The Revenant & Yellowstone National Park

Yesterday sweet husband and I took in an afternoon movie; The Revenant featuring Leonardo DiCaprio as Hugh Glass (c. 1780 – 1833). Based on true events, Glass was an American frontiersman, fur trapper, and explorer of the watershed of the Upper Missouri River in present-day Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, and the Platte River area of Nebraska.

Although it was never stated where these events took place, there was one mention that someone was last spotted near the “yellow stone”. Yellowstone is called Yellowstone because the river flows through a yellow stoned canyon.

As you know by now, we spent the summer in Wyoming and Montana, therefore, from the scenery, I believe this part of the story of his life took place in that area; perhaps what is now the Chief Joseph Highway area?

I’m not a movie critic, but the cinematography was academy award quality.

Seeing this movie, which is extremely rough, took me back to Wyoming and Montana; it has haunted me all day.

It started with Glass walking through an overflowing creek in the middle of a forest. The first sounds were of an Elk Stagg trumpet. It is an unmistakable, loud and wonderful sound. One can actually go to YouTube and type in, “Elk Sound”, to hear it, you will never forget it – please do.

There was only one scene involving Bison, but they were stampeding away from a pack of wolves. The Bison’s trumpet or groaning sounds more like a lion. The rocks, cliffs, Lodge Pole Pines, rivers and waterfalls took me “home” to Yellowstone.

This 144 year old national park is located primarily in the state of Wyoming, although it also extends into Montana and Idaho and oh how I love it and miss it.

The stats:

  • It spans an area of 3,468.4 square miles comprising lakes, canyons, rivers and mountain ranges.
  • Yellowstone Lake is one of the largest high-elevation lakes in North America and is centered over the Yellowstone Caldera, the largest super volcano on the continent.
  • This lake has MORE thermal features under water than in the entire rest of the park.
  • The caldera is considered an active volcano. It has erupted with tremendous force several times in the last two million years.
  • Half of the WORLD’S geothermal features are in Yellowstone, fueled by this ongoing volcanism.
  • Lava flows and rocks from volcanic eruptions cover most of the land area of Yellowstone.
  • The park is the centerpiece of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, the largest remaining nearly-intact ecosystem in the Earth’s northern temperate zone.
  • If you work in the park, naturally you live in the park. If you need something as simple as a haircut you will need to drive an hour and half, in good traffic (which is rare), one way.
  • They do have general stores and small health clinics in each village within the park.

One clear evening in August we drove up to Hayden Valley to hopefully see the asteroid events and the Milky Way and, of course try to hear the Elk and Bison trumpet and groan. We were successful on all counts.

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We made friends easily with several of our co-workers and hope to see five of them in the next couple of weeks.

I will not be working there again even thought we had probably the best store manager and cafeteria manager in the entire park. We won’t for three good reasons: (1) it is a long, long drive from Tennessee to Wyoming and (2) my body doesn’t do changing shift work very well and (3) Yellowstone had in excess of 4 million visitors this year; a record. Sadly the company we worked for did not or could not supply our general store with enough help. Oh, my heart will miss it, to be sure.

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YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK – Part one of ?

Here is how it works.  There are big corporations who bid on concession contracts with the National Park Service to run the retail, lodging, restaurants and entertainment in the National Parks.  We found this out by visiting several national and state parks last year while we were “Living In Our Minivan”.  Once this information was obtained, we discussed it, picked a park, applied, were hired and we reported for work on June 8, 2015.  To protect the innocent the company name will remain anonymous.  We were really lucky, as the other company in the park was huge, impersonal and had very low dress standards (just an observation).

We agreed on jobs, were assigned a nice dorm room, were given our uniform t-shirts and directed to the EDR (employee dining room).  The EDR fed us very well.  A portion of our salary was deducted for room and board.  Our room was like a Days Inn room:  Sink, closet, private bath and good-size bedroom.  We also had a (free) laundry room on the basement floor where the only TV lived.  We had no Wi-Fi and very poor to no cell coverage.  The public areas of the dorm were kept OCD clean.  We were responsible for our space (not OCD).

