Saturday, May 31, 2014

Yellowstone National Park Geothermal Features

I have had the good fortune to visit Yellowstone National Park on more than one occasion.  I had a roommate who made an annual pilgrimage to the Park on the final weekend it was open, before the winter closure takes effect.  The crisp autumn air accentuates the steaming geothermal features.  Elk bugle and lock horns in their dominance displays.  It is not so crowded at the end of the season.

In addition to geysers, there are mud pots that bubble and roil like a pot of boiling water.  Every so often a big wad of mud is hurled into the air and I dubbed those "mud frogs."

By first light, every small fumarole stands tall and magnificent.

These stark tree trunks are the remains of trees killed as the hotspot evolves and moves.  Geothermal systems are not static, and when there is an earthquake some geothermal features disappear and new ones appear at the ground surface.  The sentinels stand with their roots in hot mineral water and the trunk act as a wick, drawing the minerals into the wood.  If you ever wondered about the origins of petrified wood, you're seeing it being created here.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Central City, Colorado

I worked during two summers, my junior and senior year of college, in Central City, Colorado.  I was head usher at the Central City Opera House, the second-oldest opera house in the United States.  After the season ended I remained on to serve as a tour guide in the Teller House Hotel, known in its day as the finest accommodations between St. Louis and San Franciso.  President U.S. Grant stayed there.  OK, so he slept off the results of a drinking binge.  He certainly did lie down on a bed for a while.

The City of Central is home to the "Richest Square Mile on Earth."  By which it is meant that more precious metal was extracted from that square mile than anywhere else.  It was rich in gold and silver, and was even the source of the yellowcake Madame Curie used to do her experiments on radioactivity.

The entire town is a National Historic District.

Jack Kerouac visited and wrote about his experience in On the Road.  Bob Dylan performed there, and was booed off the stage.  Gambling was legal, then it was not, and now it is once again.  It's like going to Disneyland with bars.  Lots of bars.  I was too young to drink, so the bars did not impress me one way or another.

At 8,500 feet elevation, and a short walk to a stunning view of the Continental Divide, this was an idyllic place to work for the summer.  The photo below is the view from Longs Peak.  Longs Peak is the most-climbed of Colorado's 14,000 foot peaks, and I did climb it with my friends.

I climbed James Peak a couple of times.  James Peak is over 13,000 feet in elevation and the tiny alpine wildflowers, like this Alpine Spring Beauty reward the effort.

Claytonia megarhiza

Sunday, May 11, 2014


Here are some wildflowers I have seen and photographed.  When I went to college, I believed I wanted to be an interpretive naturalist working in the National Park system.  It seemed a very fun thing to do, based on my experience as the recipient of the guided walks given by naturalists.  I even worked in Acadia National Park one summer, employed by the Department of Interior, National Park Service.  It was a lot of fun.

When I attended college I studied Plant Ecology, Plant Natural History, Coastal Plant Ecology (a graduate level course with Dr. Paul S. Godfrey), and Ecology (with Dr. Lincoln P. Brower, the Monarch Butterfly researcher).  I was also interested in photography, and photographed wildflowers as I chanced upon them.  Because of the science interest, I tried to identify the Latin names of the plants I photographed.  Feel free to correct me if any of these are not accurate.

Arisaema triphyllum
Jack in the Pulpit
In the Massachusetts woods

Cornus canadensis
On the coast of Maine

Beach Pea
On the coast of Maine

North Carolina


Shooting Star

Gilia aggregata
Scarlet Gilia

Allium acuminatum
Wild Onion


Round-lobed Hepatica
Massachusetts woods

Polygala paucifolia

Polygala paucifolia

Uvularia perfoliata
Perfoliate Bellwort
Massachusetts woods

Houstonia caerulea

This is one reason I did not want to mow the lawn in Maine.

Hieracium aurantiacum
Orange Hawkweed

Mimulus nanus
Dwarf Lewis' Monkeyflower
Craters of the Moon National Monument, Idaho

Cypripedium calceolus
Yellow Lady Slipper

Trillium ovatum
Olympic National Park, Washington

Trillium erectum
Massachusetts woods

Calypso bulbosa
Calypso Orchid
Olympic National Park, Washington

Calypso bulbosa
Calypso Orchid
Olympic National Park, Washington