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.

Art, and Life Back on the Island

Before we flew back home we took a day to visit Tacoma’s Museum of Glass. There are exhibit halls as well as a working “hot shop” where you can watch glass art being made by the Museum’s team or by visiting artists from around the world. The day we visited there was a Swedish artist working in the shop, making a large teardrop shape incorporating lots of glass canes. It’s really neat to watch the process throughout the day.

One of the galleries was closed while they changed exhibits, but the glass art in the hallways was just as fun to see.

The various galleries are always changing, featuring a particular artist or style of glass art. The range of things that can be created in glass boggles the mind! We stepped into the open gallery to find an artist that we’re familiar with – Preston Singletary – a Tlingit whose work we’ve admired many times. Wow!

This is all GLASS… sometimes with a matte finish, sometimes opaque combined with translucent elements. The small items were beautiful, but the canoe and collection of busts were amazing.

It was a great way to wrap up our trip “down south”, and the day after we got home we had the chance to see another kind of art show. Our local radio station, KFSK, had a “Wearable Art Show” fundraiser – and we always try to support the station. Many of the pieces created by local people highlighted the problem of plastic trash impacting our planet…

…and the pieces below showed how to use objects from nature and natural dyes to decorate clothing – done by a local botanist.

Mother Nature got in on the artistic theme with a dusting of frost on the muskeg in the early mornings, and geometric patterns as ice started to form in the kettle ponds… only to thaw in the sunlight and repeat the process overnight.

We really miss our town when we’re away, especially the strong sense of community. Everyone sticks together and helps one another, which is important when you live on an island. During the ridiculously long Federal government shut-down, many businesses and groups in town stepped up to help people impacted by it, particularly our Forest Service and Coast Guard contingents. And after it was all over, those groups took out ads in the paper to say “thank you” and posted this nice sign on the message board outside of the Forest Service office.

Classy. It’s just another example of why we love it here. And we know how to have fun too! April is the annual fundraiser for the Humane Society where you can have a flock of plastic pink flamingos installed in someone’s yard for a day. A donation will get someone “flocked”, and the “flock-ee” makes a donation to get the birds removed. Or you can buy “anti-flock” insurance. We flocked some friends (who can’t retaliate since the flamingos can’t come down to the harbor!), and they sent photos.

Karen loves all animals so she offered the visiting birds some peanuts, but reported that they didn’t like them. I said I hoped they didn’t make too much mess in their yard and Don replied, “flamingo poop everywhere.” Oh well, it’s all for charity!

The deer are wandering around town, starting to nibble on the skunk cabbage shoots as soon as they appear, and I’m sure they’re eating any flowers they can find. I spotted a male orca cruising up the Narrows while walking one morning, and people’s chickens are starting to wander around – sometimes disappearing when a lucky goshawk or eagle stops by.
You just never know what you’ll see!