"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, March 20, 2011

Is There A Disney Ending in Yellowstone?

 Some families come to Yellowstone to view the geysers, the canyon, the mountains and some come to view the amazing wildlife here.  They leave with lots of memories and photo albums filled with family pictures and videos of some great wildlife action.  They will either remember their Yellowstone vacation as something like a scene out of Family Vacation or a PBS special.  However, lately I have been reminded that for the wildlife here in Yellowstone there is rarely a Disney ending.

The plows had made it to the government area by Lake this week, and with some items at the apartment that Patrick needed, we needed to make a trip to Lake.  This was our first trip by car to Lake since last November.  Items that were needed after the roads closed and that could not be strapped to the back of a snowmobile had to wait until this time to be retrieved.  There was a lack of animals to be viewed on our trip down, we only saw one bison before we got to Canyon.  Sometimes the walls of snow next to the road were so high that viewing anything but the channel of road in front us was all that we could see.

Just south of Canyon we came across this bison.  He was thin and moved very slowly.  With the snow so high on each side of the road he would have to travel some distance to get off the road, he appeared much too weak to tackle getting up and over the snow.  But that didn't matter much since if he did get over the snow there wasn't much on the other side but more snow and nothing to eat.  When we passed by again 4 1/2 hours later we found him exactly where we left him, standing in the road as if wondering to himself what his next move was.  There will be no soft-fuzzy Disney ending for this beast.  Chances are he will be a carcass within the next week or so.

It's hard to imagine that I will be walking through the doors of the Adventure Store in just over two weeks.  The snow is so high that it comes to nearly the bottom of the signs.

The Canyon Yellowstone General Store is underneath this snow!  They are still working to remove the 5 - 6 feet of snow that is on the roof. 

Some of the roads in Canyon Village have been plowed.  The walls of snow are almost as high as I am.

Canyon Visitor Center

Canyon Village Post Office

Grizzly Drift

Grizzly Drift is nearly 12 feet high.  There is a wall of snow on the other side of the road so it is much like driving through a snow hallway.

 There was not much wildlife in Hayden Valley, just miles and miles of pristine snow.  We only saw one coyote munching on his lunch while a raven sat 20 feet away waiting his turn to scavenge what was left.  There were a few water fowl  and swans on the Yellowstone River and just the occasional bison, I counted 6.  Most were some distance from the road and were only silhouettes off in the distance.  We were able to watch this bison show how difficult it actually is to wade their massive bodies through deep snow.
His struggle was long and tedious.  He would occasionally stumble in the snow and his huge body would crumple into the snow.  Sometimes he would lay there for awhile, and sometimes he would thrash around trying to regain his footing.  With snow squalls and the wind obliterating my view of him it was like watching a wildlife movie showing the struggles of wildlife against nature.  I couldn't help but think about the energy that was being spent on trying to move to a new location that just might have enough food.  The ending for two bison by Le Hardy Rapids was as dramatic on Friday.  They fell through the ice into the Yellowstone River. 

The road north of Fishing Bridge Jct.

We found these two bison walking the road as we headed toward Madison.  These two were in good shape and will probably live to see the sun and grasses of summer.

The plows made it to just south of Madison Junction.

Snow removal equipment parked until plowing is continued on Monday.
Though there are bison and elk dying because of this snowy winter there will be a good ending for some of the species here in the Park.  The male bears will soon be emerging from their dens and they will find a bonanza of food in the form of carcasses.  The wolves, coyotes, foxes, etc.  are finding plenty to eat and they will not go hungry.  This winter has brought me face-to-face with the cold hard facts of how life can be here:  for every death there is a birth, for every empty stomach there is a gluttonous feast, for every sad ending there is a happy one and for there to be a winner there needs to be a loser.  At this point I am being reminded of the flip side to the happy Yellowstone summers.  And though I watched with a lump in my throat yesterday I know that very soon I will feel the excitement of watching babies taking their first wobbly steps, the bison grazing the green grasses of Hayden and seeing the visitors taking pictures of videoing their great Yellowstone experience.  And that is what I will focus on, my Disney ending.