Celebrating National Wildlife Week in Yellowstone

Bison family in Yellowstone (photo by Beth Pratt)In Yellowstone National Park, wildlife is in abundance—herds of bison roam across the landscape, the howling of wolves echoes across the canyons, and grizzly bears wander in the forests.

What better place to celebrate National Wildlife Week?

National Wildlife Week, March 14-20, is the longest running program of the National Wildlife Federation and has been held each year since 1938. Past spokespeople of National Wildlife Week include Walt Disney, Shirley Temple, and Robert Redford. This year’s event also marks the 75th anniversary of National Wildlife Federation (NWF) itself. In celebration, children, youth and adults are taking time to celebrate the wildlife that move us by exploring how wildlife fly, climb, leap, swim and dig.

“Through National Wildlife Week, we can learn more about the wildlife around us and some of the unique ways they move and how we can help them.  Taking time to go outdoors and be out there in nature helps to re-connect us to our local environment.  Kids today are wired and on the go much of the day, so many miss the leaping robin or the ant on the sidewalk.  Taking 15 minutes to go outside can lead to a life-time of environmental stewardship,” says Eliza Russell, Director of Education for NWF. 

Although home to the more popular mega-fauna like bears, bison and wolves, Yellowstone has an abundance of other creatures, with a species count of 67 mammals, 322 birds, 16 fish, 6 reptiles, and 4 amphibians. In keeping with NWF’s daily theme for the week, here’s an introduction to wildlife in Yellowstone that:

Fly: The elegant Trumpeter Swan—the largest waterfowl in the world with a wingspan of up to 7 feet—can be seen flying gracefully over Yellowstone. Once on the verge of extinction, the population now appears to be stable. More Yellowstone wildlife that fly.

Climb and Dig: The pocket gopher is a prodigious digger. A single animal’s tunnel system can extend to over 500 feet in length and contain separate chambers for food storage, nesting sites, fecal deposits, and foraging access. And it achieves all of this remarkable burrowing with tiny front claws that measure only an inch in length. More Yellowstone wildlife that can climb and dig.

River otters with cutthroat trout (Photo by Beth Pratt)Swim: Yellowstone’s river otters swim playfully in Yellowstone Lake and in the park’s many rivers as they search for a meal of trout. The largest members of the weasel family, they can weigh up to 30 pounds. More Yellowstone wildlife that can swim.

Hop and Leap: Only two species of frogs live in Yellowstone—the boreal chorus and the Columbia spotted frogs. Boreal chorus frogs can be heard in wetlands each year in the spring singing loudly for a mate—the frog almost doubles its body size as it calls up to twenty times per minute. More Yellowstone wildlife that can hop and leap.

Run and Crawl: Pronghorn are the fastest land mammals in North American and can sprint up to 50 mph. A newborn can outrun a human within a couple days of birth. More Yellowstone wildlife that can run and crawl.

Pronghorn running--the animals can sprint up to 50 mph (Photo by Beth Pratt)But you don’t need to visit Yellowstone to celebrate National Wildlife Week. Wildlife lives all around us, in our neighborhoods, communities, and parks. Take part in the celebration by participating in Wildlife Watch or organizing a volunteer project for wildlife in your community.  Visit www.nwf.org/nationalwildlifeweek to get started and download a watch list and learn more about the featured wildlife. During National Wildlife Week there will be free downloadable posters with wildlife trading cards for each week day.

Founded in 1936, National Wildlife Federation’s mission is to inspire Americans to protect wildlife for our children’s future. The organization is currently developing programs to counteract nature deficit disorder in children by encouraging parents and other caring adults to help children spend more time outdoors everyday. Learn more at www.nwf.org.

Happy Birthday Yellowstone National Park!

Roosevelt Arch in Yellowstone National Park (photo by Beth Pratt)

“The headwaters of the Yellowstone River…is hereby reserved and withdrawn from settlement, occupancy, or sale…and dedicated and set apart as a public park or pleasuring-ground for the benefit and enjoyment of the people.”

