Aerial of Grand Teton

Snow-covered Jackson, Jenny and Leigh lakes are visible beneath the Teton Range, which seems small from 35,000 feet.

Getting a true perspective on the landscape is a daunting task, one I have only partially been able to overcome using maps and Google Earth and even my drone. Years ago when I was still working, I looked forward to getting into a helicopter to do game surveys as these helped me form a perspective of Tex Creek WMA , which I managed, and the surrounding lands. I haven’t been in the air much for a long time, and on those occasions when I do fly commercially, I seldom have a window seat.

That is why I was excited to be flying on Southwest Airlines on a trip back to Virginia several weeks ago. With their open seating policy, I was able to snag a coveted window seat (coveted by me. Most people seem to prefer the aisle) that wasn’t over a wing. As a bonus, the glass was clean and relatively unscratched, two more rarities.

After a short wait, we experienced the thrill of take-off, quickly leaving Bozeman’s Gallatin Field behind. The outside world was dazzling. We were flying just after a snowstorm, one that had actually canceled our flight the previous day. The world below was glittering white, and in the full sun, nearly blinding as well.

For a few minutes, I was able to stay oriented. As we climbed, I picked out the Madison River and Gallatin Canyon where we had driven earlier in the day. As we left the valley and headed over the mountains, the vastness of the mountains was a revelation. I had not realized just how extensive they really were, both to the east and to the west. Snow-blanketed peaks and dark canyons seemed to be endless.

Soon, it was nothing but mountains out of my window and I began to wonder just where we were. A straight bearing of southeast would take us directly to Denver, our layover stop, and I wondered if we would fly over a corner of Yellowstone National Park. That thought had barely formed when I saw  Yellowstone Lake. I checked around and located Shoshone and Lewis lakes. Then I looked past them and Jackson Lake and the Teton Range were clearly visible.

From there, we flew over the Wind River Range, and it looked like the Ice Age had never ended. Then we began to transition to the Wyoming high desert. This country was even more interesting than the mountains as the variety increased. I could see entire drainages below me, creeping out from high buttes and isolated mountains. Their many tendrils, outlined in snow, looked like the legs of giant hairy spiders or perhaps centipedes as they collected water and ran deeper and deeper.

I was soon lost though, unable to discern anything from the landscape that could clue me in to my location. Later analysis on a map showed that I could see over 100 miles as we crossed the Red Desert, skirted near Thermopolis, flirted with Rawlins and left Wyoming in the middle of nowhere, which for some people is the definition of Wyoming.

With Colorado, the mountains started again, and we were soon surrounded by glittering peaks. Below, Rocky Mountain National Park slumbered and the jet slowed perceptively, an indicator that we were already on approach to Denver. As we angled into the wind to land, Denver’s skyscrapers were framed against the mountains, now to the west. To the south, a huge mountain, far larger than the others, Pikes Peak, loomed, an entirely different perspective than when we drove to the top of Pikes Peak about seven years ago.

Once we had disembarked and made the breathless race to our connecting flight, I had time to ponder on what I had seen and what it meant. It was gratifying to be able to put a few of the landscape puzzle pieces together and to see the grand scale of this small part of the West (it is about 500 miles from Bozeman to Denver, a flight of one and a quarter hours or 700 miles and 10.5 hours by car).

More so, I became a little more aware of just how changing perspectives can influence how we see things and what things we see. It was a reminder that when life seems dark and despairing, a change of perspectives might be necessary. Perhaps the late Zig Ziglar was right when he said (paraphrasing), when the outlook isn’t good, try the up-look. It is always good.

Help Idaho Wildlife

When we traveled across the state in October 2017, most of the vehicles we saw using the wildlife management areas did not have wildlife plates. Buying wildlife plates is a great way for non-hunters and hunters alike to support wildlife-based recreation like birding.

C'mon folks, let's help Idaho's wildlife by proudly buying and displaying a wildlife license plate on each of our vehicles! 

See below for information on Idaho plates. Most states have wildlife plates so if you live outside Idaho, check with your state's wildlife department or vehicle licensing division for availability of state wildlife plates where you live. 

And tell them that you heard about it from!

Wildlife License Plates

Idaho Wildlife license plates provide essential funding that benefits the great diversity of native plants and wildlife that are not hunted, fished or trapped—over 10,000 species or 98% of Idaho’s species diversity. Game species that share the same habitats (such as elk, deer, antelope, sage-grouse, salmon, trout) also benefit from these specialty plates.

No state tax dollars are provided for wildlife diversity, conservation education and recreation programs. Neither are any revenues from the sale of hunting or fishing licenses spent on nongame species. Instead, these species depend on direct donations, federal grants, fundraising initiatives—and the Idaho Wildlife license plates.

Both my vehicles have Bluebird Plates. I prefer the bluebird because the nongame program gets 70 percent of the money from bluebird plates, but only 60 percent of the money from elk and trout plates - 10 percent of the money from elk plates supports wildlife disease monitoring and testing programs (to benefit the livestock industry) and 10 percent from cutthroat plates supports non-motorized boat access.

Incidentally, in 2014, the Idaho Legislature denied the Department of Fish and Game the ability to add new plates or even to change the name of the elk and cutthroat plates (very specific) to wildlife and fish plates, a move that would have allowed for changing images occasionally and generating more revenue. It would seem that they believe that we Idahoans don't want a well funded wildlife program.

I think it is time we let the Legislature know that Idahoan support wildlife funding and that we would like to see these generic plates come to fruition.

"WOW. What a phenomenal piece you wrote. You are amazing." Jennifer Jackson

That is embarrassing, but actually a fairly typical response to my nature essays. Since The Best of Nature is created from the very best of 16 years of these nature essays published weekly in the Idaho Falls Post Register (online readership 70,000), it is a fine read. It covers a wide variety of topics including humorous glimpses of nature, philosophy, natural history, and conservation. Readers praise the style, breadth of subject matter and my ability to communicate complex and emotional topics in a relaxed and understandable manner.

Everyone can find something to love in this book. From teenagers to octogenarians, from the coffee shop to the school room, these nature essays are widely read and enjoyed.

Some of the essays here are my personal favorites, others seemed to strike a chord with readers. Most have an important message or lesson that will resonate with you. They are written with a goal to simultaneously entertain and educate about the wonderful workings of nature. Some will make you laugh out loud and others will bring a tear to the eye and warm your heart.

Readers Write:

"You hit a home run with your article on, Big Questions in Nature. It should be required reading for everyone who has lost touch with nature...great job!" Joe Chapman

"We enjoyed your column, Bloom Where Planted. Some of the best writing yet. The Post Register is fortunate to have your weekly columns." Lou Griffin.

To read more and to order a copy, click here or get the Kindle version 


Copies are also available at:

Post Register

Island Park Builders Supply (upstairs)

Barnes and Noble in Idaho Falls

Harriman State Park, Island Park

Museum of Idaho

Valley Books, Jackson Wyoming

Avocet Corner Bookstore, Bear River National Wildlife Refuge, Brigham City, Utah

Craters of the Moon National Monument Bookstore, Arco, Idaho