The Summer Has Gotten Off to a Great Start

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                It is difficult to believe we have been here almost a month already as of July 3rd.  In my last post I said we didn’t have our first actual workday until Tuesday June 19.  That was a typographical error.  Our first rotation started on Tuesday, June 12.  In the days prior to putting on the uniform and greeting the guests, we concentrated on getting our site set-up the way we wanted it for the summer as well as installing the signs around the campground we had removed for the winter prior to departing last fall. 
                The campground opened on schedule on Friday, June 8 with Donna and Rick Dumar working as the first pair of campground hosts.  Their experience and love for the job make them a good choice to open the campground.  That isn’t to say that Pat and Jack Scullen wouldn’t have been an excellent choice as well.  Their experience and absolute love for the entire park make them naturals as campground hosts as well.  We are really lucky to work with two couples who appreciate the campground, the park and the job as much as these two couples.  By the time our first work rotation came around the campground was well seasoned and everything felt quite natural.
One of our early guests in the campground.  He came for breakfast and stayed for lunch.  Fortunately, our two legged guests gave him plenty of room.
                There were some notable differences between last spring and now.  First the weather during the winter and spring was much milder this year than last.  That fact impacted the appearance of the park as well as the wildlife and fauna.  The bear activity in our part of the park is much higher this season.  That is probably a byproduct of the mild winter and spring.  On Memorial Day the doctor from the Mammoth Clinic and his family were hiking up the road from the Obsidian Creek bridge just below the campground when they encountered a grizzly sow with three current year cubs.  The sow attacked and the doctor was forced to use his bear spray to avoid contact.  The spray worked and the family was able to return to their car without further incident.  There was also the sow with the two cubs who are now two year olds roaming the area north of the campground.  Within days of opening the campground we had reports of black bears within a five mile radius of the campground to the south.  Needless to say with this level of bear activity in the area we have been super cautious about where and how we move around and we have been equally conscientious in emphasizing the food safety rules to our campers.
                We are sometimes amazed that even after telling people how many moms with cubs are in the area they just don’t seem to get it when it comes to following the rules that will keep them and their fellow campers safe.  However, we have remained very vigilant in our monitoring of the campground and helping to educate our campers.  Along those same lines we have had several reports from campers informing us of the dangerous activities of other park visitors along the roadways.  People will always stop to look at bears, wolves, coyotes, elk, bison, etc.  That is to be expected.  After all the animals are huge draws to the park.  However, the folks who stop in the middle of the road and then leave their vehicle for a better look can test the patience of their fellow visitors to say nothing of the rangers.  If the verbal reports we have been getting from our campers are any indication, there are more people getting much too close to the wildlife this year.  That is a worry.  To date there has been one significant negative contact between man and beast.  Last weekend a visitor was out of his vehicle watching a bull bison.  Over time the bison made a slow approach on the visitor.  The approach was not aggressive in nature, but at some point the bison came within 25 yards of the visitor.  At that point it was the visitor’s responsibility to maintain that distance or greater.  He failed to do that and finally the bull walked right up to the man and gored him in the groin and pitched him some seven to ten feet into the air.  When he returned to earth with a great thud the bison ground him into the ground.  He broke his collar bone, a shoulder and several ribs.  I won’t describe the injury to his groin.  Just imagine something a little less than the worst.  The visitor spent time reconsidering his decision to stand his ground while recovering in the hospital and the bull bison has stories to tell his friends.
                We really wish that everyone who visits the park would follow the simple rules laid out in the news paper and at several venues around the park.  These rules have evolved after years of experience in the park and are proven to keep the guests safe while allowing the wildlife to roam freely without purposeful or incidental harassment from people.  I fear that given what we have been told and what we have seen as we travel around the park this could be a bad year for dangerous contact between man and animal.  I hope I am wrong.
