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!

Bear Creek and Knox Lake

As I've mentioned before, John M. takes Tango for hikes outside of the park because dogs are not allowed in the backcountry in the park. We went to the Bear creek trailhead in the Gallatin National forest again, but this time, because of the fact that the waters were lower, I was determined to do the stream crossings in order to get to Knox lake.
Some new flowers that were in bloom (I have pictures that will be up in the next album):
Scarlet paintbrush- High nectar producing plant, attracts hummingbirds
Colorado Columbine- Larger than the yellow columbine, the book says it is somewhat poisonous but I heard from one of the rangers here that they go well in salads.
Alpine paintbrush- same as Scarlet Paintbrush but instead a magenta colour.
Glacier Lily- Lilies that bloom in the springtime or on the snowline, very tasty
I saw that blue/violet flower again, and I can still not find the name of it.
The hike to the first Bear Creek crossing was the same as before except for the fact that it was sunny. The light streaming through the trees was a nice added touch over last time of over cast. Although I did mention that when it was overcast the first time we went, it was still a wonderful hike and added a nice touch to the moss-covered lodgepole pines.
We reached the first crossing a mile in, and may I add, the creek looked significantly lower with a lot less water. But it was still really cold. John took a rock from the stream and looked at it. We saw two types of fly nymphs and another little critter that, at the moment, I can't remember what it is. I will ask John again and post the name later. John found a clear-like rock that had little dents in it that looked like they were made from bubble when it had cooled. Crossing the creek was not hard. What was hard, though, was the pain of the cold water that I had to deal with as I came out on the other side.
The next part of the trail was pretty nice. There was the occasional (very) small stream crossing and a few bridges the forest service had built over particularly muddy areas, but it was an uphill hike that wasn't too steep. About a half mile before the second stream crossing, we came upon snow. I admit, after seeing John eat some (after digging to find some clean stuff) I too took a hand full of snow and started munching on it. It tasted great! It tasted like snow....
Continuing on with our fine dining excursion, we came across a cluster of Glacial Lilies. As I mentioned earlier, they are edible. John said he had had some before so he picked one, wiped the dirt off the root, and started chomping on it, root first until he ate everything, including the leaves and the flower. Naturally, my curiosity got the better of me. I started chomping on one myself. I'll tell you right now, they are absolutely delicious! They kind of have a hint of apple, but pretty much the whole flower is a sweet green. And for those who want to see me eating a flower...yes I have pictures, and they will be posted.
We reached the second crossing of bear creek. I came to it at a run because I was trying to run away from the mosquitoes and the horse flies. Poor John got bitten on the back of the knee by one of the horse flies. He often had mosquitoes on his back as well. I did my best trying to slap the mosquitoes off his back when they did land, but this one time that I was trying to smack some of the mosquitoes on his back. Since we had just past some snow that I had picked up and eaten, he thought I was putting snow down his shirt. And thus the mosquitoes escaped.
But I digress, we reached the second creek, which was still cold, and I had to wait about 30 seconds while the cold/pain resided. John just stood there and chuckled at my misery. Passing another group of Glacial Lilies and some small ponds, we finally reached Knox lake. The lake must have had some glacial sediments, according to John, that made it a deep turquoise. There was a small little pool that was connected to the creek supplying the lake and the lake itself that was a beautiful light-sapphire blue, and ice cold. The lake was very large and on the edge of a meadow with snow scattered mountains in the background. We stayed at the sapphire pool for about 45 minutes occasionally stepping in or washing the rocks out of our Keens. John's tolerance of the cold was much higher than mine, he went into his knees and started wading out to the sapphire section for a minute before he started feeling really cold. I tried to go ankle deep into a small bed of water clovers for a few seconds but could barely handle it so I jumped up on a rock and stayed there for 5 minutes until I was brave enough to go back to shore.
But unfortunately all good things have to end, so we headed back towards the trail head. I think over the day we hiked around 7-8 miles total. Right now I think it is my favorite trail around here, the lake is definitely worth it. I recommend anyone who is out this way to go and check it out.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Album 2 is Up!

