Friday, November 24, 2017

Yellowstone Park in winter: beautiful, chilly home on the range for snow coach visitors

Snow coaches are the way to see Yellowstone Park in winter; Cookie prepares to board on a recent visit. 


Bison are built for winter, and this guy stops snow coach traffic
to make his his way across a road in Yellowstone during winter.


THE SNOW actually seems to float upwards.  Sure, it's also coming down, and going sideways. "It's slanted snow," one youngster whooped in delight, as our snow coach slowed for a bison crossing.
The critters have frost on their ears and icicles on their eyebrows.
Better have a wool scarf, warm socks and a good cap because you will feel the chill, no kidding.
WE'RE IN ONE of the only vehicles allowed in much of the park -- snow coaches that is -- and it's a typical Yellowstone winter.
No cars or trucks are
allowed -- snow coaches only. 
In Yellowstone National Park, winter means seeing the park in a new light -- fewer crowds, frigid temperatures, and steaming geyser basins.  For a period each winter, only snow coaches can traverse the park's inner roads.  "Oversnow" travel usually ends in mid-March, when plowing crews begin clearing a winter's worth of snow. Usually, as spring comes and temperatures climb, roads start re-opening to normal cars. This usually occurs by mid-April.
Keller and Cookie enjoyed a winter trip to the park last 


So how cold does it get -- really?
I asked a park ranger on our last frigid visit. He said temperatures range from zero to 20F (-20C to -5C) throughout the day. Sub-zero temperatures are common, especially at night and at higher elevations.
THE RANGER pointed out that while some people complain about cold and snow, winter provides a better opportunity than summer to view wildlife and birds. We saw eagles and bison, elk and even a solitary moose. We
This beautiful hawk doesn't seem to mind winter, for the snow makes it easier to view and find a snack.
The absence of leaves also makes it easier for us to see him -- here, on a cottonwood in West Yellowstone.
saw hawks that we'd have missed in summer,
The river is not quite frozen, yet, but will sport ice in 
the shallows as winter progresses.
standing out in the winter trees in a way they don't in full foliage of warmer seasons.
In early winter, one can hear elk bugling, and watch elk and moose looking for girlfriends.

 In Jackson Hole to the south, one can take a sleigh ride through an elk herd.
 IN YELLOWSTONE, winter offers a chance to cross-country ski past geysers, snowboard near Old Faithful Snow Lodge and Cabins or watch wolves in Lamar Valley.
The warm and inviting Old Faithful Snow Lodge is welcoming, 
warm and cozy after a day of snow play and critter viewing.
There are also photographic tours of the park during winter, and many ways for travelers to combine their lust for "the great photo" with a pleasant wildlife viewing outing.
WE LIKE to stay a night or two in West Yellowstone before and after a tour. Snow coaches also leave from Gardiner.  Beware, though, if you plan to drive the park on your own, the only road open year-round to regular traffic is from the North Entrance at Gardiner, through the park to Cooke City, via Tower Junction. Travel east of Cooke City via the famed Beartooth Highway is not possible from late fall to late spring.
WEATHER permitting, roads will open to travel soon by snowmobile and snowcoach next month:
Dec. 15: West Entrance to Old Faithful, Mammoth to Old Faithful, Canyon to Norris, Canyon to Lake, Old Faithful to West Thumb, South Entrance to Lake, Lake to Lake Butte Overlook.
Dec. 22: East Entrance to Lake Butte Overlook (Sylvan Pass)To find out more:

Elegant artwork from Europe's largest private collection greets visitors
to Barcelona's Claris Hotel and Spa in Barcelona's Eixample District.
UP NEXT: What makes a splendid hotel? Claris Hotel and Spa in central Barcelona is a showpiece in Spain, an elegant, renowned property with a private art collection endowed by the Derby Hotel Groups' owner, whose art treasures compose Europe's largest private collection. The hotel,  in the renowned Eixample district of the city, has a five-star reputation for luxury, on the vibrant Passeig de GrĂ cia, with a stunning rooftop bar, a knowledgeable and multi-lingual staff, proximity to Gaudi sites and pampering amenities. Come splurge with us, remembering to explore, learn and live and catch us Fridays when we post anew, a fresh approach to travel, nature and the arts.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Yellowstone's Grizzly, Wolf Discovery Center draws curious tourists for stellar learning experience

Watching beautiful bears scamper, play and eat is a pleasure offered by West Yellowstone's Discovery Center.
The animals within this extraordinary complex cannot be safely returned to the wild, so live out their days in care.


