"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

Wednesday, September 30, 2009


Bison & Bull Elk in Snowy Elk Park

Canyon Village This Morning

As you can see I didn't wake up to a village filled with smoke. It was filled with beautiful white snow flakes.

I took a drive to Elk Park (being from Minnesota I can only be drawn to driving around in the first snowfall). The lone bison was there and was in the company of a big bull elk. I was alone in Elk Park and I enjoyed a few quiet moments with them as they unknowingly posed for some snowy pictures. There was the occasional rumble of dump trucks coming from the construction area to the south but mostly it was just a quiet morning. Just me, a bison, an elk and The Doors.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Joe vs Yellowstone Wildlife

I awoke to Mt. Washburn being smokey, and the smell of smoke could be smelled throughout Canyon Village. But as the morning progressed the smoke became less and less, though we could still see smoke to the south and east of us. The morning in the store was extremely slow and we passed a few moments doing some dances (Jack can really groove) to the music piped through the store. I guess our moves brought the people in because before we knew it there were 3 tour buses pulling into the parking lot. The Fountain filled very quickly.

My travels through Hayden Valley this evening were pretty much free of forest fire smoke-clogged lungs. There was a mild haze of smoke but nothing like the evening before. We are given daily updates in the store on the fire but the updates are from the previous day so I am unsure as to what is going on with the Arnica Fire as of today's date. Rumors can be rampant (I've heard some doozies) so I'm not ever really sure as to what is happening.

Joe, or maintenance man extraordinaire, has become a wild animal magnet. A while ago he was charged by a bison in the RV park and now he has been attacked by yet another of Yellowstones wild beasts. In a park that is filled with wolves, grizzly bears, black bears, moose and elk, wildlife attacks are serious business and something we do not take lightly. We are seriously concerned about Joe's wellbeing considering this latest close encounter. It happened while Joe was sleeping, thus he was completely unequipped to fight-off his latest nemesis. As he slept, the creature lurked around his sleeping quarters until Joe awoke to find him right on his chest staring him in the face with his tiny, little, round eyes. Yup, Joe valiantly fought off a mouse (Joe: 1, Mouse: 0). Joe, all of us at Canyon General Store are so relieved that you came out of this one in one piece. Maybe it's time to invest in a canister of Mouse Spray.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Smoke Gets in Your Eyes

View of Sunset Through Smoke Across Yellowstone Lake
Notice the change in direction of the smoke from last night.

Smoke Bank in Hayden Valley With Washburn Range in Background

Bison in Smoke Filled Hayden Valley

Canyon Village was filled with smoke all morning and most of the afternoon. I've always enjoyed a good campfire but forest fire smoke is much different. You can't get away from it. My eyes were red, my throat hurt, my nose ran and a had a headache until I was nauseous. After work I used my Visine, wiped my nose (I did that during the day, too), took some Aleve, ate a cookie and I felt much better. So I took my evening drive to Hayden Valley.

Though Canyon cleared up considerably during the day Hayden Valley was filled with smoke. I did find a herd of elk in the river by Alum Creek and a herd bison by Elk Antler Creek. I proceeded on to Steamboat Point and took a few shots of the sun setting through the smoke again. Tonight I could not see the shoreline by Lake as the fire has crossed the road to the south of there. The smoke came out and over the water. I talked with someone today who works at Lake and they reported that the air was filled with smoke and ash.

As I returned to Canyon I noticed that the smoke was much lower to the ground and areas just an hour before didn't have smoke now did. It is dark out now so I'm unable to see smoke but I can smell it very strongly again. It permeates everything: hair, clothing, inside of buildings.

The lodging in Canyon closed yesterday, as did the dining room. With the road closures (preventing tour buses from coming from the south), and the lodging closing, the store has become much quieter. I worked in the Fountain again today. What just a couple days ago had been a two-person job I can now accomplish by myself.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Smokey Sunset

This is a view of the sun setting tonight through through the smoke. I was at Steamboat Point looking across Yellowstone lake.

