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.
|Fishing Cone hot spring in Yellowstone Lake, West Thumb geyser basin|
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.
|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.
|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.
|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.
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.
|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.