Yellowstone: July 4th, 2013

Oh Mary Bay…what can I say. This was the only wetland so far to have completely turned my stomach. Mary Bay is a large pond/lake that is just filled to the brim with waterfowl turds. Each year it gets a little smaller and I know why: it’s being filled in with poo. We could only survey a small portion of the perimeter because the ground was so unstable. When we did manage to dip a net, it was always filled to the brim with bird doo-doo (and also few chorus frog tadpoles and one dead salamander larvae). The rest of the sites around Mary Bay were thermal and completely dried up. Since we were close to the road and a prime internet spot, people parked in the pull-offs and watched us survey. This included the Wisconsonian-forest ecologist-trouble-makers who relished the opportunity to heckle us from their truck. Jerks! Since most of the wetlands were dry in previous years, we had assumed that we would finish quickly. Hah! Hah…hah! Well, you know all about how our assumptions turn out by now. I had a self-imposed end time of 2 pm because I had to drive to Jackson Hole to see the 4th of July fireworks. So we finished the bay sites within two hours and hustled up the ridge to survey the other sites. Oh, I should mention, right before our ridge hustle, I literally came four feet from running head first into a solitary male bison. He was hanging out in a thermal area just over a little hill. I was running to catch up with Andrew, crested the hill and there was big boy bison standing right in my blind spot. We were literally face to face. He seemed delighted to see me and was not alarmed at all. I, on the other hand, nearly shat myself and ran away. I looked back and he seemed disappointed in my reaction, like he was lonely and looking forward to sharing his little thermal pool with me.

I caught up with Andrew and it was onward and upward. On the map and gps there seemed to be an obvious trail to the sites but that was soooo not the case when we crested the ridge. The trail looked like tornado alley. It was a never-ending sea of mature downed trees that we had to climb over. It took hours to get to and from each wetland and it was painful. Here is what I want to write in the field notes for future surveyors: Upper Mary Bay–You will get shived more times than a prison yard scuffle. No joke. My legs are now a cut-up, bloody, and bruised mess. Every step through that site was painful. A rainstorm rolled in during our last few surveys but it was a welcome reprieve from the brutal heat. And our last few sites were rather pleasant. We followed well-traveled game trails to the wetlands and the lush forest suddenly felt like we were in the Pacific Northwest. A few of the wetlands that were dry in previous years, were the size of small puddles but they were overflowing with near metamorph chorus frogs. They had tiny little arms and legs but still had their large tadpole tails. They were adorable! Once our last site (which was dry) was finished we followed a game trail out and it was easy-going. What took us several hours to hike on the way in took us only a few minutes to hike on the way out. Let that be a lesson to you, always take the game trails. You may end up in a bear den or exactly where you want to be, either way, it’s better than being in a jail yard situation.

Luckily, I was finished by 2 pm and was on my way to Jackson. The fireworks were great. The company was great. I couldn’t have asked for anything more. The one thing I learned from my weekend though was to never, ever, try to find a spur of the moment campsite or hotel anywhere near Yellowstone, the Tetons or Jackson Hole during the 4th of July. You either have to plan way in advance or just give up. The rest of my weekend was spent with someone I absolutely adore. He drove over seven hours to come visit lil ole me, which was way more than I would have ever expected from him. I played tour guide (which I failed at for the most part) and the weather was absolute crap at times but it was a lot of fun.

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