"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

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Getting back to Yellowstone was an adventure in itself. I waited until 11:00 am Saturday for Interstate 94 to open across North Dakota. There still were No Travel Advisories but I headed out into quite a storm. Between Fargo and Bismark the winds were blowing from the north at about 30 mph. About 10 miles before Bismark the winds died down and I thought I was in the clear. On the west side of Bismark the winds picked up and were blowing at about 40 mph. With lots of white-outs I followed a car that was driving with their hazzards on. Luckily they didn't drive into the ditch or I would of driven right in behind them. I made it to Miles City Saturday night and finally into Yellowstone Sunday afternoon at 1:30.
What a difference a week makes. The hotel opened a week ago Monday and Mammoth is now very busy. I made my Monday trek to Lamar and actually got into a wildlife jam. I don't know what everyone was looking at but cars were backed up for a little bit. The bull elks greeted me on the Blacktail and I saw a coyote bounding across the snow in Lamar. Winter wildlife viewing is so much different - with the white snow it is easier to see animals that in the summer would be totally overlooked. Big Boy and a friend were laying and snoozing between Mammoth and the bridge over the Gardiner River to the west. It's good to see him. Otherwise all I saw was a lot of cars. It's nice to have all these people back in the Park enjoying a wintery Yellowstone.
My co-workers and I are planning on having dinner on New Years Eve at the Mammoth Hotel. This will be my first time dining there. We are all looking forward to that. Since I don't get tv reception and my only radio is in my car I won't know when the New Year officially starts. Otherwise my evenings are filled with 30 Rock (I finished Friends a couple weeks ago).
It's good to be back.

Saturday, December 26, 2009


I awoke this morning to some very sad news. My friend Barney, who I worked with at Canyon, passed away Christmas Eve from a cerebral hemorrhage. He was one of the nicest people I have ever had the honor of meeting. He always had a smile and a laugh for me when we showed up for our shifts together. I will miss Barney! And I will be keeping his wife, Becky, and his family in my thoughts.

It's still snowing here. The I-90 has been closed (along with other roads) has been closed from the Minnesota to the Montana boarders. Snowplows had been taken off the roads overnight but are supposed to start up again this morning. I originally had plans to be on the road an hour ago but now I'm continually checking the road condition websites. I don't know when I'll be able to leave but I have all my stuff ready to be put in my car.

I've passed the last day finding out about the wonders of Facebook. I've had an account there for quite awhile but I never did anything with it.....until yesterday. Now I'm finding (or they are finding me) old high school classmates I haven't seen in 25 years. It's amazing.

I wonder what is happening in Yellowstone.........

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas!

Kaylee came home Wednesday, a day early due to the storm that was coming this direction. I spent some time Christmas Eve snuggling with her. I had forgotten about all those cute little baby yawns and stretches but it quickly came back. Mom and dad are very tired with all their new baby duties.
I've also been doing some catching up with my friend Denise. Denise is my friend who came out to Yellowstone in August to visit me. She is hoping to convince her family to make a return trip this summer.
My daughter got a puppy for Christmas. More snuggling for me. She named the 7 week old puppy Squirt.
I also spent some time visiting some of my daughter's other pets, including Inca the llama.

And as much as I love a good snowstorm I'm not too pleased about the timing of the current storm in the Plains and Midwest. To the west of here and most of North Dakota there are Blizzard Warnings and there is the possibility of up to 2 feet of snow with drifts of 5 to 10 feet. I had planned on leaving Saturday morning but I'm not too sure if that will be possible. Currently it is snowing and the wind is picking up and that is only going to get worse as the day continues.

