Travels in Greater Yellowstone: Yellowstone Lake, July

7:30 in the morning, July 12. The wind is picking up quickly. I put my kayak into the waters of Sedge Bay, Yellowstone Lake in Yellowstone National Park. It’s iffy but I get out a bit, into smoother waves. It’s tough to put on my spray skirt but I get it on while trying to remain mostly dry. After serious concentration, I look for Diane. She is still struggling close to shore. Fortunately, she decides that it’s too rough to put in. I’m glad, as had we both made it out then continued, we’d be in huge waves very soon, with cliffs that would preclude trying to land for safety. I head back in and get wet as I beach my kayak. OK. Time for plan B.

It is becoming a yearly ritual to kayak Yellowstone Lake in July. This year, Diane Renkin and I decided to go in from Sedge Bay. We chose a day when winds picked up early and waves grew exponentially. So, after our plan B drop at the Promontory, we spent the next days exploring and appreciating the Southeast Arm of Yellowstone Lake.

This lake is the largest lake above 7,000 feet in North America. The stats: 131.7 square miles, 141 miles of shoreline, deepest spot: ~410 feet, average depth 140 feet. It’s capacity is ~12,095,264 acre-feet of water, and its annual outflow is ~1,100,000 acre-feet. So, its flush rate is 8-10 years, meaning that all water is replaced every 8-10 years. You could consider Yellowstone Lake to be a wide spot in Yellowstone River, I suppose. The river starts south of the lake and park on the slopes of Younts Peak (which I hope to climb in early August–stay tuned!) and runs for 671 un-dammed miles to the Missouri River.

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Evening descends on the Southeast Arm.

Yellowstone Lake has many faces–one minute it can threaten and frighten with high waves and winds. The next moment it can be calm and soothing. As we hung out on the Promontory, the weather calmed and I spent some time in one of my favorite pursuits–nature journaling. With more room in my kayak than in a backpack, I was able to take my usual field water-color paints, pencils and a few pens. Journaling brings me home–home to the present. I think of Ram Dass’ saying:  Be Here Now.

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View north east from the Promontory, storms to the north.

Slowly, so slowly, the winds calmed as we sat and watched the weather. Rain fell to the north of us, but we remained dry. As we explored the site upon arrival, we saw what may have been a bear den. We did see digging and bear tracks on the point.

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Bear Tracks on the Promontory                  Digging on the edge of the Promontory.

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We hung food each night–I appreciate the bear poles in Yellowstone. Thanks, NPS!!

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An afternoon meander to a neighboring bay.

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6A2 campsite: this site included a lovely lagooon. We spent a few afternoons paddling, floating and looking. The bird-life at this site was surprising and we spent quite a bit of time looking, listening and identifying.

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Mariposa Lilies: We hiked the triangle loop from 6A2 to the South Arm. This year’s Mariposa Lilies, while beautiful, were a bit further along than last year’s perfect year. Flowers seem to be blooming earlier this year. Calochortus eurycarpus

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This was the year of the Fringed Gentian. Incredibly lovely fields and fields of blue purple. Gentianopsis thermalis

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Harebells were lovely. These flowers bloom into October. They are a welcome view along the trail in early autumn. Campanula rotundifolia

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This dragonfly seemed to enjoy the pink  strap on my kayak. It landed and spent  at least 5 minutes hanging out.

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The view from 6A2. I drew this on a cloudy day. The day we came into this site was alternately rainy and cloudy. Fortunately a short paddle day.

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