Made it bright and early to Yellowstone National Park on Memorial Day, and found out that I was but one of five people scheduled to check in that day. I found this confusing, and it turns out that most of my fellow Wranglers had checked in on Saturday.
I still don't know why I am so special.
Well, it looks like this is going to be a miserable experience where I have to be around smelly horses all day and work long hours with low pay and deal with horrendous customers who have never ridden a horse in their life. It should be a summer in hell.
Ok, from the moment I got here, I've been excited. I haven't been to Yellowstone since I was two, and this place is amazing. Being a National Park, it isn't maintained in the same way that National Forests are, in other words, Yellowstone is maintained as a wild forest. There is definitely still signs of the fire in 1988 here, but there is also great signs of rebirth in the forests as they grow. And there are animals everywhere. Its not uncommon to see a bunch of cars backed up because of a huge bison in the middle of the road.
Turns out if you creep up on the bison, they will get out of your way. If you just stop and wait for it to move, it will just stare at you and think 'how nice of them to stop so I don't have to move'.
Bison appear to own the park. They're everywhere.
Meanwhile, I have made my home in a rustic one room cabin heated only by a woodburning stove where I share the place with three other girls about my age, though I have discovered that I'm the old one in the group. They try to keep the legal ages together for alcohol consumption reasons, though me being the non-partier type, I don't really care.
Much different atmosphere then my year in Kosovo, which was completely dry and I had nothing in common with my roommates.
One of the girls got into a discussion with me on politics, as it was quickly learned that I am in the military, and she wanted my opinion on Bush. I told her my stance, especially as a soldier that I'm supposed to be neutral. Then we got into a discussion about the last presidential campaign and I told her my honest opinion on why I felt Kerry lost. Most specifically, because he had no agenda.
Interestingly enough, the conversation remained civil (she's a democrat that's openminded to conservative views) and so far I'm pretty good friends with all the female wranglers here at Roosevelt. So far. I'm hoping that it remains that way. We have to depend on each other for morale support, and you need plenty of friends for Hiking excursions, adventures with White Water Rafting, Back Country Horseback Riding, so on and so forth.
We are here because we deal with horses. Looking back, I have discovered that it was amazing that I managed to nab this job. Its considered one of the best jobs in the park (though it is hard work) And looking at all the horse experience my coworkers have, I look at myself and think 'oh crap, am I going to come across as a complete idiot in horse matters?' I've never driven a stagecoach before, but this week I get to learn how to do it. All next week we have to get the Dude Horses familiar once again with the trails, so that means that all day every day next week, I'm going to be riding horses.
Oh the agony of it all.
I have to admit that after the first day, I will likely be pretty saddle soar, but I can't imagine a job that fits me better then being paid to take horses on trail rides all day in Yellowstone. And they are totally willing to work with my drill weekends. I only have two while I'm here, and I get to drill in Helena Montana with a sister unit. I have one pretty early in the summer and another toward the end of summer.
Well, as a Wrangler, leading unsuspecting guests on trailrides throughout Pleasant Valley in Yellowstone, we have to learn commentary and be able to tell our guests things about the area, and be familiar enough with Yellowstone so that we can answer questions. To do so, yesterday they took us on a tour of Yellowstone and showed us all of the main attractions.
And they paid us.
Is this a great job or what?
Yellowstone is actually still very much in the spring season. At Mammoth Hot Springs, we got to see some of the more unusual hotsprings and learned a bit about their formation. Geology galore! This builds up about 24 inches of limestone a year. Eventually it will dry up and the spring will move somewhere else, but the formation of it is amazing! They have these little bacteria in the water that only thrives at temperatures between 130-160 degrees Fahrenheit, meaning that they are harmless to humans as they would freeze to death. They make these beautiful colors and when they die, they become pink before turning grey.
This is the lower terrace.
The day started of bright blue and beautiful, but throughout the day, it got grey and muggy and started hailing on us. We saw a ton of geysers and hot springs steaming up all over the place (and lots of waterfalls) when we stopped to eat lunch at Old Faithful.
I'll have to go back and get a better picture of it some time in the future. I walked up to Old Faithful just as it spurted and sprouted. I was in the wrong side of it to get a good look at it, but it went off right on schedule.
Lower Falls and the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. One word to describe this place.
It started snowing on us when we got there. By far my favorite waterfall, but nonetheless, all the waterfalls here are stunning. I would whole heartily recommend coming out and seeing the wonders of Yellowstone in person. And give yourself a few days so you can actually hike around some of the sites. I haven't really gotten to do that yet, we basically got the park off the bus and on again tour, but now that I know where the main sites are, I got plenty of opportunities to explore. Plus the backcountry.
And some extra benefits to being a wrangler. Taking a horse in the backcountry for a day or so. As long as they are two of us (Wranglers only) we are permitted to take company horses trail riding on our days off. And this isn't the typical Nose to Tail tours that most guests have to take. We actually have the freedom to trot and canter the horses a bit.
So far, the saddle horses haven't arrived yet. But the Draft Horses have. They have Shires, Percherons and a gob of Belgians. We have to learn their names and who goes with who so we can harness the right teams for when they are scheduled to do the wagon and stagecoach rides.
And I get to learn how to drive them. :)
Here is a couple of the Black Percherons.
One of the Belgians. These guys, despite their gargantuan size, appear to be rather cuddly.
We learn how to drive a team of horses on Friday, as well as harness them up and all of that. The saddle horses come then too.
The rides start on the 9th.
They commence for the rest of the summer.
What can i say? I'm in bliss.