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Kaylee Marie

Kaylee Marie was born this morning at 10:55 CST. She is 7 lbs. 12 oz. and is 21 1/2 inches long. Hidden under that pink and white hat is a lot of beautiful dark hair. She is gorgeous. At the moment that she was born I was pumping gas in Valley City, North Dakota. Mom is doing great and dad is recovering from his near passing out moment when he cut the umbilical cord.
To get back to Minnesota I get to pass cool sights like the World's Largest Holstein Cow (New Salem, ND), the World's Largest Turkey (Perham, MN), roads such as Oink Joint Road (Wadena, MN), and statues of heros like St. Urho who killed the grasshoppers in Findland (Menahga, MN). All that and a baby, too!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Yellowstone In My Rearview Mirror

I went on my usual Monday morning Lamar Valley trip. I didn't have much luck spotting anything other than elk (which had moved into 'downtown' Mammoth) and bison. I did see a coyote in the distance by Pebble Creek. But a Lamar trip would not be complete without the snap of the shutter so I took this picture of Soda Butte.

Upon returning to Mammoth I talked to my son, Adam, who said that the baby was being induced and that mama-to-be was to go to the hospital tonight. And here I thought that she would probably go a week past her due date! At 12:15 this afternoon I made a mad dash to the store and made sure that my shifts could be covered and at 1:00 I was on my way back to Minnesota. The last thing I saw on my way out of Yellowstone was a ram.

The roads were clear until I hit Forsyth. There had been snow earlier in the day, along with freezing rain so the left lane was snowy and slick. It was slow going in the right lane. By Glendive the wind started whip up and blow snow across the road and it was near here that I saw a semi in the median. By Dickinson, North Dakota the wind was still blowing but there was also snow falling. With 8 hours behind the wheel I decided it was a good time to pull into a hotel and start off again tomorrow.

Driving gives me time to think and reflect. I remembered my favorite Yellowstone story, and thought I would share it. Years ago while driving in Yellowstone my middle son, Benjamin, was in the backseat of the car and roared out a belch. Normally I would frown on this but we had been in the car a long time and I was a bit slap happy and I laughed. Big Mistake! That one laugh became, to him, an invite to continue belching. No amount of "Don't make me come back there!" could get him to stop. In an effort to get him to stop I decided to tell him that burping in national parks was illegal because it depletes the ozone layer over the parks. And to punctuate this I found a park ranger who was eager to play along in my anti-burping story. The park ranger actually told Benjamin: "Yes, it is illegal to burp in national parks." Which was great........until he added: "Unless you can burp cool words like Chevrolet!" Guess what I got to hear for the rest of the trip.

And now my burping son is one of only 45 applicants accepted at the University of Minnesota, Rochester for pre-med that is taught in conjunction with the Mayo Clinic. He is a future neurosurgeon and his manners have been much improved.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

My First Winter Bison Jam

With my usual Sunday morning drive to Lamar I discovered that my camera was not in its usual place. After a bit of panic I remembered I brought it into the store this week and had accidentally left it there. So first stop this morning was the store to get the camera. After a brief chit chat with Judy and Betty I left for Lamar. After driving a bit down the road it dawned on me I forgot to get the camera after visiting so I turned around and drove back to pick it up. That was the boring part of my morning. After double checking all my possessions I finally started on my way. About one mile down the road I came across three wolves laying on top of a hill. There was already a couple other cars there with their cameras and scopes out (that is always a clue). The black wolf stood up and the other two stayed curled in balls to the left and down slope.
By the Yellowstone River picnic area I came across my first bison jam in months. It was a pleasant surprise and I enjoyed watching the bison stand in the middle of the road as I waited for them to move. I was entertained for awhile by one young bison who carried a small branch around in his mouth and would occasionally toss his head from side to side. He appeared to be really amusing himself with that branch.
In Lamar the snow started to fall, not very heavy but just enough to make the mountains obscure. Not a good day to photograph them. I will wait until a sunnier Sunday/Monday for that. As I drove toward the hitching posts on the east side of Lamar I saw a coyote on the side of the road. It had something very familiar to me: a collar. Could this possibly be Digit? I compared today's pictures with the ones I took last week and I've come to the conclusion that there are so many similar markings that it could very well be Digit. I talked to a Park Service employee this week and they were not aware of any active coyote research being done in the Park right now and that this coyote must be old.
I drove into Cooke City and snapped a picture of the snowmobiles on the road and the sleds lined up at the gas station.
On my way back to Mammoth I came across the same herd of bison but this time they were running across the bridge over the Yellowstone River. Once on the other side the slowed down to their usual walk as the car ahead of me and myself drove patiently behind. And we followed them for quite awhile.
I was surprised to see a very small and very orange calf in the group. It could be a hard winter on this little fella. I also saw a female with a prolapse (a talked to a couple heading in the other direction who thought she was calving. I explained what a prolapse was.). She was thin and bony. She is another bison that has a long hard winter ahead of her.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Pictures Anyone?

