"There is nothing so American as our national parks. The scenery and wildlife are native. The fundamental idea behind the parks is native. It is, in brief, that the country belongs to the people, that it is in process of making for the enrichment of the lives of all of us. The parks stand as the outward symbol of this great human principle." Franklin D. Roosevelt

Monday, February 20, 2012


My First Bison Jam of 2012

Bison on Floating Island Lake
Ram in Lamar Valley

My lack of postings is directly related to my jet-setting lifestyle.  Yes, since my last posting I have once again flown.  On February 10 Patrick and I flew to Las Vegas for a long weekend.  I am not much of a gambler (When I was 19 lost my laundry money in a poker game) but Las Vegas is thrilling none the less.  And while we were gone Yellowstone got snow.  And it was enough snow to crystallize on my windshield causing my right arm and my window scraper a good a workout when I got back.

Life is very different in Yellowstone during the winter.  Driving is limited.  One can drive to Cooke City but needs to backtrack since the road closes for the winter just past there.  There is only one way out and that is to the north.  Bozeman becomes a winter's day destination.  A mere 1 1/2 hours from Yellowstone lies shopping!  And Patrick and I have become Cosconites. Neither one of us cannot go to Bozeman without a trip into Costco where we can engorge our shopping appetites with massive blocks of cheese, huge cans of tomato sauce and  mighty cans of coffee.  We are hooked.  And every shopping trip there ends with me slurping on a berry slushy.

On the Blacktail Plateau
And so lately I have been following the temptations of civilization and not following the road to Lamar Valley.  But this past weekend I found myself Las Vegased, Costcoed and New Yorked out.  I followed that road to Lamar Valley and I was not disappointed.  Sunday morning I packed my camera, some Mt. Dew and my CD collection and followed the pavement that I have been following for the past couple of years. 

It had snowed the previous evening and there were zig zags of footprints in the snow.  I found a group of bison on Floating Island Lake playing a game of Follow the Leader.  Each bison was carefully stepping in the footprints of the leading bison.  My biggest excitement was seeing wolves in Lamar Valley.  There was a carcass that they had been feasting on.  One lone coyote watched them from the distance while one of the wolves leaped and pounced at the numerous ravens that were congregating on the carcass.  The pull-outs were lined with numerous guests with cameras and scopes.  I only managed to shove my camera out my window as I drove by.

Wolves with Carcass in Lamar Valley
Sunday was my wolf day.  From the moment I awoke in the morning until deep in the afternoon wolves were howling in the Mammoth area.  I love hearing them.

So I went back to my Yellowstone roots:  I spent the day watching the wildlife on my drive to Lamar Valley.  Then what did I do?  I did my taxes and watched Celebrity Apprentice.  

Sunday, January 8, 2012

New York City: Season 2

After spending Christmas in Yellowstone Patrick and I once again went to New York to visit his family for the New Year.  But getting there was an adventure in itself.  I mentioned in a previous post that I have suffered from a flying phobia.  I am not talking about being merely uncomfortable and nervous on airplanes but a full-blown, panic attack phobia.  Over 10 years ago I spent an intense weekend in a fear of flying seminar where the climax was a round-trip flight.  I only finished half the flight and refused to board the plane for my return flight.  I had been absolutely petrified by the experience.  But in these past few years I have conquered many fears and have proved  to myself that I am capable of much more than I thought I could so I felt I was prepared to meet this fear head-on.  

Our flight included flying from Bozeman to Denver and then Denver to Newark.  I boarded the plane in Bozeman and immediately after takeoff I found that I might not be as strong as I had previously suspected I was.  I was i immediately terrified and that fear was compounded by the fact that we were experiencing quite a bit of turbulence.  We experienced more turbulence coming into Denver.  After spending some time shaking and a few tears I was faced with an important decision:  to board the next plane to Newark or stay on the ground.  So much was riding on my decision and Patrick was more than understanding, though a bit concerned as to what I would decide.  Would his future include a rented car and an incredibly long drive to New York?  No it would not.  I decided I needed to be strong and board the next plane.  And I did.  And I am grateful that I didn't let my fear hold me back.

