Monday, June 6, 2011

Memorial Day Snowstorm

My Grill- Memorial Day Weekend
Hot sun warming my golden skin, kids playing in the backyard with water guns, the smell of charcoal fired grills with burgers and hot dogs simmering; this is what comes to my mind when I think of Memorial Day. It's an American holiday spent with family and friends remembering the past while embracing the newly arrived summer season. But here, in the interior of Yellowstone, Memorial Day  is more like a winter scene from a Christmas holiday card.

De-boarding their tour buses, visitors from all over the world arrived in Yellowstone this Memorial Day weekend to find that they were in the midst of another classic Yellowstone snowstorm. Big fluffy snow flakes tumbled from the sky whilst gusts of wind sent the snow into upward spirals of mini tornadoes. But rather than be upset over the snow, I watched as people both old and young gathered outside the visitor center, whipping snowballs at their brothers and sisters, and catching snow flakes with their tongues. They were in awe of Yellowstone despite it's erratic weather patterns.  
Snow fell on the Yellowstone plateau for 48 hours, depositing up to two feet of snow on Craig Pass, which is the road between West Thumb and Old Faithful. A fair amount of snow at high elevations and icy conditions at lower elevations can only result in one thing: Road closures! With the South Entrance still opened, flocks of people arrived to the Park only to find out that they would be stuck at Grant Village Visitor Center each morning until the roads were safe to re-open.

In addition  to the snow and road closures, the newly arrived seasonal park rangers at Grant Village were dealing with a few other "opening" issues. The lights flickered off and on all weekend and eventually the heavy wet snow caused a complete power failure. As the power surged off and on all day it caused the phones to go out, which only added to our technological failure as the computers were already down as well. It looked as if "Yellowstone" was kicking our butts on opening day!

But as you well know, there is no use in getting upset over naturally caused, unpreventable failures. It was just after high noon on opening day when I arrived to the visitor center and the natural light filtered through the large windows and doors providing enough light to make the power failures inconsequential. And as for computers and telephones- well, I personally think they are all over-rated. We have plenty of books to study from and our Park Service communication radios connected us to the greater Yellowstone team while also providing us with the  most up to date weather  forecast. The lack of technology brought me back to my seasonal park service days when I lived in remote Katmai National Park, where the lack of technology created an environment where we seldom knew what was going on outside our little world...nor did we really care! We were in the middle of the Alaskan wilderness, just where we wanted to be.

Although, I was ready for spring, or at this point summer, to finally arrive I couldn't help but smile as I walked Alice that evening in the middle of a snowstorm. Thoughts of happiness cluttered my brain: I was truly alive, living in the interior of Yellowstone, experiencing things that other people only read about. And yes, it was snowing on Memorial Day. But it was an entirely new and different experience for me; one that won't readily blend into all the other Memorial Days. For me, this is what life is all about: embracing new experiences, pushing personal boundaries, overcoming new challenges and sometimes, catching snow flakes with my tongue on Memorial Day weekend!   

Within a couple of days the falling snow turned into falling rain, and mother nature whispered in our ears that with a little patience summer would eventually arrive to the interior of Yellowstone, bringing with it sunny skies, rushing rivers and blooming flowers.       

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