Alright! Album 2 is up. This includes a few more wildlife pictures, 4th of July party, my backcountry trip with Ranger Dooley, and some scenic stuff. At the moment, the album shows it backwards, but I will try to fix that next time I get to a computer with Flash player 10.
If anyone has any questions or comments, I would love to hear them!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Washburn Rescue Transport

Yesterday I was on a moose jam. The moose was about 50 yrds off the road. About an hour and a half into the jam she headed towards the road. So I stopped traffic, got people out of the way and helped her cross the road. I just thought that was really cool. The people were happy to see such a good view of the moose, and the moose was happy to get to the other side of the road.
Around 19:45, we got a call from Ed, the fire lookout on top of Mt. Washburn calling about two girls who Hiked 8.1 miles from Canyon village to the top of Mt. Washburn. Colette sent me up to the top to get them. Normally we don't do rescues for people who can't make it back to the place they're staying unless they need a medical transport out of the backcountry. But these two girls were wearing tank tops, short shorts, and galoshes. Besides the 40mph SW wind on top of Washburn, there was the impending storm. More than likely we would have had a Hypothermia related medical or a search in rescue if we had not gone to get them.
There is a road that goes all the way up to the top which is not open to the public. I used the gate combo to open the gate blocking it to drive up to the top. Ed sure is lucky to be staying up there. He can see pretty much all of Yellowstone from on top of Washburn, and some of the Grand Tetons too. After saying bye to Ed,(and getting an amazing look at the lightning from the storm) I drove the two girls back to canyon, giving them a lecture on what they did wrong, and why it was a borderline idiotic idea to do what they did with the amount of preparation they had. I also told them what they should do in the future.

Rules for Day Hiking:
-Know the distance: How far are you going in?
-Know the Terrain: Is it all uphill? Downhill? Keep in mind downhill on the way in means uphill on the way back.
-Know your limits. How fast you can go? 2mph? Does than include uphill hiking?
-Be prepared: this includes water, rain gear, emergency contact device (i.e. cell or radio)
-When you are halfway done with your water and you don't have a filter, it is time to turn back.
-Wear proper gear: Bring warm gear if you're headed up a mountain, and hiking boots.
-Bring snacks, it helps keep your energy up.
-Check the weather before you leave, to make sure if you need to stop due to a surprise thunderstorm, you'll have time to walk back.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Backcountry Trip with Ranger Dooley

I think I finally have enough pictures to make a second album, and I will get going on that pretty soon. Look forward to it!

