My Most Expensive and Most Dangerous Photo Ever

Pedestrian ho-hum shot, eh?  I agree.

Why so expensive?  I’ll tell you.

Last September, my husband and I bought a Perception Pescador Pilot 12 pedal kayak on the spur-of-the-moment.  We liked it and knew we would both want to be out on the water at the same time, at times, so we ordered another.  The second arrived after the season for kayaking had ended.  It spent the winter in our back yard.  It finally made it out on the water a couple weeks ago on a day on which my husband and I both had the day off and we could go together, in our pickup truck, transporting the kayaks on a roof rack.

All well, and good..  But, you see, my husband and the pickup he drives are away from home 5 day per week.  I drive a Jeep Wrangler.  The roof on a Jeep Wrangler is great.  It’s easily removable – and light enough to remove and replace with just two people.  What it isn’t is capable of bearing the weight of that kayak.  So, last week, we bought a trailer so I can tow the kayak and thus be able to use it while my husband is away.


Being thus “in business,” on Wednesday, June 13, I hitched up the trailer with the kayak and headed to the Mission Dam, on a mission to photograph common loons.  Well, I achieved some ho-hum shots – nothing special.  But here’s what it cost:

Upon arriving at Mission Dam, I discovered that the “Pilot drive” – that is the pedal propeller apparatus – had apparently bounced/fallen off the trailer.  Yup, I fully acknowledge that this loss is entirely my fault and I’ve been beating myself bloody over it.

This is a stock product image, but illustrates what the apparatus looks like, except mine has an orange propeller.

I went out on the water Wednesday night anyway, using a paddle, but didn’t stay long, wanting to re-trace my route, hoping to find that Pilot drive.  But I stayed long enough to get totally common photos of a not-so-common-as-the-name-suggests common loon.

Now, since then, I’ve pulled out all the stops, cast a wide net and taken every long shot (and mixed every metaphor) trying to recover this equipment.

I’ve contacted a construction company that was working on the highway along my route.  I’ve contacted the road maintenance departments of the two counties I traveled in.  I’ve posted on my Facebook profile.  I’ve posted in classified ads.

So now you might be wondering where the “dangerous” part comes in.  Well, of course I’m not just “sitting back” and hoping someone else will find this for me.  Last night, Thursday June 14, I went looking.  I re-traced my route, again.  In my search, I was walking along a stretch of Mission Dam Road that has tall grass in the roadside ditch.  When I was on my second pass along that stretch of road, walking back to my Jeep, an albino pitbull came running across a field toward me.  It stopped and sat down and, for a minute or so, remained there.  I thought perhaps there was an invisible fence boundary which it couldn’t cross.  I was wrong.  It charged.  When I turned to face it, it stopped.  But as soon as I took another couple steps, it charged again, halving the distance between us. I remained still and facing it for a minute and then took a few more steps.  It charged again, again halving the distance between us.  “Charged” is definitely the word for it.  That sequence repeated until it was just a couple feet away from me, barking, snarling, growling, and giving me the red eye.  Yes, red eyes – remember I said albino.  Now, I’m a dog person.  I am not fearful of dogs.  I love dogs.  Under other circumstances, I might have been most interested in meeting an albino dog.  But I’m going to be honest and tell you that when a dog is menacing you with bared teeth, snarls, growls, barks and glaring red eyes, it’s intimidating.  I tried talking calmly “hey, buddy, we’re cool, it’s okay.”  It still threatened.  So, I was faced with a long walk back to the Jeep, walking backwards, because if I even turned sideways to check my footing (after all, falling down could be disastrous) it used that opportunity to move up on me – and it was plenty close enough!  How I wished the bear spray that was in the Jeep was in my hand!  I yelled “Go Home!” several times.  That would halt its approach momentarily, and I’d back off another several paces, but it would immediately close that gap again.  This went on for several minutes (seemed like an hour, but my watch said differently) before a young woman driving with a toddler on her lap drove up and honked and yelled at the dog, then, for which I am very grateful, drove her car between the menace and me, yelling “Go Home!” at the beast and allowing me to gain some distance.

Upon arriving at Mission Dam, I enjoyed the view and watching distant loons through my binoculars and wishing I had a kayak with me.  And thus it goes…
(iPhone photo – haven’t copied photos from the card that was in my “big” camera, yet)

So, now I have photos of a common loon, but it has cost a small fortune.  I’ll keep looking and hoping, but, for now, it’s lost.  Replacing the pedal drive any time soon is simply not in the cards and won’t likely happen this season.

