Summer Activities

Summer Activities
An old bull bison wandering around Old Faithful

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Monday, July 22, 2013

Guess what I did yesterday...

I know I said I would talk about some of the stuff that had already happened this summer, but I definitely can't wait to share this.
Yesterday I went snorkeling.  In Yellowstone.
Apparently this isn't a first.  Some of the employees in Mammoth have done this a few times before.  Myself and some folks who work at the Yellowstone Center for Resources and the Archives drove down towards the Old Faithful area where the Firehole River runs.  Now The thing to know about the Firehole is that many of the geyser basins around the Old Faithful area have a lot of their geysers and hot springs empty into the river, making it much warmer than the normal temperature of Yellowstone water which is 'freezing.'  In fact, when we got there and first stepped into the water, it was really warm!  Almost bath temperature.
At first snorkeling in the river was a bit scary.  The only other places I have snorkeled was in pools and one time in Florida (which I don't remember much about.)  This was my first time snorkeling in a river, floating down stream and such.   We floated for about 1/4 of a mile, got out, walked back, and then repeated 3 more times. The water ranged from about 4 feet deep to 8 feet deep and was crystal clear as long as we didn't stir up sediment.  Initially I got freaked out a bit by some giant plants.  There were these long underwater flowing bushes that looked like seaweed; some of them were up to 20 feet long and 5 feet wide.  I had to keep reminding myself that nothing big (probably) lived in them as the water was too warm for many aquatic fish life and only housed some smaller bugs that we could see.
Another cool thing I saw underwater was a large mushroom-shaped rock that was about 4 feet in diameter.  It looked to me like it might have been an old thermal feature, like some kind of old geyser cone.
Didn't see any fish.  We all figured the water was too warm for them and that they were in cooler waters.  Yeah, it was THAT warm.
It was a sunny day, but I had remembered to put on sunscreen. Except for the ride home. My arm got burned while leaning it on the window during the drive back...

Me snorkeling in the Firehole.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Living Here

Mammoth vs. Tower
Some people have been asking me, "What is it like to live in Yellowstone?"  I'm going to try to give you guys an idea.  First of all, I have found out it is very different from place to place in the park.  Let's start with a comparison between Mammoth, where I am living now, and Tower, where I have lived for the past four summers.
Modern Technology:
In Tower, the most technological advanced piece of equipment in my house was my iPhone.  There was no TV and no internet AND no cell service.  Some of the permanent employees there at the ranger station had satellite at their residences, but everyone else has to deal without it.  The closest internet was the office, but that's a government computer, so some of the sites were blocked on it.  The next closest internet was Gardiner, MT, and that was 45 min away.  The closest AT&T cell coverage for my phone was two miles up the road.
In Mammoth I am living in the lap of luxury.  I have internet!  Dial up, but I am still finding it quite speedy.  I still don't have AT&T cell service where I am, so I broke down and bought a cheap Verizon pay as you go phone, because there is Verizon cell service.  No TV, but that is okay.  I am completely fine without it.

Food and Dining:
While we had a small general store up the road at Tower, the prices there were and still are absolutely ridiculous, so everyone avoided shopping there if possible.  There's a grocery store in Gardiner, (a 45 minute drive,) but the variety is somewhat limited and some of the packaged foods are still a bit on the expensive side.  They do sell some really good local bread that I like to get from there though.  The best place to get groceries is Livingston, which was 1.5 hours away from the ranger station.  I'm pretty happy with the prices and variety there.
Living in Mammoth, I'm pretty much still shopping at the Livingston grocery store.  Upside is it is only one hour away now.  There still is a general store nearby, (with atrocious prices and everything!), but this time it is only a short walk away from my house.  I have a great kitchen that I get to cook my own food in.

General Living Stuff:
At Tower, in the morning, sulfur was sometimes smelled throughout my house.  We had a somewhat major thermal feature, Calcite Springs, about 2 mi south of Tower, and the smell came all the way from there in the morning.  Over the past couple years I've been noticing it less and less, so I must have been getting used to it.  I used to step out the door of my house in the morning and there was a creek about 20 feet from it running parallel to my house.

