Welcome to my (Claire Stout) blog about my summer internship in Yellowstone National Park. I am brought here by the Student Conservation Association and given a scholarship by Americorps for my college tuition. I am interning under the head ranger at the Tower Ranger Station. This blog contains stories of my adventures and what it is like to live here in the park. There are also photos that contain me, the people I work with, and interesting things I encounter. Feel free to leave a comment and enjoy!

Yellowstone Album 3

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Brrr....It's Cold!

Catching up with posting is postponed because I have a few other things to say. I'm not sure whether it is a cold front or if winter is on its way here, but it was chilly this morning and last night. When I measured the rain water this morning, it was frozen solid, (because the minimum last night was 25 degrees F). Yesterday Liz was on a bear jam and told me it snowed on her. So I think everyone can feel the end of the season creeping up on us.
Which also might be caused by the fact we had a goodbye party for Connor and Liz, (and later I found out for myself too 0_o ). I spent all of yesterday in the BCO finishing Liz'z and Connor's "going away awards", and everyone signing their cards and gifts. Liz got a walking stick that said "Anti-Slip Stream Crossing Aid" because earlier in the year she tried to cross a creek, slipped, and sprained her ankle for a good month. Connor got a key chain with a board of wood that was about 6 x 10 in. He has a habit of keeping the car keys to one of the cars in his pockets and forgets to put them back. Now when Sara or I wake up and see that the car keys are missing when we come into work, Connor is usually still asleep. So we have to sneak into his house and rummage through his pockets until we find them. So this "Memorial car key chain" ensures that he can't slip it into his pocket.
So after we give Liz and Connor their going away awards, Colette surprises me with my own award. And it really was a surprise, because I was half in charge of the Liz and Connor gifts and I truly wasn't expecting anything, especially since I am here for two more weeks. I received a "golden needle" because I had altered the safety vests for the Female LE rangers, (every other vest was too big). I also got a "golden pen" because a while back, I had started drawing comics of the Tower rangers. They had also made a copy of every single one of my drawings and bound them up and signed them. Sara made a cover page with a poem about me on it.


....I swear I didn't cry....

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

I am still trying to remember what happened this past week

It's like the title says. Getting behind on blogs is somewhat frustrating because unlike the Law Enforcement (LE) rangers, I do not keep patrol logs. However, I do remember what happened on August 1st. It was one of my rare backcountry days and I decided to go and check out Slough creek (pronounced "sloo"). I keep telling people how beautiful the second meadow is along the trail, but I am only basing it on what Gabe says. I had personally never seen it before. So I went and check out the first two meadows and the first three campsites. My goal was to get to one of the patrol cabins, Elk Tongue cabin specifically, to look at that. But at the end of the second meadow I ran into a bear and ran out of water. So I turned back.

Speaking of bears as Slough creek. Right after the first meadow, I came across two bears, a mother and her cub, not fifteen feet off the trail. It was a blond Black Bear. I don't know if I have mentioned this before, but Black bears coats can range from black to blond. And I had never seen a blond Black Bear before. It would have been nice to look at, except for the fact I didn't know she was there until I was parallel with her: which meant that I was fifteen feet from her. Yes,a little bit nervous once I realized the sound was a bear not a ground squirrel. What I did was not make any noise or stop walking or stare at her intently. She didn't have any aggressive behavior towards me or come near me.

Day two of family visit and more

So the next day, my mother and I met up with my dad, my brother Robert and my grandpa. We went to this thing called "coffee with a ranger" which basically talked to a ranger at 8 in the morning. We did the grand loop, from Mammoth Hot Springs to Old faithful to Lake to Canyon and back to Mammoth. We had dinner at Roosevelt lodge where we met up with Craig McClure and his wife Dayna. Craig is a now retired ranger who used to work at Mammoth. He is the one we went through when we volunteered here two years ago and he is also the one who helped recommend me for this position. Much thanks to him.
The next day we went down to Canyon, and my brother and I did some horseback riding. We went down to lake after that and did an hour lake scenic cruise, where we learned a bit about the history of lake. There is one big shipwreck on Lake which we saw and I got a picture of too. We then had dinner at the Lake Hotel which was pretty good. I had lamb. I love lamb and usually only get to eat it on Easter.

The next day was goodbye morning. My family came up to Mammoth and I went there to say goodbye to them, bringing my Grandpa's car and my little brother with me there. The only problem was I had to give back my Grandpa his car, so I had no ride back. The only lucky thing was that my family had made me wear my uniform so I had a better chance of getting a ride back with a ranger with it on. I went to the visitor's center in Mammoth to see if they had any ideas to whom would be going in the direction of Tower. Luckily, a ranger in Mammoth named Russ, kindly gave me a ride to the Mammoth/Tower border at Geode creek. I had talked to Sara earlier that morning and she said that she would be able to head in the direction to pick me up. Unfortunately right before we reached Geode Creek, I tried calling Sara, but she was on Dunraven and didn't hear me. John M. did and he came to pick me up at Geode Creek.

