Monday, April 28, 2008

Lawn Mowers

The lawn mowers, I mean, elk, are out in abundance today! They are all over happily grazing and filling their tummies for the first time in months.

The bison are dropping their calves so we have lots of red dogs, as the babies are called for their reddish coats, frolicking in the nearby fields.

Bluebirds have been flitting all over, making saphire streaks in the air.

Barrow's Golden Eye are enjoying floating in the rivers.

Lots of carcasses mean lots of bear and wolf sightings.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Bison Going at It

Yesterday, I heard exclamations from outside the visitor center and turned in just in time to see a spectacular sight. Two male bisons in the Parade Ground decided to duke it out. I could practically see steam issuing from their snorting nostrils as they charged each other. If anyone has ever doubted that bison can run 30 mph from standing, I have now seen visual proof.

Their great, wooly heads slammed together before one of the bison took off racing around the visitor center. Not about to loose his macho might, the other charged after him, establishing who was the dominant buff in this town.

Seconds later the bison stormed around the back of the visitor center like two race cars on a speedway. They disappeared from view as they continued their chase and the 30 second excitement ended. Business went back to normal in the old VC, just as if nothing out of the ordinary had happened. Oh, but bison charging each other in the Parade Ground, in Mammoth, in April, is actually very out of the ordinary.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Blue Birds

A group of bluebirds swooped by me today. Brilliant blue.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Signs the Season Is Beginning

With spring temperatures melting snow, animals dropping dead from winter fast, bison babies popping, and visitor numbers skyrocketing, I'm getting some clear indications that spring is coming and summer is on its way. Several of these pre-season signs came from humans.

  1. A little girl looked at me today and said, "She has boobies, mommy." Mommy cracked up and said not all women with boobies have babies. Daddy blushed. I informed the little girl that I do indeed have boobies and do not have babies.
  2. About four people (given the tracks) jumped off the boardwalk and trampled the travertine by Palette Spring. I just barely missed the buggers and peevishly cried, "idiots," before kindly reminding other visitors to stay on the boardwalk. They shook their heads in disgust at the resource destruction. Those were good visitors. The tramplers are on my bad side. Indefinately and irrevocably.
  3. Visitors come in the VC and hold the display antlers over their heads. It's always such a laugh to have one moose antler and one mule deer antler held to one's head.
  4. Three foreign visitors fondled the stuffed bison head, missing the sign that says "Please do not touch, I cannot grow hair back." I had to pull out my "you've been a bad, bad visitor voice" and tell them off Interp style.
  5. A favorite visitor past time in the summer is always changing the date on the passport stamp. This happened yesterday when we went from April 12, 2008, to August 28, 1989. Time warp.... Hmmmm.
  6. The gentle quiet of lapping hot spring water and wind in the trees is getting displaced by car thumping stereos and diesel pickups. Talk about noise pollution.
  7. The flag is pulling its customary twist-as-you-raise-it stunt, meaning it takes 15 minutes to try to put it up so it looks half decent.
  8. A zillion people came down from Montana to go biking on the last weekend the roads are cleared for bike and Admin traffic only.
  9. It's the first really nice weekend since I've been here - almost hot.
  10. The sun rises at 6:30 and sets at 8:00.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008


A visitor reported bear tracks on the Howard Eaton Trail, which parallels the Terraces and the Upper Terrace Drive. She also reported a dead elk by Palette Spring, one of the most popular springs to view.

I scoped it out the other day. It was a beautiful day for a stroll, Clark's Nutcrackers were flitting about and the sun was shining. But my eyes were on the look out for a deader than a doornail elk. And sure enough, right at the top of the Terraces I spotted its bloated frame. Right at the end of the boardwalk it had fallen. My mind quickly assessed the situation. A dead elk and bear tracks = cause for concern. I called up the back country rangers and the bear management office to fill them in and assumed they would move the poor beast.