So as I mentioned before, Ranger Dooley, the head backcountry ranger who used to be an SCA, took me out to the back country to clear some trail. We brought in with us a cross cut saw and an ax. Here's a pic of the Cross cut saw up above. I got to carry the ax.
We arrived at the Hellroaring trailhead. The Hellroaring trail area is named after the mountain, (Hellroaring), which in turn gets it's name because there are some areas of the Hellroaring creek and Yellowstone River around it that get so loud due to rapids and fast flowing water that it sounds like "Hell's a roarin'". The first 0.7 miles in is all downhill, so from the beginning it was an easy hike down. One cool thing about the Hellroaring trail is the suspension bridge over the Yellowstone river, which is not fordable, thus the bridge. It is one of the two historical suspension bridges in the park and moves when you walk on it. According to Ranger Dooley, when stock cross it it really swings back and forth.
After the bridge, you hike across a meadow for about a half mile. I've been wanting to do this for a while ever since I first saw some of the rolling hills here in tower. The view was gorgeous. There was a small breeze and the sky was clear as the tall rye grass bent over in the wind.
I learned 7 new flower names and how to identify them from Ranger Dooley: Yarrow, Tall Buttercup, Parsnip, Lupin, Aster, Dalmatian Toad Flax (a non-native weed) and Rye Grass(which isn't a flower). The Sticky Geranium combined with the tall Buttercup and the other flowers brightened up the fields.
We reached the Stock(horse) bridge over Hellroaring creek and started heading up the creek towards the Boundary of the Gallatin National forest and Yellowstone. About halfway there we reached our first tree that had fallen in the length of the path. It took two cuts with the cross cut to make it into movable pieces that could moved. Dooley swung the ax a few times to lob off some of the branches. We met a few more trees which were small cuts until we reach a giant monstrosity of a tree lying over the path in the middle of a fairly large creek. We had to cut the tree in four places, most of the time cutting in the middle of the cold creek. The logs couldn't be left there to dam up the creek either so they had to be moved. My new Keenes really came in handy. The traction on them was great and I was able to get a study stance for sawing. After that tree the others were not as bad. There were about 6 or 7 more we had to cut after the one in the creek, and we made it to the boundary at 18:30.
It was another hour and a half hike back to the Patrol cabin which we stayed in. I had brought two frozen chicken breasts and soybeans in which were nicely thawed and ready for cooking. Combining those with thai noodle packets they made a good stir fry. Dooley and I also invented a new recipe. Take one can of refried beans, one can of ham, and one can of chopped chillies, add a little water, and Voila! Instant Delicious!
Exhausted, we went to bed. The next morning, Ranger Dooley said he was awakened a few times in the night by his own snoring. I don't think I heard it because I slept like a log. After a breakfast of oatmeal, we headed out towards backcountry campsite 2H1 passing sites 2H3 and 2H5 on the way to check them. Connor was coming in for the day to join us and as we were leaving the cabin we saw him across the river and radioed him to catch up around a campsite. 2H5 had cigarette butts all around the food pole. It's really disappointing to see people litter like that. Right before we reached 2H3, Dooley spotted a black bear making his way across the field headed our way. He said this was the perfect opportunity to observe a bear in the wild and see how he reacts to humans. I just reached for my bear spray. The bear was about 50 yrds away from us and coming nearer. When it was about 40ft away, I took of the safety of my bear spray. It didn't seem to care much about us and just went around us up the hill.
A little while after, Connor joined us. 2H3 campsite was clear and so was 2H1. We backtracked and then went up towards 2H8 which had a supposed 2 illegal fire pits, (Fire pits are not allowed in the Hellroaring sites) which we destroyed. Finally we started to head back to the trail head. On the way back we past by a mother bear who was lying under a tree and we didn't see her until we were 10 feet from her. Luckily she didn't do anything and was just alert after she had sent her cub up the tree.
Remember how I said the hike in was all downhill? Well that meant the hike back out was all uphill. And what a treacherous uphill it was. Let me tell you now, if you ever have the option of not carrying an ax into the backcountry, take it. Those things are heavy. Connor and Dooley of course offered to take it for me, (they are not rude people), but If I brought it in I should be responsible for taking it out. We finally got back to the trailhead and Dooley's truck and headed back to Tower.
Thus ending my most awesome trip into the back country.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009


I'm just going to say that I am really excited right now because tomorrow I'm going into the backcountry with Ranger Dooley. We are going to check out the campsites in the Hellroaring area, and I can't wait for two straight days of hiking! I'm not really sure what we're going to do yet so I'll write about it when I get back.

Things have been somewhat quiet here. I think I've finally gotten into the swing of things. I've been in the back country office yesterday and today so getting out to Hellroaring will be a nice relief. A month and a half ago I would have said it the other way around, that sitting at the Internet all day would have been my first choice and hiking my second. But no matter how much I get out, or how hard the hike is, I just can't seem to get enough of it.

Do you people want more pictures of bears? I lost count of how many bears I have seen. I know I only put a few pictures of them in.

I must remember to get a picture of my wrist so everyone can see the wicked tan I have. I look at the watch tan I have and now I can't believe I was that white not 1 month ago! I switched the watch to the other arm so I can tan that part of my skin.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Bear Jams

