Posts Tagged ‘wild’

The Wild Life Part 2: The Badlands

Thursday, July 5th, 2018

The Black Hills once again showed off by wowing us with dazzling landscapes and very opportune wildlife appearances. When we arrive at the first overlook of Badlands National Park early in the morning my mom and I were both stunned by the surreal beauty of this unusual park.

As I scrambled down into a good position for my landscape shots, I nonchalantly declared that “The only thing that would make this view better would be if a bighorn sheep was right front in center.” As I checked in my view finder to line up my show I was astonished to see that I had been lucky enough to find right in front of me a bighorn sheep slowly making his way up the side of the mountain right toward me.

As I stammered out excited exclamations to draw my mom’s attention and gesticulated wildly in the bighorn sheep’s direction, he only continued to calmly move even closer.

I couldn’t believe how lucky I was. I already felt insanely spoiled by my mountain goat sighting and here was another beautiful animal standing right before me.

The wild beauty held in the square caramel pupil of the bighorn sheep once again shocked me into total astonishment. How can a quiet majesty like this exist in a world full of so much noise?

The National Parks are so incredibly important to this country and sadly so many people will never get to experience the wonder preserved within the boundaries of these parks. These special places are not a manufactured space for the amusement of tourists, but rather they represent the remnants of a world left undisturbed by modernization and the greedy outstretched hand of man.

The Badlands in many ways epitomize the strange glory of the national park system. You drive into what appears to be nothing more than endless grasslands when suddenly you find yourself standing on the precipice of a natural wonder shaped by a millennia of natural forces. These spires and rocky edifices were carved by the hand of Mother Nature meticulously to cradle the unique characteristics of the world.

Even the wild animals embody a special feeling of otherworldliness. I was lucky enough to witness an entire family of bighorn sheep including several small babies. The fresh eyes of new born life shone brightly in their dark gaze. Locking eyes with these graceful creatures brings an exhilarating rush of understanding that stems from some unknown place inside of me. I don’t know exactly what it is that feels so understood in those moments, but I know that I will carry it with me always.

The Badlands really display the beauty of barrenness. Last time I explored the Badlands everything appeared to be dust, but this time around I was lucky enough to see the ground coated in green and a sparse, yet beautiful collection of wildflowers sprinkled throughout the park. The deep desert hues of the mountains contrasted so brilliantly with the green grass of the plains. 

The life here can seem so fleeting and in many ways that is what makes it so extraordinary. The continual struggle for survival, for a single foothold in life in a place as extreme as the Badlands, really illuminates the resilience of nature and the determination to continue on despite seasons of barrenness.

The best way to experience this for yourself is definitely to lace up your hiking boots and head deep into the rocky crags and spires of the park. Behind the looming towers of layered rock exists a microcosm of clay riverbeds, veins of blue grey pumice, and secret caverns of water carved rock.

My favorite hike in the park has to be the Notch Trail near the eastern visitor center. When you leave behind the boardwalks leading across the rocks and weave your way through the rocky towers, there lies a log ladder snaking up the mountainside.

This deceptively tall ladder while visually stunning creates quite the bottleneck of hiker traffic so definitely arrive early to dodge the crowds and enjoy the peaceful canyon trail! 

After climbing to the top of the notch and hiking a great deal around the park we took a fun break from the serious beauty of the Badlands by visiting a prairie dog town just outside of the park.

As I said before, I’m a sucker for these little guys. Especially when they come in groups of two!

We were sad to leave, but let’s be real, when would I ever be happy to leave a National Park.

On to Madison and then the western side of lower Michigan!

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The Wild Life

Tuesday, July 3rd, 2018

The last two days have been long but filled with inexplicable beauty. We left the Grand Tetons as the sun rose, casting the impressive mountain range in golden light. It was hard to leave this extraordinary national park but we were drawn forward in our journey with the promise of even more great national parks to come. Our next adventure destination: the Black Hills of South Dakota.

Our first stop in the Black Hills was the Wind Caves National Park where sprawling grasslands spotted with wildlife hides miles of intricate crystalline caves just below the surface. Sadly we didn’t have time to go into the caves but that just means one more reason we have to come back!

