I am trying to settle back into a routine of daily exercise and decided to take advantage of the brilliant weather for a lunch hour walk. Rather than taking my normal route into a nearby conservation area I decided to walk through the business park across the street from iRobot. The anchor business there is Mitre (a defense contractor, I believe). To my surprise I discovered a magnificent cooperative garden and then the jackpot. Each Wednesday and Friday about a dozen or so folks get together for a lunch hour soccer scrimmage on the massive front lawn of the facility. I approached one of the guys and was invited to join the group which I will definitely plan to do.
The Sudbury River has swollen significantly as it strains to accommodate the torrential rains from Hurricane Irene. It is looking more like a lake today than a river. When the water is this high it is impossible to kayak because the clearance under the various bridges in the area has become too small. If the weather permits I am hoping to get on the water this weekend with Maya and/or Jeanine.
Irene has come and gone leaving many areas flooded or damaged. Other than a few downed tree limbs and one dislodged and punctured window screen we were spared any real damage. It was nice to be back in the office again and I was pleased that there were no major problems during my absence. I have literally hundreds of e-mails to wade through and by the end of the day am still not fully caught up. Jeanine prepared this amazing peach and raspberry tart for dinner last night and I enjoyed what remained for dessert again this evening.
The family has spent the day largely indoors due to Hurricane Irene which is passing through Massachusetts today. The barometer on my watch registered the lowest pressure ever as the front moved through. We experienced very heavy rain and high winds but sustained no major damage and only a brief loss of electricity. It has been a good day to catch up on my blog and take care of some lingering tasks around the house.
Red sky at night, sailor’s delight,
Red sky at morning, sailors take warning. This was the scene over our field this morning confirming that Hurricane Irene is on its way. I spent two hours playing soccer and felt great. Unfortunately our season opener scheduled for tomorrow has been postponed due to the expected storm.
I recently received a 4 channel digital oscilloscope from my brother who picked it up as his wife’s company was winding down their medical device business. I have owned the 2 channel analog scope pictured here since I was in college and am now preparing to sell it. When I purchased it, with assistance from my parents, more that twenty years ago it cost in excess of $3000 dollars. Today, although it is in pristine condition, I will be lucky to get a tenth of that. I may elect to simply hold on to it until it becomes a collectible if there is a market for such things.
I spent last night at the Stonehedge Inn with my colleagues. We got an early start on our strategy planning which went very smoothly and produced a good outcome. At one point I captured this funny image of my boss which I will surely feature in a future company wide presentation. I am already thinking about possible witty captions.
My first day back in the office was actually spent offsite at the Stonehedge Inn at an executive strategy planning meeting. The event commenced with a team building event which involved preparing appetizers that would later be served during a wine tasting. Jeanine would have been very impressed with the results both from a taste and presentation point of view.
I used the rising sun this morning to backlight Old Faithful for an interesting series of photos. When the kids woke up we enjoyed a breakfast buffet at the Old Faithful Inn, the largest wood log structure in the world. We departed for the Mid Geyser Basin and hiked the Fairy Falls Trail and then bushwacked to the top of a hill for optimal views of the Grand Prismatic Spring. 99.9% of visitors to the spring see it from the ground level perspective of the boardwalk which simply does not offer the right vantage point for appreciating this feature, one of the most dramatic in the park. Our final destination within Yellowstone is the Fountain Paint Pot trail where we are entertained by the bubbling and spewing mud cauldrons.
By early afternoon we begin our return to Jackson Hole by way of the Grand Teton National Park. We make several stops along the way including Lake Jackson, Jenny Lake and a horse ranch which we use as a backdrop for another family portrait (and gymnastic apparatus for Nico.
Upon arrival in Jackson we indulged in a Mexican dinner at the Merry Piglets, a restaurant that Jeanine and I had discovered on our last visit. With full and happy bellies we relaxed around the pool, played cards, and the boys learned a camp drumming activity from Maya which proved to be highly entertaining for all involved.