Arnica Fire

I took my morning trip down to Hayden Valley this morning. I watched as a small herd of bison swam across the river as I entered Hayden. Since they were running toward the road I decided to turn back toward Canyon (after taking my obligatory pictures). 1/4 mile back toward Hayden I came across a motorcycle accident that happened about 30 seconds before I got there. There were 2 riders on the bike and both were on the pavement in obvious pain, but at least conscious. The two cars in front of me stopped to help and since in cases like this I tend to be the designated panic-er (at least I assume I would be, maybe I would hold it all together) I made sure that the Rangers had been contacted and left the area so not to cause congestion at the site. This is the 3rd motorcycle accident that I have personally come upon this summer.

I worked in the Fountain with sporadic stops at Confections to relieve others for breaks and lunches. This weekend I had 5 people stop in and say 'hi' to me who read this blog. One couple is from Wales. I wish I had more time to visit with everyone but duty called and I had to get back to work. But thanks to you all!! It's always nice to meet people who read this and/or contact me by e-mail.

The road between Fishing Bridge and Grant was closed once earlier today because of smoke. The closure became permnant later in the day. It will not reopen until there is a snowfall as the fire has now reached the road.

After work I picked up Rosie and we headed up Dunraven to look at the fire, which now has the name the Arnica Fire. When we got up there we noticed that we could also see the fire which is now somewhere by Cody. We had heard about a fire in that direction last Thursday. In fact on my way back from Cody on Thursday I kept seeing forest service trucks and even a helicopter on the ground. I didn't see any smoke in that area and didn't know what to think about it all. Now I know.

After dinner I headed toward Yellowstone Lake. East of Fishing Bridge I stopped by the lake and took some pictures of the sun setting behind the smoke. It was actually quite beautiful as the smoke and sky turned orange. I could see tiny dots that were actually helicoptors or planes flying through the smoke. When I headed back I ran into Jack & Rosie by some bison in the road. They were heading to Lake Butte Overlook too see if flames could be seen from there. I turned around and followed them. Right before Lake Butte we came across a rollover accident. At this point I'm begining to wonder if I have some kind of supernatural aura that causes me to come across accidents. The car was smashed and was being loaded onto a flatbed. I don't know the condition of the driver.

Anyway, once up on Lake Butte we didn't see any flames but could see the orange smoke as the sun set further. Coming back by Sedge Bay I finally saw some flames licking the sky. The smoke turned red as the fire burned below.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Beauty by Fire

The smoke in Canyon eventually cleared up. That was because of a breeze that came up later in the morning. The wind started blowing to the east and, according to news sources in Billings, the fire has now burned 1600 acres. The road between Fishing Bridge and Grant was closed again today because of smoke. The smoke is very thick, and besides the large mushroom-shaped plume rising, it is creeping east lower to the ground. Visibility is very low in that area of YNP.

The power to Grant Village has been turned off and they are now powering with generators. The power to Canyon comes from that direction and hopefully the lines are not in danger or Fishing Bridge and Canyon could possibly lose power.

I took my twice daily trek to Hayden Valley after work and I was amazed at how much smoke there is. It is a powerful sight to see (check out the Mt. Washburn webcam). Though I understand that fire is a natural process that help rejuvenate the forests and wildlife and helps with new growth there is still a part of me that feels bad for losing some of the beauty of the forests for a time. But I guess all this beauty was created by fire in the first place.

Smoke on the Village

Smoke Smothered Canyon Village

This is a view of Canyon Village from the west this morning. I awoke to the smell of smoke and when I went outside I saw that the visibility of Mt. Washburn was obscured by smoke. I drove down to Hayden Valley and saw that a blanket of smoke was covering the valley. Right now there are a few of us with burning noses and eyes.

Last Nights View of the Fire From Hayden Valley

The smoke was really towering high last night. And I also noticed that the fire had spread further to the west. I had reports yesterday morning from visitors that they could hardly see Yellowstone Lake through the smoke. The road between Fishing Bridge and Grant was eventually closed in the afternoon. It was creating havoc for awhile, people on their way to Grant where having to find alternate routes there. What is usually a hour drive became a 7 hour drive out and around the Park. It was even worse for those heading to the Tetons. The road was eventually reopened in the early evening.

While I was taking this picture a coyote came strolling by. I stopped taking pictures of the smoke and aimed my camera for the coyote. It was a nice distraction for awhile.

Friday, September 25, 2009

View from Hayden Valley 3:30

I went to Hayden Valley this morning and there was no sign of smoke. The cool nights help. There is a sign in Hayden Valley that says: Natural Fire Do Not Report. We'll see what happens as the day warms and progresses. The fire is clearing the way for new growth for next year.

