20th Anniversary Trip – Day 7 Zion Utah

At the end of Day 6 we had arrived at our cabin at the Zion Mountain Ranch.  I woke up early the next morning to go birding and hopefully see the buffalo.  The very first bird I saw when I started walking was a Sharp-Shinned Hawk.  It was searching the pastures for breakfast.


Sharp-Shinned Hawk

As I headed to the back of the cabin area toward the large pasture surrounding the property, I heard lots of deep grunting.  When I came closer to the pasture I saw this huge herd of buffalo.  It was a beautiful sight.  You could hear the grass tearing as they ate big mouthfuls of it.  And they grunted while they ate.  They were so close that I had trouble getting photos because I had my big zoom lens on my camera.


Beautiful buffalo


Cute baby!

You can see how close they are to the cabins in this photo.  One woman was enjoying her morning coffee to the wondrous sight of all the buffalo.  I think I took over 500 photos of these magnificent animals.


Perfect morning breakfast scenery

My favorite photo was of this bull staring straight at me with red eyes.


Now I just couldn’t resist taking this buffalo moment…….


She’s looking at me thinking….how embarrassing…

Hanging out on the periphery of the buffalo herd was this uniquely colored bull.  I loved the colors of his coat and the shape of his horns.  He was quite a distance away and would never face me, so this was the best photo I could get.


I soon moved on and found a few other birds to photograph.  The birds were far and few between which surprised me.


European Starling


Western Bluebird


Green-Tailed Towhee


Mountain Bluebird

Around the farmhouse, the chickens were gearing up for the day.  I liked the white rooster…he looks like he’s enjoying that stretch.


Silky Rooster


Bantam Rooster

We had decided the evening before not to stay a second night at the ranch.  When we looked at the amount of hours we were going to have to drive to get home from the ranch, we thought it best to drive to Page, Arizona, the next evening and cut about 2.5 hours off our travel time the last day.  This meant we only had until about 5 pm to stay at Zion before leaving for Arizona.  While eating lunch, I searched the internet for the best hiking trail to take for our visit into Zion.  We wouldn’t have time to explore any more than one trail.  We eventually chose the Emerald Pools trail.  It’s a 3-mile out and back hike that takes you to three different pools with stunning scenery and waterfalls as you climb.


Trail to the emerald pools…it starts out paved but eventually turns into a single track.

As we started the hike, the sun was shining brightly overhead and it was pretty hot.  Tim was ahead of me on the hike by this time because I was taking so many photos.  I looked up and saw him standing above everyone.  He loves being different from the masses.  LOL!


Can you see Tim?

The first pool is very beautiful with a long waterfall filling it.  I bet that waterfall is stunning during the spring runoff.


The first emerald pool

I liked that the trail took you around the pool and behind the waterfall.


After the first pool, you start climbing more aggressively.  This quickly gives you a view from above the waterfall.


Beautiful even at a trickle




Climbing above the waterfall.

The second pool you see is just above the waterfall that fills the first pool…or would that actually be the third pool as it is downstream….hmmmm…  I didn’t take many pics of the second pool because it was filled with people.  It was very shallow and on bedrock so it made for a cool stop for hot hikers.

Heading to the top pool the hike became more steep.  The views got more narrow as you headed into a canyon.  As we neared the upper pool, the sun went behind the cliff and it made the hike much more beautiful and cooler.


Cliff surrounding the upper pool

Our favorite pool of the hike was the upper pool.  Well worth the climb!


Kelly and Tim at the upper pool


What a beautiful setting

We spent quite a while enjoying this beautiful place and visiting with people from all over the world.  I enjoyed the mystery the shadows created.


Soon we were heading back down.  The sun was fully hidden from the trail by this time.  I couldn’t believe how it transformed the trail.  What was beautiful in the sunshine turned to breathtaking in the shade.


So many colors in the rock

The bottom pool was totally transformed.


With the sun gone I could appreciate the delicate stream of water


Emerald pool indeed

I loved the colors that became more rich now that the sun was gone.


Such a peaceful setting

Soon we were back at the trail head in the sunshine once more.  We saw a lizard soaking up the sun.  He had gorgeous coloring.


Tiger Whiptail

I wish we could have spent more time here but sadly the day had grown late and we needed to head to Arizona.


Kelly next to Virgin River

I love the drive that goes through the lower end of Zion on Highway 9.   The scenery is stunning.  It was difficult to do it justice from a moving car.  Here are a few of my better shots.


I love the crisscross geology of this sandstone


So majestic!


