Christmas Gift selection # 6 For 2017 – Your Very Own National Park

Rocky Mountain National Park Colorado

Note: This is a repost of one of our Top Ten Gifts for the discerning buyer originally published in December of 2013, a year that will live in infamy. In what has become a half-assed tradition here at The Institute we have been irregularly reposting these now famous gift selections at this time of year when we remember to do so, in a lame attempt to create a Holiday Tradition and mostly because we suddenly realize it’s Christmas time and we don’t have squat done as far as writing new stuff. It’s fun and we don’t have to spend the time taxing our limited sense of originality making that new stuff up. Enjoy.

Your Very Own National Park!!!

Here it is, your chance to own a National Park known the world over for its scenery and wildlife with no strings attached. That’s right, you would be the sole owner! Keep it like it is, Develop it, Scrape it and put up a better one, the possibilities are limited only by your imagination. What an incredible gift this will make for that special person on your list. This National park has it all, towering majestic 14,000′ peaks, the mountains that scrape the sky, teeming wildlife populations that include huge free-roaming elk herds, black bear, owls, eagles, marmots and chipmunks, fish, 11 coyotes, some beaver, Bighorn Sheep, and a pika.

How can this be? you ask. Well what most people don’t know is that *The Institute has a real estate division that often contracts with the Federal government to dispose of property it no longer wants. We were contacted by the Department of Interior to conduct a sale of this National Park due to policy changes that no longer emphasized the focus on Nature and it’s attractions. Since the downturn and sequestering and the lack of attention to the American publics wants and needs it has been decided to liquidate some of our most popular Natural attractions to show our willingness to be fiscally responsible. While this may be disturbing to the few who actually like Nature it is an incredible opportunity for one of you, or a group if you decide to pool your lunch money, to own a huge part of American history, not to mention acreage.

This National Park, which we can not name at this time due to federal regulations, but whose initials are Rocky Mountain National Park, will be offered for sale beginning this week by closed auction. Opening bids start at $20.00 and will continue until we decide that’s enough money and close the sale. Since the Director will have the final say and this is a private sale open only to people we like or that have an impressive amount of money, foreign governments welcomed, any considerations made to the Director personally will be taken into consideration ( for clarification contact the Director at his private number, all offers confidential )  in deciding when to close the sale.

This sale includes the National Park, all 265,761 acres, it’s infrastructure including all buildings, roads, water rights, lakes, ponds and puddles and necessary fencing, any personal effects left by departing staff members, all wild life including any offspring born to said park wildlife outside the boundaries of the park, the food service court located at the visitor center on Trail ridge road, all other concessions connected to the park, anything with the name Rocky Mountain National Park on it, the right to charge admission to enter and set regulations regarding that visit, if you desire to continue allowing access by the public that is, the ability to retain any proceeds from the sale of items left in the lost and found department and other perks to numerous to mention.

Bidding begins at noon December 24th and ends at 12:00am December 31st. Winning bid will be announced January 15th, 2014. All bids are to be in cash or bearers bonds, presented directly to the Director of The Institute by the end of business on December 31st, 2013 and are non-refundable. The Director has sole authority to determine winner in case of tying bids. So here’s your chance to really suck up to the guy. Any inducements no matter how lewd will be entertained. Title will be conveyed by an act of Congress sometime in the future.

National Park bidding begins at $20.00

Take advantage of this once in a lifetime opportunity and bid early and often. If you aren’t successful on this property there is the possibility that two more properties are on the block for later disposal. We can’t disclose which two but think Big Ditch and Geysers and you’ll be close.

Merry Christmas everyone!

* Note: For those of you unfamiliar with The Institute and what it does, please see the page labeled The Institute on the Menu Bar above. That should explain everything. You shouldn’t have one single question remaining regarding The Institute after reading it. None. For those of you favored few who already know about the Institute, Nevermind. Return to your daily activities. Thank you for your support.

Just Past Full

Phases of the moon. For the uninitiated this is the naming nomenclature for how the moon appears to us as we look at it from our lowly perch here on Earth. For years people have looked at the moon and yelled out its name or phase so they and everyone else were clear on what time of the lunar calendar it was. “Hey it’s full moon! Don’t be leaving your Mother-in-law out on the porch tonight or she’ll turn into a real …. “(insert the expletive of your choice here). Naming the phase was important so they wouldn’t accidentally kill their chickens or maybe the sacrifices they were holding from another tribe, or plant their rutabagas too soon and screw things up. There is a system to all things and you could really screw the pooch if you weren’t in phase with the moon.

Luckily for us and actually for you too if you think about it, we have a department here at *The Institute that keeps track of the phases of the moon just in case something weird might occur and upset the balance of things. If you do not know the names of all the phases of the moon, and how could you actually, our staff here at The Institute, all trained Moonies by the way, have developed a short list that states the names of the different phases of the moon in their auspicious, propitious, timely, yet seasonable order. Here they are.

