Ranger Kathryn's Arches

January 18, 2015

Wishing I had more than five senses…

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 7:58 am
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Morning steam rises from Crested Pool in the Upper Geyser Basin.

Morning steam rises from Crested Pool in the Upper Geyser Basin.

My eyes scan the geyser basin, pondering the vapors being belched from somewhere deep below. In winter the steam is abundant, clinging to trees and boardwalks, coating animals and plants in ice, making trails slippery. The mists move down-valley on the back of invisible currents, obscuring and revealing. A billowing plume rises over every thermal feature.

Grotte Geyser, belching dragon's breath.

Grotto Geyser, belching… dragon’s breath?

My ears sharpen, picking up odd sounds that seem out of context. The small geyser bubbling between eruptions sounds just like a pot of eggs boiling rapidly on the stove. I hear Beehive, a dramatic cone geyser, before I see her, roaring like a firehose at full blast, sending spray 175 feet in the air for minutes at a time. I ski pass Grotto Geyser, with multiple cave-like openings, Middle-Earth-like; some frightful leviathan occupies its depths, whump-whumping as it thrashes. Ga-WHOOMP goes its tail, which is probably not a tail but a reservoir of super-heated water remaining under great pressure. At least that’s what my brain tells me; my neck hairs know differently.

My nose, accustomed to the pure clear air here, catches whiffs of “rotten egg” smell at some pools. Underground deposits of sulfur are plentiful, acidifying some thermal features, helping create mudpots.

Ski right by the famous Morning Glory Pool if you like.

Ski to the famous Morning Glory Pool if you like.

My face tingles in the crisp air as I ski, and when a steam cloud envelops me on the boardwalk I can feel the temperature jump for a few seconds. It is no wonder the bison hang around these warm spots in winter.

Taste? A tiny feast — fresh snowflakes on my tongue!

———————

If you could add a sixth sense to enhance your enjoyment of the natural world, what would it be? 

January 14, 2015

Dazzled indeed

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 2:12 pm
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“Still, what I want in my life

is to be willing

to be dazzled —

to cast aside the weight of facts

and maybe even

to float a little

above this difficult world.”

— Mary Oliver

 

It’s the dead of winter. My newly-waxed skis slip rhythmically across the shining snow; out-of-practice muscles welcome the exertion.

A coyote ambles past, making its circuit, following its nose, and a lone bison munches on green grasses it exposed using its massive head as a snowplow. Two trumpeter swans ply the Firehole River. Plumes of steam, rising like “the watch-fires of a hundred circling camps,” confirm that I am in the Upper Geyser Basin of Yellowstone National Park.

Yellowstone is a geothermal hotspot atop an active super-volcano, its immense magma chamber roiling just a few miles below the surface. Here, geysers expel super-heated water; hot springs burble and boil, fumaroles hiss, mudpots blurp. The ground feels quite alive under me, sounds and smells and sights emanating from a mysterious subterranean labyrinth.

Dazzled I am; few places can astound the senses like wintry Yellowstone can. I have the extreme privilege of being at Old Faithful, deep in the interior, visiting my beloved who is a winter seasonal park ranger. Fewer than 100,000 visitors — not even 3% of annual visitation — brave the obstacles to experience Yellowstone in winter. This is the solitude season, surely the most stunning of them all.

Leave a comment: What stops you from considering a winter visit?

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