Now the Real Fun Begins

Just because Jessie Marie Studio has begun to Illustrate
Does not mean you should begin to salivate.

The moment you have all been waiting for has arrived. Our “friend” at Jessie Marie Studio has put pencil to paper. The diamond cutter has made the first beautiful and critical cut. It means great things for you the reader, but for me, Ranger Roy, the first cut is the deepest. Just when I thought I would be done with the changes?!?! Don’t worry. No game changers! The illustrator is good at making diamonds out of my lumps of coal. Props to Spencer for his insight today as well.

Enjoy a photo of the pagination. It may be part of a sale someday soon. 🙂


Bald Eagles & Unicorns.

Most people can tell you when and where they saw their first bald eagle. A few people in history have claimed to see the mythical and beautiful unicorn, but we all know they aren’t real, right?

Most people can tell you to the day when they saw the Grand Canyon or Old Faithful. A few people have claimed to set foot on Isle Royale, walked the paths of Great Basin, hiked Chaco Canyon or found the Black Canyon of the Gunnison.

The National Park unicorns. Like your favorite indie band, they are unheard of and unknown. Precisely why you like them, because when you are there, they are only yours.

A friend of mine is going to find a unicorn this summer. It made my heart glad. Find your bald eagles. Their majestic, stately and soaring flight won’t disappoint. But seek the unicorns. If you find them, they will be yours and yours alone.

South Rim Road

NPS photo by Lisa Lynch. What an imagination!

I think the Black Canyon of the Gunnison is somewhere in Colorado. (The first rule of unicorn hunting is to never reveal the true location. It’s kinda like morel hunting.) Don’t take it from me, I’ve never been there…. even if I had, I wouldn’t tell. 🙂

Would you believe there is great wildlife watching opportunities at the Black Canyon of the Gunnison? Marmot? Bighorn Sheep? Black Bear? Elk? Mountain Lion? Bobcat? Golden Eagles? Peregrine Falcons? Snakes? Lizards? Salamanders? They release them from their cages for you to see around dawn and dusk each day. 🙂

The Gunnison River is one of the steepest rivers in North America. It anonymously drops 95 feet per mile. At chasm view, the river drops 240 feet per mile! The Colorado drops 7.5 feet per mile. The Gunnison flowed 5 times faster before it was dammed. That’s what happens when the guys with the money find the unicorns before the hippies do. Another reason why your search is an important one. One of these reservoirs offer a scenic boat tour (Morrow Point). A park ranger will guide you seven miles into the cliffs of the canyon and beguile with stories of yesteryear.

The painted wall is the tallest cliff in Colorado. It’s in Breck… no it’s in Rocky Mountain National Park. I guess all the other cliffs I have seen are imposters!

I hear the “hikes” to the river are some of the most difficult and remote descents in Colorado. Supposedly there is poison ivy that grows to five feet tall. And it gets hotter the closer you get to the river. Better stick to the trails along the north and south rim. The north rim has longer, more strenuous (but scenic) hikes.

Three scenic roads will get you where you want to go. Allow 2 to 3 hours for the north rim (dirt road) and south rim roads (each). The east portal road leads to the river, but has hairpin turns and 16% grades. A perfect place to test your rental car!

Take lots of pictures and video of  your unicorn. Don’t worry, show them to me. I will believe you. I have seen a few unicorns in my day! Take notes and share them with me… I’d love to hear your fiction!

Just for fun, this post is brought to you by Eddie Vedder. Enjoy.

Old Faithful or a Garden Hose?

“Who pushed the eruption button?” Photo by JMS

My Brother-in-Law will often implore the first time visitor to Yellowstone to skip Old Faithful. “Come on! There are much better things to see than the crowds and parking lots of Old Faithful! When we get home I will turn on my garden hose in the backyard every hour and you can enjoy Old Faithful!”

I wholeheartedly agree with his view. The crowds feel oppressive and I feel Yellowstone has much more to offer than this geyser, but I do appreciate that Old Faithful is a national icon. Steering clear of Old Faithful would be like choosing to avoid visiting the Sidney Dairy Barn on a drive through Sidney, Illinois. As if there was any other reason for going to Sidney?

Old Faithful is the granddaddy of the greatest concentration of geysers in the world! Yellowstone was originally protected for its thermal features. Old Faithful started it all.