With this pronouncement by the United States Congress on March 1, 1872, President Ulysses S. Grant signed into law the Yellowstone Park Protection Act. Yellowstone became the world’s first national park and “America’s Best Idea” was born.

National Parks have been an integral part of my life—from my father taking me to see whales on Cape Cod National Seashore, to spending college summers hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park, to providing inspiration for my writing, space for my joyful wanderings, and an impetus for my career as an environmental leader. The tranquility I experience while hiking in places like Tuolumne Meadows or Hayden Valley feeds my soul with sustenance as essential to my existence as food or water.

So take time today to celebrate the birthday of Yellowstone—and of all our national parks. And if you are looking for a good birthday present for Yellowstone, consider donating to the National Parks and Conservation Association—a great non-profit that helps safeguard our parks for future generations. 

Opening celebration for Yellowstone's new Old Faithful Visitor Center draws hundreds of visitors

Sam Galindo and his father, Peter (the NPS project architect) greet the first visitors to the center (Photo by Beth Pratt)Not to be upstaged, Old Faithful surged into the blue sky during the grand opening celebration of its new namesake visitor center, causing the hundreds in attendance to turn from the proceedings and watch the spectacular eruption.

The Old Faithful Visitor Education Center opened today, after almost eight years of planning and over two years of construction. Sam Galindo (the son of the National Park Service project architect) proudly waved a Yellowstone flag and led the first visitors into the building.

Wyoming residents Ben and Darlene Frint made the trip to Yellowstone just to see the new center. “Yellowstone is our favorite park—we’ve been coming here forever.” The Jaynes and Poulsen families—with infants in tow—were visiting the park from Wisconsin and joined the celebration. “We love the hands on stuff. This place is beautiful and amazing.”

Yellowstone’s Superintendent, Suzanne Lewis, introduced a series of special guests during the opening ceremony, including Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Fish, Wildlife, and Parks, Tom Strickland. “We have a tremendous legacy in this country, a unique legacy of protecting our special places for the benefit and enjoyment of all, not just the few.”

National Park Service Director Jon Jarvis spoke about how parks are not just beautiful places, but also centers of learning for students where they can be inspired to explore careers in science. Jarvis also praised the green building model of the new center “Parks should be an exemplar and world leader in sustainability. And this Gold LEED Certified building does just that.”

Lewis recognized the Yellowstone Park Foundation and its donors for making the center possible. “It’s hard for us to underestimate how much the efforts of the Yellowstone Park Foundation helped us get here today. They raised $15 million—over half of the budget.” The Foundation’s board chairman, Bannus Hudson, told the crowd, “As the park’s official fundraising organization, this is the proudest day in our history.” Major donors to the project include ConocoPhillips, the National Science Foundation, Shalin Liu, Unilver, Cheng Wu, Coca-Cola Foundation, and Toyota Motor Sales, USA, among others.

Paul Schullery, the author and Yellowstone historian featured in Ken Burn’s documentary,The National Parks, delivered the keynote address and called the center “a powerful new tool for celebrating Yellowstone.” He gave a brief history of visitor centers in the park. “Some of the early museums were called trailside museums, explicit emphasis on trailside, because the rangers, then and now, never let you forget that the real wonder is out there, not inside.”

And as if on cue, Old Faithful erupted soon after his remark.

Happy Birthday to Yellowstone National Park-and to America’s best idea

The Roosevelt Arch at the entrance to Yellowstone National Park (photo by Beth Pratt)The official birth of Yellowstone—and what has been deemed "America’s best idea"—occurred on March 1, 1872 when President Ulysses S. Grant signed a bill that designated Yellowstone as the world’s first national park.

Oddly enough, as Ken Burns and Dayton Duncan noted in their recent documentary, The National Parks: America’s Best Idea, debate on the visionary bill was minimal, and “nowhere in either chamber did anyone suggest that they were taking a historic step or setting a far-reaching precedent that future generations might look back upon in gratitude.”

