A Journey West, Part 3

My route west
My route west


Rocky Mountains, cattle, sagebrush. Now I was really getting into the west. I arrived in Denver in blazing sunshine and summer temperatures. I visited with my cousin and spent a couple days playing tourist. The Denver Art Museum had a newly modernized vibe. I got to see a couple Georgia O’Keeffes I had not seen before. The first floor bathrooms have a whimsical feature: Singing Sinks, a musical work of art! When you run a water faucet, it plays Row, Row, Row Your Boat! And if you get more than one faucet running, you’ll get a chorus! I loved it. Another fun thing that will have you chuckling is the gurgling water fountain. The architecture is a feast for the eyes, but the real star is the actual art in the museum.

Near the art museumCO2





Near the art museum








CO9Denver has a lot going for it, with the Platte River running through it and the Rockies for a backdrop. What a great place to live and work. But, a little too hot and dry for me!

It was time to say goodbye and head up to Wyoming.

Cowboys, Oil Wells and Elk

wy2Driving into Wyoming, I felt like I was entering real cowboy territory. There is a lot of land between towns. I drove past old storefronts and imagined tumbleweeds scurrying across the road. The names of the towns like Cheyenne and Laramie seemed to carry so much history with them. Between those towns I came upon a strange monument to Abraham Lincoln. I could think of no reason for it to be there. It’s a giant bronze ahead atop a 30-foot high granite base. Turns out, it originally stood at Sherman Summit, the highest point on the old Lincoln Highway. The head was moved to its current location when I-80 was completed. At more than 8,000 feet above sea level, this spot was chilly and snowflakes were swirling. The snow coated a nearby fence in a very picturesque way.


wy laramie3

WY laramie5



As I continued north to Jackson, I left the snow behind. A sign for Pinedale reminded me of the massive development of the oil and natural gas industry there. Drilling and fracking have been going on for decades. Impacts on wildlife such as sage grouse, pronghorn, mule deer and pygmy rabbits have been substantial.

wy4Off to the west, I saw darkening skies, and what looked like a large rainstorm brewing. The scene was a classic western wide-angle sky. I pulled over to snap a few photos.

wy5When I arrived in Jackson, the excitement rose as I neared my friends’ home. What a spectacular backdrop they have: Grand Teton National Park. The snowy peaks were majestic against the blue sky. We had a nice dinner out and I saw a bit of downtown Jackson, famous Jackson!


Famous elk antler arch in Jackson square
Famous elk antler arch in Jackson square
Downtown Jackson
Downtown Jackson



The next morning I awoke to a fresh snowfall! Just another spring day in Jackson! The snow wasn’t very deep; just enough to be pretty. I got to see more of downtown, with its famous square, set off by massive arches of elk antlers. I also got a brief tour of the national park. We tried to find a moose, but had no luck. I had never gotten a good look at one, and still haven’t.

Looking down on Snake River
Looking down on the Snake River


After a good visit, it was time to head north to Montana. I headed up a pass, where a beautiful layer of snow set off conifers against a vivid blue sky. I passed a few people who were gearing up to take advantage of some late-season cross country skiing. Soon I was out of the snow and warming up again.

A Short Tale

There are a lot of anomalies in the animal world, not unlike the human world. Animals are born albino – lacking the usual pigments, or melanistic – having darker than normal pigmentation. Some are born with extra toes or curly coats.

Eastern gray squirrels can exhibit several variations. In certain regions, many are all black. I even saw some around the U.S. Capitol that were white and light brown in color. I have learned that it’s not uncommon for them to have short tails.  I have noticed one frequent visitor to my yard. I dubbed it Stubby Tail. I am not sure whether it’s female or male, but I am thinking it’s female. I recently saw it being followed closely by another squirrel, and it just seemed like a female-male thing. So, let’s say Stubby Tail is a girl.

stubbytail2Normally, I can’t tell one squirrel from another, unless it has a specific field mark. Stubby Tail makes it easy. And normally I have no particular affection for the rodents, as they paw through my flower beds and try to break into my bird feeders. But I have come to like Stubby Tail.

At first, I thought she had survived some sort of attack and lost part of her tail. But the more I examine it, the more I think she was born that way. The tail is about one-third the typical length, very bushy and kind of stands up, with a bouquet of fur sticking out in all directions at the end. If it had been a normal long tail, and had gotten snipped off, I think it would be straighter and just look like a tail that had lost its end half.

stubbytail4When I did a web search on squirrels with short tails, I turned up some interesting tidbits. Other people have observed the same phenomenon, and I found some photos that looked exactly like Stubby Tail! I was not alone and neither was Stubby Tail. My Stubby Tail gets around fine and acts pretty normal for a squirrel, as far as I can tell. Her lack of tail length does not hamper her jumping or climbing or running. No doubt her body has adapted to a different way of balancing.

There are some functions that Stubby Tail will miss: squirrel tails can provide shade against the sun and warmth against the cold. But I suspect she already knows how to cope.