Well, being the workaholic that I am here, and I am, because I can not get enough of this place, I decided to work on my day off. I took out the ambulance for a run to a possible woman falling off cliff, but it turned out to be just her backpack or something like that. Then bear jams for 3 hours.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Hello again

It is as the title says. I haven't been posting for the past....well, I guess it has been a week now, due to my parents coming and invading my house and my time (which I was absolutely ecstatic about!).
So my mother came on Sunday afternoon. This was the beginning of the visit of my parents (My father, grandfather, and little brother came on Monday but I didn't see them until Tuesday.)
She came while I was still in the Back country office (BCO), so she got to see me at work for an hour an a half. She said she was impressed with all the stuff I knew. Honestly, I'm still impressed with all the stuff I know. After I finally got off work, we went to my house (she took an hour nap), and then we went out to go to a ranger program. Before we left, I introduced her to as many people as I could. I think she met Liz, Kate, and John Kerr. I had planned on taking her to Roosevelt lodge for dinner but the wait was about an hour so we went to the Tower Fall general store instead, (and looked at the Fall while we were there).
The Ranger program was at Canyon and was about the geography of the great Yellowstone river. It was kind of buggy, but once my mom took out her 50% Deet bug spray and we soaked ourselves in it, we were fine.
It probably wasn't the best idea to bring my mom over Dunraven pass to Canyon. Let me talk about Dunraven pass for a second. It is a 17 mile drive that goes up a mountain, through that mountain and another mountain and back down the other mountain. Most of the way there are no side rails. It takes a few times to get used to it, I admit, but other than that, personally the side rails are not needed. My mother disagrees. Anything that has a slope of more than 10 feet down needs a side rail. So driving back over Dunraven (in the dark) I can see why she might be a bit nervous. So it might have been a bit of accidental evil on my part. (I couldn't drive because it was a rental car. Eighteen year olds can go to war for our country, but we can't rent a car until we're 21 or 25.)
The next day, we did the upper loop. I'll post a map of the park on top of this post. The upper loop is extremely obvious (I hope).
We went to Mammoth, tried to go to Norris (but got hailed on), and Canyon again. (At this point, my mom took a nap while I hiked a mile and a quarter down and up to the bring of the lower falls at canyon. By the way the lower falls are HUUUUUGE!!! At LEAST 500 feet tall. Talk about vertigo.)
We left for Lake, and the Lake hotel to go hear a string quartet and to meet up with Connor, who personally knew them and introduced me to them. On the way to lake we got caught in a pretty big bison jam, to my mother's excitement. And again on the way back. We also managed to see some pelicans and a sand hill crane which was pretty cool. And then home over Dunraven again.

More posting will come soon!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Tower Fall

I don't think I have mentioned this before, but Tower Ranger Station gets its name from Tower Fall. This is a big (giant!) waterfall about 2.5 miles from the ranger station. The fall is surrounded by rock that stick up randomly and look like giant stalagmites (stick up from the ground).
Two days ago, Brady and I showed up at the Tower Fall trail because Liz was there alone on a bear jam. The bear was about 50 yrds off the trail, and Liz had gone further down to warn people closer to the river that a bear was headed in that direction. It was pretty peaceful at first: there weren't any cars to worry about, the bear was a good distance away, Brady and I were joking on the Scene of Action radio channel. Then the bear started to move.
He was going at a good pace too. It seemed he was going to intersect the trail, (and he did). I had told Brady jokingly, that I would protect him if the bear came up. Law Enforcement officers, like him, have too much stuff on their duty belt that the bear spray doesn't fit (and I did have bear spray, thus the joke). However, in the process of getting the crowd away from the bear, (who by the way, the crowd, wouldn't move if their life depended on it, at it could have) Brady and I got separated with the bear between us. I was in front of the large crowd and Brady was alone. It is safer to be with a large crowd, and I had failed to protect Brady; I felt bad about that.
But thankfully the bear just looked at him and looked at me (we were both about 10 ft away) and ran over the hill towards an animal trail. Brady followed the animal trail while I went up to the look out the upper lookout to see if I could see it from there. Brady came back up saying he had followed the trail but didn't see any signs that the bear had used it. We were about to leave the area when someone shouted "Bear!" and we turned and there the bear was, crossing the trail again not twenty feet from visitors. Brady figured when he had followed the trail, he probably came close to the bear and turned around before he reached it.
The bear went down back the way it came and crossed over a creek. So that bear jam was over.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Recent goings-on

