Monday, March 27, 2017

#722 Loving and Leaving Yellowstone

"It is our Nation's greatest wonder and through some miracle of selflessness in a country too often built on greed, the Yellowstone Park will be preserved for generations to come." - Letters from Yellowstone, Diane Smith

When we arrived at our Nation's greatest wonder at the beginning of March, we drove through the Roosevelt Arch and waved happily at the North Entrance Webcam.  

Then we met some of the Yellowstone park staff who gave us all we needed to succeed.  First, yak trax to keep us safe...

Then, a gate pass for our month-long entry into Yellowstone's Wonderland, ID cards for entry to the Heritage and Research Center, and a Yellowstone Research Library card for getting access to all things Yellowstone...

and finally, a place to call home.

Now, at the end of March, our time at Yellowstone is coming to an end all too soon.  We've enjoyed all of our days, all of the people, and all of the northern section of the park. We are fortunate to have this opportunity to contribute our time and skills in this beautiful place and we are hoping the park will be preserved for generations to come.

If you're interested in volunteering, be sure to check out, America's Natural and Cultural Resources Volunteer Portal, for a list of opportunities.

Yours in knowing we'll be back,
Mary Jo

Friday, March 24, 2017

#721 Volunteering in Yellowstone

We actually came to Yellowstone to work.

You wouldn't know - based on our previous blog posts - that we spend four days each week volunteering at the Heritage and Research Center.  We walk in these doors about 8:00 each morning...

and spend our morning hours working with the museum collection.

The museum collection includes more than 720,000 items including many cool arrowheads, i.e. late prehistoric points, biface, obsidian.

In the afternoons, we work upstairs with the library and archives collections.

The archives house several million records (manuscripts, photos, maps, oral histories) including the U.S. Army-era records.  The U.S. Army played an early critical role in Yellowstone.  In the 1880s, the Secretary of the Interior called on the Secretary of War to help protect the park and in 1886, Captain Moses Harris and his company of Montana men came to Yellowstone.  My work in the library has been to scan the US Army correspondence from the 1880s and 1890s including letters to/from Captain Moses Harris.

In this letter of 1889, Captain Harris is granted permission by W. F. Vilas, Secretary, Department of the Interior, to allow for the sale of articles that have been coated with minerals from the hot springs

The Army would maintain a presence here in Yellowstone until the National Park Service was formed 30 years later in 1916.

In his library work, Kelly is documenting the history of Yellowstone's more than 150 backcountry cabins built beginning in the 19th century.  All were intended to provide shelter to those brave souls patrolling and protecting the park's animals and humans.  Along the way, most of these cabins have been refurbished, rebuilt, renamed, moved, burned, or abandoned to nature several times over. So it's fair to say such documentation becomes a challenge. In fact, Kelly's work is building on a massive effort from previous volunteers and he assures me he will leave plenty of work for future contributors. 

Yours in having fun at work,
Mary Jo

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

#720 I am Robert Reamer. I'm kind of a big deal.

I am Robert Reamer.  You’ve never heard of me and I’m kind of a big deal.
You don’t know my name.  But you know my work.  I’m sure of that.  Have you heard of Yellowstone National Park?  Of course.  Have you heard of the world’s most famous geyser? Old Faithful, certainly.  What about Old Faithful Lodge?  Heard of it?  Guess what? I designed that big pile of logs when I was 29 years old. My hotel opened to raves in 1904.
Since nobody had ever done it before, I designed a seven story log lobby that’s open inside all the way to the roof.
Way back in 1904, I knew people liked ‘go big or go home’ architecture. In 2017, mine not only remains the biggest log hotel in the world, it’s still the biggest log building in the world.  

And because people absolutely loved my ultimate woodsy design, Old Faithful Lodge started a trend.  Heard of ‘Parkitecture’?  Heard of ‘National Park Rustic’? Yes, I started that. Visited grand rustic lodges in Glacier, Mount Rainier, Mount Hood, or Crater Lake?  All influenced by my work.

In addition to Old Faithful Lodge, Yellowstone hired me to design 40 more projects. Today my buildings stand in five states including a National Historic Landmark, eight on the National Register of Historic Places, and four contributing buildings in National Historic Districts.
I am Robert Reamer, the Weaver of Dreams.  You’ve never heard of me and I’m kind of a big deal.

Yours in architectural agreement,

Monday, March 20, 2017

#719 Paradise Valley

Driving toward Yellowstone National Park from the north, we have two roads from which to choose - one on each side of the Yellowstone River.

Both routes take us through Paradise Valley.  The quicker route is US Highway 89 on the west side of the river.  And the scenic route is MT State Highway 540 on the east side, aka East River Road.

We, of course, choose the East River Road.  The Yellowstone River creates a broad valley between two mountain ranges with beautiful river scenes. Locals tell us that celebrities like to live along this stretch including Jeff Bridges, John Mayer, Dennis Quaid and Meg Ryan.  We see the appeal - especially those tranquil ranch scenes along the river.

If you're hungry, we highly recommend the avocado tacos and the Glastonbury burger at Pine Creek Lodge.   And if you're sleepy, they offer "rustic-yet-modern cabins made from recycled shipping containers."
Yours in choosing the road less traveled,
Mary Jo

Friday, March 17, 2017

#718 Exploring Yellowstone - Mammoth Hot Springs

The terraces of Mammoth Hot Springs are the closest thermal feature to our cabin.