Current and future generations should be eternally grateful to the pen strokes of President Grant on March 1, 1872. For over 130 years, the magnificent landscapes and cultural heritages of our national parks have inspired countless people. And numerous countries have emulated the national park model—the founding principles behind “America’s best idea” continue to reverberate across the globe.

Today, the national park system protects an array of natural and cultural treasures in 392 sites that encompass 84 million acres of land and 4 million acres of oceans and other waters.  Almost 275 million people tour the parks annually, ranging from the largest at Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve, in Alaska (13.2 million acres), to the smallest at Thaddeus Kosciuszko National Memorialin Pennsylvania (0.02 acres).

Our national parks furnish us with peace and inspiration, and consistently evoke joy in those who visit.  The remarkable spiritual and healing capabilities of our parks cannot be understated. Indeed, these special places have provided, in the words of naturalist John Muir, something essential to our soul: “Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in where nature may heal and cheer and give strength to the body and soul.”

Celebrate the birthday of Yellowstone—and of America’s best idea—by visiting a park today. Visit the official website of the National Park Service for more information. If you can’t visit, you can connect with your favorite park via webcam.

Winter in wonderland: adventures in Yellowstone’s sublime season

A bison in Yellowstone's Lamar Valley (photo by Beth Pratt)Last week, avid wolf watchers gathered in Yellowstone's Lamar Valley despite the negative 38F temperature, gazing through binoculars at a wintry landscape that crackled with life. Elk danced over the snow to escape predators, and bison displayed their white masks from foraging for food. As the sun rose and the light penetrated the cold air, it created an endless display of sparkling white diamonds on the snowy ground.

This week temperatures soared to above freezing and visitors walked through a fairy-tale terrain in the Upper Geyser Basin. Steam from the thermal features floated through the air, covering the basin in a lazy mist. As Old Faithful erupted into the clear blue sky, its plume gave birth to clouds that hovered over the ground.

Yellowstone in winter is full of wonder. Whether snowshoeing at the Mammoth Terraces, cross-country skiing in the Upper Geyser Basin, or taking a snowcoach tour to the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, exploring the park in winter is a memorable experience that provides spectacular scenery and excellent wildlife watching.

Yellowstone National Park Lodges offers a variety of packages for winter adventures, such as the Winter Wildlife Expedition, and is currently featuring a $49 per night room special at the Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel. The non-profit Yellowstone Association teaches an array of excellent field seminars and private tours as well, including the upcoming Wolves in the 21st Century and Winter Ecology.

View a slideshow of Yellowstone’s winter wonderland below:

Hauntings in the first National Park: Yellowstone Ghost Stories

Does a headless bride wander the balconies of the Old Faithful Inn? (Photo courtesy Xanterra Parks & Resorts)The things that go bump in the night in Yellowstone might not be just the resident wild creatures. The park’s historic hotels and mysterious landscapes have inspired countless ghost stories over its long history.

Last year, I visited the Old Faithful Inn on a winter’s night. Every fall the Inn is closed and shuttered for the season until it reopens the next spring. As I walked through the darkened hallways and listened to my lonely footfalls, thoughts of The Shining certainly entered my mind. Indeed, employees have a spooky tradition of gathering for showings of the film over the winter in one of Inn’s dark rooms. 

The Old Faithful Inn, over one hundred years old, has numerous ghost stories associated with it. One tells of a newlywed bride beheaded during her honeymoon at the Inn. Soon after the murder, guests began reporting a headless apparition that wandered through the hallways. Visitors and employees have also witnessed the specter of a small, intense-looking man walking through the lobby—he is thought to be the ghost of Robert Reamer, the architect of the Old Faithful Inn and many other historic buildings in Yellowstone. 

Other well-known landmarks in Yellowstone also possess spooky stories. Visitors have reported hearing the whispers of the drowned on Yellowstone Lake and a little, lost boy is said to appear among the onlookers watching the Old Faithful Geyser. 

