Our last day brought mixed emotions; sadness to leave Yellowstone and the excitement and enthusiasm of sharing our experience, inspiration, and all that we had learned.
Over the course of the trip, we learned and discovered so much! We honed our observation skills throughout the trip. Our list of wildlife sightings increased daily to include: bison, elk, gray wolves, coyotes, moose, ermine (weasels in their winter-white pelage), red fox, bighorn sheep, mountain goats, red squirrels, mule deer, pronghorn, the tracks of snowshoe hares, white-tailed jackrabbits, and pine martens, as well as golden eagles, bald eagles, ravens, magpies, American dippers, mallard, ring-necked and goldeneye ducks, Canada geese, trumpeter swans, gray and Stellar’s jays, hairy woodpeckers, and even the rarely seen black-backed woodpecker! We saw, experienced, and learned about, with many of our senses, the four types of thermal features found in Yellowstone: geysers, fumeroles, hot springs, and mudpots, as well as other geological features like the rhyolite Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone and the travertine terraces of Mammoth Hot Springs. We layered-up our clothing every day and courageously braved the cold and snow. We hiked in snowshoes, traversed icy boardwalks, rode in snow coaches, and drove snow-plowed roads. In our treasured moments of silence, we absorbed Yellowstone, taking it all in — all of its splendor, all of its beauty, and the expansive overwhelming grandeur of this incredible, special place.
Prior to our mid-day departure today, we embarked upon our final Yellowstone sunrise walk along the boardwalks of Mammoth Hot Springs. There, Ranger Beth explained the formation of these dynamic, ever-changing travertine terraces. This travertine rock has a unique and interesting biological component — bacteria — during its formation, resulting in coral-like characteristics. The bacteria Thermodesulfovibrio yellowstonii and others like it are responsible for the mixture of rusty, orange, and creamy hues that, coupled with the stair-step terraces, result in the majesty and lure of Mammoth Hot Springs.
As we begin our journey home now, we all bring with us a little piece of Yellowstone in our hearts and minds. Perhaps each of us have grown and are changed for the better because of this experience. And although we cannot return to our daily lives bringing all of our experiences with us, perhaps we can tap into and keep 10% within ourselves always, that we can bring back and share with others, as our snow coach guide and naturalist, Wim, described so eloquently. Forever will we treasure this experience and share it with those around us — our students, our families, our coworkers and friends — our appreciation for the nature that can be found all around us and its infinite beauty.
By the Hot Springs team: Linda S, Danny, and Kevin