So if you've been reading any of my earlier posts, you know that about half of my internship consists of these things called Bear Jams. Basically they are traffic jams caused by people who go crazy at the sight of the bear. No, the bear does not cause the jam. It's the people. I've been on bear jams where the bear is about 300 yards off the road and people jump out to get a picture. There was another time where I came across a bear jam and people were parked so that there were three cars across the road. On a bear jam up on Dunraven Pass, there was a jam where these people parked their giant RV in the middle of a curve on a steep slope with no side railing. They had run out of the RV about 100 yrds away from it, turned off the RV and left the keys in the ignition. Sometimes it is frustrating. But most of the times it is ridiculous and I can't help laughing a little inside.
Two days ago I was on a bear jam with two bear Interp Rangers. Interp rangers are the rangers, who usually specialize in something, answer questions to people, and help them better understand certain aspects of the park. I was working a Grizzly jam with to Interp rangers, Eric and Sean. They're both Bear Interp rangers. I was on this jam for six and a half hours. For the first hour we pretty much just watched the sleeping grizzly. People couldn't see it from the road unless they knew it was there. So we were just watching to see if it would wake up. I sat in Eric's Prius just staring out the window. For the next hour after that I started getting really sleepy. Watching a sleeping grizzly bear isn't exactly the most exciting thing after an hour. Finally around 2:30 the grizzly woke up and started walking, (very slowly) towards a pullout. The next two hours consisted of slowly moving people back as the bear moved forward, pointing out where the bear was, etc. And then the thunderstorms came. Lots of thunder, lots of rain.
I got very wet. So I ran to my car to get the new rain jacket Colette let me borrow. I brought a purple rain jacket, but it is not as professional as something green or brown. So I got a green Matrix like jacket that works wonderfully.
After six and a half hours, the bear finally went over a hill out of site, And I could finally go back to patrolling for two more hours.

Saturday, July 4, 2009


By the way, I really enjoy getting comments from people on these posts. Tell me how your summer is going! Comment on what I am doing. Ask questions! I really do enjoy them. Thanks to those who already have commented! ^_^

My day off Part 2

I didn't say this in the previous post but HAPPY INDEPENDANCE DAY! Tonight most of the Tower Rangers and myself plan on going to Northeast for a 4th of July cookout dinner and see the fireworks at silvergate. I'm in charge of bringing the non-alcoholic drinks for the under age people....aka: Connor and myself, which isn't very hard since there are only two of us. They will also be for any Rangers who are in Uniform, (Rangers can't drink with their uniforms on).
So. Part two of my day off yesterday. Not as much went on in the afternoon. We stopped at a cafe in gardiner and had lunch: the Tumbleweed Cafe. I had a ham and salami sandwich with balsamic vinegrette, roasted red peppers, and provolone cheese on rosemary bread. It was DEEEEELICIOUS!
We drove to Livingston to get Tango's dog food from a store with nice people who loved Tango and gave her treats if she did tricks. We went to the town park which was set up with all sorts of booths for the rodeo that night (which we unfortunately didn't get to see. I am determined to see a rodeo while I'm here out west!) There was nothing in the booths that I needed to buy, but there were some cool homemade cutting boards, realistic carvings, and all sorts of jewlery. I managed to withold my self from buying anything.
(acctually I had left my wallet in the car)
On the way back to tower, we stopped in back at the tumbleweed cafe for free internet (from 1700 to 2100 which is why we didn't get it before) and both downloaded Windows Vista Service pack 2. Which took way too long...>.<
When we got back to tower, we watched a movie called running scared. It was kind of graphic, but it was a good movie.

Oh and I have new Riding/Cowboy boots. They are Ariat Ledgends, REALLLY comfortable, and really really really cool looking. I'll post a picture of them on my next album post as well. Thanks for the new boots, Dad!

Hike with John M.

