Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Riding Out The Storm

After a fairly mild winter season by Yellowstone’s standards, winter weather returned with a vengeance today. Yesterday was serious sunny t-shirt weather, while today gray skies spit sleet and hail and rain blew sideways in the squalls over Yellowstone Lake and West Thumb geyser basin. 

IMG_1694 AmericanAvocet OnFishingCone
Fishing Cone hot spring in Yellowstone Lake, West Thumb geyser basin
Our little band of Grant Village interpretive rangers is in its final week of training for the upcoming summer season. After lunch today we met up with some law enforcement and resource management folks at the geyser basin to review wildlife management protocol and bear spray technique. We took it all outside, bundled up against the elements (except for one chap in shirts sleeves who must have thought it was still yesterday).

Soon we were ready for our walking tour of the geyser basin to see what had changed (a lot) and what had remained the same (not much). This time last year we were climbing over snow banks and hoping our feet could find exactly where the boardwalk was located. Today, though, we were just hammered by sleet and hail and rain blowing sideways. At least we could see the boardwalk this time, lessening immensely our chances of accidently toppling ass over teakettle into a steaming hot spring or bubbling mud pot. Or slipping and sliding into the near–freezing lake. Either way it would not have been pretty. 

IMG_1697 BoardwalkAlong YellowstoneLake
Boardwalk at West Thumb geyser basin

West Thumb geyser basin is the largest area of thermal features on Yellowstone Lake. This is what makes it so special – its location on the lake is a major reason I like working on this side of the park. It’s not nearly as well known and definitely not as flashy as Old Faithful but that is a big part of its charm. 

But other creatures do manage to find it in a storm. 

IMG_1682 AmericanAvocet
American avocet at Fishing Cone hot spring

The American avocet is not generally found in these higher elevations of Yellowstone. Its summer breeding grounds are more likely to be somewhere lower such as the muddy marshes of the Great Salt Lake or even Jackson Hole in Grand Teton National Park. 

IMG_1668 AmericanAvocet OnFishingCone
A port in the storm

But one must have been blown off course by the windy wintry weather today, and so found a warm stopover on Fishing Cone hot spring on the edge of Yellowstone Lake at West Thumb geyser basin. And there was only the one. 

IMG_1667 AmericanAvocatAtFishingCone

LW had seen it there this morning. In the early afternoon our ranger troupe passed by and it was in the same place, just at waterline near a side vent of the main cone. 

An hour or so later when I returned with my camera it was still there, steadfastly holding on to its warm port in the blowing storm, riding it out. 

IMG_1684 AmericanAvocet OnFishingCone
American avocet and Fishing Cone

Cold and rain and snow are predicted to be with us for the rest of the week. We’ll just have to wait and see if our off–course avocet will do the same. 


  1. At least the wayward avocet knows to hang out by the warm water.

    Looks like we may get another blast of winter this weekend too.

    1. I think it's amazing that it found its way to Fishing Cone in the first place, Gaelyn. What turn of events in it's life brought it there...

      There is just a light dusting of frost on the cars this morning.