Sunday, August 30, 2015

Chuck Wagon Dinner

Returning from the Chuck Wagon Dinner in Pleasant Valley in the northern part of Yellowstone.

Every year I tell myself I will go on the chuck wagon ride and dinner out of Roosevelt Lodge.  And somehow time runs away from me and the availability of seats is limited on this popular tour.  But this year I planned for the late August lull.  And I planned enough in advance that I was able to get a "transient room" at Roosevelt.  Transient rooms are used by employees who need to travel to villages other than their main base.  But, when available, they can also be used by other employees.  I had a cabin, designed for three employees.  Roosevelt is a more rustic location than the park's other villages.  Rooms are heated with wood stoves, there is no wi-fi or phone services, it is small and peaceful.  Some cabins for guests come with  private bathrooms.  Many cabins are just a bedroom and guest use a communal facility.  Employees use  communal facilities.  I knew to bring a flashlight and something warm I could easily slip over my sleeping clothes.  My cabin was conveniently close to the wash house.    And I took a sleeping bag, which when combined with the two blankets provided and the wood stove, pellets provided, was quite comfortable.

I had a three employee cabin to myself.  The building below is the main lodge which includes dining facility and small gift shop

Caitlin drove my wagon.  While she drove, Kate narrated.  Its fun for me to hear someone else's commentary since that is what I do on the historic yellow bus.  She did a great job.  And so did Caitlin who  made a presentation to the whole crowd (8 wagons plus those who arrived on horse back) after dinner.  

Guests have a choice of riding a wagon or a horse.   I opted for the wagon. If you think it was because a wagon is easier, that may be true.  I am not accustomed to horse back riding.  But there was a more important consideration.  You are not allowed to carry anything on the horses.  That meant no camera.  So my choice was easy.

We had a half hour wagon trip.  Once at our site, we enjoyed a full dinner of steak, Roosevelt style beans, corn muffins, potato salad, coleslaw, and apple crisp.  I don't eat steak often and this was a treat as it was tender and flavorful.   We were entertained by Vic, a cowboy troubadour who sang cowboy songs, whistled and yodeled.  Caitlin then told a few stories around the campfire where pots of cowboy coffee were available for those who can manage caffeine in the evening.  I am not one of them.

Vic entertained us with his guitar and singing.

This wagon has the water for washing up.  The water spigot is activated by pushing on the horse shoes on the ground with your foot.

The wagons head back to the Roosevelt Corral after dinner and entertainment

Teddy Roosevelt visited Yellowstone and camped close to where the Roosevelt Lodge stands today.

August Updates

As August comes to a close, things begin to change in the park.  Schools start earlier than they did when I was a student and this means that the crowds of July and the first half of August diminish. We have a lull now, before the upsurge from Labor Day until the end of the season.   Although  those visitors are what drives our tours, this lull is a welcomed respite for all of us.   It doesn't mean we work less; in fact we have lost a number of drivers and we are all filling in.  But the places we go are less crowded, parking is easier, trails are less busy. It feels more relaxed.  

It is also a time of change as the bison rut begins to wind down and we start hearing the Sandhill Cranes calling as they prepare to head south.  I've heard elk bugling a couple of times so the rut of the wapiti is about to begin ,wapiti being the other name for elk; a Native American word which means "white rump. "

Despite a mild winter, the frequent, often heavy rains of spring and fall have kept fire danger low until just recently.   We've had just one fire in the park, it didn't burn long or far.  However, we have had plenty of smoke from fires in other areas of the west.  A few days we could smell smoke and visibility was severely limited.  For a few minutes as the sun came up and went down it made for dramatic photos but most of the day was challenging leading a photo tour.

Here are a few photos from the last couple of weeks.
On one of the smokiest of the days, this is what it looked like across Yellowstone Lake

This was another smoky morning.  The sun and sky are cloaked in haze.  Down below however is fog, not smoke.

Lamar Valley sunrise
Interpretive signs aren't just to inform the human visitors to the park.  Bison are always looking for scratching posts.  There aren't a lot of trees in Lamar Valley so this bison used the sign.

Bison like to take dust baths.

Female Big Horn Sheep grazes near the road between Gardner and Mammoth Hot Springs.
I went on the photo tour given by fellow guide, Rod Franklin.  Here one of the guests photographs morning steam in Black Sand Basin.

This photo and the one below were both taken at Black Sand Basin the morning I joined Rod's photo tour.  Photographers always learn from each other and Rod is a great photographer and super photo guide.  

Thermophiles at Mammoth.  I stopped there on my return trip from an overnight at Roosevelt Lodge.  That story is in the blog labelled Chuck Wagon Cookout.

Travertine terraces at Mammoth.

Excelsior Geyser.....this one hasn't erupted in years.  But that doesn't mean it won't erupt again in the future.  After all, it had several violent eruptions in the 1880s and then there were no known eruptions until 1985.  Since 1985 it has been a large, but quiet hot spring.  It discharges over 4000 gals of hot water per minute.  The photo shows only a tiny portion of the crater, but I loved the light on it.