Sam is the king of the walk at the Discovery Center; he is the largest resident.



WE LEARNED SO much in an afternoon at the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center that we wanted to return the next day.
Fortunately, the admission ticket to this fine West Yellowstone, Montana, venue allows that.
Observant ravens and crows are on hand at the Center, too, gobbling up the scraps
of food after the bears and wolves have their fill.
The open, airy and nicely designed Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center is one of the "don't miss" pleasures of a trip to the nation's first national park, Yellowstone.
The not-for-profit wildlife park is a truly  educational facility, opened nearly a quarter-century ago.
Workers have stashed food around the park's ample grounds.
Now the bears are smelling out the stash -- and having lunch.
SINCE 1993, the center  has attracted an international clientele of  families and school groups.  The sunny autumn day of our recent visit, we joined several dozen others to get a close-up look at critters who -- for various reasons -- cannot make it on their own in the wild.
This beautiful grey wolf is enjoying the late afternoon sun of a fine autumn day. Two packs inhabit the wildlife center.

 The wildlife park offers lectures and discussions, with experts describing the habits of the critters and the dangers they can pose when humans get too close.
Snow has come to Yellowstone, blanketing the pine and fir trees in cloaks of white.
Open a remarkable 365 days a year, the Center offers visitors to Yellowstone a chance to quietly observe and experience a connection to the world of grizzly bears and gray wolves.
OUR GUIDE called the animals    "lucky ambassadors for their wild counterparts.''
Tickets are $13 adults, $12.25, kids $8 seniors, $8 for youngsters, and under three, children are free.
For more information:

UP NEXT: Winter in Yellowstone.  Come with us on snow coaches to a world of white and wonder.  And, oh, yes, it is verrrrrrrry cold, so dress warmly.  For several months of the year, the most stunning marvels of the park can only be experienced by snow coach. It's a winter wonderland and extraordinary time to visit. Meanwhile, remember to explore, learn and live and check us out each Friday for a fresh and lively look at travel, nature, family and the arts.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Sioux Charley splendor: In every season, remarkable beauty

Whirling waters of the Stillwater in south-central Montana lead the way to Sioux Charley.
The U.S. Forest Service has created a lovely path. 




EACH YEAR, rain or shine, we make a point to hike one of the most spectacular trails on Earth.

To our good fortune, this splendid place is just a few miles from our home on Montana's West Fork of the Stillwater River.
Friend Lynn Pitet and Cookie pause on the trail.
Even in a skiff of snow, we can safely maneuver from our gravel road to the blue highway that leads to the trail head of the hike to Lake Sioux Charley, named, many believe, to honor an Indian guide.
The entire trail is 26 miles long, the first
part following the river to the lake.

The trail follows the Stillwater River for three-fourths
of a mile, (trail number 24), goes to Sioux Charley Lake.
The popular trail is much loved by hikers, horseback riders and tourists.

into Sioux Charley in the  Beartooth Mountains is a pleasant six mile out-and-back hike. It takes lucky nature lovers past roaring cascades of the Stillwater River to a peaceful, wide stretch of the river perfect for a day hike and picnic.
I've taken my watercolors many
times, or the latest New Yorker.
The trail begins at the Stillwater River Trailhead at the end of the road past the tiny town of Nye and the Stillwater Mine. Here, on the northern front of the Beartooth Mountains, behold a glorious sight.
THE FIRST half-mile of the hike leads wanderers through what we locals call the Stillwater Gorge.
Its breathtaking features include tight cliffs on each side of the river with bird's eye views of  the churning river, boulders and waterfalls. This beautiful stretch makes the hike worthwhile, and leads to a tranquil meadow.
A few have tried their luck on rafts and kayaks. Since an unfortunate fatality a few years ago, we have not seen rafters.

People often meet horseback riders, and well behaved leashed dogs.

Lovely wildflowers dot the way to the lake.

One of the chief pleasures for me is stopping to "smell the roses" -- in the case of the Sioux Charley hike -- a gorgeous array of wildflowers along the path. We've seen bears and bighorns, too.
The trail goes much farther, but
most people only do 3.5 miles.
We've never had a bad trip up the gorge.
It's a family tradition and a treat for visitors. If you're our way, be our guests.