Putting Humpty Dumpty Back Together Again

In May of 2016, the server on which this blog is stored fell victim to ransomware and the database backup restoration failed.  The blog was lost.

It has taken me a year to find the motivation to try to patch it back together.  I found that the Wayback Machine Internet Archive had “captured” the blog fairly consistently.  As such, I can copy many if not all of my post entries back into my blog.  That will take some time, and I won’t expend the effort to copy all post entries back.  I will re-post entries dated with their original entry date.  Unfortunately, all comments made on blog posts are lost and will not be copied over.

Follow-up, June 11, 2018:  I’ve copied as many entries as the Wayback Machine Internet Archive had captured for posterity.  Some are missing – some of which were especially “fun” ones, but I’m grateful that many were captured and that I could restore them.   Thanks, Wayback Machine!

 

 

In Loving Memory Of My Son, Bridger Lowery

Bridger Lowery Portrait

Bridger Evan Lowery, 14, of Lolo Montana, born April 16, 2001, joined his little brother, Colter, in heaven on October 9, 2015 following a sudden and devastating illness, complicated by arterial damage that occurred in a procedure during his hospitalization.

Bridger was a young man of varied interests – and when he devoted himself to an interest, he became encyclopedic about it. As a little boy, that interest was dinosaurs. He knew the name and period of them all, and if he ever saw a toy dinosaur that wasn’t correct – an upright t-rex, for example – Bridger would be most critical of that inaccuracy. Bridger was never afraid to share his opinion, even with authorities. He was a fan of Montana’s famous paleontologist Jack Horner, but not a fan of Mr. Horner’s stated theory that t-rex was a scavenger, and, upon a chance encounter with Jack Horner downstairs at the Museum of the Rockies, he told Mr. Horner so in no uncertain terms.
Bridger’s interests changed over the years. A few years ago, his mission was to memorize as many digits after the decimal point in Pi (3.14159…) as he could. That Halloween, when trick-or-treating, his mom was taken aback to hear him reciting Pi (all the way out past 64 digits before applause drowned him out) on a doorstep. An older boy passed by Bridger’s mom saying “Lady, your kid is a genius.” His mom learned that the home was owned by a math teacher who was demanding that trick-or-treaters state a math fact.

Bridger was a warm, loving and affectionate young man. Bridger loved teaching, caring for and playing with younger children – especially his beloved cousin, Retta (Loretta Rose La Salle).  Bridger Lowery holding T-rex claw at Museum of the Rockies

He loved every minute of the time he was able to spend with his cousins Abby and Henry Powers-Lowery, his cousins Elisha and Reannan Malcom as well as his Cronk cousins and extended Lowrey family cousins. His parents were always very proud to receive compliments on how wonderful Bridger was with the littles.

Bridger Lowery shooting .22 rifle Bridger loved spending time with his grandparents – shopping trips with his Grandma Martha and Grandma Kay,     staying  for weeks with his grandparents in Anaconda, playing on the floor with his Papa David, and trips to the shooting range and off-roading with his Papa Leo in Papa Leo’s 1964 Willys Kaiser. He loved attending our semi-annual Lowrey Family Reunions.

Bridger was a fencer, active in the Missoula Fencing Association, and competed in a Montana Youth Cup tournament at the Missoula Fencing Association just days before he fell ill. Bridger competed in the foil events. Perhaps not coincidentally, he was also a huge fan of The Princess Bride (the movie and the novel).
Bridger Lowery fencing portrait courtesy of Slikati Photography Bridgery Lowery fencing
Bridger aspired to join the Navy and held the members of the US Armed Services in very high regard. Bridger was also very keen to join the Freemasons. On our family travels, he always made sure that a stop by a Masonic Temple was on the agenda, and last summer he was thrilled to see the incredible Masonic Temple in Philadelphia and pointed out every Masonic symbol at other historic sites, such as Valley Forge.