But, no, today I returned to the Terraces and checked out Palette to see if the elkeroo was still there. Sure enough, it was there, but now it had been chewed on... perhaps by a bear, but more likely by a wolf/coyote whos tracks were nearby. Yuck.

This time bear management moved the carcass and put up signs warning people to stay away from the dead elk. It's one of about 6 that have been moved in the last week. Visible evidence to the long, hard winter in Mammoth.

Thursday, April 3, 2008


On rove today, two bluebirds flitted by. They chirped happily about the coming spring. By the hot springs, Clark's nutcrackers fluttered from trees to posts to travertine to exposed ground. They perched pecking at the ground, warmed by the hot springs, looking for freshly hatched bugs to eat.

Female elk clustered around Mammoth, enjoying the warm sun and rooting around for vegetation to eat. A four point elk joined them, unusual male activity for this time of year. None of them seemed too concerned about people walking past them. The females are getting ready to give birth, another sign of spring.

The air feels springy today and snow is melting.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Snowshoeing, Buffs, and Terraces

My first day off in about a full week, I decided nothing could be better than a snowshoe up the Terraces. I grabbed some hiking poles and bear spray, strapped on my lumbar pack, zipped up my puffy and headed out. Up the snow-covered wooden steps I ventured until I reached the top of Palette Spring. There, I strapped on the snow shoes and began the hike up the back terraces. Deep snow drifts covered the boardwalk but my harish feet kept me high in the snow. My feet automatically slipped into the "small step revolution" as I ascended the steep terraces. Then, before my eyes, rose beautiful Cleopatra. Water poured off its terraces, giving life to the orange-colored thermophiles that thrive in Mammoth. I continued up, up, up the terraces and then down, down, down the other side.

Excitedly, I descended to Mother Mary Spring, only to be startled aware of life forms other than thermophiles in the vicinity. A big bull buffalo (buff) lay basking in the warm hot spring air. I came up to him unaware and stopped mid track. Oh boy, I was definately too close to that buff. Slowly I eased along the boardwalk hoping not to startle the animal. He was completely indifferent to my existence and much more interested in conserving energy than fussing about a human. As I stood watching him, he began to roll on the hot ground, throwing his legs into the air. He nonchalantly stood up and chewed on the vegetation around the springs. What a sight to be seen!

Not wanting to disturb him, I continued on my hike. It was incredible how different the terraces were. Many had expanded twice their size in 2006. I reached Canary Spring to be greeted by its familiar orange color and the gentle lapping sound of water hitting the "shore." Sounds of rapids filled my ears as I followed the boardwalk paralleling the hot spring. Water was gushing down the hillside! I couldn't believe it - there was so much water! The sight left me astounded and smiling, I walked to the Upper Terrace Loop.

Around the loop I went, starting the gradual ascent towards Orange Spring Mound. Intent on my snowshoeing, I turned a corner, gung ho to hike up the hill, when a brown mound began to move. I was definately way too close this time. The buff's horns shown in the afternoon light, making me gulp. Oh boy. How could I safely get around this time? The buff looked at me... and I looked at it... and it continued eating. I unstrapped my snowshoes, waiting for it to make its move. A skier, Mitch, started descending the slope but stopped as I waved my hands and pointed at the bison. "I see it!" he replied. There we stood, a person on each side, waiting for the buffalo to move. Languidly, it walked across the trail and stood munching on the other side before slowly moving off towards some other, more interesting, hot springs. Mitch and I decided it was time to move away and we headed back up the slope.

Orange Spring Mound was gushing all over the road. Little orange terraces were forming over the asphalt. Water splashed merrily out of the springs and continued its path of least resistence down the hill. Beautiful.

The rest of the snowshoe/ski went through relatively fresh powder, glimpsed other gushing hot springs, and descended past the Brian-crash hill to the parking lot. Snow fell thickly from the sky as we passed through this winter wonderland. Tired, but content, Mitch and I hopped in his truck, returned to Fort Yellowstone, and left the spectacular terraces behind.