Once we were on the ground in Newark I triumphantly marched through the airport to pick up our luggage.  Patrick got his luggage off the carousel and the we waited patiently for my luggage.  And we waited......and waited.....and waited.  Soon we were all alone watching two pieces of luggage taking a ride around the carousel.  Unfortunately neither one was mine.  Yup, my luggage was lost.  We filled out the paperwork and I left for my New York adventure with only the clothes on my back, my make-up case that was on my carry-on (minus my toothpaste which was confiscated in Bozeman) and a suduko book.  I would eventually be reunited with my suitcase but not for another five days.
We spent an evening with his sisters, Ann and Dorothy, at the Radio City Music Hall watching the famous Christmas program and the famous Rockettes.  Afterwards we had a wonderful meal at Ted's Montana Grill (I have also been to the one in Bozeman).  With all the bison pictures on the wall I would never had guessed I was in the middle of New York City and not in Montana.
St. Patrick's Cathedral

Belvadere Castle in Central Park

New York City Library

The Birthplace of Theodore Roosevelt

Patrick and the Metropolitan Museum of Art

New York City skyline from the Staten Island Ferry
Patrick and I walked over four miles in New York City seeing the sites, which included Theodore Roosevelt's birthplace, the Dakota, a walk through Central Park, the New York City Library, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Central Park Zoo, and the sights, sounds and smells of the New York subway system.  We even spent two days in Atlantic City with his sister Ann.  I am a cautious gambler so I decided to start out spending five dollars which soon became a twenty dollar win and I cashed out and spent the rest of the night watching Ann and Patrick gamble and spent some time people watching before we settled into our rooms at the Hurrah Casino. Then it was time for a trip to the outlet mall to browse through the Eddie Bauer and Columbia stores.  I love Atlantic City.
Dinner with the family

Patrick and Robyn at Caesar's Palace in Atlantic City
I am definitely a small-town, wilderness type of gal but I am totally entranced by New York City.  I love wandering the streets and seeing all the great sites and seeing the city culture.  I have already started my list of things to see on my next visit there.  Patrick and I have even planned our next adventure:  a trip to Las Vegas in February.  And how will we be getting there?  I will be flying.  No fear will hold me back.  I am New York strong!  I am Yellowstone strong!

I wanted to take a moment to send out a big Yellowstone Hello to George and Rosa!  I hope to meet you soon!

Christmas in Yellowstone

Robyn, Courtney and Benjamin wearing our Christmas hats in Lamar Valley.
 I am just coming down from two manic weeks of holiday celebrations.  Two of my three children came to Yellowstone for some festive Yellowstone Christmas cheer.  We had been planning their visit for a couple of months.  I had made reservations to snowmobile from Mammoth to Old Faithful on Christmas Day but with a lack of snow the trip was cancelled but we found plenty to do in the rest of the Park.
 We took a small hike to the Boiling River.  Benjamin was the only one who decided to take a dip in the steamy water.
Patrick and Courtney

Courtney mugging for the camera.  Notice the snowball that her brother launched at her.

A snowball payback for Benjamin, compliments of his sister.
We took in the sites of Mammoth by talking a walk through the area.  We also watched a movie at the Visitor Center and had a Christmas night meal at the Mammoth Dining Room.  Christmas in Yellowstone is a wonderful experience.......especially when it is shared with the ones you love!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Face of Yellowstone

After numerous people asking if I've fallen off the face of Yellowstone I thought I better update my blog.  Yellowstone has become what I would consider a 'life reality'.  I live here, work here and socialize here.  My reality is Yellowstone.  I still do laundry, shop for groceries, scrape the  frost off my windshield of my vehicle, etc.  However, I do those things in Yellowstone, which somehow make a mundane task seem a tad bit more exciting.  I may not dance around wild with excitement with the thought of using dryer sheets while amongst bison and elk in Yellowstone but in my subconscious I really do think "Wow, I am putting clothes in the dryer while an elk is grazing right outside the window and I can actually see the Mammoth terraces while I fold them."  My Yellowstone reality is that I can vacuum while watching elk, bison, bears, and coyotes wander around outside my window.  Have I been taking this reality for granted?  Sometimes I wonder but then I think more about it and realize that every time I see something interesting, unusual, and even mundane it puts a smile on my face.  No, I do not take it for granted.  I still love it.

And I still love snow.......which seems to be lacking here.  A storm was to move through the Yellowstone area today but in the end it appears only a few inches fell.  Wheeled vehicles are still able to move through parts of the Park using Admin travel.  I am having my son and daughter come to visit for Christmas and it appears that the snowmobiling adventure to Old Faithful that I had planned for us will not be an option.  But there is still so much to do and I plan to show them what my Yellowstone world consists of.  They will see this world that I do not take for granted.  I will show them the Yellowstone that I love.


