Lost Lake & Wildlife on Steroids II
- The super nice man from the Mammoth Medical Clinic who gave us the trail maps and lent the 🐻 spray.
- Aaaah yeah, of course that's what happens when you make something free and millions of people are in lock-down. Helloooo!!! What were they thinking???!
We woke up, and once again, it was snowing. Would our plans to snowshoe be derailed because of the weather? Luckily, it cleared in about an hour, so after buttoning up our moving home, we took off for the Blacktail Plateau Ski Trail.
The Blacktail trail is on the road to Tower. We wanted to check it out because John1 said it was a good one. The big parking lot, located right at the trailhead, was empty, which was fantastic since it was a Sunday. Hopefully this meant minimal numbers of people were in the park today / this weekend. The less number of people, the better, because maybe, just maybe, this will help keep the park open. Huge crowds have been descending on other National Parks2, to the point where they have to be shut down. People, stay away from Yellowstone, please!
As we approached the trailhead, something didn't look right. Oh no!!! The trail was closed so the bears can do their thing in Spring. We were very happy to stay away. Who wants to surprise a bear when it's waking up from hibernation?
Plan B: the Lost Lake Trail.
Lost Lake is a small lake that’s tucked in the forest behind the Roosevelt Lodge. In winter, it's frozen.
The Lost Lake Trail is a four-mile (6.4-km) route that has two entry points: one at Tower, and the other at the Petrified Tree Trailhead.
The trail passes by the Petrified Tree, Lost Lake, the Lost Creek waterfall, and Calcite Springs Overlook. Plan B sounds like a really good alternative.
We started at the Petrified Tree side. Parking was ample and easy because during winter, the only place to park is in the turnout across the highway. However, I'm sure any time outside of winter, it would be very difficult to find parking in the turnout. But... during the summer, you can actually drive to and park near the tree. Way too easy.
Once you get on the trail, you can see the highway. Shortly after getting started, we saw a bunch of cars stopped along the road. In Yellowstone, this always means there is wildlife nearby or actually on the road. We stopped and scanned the road and the snow-covered terrain on both sides of the highway.
Then we saw it: a large red fox on the other side of the road. Out came the binoculars, and we watched this magnificent, beautiful creature.
Despite being called red foxes, the fur on these animals is not always red; their coats can also be black, brown or silver. This fox had an orange / red coat, a fluffy, matching-colored tail, and a handsome face sporting a slim, long white snout. Its chest was also white, and like all red foxes, it had the distinctive black markings on all four legs that made it look like it was wearing socks or stockings. When it turned around, I could see the black markings on the tip of its ears. It was stunning.
By the way it was moving, it appeared to be injured. 😱 It would start and stop, almost limping, then put its head down as if it needed to rest. And then it suddenly pounced into the snow. It wasn't injured at all — it was stalking and hunting! It didn’t catch anything and kept on walking.
We needed to do the same.
We didn’t stop at the Petrified Tree on the way in, but we’d catch it on our way out.
The trail was beautiful and easy.
1der walked up an embankment to check the depth of the snow.
Near the lake, intersecting “our” trail at 90 degrees was a single-file bison trail.
It was so impressive to see how wide is their girth, how deep are their tracks, and how far apart are their legs. These beasts are humongous, and since we are (thankfully) never standing next to or in front of one, this was a way to get a perspective of just how gigantic they really are. Do the "Tourons" who approach them have any idea how huge they are??? Guess not.
I asked 1der to pretend he was a bison and play "Twister" inside their tracks. The point was to give reference to their size. He was also really interested, so he stepped inside.
"I couldn't believe how deep the tracks went. I don't know how they're able to plow through the snow while picking up their legs."
"The distance between their tracks is amazingly far. There is no way I was able to span the distance while on all-fours. And I could smell them. It smelled like musk."
We put the ski pole down as a reference point. The pole is 49" / 124 cm long. When looking at a bison, imagine more than 49" between their front and back legs. Then consider how much they weigh and how wide they are. Yikes.
We continued along towards the lake.
The ski and snowshoe tracks cut right through the lake, but at this late period in the season, we didn’t want to risk falling through melting ice, especially since we didn't know the lake's depth. We stayed on the side, and at times, cut some fresh tracks.
