Sunday, June 7, 2009

Thar she blows!

Yesterday, Kate yet again obliged in letting me be a tourist for a day and drove around the park, stopping whenever the urge came upon us. We stopped at various pullouts to take photos of geysers, SNOW, and the occasional buffalo.

We visited Norris Geyser Basin, which contains some of the several hundred geysers and thermal features that make up the park. Photos never do justice, but at least they give you some glimpse of such magnificence.

This is a coyote we saw en route to Old Faithful. He was quickly behind another coyote that was crossing the road. We visited the Old Faithful Inn, a revered historic monument that is over 100 years old. People still stay at the Inn, but at a hefty price. It's completely made of wood and logs that stands over seven stories high...a pretty rare view of amazing craftmanship. Saw this cool sign (also made of wood) within the hotel.

View of the outside.And there she is! Old Faithful being her reliable constant self. The sound and height at which the water shot up was brilliant.A tourist was kind enough to take our picture in front of Old Faithful erupting. From left, that's Chelsea (certified geologist oh yeah), Kate, Hilary, and me. I was crouching, I swear. Old Faithful needed all the room and glory it could get.This photo is of Steamboat geyser. One of the park employees wondered why it wasn't even more famous than Old Faithful, as it shoots way higher and more spectacularly than the legend. However, it is not nearly as predictable as Old Faithful, and does not have major eruptions regularly. The last one shot over 115 feet in 2005.

The next string of photos are of various geysers within the Norris Geyser Basin.

This one is appropriately named "Pearl pool." Of course the glowing azure blue does not appear as brilliant as it did in real life.

It's snowing! I was ridiculously happy and probably acting rather silly.

Picturesque photo of a bison grazing in the snow.

Hilary making a snow angel.

Hilary, Kate, and Chelsea trying to catch snowflakes.

That's it for now! I hope 3 blog posts will satisy your appetite for now. Hopefully it won't be so long until the next update. Until then, update after I've rampaged on a lake trout killing spree!

Get in the boat, FISH! FISH! Get in the boat...

So I figured I would include some photos of me hard at work. I think many of you aren't really clear what I do besides the all-encompassing term of fisheries, so I'll go into a bit more detail. The Yellowstone Westslope subspecies of cutthroat trout are native to many of the creeks and lakes within the park, and this is the species of fish the restoration part of the fisheries program here at YNP is working towards saving.

For the last two weeks, Mike, Kate and I have been working on Geode Creek in collecting fish ready for spawning. We collect fish via the electrofishing method. Electrofishing involves using a probe that sends an electrical current throughout the water. This current periodically stuns the fish, making catching fish with dipnets seemingly easier. This is not always the case. We work in fairly fast flowing water that has vegetation, fallen trees, and other areas where fish can hide. Sometimes the current doesn't wholly stun the fish, so they often can speedily evade your grasp. When we do catch a significant number of trout, we take length and weight measurements and clip a bit of their pelvic fins for genetic sampling.
We electrofished a handful of times, and then kept the fish in live cars (plastic bins) in the creek to hold them until we were ready to spawn them. On Friday, we collected the males and females (in their own separate buckets) and extracted eggs and milt and placed them together in airtight containers. Egg extraction is simply squeezing the females until eggs jetrocket like a machine gun out of the female's ovipositor. Same thing goes for the males: just milt shoots out instead.

The picture below is from the hike Kate and I did to Specimen Creek. This is where Kate and many other fisheries folks last summer constructed a barrier to keep fish from going upstream. This area is where rotenone (poison) is injected into the water to kill gill-breathers. Such action is centered around attempting to eradicate brook trout, which is invasive.
On my pack are a pair of snoeshoes. The week before, Kate and Mike went to the barrier to check things out, and had to snoeshoe a large part of the way, as there was several feet of snow still left on the trail. As you can see from this picture, we clearly did not need them.
This was a bison jam we got in on our way to Specimen creek. You can see in the background a ranger on a horse. Yellowstone rangers actually have to periodically herd bison, as they are not protected outside of the park. If they roam outside of park borders, ranchers have the right to kill bison if they happen across their property. The culling of bison in Montana and WY is quite a controversial issue here.This photo is at Geode creek. Waders are so sexy. That is Mike on the left, and the live car in the water.

Huge elk antlers I found while hiking alongside Geode.Me hard at work. I'm clipping part of the pelvic fin of one of the many fish we worked with.