NOW FOR THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE WONDERFUL:

GOOD:  There were three age groups (1) college age (2) retired and (3) middle-aged teachers off for the summer.  Most of the college age are from foreign countries (?), this company seems to have a hard time getting American students who want to work for them in the summer.  The retired (us and a few others) are here because we cannot sit on the couch any longer and because they, like us, want to see these parks.  These are all really wonderful people to work with, we all became friends and formed a tight team.  We spent time out in the park together or visiting in our rooms, playing cards or pool in the TV room.

Brandon, Robert and Rose

Brandon, Robert and Rose

Brandon, Lily, Teegie and Grace

Brandon, Lily, Teegie and Grace

Rose, Robert and me

Rose, Robert and me

Teegie, Grace and Mel

Teegie, Grace and Mel

BAD:  We worked for a very large, privately owned corporation with juvenile rules that had to be upheld by our manager, who obviously didn’t always agree with them, because she was normal and human.  We had to “clock-in” and couldn’t do it two minutes early, even if we were just standing there.  The General Store was open 14 hours per day, seven days a week.  We alternated shifts each week, (hard to get used to).  We stayed short staffed all summer and HR either would not or could not get us the proper help.  My assumption, from years of working is, the smaller the payroll, the larger the profit.  This MAY be the reason American college students won’t come to work for them – their reputation proceeds them.  This was real work, standing/walking 7+ hours per day.  The poor customers had to pay the high price by waiting in long lines.  This was especially hard on them because Yellowstone is huge and moving from one area of the park to another takes a very long time.  They were tired, but they didn’t take it out on us (much).  I don’t have a picture of the dorm, but I do have a couple critters who came to visit us at our dorm.  Sweet husband purchased bear spray after one of these visits.

Black Bear next to our dorm

Black Bear next to our dorm

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WONDERFUL:  Yellowstone National Park and the surrounding areas.  Teton National Park, Cody, WY, The Bear Tooth Highway, Mesa Falls in Idaho, The local live theater in West Yellowstone and so much more.  I will have details in the following posts.

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More later…

Jurassic World in Montana July 2015

We drove out through to North Entrance of the park leaving Mammoth and entering Gardiner, MT, another precious little town.  There are currently no plans to expand the lodging or camping within Yellowstone Park.  Therefore, if lodging (or affordable lodging) cannot be located in the park, visitors must stay in one of the little towns on the outskirts of the park.

North YNP Entrance

North YNP Entrance

Mammoth Hot Springs

Mammoth Hot Springs

Gardiner, MT

Gardiner, MT

For future reference, they are:  North entrance–Gardiner, MT, Northeast entrance–Cooke City, East entrance–Cody, WY, South entrance–Flag Ranch, Lake Jackson Lodge or Jackson Hole, WY and West entrance–West Yellowstone, MT.

On our way our of the park, we discovered three new (to us) water falls on our way out of the park.

Undine Falls

Undine Falls

Wraith Falls

Wraith Falls

Wraith Falls

Wraith Falls

Tower Falls

Tower Falls

Again this was an overnight trip with a campsite in yet another great KOA.  We have decided to get a more expensive air mattress as we have found, regardless of the care given, the cheap ones from Walmart won’t hold air more than one or two good nights.  I ordered one from Amazon today, which promises years of good service.  I will give my review of this new purchase in a following post.

OUR QUEST:  (1)  THE MUSEUM OF THE ROCKIES in Bozeman, Montana. Originally affiliated with Montana State University, and now, also, the Smithsonian Institution.  The museum is known for its paleontological collections, although these are not its sole focus.

The Museum of the Rockies houses the largest collection of dinosaur remains in the United States, possessing the largest Tyrannosaurus skull ever discovered, as well as the thigh bone of a Tyrannosaurus rex that contains soft-tissue remains.  The museum is part of the Montana Dinosaur Trail and is Montana’s official repository for paleontological specimens. Montana has vast paleontological research occurring within or conducted by people from all over the U.S. I learned the fossil record in Montana stretches all the way back to the Precambrian.  Beginning in 1855 archeological digs all over the state have produced some of the most significant Jurassic life examples in North America.