Bert and Pam have sent me some pictures of Lamar Valley from their trip here this summer. With hopes of duplicating where they were taken I'm hoping to get some of the same scene with it being winter. I've had a few requests for taking winter pictures in different areas of Yellowstone so people can see what their favorite area looks like in winter. I'm glad to do this so if you have a particular area you would like me to take a picture of please contact me and I'll see what I can do. At this time they would have to be areas that I can drive to, which basically means from Mammoth to Cooke City.
The weather has really warmed up. The sideways snow has ceased and today it is sunny. The elk have been by the Main Terrace the past few days and they stand there chewing as they watch people drive by. I guess they are people watching. This morning there were a few elk in the Yak. The only paw prints I've seen in the snow are from the rabbits that make their home there.
I'm realizing just how much the media played in my Christmas cheer of previous years. I heard my first Christmas song this morning on the radio at work and without television I'm not bombarded with all the commercials for what people absolutely have to purchase for that perfect Christmas. There is a huge tree strung with lights here in Mammoth, but I only get a glimpse of it when I leave work after dark. I've done my Christmas shopping because the calender says that it is only a week away. It's a very odd and strange feeling to not be surrounded by the songs, lights and smells of Christmas. However, Patty (who was the first to stop in at Canyon to tell me that people actually read this blog) sent me a wonderful holiday package of treats that she made. Thanks Patty! Which goes to show me that in Yellowstone it is the most purest of holiday feelings that I'm experiencing: it's not lights and ornaments, or the songs. It's the people that make Christmas special.

Monday, December 14, 2009

200th Post!!

This is my 200th posting, which is a whole lot more than I thought I would accomplish. I figured somewhere along the line the blog would go by the wayside but it never did. I enjoy wandering around Yellowstone, taking pictures and putting them on here. I have also met in person and in e-mail some incredible people. So onward I go toward my 300th posting. Hang on people, I'm taking you on a ride with me!

Above is a picture I took of Lamar Valley this morning. It was incredibly windy and small chunks of snow would blow up and over the road. Waves of snow, which looked like moving fabric, winded its way across the road.
This is the Buffalo Ranch in Lamar Valley. If you look at the mountain behind it you can see snow blowing off the side of it. Except for a herd of bison I saw nothing else in Lamar today. It was a quiet day there.....except for the sound of howling wind.

In the vicinity of Little America a herd of bison moved in single file. They started to run and kick up puffs of snow that the wind would blow away. It was a beautiful sight.
The only coyote I saw today was the little guy I saw a week ago with the radio collar by the Tower Ranger Station. The Park Service uses numbers to keep track of certain animals (such as the elk #6 from the Mammoth area who tragically died last February) and unfortunately I don't know his number so until I find that out I decided to call him Digit. He was successfully hunting rodents and I caught him licking his chops after finishing his lunch.

