Friday, May 24, 2013

Morning Trip

Today we decided to go to Yellowstone Lake.  We went through the Mammoth area to Norris Junction, then headed east towards Canyon. On the way we took the one-way Virginia Cascades road and stopped to look at the falls.

From there we went to the Canyon complex, and I bought a t-shirt at the Adventure store.  It's one of "our" stores, but focuses on outdoor sports and clothes.  Nice place.  Nothing else was open up there yet, due to the snow and late opening. The road to Tower was still closed, but we found out this afternoon that it opened at noon.

Next, we drove to Yellowstone Lake, where we drove out to Gull Point and had a picnic.  It was a bit chilly and windy, so our picnic was in the truck!

Looking west towards Bridge Bay

The Lake Hotel

Looking east towards the mountains on the east side of the lake.
We then came back to the trailer, relaxed for the afternoon, and then grilled lemon-garlic pork sirloins for dinner.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Close to home

Today was a day off, so after a leisurely breakfast Don asked if I wanted to go see a few places close to where we're camped. (He's still scouting out fishing locations.) Our first stop was across the river from the campground. We had to drive back into Gardiner, cross the Yellowstone, pass the high school and the research institute, and then take the gravel road back into the park and along the river. We stopped at the Gardiner Cemetery and took some pics.

Our trailer is the one in the upper (hillside) row, far right.  What you can't see is the Yellowstone River just below the lower row, hidden by the hill.

Don's looking for a trail down to the river.

Looking south towards Gardiner.
Don, the river, and Yellowstone RV Park.
From there, we headed back towards town, but stopped to catch a picture of what is an everyday occurrence in front of Gardiner High School - elk on the football field.

Our next stop was the Roosevelt Arch. Constructed under the supervision of the U.S. Army at Fort Yellowstone, its cornerstone was laid down by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1903. The top of the arch is inscribed with a quote from the Organic Act of 1872, the legislation which created Yellowstone, which reads "For the Benefit and Enjoyment of the People."

From there we drove up into the park, past Mammoth Hot Springs, and into the YCC employee housing area.  A service road takes you past the maintenance yard, and after only half a mile you come to Joffee Lake.  Full of small brook trout, it's a popular fishing spot for Yellowstone employees. Don will be able to put his float tube in it after the lake opens June 15.

Our last stop was the General Store, where I introduced Don to my boss, Robyn, then showed him around the store. We then had to have a scoop of ice cream, and we sat outside on the employees' porch to enjoy it and watch the elk and bison grazing just across the street.

Tonight we enjoyed a barbecue put on by the department leads Richard (Grocery) and Gene (Gifts).  They provided beef filets, chicken, baked beans, and potato salad.  We then joined Sheri (Fountain) at her trailer where she has a gas fireplace, and sat and talked for a while with Craig and Martha D and Marilyn and Tom G.

 I'm off tomorrow, too, so I think we're going to Yellowstone Lake.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

What fun!

I had a fabulous day. After a 1-hour visit by the local jewelry vender (beautiful things made with local agate), I was given my "bank" and drawer and went out to work cash register #3.  We have 4. Three are behind the main counter and the fourth is at the fountain where we sell ice cream, sodas, coffee, and hot dogs. Karen was behind the register when I got there, but we switched out and she stood by for about an hour and a half in case we came across things I needed help with. When we did the cash register training on Monday, the credit card machine was down, so I had on-the-job training today on the credit cards.  Easy-peasy.  At 11:30 Karen took lunch, and didn't come back until several hours later, and even then I stayed on the register the rest of the day. She left at 4:30, and I stayed until we closed at 6:30. 

I had fun!  I got to meet people from all over - Germany, France, Switzerland, Japan, Thailand, and many states all over the USA.  I did $1400 worth of business - not a whole lot in comparison to really busy days. I anticipate that this weekend it's going to be packed. I liked being busy - my feet started to really hurt, but if I was busy, I didn't think about it.

I have the next two days off - and then I work 5 straight night shifts (2:15 - 9:45).

Don worked around the trailer, then walked into town to the fly shop and Subway. I wish he could fish already, but you can't officially fish in the Park until Saturday, and even then, most of the rivers and streams are running too high. He doesn't want to fish this weekend because he doesn't want to battle the crowds. So he's just going to have to be bored for a few more days.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Much better training--I love this store!