Last night I sat outside and listened to three elks screaming. The wildlife obviously does not have the 11:00 Quiet Time that us humans abide by. One was very close and bugled continuously. I thought it would be nice to have a recording of it but I know that recordings really don't compare to hearing it naturally. In fact, we play a video in the store during the day where there is a scene with an elk bugling. To be honest, it kind of reminds me of the scene from Dumb & Dumber when Jim Carey's character says, "Do you want to hear the most annoying sound ever?" So as far as bugling elks go, natural is definitely better. I'll actually miss hearing them at night.

Yesterday morning as I drove through Hayden Valley I saw 3 wolves. They were wandering around the area known as the Rendezvous (east side of the road by the tree line near Alum Creek). That would be 4 wolves I've seen these past few days as I drove through without stopping and searching. Also, this past week there have been numerous bear sightings on Dunraven. In Hayden yesterday afternoon I also saw the results of a fender bender. I think someone was looking at the smoke and ran into the back end of another vehicle.

Fire Pictures

From Lake Butte Overlook 1:00

Between Bay Bridge & West Thumb 4:30

The little dot on the left side of the picture is a plane that was circling the fire.

A view of the smoke from Canyon Junction last night at 7:00.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Fire by Bridge Bay

Robyn, Jackie & Dave at Yellowstone Lake with Fire

On my way heading west over Sylvan Pass today I noticed a white cloud. As I drove further I noticed that it was darker towards the bottom. That's when I realized that there was a fire in YNP. I stopped at Lake Butte Overlook and got a good view of the fire. By the time I made it to Fishing Bridge it had obviously grown, and when I got to Hayden Valley and looked back it had even gotten even bigger. I eventually learned that the fire was about 5 miles SW of Bridge Bay.

I returned to Canyon and picked up Jackie and Dave and we headed back to Hayden Valley and eventually drove further south and stopped along the lake. We could see the flames high up and hear the sounds of the fire. Since no roads were closed and traffic was moving smoothly we proceeded further and were able to get into a pullout close to the fire where the smoke billowed up and over us. We watched a plane circling the fire.

The Mt. Washburn webcam is aimed at the fire and it will be interesting to see the size tomorrow. Hopefully it will be smaller.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Take My Breath Away

Natural Fire by Gardiner

The fire that I saw by Gardiner last Thursday is still burning. This is a picture I took this morning of the smoke rising from it.

Devil's Slide

This an interesting slice of geological history. It shows the workings of erosion. I took this picture in the afternoon when there was too many shadows to show the true look of Devil's Slide. I have passed this on a few occasions on my way to Bozeman and today I finally took the time to read the sign.

As much as I love the drive to Cody I have become equally enamored with the drive to Bozeman. The mountain scenery is incredible. Especially between Gardiner and Livingston. The Bozeman Pass is equally as beautiful. The valley by the Yellowstone River was dotted with antelope and I had a mule deer buck run to the side of the road and then thought better of trying to cross. It was a perfect, clear blue day with temps in the 80's. I opened the sunroof, played my music a little too loud, and admired my backdrop of mountains. I was in heaven.

In the Park I also noticed that The Magnificent One, though a little bit of a loner and stays a comfortable distance from the other bison, has collected a couple more friends. There are now three more for a total of four. Maybe the original Magnificent Seven are collaborating again and ready to interfere with the flow of traffic in the Roaring Mountain area. As for Bob, he seems to be keeping to himself somewhere in the wooded area between Norris and Canyon. I haven't seen him in a couple days.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Night the Lights Went Out in Canyon

Things have been pretty hectic here in Canyon, and probably all of YNP. It has gotten busier than ever with tourists coming into the Park. I spent the Fri - Sun in Confections tempting people with goodies from the fudge and ice cream section and brewing up some lattes. On Monday I was moved to cashier and hostess in the Fountain with my partner being Anita. We made a good team these past 2 days but we were absolutely swamped when tour buses (3 were parked out front at a time) came rolling in. That is approx. 240 hungry people in Canyon all trying to get a seat in eating establishments. Being short on staffing is a hindrance to the whole situation but we do what we can and most people are understanding though disappointed when they can't get a seat.

