"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

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Winged Hitchikers

Today is an absolutely gorgeous day with the warm temp and the sunny skies. It is what I would consider a 'coat optional' day for those wandering the sidewalks of Mammoth. Yesterday the thermometer in my car registered 42 degrees and I'm sure that today will be at least that. If the clear sky holds out until tonight it will be perfect full moon viewing.
The Canyon pack has wandered into the Mammoth area. I listened to one of the researchers last summer when at Canyon and I recall him talking about the Canyon pack wandering between Mammoth and Canyon. I'm usually at work when I hear excited people talking about where the wolves are so I rarely get the opportunity to see them myself. I did, however, get to see some elk on the road this morning as I came down the hill from the Yak. I see the elk all of the time but I still enjoy seeing them.
I also got the opportunity to watch some antelope by the North Entrance yesterday. They are in that area on a regular basis. Some of the younger bull elk also hang out by the Arch and yesterday I watched one lay in the sun as a magpie wandered around on his back. Birds are notorious for hitching rides with the elk and bison. Winged hitchikers.
I have been hearing from a few of my friends from Canyon and we are all excited about getting back there.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Swarm

Here is a special message to Dave: I have been informed by Jackie that you will be joining the YGS family and will be working with me at the Adventure Store in Canyon this summer. I'm looking forward to a great summer there.
I have been getting a bit antsy lately. When I get off work it is noticeably lighter outside. But it lasts just long enough for me to take a short drive with some light. The elk have been hanging out in Mammoth. Yesterday Connie and I watched a female run up the hill by the store only to watch her bounce (literally bounce) back down the hill 2 minutes later with two young bulls behind her. She seemed to be a bit of a tease as she ran much faster toward the boys than away from them. The bulls stopped for a few seconds to butt heads together before they continued on their pursuit of the vixen.
I have heard numerous reports of the Gardiner wolf pack roaming through Mammoth. One local saw them by the corrals at 9:30 the other night and one person saw at least one wolf by the Entrance Station as they drove into the Park. Two days ago as I went home for lunch I felt eyes on me. When I turned around I found Big Boy was across the road standing below a tree. I've been waiting for the bison to make their way into the Yak. I stopped for a few moments the other day to watch the elk herd run on Capital Hill. 3 people had climbed to the top and surprised the herd which immediately swarmed off at full run. They reminded me of a flock of birds that fly in unison (such as the ones I watched in Hayden Valley this summer). The elk were running toward the road and all I could see was a sheet of brown with 100 legs only to have them all turn away leaving me with a view of tan rumps. I've also heard of some bear sightings near Gardiner and bear tracks in the snow east of here.
The temps have dropped this past week. It has been in the 20's during the day and mostly cloudy with a few peaks of sunshine. We've had a few flakes falling during the day but nothing that covers the ground. Snowplowing will be starting on March 8, the same day that the Mammoth Hotel closes. There is plenty of winter left but I am really looking forward to spring.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Kaylee Marie

A few photos that I took on my travels to Bozeman. These were taken south of Livingston.

I started out my day today taking a trip to Lamar. It had been a couple of weeks since I had made any travels there. On the Blacktail I came across a bison sauntering down the road (Big Boy, is that you?) Further on about 1 mile before Hellroaring I came across a bison jam, only my 3rd this winter.

The bison stood in the middle of the road......and stood, and stood and stood. It was a small matter as I rather enjoy just watching them. As soon as one of them decided to move on the rest of the herd followed.

Unfortunately this photo doesn't show the trampled snow very well. Most areas lack an undisturbed snow as the wildlife plow, trample, hop and run through it.

A small herd of bison lounged at the curve of the Lamar River. The snow on the river also has numerous animal tracks.

A trip to Lamar wouldn't be complete without viewing the rams by the hitching posts. When everything is lacking I can always count on see at least one ram. And he appears to know only one pose.

The vegetation by the Soda Butte was rather frosty today. Bison were scattered across Lamar Valley and those close enough to the road that were laying in the snow were breathing a heavy, frost breath.

Coming back from Lamar I came across 6 bighorn sheep right off the side of the road just past the Yellowstone picnic area. I cringed a bit as I watched a man take pictures of a herd of 4 of them from a mere 15 feet away.

Further on as I approached Tower Jct. I watched a coyote mouse. He looked fairly healthy but did have some wounds on both sides of his face and a rather large open wound on his front left leg by the elbow.

