I'm a tourist sucker--usually I don't take pictures of wildlife, but these baby buffalo were so tiny and so cute!
Yellowstone was distinctly different than Glacier: full of tourists who stopped at every bend in the road to take pictures of any wildlife (we saw bald eagles, buffalo, and antelope); schedules of Old Faithful eruptions and t-shirt sales filled the conversation of the people waiting outside the Lodge; and the rugged, harsh landscape marked decisively by the fires of 1988 triggered a lot of reflection.
You could see charred, blackened timber everywhere, blending in with the white alkaline areas of sulfur and steamy geysers. I loved seeing the fresh new growth, and reading about it in the handy National Park Service newsletter made all the difference. Did you know:
- The fires didn't really stop until September brought rains and snow
- Lodgepole pine and aspen adapt to fire
- Following the 1988 fire, aspen reproduction actually increased because the fire stimulated the underground root system and left behind bare minimum soil, which provides good conditions for aspen seedlings
- Ash is rich in minerals, and stimulated the growth of abundant wild flowers, especially because the mature overhead trees had prevented the sun from reaching the forest floor
- Plants started growing back almost immediately--new lodgepole pines are everywhere
- The new vegetation and growth has prevented erosion that was wearing away some of the water tables
- Elk found more nutritious grass after the fire, and bears were not really affected by the fire