On Sunday afternoon the temps started dropping and the wind picked up. By 6:45 the wind finally managed to do some damage and we lost electricity. But not in all of Canyon, just a quadrant of Canyon. The quadrant where I live and work. As the night went on snow started falling in Canyon and Dunraven Pass was totally obscured by snow. Luckily for me the battery on my computer had a full charge so I spent my time watching a dvd until the battery was completely drained. By 8:50 I started to really feel the effects of not having a heater. I ended up spending the rest of the night in a blanket cave on my bed. The power was finally restored at 6:00 the next morning. The men who went to fix the power line in the evening had to abandon their plans when they were charged by a bull elk at the site and then realized that a bear was in the area. They figured it would be safer to return during daylight. The snow didn't last on the ground though some of it was still in cupped leaves on the ground.

The Dorm Bison #2 seems to be a bit disgruntled. He stared down Jean the other day and gave me a full-on evil glare the same day. That evening he wandered over to the RV Park and actually charged at Joe, our maintenance man, who had to duck for cover in his truck as DB #2 came storming by. Joe had been walking around in the evening and was using his flashlight to make sure there were no bears in the area when he accidentally hit BD #2 in the eye with the beam from his flashlight. Obvioulsy BD #2 didn't care for that one bit.

I passed through Hayden Valley last night and saw a wolf wandering around by the river. A huge bull elk was in the area and had stopped what he was doing to watch the wolf. With no where to park (too many people) I wasn't able to watch what happened next. A lone wolf knows better than to tangle with an elk with a huge rack so I assume he just trotted on.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Steam Heat

One of the Reasons I Don't Just Walk Out of a Building Without Looking

This is Dorm Bison #2 (or #3). They both have making regular appearances by the dorms lately, I guess to keep us on our toes without having DB #1 around to do it. I knew he was by the dorms so I stepped out on the 2nd floor stairway and snapped this picture of him coming around the corner.

Steamy Bison

Though this picture doesn't really capture their steaminess but each bison in the herd had their own cloud bank this morning. The herd has moved back into Hayden Valley and it is huge. I found them south of Grizzly Overlook. I thought it would be a good idea to travel farther south until a portion of the herd decided to cross the road in front of my car. Not wanting to risk being trapped south of the herd when my job was north of the herd, I turned my car around and watched from a pullout.

Friday, September 18, 2009

And B-I-N-G-O was my name, Oh!

Jean picking out her BINGO prize

So how do YGS employees spend their Friday nights? We play BINGO. Every Friday night there is a cut-throat game of BINGO held in the EDR. For 50 cents a card you can win a few dollars and some really neat Yellowstone gifts. Tonight was my first night playing and I started off the night with a BINGO. Unfortunately, my G54 turned out to be bogus on my card and Dawn won that game. I eventually won a game and won $1 more than I paid for my cards and I got 2 gifts (a Yellowstone sweatshirt and a Yellowstone bag with a bison on it). Mike does a nice job with calling out the numbers.

Today I spent the day in Confections. That espresso machine that I was so wary of at the begining of the season is something I can now do with my eyes closed. I also sold fudge and scooped ice cream. I enjoy working in Confections, which is a good thing since I will be there quite a bit the next few days.

It was another warm day with lots of sun at Canyon. A few showers broke out to the east of here and a spectacular double rainbow appeared over the village. I have never seen so many rainbows as I have seen here at Yellowstone.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness

I went to Bozeman today and the scenery from the Park to Bozeman is gorgeous. Just north of Gardiner is Yankee Jim Canyon. Right across the Yellowstone River the old railroad bed where the train ran to bring tourists to Yellowstone. The railroad was built by Jay Cooke. There is a state park back in Minnesota just north of Duluth named in his honor. There is also a visitor center in the canyon (which I missed) that explains the history of the canyon (7,000 years!).

I also enjoy driving through the Bridger Mountains over Bozeman Pass. I love the mountains and there is always a new vista around every turn and over every mountain.

On my way back to the Park, just north of Gardiner, I saw smoke rising out of the trees on a mountain. Further down the road there was a sign on the road that said: Natural fire, do not report. I saw a sign like that in Lamar earlier this year.