Yesterday I went on a hike in the Gallatin National forest with John M. and his dog Tango. The park service doesn't allow dogs to go with their owners on hikes in the back country, so we went to Bear Creek trail. There was a drive up a dirt road past Jardine. We passed a break in the trees where you could see the remnants of an old gold mine. We got to the trail head and Tango was excited to come out. After walking about 5 min we came across 4 people on mules heading in the opposite direction. They had a dog off the leash, like Tango was, and he came right over to her. At first Tango was all interested and started sniffing him. But after a few seconds she seemed to just want to hide behind John and myself. Overall the four mules and their riders passed without a hitch. We came across an old avalanche run going across the trail which basically looked like a meadow on the side of a slope now. The trail ran right through it and it was a great view up and down the old run.
The weather that day was cool and moist, and it rained during the second half. But we had our rain gear and the cool air was a nice relief to the fact that we were hiking up a mountain all the way in. Most of the way we were just hiking through the woods, and even with the cloudy overcast, the view throughout the forest was absolutely gorgeous with the dark moist wood with green all around and a pine smell lingering in the air.
We crossed a few creeks over the hike. John used his long legs to go across in a few steps stepping on rocks while I usually had to find alternative ways around. Just as we passed our first very small patch of snow, we reached the first Bear Creek crossing. After deciding that the spring runoff was still too high to cross the creek we took a small break. John picked up a rock and started looking at it. After putting it back he took a small drink from the creek. At first this surprised me, because in the park we warn hikers about not drinking directly from streams and creeks because of the potential of getting infected by the giardia parasite. John explained later that the giardia parasite has been around a long time, back when the native Americans and the early settlers here drank from the water. They didn't have iodine tablets or water filters back then but they didn't get the intestinal problems giardia gives you either, that they must have been immune. In short, in small amounts he took drinks from some clean mountain streams to possibly build immunity. He also explained that he took a look at the rock to see if there were any fly larvae on living on them. Certain types of fly larvae, (may flies, deer flies) can only like in clean water, which is how he checked for other possible sources of contamination. Leeches and (i think) black flies do live in clean water, but can also live in contaminated or dirty water. If only black flies and leaches were found he probably wouldn't have taken a drink.
Since we decided not to get really wet and cross the creek, we turned around and started heading back the way we came. On the way back we passed through the Avalanche-run/meadow and just as we stepped into it, the rain stopped and the sun came out for a few minutes. It glinted off the blades of grass like liquid diamonds and sparkled in the creek below. The sun brought out the purple color of the Monkshood flowers in the meadow. The view across the small valley onto the other mountain shone bright in the sunlight. Just as we exited the meadow, the sun went behind a cloud again when we stepped under the canopy of the trees.
Over the hike, we saw some pretty interesting shrubs and wild flowers. I've done some research about the flowers we saw. The pride and joy of the hike (wildflower-wise, that is) was the fact that we saw a Fairyslipper, (Calypso Orchid). When we saw it we didn't know what it was until I did some research this morning. The Calypso orchid is found only in the first 3 weeks of June, (so to see it this late is pretty awesome). It is a rare flower because people are enticed by its color and shape and thus is very rare because people pick it too often. We left the Calypso orchid right in the ground where we found it. But I did manage to take a picture which I will post in the next album. We also saw the Columbia Monkshood in the Avalanche run, Creeping barberry(yellow), the western serviceberry shrub, and there was one other plant that I remember. But after looking through numerous plant books here in the office, I still haven't managed to find a name for it. It is a vine-like plant, light purple in color, the stem bends over and opens downward. It could possibly be a shrub but I'm not sure. Unfortunately I did not get a picture of it so I'm trying to use my memory to find it in the books. My search so far has been unsuccessful.

Part 2 of my day off will be in the next post.

EMS Extrication

Two days ago I had my first major EMS extrication. The Tower ambulance was called to a place on the Stagecoach road where an 85 male had fallen off his horse onto his shoulder. I road the ambulance until we got to a part where the horse trail set off from the stagecoach road. Connor and I took a litter and this off road wheel that attaches to it and started rolling it up the hill. That thing was heavy. REALLY heavy. by the time we hiked a half mile up the hill with that thing, I was pretty much almost dead. Connor though, didn't seem to have any problem with it.
We found the patient lying in the middle of the trail. Since he had fallen off his horse, we obviously had to consider C-Spine (The part of the vertebrae at the back of the neck). That is one of the most important things to consider because a break can cut the spinal column which can leave the patient a quadriplegic.
Once we got the patient in the ambulance, Connor drove the ambulance into the Mammoth Clinic while Colette (who is ALS/Paramedic) and I sat in the back. I pretty much did vitals the whole way, but it was very good practice because taking vitals in the back of an ambulance is much harder than sitting in a quiet room without any bumps.
We reached Mammoth Clinic and Connor and I walked to the General store to get ice cream sandwiches, courtesy of Colette. Let me say now, strawberry ice cream sandwiches are definitely the best!
Connor headed back to Tower with the ambulance while Colette and I road in the back of the Mammoth ambulance while we were driven to Livingston hospital. We got the patient situated and headed back to Mammoth where we cleaned the truck and restored all the supplies. Ron and Amanda picked us up in their patrol car so we could get a ride back to Tower. We got back around nine thirty and everyone was eating at John M's. I got pressured into taking out my violin and playing some fiddle tunes. (Mom: When are you going to send me my fiddle books?) And with my bravery Brady got out his guitar and started jamming. And Boy! He is a GREAT guitar player! We jammed a little bit together with the occasional singing of Ben, a ranger who lives out at Northeast and has a great voice.
The whole thing was extremely fun.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Pleasant Rants