                We have had some electricity problems this spring and early summer.  On June 5 we lost power here at Indian Creek Campground.  I think the power was out about 18 hours that time.  Since we were not open there was no problem with us campground hosts running our generators to keep our batteries charged and keep our rigs warm.  That latter statement was important, because on the sixth we woke up to about an inch of snow on the ground.  It stayed pretty chilly for the first week we were open and there were a few more skiffs of snow to follow.  We lost power again during the wee hours of June 9.    We spent that day away from the campground and when we returned in the evening power had been restored and all was good.  The worst power outage happened about 10:15 AM on the 26th and didn’t come back until about 7:30 PM on the 28th.  During this last outage our ranger allowed us to run our generators during daylight hours when the numbers of campers were lessened.  He recognizes we cannot go forever without power and we also have to keep our radio batteries and the golf cart batteries charged.  In our case we very quickly learned that we had a serious battery problem.  I had been leaving our compartment lights on in an effort to minimize the numbers of little critters who would want to come in out of the cold.  Connie and I were gone all day on the 26thand therefore didn’t know there was no power.  When we got home our battery level was down below nine volts.  I initially contributed the low voltage to the lights.  After several hours of generator operations we noted that the charge could not be maintained with a very minimal load.  One of my three batteries had a shorted cell and the other two were not doing too well.  I realized that those batteries are five years old and have had several deep cycles due to our lifestyle.  Therefore, all three were replaced late in the afternoon of June 28th.  Once we had them in and providing power Connie and I went into Gardiner to meet Donna and Rick and Susan and Russ for dinner.  When we returned to the campground late in the evening we had electricity back.  My new batteries didn’t get a good test yet.  That is just okay by me.
Just in case you ever wonder why we put up with some of what I tend to moan about, just take a peek at what we come home to most evenings.
This Snowshoe Hare comes around to our site a couple of times a day to enjoy the flowers.  That is he/she chomps them off at ground level and then chews up the stem to the flower and lets the flower drop to the ground.  It is really fun to watch. 
                During our first work rotation we were fortunate to fill on our second night.  Being full always makes the days seem a little shorter.  Even if we fill late as we did on that first day, when you get back to the motorhome you know you are really done and there probably will not be any knocks on the door with people looking for a site.  There also won’t be too many folks wanting firewood after a late fill because we had spent so many hours in the cabin prior to filling that everyone needing wood had already come to visit us.
                During that first work rotation a group of Youth Conservation Corps workers and their park employee supervisors came to the campground to build two new campsites for hikers and bicyclists.  The two sites formerly used for hikers and bicyclists were modified to make one vehicle campsite with a tent pad and the other tent pad is now designated for the adjacent campsite.  The redesign is much better than what we had before.  The Youth Conservation Corps teams also installed six new food safe boxes around the campground with a dozen more to be installed later in the summer.
                The Youth Conservation Corps is a residential work program for young men and women between the ages of 15 and 18.  The program is designed to develop an appreciation for the nation’s natural resources and heritage through unique educational, recreational work experiences. 
                This summer, Yellowstone will offer two, month-long YCC sessions, June 10 to July 12 and July 15 to August 16.  Approximately 40 teenagers from across the country will be randomly selected to participate in each session of the program.
                Initiated in 1984, Yellowstone’s YCC Program recruits youth from all social, economic, ethnic, and racial backgrounds.  Corps members work together under adult leadership to complete conservation projects such as rehabilitation of trails, campground restoration, and a wider variety of resource management and maintenance projects.  Through this experience, participants develop their job and leadership skills while further exploring personal values, gaining self-esteem, expanding their awareness of work ethics, and learning firsthand about environmental and conservation issues.
                Corps members will also participate in recreational activities and discover the many options for careers in the National Park Service and other land management agencies.  Many of these activities take place in the evenings and on weekends.  Activities may include hiking, rafting, fishing, ranger-led programs, enrollee and staff presentations, assisting ranges and/or scientists, seminars with special guest speakers and trips throughout the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.
                Participants are required to live on location, and room and board will be provided at a minimal cost.  Wages will be set at the federal minim wage.
                The Yellowstone YCC Program is supported by the Yellowstone Park Foundation including generous donations from the men and women of the Loyal Order of the Moose.  Since 1989, members of the Moose have generously donated over three million dollars in support of Yellowstone’s YCC program.

Some of the YCC supplies for the job at hand

YCC Members attend a safety brief prior to starting the job

Cutting the concrete molds to size in order to plant the food safes

Getting ready to move a food safe to the site where it will be placed
Youth at work.  Don’t you love it?
 We have spent a good bit of our off time traveling within and outside of the park looking at the sights and just enjoying the area.  Future posts will include photos and discussions of some of our wanderings along with our bear experiences.  So, stay tuned.


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