As we left the Wind Caves we wove our way through rolling prairies on our way to our next stop, Custer State Park. Generally state parks are overshadowed by the grandeur of national parks, but one thing road tripping across the country has taught me is to never underestimate a state park. Custer State Park is a prime example of this. This preserve for wildlife and gorgeous grasslands never fails to awe me.

Our first wildlife encounter began with a prairie dog town that stretched far across the grassy landscape. These frisky little ground mammals are often heard before they are seen since their barking warning sounds echo from burrow to burrow whenever you draw near.

I personally love these little guys. They have so much character and always make me laugh. I had a great time photographing them as they ran from hole to hole, whisking their tails, and arching their backs as they called out to their neighbors.

There is literally wildlife all over this state park. Everywhere you turn there is some beautiful animal waiting to be discovered. As a wildlife photographer, spotting and photographing wild animals brings me so much life and excitement. I felt so in my element with my camera in hand and eyes keenly surveying every inch of the park. I can’t express how much I enjoy this place.

Custer is known for what their “Begging Burrows” or a group of donkeys that have learned to beg for food from tourists driving through the park. While I disapprove of feeding wildlife it does make for some fun experiences when a donkey walks straight up to your window and sticks its head right in looking for food.

This donkey even head butted my camera as he tried to stick his head into the car. I loved watching them meander down the roads and then venture out into the mustard grass hills of the park.

After our time with the begging burrows we were on the hunt for bison and found ourselves sadly lacking in opportunities to spy these giant iconic animals. We did discover quite a few beautiful roads while we pursued the illusive bison.

We actually only found bison once we left Custer State Park but boy was I excited to finally find them!

I did almost get charged by an angry male bison, but aside from that, I loved watching these lumbering creatures graze slowly across the grasslands.

After the bison, our Black Hills exploration led us to SD- 87, which is popularly known as Needles Highway.

This extraordinary stretch of highway weaves up the Black Hills through narrow rock tunnels and towering needle-like spires of rock.

We loved the drive but found ourselves suddenly stopped before one of the major tunnels in a traffic jam. When I left the car to investigate the reason for the sudden halt in traffic I discovered a mountain goat casually blocking traffic in the tunnel as he continually licked the wall.

When a barking dog in one of the cars finally startled the mountain goat out of the tunnel and back to his natural mountainous habitat, I was lucky enough to have front row seats from which to photograph him.

He was really quite the model and gave me every angle of his handsome face. I may have taken approximately 1,000 pictures of him as he climbed around the rocks and showed off his good looks.

I could not believe how lucky we were. Being blessed enough to experience moments like this makes me feel like the luckiest girl in the world. It still shocks me how much I have experienced becase of amazing trips such as this one.

I feel so humbled staring into the face of wild beauty. Driving across the country provides me with the opportunity to glimpse behind the curtain of natural wonders. I live for moments like this and wouldn’t exchange my memories of moments such as this for anything.

The shock of experiencing this natural beauty still had not worn off by the time we reached our final destination in the Black Hills for the day: Mount Rushmore.

This man made marvel offered a provocative juxtaposition to the wild beauty we had just encountered.

It wouldn’t be fair to choose one experience over the other, but it shows just how quickly vastly different experiences occur when adventuring on the road. This country has (almost) too much to discover. It feels both overwhelming in its sheer quantity and also exhilarating knowing there will never be an end to the adventure this life has to offer.

 

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Elysium Red

Sunday, January 7th, 2018

Virgin snow collapses under a heavy foot
Like sand washed away from a steep embankment
By waves impatient of passing time.
Footprints dug deep below the surface
Only to be covered by the next snowfall;
Man lacks permanence in a place such as this.

Translucent diamonds fall from the soft blue sky
Sharp and glinting in sunlight
That offers no warmth or respite from biting winds.
Tree limbs grow heavy with new white robes
Bowing before the might of Winter
With sideways eyes on far away Spring.

He pulls his feet from the earth
Only to plunge them instantly back into the deep;
An endless repetition of slow but sure
Forward progress that breaks the line
Between man’s land and Nature’s untouched garden.
The trail he treads marks a boundary line
Many have approached, but few have overcome.

