TOP

yellowstone

Yellowstone in Winter

“When One Adventure Ends, Another Begins”

Although we flew home today, we squeezed in one more adventure. With the help of Ranger Mike, we toured around Mammoth Hot Springs. We followed the snowy boardwalks as the sun rose over Mt. Everts to see the travertine terraces. Steam from the ever-changing geothermal features surrounded us as we listened to Ranger Mike use analogy and humor to educate the group. We compared the Upper Geyser Basin where Old Faithful is located to the Mammoth Hot Springs where we now stood. Ranger Mike explained the travertine terraces build up quickly but non-violently while the geyserite deposits of the Upper Geyser Basin build up slowly but can be violent.

After braving our coldest morning (2 degrees Fahrenheit) yet we packed up our luggage to head home to North Carolina. As we drove from the North Yellowstone Lodge in Gardiner, MT to the Bozeman Airport we continued to use our newly developed wildlife spotting skills. The group finally saw the eighth ungulate, the elusive white-tailed deer. Golden eagles, bald eagles, magpies, elk, ravens and a possible carcass party were spotted along our drive.

 

We arrived at the Bozeman Airport and had come to terms with our grand Yellowstone adventure ending. The once group of strangers knew our newly developed friendships and passion for education would continue to grow. The ideas of bringing Yellowstone to our own classrooms flew out of our mouths as we chatted about the past week.

 

Through this experience both our eyes and hearts were opened to the importance of conservation of the greater Yellowstone ecosystem. Our first national park, now 150 years old, is the home of various extraordinary species that need to be protected, studied and learned from. Through the continued preservation of this special place, future generations will have the opportunity to experience all the magical wonders Yellowstone for themselves.

 

Yellowstone in Winter

“From Bacteria to Bobcat”

We started today by coming together to watch Old Faithful erupt. It teased us for 45 minutes with small belches of water and steam before finally putting on a show. This was followed by a tour of the Upper Basin by Ranger Colin, whose passion for the world’s greatest concentration of geysers got us excited for our upcoming day of observing geothermal features. We had just missed Colin’s favorite, Beehive Geyser, due to Old Faithful’s antics holding us up.

At our next stop, we split up to choose our own adventure. Some went on a short but snowy hike to Black Sand Pool, laying down to feel the thumping from below. The others took to the boardwalks around Black Sand Basin, braving boardwalks covered in packed snow and slippery conditions, only to have to pause for two bison who decided to walk across the warm ground after wading through the cold river winding through the geysers and springs. Remember to stay AT LEAST 25 yards from a bison! They finally disappeared into the mist, and we continued our explorations.

people laying on the ground near a hot spring

Midway Geyser Basin started with the Excelsior Geyser Crater and Grand Prismatic Spring. The combination of snow, warm steam, and ice make the boardwalks here very slippery, but we persevered. We saw the thermophilic bacterial mats, the silica deposits in the flowing waters, and ephydrid flies! We witnessed larva and adult flies, all happily eating the bacterial mats. They stay active in winter because the waters coming from the springs keep their environment warm enough for them to live.

ephydrid fly

The next stop was Fountain Paint Pots. It was like a scene from another planet: smaller geysers erupting, steam rising from fumaroles, acidic mud bubbling, and colors from both mineral deposits and bacterial mats. Dustin gave us a lesson on Thermus aquaticus, one of the many bacteria making up the colorful mats where the warm waters from thermal features flow over the land.

Hitting the road again in the snowcoach, our driver John had to deal with bison in the roadway. He handled it like a professional, patiently waiting for the herd to decide to move out of the way. This was just out first encounter with road-bison today!

We stopped to see Firehole Falls, where the Firehole River splits the difference between two ancient lava flows, tumbling down exposed rhyolites. While exploring the stop and enjoying the view, we found a nice snowbank that made for a perfect slide.

Further down the Firehole Canyon we came upon a rare sight: a bobcat was feeding on a mule deer carcass on the other side of the river! The bobcat had been feeding on this carcass for days. No one knew how the deer died, but word had spread, and there were many snowcoaches pausing here to take photos. And the bobcat could not have cared less.

bobcat

Next, we had a brief stop at Gibbon Falls, enjoying once again the power of flowing water to reshape the land. From there we drove home, but on the way we had an opportunity to experience stillness and silence. Stopping in the middle of Swan Lake Flats, we all stepped out of the snowcoach, John turned off the lights and engine, and we enjoyed a few minutes just absorbing the night-time scene.

Yellowstone in Winter

“Travel Day: The Adventure Begins”

Our day started at 4 am with a trip to Raleigh-Durham International Airport. After our first flight was in the air, we heard that the FAA had grounded all flights until 9 am due to a software update! Thankfully, we had already made it to Minneapolis and it only added an hour to our layover. We spent learning more about our trip and each other, which allowed us to begin our journals. We were given stickers of maps and our background info to begin our reflections, to which we added our own goals and expectations.

people sitting in airport

Our first flight was joyous, with only 35 people onboard. We could all spread out and some people even had 3 seats to lay down! The connector from Minneapolis to Montana was packed tight. After arrival we hit the grocery store for snacks, then hit the road to Gardiner via Livingston. We followed the Yellowstone River south from Gardiner and saw elk, mule deer, bald eagles, and magpies!

view out airplane window of snow covered mountains

We arrived at the North Yellowstone Hostel at 5:30 pm local time, 7:30 our time. A taco dinner awaited us as we had our first group meeting. We are now ready for our Yellowstone National Park journey tomorrow!

poster of lodge logo