Yellowstone: July 17th, 2013

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White pelicans near Fishing Bridge.

Riddle Lake, my old friend, opened for the season today but only for about two hours. Normally there are nesting swans in Grebe Lake which has led to previous teams not being able to survey the lake and its surrounding wetlands but it appears that the swans moved to Riddle Lake this year. I guess people fishing and surveying in Grebe Lake scared the swans (and babies) into open water making them easy prey for eagles. Not good. So it’s best they moved on to an area that’s closed to foot-traffic most of the time. We got approval from Yellowstone’s wolf/bird guy to survey about five remote sites that are in the forest and far from the lake. A few of the sites were not too far off the trail and semi-easy to get to. Most were completely dry but there were a few small wetlands with an abundance of chorus frog tadpoles and adorable metamorphs. I tried to get a metamorph photo for you to enjoy but the little bugger jumped out of my hand at the last-minute and did an impressive vanishing act. Let me assure you, they are far more precious than I can even describe. Words cannot do their adorableness justice. The last few sites were of course farther away in the thick and painful forest. It was about 40 minutes of intense hurdling and stabbing of downed logs before we made it…just to find them completely dry, of course. On the way to the last site Andrew fell off a log and one of the zillion dead, stumpy tree limbs sliced both of his legs. One was cut from his inner thigh on down to almost his calf. He was extremely lucky though because he came thisclose to being run-through. Despite the pain (and blood) he was a champ and just kept chugging along. That incident was a sobering reminder of how dangerous our job really is. The predatory animals aren’t the biggest worry, it’s the trees. One slip in the woods and you’re a kabob. When we finished and arrived back at the trail-head we saw that they closed the trail again. So it was technically only open for a few hours this entire season and we were one of the lucky few to have enjoyed it. The rest of the day was going to be devoted to climbing Mount Washburn with Andrew so we could see some bighorn sheep, pica, and mountain goats but since his legs looked like they had been through a meat grinder we abandoned that idea. So I wandered around Fishing Bridge in the hopes of seeing the otter again but no dice. I knew I was pushing my luck with that. On the walk back I was caught in a windstorm on the bridge and low-and-behold, Andrew was driving by in search of the same thing I was and he was nice enough to give me a lift. Within a few feet of walking from the bridge to the parking lot, we were both covered in dirt and inhaled a ton of it. The night was spent prepping up for Gibbon Meadows, which promised to be excruciating since robo-Andy and his robo-crew couldn’t handle it and had to send us in.

1 response to Yellowstone: July 17th, 2013

  1. Jess says:

    How cool an experience to be able to be off the beaten path in a low-traffic area of the park! Although…very dangerous indeed.

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