A chill runs down his spine leaving his hair
Standing at attention without reason;
Caught between Winter’s grip and something
More primal that calls to the heart
Dragging the modern into the primitive mind of fear.
How small we become when we realize
The world is not ours to inhabit –at least not ours alone.

The twig snaps like a leg caught in a hunter’s trap,
He halts and listens with attentive ears.
The sound of Winter’s silence echoes loudly
Even a breath would disturb the crisp air
Cracking it like thin ice with the slightest exhale –
Dead silence reigns here, disrupted
Only by the sound of softly falling snow.

He turns again to continue down the path he chose
Only to again feel the haunting of the unknown
Creeping up behind him, wearing the silence like a cloak
Shrouded in mystifying white and revealed only by instinct
Felt acutely by the hunted when they have been marked as prey.
He knows he is followed by the ghost of something
But cannot name the adversary walking in his shadow.

A flash of red jumps out of the colorless scenery
Existing only on the periphery of sight
As the blurry edged undefined and unrelenting embodiment
Of all that leaves man powerless and afraid.
A phantom dancing just beyond what the eye can see
But the mind remembers as a timeless enemy.

As the man turns once more to seek out the sound stalking him
He is faced with the nothingness of a barren landscape
And his own footprints marring the pristine face of the wilderness;
Except now the first evidence of pursuit is present:
Laid atop his tracks stood the careful footprints of another,
But no sign of the creature that left them behind.

Whirling around to face forward once more
Hoping to escape the encroaching presence
Only to be confronted with the intense yellow eyes of his pursuer.
Standing in the path before him, a red tailed fox –
Royal coat, piercing eyes, black tipped ears keenly listening
Blocked the man’s path with the towering presence
Of a primal Queen who’s dominion has been challenged.

Frozen in place by the sudden appearance of this image of majesty,
Man stands facing the wild
Not knowing whether to continue his journey or turn away.
The fox tilts its head from side to side with curiosity,
Listening to the sound of one who once belong here
But was lost to another world long ago.
Not knowing whether he be friend or foe
She takes a cautious step forward.

She walks atop the snow, gliding gracefully forward
Her movements sound like the swaying of the trees.
The man slowly reaches out his ungloved hand toward the red spirit
She hesitates, paw hanging midair, head tilting to listen
Hearing his heart as it beats thunderously in his chest.
So close, the man stretches farther locked in her lightning eyes
When just as suddenly as she appeared, into the periphery she vanishes.

Left with hand outstretched, slowly filling with snowflakes
Gently kissing his open palm regretfully
The man is left haunted by the red ghost that almost felt real
If only he could have touched it and held it close
For a moment longer than Eternity.
Instead, the silence of winter surrounds him once more
And the Elysium he glimpsed returns to the realm of myth.

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Tiger

Friday, April 22nd, 2011

A tiger is an extraordinary animal. Strong, powerful, graceful, and dangerous. Not to mention beautiful, the tiger is an embodiment of the savagery of nature that man attempts to tame.

It is sad to see these majestic animals in a zoo, but I am still glad that I was able to see them. It makes me wonder what it would be like to face these animals in the wild as I have seen wolves, coyotes and foxes. How different would this big cat be? Would I be filled with terror or awe as I stared into the mar of these magnificent creatures?

Someday I would like to say that I have done just that. looked this beast in the eye without bars between us. Only then could I or anyone really understand the breadth of the difference between the lives we lead in the city and the life of the creatures in the wild.

For now I will just have to do with looking deep into this creatures eyes as bars separate us.

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Can You Find All the Cats?

Wednesday, December 23rd, 2009

It is actually kind of creepy how many wild cats live in Hawaii. They are everywhere. They are creepy  because they look different from most cats, I assume it is because they are feral cats but who knows. The other day I saw thirty all sitting together, they act like a lion’s pack. Some are nice and others won’t let you within a ten foot radius.

Can you spot all the kitties? There are five, one is really hard to find. Keep in mind this is just a fraction of the big pack lying on the rocks.

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