Bridger Lowery at a Masonic monument at Valley ForgeBridger was a gamer and a YouTuber. Of late, his favorite game was Destiny, and when he was at Seattle Children’s Hospital, Bungie, the makers of Destiny, learned of his condition and sent him a collection of Destiny swag that he would have treasured and which we will treasure for what it would have meant to him. He spent many hours playing video games and sometimes recording his game play, with commentary, which he posted on YouTube and often live-streamed. He played online with his friends, and his shouts and laughter would echo through the house. In one of those videos, recorded 5 months ago, for reasons we will never know, Bridger said he wanted to be buried wearing a suit like James Bond – the Sean Connery James Bond – the best James Bond. Seattle Children’s hospital has kindly provided that suit. His other stated desires were to be buried with his treasured Razer Kraken headphones, which were always on his head or around his neck, and his PS4. That his iPod Touch would be in his hand is a given. We are sure there is no lag, no trolls, and no game hacker/glitcher cheaters where he is playing now.

One of Bridger’s videos:  Assault On Dragon Keep Part 2Bridger Lowery cuddling with yellow lab puppy, Barley

Bridger joins his grandfather David Lowery, his brother Colter Lowery, and his much loved dogs, Brutus and Cooper, and leaves behind his heartbroken parents, Matthew Lowery and Katie La Salle-Lowery of Lolo, his grandmother Martha Lowery of Missoula, his grandparents Leo and Kay La Salle of Anaconda, his uncle and aunt David and Susan Lowery of Missoula, his aunts Ann Lowery and Allison Powers of Cambridge, Massachusetts, his Buntie (aunt) Stacy La Salle of Anaconda, his cousin Loretta La Salle of Anaconda, his cousins Abigail Powers-Lowery and Henry Powers-Lowery of Cambridge, Massachusetts, cousins Elisha and Reannan Malcom of Anaconda, his God-parents Cody and Blakely Phillips of St. Ignatius, many much loved great aunts and uncles, extended cousins, several “honorary” uncles, and a wonderful group of buddies.

 

Bridger’s family is grateful for the love and support they received during his hospitalization and continue to receive from family and friends both local and around the world.

Suggested recipients of memorial contributions are the Bridger Lowery Memorial Scholarship Fund at the Missoula Fencing Association (www.missoulafencing.net), Masonic Charities (www.grandcharity.org), or to the children’s charity of donor’s choice. Also, if you are able to donate blood products, please do so. Bridger received over 40 units of blood products in the effort to save his life.

 

Kudos for Yellowstone Campground Host Ray

Letter sent to the Yellowstone NPS office:

I am a frequent Yellowstone camper. I’m accustomed to feeling compelled to “tutor” campers around me on just about every trip due to garbage, food, coolers, gray water catch basins for pop-up campers, etc. being left out when not in use or overnight, and other bear country (or just clean camp) basics. I’ve often found unattended campfires left by departing campers that I’ve put out (several times during the extreme fire danger of September 2012 at Lewis Lake CG, I put out unattended campfires – fires that kicked up after campers departed without drowning their fires).

When I arrived at the Tower CG on Monday June 9, 2014, I was greeted at the entrance by the host Ray. Ray delivered a little welcome and “here are the things you need to know” speech. I was grinning through it and Ray, seeing my expression, said ” you might already know all this but it’s my job.” I wasn’t grinning with chagrin at the lecture or the lack of necessity of it in my case, I was grinning because I was very pleased that all arrivals were being greeted with that information. That’s great!

Ray made regular rounds around the campground, visiting with campers and advising them in a friendly and helpful way. For the first time in ages, I didn’t feel the need to advise people about putting things away. Ray had it well covered and, having been informed from the get-go, people were keeping things tidy.

In all the times I’ve camped in Yellowstone, I’ve never been greeted at the CG entrance with information like that. There have been occasions that I’ve seen CG hosts making the rounds and talking to and advising people, but those have been the exception, not the norm. I’ve never seen a CG host walking around helping campers with information like Ray did so very well. I spent 3 days at Norris before moving to Tower and never even saw a campground host.

Ray was present and helpful, without ever being intrusive. When Ray made his final rounds on his last day at Tower, I thanked him in person for the wonderful job he was doing, but I want to let the Park Service know (you probably already do) what a great host Ray is. I think he would be a great mentor for others hosts as well as campers.

The Perils Of Growing Up Wild

On the evening Friday, June 6, the first day of my most recent trip to Yellowstone National Park, after the sun had set and the light was fading fast, I came upon a grizzly sow and cub along the Gibbon River.  I was very happy to see them, but my delight was tempered by the fear that I was seeing the mother of triplets – and that she was down to one cub.  Nonetheless, I enjoyed watching and photographing the duo.  Given the lack of light, the photography conditions were less than ideal, as are the results.  But, because they illustrate a story, I am sharing them.