None : no moon, just darkness deep and scary, anything can happen

Only a Sliver, Just a bitty Mr. Nitty: A little rhyme that our interns use to remember this phase

Quarter Moon in a 10¢ Town: 1st Quarter of the moon. Thanks Emmy Lou for your help in naming this phase.

More’n a Quarter But not Half Bad:  This is the phase after Quarter Moon but not yet close to the next phase. Kind of like the Turkish moon with that star near it but not quite. Need training to spot this one.

Half Moon: This is the phase where the moon is exactly half way through its cycle. Half the moon is visible and half is not. This is up to the viewer to decide which is which but usually the brighter side is the one half visible. Some disagree with this but then they also believe that the earth is still flat after all these years, people actually care when they ask you how you are, and that there is some reason for things being the way they are now. Like a plan or something. Yeah, right.

Half Moon Plus a Bit: This is another ticklish phase that is difficult to recognize. Our Moonies can do it because they spend a lot of time sitting around singing, banging on tambourines and thinking about this stuff. If you’re not sure if you’re in this phase or not, Ask a Moonie.

3 Quarters no Dimes: This is another little mnemonic used by our interns to remember what comes after Half Moon.

Full: This is it, The Big Kahuna. The one all the crazies wait for. The one lovers like. The one that shines up the night like Nature’s own Klieg light. This is the full moon. Nearly everyone can recognize this phase with little or no help. Except the Half Moon people of course, they’re still working on that deal about the Earth being 8000 years old.

Just Past Full: This one often slips by without recognition because it looks so much like a Full moon. We have illustrated this phase with the image above taken just a day ago from the Lunar Imaging platform up the West Tower right below the eaves, way the bejuzus up in the air. It is in the Just Past Full phase. You can see it looks pretty much like a full moon and as we are usually still dealing with the crazies that come out to howl at the Full Moon we easily miss this phase.

3 Quarters on the other side of the Full moon: See explanation of 3 Quarters no dimes above and just reverse it.

Back To Half Full: Ditto

More’n a Quarter But not Half Bad The Other Way: You’re starting to get the picture here. Things are going backwards or reversing if you need a more lunar-like term.

Only a Sliver, Just a bitty Mr. Nitty but on the Flip Side: Just flip the picture of this moon left to right and you’ll be able to see it. This is often difficult for people with dyslexia. If you have this problem call our 1- 900 number Can’t tell which Sliver of the Moon it Is Hotline, and we’ll straighten you right out. Additional charges may apply. Consult your CPA or Personal Banker to determine if you can afford to make the call. Se Habla Espanol.

None: Yup, you’re back to the scary time again. We recommend staying indoors and bingeing on your favorite HBO series during this phase. Eat lots of carbs, drink lots of water. Lock your doors.

So…….There you have it. The complete skinny about the Phases of the Moon. Feel better? We know we do.

As always we want to remind you that this unsolicited bulletin educating you on the phases of the moon has been a Public Service of The Institute, a non-profit, non-existent, totally motivated organization dedicated to bringing you, our readers, the newest and most comprehensive information available. Remember we’re the Institute and we’re here to help.

* Note: For those of you unfamiliar with The Institute and what it does, please see the page labeled The Institute on the Menu Bar above. That should explain everything. You shouldn’t have one single question remaining regarding The Institute after reading it. None. For those of you favored few who already know about the Institute, Nevermind. Return to your daily activities. Thank you for your support.

Wind Minnows of The High Plains Grasslands

If you’ve ever spent any time in the high prairie walking slowly through the waist-high grass you may have noticed out of the corner of your eye a brief golden flash amongst the greenery of the waving stems of grass. If you quickly glance over trying to catch a glimpse of what you saw, all you see are what appear to be the shining golden seed heads moving slowly back and forth in the wind. You may have even run your hand over them and felt the velvety softness along their sides. But those are not seed heads. They are instead a little known species called Wind Minnows.

Exclusive to the high plains as they run up against the base of the foothills leading to the Rocky mountains Wind Minnows are a rare but necessary species that have evolved to take care of the injured and damaged stalks of grass that occur due to predation by grazers, high wind, careless travelers that may have plucked the seed head from its place at the top of the grass stem, and any other natural misfortune to befall the delicate prairie growth. They may look like seed heads but they are something else entirely.

Most people viewing the grasslands for the first time see it as a strong vibrant lush expanse of foliage as far as the eye can see. But what is not generally known is that the grass itself is a delicate mechanism at risk of injury and death when parts of it are removed before its time. If for instance the seed head is removed prematurely it leaves an open wound at the end of the grass stem and the grass will then react much like a “ringed” tree where its bark is removed around the circumference of the trunk so the nutrients the tree needs to sustain life cannot reach the leaves and branches and the tree dies. The life force drains out of the grass stem through this open wound at the top of the stalk much the same way as the hapless tree and is carried away by the wind and lost forever. The grass unable to stem the flow of its vital nourishment dies.