The dark brown is real bone, the light is man made to complete the skeleton

The dark brown is real bone, the light is man made to complete the skeleton

Mammoth skull and tusks

Mammoth skull and tusks

Sweet Husband looking through dino skull

Sweet Husband looking through dino skull

A perfectly preserved nest of dinosaur eggs

A perfectly preserved nest of dinosaur eggs

Jurassic Crocodile

Jurassic Crocodile

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Sweet Husband with Big Mike

Sweet Husband with Big Mike

Rex

Close up of T-Rex teeth

Close up of T-Rex teeth

Another focus of this museum were the Native Americans.  There was on poster focusing on their sacred stories.  I copied this from one of the displays:

The Indian Peoples, everywhere in the world had sacred origins. Since they did not have riting, their ideas about beginnings were contained in sacred stories and ceremonies that were remembered ad told from one generation to the next. Even today, sacred stories often told in winter still convey moral teachings and other important lessons.

For Example: THE CHEYENNE, “Maheo, the All Spirit, created a salty lake. From a ball of mud he made land which rested on the back of a turtle. And the Earth was known as Grandmother, Earth Woman. Later, by breathing on one of his own ribs, Maheo created first man and then first woman. Maheo is still with us, as all good and all life.” THE BLACKFEET, “Old Man, Mai, made the animals and then molded clay into human shape and said, ‘”You must be People’”.

Sound familiar?

(2)  JURASSIC WORLD the newest in the Spielberg series.  What better place or time to see the movie, in 3D, after a tour of the real thing.  Sweet Husband and I enjoyed it, total escapism and fun. At YNP we have no TV and really no time for TV, making this movie a genuine treat.  I saw reviews on FB and none of them were positive – we totally enjoyed it.

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(3)  AMERICAN COMPUTER AND ROBOTICS MUSEUM The name for this small museum speaks for itself.  It was extremely well done and interesting.  The focus is of the history of communication, personal computers, the internet, World Wide Web, robotics, artificial intelligence, personal computers, etc.

One of the displays featured the telegraph in association with the Pony Express.  At one time the telegraph only extended to St. Joseph, MO. where it then linked with the pony express, extending west.  One of the Pony Express ads on display showed a recruitment for Pony Express riders where the requirements were:  tough, wiry boys, under 18, orphans preferred, must be willing to risk death daily.  Pay listed at $25.00 per week.

The only short coming to the museum is they had no displays after 1995 (a 20 year gap?).

PE1 apple

We took the “short route” back to Yellowstone through West Yellowstone.  It is amazing to drive into the park late in the day and see more cars leaving than entering as there is literally no place left to stay in the park.  If you want to visit YNP make reservations a year in advance, but expect to pay a premium within the park.

A long two days, but worth it, we may never pass this way again…

WILDFLOWERS, GRASSES AND TREES

These beautiful Caldera, Lake and Mountainous areas are exactly what I expected and nothing of what I expected. The Tetons are bold, young, beautiful and still growing (only 10,000 years old). They are covered in glaciers and surrounded by glacier created flats, rivers and lakes; created by the last three ice ages. Yellowstone is stationed on a vastly large caldera filled with lakes, rivers, water falls, geysers, hot springs, pools and other volcanic features. Both are home to many endangered and dangerous creatures. More on these two wonderful places in following blogs—much more.

This blog is for my love of the wild flowers, grasses and trees. Eighty percent of the trees covering this area are called Lodge Pole Pine. There are no hard woods except the occasional white barked Aspen; very occasional. These pines produce a cone whose seeds are glued in and will not product until burned, so the forest fires are their only hope for reproduction.  When we came over the mountain pass in early June with my granddaughter (from south Louisiana) she sat up, looking out the windshield and said, “Oh my God, I have never seen so many trees on one place in all my life!”.  It is awe inspiring (to use an much over used word, but true).