 

She’s a young mother, and seems a bit, well… clueless.  Seeming, even, at times, to lose track of the cub.

“Where’s my cub?”

grizzly cub playing with mama grizzly

 

“I’m down here, Mama!”

grizzly sow on fallen log with cub standing up under log

“Oh!  There you are!”

grizzly sow on fallen log looking down at cub beneath log

grizzly sow on fallen log reaching down to cub below the log

Eventually mama and cub disappeared from view into trees.
The next morning I returned to that area in hopes that they might be back in view.  They were!

I watched them from along the road across the river.

grizzly sow and her cug

When they started to amble down toward the river, I predicted that they would cross the river and come up the near bank and cross the road right where I was standing.  So, I walked back to where I had parked my car in a pullout and got in the car, then pulled down the road, stopping short of where I predicted they would cross the river and, ultimately, the road.

grizzly sow with cub trailing behind her

Mama bear entered the river without pause and proceeded across, while her cub hesitated on the far shore.

grizzly sow entering river with cub remaining on bank

grizzly cub on river bank

When mama bear was about halfway across the river, the cub emitted a rasping barky yelp.  Mama bear turned back and encouraged him with a huff.

grizzly sow encouraging cub to follow her into river while cub hesitates on river bank

The cub tentatively entered the river, beginning his perilous swim across.

grizzly cub swimming river - only head above water

While mama bear was able to walk through the river, the cub had to swim.

grizzly sow wading river while cub swims behind her

 

About halfway across the river, the cub got caught in the current and emitted a squeal of distress, at which mama bear turned to look back.

grizzly sow looking at cub being swept downstream in river current

The cub continued to be swept downstream by the current.  Mama bear stood for a better look.

grizzly bear standing up for a better look at her cub being swift downstream by current

Then she charged into the river.

grizzly sow rushes in to river in which her cub is being swept downstream in current

There are no photos of the following moments for two reasons:  1)  I didn’t want to photograph the loss of the cub.  My heart was in my throat.  2)  My view was soon obscured by trees along the near shore in the bend of the river – in the rapids.

I drove down the road to the pullout downstream, wishing so very hard that I’d see a rescue and not a cub lost.  Somehow, the cub made it to shore.  I can’t tell you if he managed it on his own or if his mama rendered assistance.  I saw them emerging from the trees and heading up the bank.  I drove back toward them, then pulled over on the opposite side of the road and remained in my car for the following photos.

The cub was visibly trembling and I could hear him whimpering – cold?  tired? scared? hungry?  All of the above?grizzly bear sow and cub on shore after perilous river crossing

He huddled close to mama and emulated her in taking some mouthfuls of grass, only to spit them out.  I hoped she’d nurse him, not just for my viewing pleasure, but also for his comfort.

grizzly bear cub seeking comfort with mama after a perilous river crossing
But, no, she ambled around, nonchalantly, seemingly unaffected by her cub’s evident distress.

grizzly bear sow

What’s a cub to do if mama won’t give him a “hug?”  Hug a tree, I guess.

grizzly bear cub hugging the end of a fallen log

With each passing moment, he seemed to recover from his ordeal and gain confidence.

grizzly bear cub hugging fallen log and looking back over his shoulder

grizzly bear cub exploring his surroundings

After a few minutes, the bears came right down to the opposite side of the road and mama was munching on grass.  No photos of that as I was busy – cars were approaching and the bears were right on the edge of the road.  I was busy vigorously waving out my window for the drivers to slow down or stop.  One other vehicle had stopped when I first spotted the bears and watched for a few minutes, but they had left before the river crossing.  So, from then until this point, I had been the only observer.  The noise of the first hard braking truck’s arrival prompted mama bear to decide it was time to exit the roadway, and the pair went up the steep bank and over the ridge into the timber.  While I was sorry to see them go, I was glad to see them departing the hazards of river and road.

I never saw them again during my 9 day visit, though I looked for them every day.  I hope that cub survives the learning curve of a mother that several photographers and bear watchers have surmised is inexperienced at motherhood – a supposition that I can’t argue with.   As I had feared when I watched them, this is, indeed, the mama grizzly bear that came out of hibernation with three cubs.  How the other two were lost I don’t think anyone can say for sure.  I haven’t heard of any eye witnesses.  Based on what I witnessed, and knowing that they’ve been crossing back and forth across that river, which has been swollen by snow melt runoff and precipitation at times, I can certainly theorize that the other two suffered the fate that this cub so very nearly did.