"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, August 28, 2011

Christmas in August 2011

On Thursday it was everyone's favorite day in Yellowstone:  Christmas in August.  We close the store one hour early, clear the floor of the store and set up tables for a Christmas meal.  The surroundings were festive with tinsel and Christmas decorations.  Our meal consisted of turkey, ham, lasagna, beans, rolls, mashed potatoes, stuffing, etc.  I have moved up from my dressing like a banana days (2 years ago) to emceeing.  Paul did a stand-up routine and told us jokes.
The evening was complete with a visit from Mr. and Mrs. Clause and a game involving our gift exchange. 

Pig Races

For the second time in August I took a trip over the Beartooths.  The reason:  Pig Races by Red Lodge, Montana!!  Andrea and I set off from Mammoth on a Saturday morning a couple of weeks ago and headed for The Top of the World.  Yes, there really is a place on the Pass called Top of the World which consists of some cabins and a store.  We stopped at the store and picked up a couple of sandwiches and snacks and matching t-shirts with Beartooth Pass written on the front.  

This was Andrea's first trip over the pass, and though I had been over it a few times in the past, we both enjoyed the scenery.  We stopped at a small mountain lake and had a picnic....a very short picnic since we were soon covered with ravenous mosquitoes.  We had a moment of laughter when we crossed over into Montana on the pass and saw a sign that said "Speed Limit 70 mph".  Yeah, right.

The pig races were fun.  Though there is an opportunity to bet on them (a fundraiser for local kids for education.  They have already raised over $90,000!) we were too afraid that we would lose our spot so we stayed put and watched 4 of the races.  Since we were camping in the Custer National Forest south of Red Lodge we left while there was still light and headed back to the campsite.

While Andrea and I spent our time shopping in Red Lodge and watching pig races Patrick was at the campsite setting it up.  We spent the evening popping popcorn, watching the fire and strategically placing our bear spray in areas of the tents for easy access.  No bears showed up but Patrick did need to chase off a deer that circled our campsite and showed no fear of humans.

The next morning we went back to Mammoth via the Pass and made one last stop in Cooke City for funnel cake.  It was quite a weekend.  Beauty of the mountains, the thrill of watching adorable little pigs run in a circle and gaining the knowledge that I can warm up an egg and sausage burrito on a log by a campfire.

Friday, August 12, 2011

My Minnesoooota Visitors

Last week I spent the majority of my time sitting in bison jams in Hayden Valley.  With the bison rut in full swing there was plenty of snorts, ground pawing and rolling in the dirt to entertain me while I sat and waited.  My commute from Mammoth to Lake was extended by nearly an hour due to these lookers of love but I have always enjoyed the rut so I tolerated the extra time.

Last Thursday my friends from Minnesoooota arrived.  Patrick and I met them in Red Lodge after driving over Beartooth Pass.  Since I have been here Lyle and Denise have had my Jeep in storage and hauled it out to me.  Wanting to go over the pass themselves we decided to meet them in Red Lodge and take the Jeep so that they could go over the Beartooth's without having to haul it behind them.   It was a five hour drive for us since we were met with jams in Hayden, and road construction over Dunraven and over the Lamar River.
Beartooth Pass
With a list of animals that they wanted to see I had Lyle and Denise follow me from Mammoth to Lake.  I had assured them that I would get them in a bison jam and that we would find some elk.  Mammoth is usually teaming with elk but we only managed to see a couple crossing the hill behind the store.  I was sure I would find them a herd.  Our first encounter after leaving Mammoth was a large black bear half way to Tower.  One animal checked off the list.  And that was about all we saw after that.  No jams in Hayden, just a handful of bison that were so far from the road that they were just brown specks on the hillside.

After dinner we decided to head out and find some wildlife.  With Patrick, Levi, Leah and myself in my car and Lyle and Denise in another we headed east of Fishing Bridge.  At Pelican Creek we saw a mother grizzly and her cub swimming for the road.  They then got on the road right next to Lyle and Denise, crossed the road and walked right next to my car.  Oh joy!  Another animal crossed off the list.  We then went to Hayden..........still no bison.
Grizzlies by Pelican Creek

Mama Grizzly and Cub

Lower Falls
Levi, Lyle, Denise and Leah

Waiting for Old Faithful

The next morning we headed out again.  We saw the Lower Falls, Norris Geyser Basin, ate at West Yellowstone and then headed toward Old Faithful.

Old Faithful

White Dome Geyser
Before we got to Old Faithful we stopped to look at some other geysers.  As we snapped pictures, and without notice, White Dome Geyser went off right before us.  Incredible luck!

We stopped at Grant Village for some shopping and headed back to Lake.  Before we got to the junction we saw a large group of people on a bridge.  It was a large bull elk, something Levi had been wanting to see.  Another animal checked off that list.  Now all that was left was a moose and a bison jam.

Heading out onto Yellowstone Lake for some fishing

Heading out onto the Lake

Fishing was another thing that Levi had wanted to do in Yellowstone.  Patrick took the gang out on the boat and headed for Grant Marina.  After letting Lyle, Denise and Leah off at the Marina to walk to the store Patrick and Levi set out for some fishing.

I met up with the others in Grant while Patrick and Levi fished.  It was not a lucky fishing day:  no fish and storms kept blowing in.  Levi was left off at the marina with his family and I drove them back to their car at Lake so that they could get to Billings that night.  Patrick had to sit with the boat for another couple of hours waiting the storms out before heading back to Bridge Bay Marina.  Storms on Yellowstone Lake are not something to take lightly.
It was a great weekend having good friends visit.  I enjoyed being a pseudo-tour guide and a tourist myself.  In fact, I have been here for over two years and this was my first opportunity to see Old Faithful erupt.  I was thrilled that they got to see some Yellowstone grizzlies, and a black bear to boot.  But no matter how hard I tried I could not find a bison jam so that they could experience that too.

I am now back in my real Yellowstone world: working and living here and making my Mammoth to Lake commutes.  On my first commute back to Lake I got into a huge bison jam.  Go figure.