Mammoth General Store is definitely a great place to work.  Not only is there a company philosophy of happy guests, but there's a store policy of happy employees.  Let me tell you about my day:

At 9, the 15 of us who started today met with Robyn, the manager, in the employee break room. She spent the morning going over all kinds of interesting things related to our working at the store. We learned about George the Buffalo - who made national news last year for tossing a tourist who got too close up in the air. We learned about crazy things tourists do and ask, and how we patiently deal with them. I learned that Tom Brokaw, who lives in Livingston, comes in every year to buy his fishing license. We learned about our work schedules, and we got them for the first week.  I know I'm working 9 to 5 tomorrow, then I'm off Thursday and Friday. Then on Saturday and Sunday, I'm working 2:15 to 9:45, as the store starts staying open till 9:30 this weekend.

We then went on a scavenger hunt - finding things like fire alarms, freezer and cooler temperatures, items in the store that are made in the USA, which t-shirts we carry in XXXL, where the batteries and film were stored, and where the toilet paper, paper towels, and Kleenex were located. 

We got an hour for lunch, and I found out we get free coffee and sodas. We finally had a sunny day, so many of us sat outside on the porch that's for associates and watched the elk and bison grazing across the street.  (We also watched the many people who disregarded the warnings and got too close to the animals.)

For the afternoon, we were divided into four groups, and spent one hour with the head of each department:  grocery, apparel, gifts, and fountain.  It's amazing how well these people manage the space in this store - every possible nook and cranny upstairs and in the basement is being used.  The upstairs used to be a lodging area, so there are numerous rooms and closets.

After work, Bob, one of the floor managers, had invited us to dinner - so we joined 14 others at the Lighthouse Restaurant in Corwin Springs. We were at two large round tables, and enjoyed the conversations and good food with new friends. I'm tired, and will attempt to hang on to watch a little bit of the Kings game, but I have to work tomorrow morning and will be going to bed soon.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Training Day

Since it's an hour and a half drive back to West Yellowstone from here, we had to use the alarm clock this morning and got up at 5:30.  Around 6:30 we left Gardiner, joined the line of employees heading into the park, and then left them behind in Mammoth as we made our way through the park. At exactly 8:00 Don dropped me off at Human Resources, found a parking spot, and then joined me in the madhouse inside.  HR is in a small building - but there were about 60 of us doing our in-processing today.  We had cooks, custodians, servers, and sales associates all starting today, and then heading out to Fishing Bridge, Old Faithful, Canyon, Bridge Bay, and Mammoth.

When I finally made it to the front of the line, I was given forms to fill out, and after those were filled out and turned back in, I got in the line for uniforms. My uniform is a black button-up short-sleeved shirt, my own blue jeans, and if I'm working at the ice cream counter, a tan apron. I was also issued a brand new Columbia fleece zip-up jacket with Yellowstone General Stores embroidered on it. I hope I can buy that from them at season's end - it's really nice!

After getting my photo taken for my ID card, Don drove me over to the Holiday Inn for GuestPath training (service and hospitatlity). That was mostly PowerPoint, but with some videos - 3 hours' worth of nearly boring stuff. There were a couple of interesting things:  1)  Delaware North, which is named for two streets and not the state of Delaware, also has its hands in the concessions for Rangers' Stadium, PETCO Park, Wembley Stadium, the Etihad (if you're English Premier League fans, you'll know Wembley and Etihad), the stadium in Sydney, Australia where the Australian Open is held, and TD Bank Garden (where the Boston Celtics and Bruins play).   2) They have what they call "Walking the GuestPath" - where DNC executives do OUR jobs - from sales to cooking to cleaning hotel rooms and toilets.  We watched a video where they were doing it - reminded me of "Undercover Boss" - and I think it's a wonderful thing.  Several of the executives from the regional office in Bozeman will be working in our stores this summer. 

We finished the GuestPath training at 12:15, and were given an hour for lunch. Don picked me up and we joined the crowd at McDonald's - and then he dropped me off at HR again for the afternoon's training. The afternoon was divided into cash handling/rules and practicing on the cash registers. It was a whole lot more interesting than the morning's training, but we didn't finish until after 5. 

Don spent the afternoon chatting with Jacklin of Jacklin's Fly Shop and watching an IMAX movie about Yellowstone. He picked me up at HR and we came back to Gardiner for dinner at the Two Bit Saloon.  I think we're going to be going to bed early - I'm already yawning, and he's sleeping next to me in the recliner as I'm writing this post.