That’s where Nature in its infinite wisdom has stepped in and provided a solution to this problem in the form of the Wind Minnows. Mimicking the appearance and feel of a seed head exactly, but free to move effortlessly through the canopy and the slender forest of grass stems by using the wing like fronds along its sides to propel it through the air, much like minnows use their fins in the water, they can move quickly from one stalk to another. When they find a damaged stalk they affix themselves to the top of the stem and placing their specially formed mouths over the wound they exude a substance much like an adhesive that seals the opening at the top of the stem thereby saving the grass from dying.

That’s why occasionally, if you are very fortunate, you will see the flash and the abrupt spiraling of the schools of Wind Minnows as they dart and swirl quietly through the tall prairie grass. Their flashing color catching the sun and reflecting their golden shapes as they twist and turn in great golden spirals until they find an area where the grazers have recently been feeding. They are looking for the hundreds if not thousands of damaged grass stems produced by the grazing animals as they forage through the tall grass. When found they spring into action, each Wind Minnow seeking out the nearest injured grass stem and beginning its life saving efforts to save the plant.

The next time you visit the high prairie take a moment to walk through the grasses, watch for the telltale glimpses of brightness as the Wind Minnows go about saving the grasslands. And thank Mother Nature for her foresight in creating Wind Minnows. An unusual solution to an unusual problem.

Harbinger of Spring

2016-04-21YH Blackbird6480

Harbinger. “a person or thing that announces or signals the approach of another”.

“Yellow-headed Blackbirds are the harbingers of spring”.
    If that ‘s so then we’re getting harbingered all over the place. Yellow-headed Blackbirds, their cousins the Red-winged Blackbirds, even Brewer’s Blackbirds are coming in dragging Spring behind them. There have been other signs of Spring too. Bluebirds have been seen everywhere, flitting shamelessly about, grabbing your attention with their deep shining American bluebird blueness. Even everyone’s favorite Buzzard the buteo buteo has arrived to eat the dead things you’ve been tripping over all winter that have been lying around all over the place. Spring is pretty darn great.

    We could wax poetically all day about the Yellow-headed Blackbird but when you get right down to it, they’re basically just a black bird with a yellow head, plus a little white on it’s wings. Lot of people who aren’t birders or just don’t give a flying fig about Nature would say “Yeah, So, What’s the big deal?”  But they miss the point. That’s the cool part of Nature. They’re the only bird that looks like that. And they do that harbinger thing too. So all you Nattering Nabobs of Negativity can just go pound sand. We’re glad that there are Yellow-headed Blackbirds harbingering Spring and you should be too. Remember just a few minutes ago we were up to our keesters in snow and cold, and short, ugly grey days and you were whining about Spring, how you wish it would get here and everything. Well it’s here and Yellow-headed Blackbirds are partly responsible so show a little respect.

   We have posted this image of a Yellow-headed Blackbird doing its thing. If you look very closely you can even see a few vestiges of Spring swirling and trailing behind it as it flies toward the Blackbird Country Club located over in the reeds next to the lake. It’s singles night tonight and there will be plenty of female Yellow-heads there just waiting to get hit on. Spring, it’s all good.

A Glimpse Of The Past

2016-04-09eagle Feeding9535

Spring has sprung, the grass has riz, I wonder where the eagles is. They is right there in Yellowstone in the Eagle tree off of Madison Junction road. Well at least they were until a big wind storm blew the nest down taking the tree with it. These eagle nests can get extraordinarily heavy. There was a nest down in Florida that was recorded at nearly 3 tons, that’s slightly more than a Cadillac Escalade balanced up there on those spindly little branches.

When the wind came through it caused the entire tree with it’s top-heavy nest to fall over and that was that for close up bald eagle viewing on a nest. The nest had been there in that tree in continual use, for the entire 12 years I had photographed in Yellowstone. It would often be my first stop as I entered the park from West Yellowstone, Montana in the morning, which is when I caught one of parents above shoving Gobbets of something freshly killed down juniors throat.

The eagles are still there in Yellowstone, they’re still building nests and filling them with eaglets, they’re just not doing it along side the road where you could stop and watch every aspect of their lives anymore. There were folks that would camp out at the 100 yard perimeter that the park naturalists put in place to protect the eagle viewing area from people approaching to close to the tree and disturbing the birds. They’d be there from early morning to the last light of sunset for days at a time to observe and learn bald eagle behavior.

This is nature at work, the tree was blown down, the eagles had to move on and build another nest somewhere else, and that part of the eagles exposure to bird lovers was done. Nobody’s fault. I’m just thankful I got to take as many photos as I did over the years. I still miss the nest not being there though.

