It wasn’t at our lake, and it wasn’t even in the Grand Tetons – but let me start at the beginning 🙂
Since today was a rest, recover, and reevaluate day for Kyleen and I, we decided to meet with both the GTNP and Yellowstone biologists to talk pine ecology. The GTNP ecologist (Kelly McCloskey) was tied up in meetings most of the day, and we couldn’t reach her the rest of the afternoon, but we left messages to set up a time for tomorrow.
We did meet with the Yellowstone biologist, Roy Rankin, who had quite a lot to discuss about white bark pine dynamics. Turns out that Yellowstone has a number of mid-elevation white bark populations, which are unusual since white bark is typically a high-elevation species. Roy has been tallying away ideas for research on these populations for the last 20-odd years he has worked at Yellowstone, and has been trying to garner interest in scientists to research it (he even rattled off numerous sources of funding that would likely be interested in such research), but so far had not been able to get anyone to start a project on these populations. Roy said “I just need to find some young, excited grad student who will do it for little to nothing.” Kyleen literally raised her hand and said “I’ll be that grad student!!”
Anyhow, after exchanging contact information, Roy pointed us to a near-by spot where he has frequently seen mid-elevation white bark pine trees. Lo, and behold – we found some!!!! We took copious pictures (and a tiny little sprig) for ID, and once back at the field station perused our own field books, those in the Berol Lodge library, Google Images, and the forest service field ID guides, and we can now confidently say that we have found the elusive white bark pine 😀
Of course, you can’t just drive ALL the way up to the biologist’s ranger station and drive ALL the way back out of Yellowstone without seeing ANY of the awesome things in the park 🙂 So, we stayed for one of Old Faithful’s eruptions (is that the word? ‘Spurt’ seems too unimpressive). We saw a handful of elk, and some bison, and a mountain goat waaaay up on one hillside. We saw Sulphur Cauldron, which actually smells worse than you might expect. My personal favorite was Dragon’s Mouth – a small cave that belches sulphurous smoke over a shallow pond, gasses inside the cave make deep growling sounds. I certainly would have thought a dragon lived there.
Once we got back to the field station, we stopped at the Berol Lodge for the art show. Several students from University of Wyoming had been out here a couple of days using the park as inspiration for a series of paintings. They were all fantastic, but I particularly enjoyed the one pictured in the gallery below. It’s watercolor on hand-made paper, and she used a smudging tool to add texture to the contours of the mountain. Absolutely beautiful!!