Now I know where someone got the idea for corn dogs. Do you know anyone who eats at Hot Dog On A Stick? Yuck!!!!
I was quite taken with how beautiful the hot-dog-on-a-stick became as it aged. The lighting and the way I shot this makes me zen-out when I look at it, especially up close.
As the day progressed, the wind picked up and it was getting really cold. We made it as far as the frozen waterfall and needed to turn around after eating a snack. On a whim, we turned on our phones to see if we had a signal. A most unexpected surprise!
Messages can flooding in, including cute pics of our friends Vino and Mark who live in Oakland. They went to a local park during the “Stay At Home” order to get some fresh air and exercise (all legal, BTW), and they wanted to know where we were and what we were doing.
I love taking and sending "Find Mario's Items in Luigi's Mansion" type images, so I sent this one and said "can you find 1der?" So easy to see him. I also relayed we had stopped for a snack.
Vino replied, “eating a snake? What kind of snake?” I thought this was hilarious. This is why you don’t text when your hands / fingers are freezing…
I snowshoe'd over to the nearby bridge to see the frozen 40-foot Lost Creek Waterfall.
The Falls were frozen.
It was time to turn back, and when we got to the Petrified Tree area, it was around 5pm. 1der didn’t want to snowshoe up the path to see it, so off I went, navigating the incline pocketed by deep bison prints and scatterings of their poop bombs. Not easy with snowshoes, especially when the path was uneven with steep sides, and, in some spots, narrow due to minimal snow coverage.
When I got to the tree, the only sound I could hear was the wind blowing through the surrounding trees. I got out my camera and started looking at / taking pictures of the petrified tree. It’s a travesty that in the past, people completely picked away at the two (closely situated) petrified trees for souvenirs, resulting in the existence of only one tree today. Luckily, there’s a iron bar enclosure to protect it.
Suddenly, something caught my eye, and I froze.
A small red fox was in the enclosure, sitting next to the tree!
This poor baby was stuck inside, and I figured that’s why it was so small. I was mortified, and I immediately starting thinking about how to notify the rangers ASAP so they could open the locked gate and let it out.
I was so captivated and worried, I could barely breathe. The fox, however, was calmly looking at me and not moving. We had lots of eye contact, and this, along with watching the wind gently flutter its beautiful red coat, calmed me down. Several minutes passed, and I felt like the Fox Whisperer. And then...
It got up, and squeezed right through the vertical bars.
I was so relieved.
As it walked behind the enclosure, I took three small steps to my left. It then moved to the same side, which gave me a straight, unobstructed view. I stood as still as possible and held my breath.
Then it started walking toward me and stopped about ten feet away. I didn’t move, except to zoom in and start recording. The fox saw / was aware of me the entire time, and it wasn’t fazed one bit.
After watching it for about a minute, I knew 1der would be concerned with how long I was gone, so I started to make my way back. Oh, how I wish he were with me and could experience this!
The fox turned and also started to walk in the same direction. Luckily, it was much further up the hill so I could keep a distance.
It kept moving parallel to me. I zoomed in all the way with my little point-n-shot camera, but I couldn't get a close-up. So I cropped this image (below), which luckily shows the exquisiteness of this creature.
Then it decided to mosey down the hill and cross my path. This utter beauty with black-tipped ears and "stockinged" legs was so calm in my presence and wasn’t afraid of me. I wasn’t afraid either, but I was being extremely cautious the entire time.
I immediately stopped and let it cross. At this point, I was able to make non-verbal contact with 1der and point out what I was seeing. He was able to see that the fox was now walking towards me, just on the other side of the path's fence. I stood still, frozen, except for my panning and zooming arm and camera, while my little red fox passed about 15 feet away from me. It stopped a few moments later and sat beside a tree.
I scurried down the rest of the path and was bursting with excitement. “Did. You. See. That???" I exclaimed while panting. “Thaaaat was incredible!”
1der was blown away by my account and the little bit of what he was able to witness.
As we continued down the trail, he pointed out the fox, which was still sitting by the same tree. It was just hanging out, as if we were part of the forest, which is exactly what we were at that moment in time.
The world is falling apart, and yet here we were, on a clear and cold night, standing outside to witness the spectacular display of stars and identify brilliant celestial formations.
What a glorious day. So much gratitude and thanks, for this is, indeed, living.
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