Evolution Of A Fairyland


In the realm of magical places you normally see the place as a finished project. You don’t see all the effort it took to complete the process. For instance Yellowstone appears to be a finished magical place. Yes there are still changes going on but they are minute and incremental so that you hardly notice any change occurring at all. Same with the Grand Canyon. The water still wears away the rocks surface but unless you have the ability to sit very still for incredibly long periods of time you don’t notice it. We consider these place “Done” and don’t expect any thing more from them. They’re perfect just the way they are.

There is one place however where you can still see the transformation taking place. That place is Bryce Canyon. The evolution from a beautiful and magical site continues right now at an accelerated pace and becomes even more incredible as the transformation occurs before your very eyes. Although this transformative process is taking place throughout the park there is one spot where it is occurring at a phenomenally rapid speed, geologically speaking.

That spot is Fairyland Canyon. Fairyland Canyon is a special area slightly removed from the main amphitheater area that Bryce Canyon is most noted for. It takes a little hiking to get there but once you’re there prepare to be astounded. As you can see in the photo above, the Hoodoos are changing from the beautiful deep red rock into a creamy white, icy frosting color, a rare shade in Nature. Eventually when this process is over Fairyland will be a small jewel box filled with towers and spires and rock formations of the deepest shades of white and cream that will gleam like polished ivory in the soft light of the sun and be impossibly beautiful in the moonlight. I would not go there unless you want to fall deeply, irretrievably in love as that would be what would happen if you were to see it in the light of a full moon. So be careful who you take there.

The Institute has observers that keep constant check on the rate of this change as we were the first to note it happening and they have noticed that it appears to be accelerating faster and faster. Their calculations show that at the apparent rate that this change is undergoing the entire Fairyland canyon area will be completed no later than the 19th of October this year.

That’s an astounding figure, geologically speaking, anyway you look at it. The geologists that we brought in for a second opinion were frankly skeptical but then we realized they worked for the government and couldn’t be trusted to give an impartial collaboration for fear of being out of a job. First they didn’t notice this phenomenon at all themselves, and secondly felt completely outclassed by The Institutes trained observers. Our people’s ability to come to conclusions and process this information in a lightning fast manner that made us look so good, was beyond their rigid thinking and inability to veer away from the accepted scientific approach to interpreting geological behavior. Their way takes so much time and we have better things to do than sit around for millennium waiting for something to happen when we can just formulate new predictions and hurry the entire process up.

So that’s what we’ve done. Using all of our expertise and lack of knowledge, not to mention our complete disregard for current scientific conventions, we were able to formulate, confirm, publish and be out of there with an entirely new way at looking at geological evolution before the other guys even had a clue about what was happening. But that’s how things are done at The Institute. We bring you the latest, newest, most unconventional approach to science and the world, so you are among the first to know “What’s Happening Now!” science-wise. Yes we know it’s incredible but you’re worth it.



Before The Mist Clears


Sometimes people will ask “Where’d all the color come from in that picture, then?” Or they’ll say “I was there. I never saw anything like that.” This is usually accompanied by a suspicious glare. Other times they’ll simply say “No way, dude, That is a load of condensed owl manure.” What they don’t know is they are not looking in the right places for these images, or at the right time.”

These images exist in nature by the quintillious millions. You are literally walking through them every time you are someplace like the Firehole river here in Yellowstone. The deal is, it takes some practice to see them in their full glorious color like this. For instance this particular image was lurking within the mist just waiting for someone to stop and photograph it. Think of it like this. You know how a movie is made with 30, 60, 120 frames per second and when it is played back the rapid display of the individual images or frames merge into a flow that shows the movement and creates the scene or movie.

Well that’s exactly what nature does. These images are lined up one behind the other into infinity and as you look at the scene they are speeding by you so quickly that you don’t see each individual frame. An individual image like this is often missed. It had already gone by so fast you didn’t have a chance to get your camera up to your eye let alone take a picture.

The secret to taking a picture like this, aside from a rapid dunking in Photoshop, is to kind of check out where the next image might appear, then slowly walk by the place being very careful not to glance at it directly. If you do look it tips the projector guy off that you have seen what’s coming, and he’ll speed the film up, so to speak, making it that much more difficult to take the shot.

While you’re fiddling around pretending you don’t see the picture coming up, surreptitiously set your camera to all the proper settings, then whirl around and snap the photo. That’s all there is to it. The settings for this shot were 1/800,000 of a second at f 2100. Make certain you have set the HISS (Hidden Imaginary Scene Selector) switch located on the lower left side of the lens housing on most professional cameras, to Automatic. If you don’t have this switch on your camera then it is time to upgrade as it is nearly impossible to catch an image like this without one.  Check with your local camera dealer for the most up to date information So there you have it. Photography made easy. You’re welcome.