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.

Around the Park in Fourteen Days: A Photo Essay

The last couple of weeks I have been traveling in a mad rush around Yellowstone as part of my work, but I made time for capturing some springtime photographs.  

Yellowstone LakeCecropia Moth

Three Bighorn LambsBlack Bear near TowerWatching Old Faithful Erupt from the Crow's NestSnowshoe Hare in motionBison Grazing in Hayden ValleyGrizzly Near Washburn

A Drive Through Yellowstone

Today I had to conduct several environmental trainings around the park, so I drove most of what's referred to as the Grand Loop (except for the Beartooth Pass which is still closed). I welcome long drives in Yellowstone as there is always something interesting to see. Baby bison greeted me in the morning, and a few minutes later I watched a grizzly bear--his paw hurt from an encounter with a porcupine--foraging in a meadow.

As I drove into the park's interior, I also moved into winter. A blanket of snow still covers Hayden Valley and Yellowstone Lake's smooth, frozen surface shows not even a hint of blue water. I also made sure to catch an eruption of Old Faithful--it never fails to elicit a child-like delight in me even though I've seen it erupt dozens of times. Visit the live streaming webcam of Old Faithful to watch it remotely. I waved hello and said happy Mother's Day to my mom in Massachusetts on the webcam today.

I've posted a selection of photographs and videos below from my Yellowstone field trip.

Old Faithful on Mother's Day

Old Faithful Video

Grizzly Bear

Grizzly Bear With Hurt Paw From Porcupine Encounter

Grizzly Bear Video

Frozen Yellowstone Lake

Two Baby Bison Crossing Road

Hayden Valley

Chipmunk Watching Old Faithful

Old Faithful in Autumn, California Friends, and the Abrupt Arrival of Winter

Tre and Susan, two of my good friends from California, visited me this week in Yellowstone. We enjoyed warm autumn weather for most of their trip, but a storm system is moving into the region tonight. After reading the forecast calling for 6-12 inches of snow, my friends promptly fled south—I had to exercise self-control not to join them. My winter anxiety became heightened since the special weather statement announced, “fall weather is about to come to an end with a sudden switch to winter conditions.”   I guess I’ll pack my shorts away until next July!

Here’s a selection of photos from our travels in the park:

Fall at Old Faithful Basin

Tre & Susan in Yellowstone

Young Elk Calf

Old Faithful

Gibbon Falls

Fall Landscape Near Lower Geyser Basin Tre, Susan and Beth

Dashing Through the Snow

Snow%20Van.jpgYou know you have a great job when part of your duties require you to travel to work through the interior of Yellowstone on a 2 ½ hour snowcoach ride. On Wednesday, I journeyed out to Old Faithful for a two-day trip to inspect the facilities. As snow covers all interior park roads in winter, the only way in is via snow transportation.

bull elk.jpgThe trip to Old Faithful revealed a sublime winter landscape, rolling hills of white with steam from the geysers and hot springs drifting in the air like fallen clouds. We passed curious elk and bison, and waited many times for a bison jam to clear before proceeding. I admire the bison for their indifference to vehicles of any size.

The Old Faithful area in winter has an immense charm. Automobiles are notably absent, and visitors and park employees ski or snowmobile on the snow-covered roads. Stands of colorful skiis sticking out of the snow decorate the entrance to every employee dorm, and everybody wears at least three layers of clothes. Yet there is a quietude to the landscape—-the whiteness of winter stretches for miles in every direction.old faithful.jpg

I braved the cold after lunch one day and ventured out to watch Old Faithful. Insider tip: Old Faithful isn’t as trustworthy as her name implies. The current 90 minute or so interval between eruptions used to be as short as an hour. Earthquakes, and the resulting effects (shifting landscape, mineral deposits, changing water flow) can cause the interval between eruptions to shift.

When Old Faithful erupts, she pushes between 3,700-8,400 gallons of boiling water to a height of up to 184 feet. If you haven’t checked out the National Park Service’s live streaming webcam of Old Faithful, it’s worth a viewing (See my Yellowstone Webcam Links). I called the Yosemite Association staff when I arrived on site and waved to them while Old Faithful erupted. Technology is fun!

Haunted%20Hotel.jpgBefore we left, I was also fortunate to receive an evening tour of the Old Faithful Inn, a grand park lodge designed by Robert Reamer and described by one historian as “rusticity gone berserk.” The lobby, constructed with beautifully finished log beams and supports, rises to 76 feet in height. As the Inn isn’t occupied in the winter, our footfalls echoed in the empty rooms. And yes, given the remote winter setting and the empty hotel, I had the inevitable thoughts of "The Shining." Luckily, no twin girls appeared, but I did utter redrum to my coworkers a few times.