Ranger Kathryn's Arches

January 18, 2015

Wishing I had more than five senses…

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 7:58 am
Tags: , , , , ,
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? 


  1. My dear Kathryn, Thank you for the great photos and the blog. I tried to email you, but it bounced back – must be an outdated address, We have been in Yellowstone a couple times in June when there was ice and snow and steam and bubbling geyers – quite a sensory delight; it must be even more so at this time of year.
    A friend from Rio de Janeiro (did you get my Christmas letter?) and this quote made me think of you: “May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view.” by Edward Abbey
    Edward Abbey (born January 29, 1927) was deeply inspired by the time that he spent working as a ranger at Arches National Monument and the Florida Everglades. The Monkey Wrench Gang helped fuel the radical environmental movement and Desert Solitaire is acknowledged as one of the finest American nature narratives.
    Love, Ann

    Comment by Ann Rabie — January 30, 2015 @ 11:43 am | Reply

  2. Beautiful photos! Saw you reblogged on another blogger’s page. I’ve never been to Yellowstone! I live in Nor Cal and we have always gone to Yosemite. I’ve never been in either place in winter….one of these days!

    Comment by Terri Webster Schrandt — February 3, 2015 @ 5:10 pm | Reply

    • Start making plans, Terri — there is hardly any more breathtaking and tranquil place in the middle of winter. Just go. It is too wonderful for words.

      Comment by Kathryn Colestock-Burke — February 3, 2015 @ 9:48 pm | Reply

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