John Swincinski

Getting to Grebe Lake
43 x 34 in
During a series of fires in 1988, over one third of Yellowstone National Park burned. Since then, the forest in many areas has been transforming into a strange interwoven mat of downed lodgepole pines, where younger trees rise up through a matchstick laid carpet of dry dead wood. As you traverse these areas, you begin to notice the many giant logs that had to be sawed right through in order to restore the hiking trails. These severed timbers give us a gift - the ability to touch history. At the innermost very center of the logs, we are able to experience growth rings that in some cases came into existence hundreds of years ago.

One such area can be found along the Howard-Eaton trail as you approach Grebe Lake. Grebe Lake, like the logs, is window into history. It is home to the Arctic Grayling, an elusive fish rarely found in the lower-48. Grebe lake is one of the few remaining places where one has a hope of catching and releasing one. The grayling was introduced into Grebe Lake in 1921, and in the 30s and 40s grayling eggs from there were used to populate stocks in other parts of the country. Most lake dwelling grayling in the west today can be genetically traced to the Grebe Lake stocks. Grebe Lake is the center of the western grayling’s growth rings.

As I stood on the shoreline looking out across the water of this beautiful backcountry alpine lake, I observed the repeated piercing of the calm surface by feeding fish. The ripples generated the same concentric pattern as the growth rings of the trees – indicating the same passage of time, but on a much faster scale. And I was reminded, that in nature, everything is connected.