Tomorrow I report to the store at 9 am.  I hope to have a fun day!

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Waterfalls, baby bison, and Soda Butte

We took a drive through the northern part of the park today.  First stop was Undine Falls:

Next, we headed east on the main road, and saw herd after herd of bison all over the place. Right after we crossed the bridge over the Yellowstone River, we saw a small herd close enough to the road to get photos of the babies.

We turned onto the Lamar Valley road at Roosevelt-Tower, and headed up the Lamar River about 15 miles to Soda Butte.  It's the formation for which Soda Butte Creek is named. 

Right where Don is standing are the vents from which sulfurous gas is still escaping. It really stank there.

After we left and headed back west, we stopped for lunch at a wildlife viewpoint near the trailhead for the Lamar River.  We ate lunch, and then sat for a while -- we saw bison, pronghorns, a sandhill crane, and a moose.

Then, about 2 miles farther on, we stopped with a huge crowd of people to watch a standoff in the river between and elk and some wolves.  The wolves were hanging out in a small grove of trees, not attacking the elk.  The elk was on an island in the river - the fast-flowing part of the river was on three sides, and the easy, shallow way out was where the wolves were.  We heard the standoff had been going on for almost an hour, and we watched for another 15 minutes.  As we were leaving, we saw the elk swimming in the deepest and fastest part of the river, and she did make it to the other side.  We don't know what happened after that.

Our last stop was at a self-guiding nature trail, where we walked around and looked at exhibits related to geology, animal life, trees, flowers, and the fires of '88.

After a stop for bread at the store in Gardiner, we're now watching some TV and I'm getting ready to put some chicken in the oven. 

While it rained on us several times today, most of the day was quite wonderful!

Settled In

I think we have one of the nicest spots in the park. There's no one on one side of us - just a "yard" that even the dogs have been banned from. On the other side, with lots of room to spare, is a small trailer that has a single guy in it whom we've seen just once in two days.

We're close to the restrooms and laundry, and the park is close enough to town to dash to the store for a quick pick up if I need something.

We got here yesterday around noon, and there was still an RV in our site. We checked with the manager and found it it was a gal who was in training in the park and was running late. Sure enough, she showed up and said she'd hurry.  She took about an hour to pack up and go, and then we were in our site.  After relaxing for a bit, Don asked if I wanted to go out and eat - you don't have to ask me twice!

Based on Yelp! reviews and a recommendation from the manager, we went to the Raven Grill.  It was definitely a good choice.  While the interior reminds me of a little rustic diner, the waitress was friendly, the service was prompt, and the food was outstanding. They're known for their steak, so Don and I each had a ribeye - I had the 12 oz. and he had the 16 oz.  The salad was great, and the steaks come with Delmonico potatoes - cubed and cooked with breadcrumbs and some cheese.  They were a bit  like au gratin potatoes but not creamy.  They also served us some homemade Worcestershire (that's what they called it) but it was really a dark sweet and savory onion chutney.  It was great on the steak, though the steak was good without it, too. Dessert was sublime - a huckleberry creme bruleĆ© - the custard had a few huckleberries in it, and on top of the crystallized sugar topping was some huckleberry syrup.  I will go back and repeat that meal!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Nice day in the Park

We just returned from a trip through the Park. We are camped at Valley View RV Park on Henry's Lake, which is about 14 miles west of West Yellowstone. This is the first time I've had WiFi for a couple of days, so I'll briefly catch up.  Since my last post we left Elko, drove to Arco, Idaho, where we stayed one night, and then came here. 

Our experience in Arco was worth noting - we'd called two days prior to get a site, not knowing whether the campground was open or busy or what.  When we arrived, no one was there. No one. The office was closed, but we'd been told to look for a sign on the door.  It was there - a generic "take your site and pay in the envelope" sign, along with the code for the restroom and the rates for 30 or 50 amp/Good Sam.  We drove out to a place where we knew we'd have the open sky for our satellite dish, and I put $27 in the envelope (30 amp site with Good Sam discount). Don and I walked down to check out the restrooms - roomy and clean, and after dinner enjoyed long, hot showers. The whole afternoon and evening, no one was there. We had the whole campground to ourselves, which was both peaceful and a little creepy. No one was there when we left in the morning. A bit strange compared to the experience the night before in Elko, where we'd gotten the last available spot in a fully-booked campground.