Even the wildlife of Yellowstone are represented in the ghost world. In her book Yellowstone Ghost Stories, Shellie Larios relates the story of Wahb, a lonely, silver-tipped grizzly. This ursine apparition had a tragic life—his family was destroyed by gunfire in his youth—and after his apparent suicide at Death Gulch, he now haunts the forests of Yellowstone.

Fall in Yellowstone: a photo slideshow

The snowy weather in Yellowstone National Park of the last two weeks has yielded to a burst of autumn, and the landscape proudly displays the vibrant colors of the season one last time before winter covers the park in white.

Ken Burns and Dayton Duncan's best idea: The National Parks

Old Faithful, Yellowstone National ParkOne of the most prized volumes on my bookshelf is a tattered hardcover entitled National Parks of the U.S.A. Inside the pages is a list written in faded ballpoint pen naming five western parks:YosemiteKings CanyonYellowstoneRocky Mountain, and Glacier. I wrote that list as a young girl and I can still remember gazing endlessly at the photographs of granite peaks, roaring waterfalls, and magnificent wildlife, and daydreaming about wandering in those landscapes. I would think, someday, someday…

The west captured my childhood imagination—even in our settled and civilized world—as fiercely as it did any adventurer contemplating the wide-open expanses of America in the 1800s. Yet my urge wasn’t simply to “go west.” The idea of National Parks, of islands of untouched and preserved wilderness inspired me. I wanted to see those places so badly! And in the age before the internet, webcams, blogs and YouTube, my only window into that magical world was through my treasured picture books.

National Parks have been an integral part of my life—from my father taking me to see whales onCape Cod National Seashore, to spending college summers hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park, to providing inspiration for my writing, space for my joyful wanderings, and my career as an environmental leader. The tranquility I experience while hiking in places like the Dana Plateau, Tuolumne Meadows, or Hayden Valley feeds my soul with sustenance as essential to my existence as food or water.

In their new documentary, The National Parks: America’s Best IdeaKen Burns and Dayton Duncan have captured the connection that I—along with millions of other people across the world—share with our National Parks. The connection originates from a reverence for not only what these special places contain, but also what they elicit from us.

Beth with Ken Burns in YellowstoneThis past winter, I was lucky enough to meet Ken and Dayton in Yellowstone, and I recently attended a special reception and screening of this soon-to-be released documentary. Through Ken Burn’s brilliant filmmaking and Dayton Duncan’s poignant writing, the segments I watched translated to the screen the ongoing wonderment and lasting legacy inherent in our parks. Even on film, the sight of Old Faithful charging into the blue sky inspires awe. Yet the ‘stories behind the scenery’ of the people who shaped our parks proves just as enduring as the sublime landscape.

While watching the clips, I remembered myself at ten urgently gazing at a picture of Yosemite, and realized the emotions superimposed themselves in time; three decades later my fascination with the parks has not lessened. My thanks to Ken and Dayton for giving the parks such a splendid and inspirational biography. I imagine many children experiencing the same awe I did when exposed to Yosemite Falls or Old Faithful through this vibrant picture book on film.

The National Parks: America’s Best Idea premieres on PBS on September 27.

 

President Obama Visits Yellowstone

President Obama in Yellowstone National Park“Oh, that’s pretty good. Cool.” President Obama commented after watching Yellowstone’s famous geyser erupt. Old Faithful did not keep the First Family waiting long and burst into the blue sky more or less on schedule at 12:16 p.m.; hundreds of park visitors gathered across the boardwalk and cheered when the president arrived.

For those of us who work in Yellowstone, having the First Family visit the first National Park was an honor. As an environmental professional who has worked in support of parks for over a decade, I sincerely appreciated the President recognizing the importance of “America’s Best Idea” with his special family trip to Yellowstone. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and Yellowstone Superintendent Suzanne Lewis also joined the president for his tour.