Elk in the Gardner River

The Gardner River is spelled differently than Gardiner. I have read a few different stories on the difference and I'm not sure which one is true. I'll have to look into that. Anyway, between Gardiner and Mammoth I can across a herd of elk along the Gardner River. There was also a huge bull elk with the ladies (not pictured in this particular picture). You can also see that some of the foilage is beginning to turn colors. Most plants are turning yellow but up by Sylvan Pass I saw some plants that were red. I wish I knew more about botany.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Nap Time on the Road

Preparing for Snow on Sylvan Pass

The park service has gotten out its cannon on Sylvan Pass for avalanche control. If you look closely you can see a park service employee under the cannon working on it.

Another Foggy Morning in Hayden Valley

I've really become captivated by the fog lately. I don't care to drive in it and I don't care for the Jack the Ripperish city fog, but when it's hanging over Hayden Valley it is a beauty that I have come to appreciate.

Siesta Time on the Road

I came across this sight at Pelican Creek on my way back from Cody this afternoon. I found a huge herd of bison spread out across the area.......and across the road and bridge over Pelican Creek. I decided to use a pullout and wait it out there. As I had my camera trained on the two young bison laying on the road I realized that the first car stuck behind them was my Floor Supervisor Anita and her husband Ted who works in the EDR (Hi Anita & Ted!!). During my 45 minutes of wait time I watched bison swim the river, two young males tussling, a huge male stand guard over a female (one of those holding up traffic), the two young ones resting on the roadway, and a bald eagle soaring above the herd. And of course there were a few line jumpers who were impatient and tried to get in between Anita and Ted and the bison. He ended up being stuck behind the bison like everyone else, except now he had an angry bison very close to the front of his vehicle and for a moment looked like it wanted to butt his vehicle.

There was another herd just south of Sulphur Caldron. The whole area was filled with brown, hairy mounds as they all took naps in the afternoon sun. I guess the herd from Hayden Valley hasn't travelled that far after all.

Good Morning Yellowstone

Mule Deer

This mule deer is what greeted me this morning outside of the dorms. She has come around all summer and I've even seen a buck a few times. She was busy grazing as I was walking on the path by the front door.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The Masses

Neal & Dave

Here are a couple of my co-workers. Neal is from France and Dave from the Tennessee. Dave came the same day I did, May 12, and is currently a server in The Fountain. Neal came in mid-June and started out as a custodian and is now a cook. Neal will be leaving on Friday. I'll hate to see him go.

Robyn With Bison in Elk Park

After work I took a drive down to Elk Park. The same bison is there every time and I decided to whip out my little tripod, put it on the hood of the car and use the timer to take a picture of myself and the bison. I was far enough away from him to be legal yet far enough away from the camera so that my terrible case of 'hat hair' wasn't so apparent. I then went down to Gibbon Meadows and tried to take a few pictures of the sun setting behind the thermal feature using the different settings on my camera. After loading them on my computer and taking a good look at them I decided I needed to break down and drag out the instruction manual. They were either too dark or too light. If I could merge them together they would be perfect.

We awoke to very thick fog this morning. It was a really wet, heavy, damp morning. It started to clear up at about 10:00 when the sun finally broke out. The afternoon was cooler than yesterday and we had a few showers. Yet in Bozeman it was 85 degrees.

I can't even begin to explain how busy the Park is. Even longtime visitors here are surprised at the masses. Laura, the Sporting Goods Store manager, went through Mammoth today and said the cars coming into the Park were lined up from the entrance booth half way back to the arch. Xanterra decided to keep their cabins open 2 weeks longer than planned in Canyon and all 180 of them are booked solid for the next couple of weeks. I worked in The Fountain as a cashier (I have to wear my hair up and have a hot on.....thus the hat hair) and it was nonstop all day. I like being busy but I do have to add that I got off work totally worn out today.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Near Perfection

The Lower Falls

I can still hear the Lower Falls from the village area even though the water level of the Yellowstone River has fallen dramatically. The Falls used to sound like a 747 with the high water, now they sound more like a distant Cessna. Boulders and stumps are protruding above the water where earlier in the year I didn't even know they had existed. Alum, Trout, and Elk Antler Creeks in Hayden Valley are mostly mud now.

There is another storm coming this evening. I have been watching the lightning to the west. Last nights storm brought snow to Dunraven Pass, but not enough to stick around. It was rather warm today (70's in the sun) with more rain forecast for tomorrow. If this year is like the previous years there should be snow here by the time the store closes. A couple years ago the last person to leave here (around Oct. 20) was snowbound here for 3 days before he eventually followed a snowplow out of the Park. Some of the people here with RVs are concerned about getting out of here if a snowstorm hits. With the road closure between Norris and Madison it is a long way around to get out of the Park.