So two days ago, I had a pretty busy day dealing with a mother bear and her two cubs. I first came upon the bear jam at the Yellowstone River Bridge. It took about three minutes to get the road clear and everybody situated safely off the road and everybody started watching the mother bear and her two cubs for a while. Not long after everything became peaceful she started heading up towards us. I called John Kerr, because I knew this was no longer a one-person jam. There were people scattered all over the bridge and road as I tried to clear a path for her so she could cross the road (which it looked like that was what she wanted to do) and told people they had to start getting back into their cars.
Before I knew it, one of the visitors pointed behind me and said, "The bear is right behind you!" Low and behold, as I turn around, she's coming up the hill to the road about ten feet from me. Surprisingly enough, I wasn't that scared. I suppose I am getting used to these bears, and every time I'm near one, my stomach doesn't do flip flops anymore.
Scared or not, I was still WAY too close to the bear. No matter how comfortable you can get with a wild animal or how comfortable they are with you, they are still considered dangerous and unpredictable. So I did next what we are taught to do: back away slowly facing the bear and make sure the visitors, who did not listen to me and get back into their cars, were backing up along with me. My bear spray was out just in case. The bear looked at me for a good ten seconds. I could see she was more scared than I was. She just had wanted to cross the road and couldn't understand why these two-legged pasty things kept wanting to block her way.
Discouraged, she called her cubs, both of which had already crossed halfway, back to her and she started back the way she came, back down towards the river. She then went under the bridge and started coming up the other side. By this point, both John Kerr and Amanda had arrived to help me out a bit. The bear came up the other side of the bridge, (still on the Tower side of the Yellowstone River which, by the way, is too fast for any animal, human or bear, to cross in that part). The people who weren't on the bridge were told to get back in their cars, (by me), and the bear started onto the bridge.
Now the problem here was that there was a large amount of people on the bridge. So John Kerr and I rounded them up into two groups. When worst comes to worst, and a bear is coming near you, the best thing you can do is get a large group of people together. The chance that a bear will come at you with a large group of people is very minimal. I was in charge of one group while John Kerr took the other group. Amanda was at the other end of the bridge.
For the second time that day, the bear came ten feet from myself and my group. Again she paused and looked at me, he cubs wailing from stress as they ran by her. She turned away and kept walking across the bridge. Two motorcycles got in her way. Why they did, I have no idea. It was a very bad choice on their part, because at this point it caused her to start running, which in turn scared the visitors. There was one lady who wasn't paying attention and was walking on the other side of the bridge, back to the bear. When she finally noticed the bear behind her, running in her direction, she started running, (which by the way, you never want to run from a bear). Eventually the bear and her cubs got safely across, (with out any incidents with people as well) and headed towards the shore line. Ten minutes later she then came up and crossed the road yet again. A group I was with had a little girl who got scared because she was so close to the bear. I did my best to calm her down and talk to her about proper bear safety.
Amanda left to go patrol somewhere else, and John Kerr and I went to the Yellowstone river Picnic area, which it looked like where she was headed next. She skirted the edge of the picnic area and scared some hikers out of their wits (who, by the way, did exactly what they were supposed to do when they saw a bear). She then crossed the road again, to go swim in a small pond.
For the forth time she crossed the road and went into the woods out of sight.

Yesterday, John Kerr, Sara and I were at this one jam with a cinnamon black bear for pretty much most of the day. This was the bear that had walked towards me on the road that day that I was all alone and no people and no cars near me. Sara and I have decided to call him Captain Pirate because he is missing one eye.

Tango's Dog sitting is going well. John M. is supposed to be back this morning so there will be no more Tango sleeping on my feet at night anymore. I guess I'll have to find some other space heater.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

A Few Updates

NOTICE: Album one is moved to the bottom of the page. There is a new comment box at the top for anyone to say "hi" or comment about the blog.

So this afternoon I'm supposed to go fishing, but right now there's a huge lightning storm outside that might put it off until another day. Let me tell you right now, thunder and lightning storms in the mountains are so much cooler just because you are that much closer to the lightning.
Yesterday the bears went into hiding, (I don't blame them; it was 85 degrees.) but today they are back out.
Yesterday, I also got notified that I get to dog-sit Tango (John's dog). It has only been 24 hours but it is obvious that she really misses him. It's so adorable.
For dinner last night I went to Roosevelt Lodge with Brady, Amanda, and Connor. Roosevelt lodge is an area in the park that people can eat at, has a gift shop, and little cabins for people to stay in. It is most known for its wagon rides in the evening that go to an area on the Garnet hill loop for a night of BBQ and fun. But we just ate at the lodge. I got linguine with elk and bison meat on top, Amanda got the BBQ ribs, (which I am definitely getting next time: SO GOOD!) and Connor and Brady got some Mexican type dish. For desert we all (but mostly me and Connor) shared a desert with 2 scoops of huckleberry ice cream, with huckleberry syrup on top of two pieces of cake. That was really good. Thanks to Brady for treating us all!