A day trip to Sheep mountain

Sheep Mountain 554 On Monday, Ron Horn and I went up to Sheep mountain to take pictures of the sheep. We were on the road by 6:40 AM and were up at the border by 7:30 and were scoping the mountain for sheep amongst the snow at 10:30 AM. We took his car and he drove all the way-so I just had to keep him a wake and keep an eye out for wildlife.

I like going shooting with Ron for a number of reasons: he’s got great photo gear, he knows a lot about photo stuff, he’s smart, he loves a good story, and has a lot of stories and experience he likes to share from all branches of life.  Of course we share photo stories of all sorts.

He just got back from Midway Island in the Pacific Ocean, the site of the famous battle during WWII which was the turning point of the Pacific theater. Lots of cool stories and interesting folks there.

709 Sheep Mountain

At first we thought we’d have a tough time of it, because all the sheep we spied were high up resting in the sun.  Then Ron spotted this one who wasn’t near as shy.

Sheep Mountain 504

All-in-all I counted 34 of them, so there were probably around 40, counting the ones I did not see. The seem to be browsing on the gravel, but were probably eating lichens and mosses.

Sheep Mountain 579

We also saw this fox along the way, just on the other side of Haines Junction. At first he didn’t seem shy at all, but then when I got out of the car, he thought better of it.

1270 Sheep Mountain

Of course there were the usual sights of snow removal and such as we came over the pass which while it may not interest locals much, as it’s a common spectacle in these parts, I think it’s amazing that a machine can throw hundreds of pounds snow per minute so far. when we actually got abreast of the blower, he turned off the blades and let us pass in peace.

Sheep Mountain 653

Sheep Mountain 607 Here’s picture of Ron’s car when he went ahead to get the gear while I stayed at the base of the mountain with all the photo gear. I include this shot just to give you an idea of the mountains immediately adjacent to Sheep Mountain and the condition of the road.  If you compare the snow covered mountain in the background with the one the sheep are on in the photos, you can see that the one that the sheep select to spend the spring-time months on is nearly clear of all snow, while the surrounding mountains are almost completely covered in snow this time of year.

I also point out that Ron has the perfect car for out-door photo trips in Alaska—a very modern Toyota 4WD 4 cylinder SUV. The temperature was probably around 22-25 degrees F.

We were back in Haines by 3:40 PM.

Moose: One Cow & Two Newborn Calves!

So far, this year, I’ve seen seven moose in our neighborhood.  But tonight we something very special!

IMG_7926 Tonight I got a call from Bonnie Scharnbroich who has a sister that lives on our street.  She said there were two newborn calves who were still damp yesterday sleeping in the yard, two houses down from us.  Wow.  I’ve only seen three other moose in recent memory and ever since we’ve had the boys I have not had the time to case out any wildlife for any stretch of time to speak of.

It was time for bed so I went over there with my 70-200mm f/2.8 IS, and my 100-400mm  f/4.5-5.6 IS.  IMG_8049Sure enough there was  a very tired looking cow moose and two newborn twins there who could hardly stand up! 

They were just lying up against the alders at the edge of the lawn minding their own business.  To view them perfectly, you could just go out on the porch and look at them.

At one point, when we had about four people out on the porch and there was a bit too much talking, the moose had the hair onIMG_8039 their backs bristle up and they tried to get motivated to stand up, so we went inside. 

After seeing how calm and serene the whole thing was, I went around to the side of the house that face ours and I could hear what I thought was Holly talking to the boys out on the porch, so I got out the cell phone and invited them over.  Holly and the boys got really excited to come over, so they got on their shoes and walked down the empty lot down from the road to the porch.

IMG_8023Of course, it’s always cool to get to see newborn animals, but it’s especially cool to see them in the wild, and doubly cool to see them from the safety of a civilized porch.  We made sure not to bother them.  Any time it seemed like they were even the slightest bit bothered, we went inside and gave them some space.  Of course I couldn’t help posing the boys in a picture with them!  At two different times, the little once stretched out their legs and once it looked like the nearest one was trying to stand up.  But it was only a half-hearted attempt.

IMG_8034Here’s a shot of Mark posing for a shot backlit by the setting sun.  I like backlit shots like this.  At first he had on a huge smile, that wasn’t really a smile,  but actually an attempt at a smile, so I asked him to smile with his mouth closed.

IMG_8033To me, the mother looked pretty tired and was breathing in a rather labored fashion, in my not so humble opinion.  I think we can all cut her some slack though.  I imagine that giving birth to twins, naturally, while all alone can really take it out of you.   I suppose this is another good argument for birth control.

