Sunday, November 29, 2009

Yellowstone and Mammoth Hot Springs

Since most of the roads in Yellowstone National Park are closed in the winter, you are pretty limited when it comes to what part of the park can be explored. The only road within Yellowstone that is open year-round is the road from Gardiner, Montana to Cooke City, Montana. Gardiner is known as the "North Entrance" to Yellowstone National Park.

Above: I saw this old SUV just outside the entrance to the park. I couldn't resist the shot, with the " No parking here to end of street" sign. Also notice the license plate... it says "FAST SUV". I don't know about you, but to me this SUV looks like it is anything but fast!

I arrived in Gardiner in the early afternoon, with enough time to make the drive from Gardiner to Cooke City. I was hoping to see some wildlife (mostly Elk), but all I saw were a few Bison that were way off in the distance in a field. Oh well, it was still an interesting and beautiful drive. The scenery in Yellowstone certainly is worth the drive. The Lamar Valley in particular is especially pretty.

Since most of the roads in Yellowstone are closed and open only to over-the-snow travel, some companies do operate shuttle vehicles that run on tracks instead of tires. Using tracks gives the vehicles greater flotation so they can drive on top of the snow.

Above: This picture of the moon off the top of a mountain peak was taken just outside of Cooke City.

I spent the night in Gardiner, and after my drive to Cooke City and back I got a bite to eat then went back out to try shooting some of the Mammoth Hot Springs in the moonlight. It certainly was pretty cool to see the bubbling and steaming hot springs at night. The steam takes on a whole different mood at night than it does during the day. I also found a nice viewpoint which gave me a wonderful view of the valley and the "town" of Mammoth (which is basically a town where all the park service employees live). It was a very chilly night (I think the low that night was around 15 degrees), so I kinda froze my rear off but it was worth it!

The next morning I woke well before sunrise so I could go back to the park and photograph the hot springs in the morning light. Right after I passed the park entrance I finally got my Elk wish... there were half a dozen Elk right in the middle of the road! As I inched my car closer and closer to them all of them walked off the road except for one. The one that stayed stood his ground right in the middle of the road, and as I got alongside him I rolled down my window and took this picture of him. He just stared at me as I inched past him. I think if I leaned out the window, he was close enough that I could have pet him! What a great start to the day :-)

After my encounter with the Elk I drove the few miles up to Mammoth Hot Springs, gathered my gear and went off down the boardwalk to shoot the hot springs again, this time in the morning light. Once the sunlight hit the steam from the hot springs, it just glowed. Since it was still only about 15 to 20 degrees outside, and the warm air escaping from the hot springs was now being hit directly by warm sunlight, there was a lot more steam than there was last night.

Below: I used my "little" camera to take this self-portrait of me with my "big" camera. Look at all that steam in the background! Even though most of Yellowstone is 'closed' this time of year, there is still plenty to see and do!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Little Bighorn

From Wikipedia:

The Battle of the Little Bighorn (also known as Custer's Last Stand), was an armed engagement between a Lakota-Northern Cheyenne combined force and the 7th Cavalry Regiment of the United States Army. The battle occurred on June 25th and 26th, 1876 near the Little Bighorn River in eastern Montana Territory, near what is now Crow Agency, Montana.

From the Little Bighorn National Monument website:

This monument memorializes the U.S. Army's 7th Cavalry and the Sioux and Cheyenne in one of the last armed efforts to preserve the way of life of the Plains Indians. 263 soldiers and attached personnel of the U.S. Army, including Lt. Col. George A. Custer, died fighting several thousand Lakota and Cheyenne warriors.

I have been wanting to visit the site of the Battle of the Little Bighorn for quite a few years, and since my travel route was taking me that way I decided to take advantage of it and plan my travels so that I would have a couple of hours to visit the monument. I did a quick tour of the small museum and after a nice chat with the young Crow man that was working the contact desk I took a walk out to view the battle field. It was very surreal to be standing on the hillside, viewing the grave markers and to be imagining all the fighting that occurred there.