With the death last night of one of the Dorm Bison's something amazing happened. The other 2 showed up together at the dorm this afternoon. In the past they were all seen separately, they never approached the dorm together. It was very odd that it happened today but I was glad to see them, it made me feel better. However, one of them was blocking my path to the door and I had to lean up against a fence and wait for him to move along (after he finished rubbing his neck on one of the metal boxes out front and then scratch his head on a tree). I eventually had to use a path to the side of the dorm and use the side entrance.

One of the things that a person can really appreciate about nights in Yellowstone is the lack of light pollution. For those who love to look at the stars it is a perfect place to come. I sometimes sit outside on clear nights and look at the stars and planets and look for satellites and shooting stars. The night skies are spectacular and I encourage everyone to take a moment and look up at night when visiting. I even bought myself a Planisphere so I can track the night sky (they are for sale in the Park at the Yellowstone Association Stores).

The sounds of waterfalls, howling wolves, yipping coyotes, bugling elk, the sights of the night sky........Yellowstone is darn near perfect.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Farewell to the Dorm Bison

Sylvan Lake
I actually took this picture July 15, you can see there was still snow on the mountain at that time. Sylvan Lake is one of the most picturesque mountain lakes that I have seen in the Park.

Rain Over Hayden Valley

It is thundering out right now and I've been watching the lightening over the Washburn Range. I love the sound of thunder. Earlier this evening I went to Hayden but my time there was cut short as it started to rain there. It hasn't rained in Canyon yet, just to the north and south of here. Rain and cooler weather is expected for the next couple of days. I guess the season is finally changing to fall.

With the change of the seasons comes the change of location for the wildlife. I was only able to spot 3 bison in all of Hayden Valley. They must be on the move and on my day off maybe I'll be able to locate them. I did manage to see a herd of elk in Hayden, as well as the local herd near Canyon. I also took some time to stop and photograph a raven sitting on a rock as well as an eagle perched in a tree. The pelicans are gone now, I miss seeing them.

My co-worker, Bill, just returned from Hayden Valley. He reported that a car collided with a bison 1 mile south of Canyon. The parties in the car are ok but the bison is dead. I'm glad to hear that there were no serious injuries to the people in the car, but I'm saddened because on my way back from Hayden I watched this particular bison. To make matters even sadder it is the Dorm Bison (it is at least one of the 3 that come to visit). My co-workers and I have come to love the wildlife that visit our little corner Yellowstone. We marvel at them, adore them, respect them and we do feel a deep sorrow when something that we've watched all summer is suddenly gone forever. Good bye Dorm Bison, thanks for making us all smile.

The Park is still very busy. We all had expected it to slow down after the Labor Day weekend but the store is still all abuzz with people and The Fountain is filled to capacity during the day. This year has been full of surprises with the exceptionally high amount of visitors in the Park and we are continuing to be surprised.

Yellowstone River and Washburn Range
I took this picture, as well as the following two, this morning.

Nymph Lake


Thermal Feature on the Gibbon River

Bull Elk
This is one of the Boys of Summer who I have been hearing bugling. He made a showing last night right across the road from the dorm.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Chapstick Races

I decided to dedicate this post to something that is very dear to everyone around here. Chapstick. I use the word 'Chapstick' like our culture has come to use the word 'Jello' to refer to gelatin. Sure, it's a brand name but it seems to be the word we use to cover all forms of lip balm whether it be Carmex, Blistex, Burt's Bees, etc. The air is very dry here and we sell a lot of Chapstick because the first area of the body to feel the effects are the lips. You will never find me without a tube of it in my pant pocket (except for the day when I was leaving for work and I grabbed something tubular and small off my desk and stuck it in my pocket. An hour later when I was going to lather up my lips I pulled out a AA battery).

I'm not the only one to carry a tube around. Ralph had also come into the habit of applying it on a regular basis at work. What become a normal function soon became a game between us: Chapstick Races. One of us would say "Ready?" and we take our stance: feet spread apart and hands by our pockets but instead of six-shooters we had Chapstick. Someone would say "Go!" and whoever could reach into their pocket, grab their Chapstick, apply it and replace it in their pocket was the winner. This was a game that was strictly reserved for the backroom of the store. Word got out about our game and we had to demonstrate it at the employee Christmas Party. I had a bit of a winning streak for awhile and Ralph nicknamed me Quick Draw though Ralph was certainly a worthy opponent. Ralph and his wife Veronica left this morning but I'll always remember them as I apply my Chapstick. I guess that means I will be thinking about them at least 20 times a day.