Unfortunately, you can't see the trout very well in this picture, but a better photo will soon follow.

Mike working with the spawning canisters. A better photo of a female cutthroat trout. Females are generally fatter than males...and definitely feistier.

We saw this sign on Friday, heading towards the Blacktail deer plateau drive. On the drive, we did experience rather poop driving, as rocks, muck and the like flew up everywhere as we drove down the road.

Baby elk! This is as close as I could get. The elk must have been just a few days was so awkward on its legs, but oh so cute.

The photo above is from the Osprey Falls hike (approx. 7 mi) we did last weekend. This was at the top of the canyon. This hike was pretty peculiar, as not only did you go up for 2 miles, but you also went down for another 2, switchbacking all the way down to the falls. After reaching the falls, we had to hike back up and the side of the mountain and then back down to the dorm.

This photo is right before reaching the bottom of the falls. The trees were swaying and quaking in the tremendous wind and spray that came from the cascading falls.Right at the foot of the falls. I swear it was like I was on the Maid of the Mist, without the super stylish snazzy blue ponchos. We got SOAKED. Yellow-bellied marmot we saw chilling on a rock on the side of the trail. Although it's been rainy the past week, it makes for some incredible cloud photos. This was taken at the top of the trail.Western Tanager we saw along the trail. Such a gorgeous bird.This drive leads you to Old Faithful and other amazing natural wonders. The cliffs are smack against the road and windy as ever.

Friday night was my dormmate Laura's birthday, so we all went to this resort called Chico's to celebrate and participate in a little unmitigated buffoonery. Chico's has a pool that contains water that is pumped from hot springs, and a big group of us decided to try it out. The water was amazing...not lukewarm, and not too hot. Now I can say I swam in hot spring cool is that?

Next to the pool was also a bar that featured a funk/reggae band that we all danced ridiculously to. This photo is of me, Derek (fisheries), Agnes (the French girl) and Kate.

The other night I witnessed an incredible sunset. It looked as if a painter had taken his paintbrush and made sweeping flicks of his brush from the mountain top upwards. The colors were amazing.

That's it for this post. One more covering yesterday to go.

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!

So uh, despite the odd Christmas-themed blog title, it really does relate to just another day in June at Yellowstone NP. It indeed is snowing. Or rather, it snowed yesterday and all this morning. SNOW IN JUNE?!?! Seriously? Pretty frickin awesome. Kate yesterday noted that we were all acting like little kids again...Hilary was making snow angels, and the rest of us were sticking our tongues out in the attempt to taste snowflakes. But the thing is, I didn't actually grow up with such instances. I guess I am just...a kid, then? As we were driving from Old Faithful back home to Mammoth last night (a beautiful two-hour drive), all of the girls in the car were getting a kick out of me constantly saying, "everything is white!" I was maniacally taking pictures inside and outside the car...I think I even received a couple of strange stares.
Anyway, I have a TON of pictures to put in this post, so I am going to narrate along with pictures, rather than bore you with long, laborious introductory paragraphs that you probably don't read anyway. I admit it, pictures are more fun.
So, approximately two weeks ago, Kate was kind enough to indulge me in being a tourist. En route to Cody, Wyoming, we stopped off at the GRAND CANYON OF THE YELLOWSTONE and were awed by such splendor. I must say, after spending 3 weeks at Yellowstone, I think I want to have a change of career (aka major) and become a geologist. The rock formations are out of this world. Jagged peaks, unstable precipices, and thrashing, unruly water make up this incredible sight. It's amazing to think that water ultimately creates such wonders.
Photo of Yellowstone Lake, just after the Spring thaw. The first week I was here, the entire lake was frozen. Now it's one large mass of cold, fluid water.This photo is taken from the Buffalo Bill Scenic Highway heading towards Cody. This area is about 2,000 feet higher than Mammoth and was still largely caked in snow. It was an incredible drive.
Tunnel!! We went through many of these on our way to Cody. So awesome. I think the only other places where I've driven through mountains were in Tennessee. Like I said, crazy rocks. Kate and I (vicariously) both thought we were in the Southwest on our drive. The rocks were colored these stunning reds and oranges resplendent of a Utah or Arizonian desert.Took this inside the Buffalo Bill Museum. This poster, along with thousands of other relics, overwhelmed the walls of the museum. Buffalo Bill truly created the cowboy image and lifestyle of buckin' broncos and oversized Steston hats we (ahem, Dad) revere today.

