April, 2008

Still Winter in Yellowstone

We visited Yellowstone Park on 27 April; this is a bit early, as things are just starting to open up. Mid-May would be a better time because by then all the roads and almost all the trails should be open. And, by that time the bison and elk are calving, so there are lots of newborns to see.

The short trail to the Upper Falls of the Yellowstone (right) was open and this picture gives some idea of how much snow and ice was in evidence.

The closest approach we could make to the more impressive Lower Falls gave us a great panoramic view (left). In 2004, 2005 and 2006 we have gone down Uncle Tom's Trail to get the close-up view. It was not possible this year at this time. Part of that trail is visible from this vantage point, though.

Readers with a good eye for pattern recognition will be able to spot a portion of the stairs for Uncle Tom's Trail in the picture at right. Look for the straight bar of snow in the sun, just to the right of center. That snow is covering the stairs that hang out over the precipice. The stairs make a 90° turn toward the left of the picture and go behind the trees to a path that doubles back to the right through the trees to the viewpoint. The path and viewpoint are covered with snow and are not visible. Find the frozen waterfall in this picture (just above and left of center), then look for it in the previous picture to get some idea of the scale.

At left, this thermal area was relatively free of snow. One steam vent must have generated its own snow on cold days – it still had large drifts surrounding it.

We saw only a few bison calves on this trip. We got one good look at a coyote and saw a number of elk plus several pairs of Sandhill Cranes. Of course we can see all but the bison right out our window at home, and our elk look a lot healthier. (The herd is becoming known as ours because it spends so much time on our property.)