"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

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Views of the Interior

On Saturday I spent most of the day on the back of a snowmobile. Patrick had to check out a smelly freezer situation at his Lake apartment. Patrick has spent the past 10 years living year-round in the interior. He started off at Grant for one year and then moved to Lake. He has worked nearly 30 years for the NPS in positions that include site manager (Castle Clinton and Federal Hall in New York City), Law Enforcement Ranger (New York City) and a Regional Ranger at Big Thicket in Texas. He then moved to resource management (Colorado National Monument and Yellowstone). He currently is a Resource Management Biologist and for his first time in Yellowstone he is wintering in Mammoth. He still has an apartment at Lake and when situations need to be addressed a snowmobile is the only way to get there in the winter.

Bison on Swan Lake Flats

Nymph Lake

Roaring Mountain

Woodchips on the road near Nymph Lake

Norris Geyser Basin

Norris Geyser Basin

Beryl Spring

Bison feeding on exposed vegetation by Madison Junction

These two elk were grazing on aquatic vegetation in the Firehole River

A very ordinary site when snowmobiling, bison lumbering down the road

A thermal feature draining into the Firehole River

The new Old Faithful Visitor Center

Snowmobiles lined up at Old Faithful

A snow-covered building at Grant

Lake Hotel

We saw two foxes on our travels, both were in the Lake Area. This fox was wandering around by the Lake Hotel. He would occasionally stop, cock his head and then dive face first into the snow. We never saw him actually catch anything.

We spotted these two coyotes sitting atop a hill in Hayden Valley. There was a 3rd coyote wandering around by the Yellowstone River and these two were watching it.
We always take a swing through Canyon Village so I can see the Adventure Store. Snow removal from the roof of both stores has been taking place. This picture shows how the snow is cut in blocks and then pushed off from the roof. I estimated the snow to be 5 to 6 feet deep in some places on the roof.

Being in the interior during the winter months gives a person a whole new perspective on the Park. The snow is very deep in many areas. We were met with only a few flakes but driving through Hayden Valley it was sometimes difficult to tell where a snowy hill ended and a cloudy sky began. It all seemed to blur together in places. Animals are easy to spot. I saw what appeared to be an otter on the snow on Yellowstone Lake and I'm not so sure I would of been able to have seen one of the foxes in the distance if it hadn't been for the red on white contrast. I also appreciate how difficult it is for the wildlife to move snow so that they can reach the grass hidden underneath. I was able to spot Shoshone Lake more easily from the Shoshone Overlook and thermal features hidden by trees where more easily to spot because of the puffs of steam that rose from them.

And as glorious as a Yellowstone winter scene can be it can also be a bit of a pain for some. I talked with one of the snowplow drivers who says that she can spend an entire day trying to keep the road free of drifting snow on the Blacktail Plateau. With so much snow this year it can be difficult to find places to put it all. There are large piles of snow throughout Mammoth. The constant snow and wind sometimes leaves the front door of the store drifted in. Betty had to shovel her way to the door the other morning just to get in. I am having to lift my snow filled shovels higher and higher each time I shovel the steps and walkway in front of the store. On Tuesday Judy had a hair-raising experience driving back down to Gardiner after movie night with Andrea and I. With white-out conditions she was having difficulty navigating the road and ended up sideswiping the snow drift on the wrong side of the road. That was a much better alternative than to drive off the side of the road and down an embankment. Going 'down the hill' can definitely be a long difficult drive.