Saturday, November 26, 2011

Stories in Snow

Coyote by Canyon
First things first:  Hello to Earl and Mary!!  I hope you had a great dinner at the Proud Cut in Cody with Patrick!  And yes, you horse people probably know the meaning of 'proud cut' and yes, there is a restaurant actually named that (and it has delicious food so don't let the name put you off).

The past few days have been a continuance of the blowing and snowing.  Friday it was particularly bad in Mammoth.  The morning was filled with blizzard-like conditions but that didn't put anyone out as there was quite a few visitors in the Park.  I watched from the comfort of the store as the wind whipped up the snow and blew it around.  I have never lost my excitement about snow and winter weather.  Besides the subzero temps that I have experienced in the past (once again I will mention the -58 degrees I endured 16 years ago in Minnesota) I still love a good snowing and I was not disappointed this past week.    

The fresh snow always has a story to tell as I look at the prints of animals, large and small ,that leave their trails in either a parking lot or a valley.  The story tells me who passed through a particular area and sometimes the story will tell me what they were doing and the outcome.  Today's story was of a coyote wandering through the parking lot behind the store, probably on the lookout for the snowshoe hares that have been frequenting the area.  Sometimes I will see a lone bison track wandering through an area and sometimes I will see the tracks of a mere mouse or pine marten.  The story is rarely complete with a beginning and an end but I always take notice to the story in snow in any particular area that I am in.

This past week Patrick and I made a trip to Lake to gather up some items from his Lake office to move to his new office in Mammoth.  We packed up the vehicle with some warm clothes and a lunch and headed out into the interior of the Park.  With Patrick behind the wheel I could actually look out the window without spending all of my time watching the road.  I am still amazed at how much I see for the first time even though I have passed by an area hundreds of times.  It is old scenery that I see it anew.   There are lakes and thermal features that I have seen so many times but sometimes I will see a tree bent a certain way or a boulder that I never bothered to really pay attention to.  Actually being a passenger lets me see Yellowstone in a different perspective. 

Besides a few bison on Swan Lake Flat and meandering coyote by Canyon our first sight of something different was in Hayden Valley.  In the recent past I have watched the swans on Swan Lake but now we could see the numerous swans on the Yellowstone River.  We had to pass at least 50 swans on the river as we passed through Hayden Valley.  They are beautiful birds.
We came across a couple herds of bison between Hayden Valley and Lake that had taken to the road to travel to other areas.  One herd was heading north while the other herd headed south with one lone bison contemplating which herd to join.  He eventually headed south at full gallop as we approached.
Our next stop was Old Faithful.  In the summer the benches are lined with hundreds of people but at that time there was no one in sight.  Patrick and I had our picnic lunch while we watched Old Faithful erupt.

Patrick shows off his Annapolis 'hat toss'.  This is not to be confused with any famous Minnesota hat toss (such as the Mary Tyler Moore hat toss that yours truly may have had come to mind).

With evening approaching we headed back to Mammoth.  We did have the opportunity to see some beautiful scenery with the sun setting and some storm clouds heading in.

It was a glorious day in the Park and we were lucky to experience it.  Though part of our day was hauling printers and copiers we did have some moments when we could experience the sights of Yellowstone in solitude.  If someone was to study the tracks in the snow around Old Faithful they would see a story of two people watching one of the most famous icons of Yellowstone.  It is our story in snow.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

The Middle of the Road

 Having just emerged from a winter storm warning and about 8 inches of snow I am certainly glad that I purchased a pair of gators this spring.  Getting a boot full of snow and having soggy socks in indeed uncomfortable.

Having a fresh coating of snow is beautiful and the steamy terraces are a wonder to the eye.  Though we had to deal with a great deal of wind these past couple of days I still enjoy a good snowfall.  A few visitors braved the elements to come to the Park but in general it has been a very slow month.  We are seeing our regular NPS employees wander into the store for some snacks and a quick visit and to enjoy a taco on Tuesdays.  We have new additions to our menu and it seems that the gyro is the food of choice on the other 4 days the fountain is open.
 It has been quite a few months since I've had the opportunity to be a tourist myself and enjoy a trek to Lamar Valley.  So this morning I packed up my camera and headed out to see what I could find.  Mostly I found snow and very very few cars.  For the first time in a very long time I found that I could stop in the middle of the road (with plenty of room to view coming traffic from either direction - of which there was none) and look around and snap a few pictures.
 I love to look at the tracks in fresh fallen snow.  I found a herd of elk by Roosevelt that were resting in the snow.
 Later on, in Lamar Valley, I came across this coyote wandering down the middle of the road.
When he ventured off into the snow I thought I saw something.....a radio collar.  Flashback two years when I saw on a regular basis a coyote between Roosevelt and the hitching posts in Lamar with a radio collar.  That fella I referred to as DigitCould this be Digit?  I have no idea as I don't know how many radio collared coyotes there are in Yellowstone and the surrounding area. 
 I saw a few bison on the Blacktail and a small herd by the Yellowstone Picnic area and further on by the Lamar River.  Their faces were snowy from pushing the snow around and one side of them would be plastered with snow from the wind blowing.
And one mama with her offspring standing by her side as they pushed the snow for vegetation.  I do love the bison.

