Thursday, July 7, 2011


In case it hasn’t dawned on you yet that our springtime trip to Yellowstone National Park starts out as a winter trip, here are my notes from April 17, 2011:
Gloomy. Electric Peak had its head buried in the clouds when we got up. Above freezing in town. Peeks of blue sky by the time we start out.

Lots of snow melted yesterday. Our ermine spot isn’t looking so pristine.

Snow lies deep in the Lamar Valley – a vast blanket of whiteness covers the valley floor. No tracks out there. North facing slopes are well covered too, but there are many barren areas on the south facing, wind swept slopes. We saw about 30 bison on the south facing slopes of the Lamar and maybe a dozen elk – that’s all in a valley that is about 15 miles long.

This Unita ground squirrel was sitting on a roadside snow bank in the Lamar. He is so thin! He is just beginning to dig a hole in the snow, I think so he’d have a place to hide right near some tiny peeks of green grass which are just beginning to show along the edge of the road. The asphalt gathers warmth and triggers the first grass.

I always feel a little sorry for Unita ground squirrels at this time of year. I think their internal clocks are out of sync. They disappear into hibernation in August, long before winter snow arrives. Now they are popping their heads out, looking about, and finding all too little to eat.
We continue east beyond the Lamar Valley. As we near Cooke City we are subjected to Yellowstone’s version of tunnel vision … can’t see over the piles of snow along the side of the highway. The little town has huge piles of snow and many roofs carrying what looks to be two feet of snow.
On the way back we stop to admire the snow covered crags above us.
It is hard to even imagine how so much snow can stick together and form the huge cornices. Their size comes into focus when I compare them to the trees growing lower on the slope. Tons and tons of snow are up there, waiting break off and come sliding down. I see a tiny spot on top of one of the cornices and realize it is something out of place. With my binocular it just looks like a speck of pepper, but with my spotting scope I can just barely make out the shape of an eagle. What a fabulous view he must have.

Its blustery and cold. Snow blows off the tops of the peaks and makes will-o-the-wisps hundreds of feet tall. At this elevation winter hasn’t loosened its grip.


  1. I'm glad you stopped by my blog; I followed you back here. Wonderful blog! I love your sketches, and your writing.

    I'll be back, often.

  2. Hi, Elva,
    The first painting is a masterpiece. The photos are so beautiful. A cute squirrel and the interesting post. Above all, what a TIMELY post for Australians! We're enjoying the cold weather.
    Cheers, Sadami

  3. Oh with the weather as hot as it has been this is a nice cool sight. Lovely drawing. at first I thought it was another photo. :)

  4. Have always loved Cooke City & follow their snow on the webcams. Have never been there in Winter, but the snow scenes make our 88º day seem a little cooler.

  5. Love the sketch....such incredible shots of the wind kicking the snow up—hard to believe that's going on while we're in the high 90's!

    Thanks for the trip!

  6. A beautiful painting Elva. Your photo of that snowy mountain top is awesome. Truly looks like winter.

  7. Brrrr! Looks cold. Fabulous painting capturing the snow. I like the photos too!