So…. Brave the crowds to see Old Faithful.  Remember the people who protected this place and many other special places because they thought you should see this beauty in the same way they saw it many years ago.

Spread #11:

Water seeps and trickles underneath the soil,

Till it reaches magma and begins to boil,

Pressure sends it back up to the surface fast!

Hot water and steam produce Old Faithful’s blast.

Spread #12:

Hot water also creates deep colorful pools

Bacteria stains orange and tints in azuls

But don’t throw objects in the pools like a fool

To preserve their beauty please observe this rule!

Spread #13:

Well, did you enjoy the slides I projected?

“They were so good, much better than expected,

Water sure shows how everything’s connected,

We love Yellowstone, we’re glad it’s protected!”

Why I Love Yellowstone.

Tower Falls from Wikipedia

I have been to Yellowstone 5 times in the last 10 years. Why do I keep going back to Yellowstone? With so many cool places to see in the USA and the world, what more could Yellowstone hold for me? Come with me and I will show you. My words fail compared to what your eyes will see, but I will share with you a day in the life of Ranger Roy at Yellowstone:

You wake early, mostly to beat the crowds to the best spots. The air is crisp, clean and refreshing on your walk to the far off restrooms. You return to rouse your friends from their slumber and cozy sleeping bags. You stomp and stamp into your gear and hastily swallow your breakfast. You pile into the car without a sound and slip quietly into the wilderness. Your copilot points to the trailhead sign ahead. Your car pulls into the vacant lot. Bird calls break the silence and you are overwhelmed by the smell of pine forest. Chatter begins and digital camera clicks commence. Snacks, naglenes and laughter ensue. A far off roar can be faintly heard. It gets louder, louder, LOUDER. Till you are upon it. One of Yellowstone’s 300 waterfalls. Mist shrouds. Packs are dropped along with the weight of the world. Time stands still. You marvel at how good lunch is, how amazing the view is for this picnic and how lucky you are to be in the company of the friends around you. Alone with a waterfall…. may you find yourself there someday.

Here are the next four spreads for the Yellowstone book. I’d love to hear what you think!

Spread #7:

Over 300 falls flow in Yellowstone,

Some falls are popular, others are unknown.

Spread #8:

Water falls can be as delicate as a thread,

Some waterfalls roar along full speed ahead!

Spread #9:

Cascade corner flows with many waterfalls,

When you’re older take the hike to see them all!

Spread #10:

Now we’ve seen how water can fall down from high,

But can it blast up from the ground to the sky?

My Canyon’s better than your Canyon…

Lower Falls made famous by Thomas Moran. Wikicommons.

The Grand Canyon in Arizona is ______. Fill in the blank. Inspiring, indescribable, breathtaking…. Every canyon in the U.S. is compared to or named after it. Waimea Canyon in Kauai was dubbed the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific” by Mark Twain.The Shawnee National Forest in Illinois has a “Little Grand Canyon.” Even Yellowstone has the “Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.”

Each of these places are canyons and they all really are grand. But only one of these canyons has a 300 foot waterfall… and can you guess where it is? Despite it’s narrow top, Lower Falls dumps a higher volume of water over its edge in a day than Niagara Falls!

Maybe they should rename Niagara and call it, “The Lower Falls of the Niagara.”

In spread six, water leads us to one of it’s most spectacular creations in Yellowstone… it’s very own Grand Canyon and Lower Falls:

Spread #6:

Up next kids, I bet you would most like to see

the river eroding a V-shaped valley!

Ranger Roy, Is the Canyon grandest of all?

I won’t answer til you’ve seen its waterfalls!

Question of the day: Have you seen Jessie’s latest postcard creations? Should she continue with

the papercut style for the next book or make a new style like the postcards?

The River’s Back. Back Again. The River’s Back. Tell a Friend.

Yes Virginia, Bison are great swimmers! They just graduated from the starfish class and are now receiving A+ grades with my daughter in the seahorse class. Photo by JMS

If you remember back to spread numero quatro, you will recall that the water of Yellowstone began it’s journey in the Absaroka Mountains. There it formed into the headwaters of the Yellowstone River. The the Yellowstone River reaches Yellowstone Lake. And it doesn’t just reach the lake; it forms it. Fills it! It helps to create the largest lake in North America at the elevation of 7000 feet or above! Is this the end of the Yellowstone River? Nope, like my three year old daughter in a large department store, it is the worlds greatest escape artist.