This vacation has had something for everyone. Jeanine has long dreamed of going to a dude ranch and this was certainly the highlight of our adventure. I really wanted to do some family camping and introduce the children to the wonders of Yellowstone. The kids say that is has been one of our best family vacations and they all were fully engaged in the experience. My only hope is that we will be able to continue to vacation as a family after Kyle leaves for college this fall.
Our first order of business this morning is breaking down our camp. Many hands make quick work of the task and a nice fire helps to take the chill off the crisp morning air. Our next destination is the Upper Geyser Basin where we spend several hours surveying the enormously varied thermal features concentrated in this part of the park. My favorite, pictured above, is the Morning Glory Pool.
We were lucky to catch 5 eruptions of Old Faithful over the course of the day which included brief excursions to the Black Sand and Biscuit Geyser Basins. Even more fortunate, we were able to secure two cabins at the Old Faithful lodge for the evening. These are usually booked a year in advance but occasionally you can pick up a cancellation if you present yourself in person. No one was looking forward to a third sub-zero night in the tent so we were all happy to spend the evening at the lodge.
The family departs shortly after sunrise for Hayden Valley where we hope to encounter wildlife. Our timing could not have been better. With steam still rising off of the Yellowstone River we spot four Grizzly bears fighting over a bison carcass in the water. I have a full series of the brawl in which the strongest bear establishes his dominance and sole rights to gorge himself on the bison before the 2nd place bear takes his turn. Between my long lens, our spotting scope and binoculars we all enjoy a front row seat to the amazing spectacle.
We also spotted a bison fording the river, elk, and Nico was lucky enough to see wolves before they disappeared over a hilltop. Feeling quite fortunate we continue on to Canyon Village where we have breakfast and take in the Yellowstone Canyon before continuing on to Tower Falls.
The Lamar Valley is next on our circuit and here we see something like ten herds of bison numbering 2,000 beasts. For the first time I understand why this place is often referred to as the Serengeti of North America. Encountering far less traffic than we expected for this time of year we backtracked the valley and continued on to Mammoth Hot Springs for lunch and some ice cream.
Our last day at Heart Six included a ridge ride on which we paused for a family portrait which will in all likelihood be this year’s Christmas card photo. After returning, the boys and I decided we would like to finish our visit with some high speed loping (cantering). Our wrangler led us down to an open field where the horses could run without fear of injury. What a thrill. When a horse moves from trotting (very jarring on the body) to loping the ride smooths out considerably and you can just tell the horse is having fun. On our last run we really opened the throttle. In order to stay on the horse, Nico would grip the saddle with both of his hands leaving the reins loose. His horse easily reached 35 miles per hour and when it ran out of field, Nico had to release one hand to gather the reins and brake the horse. Absent a grip on that side, Nico flew off the horse when it decelerated and completed a rolling dismount which terminated with him standing upright. He would have received a perfect ten if he was competing at the Olympics. The whole thing was so funny that Kyle and I laughed uncontrollably for at least five minutes. After our wrangler realized that Nico was not injured and the color returned to her face, she also could not help but laugh along with us.
After checking out we drove up to Yellowstone stopping at Flagg Ranch for a hike along the Snake River. Kyle and Nico opted out and Maya drove a blistering pace on what proved to be a rather unrewarding trail. We completed our day’s journey at the Grant Village campground where we pitched our 6 person tent and home for the next two nights. The star field was simply amazing and Nico remained up to do some celestial photography while the rest of us chose to jump into our sleeping bags. The temperature dropped below freezing and Kyle (who had a sleeping bag not rated for this degree of cold) was none too happy (he traded with Nico for his warmer bag the next night).
Our Heart Six cabin could not offer a more magnificent view of the Grand Tetons. Each morning I rise before the sun to position myself for the golden hour when the quality of light is optimal for photography. This morning I did a series of landscapes with the Buffalo River in the foreground and the mountains in the background. I also encountered a couple of deer that were kind enough to pose for me.