Later on I watched as a ranger scared a coyote off the road. The coyote did a huge leap and twist into the ditch but as the ranger moved on the coyote very triumphantly moved back onto the road in front of me.
Last night Judy and I went out for hamburgers at the K Bar. Another reccommendation I have, it's a build-your-own type thing and they were delicious. We are all planning on going out for pizza on Wednesday to say our 'goodbye' to Jeff as his winter season as being the Mammoth YGS manager is over. It's been a good winter and I can now proudly say that I have eaten outside the Park at other places than McDonalds.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010


Today I am beginning to wonder if I am part snake. Last night was our big night out for dinner at Chico Hot Springs. I started off with some escargot and moved on to the prime rib...which is where I should of stopped considering that I couldn't finish it. But then the dessert cart was wheeled to the table. That is when the conversation in my head started: "You couldn't finish your meal so go right ahead and cram some more food into your stomach." which is exactly what I did. I finished with cheesecake. This is where the snake part comes in, I won't have to eat again for about 6 months. So if your in Yellowstone and are considering dining out I recommend trying the dining room at Chico Hot Springs. Great food, superb service and I guarantee you will not leave hungry.
This weekend was very busy in Yellowstone. It must of had something to do with the long weekend. Charles stopped in to say "hi" to me (I hope you got some exciting pictures) and I got an exciting e-mail from David who just got his first job in the Park. Mammoth Hotel will only be open for another couple weeks and then things will probably slow down a bit.
We are still waiting for some snow here in Mammoth. Thinking that I may be possibly jinxing any snowfall by excitedly commenting on any Winter Storm Warnings I neglected to mention the one we were in last week. I guess it isn't me because we got zilch with the 'storm'.

Sunday, February 14, 2010


Since I am the Park 23/7 (23 because I go to Gardiner briefly during the week) I am never under pressure to see and do everything like those who are here for short vacations. So when I pass an opportunity to see things of interest I do so because I know I will probably have the chance to see it in the future. I had numerous people tell me about a bobcat by Phantom Lake last weekend that spent 4 hours feeding on a kill. That is something I probably will have to wait a long time to see and I wish I would of had the chance to stop and see that particular bobcat.
There was a kill at the base of Capital Hill this weekend and I saw the researchers watching with interest. I didn't get a chance to see any wolves but I did get to watch a couple eagles perched on rocks as ravens and magpies circled and landed on the kill. A large flock of ravens circling is always a good clue that something of interest is laying on the ground.
With my only two options of travel being east toward Cooke City and north toward Livingston I'm having to rely on spinning around with a pointed finger and heading in the direction that I stop at. Lately it has been north. I see huge herds of mule deer, larger than any herd that I have ever seen in Minnesota. I also have noticed that I see a lot of deer laying down. Not that is really of any interest but Minnesota is heavily wooded (at least the northern portion) and I have actually never seen a deer lying down in the wild because they are usually hidden.
I've also been seeing the antelope quite a bit. I enjoyed one day when I sat and watched 3 of them by the Gardner River. 2 were rather young and were busy bouncing around after each other and running circles around the 3rd older one. I assumed it was the equivalent of humans stopping at a rest area and letting the kids run around the outside of the building to wear off some extra energy before traveling on. I also have had a daily visitor outside my place. A raven has taken to perching itself on top of the light post outside and squawking very loudly. I named him Poe and if I use my imagination I can almost hear the word 'nevermore' in that squawk. If he starts tap, tap, tapping at my door I am out of there.
Those of us here at YGS in Mammoth are gearing up for our big dinner outing at Chico on Tuesday. I'm looking forward to a big slab of prime rib.
Yes, some days it can be a struggle coming up with anything interesting to write about. I have been fighting off the urge to write about how my microwave tends to burn my popcorn or how I sprayed foam carpet cleaner on my carpet and now I have dirty carpet with paths of clean from where the spray hit it. But since I once dedicated an entire post to chapstick this past fall I decided to pass on the boring stuff and just get right to the meat of things - so when I'm not posting for a few days it is because I haven't seen a darn thing. But talking about chapstick, Connie bought me some that is Mt. Dew flavored and it actually has a warning on the label that tells me not to eat it. I'll have to check a Mt. Dew can and see if it has a warning not to use that as chapstick.
And a side note of CONGRATULATIONS! is in order to Benjamin who just recieved his letter of acceptance to the University of Minnesota for their pre-med program. He has been accepted at all 3 universities that he applied to but the U of M is his dream. They only accept about 12% of the 40,000 applicants. With his numerous talents there was never a doubt in my mind that he would be accepted. A job well done!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Whatever you are, be a good one.

Since today is Abraham Lincoln's birthday I thought it would be quite fitting to have today's title be one of his famous quotes. And could Lincoln pump out some thought provoking quotes. This particular one is straight and to the point but I've always been a fan of his quote:

And in the end its not the years in a life but the life in the years.

