Winter in Yellowstone is a time of magic and mystery. Snow-shrouded conifers are further veiled by persistent geyser fog, lending the landscape an ethereal beauty. I love the winter here, and have come to feel surprisingly at home in the harsh environment. No doubt about it, though, a Yellowstone winter can be hazardous—even deadly—for the unprepared or just plain unlucky. The stark beauty of the place is made all the more poignant by the tinge of healthy respect and fear it inspires.
Sometimes, facing fear is the best thing you can do for yourself. In choosing to come back to Old Faithful, I understood that I was confronting a number of fears, both concrete and abstract. Read more
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!
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 might seem strange that a park ranger is making a New Year's resolution to spend more time in nature, but my job involves a lot more sitting in my office than you might think. Yes, I do have an office of my own—but my tiny space was originally a storage closet, and doesn't have any windows. The beautiful Badlands are right outside, but I can't see them.
The isolating effect of working in my closet is stronger in winter, of course, when I go to work just after sunrise and return home after the sun has already gone down. I get very little natural light. Yesterday, it started snowing, and I didn't know about it for three hours. If a fireball were headed for the Earth and everyone looked to the skies, screaming in terror, I would still be tapping away at my workstation, oblivious to my impending doom.
I feel as though I only just arrived in Yellowstone, yet here I am, packing and cleaning, getting ready to move again. Picking up and relocating frequently is the lot of the seasonal park ranger, and there are things I like about it. I never get bored with the inherently repetitive aspects of my job, for instance, and I welcome the chance to delve into a new homelandscape every six months or so. But staying put for two years of graduate school in Vermont spoiled me with “normal” life: I got to taste the joy of immersing myself more deeply in a place. To many of you, who may have spent your entire lives in one place, two years without moving may not sound like much. But for an itinerant park ranger, not having to move three or four times during that period was a heavenly taste of what it’s like to settle somewhere. Read more