The doors of the Grant Village Visitor Center are officially closed for the season yet as I turned the key to lock the doors on Thursday evening it seemed wrong. Afterall the day had been sunny with high's in the 70's...not exactly Fall weather in Yellowstone! The visitors seemed utterly confused as I told them "closing for the season!" What they don't realize is that although today might be sunny, tomorrow it could be snowing and it will be much easier to deactive and winterize buildings before the snow begins! But just the same it seemed weird closing for winter and wearing a summer uniform!
Most of the seasonal park rangers have packed their bags and headed off to their wintering grounds. On one level I envy them as they eagerly head off to a new adventure. Watching them pack their vehicles reminds me of the 7 years that I spent being a temporary employee- I was always sad to leave but always eager for the next chapter of life. Eleven different parks/nature centers/eco-camps in 7 years! Yet as I write this my dog comes running up to me and licks my hand reminding me of the adventures that await me as a permanent Park Ranger in Yellowstone. As the employee parking lot empties a little more each day I feel lucky that I get to stay here year round and see a different side of Yellowstone that most people will never see.
In fact as less people visit the park the wildlife seem more apt to show themselves. Yesterday I drove to the north part of the park called Mammoth Hot Springs for training. Mammoth is a two hour drive from my house however this drive is entirely through the park. As I drove t0 Mammoth at 6 am in the dark I was greeted by 1 eagle, 3 coyotes, 1 fox, 2 mule deer and several elk & bison. As the sun began to rise at 6:30am over the Gallatin range and I concluded that I was probably having the best 6 am commute for work EVER! I mean can one really complain about driving at 6am when you're getting paid to drive two hours through Yellowstone National Park!
By the time I got back from training the weather had changed and the new high for day was 20'F lower than the previous day. Who knows there may even be snow tomorrow!