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An afternoon hike in April

The snows are melting, early, and we don’t seem to be getting our usual spring wet dump of moisture.  These spring snows are what the eastern side of the Absarokas depend upon for their real moisture.  The winter snows are dry, while these spring snows put a lot of moisture into the ground.  But the high country still has snow and the rivers aren’t running much yet, so that means the elk are still hanging around.

The other day I took an easy hike up beyond a ridge.  On the way I spied a herd of over 500 elk, fattening up on new grass getting ready to drop their babies in the next few weeks.

Down below a moose and her yearling passed by.

This pond usually has Sandhill Cranes but not today.  I’ve heard them a few times and seen them flying.  Today only Mallards were enjoying the reflection of the snowy peaks.

One of the most interesting features in my valley is old volcanic sulphur deposits.  From my limited understanding of geology, the Absarokas were formed by active volcanism from 53 to 38 million years ago.  The Absaroka volcanics are more than a mile thick, and this volcanic activity is not related to the Yellowstone hot spot which is much more recent.  (Yellowstone’s first eruption occurred only 2 million years ago.)

There are several interesting sulphur deposits, but my favorite has a little creek associated with it.  During the spring, the creek crosses the road, the water turning a cerulean blue.  As you climb towards the area with the deposits, the creek turns milky white and smells distinctly sulphurish.  Unfortunately, the water is as cold as the snow melt that supplies the creek.

Sulphur deposits. Nothing growing

At the deposit area, there’s no greenery on the hillside, and the few hearty trees growing there are stunted.  The hillside also shows evidence of a massive slide in the past.

On this hike I spied something I’d never seen before. Not that they weren’t maybe there before, but there were these unusual ‘lumps’ of raised sulphur (I have no idea what the technical term is).  When the snow recedes some, I’ll climb the hill and inspect them better.  Could they be evidence of something active happening underneath?  I keep hoping for a warm creek to swim in.

Volcanic mounds. Are these evidence of new activity?

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