Another flashback we are all experiencing at the General Store is the sighting of a rabbit that is continuously hopping around leaving its footprints in the snow.  We all remember the demise of the rabbit we affectionately called Mugsey when it was caught by a coyote last winter.  We now appear to have a new rabbit to watch as it hops around the store.  I came back this afternoon to find coyote prints behind the store.  Hhhhmmm, I guess nature might occur again this year with this rabbit.

After over 11 years living year round in the Interior Patrick has finally made a permanent move to Mammoth.  He discarded his canister containing his emergency coffee supply when he realized that a winter trip to the store requires a car and a 5 mile drive when previously in was a 50 mile commute by snowmobile.  He will no longer need to carefully pack tomatoes and other fresh produce in a cooler (tomatoes are notoriously difficult to haul into the Interior in the winter - they freeze and are more difficult to haul than eggs!) and he can now call in a pizza order and pick it up.  Yup, one of my thrills of coming to Mammoth was to actually pick up a pizza - the 'I'll pay for a pizza if you pick it up' bit is no longer needed. 

With  it has been blowing and snowing lately I am reminded daily that everyday Yellowstone is an adventure.  Somedays it can be sunny with bright blue mountain skies and the next it can be a sheet of snow blowing by.  It all contributes to the granduer of this marvelous place.  

Sunday, October 23, 2011

20,000 Miles in Yellowstone

Herd of elk by Canyon
The elk have been making themselves known throughout the Park.  They have been surrounding the store and have even found their way into the fenced in area right outside my apartment door where they have left me 'presents'.  We have to choose our doors in and out of the store carefully when opening or closing as the elk have been found separating us from our vehicles.  The bulls still trot around with their antler-filled heads held high and they still well let out a bugle or two.

Another sign of the season is the gorgeous aspen trees that have turned a brilliant yellow.  Last Saturday I decided to take the Chief Joseph Highway to Cody to see the colors.  I was using Patrick's Jeep and after doing my safety checks (headlights:  check; brakes:  check; fuel:  check;  Mt. Dew:  check) I headed out to take in some fall colors.  Half way up the pass I realized that my fuel check may not have been checked out as accurately as I had hoped.  The fuel light came on and the needle was buried.  Luckily I made it to the top and could conserve some fuel by coasting down.  I figure it was all an adventure - I term I often use when in an 'oh oh' situation.
The colors along the North Fork

More Colors

Bison dotting the landscape of Hayden Valley
Lately my life in Yellowstone has been filled with counting.  It was inventory time once again. last week.  I had spent my days counting everything in our stockrooms and I spent my nights falling to sleep counting snowglobes instead of sheep.  I did get to make a couple trips to Lake last week, one trip included a grizzly bear cub who crossed the road in front of me.  With things winding down I am hoping to take in some more wildlife viewing, something that I have not been able to do much of.

Grand Tetons
 This weekend included a much needed trip through Grand Teton National Park to Jackson.  I have put 27,000 miles on my car this past year (over 20,000 miles in Yellowstone alone) and I was desperately needing a new vehicle.  We left Lake at 8:30.  We came across this mama elk with a nursing calf in the middle of our lane on a curve.  This shows why it is so important to not speed through the Park.  Anything can be right around the corner.

The Tetons were gorgeous and I was happy to be able to get a picture of them.  My previous trip there the mountains were obscured by smoke.  We looked at a couple vehicles and I finally saw one that I loved.  While Patrick checked out the tires, mechanical thingies underneath the vehicle, etc. I was admiring the awesome stereo and ooohing at the sunroof.  I am now the proud owner of a great vehicle with fantastic sound and a glass roof ----  oh yea, and it is mechanically sound.  

