Saturday, April 2, 2011

Unburying Yellowstone

It felt surreal, as if I had imagined the last 4 months. Snowmobiling, shoveling and the warming hut all a distant memory. I was walking on pavement in Grant Village. No gloves, no hat, my jacket wide open; the sun shining brightly on my warm skin. It's hard to describe the subtle changes that happen when Spring arrives, yet it's unmistakable. The temperature was still only 38'F yet the air felt warm with that undeniable tinge of Spring dampness. The air even smelled different- sweet, like the Glacier Lilies that will soon resurrect from the frozen ground.

All through the night on March 29th the winds howled. The tall Lodgepole Pines swayed back and forth in the wind with such intensity that I feared they would topple over. Another winter storm advisory was in effect but much to my dismay the following morning, there was only 2 inches of new snow...a far cry from the 8 inches that was predicted. The winds continued to howl all through the day sending a clear and distinct message to the residents of Grant Village that something big was about to happen. And then it became clear what the wind was trying to tell us. At 4:30 pm, in a perfectly serendipitous moment, both the Yellowstone Snow Removal Crew and Spring had finally arrived. 

Running outside from my dark boarded up office, I happily watched as several types of heavy machinery made their way up the road. I frantically snapped pictures as they turned into the housing area. I looked at my watch and decided that there was no way I could resume my tedious computer work and miss the action! I ran back inside, sent off a quick email to my boss to share the exciting news and ran back outside. Keeping a safe distance I watched the crew for the next 30 minutes waving to each of the drivers as they passed me by. I ran to my neighbors house to inform her of the excitement and together we walked our dogs and explored our new surroundings!

The next three days were filled with both excitement and torture. I was thrilled to know that the snow removal crew had created a one lane road from Lake to Grant Village, however, due to potential danger and the fact that I had no accessible vehicle, I was not able to drive the road. And so I was stuck. I wanted more than anything to head North to the Hayden Valley so that I could see with my own eyes the giant snow walls standing 45 to 60 inches tall, that the crew had created. I wanted to look for Bears that were surely awake by now and roaming through the great expansive valley in search of a bison carcass to feast upon. I wanted to witness the first moments of Spring, as the snow melt funneled into the Yellowstone River. But alas, I had to accept that all good things come to those who wait.

I switched my attention to the good work being done by the citizens of Grant Village. Although it wasn't the Hayden Valley, I was surprised to see that Grant Village had a wonderful series of 6 foot snow tunnels that had been carved through the snow pack. The roads had been cleared and my dog, Alice, continued to sniff the pavement in obvious confusion. Evidently she must have decided that she is a "Yellowstone Snow Dog" because she jumped and scampered up the six foot wall and we continued our afternoon walk with me on solid ground and her, up high, in the snow!

The Grant Village Maintenance team worked diligently over the next few days cleaning up the mess that winter had left behind. Snow was plowed into giant hills and houses that were buried suddenly sprung from the Earth like blades of tall grasses.  A variety of heavy machinery blasted through the soundscape without end from 8am to 6pm. The sun lent a helping hand melting away one snowflake at a time until finally giant slabs of snow fell from the rooftops exposing the shiny metal roofs. All around Spring was taking over in every size, shape and form; winter was officially over!

1 comment:

  1. I had a winterkeeper friend who said he ran out and starting yelling, "Free at last, free at last, thank God Almighty, we're free at last!"