Monday, August 25, 2008

More Photos (III) of Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park, Montana, U.S.A and Alberta, Canada (August 5-7, 2008)

On the trail beside Josephine Lake, near Many Glacier. Apparently, I walked right past a black bear not far from this spot.
The beautiful Grinnell Lake, with Grinnell Glacier high above
Another view of Grinnell Lake from above, with wildflowers blanketing the mountainside
A closer view of Grinnell Glacier, one of the largest glaciers in the park
Big horn sheep congregate near Grinnell Glacier
Swiftcurrent Lake, with Mt. Gould in the background

More Photos (II) of Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park, Montana, U.S.A and Alberta, Canada (August 5-7, 2008)

The “Garden Wall,” a knife-edged ridge (known as an arete) along the Continental Divide, was formed by glaciers on either side
A mountain goat and baby walk along the snow near Hidden Lake Overlook
Here I am at Hidden Lake Overlook. The trees in the background are surprisingly tiny, but they’re actually hundreds of years old; entire elfin forests exist here, stunted and twisted by the harsh alpine environment.
The other side of Hidden Lake; the lake sits in a glacially carved basin
The double-decker St. Mary Falls
St. Mary Lake, surrounded by peaks on the eastern side of the park, is almost as long as Lake McDonald

Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park, Montana, U.S.A and Alberta, Canada (August 5-7, 2008)

In 1932, Glacier National Park (Montana, U.S.A.; founded 1910) and Waterton Lakes National Park (Alberta, Canada; founded 1895) were officially joined as the world's first International Peace Park. While the parks are administered separately, the two sections cooperate in wildlife and vegetation management, search and rescue, and joint interpretive programs and exhibits. In the 1970s, the park was named a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, and in 1995, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Going-to-the-Sun Road, a 50-mile highway that traverses the Montana section of the park from west to east, is considered an engineering feat and one of the most scenic drives in North America. Opened in 1933, it’s a National Historic Landmark and still one of the biggest attractions of the park.

But with more than 1 million acres of land encompassing old-growth forests, prairie grasslands, lakes, glaciers, a diverse plant and wildlife population, and 700+ miles of hiking trails, Glacier rewards visitors who choose to get out of the car and explore on foot.
Lake McDonald, near the west entrance in Montana, is the park’s largest lake (at 10 miles long and 472 feet deep) and a prime rock-skipping location
Avalanche Creek carves its way through walls of rock, colored red by the mineral hematite
A young buck surveys his surroundings near the Trail of the Cedars
Further upstream Avalanche Creek, white water rushes past mossy rocks, while sunlight filters through the cedars
Peaceful Avalanche Lake, with waterfalls cascading down the mountains behind
Jackson Glacier, as seen from Going-to-the-Sun Road. Of the estimated 150 glaciers that existed in the park in 1850, approximately 26 remain; it’s projected that all of the park’s glaciers may be gone by 2030.

More Photos (III) from Yellowstone National Park, Idaho, Montana and Wyoming, U.S.A. (August 3-5, 2008)

One of the most photographed views of park: 308-foot Lower Falls, framed by the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. The canyon is 20 miles long, 1,000+ feet deep and 1,500-4,000 feet across; the multicolored walls come from hydrothermally altered rhyolite and sediments.
Green hills with wildflowers near Dunraven Pass
A bison grazes in Hayden Valley, one of Yellowstone’s best places for spotting wildlife
The Yellowstone River meanders through the peaceful Hayden Valley
A bison wanders along the main road through Hayden Valley. In fact, several bison casually strolled straight down the middle of the road, right beside my car, which was slightly unnerving – they’re enormous!
Sunset in Yellowstone

More Photos (II) from Yellowstone National Park, Idaho, Montana and Wyoming, U.S.A. (August 3-5, 2008)

A family stops to check out Mound Terrace at Mammoth Hot Springs. Limestone is the underlying rock in this area of the park (instead of rhyolite, which is dominant in the park’s other hydrothermal areas), and the terraces are formed by travertine-depositing hot springs.
Opal Pool at Midway Geyser Basin
Near Mammoth Hot Springs, at the northern end of the park
This has to be worth at least three wishes!
Tower Fall in the northeastern part of the park
Lily pads adorn this peaceful lake near the southern entrance to the park

Yellowstone National Park, Idaho, Montana and Wyoming, U.S.A. (August 3-5, 2008)

Spanning three states and approximately 2.2 million acres, Yellowstone NP is in a league of its own. It became the world’s first national park in 1872, and has since been named a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and World Heritage Site.

A series of massive volcanic eruptions that took place 2 million years ago, 1.3 million years ago and 640,000 years ago shaped Yellowstone into its present form. A 30- by 45-mile caldera (a collapsed magma chamber) in the heart of the park, formed by the most recent eruption, displays the volcanic heritage – and potential – of the area: magmatic heat still powers the park’s many geysers, hot springs, fumaroles and mudpots. In fact, Yellowstone contains half of all the world’s known geothermal features, and it has the highest concentration of geysers in the world (two thirds of all those on the planet).