And in case anyone is interested, besides the Blacktail Deer parking area, there are new restrooms at Tower Junction and at the hitching posts at the east end of Lamar.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Gearing Up

When I'm driving around the Park I usually have my big lens on my camera. Chances are that whatever I need to take a picture of is not going to be right next to the road. Except for this morning. Coming into the Blacktail this bull elk was right next to the road. I was not in a position to stop and change lenses so I had to make due with my big lens. His rack was so large that I wasn't able to fit the entire thing into the frame.
But on my way back from Lamar I used a pullout to change lenses before coming back to the area that I had seen him in earlier. There were actually three bulls but only one was by the road.
And of course I saw coyotes today (but no Trotter). This one was by the Lamar River by Slough Creek. I also saw coyotes but Pebble Creek and in Lamar Valley.
Though this is not a great picture of the American Dipper that I wrote about before, it was the best I could do. There are quite a few of them where the Soda Butte meets the Lamar River. I waited for this one to put on his aquatic show but he was just content to sit at the edge of the ice.
I thought I would just snap a quick picture of the herd of bison across the Lamar River with the mountain background. As I watched them I noticed a leaping motion by them. Yup, a leaping coyote. There were actually two of them wandering by the herd.
So with a little zoom I was able to capture the two coyotes with the bison as a background. I always get a bit of a kick when I can see two different species in one spot.

On Friday evening I went into Gardiner for a quick errand. On my return and only after 20 minutes of passing the 'Caution. Debris On Road' sign in the canyon I came to find that rocks had tumbled down and were scattered all over the road. Could have been caused by erosion or maybe sheep, but driving through that area was an obstacle course. In that area I am always mindful that there could be things in the middle of the road. Sometimes it is animals and sometimes it is rocks. Neither I want to hit with my car.

Yesterday the wind blew all day and it snowed most of the day in what I've come to know as 'sideways snow'. I heard the snowplow scraping along this morning at about 5:00. There was about three inches on the ground. I would like to see more snow.

A group of Xanterra employees that work at the Snow Lodge left Mammoth yesterday for their winter at Old Faithful. Their last stop was the YGS to stock up on munchies and last minute necessities needed for a few months stay. I see the snowcoaches have been taken out for the winter and have been running up and down the road and more Mammoth Hotel and Dining Room employees are showing up. Mammoth is beginning to gear up for all the fun winter activities that are possible in Yellowstone.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

I'm getting backed up with my replies to e-mails sent to me. Be patient and I will try and reply to each one as quickly as I can. I also want to say "Hi" to Kerry; Dragos in Romania; the Wheelers in Maryland; Ed from Hendersonville, North Carolina; Dennis in Massachusetts but formerly from Duluth, Minnesota and Al who is local and stopped in the store and said 'Hi" to me.

I took a quick trip into Gardiner yesterday afternoon when I got off work early. I saw the rams again in the canyon. That is twice this week and its funny how I've looked for them for two months and never saw them. There was also a coyote who ran in front of my vehicle as I came up to Mammoth on my return. This morning Big Boy made a showing by the terrace.

I have lived my entire life in areas that get frigid temps in the winter yet I just can't seem to get warm this winter. I think I'm still acclimating myself to winter temps and pretty soon I will be running out to start my car in short sleeved shirts when its -20 and not think twice about it.
My status in the world should be moving up within 11 days or so. My first grandchild is due on Dec. 21. and I will then move into the grandmother category with all the perks that go with it. Though most people associate their grandmothers with the smell of sugar cookies and apple pies my grandchild will probably associate me with the smell of Sulphur Cauldron. My phone is nearby at all times just in case something happens early. When I get that call I will head back to Minnesota for a couple days.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009


When I got off work last night at 6:00 it was already -10. This morning when I started my car at 9:00 my car thermometer registered -15. It was a perfect morning to capture the Lower Terrace with all the steam and frosty trees. Then I stopped at the Map Room at the Mammoth Hotel to take in the Xanterra and Yellowstone Association sale. Though it was early in the day the place was packed and there had developed a line of people that wrapped around 1/2 the room as people waited to pay for their purchases. I didn't buy anything but it was interesting to take a look at all the great buys there were there.
Then I was off to Lamar Valley. As I went passed the Blacktail Lakes I came across a familiar sight.......all too familiar.
There was that little coyote right in the middle of the road not letting me pass once again! I snapped a few pictures of him again. I also decided to identify him by name: Trotter. His name comes from him continuously trotting down the middle of the road.


