We've been pretty busy and I haven't gotten into the park as much as usual. There are other exciting things in nature happening:
So the pictures are a bit spooky because of the inordinate detail they show in a single plane (and thereby cutting off other features!), but it makes more sense when you actually watch the pictures being taken. Even though it doesn't look like it in the pictures, that little creature has the correct number of limbs, digits, and organs. I told the ultrasound technician her job was a lot like wildlife photography in that she's constantly trying to keep a moving subject in frame and in focus.
Everything has been great so far and we're looking forward to a different lifestyle coming this August. No one has taken up my offer to nominate names, but I have one picked out (debate is still open). The sex of the baby is known (or presumed to be known) and will be revealed upon direct request.
Due to the amount of learning and looking around we've* done, and a desire to share that knowledge, Amber has embarked upon a new blog called Eco-Kid which aims to share information and resources on raising kids in ecologically responsible ways. Check it out!
*"We" might be giving myself too much credit.
So with the big news out of the way, I'll return to other wildlife news.
We took a day to drive up to Fort Union Trading Post NHS on our way to Wolf Point, MT. The site, of course, is a reconstruction of an American Fur Company trading post at the confluence of the Yellowstone and Missouri Rivers. We mainly stopped to pick up the passport stamp, an obsession started last fall with our trip east. We were invited to help stretch a fresh bison hide, but amid the foul odor of fat, the pooling blood on the hide, and the desire not to smell like that all day, we declined. Good grief. I like to see wild bison, and I like to see bison meat on my plate, but don't want to see anything in between.
Ranger Randy had me send this picture to my new boss at Fort Larned to prove he actually does work. Gross.
We drove scenic Highway 16 from Beach, ND to Sidney, MT before cutting over to Fort Union. In Sidney, we ate lunch at Taco John's, where at some point in the conversation with the lady running the store, Amber said "I love Montana!" The Montanan replied, disbelievingly, "You love Montana?" Heck yes we do. It's a different world over there, including superior salad bars to North Dakota. Seriously, what keeps North Dakotans from putting together a salad bar with something other than iceberg lettuce and ranch dressing? Here's one of the reasons I love Montana:
The purpose of this whole day trip was to visit my friends Sherri and Gordon up in Wolf Point, MT. We know each other from a random event - some may call it providence - in which my car broke down and rolled to a stop in front of their house back in 2008. We enjoyed our visit chatting through the afternoon and showing a rough cut of our African travel video. Amber got introduced to the livestock including peacocks, horses, cattle, chickens, and a llama. We stayed for dinner before heading back down the lonely roads through Circle, MT to Glendive, MT and back to Medora. It was great to see them again and get a photo to prove that I'm not making the story up.
Gordon, me, and Sherri. I thought someone was pinching my butt during this photo, but it was the German shepherd whose back is visible in the lower left hand corner.
On our way back to Medora, we saw several large flocks of sandhill cranes, pronghorns, a coyote, and a porcupine. I also remarked how while driving Hwy 13 through rural Montana, there are plenty of places where all you can see for miles and miles in any direction is grassy hills. No lights, no roads, no telephone poles other than the ones right along the road, just big, open, sloping, grassy terrain. Knowing this makes where my car broke down back in 2008 that much more fortuitous (providential?), for if it had made it any further before quitting, I would have been there with the grass and the hills and no one around and no cell phone.
One thing that I find interesting about the natural setting in eastern Montana is how much the vegetation changes just a few miles west from Medora. In western Dakota, the prairie is a mid-grass prairie where, depending on the precipitation in a given season, the grass gets somewhere between my knee and my hip. Just a few miles over into Montana and the prairie changes dramatically into the shortgrass prairie that doesn't get as high as my knee. It looks completely different: soft, almost manicured.