Yesterday we arrived at Valley View RV Campground, where we were greeted by some full-timers from Riverside, California. They're here to work for the summer. Valley View officially opened for the season yesterday, so there are only 3 other rigs here. The bathhouse isn't open yet, and last night the WiFi wasn't working yet. 

This morning, we decided to go into West Yellowstone to see where I'll be checking in on Monday, look for a barber, and pick up some groceries.  We found the Human Resources office for the Delaware North Companies, and didn't find a barber.  Then, Don said, "Let's take a ride through the park and check out the store and the campground in Gardiner."  So off we went.

About 3 miles into the park, we came across the first animal-caused traffic jam.  The road parallels the Madison River, and over on the far side of the river was a herd of about 40 buffalo - with babies! - attempting to cross the river.  But dozens of cars were stopped along the road, and people were outside with their cameras, and the buffalo were getting a bit upset about it all. The reason I know this is because I also got out, but before I could take a step, a ranger came by and used his loudspeaker to tell everyone to get back in their cars and get out of the way. He said they wanted to cross the river but wouldn't/couldn't as long as people were in the way.

We turned north at Madison Junction, and then stopped at Beryl Spring, a large fumarole and hot spring right next to the road. (A fumarole is a steam-producing vent.)

A little further on, just above Gibbon Falls, we stopped at Gibbon Picnic Area, and Don checked out the river for future fishing. 

Then we continued on, past Norris Geyser Basin, through some lovely high country, and then dropped down into Mammoth Hot Springs. There we stopped at the General Store, where I met about 6 of my co-workers and took a look around.  Then we drove to Gardiner, and checked out Yellowstone RV Park, our home beginning tomorrow. We met the managers, saw our site, and then went to the Two Bit Saloon for a wonderful lunch. (They have the best French fries! Freshly cut and with the skins still on.) 

We went in search of Joffe Lake, which is accessible through one of the employee housing areas, but didn't find it. What we did find was this:
 Apparently you don't have to mow your lawn there - the bison will take care of that for you!

Our next stop was up at the top of the Mammoth Hot Springs terraces - there's a loop drive to take.

 You have a fabulous view down to Mammoth Hot Springs.

 Above:  I was able to zoom in on the General Store where I'll be working.

 Above: the appropriately-named Orange Spring Mound

As we headed back south, we stopped at the Obsidian Cliffs, but instead of taking a picture of the cliffs, I took this one of Obsidian Creek.  Don will be fishing this one.

 This little exhibit shelter for the Obsidian Cliffs was built in 1931, as part of a system of outdoor "mini-museums."

Our last stop was Roaring Mountain - so named because there are so many loud fumaroles on the side of the mountain.

We drove back to West Yellowstone, picked up some groceries, and then came back to our trailer here at Henry's Lake.

Tomorrow we move for the last time for almost 4 months. 

Monday, May 13, 2013

Long day, but worth it

We were up at 6 am - and in Bridgeport, that meant it was about 38 degrees outside.  I knew that where we were heading it was going to be hot, so we were both in shorts.  My feet were so cold while we were hooking up the trailer, and it took a long time till they warmed up. We headed down the East Walker River, then through the Sweetwater Valley to the Smith Valley, and had breakfast at McDonald's in Yerington.  I tried to find a sit-down place, but with McDonald's you at least get consistency.  I mean, how can you screw up an Egg McMuffin with hash browns?  And their coffee is pretty good. 

We continued north on the 95A to Fernley, where we picked up Interstate 80.  Our plan was originally to stop at Battle Mountain - there were two choices there, neither of which sounded "nice," but would be okay for an overnight.  But we hit Battle Mountain around 1:30, and decided to go the extra hour to Elko. After reading some posts on the RV forum, as well as reviews, I selected the Iron Horse RV Resort as our stop for the night.  As we took the turn and began to drive down into the resort, I was surprised to see that the place was packed.  Nearly every site was taken. We got lucky - we got the very last spot. We found out at dinner that due to the price of gold going up again, mining operations in this area of Nevada have greatly increased and there's a major housing shortage because of it.  Every RV park around here is mostly full of permanent folks - people who have built structures around their RVs and have 100-gallon propane tanks sitting outside. But we got a spot, so we're okay.

Here's a great article that tells about the mining boom here and how the RV parks are affected.

