Through the weeks of deep snow, we walked above the ground on fallen sky…
I alluded to this trip in our last post when I whined about missing our “big snow” at home while we were away. Well, we were away in our happy place, Yellowstone. And, even though it is experiencing a relative snow drought this winter, there was still plenty in most places. We were asked by a teacher friend at the NC School of Science and Mathematics last summer to lead a winter Yellowstone trip for high school juniors and seniors. With the ups and downs of Covid, we were unsure about the prospects for making the trip happen, but, eventually, it came to fruition with all participants fully vaccinated and everyone agreeing to adhere to Covid protocols before and during the adventure. Melissa and I went out a few days early to scout things out and make final arrangements for lodging and meals. Melissa managed to find lodging in a hostel so we were isolated as a group and we had all our meals but one catered to minimize being in crowded indoor spaces. I will admit we were both a bit nervous about our first flight since the start of the pandemic, but, we were careful and everything turned out fine.
This is the first of a few posts about the trip. We had a nice mix of snowy days and bright sunny days, so we experienced both the quiet beauty of snow falling from gray skies and the glistening allure of diamond dust. That latter phenomenon occurs when a ground-level “cloud” of tiny ice crystals sparkles in the sunlight. Diamond dust usually occurs only in temperatures well below freezing. It is one of my favorite atmospheric conditions in Yellowstone in winter.
Below are a few of the scenic highlights of the trip…
One of my favorite thermal hikes is the Fountain Paint Pots Trail where, in a short walk, you can see all four types of Yellowstone’s thermal features – geysers, hot springs, mudpots, and fumaroles. My favorite are the mudpots. They are like a natural double boiler. Water collects in a shallow, impermeable depression (usually due to a lining of clay). Heated water under the depression causes steam to rise through the ground, heating the collected surface water. Hydrogen sulfide gas is usually present, and certain microorganisms use the smelly gas for energy. Microbes help convert the gas to sulfuric acid, which breaks down rock into clay. The result is a goopy mix where the gases gurgle and bubble. Minerals, like iron oxides,color the mudpots leading to the name “paint pots.” I find myself taking a ridiculously large number of photos here on every visit, hoping to capture an unusual shape as the mud erupts.
The next posts will cover some of the amazing wildlife we encountered during our adventure…
How wonderful that you & Melissa were able to visit your special place this winter! Covid has stopped so many things, so it’s great to hear how you put together a safe & (relatively!) comfortable travel experience. Your photos capture the spectacular winter beauty of Yellowstone!
Yes, I agree. Melissa did a great job in planning and the folks out there were extremely helpful with the lodging and meals. And the students and teachers were wonderful and followed all the protocols for a safe trip.
Thanks for showing the winter wonders of Yellowstone to those who have only seen the unfrozen views. Such a marvelous place!
I have been to Yellowstone many times but never in Winter. This makes me want to go.
I love all the photographs, especially the one of the Lower Falls.
Thanks, John. Winter is our favorite time as the crowds are way down (unless you are at wolves!) and the wildlife is abundant and easier to spot. But, it is definitely more expensive. But the trip to the interior is worth it if you can combine with others to split costs of the snow coach.
Fabulous! I wish you would take a group of us retired folks out to Yellowstone
Hey Amy! I had tried to respond to a note from you from quite a while ago but my email kept coming back. Drop me a note at my email – firstname.lastname@example.org
Do you still sponsor any “adult “trips anytime of the year from Raleigh or Chapel Hill ?
Judy Newton Scurry
Sent from my iPad
Hi Judy…My trips were on hold during the height of the pandemic, but I am now considering venturing out again. Get in touch.
superb images Mike!
Thanks, Mary. Looks you had a great trip as well. Amazed we did not run into each other,
Love your mud eruption photos!
Thanks, Maria. They hold an unusual spell on me and my camera.
Those are spectacular photos of winter’s “spell” in Yellowstone!! I’m sure more than a few of the students will remember this trip for a lifetime!
It is very special, and I hope they do. I know one is planning on going into wildlife ecology now.
Oh my gosh, you saw Steamboat erupt??!! That’s so exciting! Beautiful photos; winter in Yellowstone is just magical.
Yes, though only the steam phase, it was still a thrill.