A well tended wolf, rescued because he was injured, pauses in the
Discovery Center after a meal, and is much admired and photographed.

UP NEXT: The Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center in West Yellowstone cares for both bears and wolves that cannot be returned to the wild.  This wonderful place is a fine educational tool for tourists and families. Remember to explore, learn and live and catch us Fridays for each weekend's post.

Friday, November 3, 2017

'Bright Star' lights up the house in Los Angeles at the Ahmanson

The Ahmanson Theater in Los Angeles is the perfect venue for a beautifully staged "Bright Star," with a bluegrass

band on stage, and a full pit orchestra in the traditional place below.  The show is spectacularly staged. 


Carmen Cusack's lovely leading lady role makes the
audience laugh -- and cry -- in "Bright Star." 
The actress played the role of Alice on Broadway.


and courtesy Ahmanson Theatre

IF THERE IS anything Steve Martin can't do, he has yet to reveal it.

Cookie and Keller enjoy opening weekend

at the Ahmanson for "Bright Star."

 Writers-composers Steve Martin, Edie Brickell and director Walter Bobbie.
Fans of "Bright Star" arrange their own photo shoot with
the billboard in front of Los Angeles' Ahmanson Theatre.
Versatile California born actor, writer, juggler, comic, musician and composer, Martin, and his friend and collaborator Edie Brickell are delighted to bring their musical, “Bright Star,” back to the West Coast.
It opened here years ago in our part-time stomping grounds, at San Diego's Old Globe.
After revising and reworking parts of the musical's storyline, Martin and Brickell took their project to Broadway.  In 2016, it picked up a half-dozen Tony nominations then went back to the drawing board.
NOW IT it is finely tuned, a wonderful, rapturous production,  reaping standing ovations at the Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles, where we have happily booked season tickets for years.
The production is stellar, just holding the line at melodrama, avoiding cliche because of Martin's clever turns of phrase, subtle direction  and fabulous actors including many of the Broadway cast.
Eugene Lee’s inventive scenic design puts bluegrass musicians front and center in a beautifully lit movable wooden cabin.
THAT SETS the tone for banjo player Martin's musical, set in North Carolina. Lighting design by Japhy Weideman enhances the magical realism of the story.
Martin first made a name for himself as an irreverent comic -- he told me years ago that his mediocre juggling at Knotts Berry Farm brought him into comedy. "My boss said, 'Kid, you're not much of a juggler, but you're very funny."
Ahmanson Theatre goers are reveling in the reincarnated
"Bright Star," by Steve Martin and Edie Brickell. After
several reworkings, Martin says the musical's time has come.
He shows another side of his talent in musical theater, with the bluegrass music of "Bright Star." “Love Has Come for You,” the Grammy-winning album he collaborated on with Brickell,  stops the show and fabulous banjo, mandolin, bass and fiddle music have the audience tapping its collective toe.
Cusack is mesmerizing in the lead, reprising her Tony-nominated performance as Alice Murphy, whose bittersweet tale the musical tells. 
SHE CRACKS WISE, breaks hearts and exudes charm and wit, with a gorgeous voice. Backing her is a top-notch cast, all dancers and singers in rare form and believable spanning the story's 25-year sweep.
We wouldn't have missed last weekend's opening.  The show is touring, so see it when you can.
Said Martin in an interview, “I’m excited, because since we did it in San Diego, which played very well, we have significantly changed the show,” Martin said. “Things going in, things coming out."
He says he has a "secret belief that the time is now ripe for ‘Bright Star’ in Los Angeles.""What's it about?" my sisters asked. "Love, loss and redemption," I said.  "Is there anything else?"

Lake Sioux Charley in summer glory on a hike before
the leaves began to turn this past summer
UP NEXT:  We take you to Sioux Charley in Montana.....splendors on the Stillwater in Montana's Beartooth Mountains. Come visit, near our home on the range, as we climb a spectacular gorge by the source of the Stillwater River, near Nye, Montana. Here, the skies are (almost) not cloudy all day. Remember to explore, learn and live and catch us Fridays for each weekend's post, a fresh look at nature, the arts, travel and family.