yellowstone national park

Yellowstone: Crawfish Creek

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Read on…your burning questions regarding Mississippi Mud Bugs in Yellowstone are about to be answered!

Although I enjoy crawdads (or crayfish to us northeasterners), I do NOT enjoy Crawfish Creek. Remember the fire swamp in The Princess Bride? It’s just like that. It’s fun to watch in a movie but not fun to experience in real life. One minute you’re tromping through the forest and the next you’re being swallowed whole by thermal, mucky quicksand. For a few minutes I was sure that I sprained my ankle and I had no idea how I was going to be able to walk to the car through several miles of dense, uneven forest rife with ankle-breakers and non-stop stream crossings thrown in there for good measure. That’s my worst nightmare scenario. We took a break for a few minutes and luckily once the pain subsided I decided that it could bear weight. Sometimes I think that humans are built so inefficiently. I mean, ankles are just silly. Why? All they do is strain and sprain, twist and break.

So although the sites and the hike were hellish, one good thing came out of it. Just as my field partner and I were wondering if crayfish inhabit the cool, high altitude streams of Yellowstone, I looked down and there was my answer. It was at my feet, right there on dry land. Another critter must have plucked it out of the water and left it for some reason (the reason being to answer my question, of course). That’s the beautiful blue Mississippi Mud Bug you see in the picture above. I love it when the world cuts the crap for a second and answers a question in a very clear, concise and unexpected way. I wish that would happen more often.

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My field partner trying to figure out how she’s going to get across the stream. I just plow right through.
Travel, yellowstone national park

Yellowstone: July 2nd, 2013

It’s hard to tell but this creature is rubbing him/herself against a tiny metal rod.

Crawfish Creek (I like to call it Mississippi Mud Bug Creek) was another brutal experience. The four mile/ two-hour hike to our wetlands was a nightmare filled with boggy surprises, seeps that will swallow your limbs, thermal areas, stream crossings, hoards of hungry biting flies, blood thirsty mosquitoes, steep mountains, intense heat, huge swaths of downed old-growth trees, dense forest with spider webs in the face, etc… By the time we got to our first site, our shoes, socks and pants were completely waterlogged and mud-soaked from experiencing the entire array of the ways one could get sucked into the muddy center of the earth. The wetlands–at least the ones that weren’t dried up–were nice to survey. Thankfully, most were large ponds or wet meadows that were easy to navigate. There’s nothing I hate more than a large, untrustworthy wet meadow (ex. Tanager Lake) but give me a small one with a few little pools in it and I‘m as happy as a pig in mud. We caught a lot of chorus frog tadpoles and a few spotted frog tads (which were enormous). Once again, Andrew made the most of it and was hugely entertaining. Most of the time we bonded over guns, gun rights, gun legislation, self-defense, violence in society, etc… We also talked about our favorite actors from Bruce Campbell to Anthony Hopkins to Daniel Day Lewis and Tarantino movies. I had my suspicions before but this catchment made me realize that Andrew does not think of me as a girl and I love it. Most of the time we talk about guitars, cigars, guns and politics…all the things I enjoy but no one usually talks about with me. It’s totally refreshing and I’m going to miss it. The walk out went a little quicker but the biting flies were unbearable. The field notes from previous years said to don head nets because of the flies but neither of us were that prepared. They wouldn’t have made much of a difference though. The flies attacked the entire body regardless of clothing or nets. They were an unstoppable force of pain. I could even hear them chuckling at our attempts to deter them with bug spray. They bit my stomach, through my shirt, and intensely focused their attack on my hands. By the time we got back to the car, our hands were completely chewed up and swollen and my welted stomach hurt for several days after.

Still rubbing…
The young ones are tentative about crossing.
They own the park and they know it.
Take your time…no one’s waiting.