One thing I've noticed recently is that my hands are always dirty. I'm not saying that it is necessarily a bad thing, it's just something I've noticed. My arms are wicked tan and I've got a watch tan line. As of two weeks ago, I had gotten acclimated to the elevation (I am about 6500 ft above sea level according to my topo map)and stopped huffing and puffing every time I tried to walk somewhere.
But I really like it out here. The work, the heat, the fact that it gets down to 35 at night and no one cares that I leave my window open.
I love the afternoon thunderstorms. You never know what you're going to get. It could be lots of thunder, lots of lightning, rain, or hail. It even smells good here.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

A Picture Post!

I have conqured the difficulty of posting pics on blogger! As you shall see, All of my pictures are at a slide show at the top of my blog. This will be album one. Epic win for Claire. If you have any questions about a certain pic, comment on this post and I shall answer your questions. Album number two will come eventually, and with it a post. Enjoy!


So for the past few days, as well as today and tomorrow, I've been in the the backcountry office. This mostly consists of issuing backcountry permits, recommending hiking trails, and answering visitors questions. It is small, confining, lonely, and at times frustrating. However, I am getting much better at conversations with visitors, and I admit that I know the trails well because of the topo-maps that I stare at all day.

But yesterday after I got off work, myself and Sara got a well deserved break and went out to the Lamar valley in search of wolves. Well first, we actually went to the Tower General store and got ice cream. We went west and as we were passing the junction of the Soda Butte Creek and the Lamar River, Sara spotted a beaver on the side of the road in a small runoff of the river. We immediately pulled off and started looking at it. It was so adorable! It made little chewing sounds as it was eating.....well, whatever it was eating. I have pictures of us near it, but I'm still trying to figure out how to post pictures on this.

Next we came across a group of people, and their scopes, looking upon a carcass with 3 grizzly bears and a wolf on it. We found our wolf! Unfortunately we were so far away that we could only see it through other people's scopes. Not even our binoculars were strong enough to get a good look at it. But the visitors here were really nice and let us look through some of their strong scopes. We got pretty good views of the three bears and the wolf.

Next we continued on to trout lake. We went up a steep hill about a half mile until we reached the lake. Since it was so late, and no one was there, we saw the female otter and her pups playing in the water. We sat quietly and watched for about 5-10 min and it was about nine o' clock. So we turned around and hiked back to the car, talking loudly as to scare away any bears.

On our way back as we were passing little America, we saw a black bear not 30 yards off the road. So our whole hour and a half adventure had great wildlife sightings.

I think I just figured out how to post a picture, with a post, so I'm going to post a map of the Lamar valley to show the areas we were at. Click on the picture to make it bigger.