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Lucky Indeed

 Please excuse any typos or gibberish.  At this point in the game I am basically just dragging my fingertips across the keyboard with hopes that something coherent comes out of my attempt.  This season is drawing to a close and with 10 hour work days my energy levels are depleting.  We have had excellent weather until last week.  The change in the seasons came with winter weather advisories, snow/rain/sleet, and road closures through the Park.  Just today the Comm. Center called me four times with road closures notifications.  I had a rare evening of being able to make it to Lake and I left there this morning at 6:30 driving through rain, snow and slushy roads.  Yet there is an excitement to seeing the change in seasons.  And that excitement is in direct relation to my new winter wardrobe that I've been dying to wear.  

The last of the Mammoth employees will be leaving this weekend.  And then there were four.  Number five, Andrea, will be coming for the winter but will not be here until the Adventure Store closes on November 6.  Our first Taco Tuesday will be November 8.  

Though my new friends will be leaving I did get the opportunity to visit with some old friends.  Jay and Cassie (Adventure Store 2010 -- Cassie was our Huckleberry Lady) were heading back to the east coast after a summer at Glacier National Park.  Lee (Adventure Store 2010 & 2011), Andrea and myself met them for dinner in Bozeman last Sunday.   It was so great to see them again. 

This past Saturday I went to Lake to help Patrick with his winter move to Mammoth.  October is a wonderful month to be in the Park.  After a summer filled with bison and bear jams, and with only glances out the car window on my part, I finally took the opportunity to do some wildlife viewing.  Mammoth has been an elk bonanza and I see them on a regular basis.  A mountain lion was even seen behind the Mammoth Hotel last week and mountain goats are a regular by Golden Gate (yet I have still havent' seen them - pout!).  But that Saturday I decided to take my time driving and actually use my camera.  

My first encounter was with a grizzly bear that ran in front of my car by Otter Creek.  I reach in the backseat and grab my trusty camera.  Unfortunately my camera strap was entwined with some stuff that came flying into the front seat with the camera.  I missed that shot.  Luckily I saw another bear just past Mud Volcano....and I really can't believe that I actually saw it.  I casually looked out my window to the east and noticed a black dot on the other side of the river.  I knew it was a bear.  I headed down to Nez Perce Ford just in time to see the bear right across the river.

Though I can't be sure but this inky black grizzly bear looked just like the bear I had photographed in this same area two years ago.....and nearly to the day.  After months and months of traveling this same road I can't tell you how nice it is to finally be able to take the time to watch the wildlife without battling traffic and hordes of tourists.  

So the cat's out of the bag.  October is a great month to visit Yellowstone.  However, with temperamental weather conditions it can also be a big gamble.  I'm not much of a gambler so its a lucky thing that I live here and outside my backdoor can be either a bear, an elk, a bison or even a mountain lion.  I'm lucky indeed.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Mammoth Elk

The elk in Mammoth continue to congregate, bugle, bawl, wander the streets and lounge in the grass across from the post office.  Visitors line the sidewalks, the patio in front of the hotel and post office and snap pictures of the bulls and cows.  Thursday night I came back from a trip from the Food Farm to find two cows and a bull outside the east side of the store.  Unable to leave from the front of the store one guest exited out the back.  I had warned her about the bull around the corner and as we came around the north side of the building we were met with the bull walking straight towards us.  She went up the steps to the loading dock while I ducked behind my car.
I eventually went to the porch in front of the store to watch the bull as he stood directly in front of a vehicle at the gas pumps.  And he stood there.  And he stood there some more.  Cars were lined up on the road to look at him while rangers kept people at a safe distance.
The bull eventually tired of holding up the gas pumping traffic and moved to road where he stood and bugled. 
But he eventually wandered off when a bison strolled his direction.  The bison crossed over to the front of the store so now the rangers had to watch guests on foot and in cars with two large animals in the area.  There was an Animal Kingdom atmosphere in Mammoth that day.

The calendar is saying autumn but the weather says summer.  The temps have been in the high 70's and low 80's and the sun keeps on shining.  The aspen have been changing to a warm yellow and it creates a beautiful backdrop for the mountains.  The elk and bighorn sheep have been in the canyon toward Gardiner though I rarely get a chance to stop and watch them.  The road tends to be clogged with photographers and I am usually on a pizza mission.

A few more people have left the store this week with more tearful goodbyes.  Our large 2011 family is now down to a handful.