The Blacktail Deer parking area now has a new bathroom (important info for those who travel the Park). I true winter Yellowstone experience involves using one of those restrooms at -15 degrees. On the Blacktail I also came across these 4 bull elk. They were all frosty breath and antlers.
In Lamar Valley I watched a herd of bison wandering on the ice over the Lamar River. I enjoyed a sandwich as I watched them, hoping none of them broke through the ice.
As they eventually moved away from the river one stopped to take the opportunity to use this piece of wood to scratch his neck. By the Soda Butte and the Lamar Rivers I watched a couple of American Dippers, tiny birds that will dive into the water and swim underwater to feed. They would perch themselves on the ice next to open water and suddenly dive into the water and disappear and eventually surface. I had heard of them but this was my first opportunity to see them in action. On my way back to Mammoth I came across Trotter once again right in the middle of the road. I finally made my way around him, pulled into a pull out and watched him wander down the road in front of another car. The other vehicles pulled into the pull out and we all watched him mouse (successfully). When I left him I came across three more coyotes just up the road by Lava Creek. One climbed up an embankment and I took his picture as he stood there with this contemplative pose.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Human Sparkler

I had a change in my work schedule this week and I am working today and having tomorrow off. So I am using my lunch break on the computer. First off, a big "Yellowstone Hello" to Duncan and Marion in Carluke, Scotland!!

I was extremely humbled and appreciative when I checked my e-mail this morning. I received quite a few notes about my posting and pictures yesterday. Thank you to everyone with your kind words and interest. I wake up every morning wondering what interesting things I will experience that day. Some days I see incredible things and some days I think I just pass by incredible things without taking notice. I'm learning to appreciate everything and not take for granted what is here. I want to notice everything and share it. For instance, I would love to bottle up some of this frigid air and share it with everyone.

It was -14 this morning. My furnace will run, shut off for about a minute and then turn back on again. It does that all day and all night. When it was -10 I learned a valuable lesson. If I wash my hands before walking out the door to leave I should dry them thoroughly. I didn't that day and my hand stuck to the doorknob. Also, the air is extremely dry in Mammoth and I have a perpetual case of dry skin and I have become a human sparkler from all the static electricity. I decided this is an area that I can give myself a pass on for needing to appreciate. Just because I am getting zapped in Yellowstone doesn't necessarily make it awesome.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Rams At Last!

Either sheer excitement has overtaken me or I've had one too many cans of Mt. Dew. I just can't stop smiling. After my last post I decided to go into Gardiner, keeping an eye on the cliffs (but mostly on the road). I finally spotted a ram! Luckily there was a pull out so I could sit there and watch the ram across the river. As I watched him I started hearing the sound of sliding and falling rocks. Oh oh! My first instinct was to look above my car in fear that I would have some explaining to do to my insurance man (who is probably still recovering from the shock of having $2,000 worth of damage to a vehicle when I hit a raccoon a year ago). Nothing was above me and that is when I saw three more rams coming down from above the ram I was watching.
While I watched these three descend I also happened to notice two more laying on an outcrop above them.
That is when the first ram came down further and started to walk down the road right toward me. He eventually climbed the hill on my side of the road and joined two more rams. I watched the three rams, who were still across the river, ram and butt each other. One decided he had enough and went and grazed by himself while I captured the silhouette of the other two when they took a break from antagonizing each other.

I never made it into Gardiner.

The Time Of My Life

I have developed the habit of playing music according to where I am in the Park. I guess each area of the Park has its own impact on how a person feels. For instance, when I'm in Hayden Valley I tended to play Pachelbel's Canon. It just seemed to fit the atmosphere. Between Canyon and Norris I seem drawn to The Doors. Now I almost feel compelled to find the perfect music for Lamar and the Blacktail. I've tried everything from Judas Priest to Elton John. I haven't found the perfect singer or song for those areas.......until today. More on that later.

When I left the Mammoth area to head toward Lamar I came across the bison that I've seen here. And since I like the idea of having something to identify certain creatures with I have christened him Big Boy. And he is a big boy.

