In the wild, coyotes hunt small mammals like mice, voles, and ground squirrels. It's great fun to watch coyotes at work in the winter months, when they use their keen sense of hearing to detect prey under the snow. Yesterday I had the chance to photograph a coyote as it trotted along a nearby trail in the Upper Geyser Basin.
“Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to the Old Faithful Visitor Education Center. One of our biggest and most exciting geysers is getting ready to erupt. Beehive Geyser is larger than Old Faithful, lasts longer, and is usually only seen once a day. It’s going to be erupting sometime in the next fifteen minutes. Head on out toward Old Faithful and turn left if you’d like to see this magnificent geyser.”
… That’s how I announce an imminent eruption of Beehive Geyser on the visitor center PA system. Usually, I then proceed to watch out the window while visitors head outside. Beehive is beautiful even from indoors, but there’s always a part of me that longs to go out and enjoy the eruption with the crowd.
Yesterday, though, my co-worker Ranger Landis sent me out to watch the geyser and talk about it with the thirty visitors who happened to be in the right place at the right time. He kindly covered the visitor center desk so that I could enjoy the roaring, powerful eruption at close range, standing on the boardwalk just across the Firehole River from Beehive.
It made my day.
It was an important reminder to be thankful for generous gestures from friends and strangers—and to be more giving myself. Never doubt that small acts of thoughtfulness and kindness can carry tremendous meaning.
Could there be any better way to start a new year than by spending January first in Yellowstone?
I worked today at the West Thumb warming hut. My usual duty station is at Old Faithful, but this winter I’m covering lieu days for the regular West Thumb ranger once every week or two. This involves taking a snowmobile over Craig Pass, crossing the Continental Divide twice on each seventeen-mile trip. I hadn’t realized how much I would enjoy working at the little wood cabin on the shore of Yellowstone Lake. Read more
Framed by lodgepole pines
Lion roars, sprays water high
Into foggy air.
There has been quite a bit of excitement here at Old Faithful since yesterday afternoon, when a lucky group of park visitors saw a group of wolves kill an elk in the Firehole River not far north of Biscuit Basin. I was on duty at the visitor center both yesterday and today, and so have not been out to view the kill myself yet. I got to see some dramatic photos taken by snowcoach and snowmobile guides, though, and all I can say is WOW. Read more
Why would anyone come to Yellowstone National Park in the winter? It’s cold! (Lowest temperature so far this season at Old Faithful: -36°F. Lowest temperature ever recorded in the park: -66°F.) The days are short! (Sunrise today was at 7:59 am, with sunset at 4:51 pm.) It’s logistically challenging! (The only ways of getting around involve traveling “over snow,” which at different times may mean riding a snowmobile, sitting in the comparatively cozy microenvironment of an enclosed snowcoach, or going self-propelled on snowshoes or cross-country skis. You cannot drive your vehicle into any part of the park except from the North Entrance across to Cooke City.) Read more
Winter in Yellowstone is a time of magic and mystery. Snow-shrouded conifers are further veiled by persistent geyser fog, lending the landscape an ethereal beauty. I love the winter here, and have come to feel surprisingly at home in the harsh environment. No doubt about it, though, a Yellowstone winter can be hazardous—even deadly—for the unprepared or just plain unlucky. The stark beauty of the place is made all the more poignant by the tinge of healthy respect and fear it inspires.
Sometimes, facing fear is the best thing you can do for yourself. In choosing to come back to Old Faithful, I understood that I was confronting a number of fears, both concrete and abstract. Read more
Yesterday was my first full day home at Old Faithful. After breakfast, I checked the temperature outside—six below zero—and got my things together to head out for a quick ski. I felt it was my moral obligation to take advantage of the knee-deep, powdery snow before I tackled any of my other chores for the day. So then I faced the big decision: what to wear?
The official low temperature this morning at Old Faithful was -36 F. Brr! I was supposed to snowmobile into the park this morning, but we’re still waiting for things to warm up a bit more. So I’m sitting in West Yellowstone, waiting, waiting. I’m anxious to get to Old Faithful, but I also like avoiding frostbite and hypothermia. Luckily, I have these two jolly fellows to keep me company!
First, a hearty thank you to all the new followers of the last week! Being featured on Freshly Pressed was an honor, and I’m pleased that so many of you have found meaning in what I post here on Homelandscapes.
As many of you know, I recently moved from Badlands National Park to Yellowstone National Park, where I will spend the winter as a park ranger stationed at the Old Faithful Visitor Center. This is a homecoming of sorts for me. Though I have loved every place I’ve ever lived, it is Yellowstone—and Old Faithful in particular—that feels most like home. It is the place where I belong. From now through mid-March, I will be posting regular updates to give you a glimpse into winter life in the world’s first national park.
Very few of Yellowstone’s 2.2 million annual visitors come to the park in the winter months. A trip in winter is both more expensive and more logistically complicated than a summer trip because most of Yellowstone’s roads are closed to wheeled vehicles. You can’t just hop in your car and drive to Old Faithful in December the way that you might in July.
Because of these limitations, I’m excited to bring you here for a virtual winter visit to the park. I’ll be sharing photos of the dazzling beauty of Yellowstone in winter, tidbits of natural history, and stories of a quirky lifestyle that few people today can even imagine.
Some personal reflections may pop up, too. This is a turbulent time in my life due to the recent disintegration of a seven-year relationship. The breakup spurred me to rethink my priorities. Coming back to Yellowstone is one result. Planning a through-hike of the Appalachian Trail for 2014 is another.
I hope you enjoy journeying along with me in the coming months!
As ever, please remember that this blog is a personal project. My opinions are just that—my opinions—and do not constitute official statements reflecting the position of my employer. Writings, photography, and other content are copyright Cathy Bell / Homelandscapes unless otherwise noted. Please give credit where credit is due.