My company, Xanterra Parks & Resorts, provided a special lunch for President Obama and his group, and I felt lucky to be selected to assist with the event. While the presidential party toured the mystical moonscape created by the unique geologic activity of Black Sand Basin, our crew readied the Old Faithful Snow Lodge for the meal. Working with the Secret Service, we watched as they conducted three different security sweeps (“sanitizing” is service lingo)--one sweep included an adorable and energetic bomb sniffing dog.

For the rest of the story and a slideshow, visit my Examiner page.

My Typical Yellowstone Weekend: A Photo Essay

When I am not traveling, I usually include a hike up Old Gardiner Road in my weekend plans. On Saturday, the pronghorn were in abundance during my walk--indeed, I had to stop and wait a few times as the animals crossed the road so as not to disturb them.

Under a blue sky and the much longed for sunshine, I took a ski on Sunday morning up the Mammoth Road to below Bunsen Peak.

And while the rest of the world watched the Superbowl in the afternoon, I tested my new digiscoping equipment in my front yard. Here are two of my first amateur efforts:


Moon Over Sepulcher Mountain

These two photographs show a waning gibbous moon housed like a precious gemstone in the setting of a colorful winter sky. Fun fact: did you know the line separating light from dark on a waning moon is called the evening terminator or sunset?

The National Parks: An Evening With Ken Burns and Dayton Duncan

One of the most prized volumes on my bookshelf is a tattered hardcover entitled National Parks of the U.S.A. Inside the pages is a list written in faded ballpoint pen naming five western parks: Yosemite, Kings Canyon, Yellowstone, Rocky Mountain, and Glacier. I wrote that list as a young girl and I can still remember gazing endlessly at the photographs of granite peaks, roaring waterfalls, and magnificent wildlife, and daydreaming about wandering in those landscapes. I would think, someday, someday

The west captured my childhood imagination—even in our settled and civilized world—as fiercely as it did any adventurer contemplating the wide-open expanses of America in the 1800s. Yet my urge wasn’t simply to “go west.” The idea of National Parks, of islands of untouched and preserved wilderness inspired me. I wanted to see those places so badly! And in the age before the internet, webcams, blogs and YouTube, my only window into that magical world was through my treasured picture books.

With Ken Burns in YellowstoneNational Parks have been an integral part of my life—from my father taking me to see whales on Cape Cod National Seashore, to spending college summers hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park, to providing inspiration for my writing, space for my joyful wanderings, and my career as an environmental leader. The tranquility I experience while hiking in places like the Dana Plateau, Tuolumne Meadows, or Hayden Valley feeds my soul with sustenance as essential to my existence as food or water.

In their new documentary, The National Parks: America’s Best Idea, Ken Burns and Dayton Duncan have captured the connection that I—along with millions of other people across the world—share with our National Parks. The connection originates from a reverence for not only what these special places contain, but also what they elicit from us.

With Dayton DuncanLast week I attended a special reception and screening in Yellowstone of this soon-to-be released documentary. Through Ken Burn’s brilliant filmmaking and Dayton Duncan’s poignant writing, the segments I watched translated to the screen the ongoing wonderment and lasting legacy inherent in our parks. Even on film, the sight of Old Faithful charging into the blue sky inspires awe. Yet the ‘stories behind the scenery’ of the people who shaped our parks proves just as enduring as the sublime landscape in the film. While watching the clips, I remembered myself at ten urgently gazing at a picture of Yosemite Falls, and realized the emotions superimposed themselves in time; three decades later my fascination with the parks had not lessened.

Although the segments we viewed focused on Yellowstone, I was delighted to recognize some friends from Yosemite like Shelton Johnston and Lee Stetson. And for my Yosemite comrades, I did have a chance to discuss the ‘who’s on first’ question with Ken and Dayton during the evening. I think “it’s complicated” was the final verdict. Overall, it was simply amazing to watch this project near completion. I recall providing books to researchers for  the film five years ago when I worked for the Yosemite Association.