Friday, June 26, 2009

The people I am working with

So there are about 13 people that I work with here, all of which are extremely nice people and fun to work with. First there is Collette, she's an LE ranger and the boss here at Tower. She's very nice and always works long hours after her shift is over for the betterment of the station. There's Ron, another LE ranger, and his wife Sarah who is a voulenteer here at tower. Sarah's good with horses and helped me pick out the riding boots that I'm going to get. There's Ranger Dooley who lives in Gardner and is also an LE ranger here. He used to be an SCA back in the day, (Like me!), and he said he's going to try to take me out in the backcountry with the horses. My roommate is Kate. She's a backcountry ranger and is trained in all sorts of stuff like fire fighting, and using all sorts of tools. John K. is a general ranger who used to work at PBS in boston. He used to work with the wolves and now he deals with all sorts of wildlife in relation to the visitors. He's very good at bear jams. Gabe is a General ranger who knows all about the backcountry office and trails. There are Brady and Amanda who are new LE rangers here and are awesome people. Paul, who is only here for another week and a half, has been an LE ranger here for a while and knows all sorts of things. Connor is the closest to my age, 18, and the only one younger than me, and he's a general ranger. John M. is an LE ranger who has a dog named Tango who is absolutely adorable, (and very well trained). He's the one who showed me how to install/replace a strut on a car. Liz is a General ranger here as well and is majoring in parks and recreations in college.
There are many more people who I've met and worked with, but these are the main ones that I'll probably be mentioning a lot.

Ah! The fresh smell of Calcite Springs

One thing that makes Yellowstone different from other parks, (and the main reason why it was created as the first national park), is because of its geological thermal features. Trappers and explorers who were among the first to view the Yellowstone area told stories of boiling hot water spurting out of the ground hundreds of feet in the air, hot pools of blue and orange water, and boiling mud. Many of these people were ridiculed for the supposed lies they told because no one believed the stories they told were true. It took two government funded expeditions to confirm the existence of geysers, mud pots, and hot springs.
There aren't many thermal features near where I'm living. However, there is one: Calcite Springs. If there is one thing one should know about thermal features is that they reek of rotten-egg smell. Sulfur, I think. Although calcite springs is about 2 miles away from Tower Ranger Station (Where I live), we are lucky enough to experience the pungent smell of the springs sometimes in the morning. Last night I had left my window open. This morning I woke to that smell.
Despite the discomfort to my nasal cavity, I am having lots of fun and learning many new things. Just yesterday, I learned how to replace a strut on a car. John M., one of the LE rangers here, let me help him with his car that he was fixing himself.
I'm also learning the names of as many plants, (and their properties) as I can as well. So far the wild flowers I know and recognize are Arrow-Leafed Balsam root, Larkspur, Flocks, Bluets, and Sticky Geranium. I also learned that even though flocks kind of looks like wild strawberry blossoms....the hard way. That poor strawberry flower didn't even have time to ripen before I accidentally stepped on it.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

The internet is availible to me!

[Disclaimer: Blogger doesn't have automatic spell check, so expect mistakes. If you know me well, you know that I'm not the best speller in the world]
Alright....So I finally have Internet access here! Which means I can finally start posting what I am actually doing. I know I was a bit vague with the details before I left, but that was because I was unsure of what was going to be happening as well. (oops!)
So basically, I am 'sent' here by the Student Conservation Association (SCA). Officially, I am a volunteer. I don't get paid by the hour. I get an allowance from the SCA for food expenses/etc. If I stay for the entire three months, (which I most certainly plan to), I get a scholarship for school tuition from Americorp.
In simple words, I am interning under the head ranger here at Tower Ranger station, Collette Daigle-Berg, and I do all sorts of things. One of the main things I do is "Bear Jams". They are traffic jams caused by bears. Not in the way one might think though. The bear could be ten feet off the road, not the middle of it. He could also be 300 yrds off the road and still cause a jam. If the bear is visible, the possibilities of a bear jam are up in the 99% range. I admit. Sometimes it is frustrating, because there is so much more to the park than just bears. The thermal features for instance. Or even on a smaller scale: the wildflowers and their properties. But I try to keep in mind that people come to the park for different reasons, and while there are some people who only come for the bears, there are still those who do come to learn as much as they can about everything.
Tower ranger station. This is where I live. I wake up and perhaps there might be a buffalo outside my window. We had two black bears mating in our volleyball court just last week. I'm not living in a tent or anything like that. It's actually very nice living quarters with a kitchen and bathroom and double bed. I don't have a double bed at home......