So the next time you are packing for your visit to Yellowstone don't forget to bring along some Chapstick. If you forget it we'll have a tube waiting for you in the store.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Coyote in Elk Park

This is the little guy who was so entertaining this morning with his dinner acrobatics.

Thermal Feature by Elk Park

Gibbon Meadow

Elk Park

If you look closely you can see a bison standing in the water behind the steam.

Norris Geyser Basin

There is lots of steam rising up from the basin in the mornings these days. Sometimes it is so thick and if the wind is just right it will blow over the road. There is a gravel parking area that is above the basin and I found that I wasn't alone this morning in wanting to get a shot of this, there were a few other cars there with people snapping away.


Roaring Mountain

I got my new camera, a Canon Rebel. I decided to really upgrade and replace my Canon Rebel 35 mm with a new digital one. I can use all my attachments that I already had. I wish I would of dropped my digital camera back in May because I'm having a great time with my new one. This is a picture of Roaring Mountain, my first picture with my camera. Actually, I took my first picture when I was messing around with the camera and I captured a great image of the dashboard of my car. Twenty seconds later I broke in the delete button.

Pouncing Coyote in Elk Park

I took this picture this morning of a coyote mousing in Elk Park just south of Norris (the road is closed 4 miles south of Norris). I watched the coyote for quite some time as he moved from the south end of Elk Park to the north. He was on the move looking for a meal and when he would cock his head, I would aim and gently place my finger on the shutter button. Then he would bound up into the air, I would snap a picture, and he would pounce down on his prey. He would munch away and then move to another area and repeat the whole process. It was a beautiful morning and I had all of Elk Park to myself to watch him.

On Tuesday I had to head to the airport in Bozeman at 7:00 am. I was giving Hoa (from Vietnam but studying in London) a ride. Also along for the ride was Neil (France) and Sam (Egypt). In Mammoth we saw 2 coyotes trotting along just below the Lower Terrace. I had no camera for this most fabulous of sights. In Bozeman I brought the guys to the mall for some shopping. I had an hour to kill so I wandered into Barnes & Noble. To my surprise I ran into 4 of my co-workers there. On our way back to Canyon as we came through Mammoth we found the huge herd of elk laying by the hotel. The big bull elk was carefully watching over his harem. Sam started to count the females and made it all the way up to 30 before we lost sight of them. There was still more to be counted and we estimated at least 40 of them were there.

The Magnificent One appears to be doing some male bonding. I spotted another male hanging out with him the last couple of times I've passed by him.

We have guest artists in the store on occasion. One of my favorites (besides Connie, our resident writer and my co-worker) is Dung & Dunger. They make paper that is colored using bison dung (collected outside the park). I know it sounds nasty but it really is very interesting and the items they make are really unusual. I always laugh about them because their motto is "Proud to be #2". And when I ask them how business is they always answer "It's crappy". They have quite a sense of humor.

We have gone to shorter store hours now. We open at 9:00 and close at 6:00. I still work 12:00 - 6:00 in the store. It gets dark so soon now that I barely have enough time to drive the north loop at night. I hear the elk bugle every night and sometimes into the morning after the sun rises. The temps during the day have been very nice (70's) but Wednesday morning it was only 18 degrees.

The internet has been an issue lately. It has been down for quite a few days with sporatic spurts of working. I hope all the issues are over because I plan on taking some fantastic shots with my new camera and I want to share them.

Sunday, September 6, 2009


The Bull Pen

The Fountain


These are pictures of the Yellowstone General Store in Canyon Village where I work. When I mention some of the areas in the store it will give you an idea of what I am talking about. As you see this store is nothing like most of the other stores in the Park. The design of the store reflects the Mission 66 period. Mission 66 was a project to upgrade the Park in 10 years (1956 - 1966) by building new concessions, roads, bringing in new power and telephone lines, and building new visitor centers. With more and more vehicles coming into the Park the improvements were badly needed. So when the store was remodeled again a few years ago it was decided that it should have the 1950's/1960's feeling. Part of me really likes the old log type buildings (such as Fishing Bridge) and part of me likes the bright feeling of this store. (YGS at Lake is being remodeled at this moment. It will be interesting to see the 'new' look it will have for next year).