With the lack of anything substantial to report from here I thought I could just take a few moments to take my hat off (my Yellowstone National Park hat that I wear in the Fountain at work) and salute Abraham Lincoln. And yes, I will try to be a good one.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Another Day Another Adventure

I have been enjoying visits to Bozeman lately. I discovered a great place to buy cd's and I spent a great deal of time browsing there. I listen to a lot of music on my drives through the Park so a nice assortment of music is a must for me. However, I hate it when I buy a mix cd, pop it into my player and then discover that it is sung not by the original bands but by groups like The Singers of Studio 99. It's almost as bad as buying a whole cd that was recorded live. I'm kind of picky that way.
My drives to Bozeman are an adventure in themselves. I am constantly seeing huge herds of mule deer and I have even spotted some bighorns in the valley. Eagles, both bald and golden, are numerous and today I had 3 swans fly over. The mountains are gorgeous with the sun hitting on them just right. It is a spectacular drive. However, with much dawdling on my part I haven't been able to make it back to Gardiner in time to upload my pictures.
It's best to always pay attention when driving south from Livingston. Today I had to brake hard for a herd of mule deer that came running out into the road. There have been numerous times that I've had to slow down for antelope and deer that were on the roads edge but this was one of those instances I was sure I was going to collide with one. Luckily, my insurance man can go another day without hearing from me.
Yesterday I made it to Lamar. There have been quite a few wolf watchers there these past few weeks. The turnouts can get a bit congested so I just drive by. Most people are watching the wolves with their scopes and my scope is safely nestled in its case back at my place. I haven't been using it much lately - actually I haven't been using it at all this winter. I did manage to see a huge and beautiful red fox yesterday. By the time I parked and wandered back to a nice viewing area it had already disappeared. The ram was once again by the hitching posts. He stood like a statue soaking up some sun. I have yet to see an otter but I'm always on the look out for them.
I also saw the usual array of coyotes, bison and elk. It had snowed Friday night in Lamar so the bison were swinging their heads to clear away snow from the grass and the coyotes were plowing through chest deep snow.
The past few mornings I have been finding elk have been hanging out across the road from me. It's a great greeting in the morning when I look out my kitchen window. This morning I watched a coyote meander around the trees and rocks. The snow immediately outside my place is filled with elk tracks.
On Thursday John and Jay stopped in the store to say "Hi!" to me on their way to the Buffalo Ranch. It's always great to meet people who have contacted me. I'm still working on my e-mail replies. I always have good intentions when I sit down at the computer but sometimes time just works against me. I might have to look into buying internet service that I can use in the evenings at my leisure.
I now have new days off: Saturday and Sundays. Same great adventures just new days to experience them.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Gravel Road

I don't know what happened. Well, yes I do. Nothing! Just a mere scattering of flakes. No accumulating snow, no wind, no drifts. That darn Weather Channel and how they lead me on. I did wake up early (5:00 am) and decided to head to Bozeman on Sunday morning. I'm on the road by 6:00 (ahead of what I thought was snow) anticipating some serious grocery shopping. The snow levels are much deeper in Bozeman from what appeared to be a recent snow. I come from the Land of Sand and Salt. In the 70's and 80's most people's vehicles in Minnesota were merely buckets of rust on wheels going down the road from the salt used during the winter. In Montana they use sand which almost appears to be more gravel like. I decided this when cars would pass me and I would watch projectile missiles being thrown up from their tires and repeatedly smack into my window. Most of my drive into Bozeman consisted of me muttering "No! No! No!" as pieces of rock scratched my paint and probably pitted my windshield. But then again, it is way better than sliding out-of-control down the mountain and smashing through the median. Yes, a pitted windshield is much better than a totalled vehicle.
I've been wading through my e-mails recently. I know I have missed sending out some greetings such as to Mike in Centerville, Utah. Buried between numerous unsolicited advertisements from EHarmony and Laser Hair Removal I occasionly stumble across a few that I've overlooked. And if I had paid more attention to my Junk box I would of discovered that I would have been a zillionaire if only I had sent some money to a bank in Nigeria.
The elk have been visiting the metropolis of Mammoth lately. I found one staring at me from behind when I turned around at the garbage bin at the Yak this morning. I had no idea that it was there until our eyes locked and then it put her head down and continued to graze. Coming back from Gardiner one evening I had to stop as I noticed something on the edge of the road ahead of me. It was a young bull standing there who eventually crossed the road. With all the twists and turns on that road it would be very easy to come around a corner and plow right into something.
This weekend I didn't even make it into Lamar. Yesterday, after going to Emigrant to wash road debris off my vehicle, I made a half-hearted attempt to go. In all honestly, I was too tired. I made it just past the Yellowstone picnic area where I watched a couple bison swishing their heads around and grazing then decided to turn around and head back. I came across one coyote by the Blacktail Plateau Drive and the bull elks by Lava Creek. I spent the rest of the afternoon watching season 5 of The Office. Sometimes a relaxing day in Yellowstone is great, too.