Beautiful sandstone layers


A giant arch in the making

The highlight of the drive along Highway 9 through the park was coming upon some Bighorn Sheep right next to the road.  They are very used to people and didn’t care one bit that I got out of the car to take photographs.  At one point I was only about 15 feet away from some of the females.


We first saw this group of Bighorn Sheep climbing along the sandstone cliffs


We rounded a corner and saw some right next to the road.  Beautiful!


A young one running to catch up with the others


This female was grazing right next to me!!



A majestic ram!


All too soon we were on our way to Arizona.  I was sad to leave this beautiful part of the country.  Some day I will be back to explore all Zion has to offer.






20th Anniversary Trip – Day 6 Nevada & Utah

This day was one of the funnest days of our trip.  We covered a lot of miles and saw some stunning scenery.

We left Ely, NV, and started heading to Utah.  Before we left the area, I had Tim stop again at the Comins Lake.  It was such a great place for birding.

This morning I saw completely different birds than I had seen the evening before.  Which I loved!


Sagebrush Sparrow


Solitary Sandpiper


Eared Grebe


Yellow-Headed Blackbird


Sage Thrasher


Barn Swallows


Vesper Sparrow


Brewer’s Sparrow

After birding for a short while, a Great Blue Heron came flying in.  I love these elegant birds.


Great Blue Heron

He wasn’t too sure about me walking along the shoreline.  So he flew to the other side of the lake.  I captured a few photos in flight.  When I was editing the photos, I saw an elusive warbler flying in the photos as well.  Looked like a Yellow Warbler – so bright! Wish I could have gotten some good photos of that warbler.


Great Blue Heron – see that bright yellow warbler!!!

I also saw a tiny bird feeding along the edge of the reeds.  It’s obviously a juvenile.  But I had a heck of a time identifying this bird.  My conclusion is that it’s a juvenile Virginia Rail.  But if someone knows the correct identification of this bird, I’d appreciate knowing.


Juvenile Virginia Rail

Too soon we were on our way.  I never want to leave a good birding spot!  We started heading further south.  One of our planned stops on this trip was Cathedral Gorge State Park.  It’s a small park comprising about 1600 acres, but just beautiful!  We had a good time exploring all the small slots formed in the rocks.  I could easily spend a day investigating all the cracks and crevices. Very unique!


Cathedral Gorge State Park


Unique geology



Tim exploring



Just beautiful!


Interesting holes and cracks



Kelly exploring the slots


View from inside the slot canyon


My handsome husband!


Kelly inside the deepest slot canyon

Tim spotted a lizard among the formation.  Yay!


Plateau Fence Lizard

We next headed east toward Utah.  We headed up a scenic highway called Cedar Canyon that was truly breathtaking at every turn.  We climbed very quickly with some steep grades at times.  One of the most scenic highways I had ever seen.


River along Highway 14 Cedar Canyon


Gorgeous rock formations along the scenic drive

We soon had gone from 4,800 foot elevation at Cathedral Gorge to 10,000 feet.   The views were so expansive!


Views from 10,000 feet

I saw on the map that there was a National Park just ahead of us:  Cedar Breaks National Park.  Of course we just had to stop in.  And I am so glad we did.  Just breathtaking!!!


Cedar Breaks National Park





View from 10,000 feet


From 10,000 feet the bottom of the canyon is 2000 feet below

The views looking down into that canyon were breathtaking.  I would have loved to see what the views looked like from down in the bottom of that canyon.

While there I saw (and heard!) and Clark’s Nutcracker.  These birds are big and loud.  Sadly it flew away before I could get a photo.

Further up the road was another turnoff that showed a different view of the park.


Tim and Kelly

At the parking area of Cedar Breaks there were lots of wildflowers with butterflies busily feeding.  Along with the familiar butterflies, I actually got a new one!


Hoary Comma


Mourning Cloak


Milbert’s Tortoiseshell – a new butterfly for me!

Heading down the other side of the mountain, we saw a beautiful lake, mountain meadows and small ponds.


Red-Tailed Hawk


Sheep grazing in a high mountain meadow


Navajo Lake – a high mountain lake formed by lava



American Avocets


Mallard female

We stopped at one pond that was full of ducks.  As we watched the ducks an osprey flew over looking for some lunch.  He circled a couple times but didn’t see anything worth trying for and flew away.



We finally made it off that mountain and to our destination of the Zion Mountain Ranch.  It’s an actual working buffalo ranch.  The buffalo were there but way far away.  I had hopes of seeing them up close before we left.

