Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas in Wonderland

Every tree across Yellowstone National Park is decorated for Christmas; adorned with snow and frost they each seem to sing Christmas carols in perfect unison. As each day brought us closer and closer to Christmas it was easy to become enamored with the holiday spirit. Visitors arrived to the park from far and wide, all seeking the solice and magic of Christmas in Wonderland. Their holiday adventure surely to be filled with watching Old Faithful, cross country skiing, wildlife watching and of course enjoying fine dining and drinks in the evening whilst they snuggle up close to the fireplace. For many it will be the trip of a lifetime and even though I am not a park visitor I found that I have fallen into the same category of a starry eyed Christmas guest in Yellowstone. 

My Christmas adventure began last week while I unpacked my Christmas boxes filled with decorations, lights, plates, mugs and so on. Before the day was over our home had been transformed into a storybook with Christmas lights strung in the windows for all 15 people living in sleepy Grant Village to admire. The only thing missing was a Christmas tree.

The next morning Shane and I attached our tow sled to our snowmobile and headed for the electric line roads. Trees which grow under the power lines are regularly cut  down by the Park's fire team to prevent damage to the lines. In a National Park where all is preserved cutting down trees is not usually permitted unless they pose some kind of danger. So, only trees on these roads are allowed to be taken as a Christmas tree!  Within 30 minutes Shane and I had found what we thought was the perfect tree! We dug out the snow which had settled around the base of the tree and chopped it down. As a former urbanite this was my first time harvesting my very own tree. I was filled with pride, and once decorated, I was filled with admiration for my beautiful "wild" Yellowstone tree! With everything in place I was ready for the holidays, although it was still looking a little bare under the tree (which was soon to change)! 

Living in the interior means that we only get mail once or twice a week. In fact, all of our mail is received in Mammoth  Hot Springs which is then collected by the Park's courier who neatly packs it on a snowcoach and delivers all the mail to the folks in the interior on Tuesdays and Fridays, weather permitting. On these two "mail days" I find myself glued to the Park radio waiting the hear the voice of Rachel, our courier, saying "heading from Lake to Grant". When I finally hear the transmission, I head to the Grant mailroom excited to see what treasures await me! So far I have yet to be disappointed. Priority mail gift boxes from my mom, sister, brother and friends arrived every mail day for two weeks and soon our tree was surrounded by packages! Patiently, we waited to till Christmas morning to open them!

Christmas Eve soon arrived with the blessings of a beautiful sunny day. I rose early to bake cookies for the courier and doggie cookies for the 4 dogs who live in Grant. By mid afternoon Alice and I began making our rounds delivering Christmas cheer in the shape of gingerbread men and candy canes. It seems I was not alone in "holiday spirit" because several other people in Grant arrived at my door sharing fresh baked cookies, homemade salsa and even homemade soap! However the highlight of the afternoon was once again the courier- but this time it was not because of the gifts she delivered but rather the fact that she was dressed up as an Elf and Santa had joined her! Needless to say Alice was the happiest puppy ever and even got to take her picture with Santa and his Elf!

The beauty of the day was only amplified by a perfectly clear night which graced us with one thousand twinkling stars in the dark cold sky. With extra warm hats and mittens a group of us went for a moonlight ski through Wonderland. Pure silence filled the air and the stars and moon guided us on our Christmas Eve ski. Conservationists John Muir used to say that the mountains and forests were his Christian temple, and on this Christmas Eve I could not agree more. Invigorated by the crisp air my cheeks were a bright red as we finished our moonlight ski  and headed to the Dessert Party. 

With new friends all around I sipped homemade Coquito while my cold cheeks were warmed by the slowly burning fire. But it was my heart that was truly warmed as I looked around and thanked God for the gift of family and friends both near and far, and the opporunity to spend Christmas in Wonderland.    

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