Remind you of Arizona? Yeah, that's what I thought.

Photo of Bear tooth mountain...I'm convinced your powers of deduction will enlighten you as to why it has such a name. Took this inside the car on the drive back to Mammoth...what a drive!Saw this little critter in the parking lot of the hotel we stayed in while in Cody. Jackrabbits are everywhere! I think Kate thinks I have an obsession. I somehow feel the need to point out a rabbit whenever I see one by indicating such with a a loud, "bunny!"Back in Yellowstone. Home, home on the range comes to mind when I see this photo. The buffalo were conveniently situated in an idyllic setting of a hilly backdrop with thunderous clouds looming in the background. I just had to take a picture.This is appropriately coined a "bison jam." Bison jam: when bison nonchalantly stroll across a road, seemingly unaware and/or unconcerned with the growing pileup of cars and overly exited tourists just itching for a National Geographic-type photo.I see these little guys everywhere. This is a ground squirrel. He was hoping for a treat, but sadly, he was not satisfied.Ok, so the next string of photos (with above photos included) are just a smattering of snapshots of wildlife I've taken while driving throughout the park. Some of them I've seen in hikes, but a large majority are straight from the car. The reliability and frequency of wildlife viewing here is absolutely incredible. The photo below is of a chipmunk. They too are everywhere. These are two bighorn ewes that usually hang out on some cliffs that lie very close to the North entrance of the park. They had some babies with them, but unfortunately, my camera just couldn't get close enough. This photo is provided for you courtesy of Kate Olsen. If you look closely, you can see the fairly developed horns of the ram in the middle.
Here's a bull elk grazing, with its antlers just starting to grow. He and another bull caused quite a jam.Mule deer! Their ears are so funny. Along the drive to Gardiner and Livingston, Montana, mule deer are everywhere. They are often seen grazing on some rancher's property.Very pregnant pronghorn does resting on a hillside. Closeby we saw a mother and her fawn, but they were too quick for me to get a picture. It's freaking baby season! They are soooo cute. Copious girl noises would erupt from the car every time we saw a baby elk, pronghorn, bison, or deer. Male pronghorn grazing. Fun fact about pronghorn: they are the fastest land mammal in North America, and the second fastest in the world, only beaten by the cheetah.This is taken on the Beaver Ponds Loop hike (approx. 5 mi) we did two weekends ago. Hilary is on the left, and Kate is on the right. Hilary worked in fisheries last year, but now works for Ted Turner on one of his ranches in Bozeman. She was down in Mammoth for the Cody and hiking adventure weekend. More mule deer, seen on the Beaver Ponds hike. We also saw some white-tailed deer, but I didn't get any photos that were clear enough. They were all in hiding in the woods.
One of the larger ponds we saw during our hike. And no, unfortunately, we didn't see any beavers (lots of dams, though). We did see, however, a yellow-headed blackbird. Youtube their call. It's the most awesome bird call I've ever heard.It was such a beautiful day.

This is a view of the Gallatin mountain range that surrounds Gardiner and Livingston seen from our hike. I loved the shadows of the clouds over the hills and mountain tops. This is from the Monument Geyser Basin hike I did with some people that I live with in the dorm. I think it gained 600 feet of elevation in just over a mile. It was pretty grueling, but the view made it all worth the effort. Oh, I can't forget to tell you this: en route to the vista point, we got hailed on. No kidding. This is a steam vent, also known as a fumarole. The sound of air and gases hissing from these things is amazing. I wish I had a video of all of the hissing and gurgling noises that emit from these geysers.View of some of the monument geyser basin area. Again, I was inundated with horrible, sulfuric smells that burned by nose...but I sacrificed comfort for the gorgeous view in front of me.

I might have let one go. But then again, who could tell?

View of the mountains on the drive back. I swear to you, it really does seem like the sky here is bigger. I wonder if they call it Big Sky country here. Every day, the clouds are unreal. If you look to the bottom of the picture, you can see the strokes of rain coming down on the far off mountains. Saw this grizz just 10 feet in front of me (see car). I first saw him behind a tree about 15 yards from the road. He was just meandering down to the road, taking his sweet old time when he seemed to suddenly notice there were about 20 cars around him. It was like he looked up and went, "Oh!" and then high-tailed it across the road and down the hillside, about 200 yards away.

Anyway, I have more photos to post, but my fingers are growing weary from all of the scrolling down so I will start another entry with more adventures to follow.