“Snow on the Summer Solstice”

June 21, 2019

Greetings from Wyoming, where it’s the first day of summer and there’s snow on the ground. That means the first job of the day is scraping off windshields.

A snowy morning in the Lake cabins

After a nice warm breakfast we set off in search of white pelicans along the trail of Pelican Creek. Unfortunately the trail was closed due to road construction, but we did spot a pair sitting on the edge of the water as we drove past the creek. Good eyes to those who spotted white birds along a snowy bank!! But we were able to make a quick stop at the Fishing Bridge Visitor Center where we observed replicas of the pelicans along with other birds and waterfowl living in the park. We were given a wonderful quick lesson on white pelicans, including how their wing span is 9 feet and how their populations and nesting success have decreased over the past twenty years, coinciding with the decline in cutthroat trout (pictured in an earlier post) numbers that have been caused by the invasive lake trout. We also took the time to hear about river otters, black bears, and the top dog…… THE grizzly. Thank you to Michele, Kristen, and Angie for doing a great job with their expert topics.

It was time to move on, so we loaded up the vans and headed towards the West Thumb Geyser Basin. It is easy to locate where West Thumb is on Yellowstone Lake: just look for what you may think is a fire! The steam was intense coming off the lake. West thumb gave us many stories and data to take back to NC. Ranger Nick Robertson talked briefly about the life of a seasonal ranger at Yellowstone. Mandie kept fascinating us by using the infrared thermometer gun to take temperatures of the hot springs. They ranged from 53 to 168 degrees! The biggest surprise was that only a few feet away the lake temperature dropped to a chilly 35 degrees. West Thumb was a beautiful example of the diverse geological landscape this wild country offers.

Mandie uses the thermometer to measure the temperature of a hot spring in the West Thumb area

We continued moving higher in elevation as we headed to Isa Lake to look for tiger salamanders. We were able to spot 6 of them and some leeches, but the wildest of animals seen at the lake was Megan running around the lake, eventually dashing into knee deep water to try to capture one. The wind, cold temperatures, and falling snow couldn’t stop Megan from taking off her shoes and socks, rolling up her thermals, and slipping on her Crocs. We were greatly appreciative of the entertainment.

Megan searches for tiger salamanders in Isa Lake on the continental divide

As Megan was drying out, Kali took the opportunity to present her expert topic on the reptiles and amphibians of Yellowstone. We learned that North Carolina and Yellowstone have vast differences in this area. Kali shared that there are only 6 varieties of reptiles and the prairie rattlesnake is the only venomous snake in the park. In Yellowstone, it’s the mammals that rule!

The last bit of our day saw us arriving at the STUNNING Old Faithful Inn. We quickly unloaded our gear and headed out to see the Grand Prismatic hot spring. We were not disappointed with the beautiful colors seen from the overlook. It made for an even grander experience when the thunder snow rolled in. But the final touch of the evening was watching and listening to Old Faithful erupt after dinner. If you didn’t know any better you’d think “it was as big as a geyser” (a quote made by a small child standing near us).

View from the overlook trail at Grand Prismatic hot spring

Moving to a new section of the park has been nothing short of “majestic”!

Till next time… Sapsucker team signing off

Happy Summer!

Casey, Kali, Michele

Old Faithful erupts in the late afternoon light