Early each morning wranglers round up the horses from their pasture and drive them up to the ranch. Normally each rider is paired with a unique horse and is not permitted to switch over the course of the week. Toad, my first horse, was limping on the second day and I was given a new mount, Big Red. On our morning ride I discovered that Red had a problem with his back. Every time we went down hill he would start bucking. While this added a measure of excitement I had not bargained on, it was also extremely unsafe (see yesterday’s comments regarding rodeo riders). Our wrangler walked Red back to the ranch and I rode his horse.
During the afternoon the boys and I participated in paintball. In the first round Nico and I were on a 5 person team pit against Kyle, Sam (the wrangler in charge of the event who played weekly and was a hard core expert) and three others. Early in the round I covertly secured high ground and positioned myself to take out both Sam and Kyle. Neither one knew I was there and I had a perfect bead on them. I opened fire on Sam missing with at least 4 shots. He turned, located me and hit me with his first paintball. Sam, however, was no match for Nicolai who climbed a tree near our base and waited patiently until he was directly below him. Sam never knew what hit him and confessed later that he had been out maneuvered. In round two I was dispatched by Sam in the first minutes when I chose to hide behind a tree which was one size too small and left 1 inch of my backside exposed. Finally in the third round I redeemed myself as the last man standing with three tags including both Kyle and Maya. I shot Kyle in the hand just after he was also hit from behind (he cried foul but war is hell). I felt bad shooting Maya but she is a sharpshooter and pelted my hideout relentlessly and was advancing with her teammate in a 2 on 1 scenario. Fortunately I hit her gun and caused her no pain. Kyle had several bruises (one shown here) which demonstrate that getting shot can be very painful.
In the evening we took another trail ride to dinner. The wranglers felt very bad that I had received two lame horses so I was given Rocket, the best horse on the ranch. He was powerful and responded perfectly to my commands and I felt lucky to ride him for the rest of our stay.
After dinner we rode back to the ranch and were treated to a magnificent sunset. I also captured a slow shutter speed image of a couple of horses on their way back to the pasture for the evening.
The family was up early this morning for a trail ride to breakfast alfresco overlooking the Teton range. Our horses spend each evening in a huge pasture and the wranglers coral them each day. This mother and foal have their own special pasture where they spend all day grazing and nursing.
The afternoon is spent floating down the Snake River in an inflatable raft.
Another exquisite dinner is followed by an excursion to Jackson Hole for the rodeo. Our very own wrangler, Drew, is one of the bull riders. This is really a sport for people who enjoy being injured. Virtually every rider limped out of the arena including Drew who was kicked in the leg after a very impressive ride an a high flying angry bull.
Our day begins with a terrific breakfast in the Rustic Inn dining room. It becomes immediately apparent that sticking to my diet is going to be difficult in the face of such yummy food. Next I make a quick excursion back to the airport to rent a van which provides us ample room for our luggage and comfortable viewing of the breathtaking scenery every where. We spent the morning leisurely making our way into the Grand Teton National Park by way of Mormon’s Row (pictured above). Along the way we spotted Pronghorn and Bison as well as this burrowing ground squirrel.
By noon we arrive at the summit of Signal Mountain from where you can survey the entire park with exceptional views in all directions. Here butterflies and wildflowers abound adding to the serenity and beauty of this place. Next we move on to the Heart Six dude ranch where we will be spending the next three nights. We have a 3 room log cabin to ourselves and mingle with other guests during meals which are served in the main lodge dining room. Over the course of our stay we will get to know the three other families staying here very well.
Immediately after unpacking we make our way to the stables where we are introduced to our horses and set out on our first trail ride. Maya and Kyle have had riding lessons. Jeanine and Nico have been on a horse once or twice. For me it is the first time. Appropriately I am paired with a horse named Toad and Jeanine with Kermit. Our first ride takes us onto a ridge overlooking the Buffalo River and Teton range. This is one of the most spectacular vistas I have ever seen and I will be sure to return for some early morning photography and as a backdrop for a family portrait.
We return just in time for dinner and it becomes clear that food is going to be another highlight of our stay at the Heart Six. Much of the evening is spent playing cards or pool with Maya deciding she is going to learn to play the guitar. Kyle shows her a few chords and in no time she is able to play a few simple songs. The evening ends with a campfire and smores making for a very full first day.