Aside from the hydrothermal wonderland that first drew curious visitors, Yellowstone has a diverse range of landscapes to explore, from near-desert in the north to subalpine meadows and forests in the east. Mountains surround the volcanic plateau, a deep canyon cuts through the northeast, and the Continental Divide winds its way through the southern part of the park. Today, visitors come just as much to see the abundant wildlife that roam the park, including bison, elk, grizzly and black bears, moose, big horn sheep, wolves, coyotes, deer and a host of fish and birds.

With nearly 1,000 miles of trails, it could take a lifetime to see all that Yellowstone has to offer. But armed with a good map and helpful trail guides from the many visitor centers, one can make a valiant effort to at least see the highlights.
Yellowstone’s most famous attraction: Old Faithful geyser. The people gathered to the right of the photo will give a sense of perspective. Old Faithful erupts approximately every 90 minutes, and an eruption expels 3,700-8,400 gallons of boiling water, reaching a height of 106-184 feet.
Punch Bowl Spring in the Upper Geyser Basin near Old Faithful
Excelsior Geyser at Midway Geyser Basin produces about 4,000 gallons of scalding water every minute. When this geyser erupted in 1985, it continued for two whole days!
Grand Prismatic Spring, Yellowstone’s largest hot spring, at Midway Geyser Basin. The bright colors found in and around the thermal areas are formed by heat-loving microorganisms (thermophiles) such as algae, bacteria and archaea.
Lone Star Geyser, about 3 miles south of Old Faithful. Lone Star has one of the largest cones in the park, and its eruptions occur in 3-hour cycles, with water reaching heights of 30-40 feet.
People explore the Midway Geyser Basin area along a series of boardwalks

Final Photos from Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming, U.S.A. (August 1-3, 2008)

The view from Lake Solitude back down towards Cascade Canyon
A yellow-bellied marmot suns itself on a rock beside Lake Solitude
The view over Jackson Hole valley at sunset, from the top of Signal Mountain
Sunny Colter Bay marina on Jackson Lake, at the northern end of the park
An impressive Native American neckpiece at the Colter Bay Indian Arts Museum
Sunset over the Tetons

Monday, August 18, 2008

More Photos from Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming, U.S.A. (August 1-3, 2008)

The stunning Cascade Canyon; the person in the orange t-shirt on the right lower side of the photo gives a sense of scale. The deep U-shaped canyon was carved by a glacier, and the peaks on the right hand side (out of the photo) rise just as high as those on the left.
A deer relaxes in the shade along Cascade Canyon trail
The tranquil Cascade Creek
A moose looks for some lunch in the marshy waters near Cascade Creek
A mountain wildflower
Lake Solitude, at 9035 feet above sea level, is as quiet and peaceful as the name suggests

Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming, U.S.A. (August 1-3, 2008)

The jagged peaks of the Teton Range tower over the Jackson Hole valley, providing a dramatic landscape that makes Grand Teton NP one of the most scenic parks of the West. Add to that more than 250 miles of maintained hiking trails, an abundance of lakes and rivers for boating or fishing, and extensive mountaineering territory, and Grand Teton can easily keep visitors happily exhausted for days.

Approximately 10 million years ago, earthquakes along the Teton fault caused today’s mountains to rise and the valley floor to drop; over time, wind, rain, ice and glaciers slowly eroded the range and sculpted the landscape. Then, starting two million years ago, massive glaciers flowing south from Yellowstone further carved the skyline and deposited moraines along the base of the range, forming the lakes that visitors enjoy today.

Grand Teton NP encompasses a variety of communities, including alpine, forests, sagebrush flats, wet meadows and wetlands, as well as lakes, ponds and rivers. Local wildlife includes black and grizzly bears, moose, elk, deer, coyotes, wolves, bald eagles, great horned owls, beavers, river otters and the ever-present chipmunk.

In 1897, the Tetons first received government protection as the Teton Forest Reserve; Grand Teton NP was first established in 1929, then later expanded in 1950 – after much controversy – to its current boundaries.
Crystal-clear water reflects the Teton range at the Oxbow Bend wetland area
The Tetons tower above Jackson Lake and the valley below, as seen from Willow Flats Overlook
Just one of the MANY bear warning signs I’ve passed
The Snake River flows from its source in Yellowstone National Park, through Grand Teton NP in Wyoming, then on through Idaho and Oregon to Washington; it is home to cutthroat trout, mountain whitefish and river otters
Hidden Falls is a 200-foot cascade on the west side of Jenny Lake, along the Cascade Canyon trail
A curious ground squirrel peeks out from behind a rock