At a place called fishing bridge, the river begins again. Strange name for a place that doesn’t allow fishing! Why you ask? The cutthroat trout breeds there and they don’t want you getting all up in their delivery room. Anyways, from here the river heads north to Hayden Valley, which is the best place to see bear (black & grizzly), bison, wolves and elk. And hold your hat, I have even seen Canadian Geese there too! 🙂 (P.S. Foreign tourists still think they are great!)

The next spread is about how the river begins again and provides life giving drink to most of Yellowstone’s charismatic megafauna (the animals you want pictures of):

Ranger Roy, is this where water’s story ends?”
“Oh no, this is just the beginning my friends!
“Yellowstone Lake becomes a river anew

to help thirsty animals get a drink. Phew!

A game of Cutthroat?

Fishing Cone Geyser. Back in the day, fishermen used to stand on this geyser and boil their fresh catch right in the cone. Today we microwave hot dogs. Photo and geyser are a favorite of Jessie's.

Today two species of trout survive in Yellowstone Lake. The native Cutthroat trout are a threatened species. The other species, Lake Trout, were illegally introduced into the Yellowstone ecosystem in 1989. Illegally introduced? You know what that means….. Ahhh! Cutthroat are catch and release only. Lake trout on the other hand have earned the reputation of an old Bon Jovi tune. Basically, they are the Asian Carp of Yellowstone. Just for fun, watch this CNN reporter get drilled by flying Asian Carp as he is out reporting with some staff from my former internship….. and then read spread four. Fish. What we do with our water…. it matters!

“Tumble, stumble, rumble – down the water flows,
’til the river meets the lake; it never slows.”
“The river fills the lake very deep and stout,
making a water home for the cutthroat trout.
Please catch and release, their future is in doubt,

What do you think of the poem? Too long for two pages?

How The Heck Do You Pronounce Absaroka?

The Yellowstone River and the Afro. Respect. Photo taken by SNS


You say Absaroka (Ab-sor-key), I say Absaroka (Ab-sa-row-ka), but if you are from Montana you might say Absaroka (Ab-Zur-Kas). This was the dilemma as I began the next page. First, if I don’t know the correct pronunciation of the mountain range where the Yellowstone River begins, then how am I supposed to rhyme anything with the unpronounceable name? Second, what rhymes with this word, even if I knew how to officially pronounce it? Polka? C’mon!

Anyways, back to the lecture at hand: Water begins it’s work as snow, high up on the peaks unpronounceably named by the Crow Nation many years ago. Spring comes knocking. Freeze, thaw, melt. Erode, drip, gush. The water shapes the mountains on it’s way to forming the headwaters for the longest undammed river in the U.S.! So without further adieu, spread #3 sans any mention of Amalamadingdong names.

Spread #3:

“So Ranger Roy, where does the story begin?”
“I’m happy to answer such a good question!”
“Winter snow piles high on these peaks in the sky,
but spring melts the snow in the blink of an eye!

Water: Yellowstone’s Director!

Falls Creek, Kickin' it in Kaskade Korner with Jessie Marie Studio

In pages 3 & 4, the theme of the Yellowstone National Park book emerges and the theme’s all wet. That’s right! Water! Water has shaped our world, including Yellowstone. Water is also great at demonstrating connectivity. What we do upstream affects others downstream.

John Muir said it best when he said, “When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe.”

Without further adieu: Spread #2:

“Hi! Welcome to Yellowstone National Park!
I’ll stand by the fire, so I’m not in the dark.
Let’s watch some slides on my trusty projector,

they’re about water, Yellowstone’s director.”

The Next Episode….


The next adventure is about to begin!

Over the next three weeks, my bloggy blog will feature rough draft writings from my next book: Adventures with Ranger Roy: Yellowstone National Park. Let’s create this one together… I’d appreciate your feedback on each new page. Give me a vision of what you think the illustrations should look like….

Here is the first spread:

“There’s a campfire talk with Ranger Roy tonight!
Can we go Mom and Dad? Would it be alright?”
“Sure! Let’s set up the tent first while there’s still light,
then off to the amphitheater by flashlight.”

Thanks for joining me on the next adventure!