We stayed in a private cabin overlooking the horse pasture.  A very peaceful setting.


Our cabin at Zion Mountain Ranch



Tomorrow we see Zion!
P.S.  I just learned this was my 100th post!!! 🙂





20th Anniversary Trip – Day 2 Utah

I woke up bright and early on Day 2 in Provo, Utah.  We stayed at a hotel that was next to the Provo River.   There was a beautiful bike trail along the river.  I headed out first thing to see if any birds were out along the river.


Provo River


Provo River

It was barely light which made it tough for photos.  I noticed later my pics have a lot of noise as I had to set my ISO so high.  Why didn’t I think to use a flash???  Ah well…live and learn.

There was a bush along the river that was covered in berries.  The birds were all over this bush.  They were busy eating and not minding me too much.


American Robin


Cedar Waxwing

After breakfast we headed over to Utah Lake State Park.  I had n0ticed on eBird that a lot of bird sightings are posted here.  Sounds like my kind of place!

The lake was a beautiful place.  If I lived in Provo, I’d be there all the time!  Along the road to the lake, there was all kinds of fun stuff to see and do.  One of my favorites was a Zipline Park.  Lots of ziplines to ride.


The owner of this storage rental place was using the property to store and display his old Americana collection


When we got to the lake, we drove out onto one of the jetties that was alongside the marina.  The first bird I saw was this Clark’s Grebe.  He popped up briefly for a photo.


Clark’s Grebe

Then out along the beach area were lots of Black-Necked Stilts, White-Faced Ibis and seagulls.  Most of the birds were too far away for any decent photos.  But I had to take a few pics anyway as some of the gulls were new birds for me.  🙂


Black-Necked Stilts


Franklin’s Gull

We then drove over to the marina.  This was a really nice place.  I saw several birds in this area enjoying the beautiful morning.


My handsome husband Tim at the Utah Lake Marina




Great Blue Heron


White-Faced Ibis


Ring-Billed Gull


American Avocets – with the lighting and their winter plumage, this photo almost looks like a water color painting

We headed around the marina to the jetty on the other side.  Along this jetty there was the Provo River flowing into the lake.  There was a large area with cattails that was filled with birds.  You could hear and see them, but it was almost impossible to photograph them.  I barely got a pic of the numerous Marsh Wrens.


View of the extensive cattails along Provo River and the river delta beyond.


Marsh Wren


Song Sparrow

While trying to photograph all those Marsh Wrens flying about, an Osprey flew right by us trying to catch a fish in the river.  As you can see, he missed.  We saw him fly by again looking for another target.


Osprey missing his breakfast



As we neared the end of the jetty, we saw where the river flowed out into the lake.  There were so many birds here!  Sadly most of them were very far away.  I had my 800mm lens fully extended to get any photos.

There were flocks of American White Pelicans, various seagulls and Caspian Terns.


American White Pelicans


Various Gulls – Ring-Billed Gull, Herring Gull, California Gull


Caspian Terns with a Herring Gull juvenile in the back left (both new birds for me!)

And among these flocks there were quite a variety of shorebirds.  I have a lot of difficulty identifying these little guys.  Especially when they are in winter plumage.  So if I’ve misidentified any, please correct me!


Baird’s Sandpiper


Western Sandpiper


Solitary Sandpiper

Along the jetty was a large flock of Northern Rough-Winged Swallows.  There was a favorite tree they liked to perch on.  Lucky for me! 🙂


Northern Rough-Winged Swallows

As were were heading back down the jetty, I saw this Snowy Egret busily feeding in the shallows.  And my first photo ever of a successful catch!


Snowy Egret


Snowy Egret with breakfast!

There was a nice park and trail along the Provo River.


You can just barely see Tim on the right bank.  He was caching grasshoppers and feeding the fish.  There was some giant carp in this river.


I loved this place! I could bird here for hours at a time!

Lots of birds here too!  By now the cloud cover had really started closing in and rain was threatening.


Yellow-Headed Blackbird


Black-Capped Chickadee


American Robin


American Kestral


Northern Flicker


Black-Billed Magpie

After a really fun and successful morning of birding, it was time to hit the road and head to Nevada.  On our way out, we passed by the Great Salt Lake.  I noticed that lots of people had stopped along the highway to write things on the white salt flats with black rocks.


You can see “Trump” spelled out in rocks in the lower right

We also passed a Morton Salt collection facility.