My thanks to Ken and Dayton for giving the parks such a splendid and inspirational biography. I imagine many children experiencing the same awe I did when exposed to Yosemite Falls or Old Faithful through this vibrant picture book.

Watch for the documentary this fall on your local PBS station!

Lewis & Clark Half Marathon

Beth Crosses the Finish LineYesterday I completed the Lewis & Clark Half Marathon in Bozeman—and I didn’t come in last! I’ve been training for the event with two of my co-workers—Sharon and Julia—who I had persuaded to join me in this crazy endeavor. Both had never run a half marathon before and I am happy to report they didn’t threaten to kill me after the race.

My dad also ran, while my mother and brother cheered us on. I am very proud of my dad for finishing—it’s one of the toughest marathon courses in the country, and at almost a mile above sea level. As my dad lives at sea level, and is 68, these were enormous disadvantages.

After this positive experience—I didn’t feel like I wanted to die as I did after running a full marathon—I think I’ll stick to 13.1 mile races (my dad and I ran the Falmouth Marathon in 2006).

Team Yellowstone Gorges on Pizza!Always being one to milk the benefits of my training, we gorged on Italian food the night before the event, then dined at McKenzie River Pizza in Bozeman post-race. I consumed an entire personal pizza!

 

Moon Resting on Electric Peak

Moon Over Electric PeakThis evening about 8:00 pm, I glanced out my window to see the young crescent moon resting on the ridgeline of Electric Peak. In the race of the moon and earth, the moon trails behind the earth’s orbit in the first quarter, and the sun withholds the prize of most of its light.

A delightful volume, The Moon Book, lists Native American names for the full moons. This month when the moon reaches full, I’ll think of the Oto calling it, “All the Elk Call Moon,” or the Tlingit’s description of “Moon When All Kinds of Animals Prepare Their Dens.”

Death in Yellowstone

During my five-day trip around the park, Death in Yellowstone, by Lee Whittlesey provided my bedtime reading. Some may consider this subject matter morbid; I’m reading it as a self-defense manual in order to increase my chances of survival during my hiking excursions (and to be honest, I also like reading about humans acting stupidly—I love those Darwin awards!)

The section on “death in hot water” held some surprises for me. I always assumed that a fall into a geyser or hot spring brought immediate or at least a quick death. Unfortunately, being boiled alive can be a slow process, with some victims lingering for weeks. As Whittlesey states: “One of the scariest things about falling into a hot spring is realizing that one could indeed remain fully conscious for many painful hours while awaiting death.”

Yellowstone has over 10,000 geysers with temperatures that can reach up to 205F. I’ll look forward to exploring them this summer, but from a safe distance. Despite the ongoing cold and snowy weather, I will resist taking a dip.

I just started the bison versus humans chapter—I certainly nominate the person who put his child on the back of a bison for a photograph for the Darwin awards!

First Day of Work

Chocolate.jpgSince the movers now won't be here until next week, I started work today--with a limited wardrobe! My commute is about 60 seconds as I am staying at the Mammoth Hotel on the third floor and my office is on the second.

The Yellowstone community has been very welcoming and I've been meeting many co-workers today. Several people ski at lunch right outside the office--I'll be taking advantage of that opportunity as soon as my skis arrive. I can also see elk grazing from my office window. The best perk, however, is the vending machine full of chocolate about two steps from my office door. Somebody must have warned them...

Rider on the Storm

Shelly%20in%20Salt%20Lake%20City.jpgA winter road trip sure is fun! Although I was supposed to be in Yellowstone this evening, I am hunkered down in Idaho Falls for the night hoping the Mormons won't take offense at the Darwin fish on my car. This morning I awoke to 14F temperatures and brushed roughly five inches of snow off my Subaru. Favorite accessory on the new car--windshield wiper defrosters!