Today I started out for 3 hours in the Bull Pen. It was incredibly busy and we had to hustle to keep the lines moving. I prefer to have it busy so it was comfortably busy for me. Then I was moved over to The Fountain to hostess. I was asked to come back tonight to hostess for the dinner crowd. It was busy once again this evening (back-to-back seatings for a group of 12 then a group of 24!). I really enjoy hostessing, it is rather fun but I do leave The Fountain with the lingering scent of cheeseburger.


Let me introduce you to B.O.B. (Big Old Beast). Bob is the bison that has taken up residence between Norris and Canyon. He is constantly wandering back and forth on the road and I've been seeing him on a regular basis for over a week now. Since I see him so often I figured I would differentiate him by assigning him a name. Earlier this summer I saw him a couple times rubbing against trees on that corridor but he really likes to show off now. Next week I'll take a picture of Bob and post it so that you can all see that he looks pretty much like every other bull bison out there.

Because of a conversation that I had yesterday with a guest I figured I would post a couple other tips.

Tips #1: No matter how tempting it may be don't speed in the Park. The rangers don't fool around with speeders. There is no such thing as a warning here, it is an immediate ticket and I believe they start out at $220. Every day I watch as numerous people are pulled over by the Canyon Jct. because of speeding, sometimes with the sirens it can sound like the inner city. Most areas the posted speed limit is 45 with areas that reduce to 35 and around the village areas it can go down to 25.

I didn't get further than 3 blocks out of the Park the first couple months of being here. When I first went to Cody I hit an area where the speed limit is 65 mph and after going at a top speed of 45 mph for those two months it really felt like I was flying.

Tips #2: Breaking YNP rules (such as approaching wildlife) can get your name on file for 5 years and if it is a serious enough situation you can be banned from all national parks for 5 years. Once your name is on file for those 5 years if you break any other rules the 5 year ban can go into effect. Plus there is the potential for a huge fine and having to appear in court at Mammoth. Any employees in the Park will be terminated from employment plus have their name on file with the park service. Someone I know this year got their name on that 5 Year List when they approached wildlife too closely.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

A view across the Yellowstone River from Mud Volcano.

I stopped at Obsidian Creek last week. A trail in the area had been closed due to bear activity so I was doing a lot of looking behind, beside and in front of me when I walked down to this area.

Here are some of my human friends from this summer in Yellowstone: Mickie & Jeannie. Both have gone home now but I'm hoping to stay in contact with them. Hello Mickie & Jeannie!

I found out today that my digital camera cannot withstand a 3 foot fall to the pavement. My digital camera is a thing of the past. I will not be able to replace it until next Wednesday when I go to drop off some of our international workers at the Bozeman airport. Being in Yellowstone without a camera is like.........like.....like being on earth without oxygen. It's just wrong on so many levels.

I've been quite a few e-mails from people with questions about visiting Yellowstone. Keep them coming and I am more than willing to help with ideas and suggestions. When shopping in any of the stores in the park I thought I would share a couple tips. Those of you who have been here probably have experienced some of these already.

Tip #1: The NPS requires everyone to show ID every time when purchasing alcohol in Yellowstone. Luckily most everyone who is of obvious age finds this a little amusing and is glad to show their ID.

Tip #2: If your credit card is not signed you will be asked for a photo ID with a signature on it. There are quite a few unsigned credit cards out there and if it's dropped in the parking lot someone else can sign it and use it. As long as the signatures match that's all that needs to be checked. A signed credit card that is dropped and tried to be used by someone else is a different story, an on-the-ball cashier will notice the difference in signatures. No one is trying to be a pain with the signature checking, it's for your protection. Also, spouses are not allowed to sign for a card in their spouses name. Blame the ID thieves for the stricter policies.

Top 4 questions I'm asked numerous times a day:

#1: Where is the bathroom?
#2: How do I get to the canyon?
#3 : Do you work here? (This one gets me every time since there are at least 20 of us wearing the same uniform in the store at any given time. We also wear name tags and I'm usually stocking gifts when asked.)
#4: What is there to see here?