Once I got to the Blacktail I found myself stuck behind this little coyote as he winded his way down the road. Since no one was around I certainly didn't mind driving at a snails pace behind him as he went left, then right, then left. He did not want me to pass him which was fine since watching wildlife was the whole reason I was out there.
He did some mousing in the ditches and he came up with this little pile of snow on his nose.

He eventually left the roadway but as I was checking my picture on my camera he made his way back to the middle of the road and I followed him some more. This time it was the animal that used a pull off and I continued on my way.

When I came to Floating Island Lake I found 3 coyotes in the middle of the road. Above is a picture of one of them. One had a radio collar, which is the first one I've seen with one. One, when he saw me, ran for the hills while the other two wandered the edge of the road. The one with the radio collar made a successful kill of probably a mouse (he did a triple pounce to get it).

After watching a herd of elk near Tower Junction I came across this beauty between the junction and the Yellowstone River. He (and this I know positively since he lifted his leg on every stationary object) is only the second fox I've seen this year.

By this time I'm feeling pretty giddy. I just couldn't believe the incredibly luck I was having seeing interesting things. As I was snapping pictures I realized that the lyrics to the song that was playing on the radio were: "I hope you had the time of your life." And that I was.

After climbing on this rock he got down and did some mousing. I captured a couple fox pouncing shots. Finally something other than a pouncing coyote.

On my way back to Mammoth I had to slow down and go around Big Boy as he lumbered up the hill east of the Gardner River. As I drove around him he stopped and looked at me with that one huge eye on my side. He is indeed a massive and beautiful animal and I think the name Big Boy fits him perfectly.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Canyon 2010

Old friends from Canyon have been contacting me these past few days as we find out who will be returning to Canyon next summer. There is a great group coming back. And I will be there, too. I will be arriving there May 10 with an end date of October 2, 2010. Great friendships develop over the summer since we all work, live and eat together and it will be great to see those faces again next May. I am looking forward to it. I am really beginning to miss some of my old summer haunts. I miss my drives through Hayden Valley and trips through the canyon to Cody. And my drives over Dunraven and finding bison wandering around on the road at the summit. I wonder what the Magnificent One is doing and if the Dorm Bison misses all the activity by the Canyon dorms. And if Bob has found another road to travel on.

I have been here in Mammoth for just over 7 weeks now. I've been seeing a real change in temps, its cold and the wind is really whipping outside. The store has a nice little fireplace and I enjoy warming up beside it. I have heat tape on the waterlines where I live and they are working great. Every morning I get a good dose of warm water from the cold water line when I brush my teeth. The other night I witnessed a spectacular sight. The moon was full and huge and I watched it as it rose over Mount Evert. I could see the outline of the trees at the top as the moon rose behind it. There had been a dusting of snow the other night and I came out in the morning to find huge wolf tracks right by my car. A motion detector night vision camera would be interesting to have.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

-10 Degrees

Maybe I shouldn't have mentioned cold weather in my past post. This morning I woke up to -10 degrees. It has climbed up to about 4 degrees at this point. It is supposed to be -10 degrees tonight again. When it gets this cold the terraces really start to steam. I can see elk sitting on the top of the hill behind the store soaking in the sun.

Yesterdays weather was interesting. Monday night the wind blew hard and it shakes and rattles my place. Then the snow came in and it snowed and blew until later afternoon. I loved watching the snow mostly because I knew I only had a 1 mile drive home after work.

The other day elk were spread across the road and canyon just south of the Boiling River. With the road winding through the canyon extra caution had to be used. I found a few yesterday lounging on Opal Terrace.
As for my 'down time' in the evenings I have become a fan of the show Friends. Up until October I was possibly the only person left in the US who had never seen a single episode of Friends. I now have all 10 seasons of the show and I'm currently finishing up Season 8. Who knew it would take Yellowstone for me to finally watch this show. Last night I watched Grand Torino, my first movie in months. Otherwise my evenings are occupied with my computer and the washing machine.