After leaving Cedar City, it took me about an hour to drive out of the storm. Jim Morrison, Billy Collins, and U2 provided me with good company. Salt Lake City had clear skies--a brief reprieve. I met Shelly, YA staff and friend who was visiting her brother, for an enormous lunch at Marie Callendar's. I'm lucky that passenger vehicles don't have to stop at weigh stations or I would have been cited for a heavy load after my gluttonous meal (Shelly ate a lot as well).

Car%20Wash%20Girl.jpgSince my black car now appeared white from driving through miles of snow and dirt, Shelly and I decided to give it a makeover. What a smart idea--washing one's car in 25F weather! At least it stayed clean for a couple of hours, when I encountered the next snowstorm in Idaho. After passing three accidents, I decided to call it a night.

Perhaps I am just trying to psyche myself up for my new winter-centric existence, but driving past snow covered mountains and expansive valleys of white evoked a wonderful meditative peace. I had forgotten the sublime beauty of true winter.

Wish me luck tomorrow on the final stage--the forecast calls for 4-12 inches of snow in Idaho. My 'New England driving in crappy weather' upbringing will definitely come in handy.

Zion in a Blizzard!

Storm%20over%20Zion.jpgAs a student of weather, I loved seeing the red rocks of Zion highlighted by dark grey storm clouds and frosted with snowflakes. The blizzard-like conditions, however, were not so delightful for driving. After a serene drive up Zion Canyon under red cliffs with names like The Great White Throne and The Temple of Sinawava, I headed east via the Zion Mount Carmel Highway (through a mile long tunnel) to catch 89 north to begin heading to Salt Lake City.

Snow%20in%20Zion.jpgAbout an hour later, the rain turned to snow and the snow turned into a full-fledged blizzard with white out conditions. When the unplowed snow reached the level of my bumper, I deemed it wise to turn around. I headed south back through Zion and picked up 15 north. Soon the highway became a white vortex and I passed many accidents. Even though the new Subaru handled the conditions admirably, I decided a night at the next exit, in the big metropolis of Cedar City (pop. 27,000), seemed appropriate. IMG_0501.jpg
After checking into the hotel right off the highway, I pondered whether or not to risk the mile drive to the Chili's across the overpass. I decided not to risk my life for an order of enchiladas and hit the hotel vending machine. I am now cozy in my motel room watching movies on TBS. Steel Magnolias just started.

Footnote: Being stranded by a blizzard was worth it--I just got to see Viggo Mortensen and Dennis Kucinich debate Sean Hannity on Fox News.

The Perfect Storm: Road Trip to Las Vegas

My timing is definitely off--California is experiencing a series of pretty wicked storms and I need to drive to Montana. Route 80, the shortest route over the Sierra Nevada, was closed, so I decided to head south. Actually, maybe my timing is fine as I only encountered a few light rain storms on my drive to Las Vegas.

Vegas is a disneyland for a writer--I get more material here in a day then I could ever use in a novel. The people watching provides endless stories. I am also both appalled and fascinated by the utter devotion to materialism on display, of which I became a willing participant. I relaxed with a two-hour spa treatment, had a gourmet sushi dinner, and lost a small amount on the slot machines.

This morning I leave for Salt Lake City with a stop at Zion National Park.

Bon Voyage!

YA%20Friends.jpgBraving a steady downpour, gusting winds, and crazy felines, my friends from the YA office threw me a farewell pizza and beer party in my almost empty house.

The movers came yesterday, and packed up my most of my belongings. It's quite a disorienting feeling knowing your stuff is somewhere on a truck (hopefully not on Route 80!) We had enough chairs and plates, however, to throw a party!Cat%20Attack.jpg

Michelle made her special lasagna and there was much rejoicing. Shad and Ted rescued a few partygoers from being stuck in the mud, and Shad was happy his new huge truck was put to good use pulling cars out.

Ted, who seems to have a special bond with animals, also made friends with Huxley, who used him as a climbing post.

I was very lucky to work with such a wonderful team of people at YA and I already miss them. Thank you all for being such good friends!
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