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Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Yellowstone & Grand Tetons: Natures Pyromaniac

I visited Yellowstone in the summer of 1989 when I was 11 years old with my parents. Of course I have a terrible memory sometimes and sadly I didn’t remember much about this particular trip to Yellowstone. When I questioned my mother and kept bringing up camping trips I remembered I was always off.

Me: “Oh is that the park where we pet the deer”

Mom: “NO that was Flaming Gorge.”

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Me: “OOOOO then is that the one where I am sitting on a rock eating my lunch and I remember a photo of me holding up a glass”

Side note: I love that I can make the above comment and my mother knows immediately what I am saying even though I am being completely vague.

Mom: “NO” she giggles “That is the Garden of the Gods”

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Me: “HUMMMM was that when we were riding in the stagecoach.”

Mom: “No” she gasps “That was at the St Louis Arch”

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Of course I was referencing old family photos because I am a visual thinker and all. I sighed and gave up the questioning for now and hoped that getting to Yellowstone would trigger the memories.

When I finally got to Yellowstone the memories started coming back... the trigger for me was the smell of Yellowstone. That rotten egg, the geysers are spewing kind of sulphur smell that I am sure is uniquely Yellowstone. And I remembered the dead burned trees with the swirling smoke from the geysers. I again felt the chill of that landscape, it looks damned, a scene straight out of a horror film for sure.

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LOOKED LIKE A HAUNTED FOREST FOR SURE

Fire is an important part of nature, I knew that when I started this trip. However what I didn’t know is that fires are so important in Yellowstone that many of the plant species can’t ever reproduce without it. The lodgepole pines for instance, which makes up 80% of the parks forests, have cones that are sealed by a unique resin that can only be cracked to release its seeds with the intense heat of forest fires.

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A MORE RECENT FIRE AT THE PARK LEAVES THE EARTH LOOKING LIKE A NASTY SCAR

If trees require fire to release their seeds then clearly it was intended to be a part of forest life.

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YOU CAN SEE THE OLD BURNED POLES OF THE TRESS THAT WERE KILLED IN THE FIRE BUT THE NEW GENERATION OF TREES ARE GROWING STRONG AND ABOUT SHOULDER HIGH

Though the land may look battered and scared above ground the root systems below ground usually remain unharmed and after a few years these plants will increase its number growing again to fill the forest full of new life.

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For years after the discovery in the 1940s that fire was necessary for forest health everything was fantastic. Forest fires that were started naturally were allowed to burn until they extinguished naturally. Most of the time fires burned themselves out after less than 100 acres were burned however no one was prepared for the summer of 1988.

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The summer was the driest on record to date and the fires burned from July to November. A total of 248 fires burned that summer and about 1.2 million acres were burned to the ground which was 36% of the park.

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A SIGN STANDS IN PART OF THE PARK AS A MEMORIAL TO THAT GREAT FIRE

Everyone that has seen the Lion King knows that death is part of the circle of life but just because it’s a reality does not mean I have to like it.

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2 comments:

paul peggy zeus said...

Oops, we did pet the dear at Flaming Gorge also, but that first shot was actually in Tennessee, right after we visited Uncle Omer in Alabama. JP was a baby and this deer came right up to our camp wanting to share our pancakes! lol. I put JP in the car seat and watched as you and Kevin pet this deer. :)

lilmansworld said...

i LOVE that last photo. I would frame it in my house!

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