Saturday, July 30, 2011

Easy Hiking On The Continental Divide

I was a bit wary about hiking on the Riddle Lake Trail yesterday, and my caution could be summed up in one exasperating word – mosquitoes. A serious candidate for the state bird of Wyoming, Yellowstone mosquitoes are persistent and plentiful during July. So I saturated myself in Herbal Armour and tried not to pass out from the enveloping citronella fumes permeating my every pore. 

IMG_8112Riddle Lake_Bear Mangement Area
Sign at Riddle Lake Trailhead
The 2.5 mile trail to Riddle Lake is quite level even though it crosses the Continental Divide at nearly 7,988 feet above sea level. It winds its pleasant way through towering lodgepole pine forest and across lush green meadows and marshland. The trail guide warns of mushy intermittent streams but the route was dry on this late July morning. Friday–hiking–buddy Sasha and I swatted at mosquitoes if we stopped moving, but soon a strong sweet breeze picked up and we were not bothered again for the rest of the hike. 

IMG_8153 RiddleLakeTrail
  Lodgepole Pines on Riddle Lake Trail

IMG_8117View FromRiddle LakeTrail
View to Red Mountains from Riddle Lake trail

IMG_8119Red Mountains_ MtSheridanFrom RiddleLakeTrail
Red Mountains and Mt. Sheridan

IMG_8145Trail AlongsideRiddle Lake
Trail alongside Riddle Lake

 I took out my binoculars and scanned the shoreline, hoping to see a moose somewhere off in the distance. We perched ourselves on a lunch log and watched for half an hour or so while three graceful osprey soared overhead and then hovered with wings angled, calculating the precise moment and trajectory for a successful fish–catch in its talons. Soaring and diving, soaring and diving, the osprey went about their business untroubled by their audience. Bobbing white specks that turned out to be (trumpeter?) swans were only just visible in the water lilies on the far side of the lake.

IMG_8133Feet Photo_RiddleLake
Feet with a Riddle Lake view

We examined some grizzly bear tracks nearby – they seemed somewhat fresh but we could not tell if they were from five minutes ago or yesterday, and so we sang out “Hey bear!” anyway. Damselflies, butterflies, and a golden mantled ground squirrel devouring wildflower blossoms along the trail were much less threatening to our psyche as we ambled back to the car

There really isn’t much of obvious geologic interest here except the random cobble of obsidian.  According to my geologic map, we cut across a small bit of the Aster Creek Flow of the Central Plateau Rhyolites but I could not discern it from any of the other detrital deposits we were walking upon.  This is the Central Plateau of Yellowstone, on which the caldera that formed after the supervolcano explosion 640,000 years ago was filled in with subsequent lava flows.  Many of these flows are hidden under the detritus of time.
I am still having a wild time trying to figure it all out.  

IMG_8111 Elephanthead

IMG_8126 Damselfly

IMG_8162ButterflyOnGoundselOr Goldenweed
Butterfly on either groundsel or goldenweed 


  1. I do include a feet photo as often as possible! It is, as you know, a family tradition.