This was the view from my front door.  It was a pretty awesome view.  I did have to look around the corners of my house when I left it to make sure there wasn't any bison or bears hanging out around the sides of it.  
The commute to work was about a 50 yard walk up to the office.  When I first got there, the uphill walk to the office made me out of breath because of the fact that the ranger station is 6272 ft above sea level.  That's over a mile high and also a higher elevation than Denver.  But once I got acclimated, the walk was no problem.  
Here in Mammoth we have the Mammoth Hot springs just a few hundred yards from my house.  They are nowhere near as stinky as the Calcite springs near Tower and I have only smelled them a couple of times on hot days with no wind. Instead of waking up to the soft sounds of a bubbling brook, I wake up to RVs and other loud vehicles passing by my house on the road near it.  Thank goodness I'm a sound sleeper, I still wake up when I want to, and not when the first motorcycle or diesel engine goes by. My view is a hill....behind that road.  It's a pretty hill, but I miss the mountain view and the bubbling brook.....
Walk to work is only a couple hundred yards.  Although when I got switched to night shift, I drove my car at first because I was nervous about meeting elk, bison, and bears on the walk home at night.  I have gotten braver and stronger in my resolve to walk home at 3am (the end of my shift), and have started walking home over the past couple of weeks.  I was so scared my first time.  I had my bear spray in my hand, ready to spray anything that came at me; be it a bison or a squirrel.  Now it has gotten to be a normal activity and I am no longer nervous, (although the bear spray is still always within reach....)

So, which one do I like better?  Despite all the perks of living in Mammoth, closer to grocery, more going on, more people around, bars and restaurants only a 10 min drive down the road, I desperately miss living at Tower.  I miss the wilderness and the quiet.  I miss being disconnected with no internet and no phone (no, I really do.)  Honestly I think I miss the small tight-knit community the most.  The way someone would offer a potato to someone else if they needed it for a recipe because the closest store was 45 min away.  Or the way we would amuse ourselves in ways I had never done before such as playing and learning cribbage and other card games, or just even sitting around and talking.  Movie night was always a time of excitement.  Someone would get a cool movie in from Netflix, and we would all plan what time we would watch it around schedules so as many people could join in.
But one must not dwell in the past.  What am I doing about it now?
...actually [confession] I'm driving out to Tower a lot to hang out with people there.  It's hard to make friends when you work night shift.  I've done some stuff here, I swear!  I'll talk about them in other posts.

Starting up the blog again, by popular demand!

I didn't realize how many people read the blog until I went the entire 2012 summer with many people complaining about the lack of blogging.
I am still getting requests to start up the blog again, so here it is.  New and improved!  Do you like the new look?

Here's a little update on how things are different this year.
The last 4 summers I was living at Tower Ranger Station, (see Tower Junction above).  This year I am living in Mammoth, where the headquarters of the park are housed.  Why am I living in Mammoth you ask?  Well instead of working as a park ranger, I am working as a public safety and law enforcement dispatcher.  Basically, I am that voice on the 9-1-1 phone, the one who sends rangers to emergencies, and the one who gives information to law enforcement rangers when they do traffic stops.  
While it is a new, challenging, and interesting job that I would love to share with people, a lot of it I cannot talk about due to privacy and security issues.  So instead, I will talk about my life in Yellowstone and all of the shenanigans I do on my days off.

That's it for now. I will post some of the things that happened in the beginning of the summer already and work up my way to the present.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Long Day

So this Wednesday instead of having my day off like usual, Colette asked me if I wanted to work overtime.  I said "sure."  As many of you know, I'm not one to turn down a chance for extra money.  I asked her what I would be doing and she said I would be working with Rachel as swiftwater rescue at the Lamar road closure.
Let me explain a bit.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Bald Eagle

I got to see my first Bald Eagle in the wild ever yesterday!  It was pretty cool.  That's all.

(Not My Picture)

Bison Carcass Removal Pics

As promised, here are some pictures of the bison carcass removal.  WARNING: Some of these pictures are graphic, so if you can't deal with an animal being cut up or the sight of guts, you probably won't want to see these.
So Sad.....

Tuesday, June 28, 2011


So we have a young bison who seems to have gotten lost from his mother.  The rangers and I have taken to calling him Charlie.  We all thought he would still need milk to survive, but he's been grazing and he looks just as healthy as ever
Charlie's kinda smart.  Instead of being on his own, he joined a small group of male bison and is hanging out with them.  This actually gives him a pretty good amount of protection from predators.  So far Charlie's survived for about three weeks, and the rangers and I are rooting for him.
Pic of Charlie by the Back-Country Office

Myself in my uniform from a couple of years ago. I wear normal clothes to the office now.