of Bozeman. These caves are very cool and unique and they offer a great tour of the beautiful caverns.

Eerie light in the caverns

The main rooms in the caverns use special UV lights which shine at a spectrum that allows the human eye to see what the caves would look if the sun could shine in these tunnels. You can really see the pink iron oxides with these lights.

Hard to grasp the scale on how big these columns are, the main column is probably 75 feet tall.

Sarah and I also made it out to Seattle this summer to see the sights and sounds of this fun city. We were able to see our friends who recently moved to Seattle from Denver as well as check out the amazing Chihuly Glass Gardens near the Space Needle. This gallery is probably one of the coolest and most amazing galleries I have ever visited. I have a ton more pictures if anyone is interested but for the sake of brevity here are just a couple.

The outside portion of the Chihuly Gardens

A tree made of glass under the Seattle Space Needle

Leaving Seattle on a ferry heading to Port Angeles

Finally, I also spent a bunch of time in the mountains and looking at wildlife in Yellowstone.

Close up of a Bison eating some food

Panorama of from above East Hyalite Creek

Emmigrant Peak during sunset

My dog Dudley high above Hyalite Reservoir

Came upon this guy at the top of Beartooth Pass. We were the only people stopped and this goat just kind of chilled about 30 yards from us before ambling up and over a ridge.

The goat seemed more curious than scared of us.

Came upon a large herd of elk while working in the Centennial Valley in far southwest Montana.

Sorry if a few of these images seem overly edited, I am experimenting with some new software and still trying to get it dialed. Next post will hopefully involve some snow as the mountains are turning more and more white.

Waipio Valley and Mauna Kea

Waipio Valley

Following our adventure to Volcanoes National Park, we loaded up our jeep with some friends we made at the farm and headed North to the Waipio Valley. We drove for a few hours through heavy rain and because of the rain we were forced to abandon a couple stops. When we finally arrived at the Waipio Valley, we were glad we had a jeep so we could drive, rather than walk, down to the black sand beach.

To drive into the valley it is required that you have four-wheel drive, otherwise you have to walk the 4-mile long road down to the beach. The road is not particularly rough but very steep and you need to have a low gear to stay in control. We made it down to the beach, parked and checked the area out.

Waipio Valley at the beach.

Hello little bird.

Waipio River

Beautiful colors on the river

More vegetation in the Waipio Valley

After checking out the beach and river and with rain starting to build we decided to head out of the valley and head up in elevation, to the top of Mauna Kea. Some people argue that Mauna Kea is bigger than Everest if you count the relief from the bottom of the ocean to the summit, I’m not sure how true this is but it is very cool to be nearly 14,000 feet above the ocean, in the middle of the Pacific.

Astronomical Observatories on top of Mauna Kea. The landform in the distance is the island of Maui.

We had planned on staying up on the summit to watch the sunset, but unfortunately one of our friends from the farm was feeling the effects of AMS so we quickly and unanimously agreed we better head down to lower elevation. Even though we missed the sunset we still had plenty of time to chill and explore the observatories on the summit.

Some hikers climb a subpeak of Mauna Kea

An observatory with building cumulus clouds

It seemed as if you could see forever from the summit.

Building clouds made for some dramatic pictures.

The next day we slept in and went on our Volcano adventure as mentioned in a previous post.

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

After our first day spent driving around the island and the next day snorkeling at the amazing Kapoho tide pools, Sarah and I were in no hurry to do anything and just enjoy the vacation. We made a morning trip to Hilo to do some shopping at the farmer’s market. We made the rounds at the fairly busy market and looked at a variety of fruit and crafts. When we had our fill of food and shopping, we made a quick stop at Rainbow Falls then headed south to snorkel a little and head to Volcano National Park for the afternoon.

Rainbow Falls in Hilo

The vegetation in Hawaii is amazingly lush.

We got to Volcanoes National Park at about the same time as 20 tour buses full of tourists of East Asian descent. We made a couple of quick stops to see the Kilauea Volcano and take a short walk to scope out the “Steaming Bluff”.

The Kilauea Volcano belching fumes.

The Steaming Bluffs on the Kilauea Volcano rim.

After getting crowded out at the Jaggar Museum by busloads of gawking and shoving tourists we backtracked to the Chain of Craters road. Here we stopped at a Thurston Lava Tube and took the short walk through a lava tunnel. It was a very easy and well lit walk through the lava tube, though still flooded with tourists.

Thurston Lava Tube.

With still quite a bit of energy left from the short walks, we crossed the street and took another stroll along the Kilauea Iki crater rim. There is a trail down and across this old caldera but neither of us were prepared for the 8 mile round trip hike.

Kilauea Iki Crater with Kilauea Volcano in the background

Sarah, my wife, jumping for joy to be out of the February winter in Montana.

Of course it wouldn’t be the Big Island without a black sand beach. This is the newest black sand beach on the island (I apologize I can’t remember any of the hard to pronounce/remember Hawaiian names) and this is the closest replacement to what was once was the greatest black sand beach in the world, which is now under 70 feet of lava. This is what made the Big Island so fascinating to both of us, it is a place where the ground you are standing on is not much older than you (and in some instances younger than you).

New black sand beach just outside of Volcanoes National Park

Now, at this point you are probably wondering if we saw lava or not. Well that’s a funny story…

Sarah and I bailed on Volcanoes crowds to drive around to the other side of the active Pu’o eruption. Here, we read in a guide book you could potentially see the lava. We arrived in the evening (everyone told us to see the lava at night) and were promptly solicited $100 each for a guided walk to see the lava, it was the only we could see lava from this side. We were reluctant to spend so much money (in addition to not having that much cash on us and the nearest ATM was 20 minutes away) so we decided to walk as far as the county would let us and think about it. At the end of the road, there was a county security guard who told us that we shouldn’t pay and rather head back to Volcano and hike in from the other side. He told us it was only 1 mile further than the guided hike, plus you could go unguided and get as close to the lava as you dared . It was too late to drive all the way back that night so we decided we would save that adventure for our last night on the island.

