The official low temperature this morning at Old Faithful was -36 F. Brr! I was supposed to snowmobile into the park this morning, but we’re still waiting for things to warm up a bit more. So I’m sitting in West Yellowstone, waiting, waiting. I’m anxious to get to Old Faithful, but I also like avoiding frostbite and hypothermia. Luckily, I have these two jolly fellows to keep me company!
First, a hearty thank you to all the new followers of the last week! Being featured on Freshly Pressed was an honor, and I’m pleased that so many of you have found meaning in what I post here on Homelandscapes.
As many of you know, I recently moved from Badlands National Park to Yellowstone National Park, where I will spend the winter as a park ranger stationed at the Old Faithful Visitor Center. This is a homecoming of sorts for me. Though I have loved every place I’ve ever lived, it is Yellowstone—and Old Faithful in particular—that feels most like home. It is the place where I belong. From now through mid-March, I will be posting regular updates to give you a glimpse into winter life in the world’s first national park.
Very few of Yellowstone’s 2.2 million annual visitors come to the park in the winter months. A trip in winter is both more expensive and more logistically complicated than a summer trip because most of Yellowstone’s roads are closed to wheeled vehicles. You can’t just hop in your car and drive to Old Faithful in December the way that you might in July.
Because of these limitations, I’m excited to bring you here for a virtual winter visit to the park. I’ll be sharing photos of the dazzling beauty of Yellowstone in winter, tidbits of natural history, and stories of a quirky lifestyle that few people today can even imagine.
Some personal reflections may pop up, too. This is a turbulent time in my life due to the recent disintegration of a seven-year relationship. The breakup spurred me to rethink my priorities. Coming back to Yellowstone is one result. Planning a through-hike of the Appalachian Trail for 2014 is another.
I hope you enjoy journeying along with me in the coming months!
As ever, please remember that this blog is a personal project. My opinions are just that—my opinions—and do not constitute official statements reflecting the position of my employer. Writings, photography, and other content are copyright Cathy Bell / Homelandscapes unless otherwise noted. Please give credit where credit is due.
The Garnet Hill loop can be hot and dusty in the summer months, when most visitors come to Yellowstone. But if you’re visiting the park in the spring or fall, the Garnet Hill Loop becomes a real winner. When I hiked the Garnet Hill Trail on Saturday, I was fortunate to enjoy a great day of wildlife watching, observing animal tracks, and appreciating the natural quiet of Yellowstone in late autumn.
On this national day of reflection and gratitude, what do people sitting around a Thanksgiving feast usually give thanks for? Family, friends, the gifts of good fortune or the rewards of hard work. Bounty and abundance of food or material possessions. Those going through hard times will express gratitude for the lessons they’ve learned in endurance or the emotional closeness they’ve achieved with loved ones.
How many gatherings of families and friends will voice appreciation for the land itself? Read more
It’s day twelve of the government shutdown, and the country has settled into a tired routine. Much of the shutdown discussion seems to have taken on a tone of resignation or half-hearted complaint, as the public watches while efforts at bipartisan talks collapse. Despite this trend towards passivity from sidelined Americans, there has been a lot of venom out there—some of it terribly misdirected.
I have been appalled at the extent of the vitriol and misinformation that’s floating around, especially regarding the role of the National Park Service in the closure of its 401 units around the country. Sites ranging from the Liberty Bell to Yosemite have been barricaded to visitors. Understandably, people are upset about being shut out of America’s most special places. For many travelers, a big national parks vacation is the trip of a lifetime: a pilgrimage to places of tremendous natural beauty and historic significance, planned for months or even years in advance. Being turned away at the gate is hurtful and costly. Read more
One good thing about the shutdown: it’s given me the time and mental space to do some writing, for the first time in a long time.
I started this blog in June of 2012. I updated it regularly until February, when a number of life events coincided to make writing well-nigh impossible. When I went on furlough (my scheduled furlough, that is) in August, I had lots of quality time in the backcountry. I did lots of journaling and vowed to take up writing again. I then came back to work at the beginning of September, and did a whole lot of … not writing. Read more
October can be a wonderful time for national park visits. The crowds and heat of summer have faded, and the colors of autumn brighten the landscape. Sadly, this year’s government shutdown has closed all 401 national park sites around the country. How long the shutdown will last is a great unknown. So what do you do if you pull up to the gate of a national park on your long-planned vacation, only to find the way is barred?
There are no substitutes for our national parks. They are set aside and protected as national parks for a reason: these lands are of national or international significance. But knowing that doesn’t help much if you’re in your rental car on your vacation, trying to figure out where you should go when your plan has been foiled. Here are a few ideas for alternative destinations. Read more
I started backpacking when I was in my late teens. Not having much money, I borrowed gear from other people for my trips. In the process I learned about what worked well—and what really didn’t. One piece at a time, over a period of years, I built up a versatile collection of outdoors gear. I’ve kept some things for years, and swapped out or upgraded other items. At this point, I feel prepared for just about any trip I would want to do. And the foundation of it all is the pack.
Whether you’re headed out for a quick weekend trip or the through-hike of a lifetime, you’re going to be carrying everything you need on your back, so your backpack needs to be both comfortable and functional. One of the questions I hear most often regarding function is, how big is big enough? Read more
Okay, so it’s probably becoming obvious that I love bats. In recent posts I’ve talked about white-nose syndrome (WNS), a deadly fungal infection that’s devastating American bat populations. I just donated to FightWNS.org, ordering a super-cool WNS awareness ribbon with bat wings (left). I urge you to find ways to help bats in your own community. Read more