Morton Salt

We had a 5 1/2 hour drive to Winnemucca, NV.  After passing the Great Salt Lake, the scenery was pretty dull.    When we were getting close to Winnemucca, we noticed a large fire off in the distance.  When I looked it up on the internet, it was the smoke from a fire than had consumed over 122,000 acres of grasslands.  The wind was blowing that day, so I’m sure it consumed even more acreage.  Hopefully they got it put out by n0w.


Smoke from a 122,000+ acre fire in northern Nevada.

Stay tuned for Day 3!







20th Anniversary Trip – Day 1

For our 20th anniversary, my husband and I decided to take a long road trip and visit some places we’ve never seen.  Our trip would last 8 days, travel through 5 states, drive more than 2,400 miles, visit 5 different national parks, pass by several more and I would take 3,499 photos.  Whew!!!

Day 1 we left Albuquerque, NM, and headed north. The weather was perfect for a road trip.


You gotta love those southwest skies!

We briefly passed through the southwest corner of Colorado.  We drove through Cortez, CO.  My grandparents used to live here, and we would visit them most Christmases.  The scenery here really looks like backdrops on those old western movies.


Chimney Rock

We passed our first national park called Mesa Verde just outside Cortez, CO.  But no time to stop! A couple years ago Valerie and I took a photo road trip, and we visited Mesa Verde.  It’s a fabulous place to see.  Here’s a photo I took on that trip.


Cliff Palace at Mesa Verde National Park

We then turned northwest and headed into Utah. In the southwest, we have the funnest roadside stops.  🙂


Roadside stop just before Moab.  It wasn’t until I got home and reviewed the photos that I realized there was a 4-wheeler on the top of the rock above the tourist trap.  🙂

We stopped in Moab for a bite to eat.  This was a great small town and very outdoors oriented.  After a great BBQ dinner, we drove to Arches National Park.  I have always wanted to visit here.

We knew we were getting close to the park when we saw this arch off the side of the highway.


Arch just before Moab, UT

We arrived at the park very late in the day.  The visitors center was going to close soon and the sun was going to set in just a couple hours.  I collect the National Parks Passport Stickers.  I was torn between stopping for a sticker and getting to the sights before sundown.  Tim asked me, “Do you want a sticker or shutter time?”  Of course I opted for shutter time!


We only had a short time before sunset to see the park.  So we quickly drove to the furthest end of the park.  The views from the road were amazing.


Beautiful view at Arches National Park


You can see this arch from the road


Unique rock formations

From there we had to hike about a mile to the arches.  There were four arches on this trail but split down two different trail ends.  The trail itself was very picturesque.


View from the hiking trail to an arch

We finally made it to the arches.  I couldn’t believe how delicate this arch looked.  The sun was setting behind it, which made for challenging photography.


Landscape Arch


In front of Landscape Arch with Partition Arch on the far right


My handsome husband


Uniquely shaped juniper tree

We then heard from other visitors that we needed to hurry and get to the Delicate Arch for sunset photos.  So we quickly headed back down the trail.  We  briefly stopped at the arch near the road for  a quick photo.  Then back in the car to see Delicate Arch.


Skyline Arch

When we got to the trail head for Delicate Arch, we realized it was a 2-mile hike to the arch.  We knew we didn’t have enough time to make it to the arch before sunset.  So we hiked an alternate trail that gives you a distant view of the arch.   We made it just before sunset!  The trail was steep but well worth it for the view.


Delicate Arch – we laughed because if you look closely you can see people lined up along the ridge behind the arch.  We thought it looked like an old western movie where the indians are along the ridge looking down at the cowboys in the valley below.  Ready to attack the unsuspecting cowboys.  🙂


I love this photo of Tim and I!

Daylight was quickly disappearing.  We had just enough light to photograph Balanced Rock.  The lighting was glorious for photography.


Just stunning!


Tim and Kelly – still in love after 20 years of marriage!

Tim took the camera to get some photos of me.  This is what he took.  I quickly realized we needed to talk about “mergers” in photos.  LOL!!!


Tim purposely framed the rock above me.  LOL!


This is me taking a panorama photo with my phone. 


This is the photo I was taking. 

I only had enough daylight after this stop to get a couple more photos before dark.


Beautiful sunset on the red rocks


Low light hiking down the last trail made for a beautiful landscape photo.

After touring the park, we got back in the car to drive to Provo, UT.  We went through a lot of road construction which really slowed us down.  We didn’t get to the hotel until 11 pm.  We were pooped!

Stay tuned for Day 2!