I have lived most of my life within a few miles for the Natchez Trace. It is a National Scenic Trail managed by the U.S. National Park Service. It runs from Natchez, Mississippi to Nashville, Tennessee. I mention this because the Park Service cuts the grass along the route and in some of the meadows. I am pleased to say that is not the cast here in these two National Parks (I am sure in the great wisdom of our park service there is a good reason for cutting this grass). However, I am here to tell you, grass left alone is beyond beautiful. It grows to two, plus feet tall and produces bowing grain heads. It is hard to look at the areas above ground level as we drive around because these parks are filled with these magnificent trees, grasses and an abundance of wild flowers. Some of these actually grow within a few feet of these marvelous and often passionate hot springs. I am sure they all have beautiful names and I can correctly or incorrectly identify them, but I am going to allow the pictures themselves to do all the talking from here on.

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South Dakoda – Part III – BLACK HILLS & BADLANDS

We arrived in Keystone at about 4:00 p.m. (Mountain Time), to meet up with our friend and her three grandchildren (Isabelle 15, Collin 13 and Hamilton 11).

Keystone reminded me of a small Pigeon Forge, TN town with a western flair the moment we drove in.  We stayed three nights at the Econolodge.  It is an older, but clean and comfortable motel, with the necessary INDOOR pool/hot tub.  Keystone is definitely the best location to see all the incredible and splendid sites of this area.  You could easily spend a week here.

First night we all gathered at The Ruby House Saloon, fashioned after a Victorian era, Wild West bar.  After we drove up to Mount Rushmore for the evening light show.  The show started at 9:00 p.m., we arrived at 8 with still plenty of daylight to see this masterpiece.  Just so you know, it gets refreshingly cool here at night in late May.

Ruby Saloon Ruby2

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The next day we drove to Wind Cave National Park.  The drive, for me, was the best part.  It was a thirty mile drive through mountains and prairie, which hosted Buffalo, White-tail Deer, Prairie Dogs, Prong Horn Antelope, Black & Grizzly Bears, Rattle Snakes, Elk and Chipmunks.  We saw all but the bear and the snakes.  The Prairie Dogs were the biggest hit because we just pulled off the road and the pasture was full of them – barking and alerting the tribe of us “dangerous predators”.  I chose not to go into the cave because I’m still have a bout of vertigo and sweet husband stayed back with me.  Our friend took all four teens into the cave for an hour and half tour…brave and kind woman.

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Our plan was to drive back to Keystone to let the four teens take the alpine coaster, ropes course and zip line (an approximate 2 hour adventure), but thunderstorms moved in and the whole event had to be canceled.  We promised (weather permitting) we would try again in the morning.  They were greatly bummed, but settled for pizza at the pool/hot tub.

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Next morning was 46 degrees and rain.  We took them to an indoor fun house that promised extreme optical illusions.  Sweet husband stayed back and did laundry.  From there we drove past Mt. Rushmore to the Crazy Horse Monument.  This is enormous and ambitus and privately funded.  It was started in 1948 and will not be finished in our grandchildren’s life time.  They also have a wonderful film and museum.  I and the two 15 year olds were invited to dance with the Lakota Indian who was demonstrating several of his native Lakota dances.

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On our way home, we drove through Custer State Park on the Needles Highway.  This road, which in my opinion did not qualify as a highway, goes through the most incredible, massive, magnificent, vertical needles of granite.  It is only a few miles long, but took us well over an hour.  Prepare to be amazed.

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Arriving back at the motel, we hit to pool/hot tub again and had a picnic on the beds in one of our rooms.

In Downtown Rapid City are bronze statues of ALL of our Presidents.  Yes, they literally have them all.  It is called, “Presidents Walk”.  This is just a sampling.

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Next stop:  Cody, Wyoming…they have painted Buffalo on the downtown streets (way cool).