"There is nothing so American as our national parks. The scenery and wildlife are native. The fundamental idea behind the parks is native. It is, in brief, that the country belongs to the people, that it is in process of making for the enrichment of the lives of all of us. The parks stand as the outward symbol of this great human principle." Franklin D. Roosevelt

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Drifting Snow

I decided to start off my Saturday morning with a jaunt to Lamar. I first had to tackle some tough going through the Blacktail Plateau. There were high winds all night which continued into the morning, and eventually through the rest of the day. Snow removal crews are having a difficult time keeping the road open because of the drifting snow and at this time the road between Mammoth and Cooke City may be closed later this afternoon or this evening. The drifts on either side of the road here are quite high and the wind blew the snow across the road. Quite a few people lined up across the Plateau as we followed a ranger who eventually stopped and grabbed a shovel to lend a hand to a snowplow driver who was digging snow away from his plow.

Though the roads were drifted and snowpacked the rest of my drive toward Lamar was uneventful. Right before entering Lamar I came across a bull elk who had decided to take a rest right on the side of the road. He was completely unimpressed by the cars that slowly crept by with humans with their cameras aimed at him. He lazily chewed his cud.

I managed to spot a bighorn off in the distance across from the hitching posts. And later by pebble creek I saw a coyote mousing. Of course there was also the obligatory bison and elk herds scattered through the Park with quite a few congregating by the Lava Creek area.

On my return toward Mammoth I was careful to slow down in case the elk was still laying on the side of the road. I came around the corner to find a ranger with his lights on right by him. He had managed to stand up but was now contently nibbling on the branches of a tree that was next to the road. He would stretch his long neck over the pile of snow to do his nibbling.

The temps have drastically improved over the week. We started off with subzero temps and they have risen into the 30's today. The bitter temps gnaw at a person and it is hard to escape that constant chill. The snow is deep and is constantly being whipped up by the wind. A small herd of elk walked past the store this afternoon and stopped to pick at some grass that has been exposed because of the wind. They were in fairly decent shape though one seemed to have a rather cavernous belly area and her hips were a bit bony. The elk and bison have been grazing lately by the lower terraces as the heat from the thermal area had melted off a good area of snow and had exposed some vegetation. I have also seen the bison in the government housing area as well as a large group of elk that had grazed for a few days at the Chinese Garden. They mow down one area and move to another to find their winter food.