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“My Feet are Tired, but My Soul is Wide Awake”

June 17, 2016

We found the title of our blog on a greeting card in the Yellowstone Association gift shop, and it immediately resonated with us all after our first very full day here at the park. We did so much today! While we may feel exhausted, we’re all in agreement that we’re feeling invigorated by all of our explorations. To sum up our experience today, we decided to take you through the 5 senses of our day!

Smell: Our day started off meeting Ranger Beth Taylor who led us off the typical tourist path at Mammoth Hot Springs. Here we explored some of the geothermal features of Yellowstone. Aside from the beauty of the terraced hot springs, the most distinctive feature was the sulfur smell. We had expected the visual beauty of the hot springs, but the smelly secret was a surprise!

narrow gauge - 1

Narrow Gauge Terrace

Touch: Ranger Beth was full of useful information to bring back to our students. One thing that stood out to us was her tip for distinguishing between spruce and fir trees. She suggested that we feel the needles of the trees and remember, “square, spiky, spruce or flat, friendly, fir.” We continued to practice her tip throughout the day as we continued to identify trees our own hiking journeys.

fir - 1

Learning from Ranger Beth Taylor

Taste: For lunch we ventured into Gardiner, Montana for a taste of the local cuisine. We enjoyed lunch at a restaurant that receives its ingredients from a local ranch. We had our choice of elk and bison burgers. Talk about locally-sourced food!

Sight: Our sighting of baby American coots (a type of small duck-like bird) swimming with their moms caused quite a spectacle. Continuing an Educators of Excellence tradition, we started a traffic jam for some of the less sought-after wildlife in the park! The sight of two large vans and a big group of people staring intently through binoculars and spotting scopes was enough to draw the attention of others driving by. They assumed we had spotted some big game (bear, wolves, etc.), and before we knew it cars were pulling off, parking, and people were out asking what we were looking at! Most did not seem thrilled to learn we were “just” looking at waterfowl, but we did find some kindred spirits who were happy to take a look at the cute, bright orange baby coots through our spotting scopes. (We didn’t get any good pictures of the baby coots, so you’ll have to enjoy these other baby birds instead – a baby great horned owl and a baby killdeer!)

Sound: Later in the afternoon we headed towards the confluence of the Lamar River and the Yellowstone River. Here we had the opportunity to enjoy nature’s beauty in a few quiet moments. The roar of the river’s rapids was most prevalent as we sat and reflected on the day. Being able to sit and clearly hear the sounds of nature without interruption was a welcome reprieve for us all.

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Group meeting along the Yellowstone River

18 Comments leave one →
  1. Michelle LeRoy permalink
    June 17, 2016 8:11 am

    Hello Trekkers, from a member of last year’s team! I love reading the posts that seem so familiar and yet are excitingly different! It looks like you have already had some great wildlife encounters. I am so excited to see what the next week or so has in store for you!

  2. Alyssa Schneider permalink
    June 17, 2016 9:51 am

    Does the smell surrounding geothermal vents fluctuate with the state underneath them or are they a constant, if so what do these different smells mean?

    • June 17, 2016 3:55 pm

      Many features smell like sulfur because they vent hydrogen sulphide gas. Acidic features usually have stronger smells – the hydrogen sulphide become sulphuric acid.

  3. Janay Hall permalink
    June 17, 2016 12:52 pm

    Does Yellowstone park only occupy one climate zone or multiple?

    • June 17, 2016 3:56 pm

      Janay, how would you define climate zone?

      • Janay Hall permalink
        June 17, 2016 10:33 pm

        I am curious about Yellowstone’s location, in relation to the 12 subclimate zones that are based on region such as: Humid Subtropical and Semiarid. Does Yellowstone occupy the Semiarid (Dry) zone as well as the Highland zone?

  4. Alexandra Thomas permalink
    June 17, 2016 5:14 pm

    After practicing the method of identifying the type of trees throughout the day, did there seem to be more spruce or fir trees?

    • June 18, 2016 8:44 am

      Thus far the areas we have visited have had mostly Douglas fir. We have been at slightly lower elevations where Douglas fir is common.

  5. Megan Fussell permalink
    June 17, 2016 8:09 pm

    I love hearing that the NC Museum of Natural Sciences is continuing the tradition of coot traffic jams!

    Are there more visitors than usual due to the Centennial?

  6. Marissa A Barber permalink
    June 17, 2016 10:10 pm

    Were there any animals or insects noticed around the geothermal regions, or are these regions desolate due to their extreme conditions?

    • June 18, 2016 8:47 am

      There are many of types of microorganisms (archaea, bacteria, and algae) that thrive in the thermal features. We also saw some ephydrid flies breeding in the runoff channels. And killdeer (birds) – both adults and babies- where wading in the cooler areas and feeding on the insects!

    • June 18, 2016 8:48 am

      One other thing we saw on the dry rocky trail as we were heading away from a hot spring was a 6′ long bull snake.

  7. Jaimie Rudder permalink
    June 19, 2016 3:52 pm

    I love the stories and pictures as you have related them to our human senses.

  8. Shelby Autry permalink
    June 20, 2016 9:59 pm

    Are there certain animals/insects that lived specifically near the hot springs and others in certain areas of the park due to conditions? What are they and what causes them to live in the places they live (heat and other senses)? What are the conditions that make them live exactly where they live?

    • meganchesser permalink
      June 22, 2016 1:37 pm

      All living things are adapted to certain ecosystems, but most can survive in a variety of conditions and habitats. For example we saw a coyote trotting through the thermal basins this morning but we also saw them in Lamar Valley (sagebrush steppe). There are some special organisms that can only survive in particular environments, these are called endemic species. Can you do some research and see if you can find an example of a Yellowstone endemic species (one that is only found here)?

  9. Alea Ransom permalink
    June 23, 2016 6:13 pm

    While reading your story, I found the Educators of Excellence tradition interesting. In psychology I heard of a similar technique but I never knew it could be used in this manner to bring attention to species who do not receive a lot of attention from the public. I was wondering what makes some wildlife species less sought after and what makes other wildlife species more sought offer? Is it because of some of the species are endangered and people want to try to protect them or is it just because humans believe some species are more important than others? Either way I liked the Educators of Excellence tradition and how it shown light on species that are over looked, and I was wondering if there are any more ways or traditions that can help spread awareness to all animals, not just the endangered ones or the ones we feel are important.

  10. Colbie Parker permalink
    June 23, 2016 8:49 pm

    Is there a large difference between the air pressure in Yellowstone and NC? Does it affects you all’s breathing? If so, do the geothermal vents play any part in this?

  11. Tamiya Troy permalink
    June 23, 2016 11:50 pm

    Are American Coots found in the park year round or do they typically migrate during the winter?

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