"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, October 23, 2011

20,000 Miles in Yellowstone

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

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

More Colors

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

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

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

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Lucky Indeed

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Mammoth Elk

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

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

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