Above and below: Iron sculpture of warriors on horseback.

Easily the most powerful part of the memorial was the wall which listed the names of the different native warriors that lost their lives in the Battle of the Little Bighorn. After reading all of the names I left some tobacco and continued on my way.

Small world indeed

Along the lines of what I mentioned in my first post at the start of this trip, today I received proof of what a small world it really is. I received the following comment on my blog from Lisa Cassellius (Lisa's husband Marty used to be the forester in Grand Portage!):

"Travis! Your mom sent me to your blog. I'm loving it! Your opening remarks are especially poignant considering the bit I'm about to share: Our oldest daughter, Sadie, is currently attending Wyoming Catholic College in Lander, WY (you should visit if you have a chance--beautiful--and I, too, have Grand Portage Bay and Pete's Island as reference points). She spent Thanksgiving weekend with friends in Billings, MT. On Saturday, the 28th, they visited Custer's Battlefield and as she signed the guestbook she perused the previous day's signers. Who should she see but 'Travis Novitsky, Grand Portage, MN'! She was amazed at the 'smallness of the world'. Indeed we are never far from one another or from home. Enjoy your journey. I will be checking in and enjoying your beautiful photography." Lisa Cassellius

Friday, November 27, 2009

The Black Hills and Custer State Park

Above: Bison (Buffalo)

Custer State Park is the largest state park in the country and is a wildlife lover's paradise. There is quite a variety of life within the park but the Bison, Antelope, Sheep and Elk (oh yeah, and the Prairie Dogs) steal the show. Custer State Park is where I saw my first Bison in person, in the spring of 2004. We saw quite a lot of them on this trip. The Antelope are pretty creatures, but by far the Prairie Dogs are the most fun to watch. They actually make you laugh as they scurry about, every now and then picking a fight with another Prairie Dog.

Below: Pronghorn Antelope

Below: Bighorn Sheep

Below: Prairie Dog

Below: A small windmill that we found during the day and decided to come back to later in order to shoot the stars and the moonlight.

Below: Roger shooting the sunset with the moon behind him.

Below: Roger took this picture of me taking a picture of this tree.

Below: Here's the picture that I took while Roger was taking my picture :-)

Below: Spearfish Falls

Below: Sunset over the Spearfish River

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Crazy Horse Memorial

Well, I have kind of a lot of pictures to share from today. Roger and I visited Crazy Horse Memorial in South Dakota today. What an interesting place, with a Native American museum that is well worth visiting. Crazy Horse was a Lakota Sioux warrior who fought against the U.S. government in an effort to preserve the Lakota way of life. He participated in the Battle of the Little Bighorn (also known as "Custer's last stand").

Over 50 years ago, in 1948, the sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski received a request from Chief Henry Standing Bear, which requested that a memorial similar to that of Rushmore be carved in memory of Crazy Horse. It has been under construction ever since. Not everyone agrees with the memorial, however. Some Lakota people believe that carving up a mountain goes against the spirit of Crazy Horse. Whatever your beliefs are about the mountain, the museum is worth a visit. Lots of interesting things on display, and a lot about Native American history can be learned as well. Perhaps the most fascinating thing about the museum (at least I thought so) was the collection of tribal flags from around the country.

(Below: Here's our flag... the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe!)

Above: A painting of Billy Mills, the second Native American ever to win a gold medal in the Olympics (10,000 meter run, 1964 Tokyo Olympics). He is also the only American to have ever won gold in this event. Billy is also a Lakota Sioux. When I was in high school (8th grade, I believe) Billy was at Bemidji State University to do a 3 mile run for charity and to get to know some students. Our Indian Student Association sponsored a trip to Bemidji to run with Billy, and I wanted to go. It was a great honor to meet him, and somewhere at home my dad has a picture of me standing with Billy after the run.

Above: A "wall" of drawings made by people/students from around the world.

Above: Some of the drawings came from quite a distance... such as this one from Chile...

Above: ... and this one from Germany...

... and even one from Thailand!