2018 Annual Symposium Excursions Mid-week Excursions (opening June 7, 2018)

A selection of one-day mid-week excursions will be provided to local grasslands, forests, and cultural/historic sites on Wednesday July 25, with costs included in registration. 

Selection of Mid-week Excursions will open at 9:00 AM (US Mountain Daylight Time, UTC-6) on Thursday, June 7, 2018. You must be registered for the symposium in order to select your excursion preferences. All registered people were e-mailed about this on June 4. If you are coming to the symposium and have not yet registered, please do so soon. Registration closes on June 25, 2018.
 

Mid-Week Excursion Descriptions

Excursion 1: Gardiner and North Yellowstone

We will leave early Wednesday to travel up the Paradise Valley to Gardiner, Montana, and enter Yellowstone National Park through the Northern Gate at Gardiner.  We'll travel a short distance to Mammoth Hot Springs and Terraces to see vegetation on thermally-altered soil.  Common species include Puccinellia nuttalliana, Panicum occidentale, and Danthonia spicata among other unusual species.  We'll then head into the Lamar Valley to see sagebrush/bunchgrass steppe.  Typical species include Artemisia tridentata, Festuca idahoensis, Koeleria cristata, Pseudoroegneria spicata, Chrysothamnus viscidiflorus, Artemisia frigida, and Geum triflorum.  We'll go over Dunraven Pass and view high elevation meadows of Helianthella and Castilleja.  Once we arrive at Cascade Meadows we'll hike inland along wet meadows of Carex and Castilleja among many other species at the peak of the season. This excursion involves more hiking than Excursion 2. Due to the travel time, it will leave very early in the morning and return later in the evening.  If you are participating in pre-symposium excursion B or post-symposium excursion C, you should NOT select this mid-week excursion, as it duplicates sites already visited on excursions B and C.


Excursion 2: West Yellowstone

We will leave early on Wednesday and head up the beautiful Gallatin Valley to West Yellowstone, Montana.  We’ll enter Yellowstone National Park at the West Yellowstone Gate and travel first to Biscuit Basin.  From Biscuit Basin we'll hike (or take the bus if you prefer) through Pinus contorta forests to Old Faithful, and visit the thermally-altered vegetation in the vicinity of the famous geyser.  We'll then return down the Gallatin Valley stopping to see the famous forest fires of 1988 and 2016 and the verdant vegetation that has arisen since the fires. This excursion involves less hiking than Excursion 1. Due to the travel time, it will leave very early in the morning and return later in the evening. If you are participating in pre-symposium excursion B or post-symposium excursion C, you should NOT select this mid-week excursion, as it duplicates sites already visited on excursions B and C.


Excursion 3: Lone Peak

We will take a short drive up the beautiful Gallatin Valley to Big Sky, Montana.  At the Big Sky Resort, we will take the high-speed tram to the top of Lone Peak (~3400 m, the highest accessible peak in Montana), and hike down the mountain to the base camp.  The upper peak is primarily rock glacier, transitioning to Pinus albicaulis woodlands, Picea engelmannii/Abies lasiocarpa forests, and high elevation meadows.  NOTE:  This is a rigorous hike, requiring suitable boots and field gear, and will take place primarily from 2300 to 3400 m elevation. You should be fit if you select this excursion. If you are participating in pre-symposium excursion B, you should NOT select this mid-week excursion, as it duplicates sites already visited on excursion B.


Excursion 4: Blackmore Peak, Gallatin Mountain Range

This excursion will follow the locally popular Mount Blackmore Trail, beginning at Hyalite Reservoir in Hyalite Canyon, the trail parallels a creek past a high-elevation lake to Blackmore Peak. Along the way you will pass through subalpine fir forest (Abies lasiocarpa) before reaching scenic meadows of Mertensia alpina, Mertensia oblongifolia, Mimulus guttatus, Pedicularis cystopteridifolia, Pedicularis racemosa, and Thlaspi montanum. Members of Ericaceae can also be admired including Kalmia microphylla, Cassiope mertensiana, Phyllodoce empetriformis, and Phyllodoce glanduliflora. The full trip is approximately 17 kilometers, and gets steep at the end (total gain ~1100 m). Because the trip is out-and-back, those wishing a less strenuous experience can wait in the meadows below the peak for the intrepid to return, but you should still be prepared for high elevation (thin air) and be a good hiker.


Excursion 5: Madison Buffalo Jump/Missouri River Headwaters State Park

Madison Buffalo Jump is west of Bozeman above the Madison River, and is a famous limestone grassland with a cliff where Native Americans used to drive Bison over the cliff to slaughter.  It has many of the iconic grassland species of the regional prairies and steppe, including Artemisia tridentata, Pseudoroegneria spicata, Stipa comata, Festuca idahoensis, Sphaeralcea coccinea, and odd specialties like Yucca glauca.  Missouri River Headwaters State Park is lower and somewhat drier, with Bouteloua gracilis grasslands and some saline vegetation, and is a famous rendezvous point for the Lewis and Clark Expedition that first explored the western US.  We will be late in the season for these vegetation types, but it offers one of the better and more accessible grasslands to Bozeman.  This excursion avoids the higher elevations typical of some of the other excursions (generally stays below 1400 m) and is less rigorous and demanding than some of the other excursions.


Excursion 6: Bangtail Mountains

The Bangtail Mountains are just northeast of Bozeman, and feature lower-mid elevation mixed conifer forests and some of the best Fescue (Festuca) grasslands accessible from Bozeman.  In addition, it is home to a long-term study on snow augmentation and soil disturbance.  This trip will require approximately 10 km of hiking on relatively level ground at moderate elevation (mostly < 2000 m).


Excursion 7: Beehive Basin

Beehive Basin is a glacial cirque in the Madison Mountain Range near Big Sky, Montana.  It features variable physiognomy with subalpine meadows, high elevation forests, bogs, and a lake.  The trail is out-and-back, about 10 km, starting at about 2400 m with a net gain of about 450 m. Beehive Basin is famous as one of the all-time great hikes in Montana, and the phenology should be just about right in the species-rich meadows.


Excursion 8: Yellowstone Northern Range

The Yellowstone Northern Range is just north of Yellowstone National Park proper. The excursion will visit Northern Cool Desert shrub and Saline shrub communities commingled with bluebunch wheatgrass (Pseudoroegneria spicata)/Idaho fescue (Festuca idahoensis) grasslands.  These communities are unique because they exist within a high elevation rain shadow landscape that only receives 200 - 250 mm of precipitation.  We will focus on vegetation community stability under winter grazing by large numbers of bison, elk, mule deer and pronghorn antelope since the early 20th Century.


Excursion 9: Museum of the Rockies (Morning)

The Museum of the Rockies (MOR) is a world-class museum affiliated with Montana State University. It has fabulous exhibits on dinosaurs from North America, western American history, and will have a traveling exhibit on the history and significance of guitars.  This excursion is a half day, and can be done in the morning or afternoon.


Excursion 10: Museum of the Rockies (Afternoon)

The Museum of the Rockies (MOR) is a world-class museum affiliated with Montana State University. It has fabulous exhibits on dinosaurs from North America, western American history, and will have a traveling exhibit on the history and significance of guitars.  This excursion is a half day, and can be done in the morning or afternoon.

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