IMG_8059Actually, I have to admit that I know almost nothing about the proper resting breathing rate for a moose who has recently given birth to twins.  I do know that it is very common for moose to give birth to twins, and that it’s not uncommon for only one of them to live to be fully grown. John Caleb really enjoyed the evening too, although I’m not sure he understood much of what was going on.

Aquarium Restaurant!

I  went to the coolest restaurant (CLICK HERE!!!) at the huge mall in Nashville which is adjacent to the Opryland Hotel we stayed at.  There was a huge Aquarium in the center, surrounded by a salt-water fish tank with 4 inch thick polycarbonate clear stuff which hold 200,000 gallons.  Wow.

In the Photo below, you can see the tables on the left and the huge aquarium on the right Take special note of the 6 foot long shark swimming around and around and all the other huge fish.  This is one very impressive fish tank.  Also, take note of the imitation coral reef in the center.IMG_6948

This was a very impressive place to see.  If you ever go to Nashville, I’d strongly recommend swinging by the mall and going to this restaurant: especially if you have some kids.  The kids that I saw there simply loved it.  They couldn’t get enough.

IMG_7633 I just barely missed the feeding time when I first walked in, but was fortunate enough to see the feeding of the Manta Ray type fish which feeds of the bottom of the tank.  The odd thing was that they had to be fed by hand.  The diver had to lift up their heads (see the photo above) and put the fish in its mouth, which is on the bottom of the fish, otherwise they’d starve, as there’s nothing to eat off the floor of the clean tank.  Notice he’s feeding one with a black topside and there’s one off to his right with a spotted top-side.  Their underbelly’s were white.

IMG_7687  If you look really closely, you can imagine that you’re seeing his knife-blade proof gloves on his hands–I think they are a wise precaution.  Of course, the other fish were hungry too and were constantly trying to take the food from the diver.  It was quite fascinating.

The tank was so cool, I started looking around Nashville for things that 1-6 year old boys would like and found that they have a zoo too (CLICK HERE!!!).  It’s sure be cool to go down there during our Indiana Christmas break and spend 2-3 days checking out the sights in Nashville.  It’s just six hours from my folk’s farm down I-65.  Perhaps we could visit Nadine along the way and even hook up with the rest of the Way bunch along the way.

We saw a BEAR on the AlCan Highway (w/ 2 cubs)!

This week, we (a few of us from the faculty at school) drove to Soldotna and back for a conference: “Failure is not an option.”   It was held at the Soldotna Stars High School, which is about a 3.5-4 hour drive past Anchorage, down on the Kenai Peninsula.IMG_6384It was a nice conference, and we learned a lot of cool stuff, but we still need to make our action plan.  We met in the Soldotna cafeteria, which was a very large rectangular room with terrible acoustics.  there are a whole lot of ugly (to my eyes) paintings of stars up on the ceiling and the whole room is rather odd, with large circular windows way up high near the ceiling. The food was a mix of fresh fruits and vegetables, breads, and doughnuts, plus a choice of apple Juice, Orange Juice, or water.  I have no complaints about the food at all.

IMG_6449cI liked the designs on the individual panels, but having the whole ceiling filled up with them, kind of overwhelms the mind, leaving nothing to focus on.  From the other side of the room, the panels are black and white, which is much easier to look at.

The sound was thankfully very well amplified and so we were able to hear the presenters very easily.  We just had trouble hearing each other, even across the table from each other.

The cool thing about the return trip, is that we got to drive some trucks home for Roger Schnabel’s company, so I did a huge costco run, and bought food for the boat for the summer.  On the way back, we saw a bear and two cubs.

IMG_6453cI was really bumbed out, because the truck I was driving did not have my camera in it when I saw the best pictures.  I did happen to hook up with the van carrying  the bulk of our stuff, and took a few good pictures before the bears wondered off into the woods.

We watched them for about five minutes right next to the road eating flowers, then they got right up on the road and walked right next to us and if I’d had my camera it would have been a very good time to take a shot, as the two little cubs were playing together and all three of them were right next to each other and very visible.  Also, in the photos I did get, the bears were back lit, rather than lit from the front.  Still it was a very nice treat getting to see the bears like that, so close to the road in some good light.


IMG_6428On the last night of the trip, we decided to have a fun little cook out along side the road.  I didn’t have a sleeping bag, so I bought one at Costco.  We stayed up quite late, telling stories and laughing about this or that. Then drove 14 hours the next day.  Here’s a shot of our camping spot where you can (just barely) see our three vehicles that made up our caravan: The school’s 15 pasenger green fan, the platform truck (in the back), and the new silverado work truck.    It’s always nice to have a 6-man tent when you go on a road trip.  I took this photo right before we took the tent down the next morning at 6 AM.