After a few more days of fun (don’t worry I will fill you in on these days in the next few posts), we headed down the Chain of Craters road around 3 p.m. (again, to see the lava at night). We arrived at the trailhead and quickly made progress over the first mile of flat road. Then, we reached the spot where the road is covered by lava and the trail is marked by white reflectors out into the lava field.

This road was buried in lava only 10 or so years ago.

We kept trekking across the lava field until we reached a sign that said “End of Trail”. There were still white reflectors past this point, only more spaced out and we continued past the sign in the direction of the steam plume in the distance. Eventually the reflectors disappeared and we realized it would be foolish to continue without any form of navigation. We planned on returning at night and we knew we couldn’t navigate 4 miles across a lava field without at least a compass, so we decided to stop, climb up to a high point, and drink a beer while watching the ocean in the distance and head back to the car and into Pahoa for a nice romantic dinner to make up for not seeing the lava.

I would not want to be lost out here at night.

Mid-Winter Break

When we headed out in the morning this hadn’t slid. After having to bail on our initial plan due to dangerous conditions we returned to see this from the trailhead.

Amid growing persistent facets, including a scary collapse in the Hyalite Canyon, I bailed on the cold and headed to Hawaii with my wife for a two week tropical honeymoon.

It appears the slide was triggered by a cornice or ice fall.

We flew out of Billings and had layovers in Denver and San Francisco without any real problems.

After a late arrival in Kona, we rented a Jeep and crashed at a roach hotel (a warning for the budget minded traveler: Despite the allure of a $40 a night hotel in Kona, I highly recommend avoiding the “Kona Hotel” known for its distinct pink color) and got up early to head out and snorkel at Captain Cook Bay where we were inked by an octopus (video coming soon). Afterwards, we headed to the “City of Refuge”, a place where if a criminal could make it to the village before being caught, he had the opportunity to be exonerated by the King.

Palm trees in the City of Refuge.

Tiki man.

We explored some tidal pools and watched turtles swim and soak in the sun before we headed to the other side of the island and our accommodations for the week.

We then saw some turtles while tidepooling.

Sarah found a great place to stay for the week called Josanna’s Garden. It is an organic fruit farm deep in the jungle outside of the small hippie town of Pahoa. Steve and Janelle run a fascinating operation and utilize the WWOOF system. In exchange for 25 hours of farm labor, mainly picking fruit and packaging it, you can stay in a small bunk for free. While Sarah and I paid for our cabin and didn’t have to work it certainly got our minds thinking this could be a great way to travel cheaply.

Sarah inside our cabin near Pahoa on the Big Island.

We had a great time at “The Farm” and even Janelle, who used to live in Basalt, Colorado, used to swim with my dad. She claims she was faster than him, but I think her memory is a bit off as no one was really a faster swimmer than him.

Our cabin was a converted gazebo with a kitchenette and outdoor shower. It was most comparable to a forest service cabin in the jungle. They had tried their best to seal out the windows but the mesh screens provided minimal bug protection. Thus, we slept under the additional cover of a mosquito net. There were also a few geckos, a keoki frog, and a green anole as welcome housemates who feasted on the ever present bugs.

A green anole

While we could not swim in the ocean at the point closest to the farm, a short 4 wheel drive (good thing for the jeep) down the road would take us to the “Champagne Pond” in about 8 minutes. This was a large, geothermally heated, tidal pool filled with fish, turtles, and eels. The temperature was around 91 degrees and was perfect for snorkel soaking. I have a lot of GoPro footage of snorkeling and I hope to have a short video put together in the near future.

The eastern side of the Big Island is incredibly diverse with thick jungle broken by lava flows. The Farm was about a 2 mile walk to the rugged but beautiful Puna Coast. One night Sarah and I stargazed out on this point and it was one of the coolest and most unique things I have done on a trip.

The Puna Coast

In an attempt to avoid the huge “photo dump” posts I typically create, I am breaking this trip up into smaller segments so I can tell a better story. So, stayed to tuned for more posts in the coming days and weeks on our Hawaii trip.

Toboggans, scar tissue, and looking forward

Sorry for the long hiatus from the blog. My life has turned relatively benign since I broke patella, so not much to post about. Last week, Simon sent me some pictures he had taken of my steep toboggan ride in the Whitefish Backcountry in February, and I thought I should share them.

These photos are courtesy of Simon Peterson

Whitefish Nordic Ski Patrol begin the task of extracting me from the Canyon Creek backcountry. Photo: Simon Peterson

These guys worked extra hard to get me out of steep, technical terrain safely. Photo: Simon Peterson

The steep terrain, in addition to lots of powder, required several people to sideslip/step the terrain in front of me. Otherwise we were getting too bogged down in the deep snow, not to mention the lingering fear of an avalanche in the back of my mind. Photo: Simon Peterson

My recovery is going smoothly and my second surgery was successful. They removed an incredible amount of scar tissue which had been restricting a lot of my motion. Pictures from the arthroscope showed tons of scar tissue on my ACL, so that explained why I couldn’t bend my knee past 90 degrees. After removing the scar tissue and wire, which had been holding my kneecap together, I have a much larger range of motion. I am now starting the hard part, recovery. I have been given the green light to begin biking again, but it has been rainy and I am still in the process of getting a road bike (thanks Zack!). So in the meantime I have been forced to exercise inside with my therabands.