This is a pretty nice place - paved interior roads and sites, roomy sites, small swimming pool, hot tub, club house/game room - and a bit on the pricey side. We paid $45 for the night.  However, since the owners also own the Hilton Garden Inn next door, we got a coupon for 20% off a meal at their restaurant.

After we unhooked and set everything up, we went to the restaurant, where I enjoyed a steak with shrimp scampi, and Don had a dish that had fettuccine in a beef & pork red sauce.  We enjoyed our meals - and are now relaxing in the trailer watching the Angels-Royals game.

Since we came farther today than we'd planned, we'll go to Arco, Idaho tomorrow instead of Twin Falls, and then spend 2 days at Henry's Lake before we get to Gardiner.

No pics today. 

Friday, May 10, 2013

It is so pretty here!

This morning the sun was finally out with no clouds in the sky at all. 

This was the gorgeous view from our campsite this morning.

I walked over to the edge of the campground to get a nice shot looking west up into the Emigrant Wilderness.
Peaks of the Emigrant Wilderness

Since the wind wasn't blowing, Don decided to try his luck in the float tube on the reservoir.  He walked out to the edge from our campsite, and came back 5 minutes later. He said he'd gotten about 15 feet away from the shoreline, and started to sink in the mud. The water was still not deep enough to sit down in his tube. So, he took the truck down to the dam, where he could put the tube in easier. He returned around noon, since the winds started to pick up, and said he hadn't gotten a single bite.  (This was after having 5 straight days on the river with lots of fish biting.)  I suggested he go back on the river, but he said someone told him the fish were biting on Lower Twin Lake, and was going to go up there.  He also thought it wouldn't be as windy up there.

He just came back a few minutes ago (dinnertime), and said he didn't get a single bite up there, either. And to top it off, he'd forgotten to put any beer in the fridge to get cold, so the day was just a total loss. ;)

I sewed all day - I brought a tub of "kits," which are made up of fabric I pre-cut into all the necessary parts for quilt tops.  I'm halfway through my second top of the trip.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Bodie State Historic Park

So far, the weather here in Bridgeport has been what the meteorologists call "unsettled."  We've had wind, rain, hail, and sun, and it's all been cycling through constantly since we got here. Don has still managed to get down to the river each day, and he doesn't mind getting wet when it rains anyway. I've stayed here in the trailer and sewed or read.

Today we had the promise of better weather, so we decided to go to Bodie.  Gold was discovered in Bodie in 1859, and by 1879 10,000 people were living there. Now only about 5% of the original buildings remain, but there are plenty for visitors to see. Don and I went there back in the early 90s with the kids - we drove the washboarded dirt road from Mono Lake.  Neither of us remembers much from that visit, other than the fact that it was fast and we didn't see much.  This time we decided to take our time.

To get to Bodie, you drive south on the 395 to the turnoff at Virginia Creek Settlement, then take a paved road up into the Bodie Hills 9 miles to the dirt road.  There it's only 3 miles more to Bodie. There's a parking lot with restrooms, and from there you go into the town on foot.  Don and I saw as much as we could - we followed the guide we'd purchased for $2.

Head frame and machinery next to the parking lot

Commemorative markers

View of Bodie from the parking lot

Methodist Church, erected in 1882
Interior of the Methodist Church
Don looking in the window of the McDonald House

Metzger House

Looking east toward site of Chinatown - several hundred people lived here in a "town within a town." They had their own stores, saloons, boarding houses, laundries, and other services.

Standard Stamp Mill and accompanying buildings

Kirkwood House
Town Jail

All that's left of the Bodie Bank - the vault

The Firehouse

The School House, originally the Bon Ton Lodging House

Looking north up Green Street, with a 4WD road to Bridgeport in the distance
L-R: barn, Post Office/Hotel, IOOF Hall, Miners' Union Hall (now the Visitor Center), Morgue

Swazey Hotel

Stagecoach (in the Visitor Center)

Horse-drawn hearse (in the Visitor Center)
After we walked all over town, we drove to the picnic area for lunch. By then the sun was shining more, and we were okay even though it was windy.

We were going to drive up to the Virginia Lakes to see if they were open, but Don decided that even if they were, it was going to be really cold to fish them. So he decided to come back to the trailer, and now he's out on the river again. I was going to watch the aggravation phase of the Jodi Arias trial, but court has been cancelled until the 15th. So I think I'll read.