Wednesday, October 11, 2017

A Firestorm



My dear friends,

my town is burning. While I write this, fires rage without any containment. Mandatory and voluntary evacuations are currently under way. Several neighborhoods like the one in the photo above have been completely destroyed within a few hours. The devastation is incredible and I'm not able to grasp it right now. It is heartbreaking and I have no words.

We are sitting on packed bags, ready to evacuate any time. I don't know when I will be able to blog the next time since I don't know what the coming days will look like. Our home might be safe. We might have to leave. No one knows.

I only know that the wind is shifting and picking up, and that is dangerous.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Scene & Story - September 2017



The month of September was very unusual for me in that regard that I didn't take a lot of photos. I was so busy with work, especially the beginning of the school year at the German School, that I simply didn't have the time and leisure to grab my camera and go on a photo excursion.

But just a couple days ago I put my macro lens on my Canon 7D and headed outside in the garden to see what was left so late in the season. I had thought that my Spanish Lavender still looked pretty good, and when I turned my camera to it this Fiery Skipper landed on its flower. This butterfly is a rather jumpy little guy who doesn't sit anywhere for a long time, but I was lucky to capture him (or her?) on a few images. This year I have seen quite a big amount of them as well as other butterflies and lots of bees which tells me that my garden is a sought after habitat for them with just the right plants for them to survive. I have mainly native plants and a very few "water suckers" in an otherwise low water garden. By now I am at a point where I offer a refuge not only for butterflies and bees, but there are also a lot of birds who enjoy the nectar and the seeds of the flowers.

I am joining Sarah and León for Scene and Story.


Tuesday, September 26, 2017

It's a Wild World



A visit to Yellowstone isn't possible without seeing a lot of wildlife. This national park is home to so many animals, and for many of them it is a peaceful refuge where they are not hunted and killed for whatever reason (never mind that they were here first and this IS their habitat which we took away from them).

There is an abundance of bison - but of course it doesn't come close to the numbers when bison roamed freely this country. They are impressive animals, and while I love them, I always make sure to keep a very safe distance from them. They SEEM to be lazy and docile, but these are wild and dangerous animals. Everywhere in the park there are signs that warn people not to approach them (but of course there are too many humans who'd love to receive the Darwin award) and that you should use caution around them.

They are big and heavy, and at the same time they are incredibly cute. How can you resist such a sweet face?


Or this guy that we saw early in the morning in the Lamar Valley after we had seen the wolf pack.


What I love best, however, is watching a bison taking a dust bath. They do it with gusto!



Yellowstone is famous for its bears, both grizzlies and black bears. We saw both. This black bear checked out the area next to the road in the Lamar Valley (and again, some people were way too close).



Elk can be found all over the park - the population is huge, and it's good that there are several wolf packs in the park that keep the numbers limited. Often wolves and bears share the carcass of an animal. Nothing goes to waste here.


You find signs of the wildlife everywhere if you keep your eyes open.

elk

black bear

bison

Seeing wildlife makes me happy and is always an absolute highlight for me. So often we only see the "big" wildlife, but it was this little guy that gave me the biggest delight - a curious weasel we saw on one of our hikes through the beautiful meadows of Yellowstone. Isn't s/he adorable?




Monday, September 18, 2017

The Smell of Hell



Yellowstone is an excellent place to experience that our planet is very much alive. Here you can explore the beating heart of the earth, its spitting habits and its heat. Literally.

In my post about Mammoth Hot Springs I mentioned that the hot water that feeds that area comes from the Noris Geyser Basin. Today I take you right there.

Noris Geyser Basin is the hottest and most changeable thermal area in Yellowstone. It features the world's tallest active geyser, colorful hot springs, and microscopic life in one of the most extreme environments on earth.


Noris Geyser Basin is hot with all the steam hissing from everywhere, and it's smelly - sulfur! Ancient explorers referred to the odor of geysers as the "Smell of Hell" and you can smell it in many corners of Yellowstone, but especially in the Noris Geyser Basin. Funny enough though, I never thought it such a bad smell. Yes, geysers do emit a bit of a stench due to the elevated levels of sulfuric acid and hydrogen sulfide gas contained within the geysers themselves. For me this smell belongs to Yellowstone, it is a natural part of it and while not pleasant, it's not that bad either.

It bubbles and hisses everywhere.




The typical colors of Yellowstone - orange and emerald or turquoise - are found in this area as well, even though not quite as intense as we have seen these colors at the Grand Prismatic Spring. That place is pretty unique.




You can walk along the many pools and lakes. But remember to stay on the boardwalk! The ground is hot, not solid in all places (it's a thermal area after all) and there have been people who died here - most of them as a result of pure stupidity. You don't believe me? Well, read this story. Enough said.



So stay on the trails and enjoy this unique environment. The emerald color of the water tells of minerals,


and this water is colored with mineral and microscopic life forms.


Hot springs in something that looks like a cold environment (I think this is in the Porcelain Basin, but I don't exactly remember).


The mud puddles are so entertaining to watch. They bubble continuously and make like "blob" sounds. Sometimes they spill mud all around - it's a good idea not to get too close. They are particularly popular with children!


Even though it's smelly, this shouldn't keep anyone from witnessing one of nature's most incredible displays of raw, unbridled power.




Sunday, September 10, 2017

Hot on the Terrace



Yellowstone National Park is full of the most interesting and fascinating natural features, one of them being Mammoth Hot Springs in the Northwest corner of the park. Well, it's not just hot springs - it's terraces composed of travertine (calcium carbonate). I have just one word to describe them: spectacular.



Some areas look like snow or ice, frozen waterfalls. But no, there isn't anything that feels cold or only cool here. It's darn hot, baby!


Wyoming, especially so far north as Yellowstone, isn't known for hot weather, but here on the terraces shorts and t-shirts are the appropriate attire. Man, it was hot! No shade around here, of course.


The ground displayed bizarre formations.


Some of the terraces reached almost the backyards of the houses in the tiny village of Mammoth - almost.



The elk seem to love this area. They come here, lick the ground (probably mineral rich) and even lie down and take a nap. They weren't bothered by the heat at all. Perhaps they thought it's their personal outdoor sweat lodge.



Even though the main color here is white followed by orange, I could make out my favorite color combination of orange and turquoise in some places. Not quite as intense and vivid as the Grand Prismatic Spring but still quite fabulous.


And of course at the same time you can take in the stunning surroundings.


Due to the nature of this place there were a lot of dead trees.




Ever changing ground formations and bubbles on the water that tell about the heat of the hot springs (the hot water that feeds Mammoth, by the way, comes from the Norris Geyser Basin).




You can walk the terraces on boardwalks, and the Lower Terraces Area has the most spectacular views. This part is by far my favorite one.




Doesn't it look like ice and snow?



But it's the dead trees that fascinated me the most.


Yes, we sure needed a little break to take all this in. This is only a rather small part of Yellowstone, but full of awesomeness. You need to take your time to let it sink in.