We take a walk around the "multi-leveled terraces of hot water falls, steamy semi-circular pools of red and green and yellow, and singular underground springs which percolate from the earth like a pot put on the fire to boil.  The water carries with it a milky-white substance of calcium carbonate and, when it shifts or retreats, it leaves behind strangely formed travertine aprons and solitary projectiles." - description from Letters from Yellowstone by Diane Smith.

Here's a horseshoe that has been soaked in travertine at Mammoth Hot Springs and sold as a souvenir in years past. This one now lives in the Yellowstone museum collections.

Some even say the terraces look other worldly and remind them of the Planet Vulcan from the 1979 Star Trek movie.  Could it be?  Even though we've visited the 2228 birthplace of Captain James T. Kirk in Riverside, Iowa, I haven't seen that Star Trek movie.  The Yellowstone Research Library has just what we need to determine just what the Planet Vulcan looks like. 

We pop the popcorn, put our feet up, and cue the movie. 

Sure enough, there's Spock looking up at us from Planet Vulcan with the terraces of hot water falls behind him - just like the ones we have here in Yellowstone.  
Yours in exploring the final frontier,
Mary Jo

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

#717 Exploring Yellowstone - the wildlife

When the snow flies in Yellowstone, animals outnumber people.

By far, we've seen more American bison (the US national mammal) than any other animal.  We've seen them at our cabin, on the roads, and grazing on the Gardiner High School football field.  Because the bison population is growing and the national park land is not, much consideration is given on how best to manage the size of the herd.

We haven't seen as many of the Yellowstone Elk but they are the most plentiful hoofed mammal in the park with 10,000 to 20,000 living within park boundaries during the summer. 

We've also seen many of the park's 450 antelope-like American pronghorn  during our daily commutes to Gardiner.

Of the 163 bighorn sheep known to be living inside the park, we are lucky to spot this band of six grazing near the Yellowstone River in the north.

There are less than a hundred wolves living in the park, so we are excited to see this one...

and to see several of his ancestors within the Yellowstone museum collections.  

As you may expect in mid-March, the resident bear population including about 150 grizzlies is not yet awake so we admire these bear statues outside the post office at Mammoth Hot Springs...

and the stuffed mama bear and cub in the Yellowstone museum collections on the bottom shelf (next to the siren).

You can be sure I'm definitely keeping my eye on Kelly just in case.     

We haven't seen a single dinosaur in Yellowstone yet, but they are plentiful over in Bozeman at the Museum of the Rockies.

Over four million humans visit Yellowstone each year, but fewer than 20,000 will brave the month of March this year.  We love being outnumbered.
Yours in enjoying the wildlife,
Mary Jo

Monday, March 13, 2017

#716 Exploring Yellowstone - Cooke City

After we spy the wolf on our drive across the northern range of Yellowstone, we continue our drive to the end of the road at the northeast corner of the park.

Charles Kuralt called the drive from Cooke City to Billings along the Beartooth Highway "the most beautiful drive in America," but the road ends at Cooke City in winter and so do we.

After leaving our lonesome wolf behind, we continue to follow the Soda Butte Creek, climbing as we head east toward Cooke City at an elevation of 7,600 feet. 

Sometimes we need to share the road, but rarely with other cars.

The snow is piled high on both sides of the road...

and eventually the snow starts to cover the road.

In Cooke City, we find the snow is piled even higher.  The annual snowfall in Cooke City is 202 inches.  Back at Mammoth (where we're staying) the annual snowfall is only 150 inches.  And in Gardiner (where we're working) the annual snowfall is a mere 25 inches. 

Wolf searching is hard work, so we look for some lunch before heading back.  We can't find our way to the front door of the Hoosiers Bar...

so instead we step inside the cozy Bistro Cafe.

A snow storm is coming, so we head for home after lunch.  

Not many folks are out this afternoon unless you count the snowmobilers.

The ranger station at Yellowstone's Northeast Entrance was built in 1935 in the rustic style with two traffic lanes passing through it.  (It may be hard to see with the snow piled so high.)  When listed as a National Historic Landmark in 1987, it was written "The building was not only the physical boundary, but the psychological boundary between the rest of the world and what was set aside as a permanently wild place."  The station is unstaffed as we drive through into the permanently wild place and back to the northwest corner of the park where the snow is not so deep.

Yours in exploring Yellowstone,
Mary Jo

Sunday, March 12, 2017

#715 Exploring Yellowstone - A Wolf!

We spy a wolf!

The park ranger tells us that wolves have been spotted in Lamar Valley, so we grab our binoculars and off we go! The Rocky Mountain wolf (canis lupus) was listed as an endangered species in 1973 but according to Wolves in Yellowstone, there are now at least 98 wolves living in Yellowstone and 528 wolves living in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.

From Mammoth Hot Springs, we travel east through the park on US Route 212, the only park road that remains open during the winter. 

It's a gorgeous drive, but let's get back to that wolf.  After 20 miles, we turn northeast at Tower Junction toward Cooke City.
The park is nearly deserted at this time of year so except for the bison and a handful of wolf enthusiasts, we have the road to ourselves.  Soon after crossing the Yellowstone River,
 we drive into the Lamar River Valley.  Wait!  What's that to the right?

It's a wolf!  The northern range of Yellowstone is one of the best places in the world to watch wolves. 

How do we know that's not a coyote?   You'll just have to trust us.

Yours in wolf spotting,
Mary Jo