Fall Color in Salt Lake

Autumn has always been my favorite season – the crunch of leaves underfoot, cooler temps and trees sporting beautiful color. We saw some nice color in Salt Lake – a consolation prize for cutting our Yellowstone/Grand Teton trip short.

We lived in Salt Lake for two years when we were in grad school at the U of Utah in the early 90s, and we loved spending our rare free time in nearby Big Cottonwood Canyon. It was a no-brainer to head back up there to do a little hiking and to see our favorite ski area before the snow flies… and to savor a little fall color.

Hidden Falls wasn’t all that hidden!

The higher you go up the canyon the color is less splashy since the landscape is mostly evergeens and quaking aspen… but it’s still beautiful.

Silver Lake is a cross-country ski area in the winter, but the rest of the year it’s a big pond surrounded by meadow and forest.

We took the chance to drive up Guardsman Pass – closed in the winter since it’s covered in deep snow. At an altitude of 9700′, we could see far and wide towards the Park City side of the mountains…. though it’s too high for much color.

We had a blast checking out our stomping grounds at Brighton Ski Resort at the top of the canyon – it looked so funny all green. We put the drone in the air partway up the canyon, and again up at Brighton… enjoy.

Coming back down the canyon the splashy fall color returned… so pretty.

Now we’re off to Great Basin National Park in eastern Nevada. And to get there, we’ll drive across a big chunk of America’s great basin!

More Yellowstone

640,000 years ago a massive volcanic explosion formed a caldera 45 miles long by 28 miles wide and over a half-mile deep – and that was the third cataclysmic event that helped form what we know as Yellowstone National Park today.

The purple circle in the middle of the map shows the edges of the enormous caldera, and underneath it (as well as the rest of the park), the earth’s roiling super-heated magma comes close to the surface causing fumeroles, geysers, mud pots, and hot springs. The earth seems angry as it steams and erupts all around the Yellowstone landscape.

The chilly air meeting the hot steam at the Grand Prismatic Spring made it impossible to see the clear blue water and rainbow colors of the heat-loving bacteria surrounding it, but I loved the mysterious feeling of walking through the billowing clouds.

Runoff from the Grand Prismatic Spring makes these vivid rust-colored streams…

…and other hot springs had similar runoff streams, all in eye-popping colors…

…originating from impossibly blue pools.

Old Faithful didn’t disappoint with a good sized eruption…

…and we were awed by the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River – this is the more dramatic lower falls.

The deep canyon is cut by water flowing along the Yellowstone River from the 136 square miles of Yellowstone Lake.

Of course we encountered a number of wildlife sightings in our explorations around the park. Trumpeter swans…

…adorable chipmunks…

…massive bison…

…and a nice fat grizzly bear foraging before winter.

All the while, sulfuric acid dissolves rock to create plopping, spurting mud pots…

…and water finds its way through the Earth’s thin crust to create steaming pools of scalding water. There’s a lot of beauty in the many ways the angry earth makes itself known here.

All the while, delicate beauty is all around – you just have to look past the steam to see it!

We had so many plans for our precious days in Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons just to the south, but a big winter storm with snow and frigid temps was heading our way. The safe bet was to get out of its path ahead of time, so sadly we had to cut our visit short and head for better weather in Salt Lake City.

And Now For Something Completely Different

It’s autumn… it’s typically the rainy season (which is good, because we need the water)… and that means it’s time…

…to head south and jump in the RV for another kind of adventure. First stop is Yellowstone National Park. We planned for five days to explore just a little bit of the nearly 3500 square miles in our nation’s first National Park.

Yellowstone is known for a wide variety of geothermal features as well as wildlife. Where to begin? Well, some of the wildlife isn’t all that hard to find. It’s important to remember: DO NOT honk your horn.

Bison are iconic residents in the park, but it’s important to remember that they are wild animals… very very large wild animals, so don’t get too close. Thank goodness for long lenses.

You might notice the snow in the background – it was cold and it continued to flurry and snow on us now and then through the day, but the fall color…

…and the beautiful scenery in the Lamar Valley was worth a little cold. The wildlife was too!


We almost didn’t see this coyote – it was so camouflaged in the brush, but the motion gave it away.

We explored the Lamar Valley late in the afternoon hoping to see more wildlife – particularly bears and wolves, but we had to “settle” for sublime scenery.

No first day in Yellowstone would be complete without some geothermal action so we spent some time around Mammoth Hot Springs.

The stark landscape contrasts with the bizarre colors caused by heat-loving bacteria in the pools.

Some of the bacteria form thread-like strands that collect together to form mats.

The cold temps made prolific steam as the hot spring water hit the air. Mammoth Hot Springs is pretty mellow, as geothermal features go, with pools overflowing into more colorful pools. Around other parts of the park the geothermal action is a bit more lively. Take a look:

Stay tuned… there’s a lot more of Yellowstone to show you.

Mitkof Island – We Live Here

Cruising around interesting places all over the Alexander Archipelago (also known as southeast Alaska), sometimes we forget how good we have it right at home. Mitkof Island is pear-shaped, about 10 miles wide at its widest by 17 miles long, with Petersburg located on the northwest tip.

Most of Mitkof is part of the massive Tongass National Forest, and some parts of the island were logged in the 1960s and early 70s. Logging roads are still maintained by the Forest Service to provide access for recreation – such as the Three Lakes area and one of my favorite easy hikes on the island – Ohmer Creek.

After cruising all summer, returning to the hustle and bustle of town was a little overwhelming so I took advantage of a beautiful day to head Out the Road with cameras and drone for some hiking, flying, and berry picking.

My first stop was to the middle of the Three Lakes – named Sand, Hill and Crane. The lakes are connected by trails, and Hill Lake also has a spur trail that runs down to Ideal Cove. Moose, black and brown bears, porcupines, grouse and deer are the most common animals on the island, though I didn’t encounter any this particular day. (Usually we see more deer in town than Out the Road.)

Hill Lake

The Forest Service built a little dock complete with a rowboat and a picnic table at each lake, and in the video below you can see some of the boardwalk where the connecting trail traverses the squishy muskeg. The video starts at Hill Lake, flies south to Crane Lake, then north to Sand Lake. As the drone gains altitude you can see the panorama of the Coastal Mountain range as well as the entrance to the Le Conte Glacier inlet.

After flying and a picnic lunch, I spent a little time picking red huckleberries and high-bush cranberries. A friend makes a delicious homemade ketchup from the high-bush cranberries, so I wanted to get enough to try making some of my own.

High-bush cranberries

The drive along the logging roads is so beautiful, coming around a bend and seeing a distant snow-capped mountain framed by trees, or savoring the sunlight dappling the forest understory.

Before heading back to town I decided to hike part of a favorite trail – Ohmer Creek (marked on the map at the top).

Venturing along the creek in one direction I found some humpy (also called pink) salmon trying to make their way upstream in the shallow water. You can just see the humps on their backs sticking above the water.

I was surprised that I didn’t see any bears – I must have just missed them because these fish were easy pickings. After hanging with the salmon for a while I headed in the other direction, into the thicker forest.

The bunchberries (also called dwarf dogwood) were ripe all over the place – they’re edible, though they’re not tasty to eat.

I launched the drone and got a terrific bird’s eye view of the creek, the muskeg, the mountains and the endless forest. The drone offers such a different look at familiar things, and makes me fall in love with this place even more. Sometimes it’s hard to believe that we get to live here.