2015 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog. Only 20 posts for 2015? That’s just sad! Here’s to hopefully a better year of sharing things with you!

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 15,000 times in 2015. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 6 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

#FindYourPark and Treat It Well

The National Park Service campaign to encourage people to find their park is working; if not working maybe too well. Visitation to many of the parks has steadily increased over the last few years. As someone who loves the idea of the National Park Service (NPS) and what it shares I think its a good thing. It’s hard to support or take care of something that doesn’t have meaning to you.

With an increase of visitors its been keeping me busy; I’ve enjoyed it. The connections people have been making, the memories they are creating, and the support for the parks has been overwhelming. The high I get from this at work almost crashes immediately at the end of the day; when all I can do is eat and go to sleep. There are people who already support the parks and let me be a part of their experience and love. Those are the good moments of having lots of visitors. Those are the moments that keep me going through the rough times.

Visitation is expected to grow for all parks this new year, and the NPS staff and resources levels continue to decline. It feels like whatever the NPS does, it just can’t keep up. Some parks are really struggling with be able to keep up with the long lines to get into the parks; not having enough people to staff the entrance stations or visitor centers. Not only is their a large number of visitors and not enough restrooms, there may not be enough maintenance staff to keep them clean. The number of car accidents and medical emergencies has the park rangers working in overdrive, not giving them the opportunity to decompress. Each division of park rangers is doing their best to assist each other in any way they can.

Already I have experienced the stress, the pull, of having not enough staff to handle the large number of visitors. In Yellowstone, there were many times when my main job of education was put to the side and I needed to instead focus on visitor/resource safety. “Excuse me for a moment folks, I need to ask these people to get back on the boardwalk.” “One moment, SIR, step back from that bison.” Instead of interacting with visitors and helping them connect with the park, I had to try to manage a large crowd of people, wildlife, and traffic. This winter at Mesa Verde the park staff was already overwhelmed by the large number of visitors to the Luminaria Holiday Open House. The love and support for the park could be seen by the large mass of people visiting, but we didn’t have enough transportation. Long lines formed and many visitors got upset with the staff, many of us who were suppose to go home hours ago, doing our best to get what every visitor needed.

Is it just the National Park Service Centennial that is bringing  in more visitors? No, its all of us! The ones who already love the parks, a love so big that we like to share it with everyone. Look at me for example; I have this blog, a Facebook page, an Instagram account, a Twitter account, and a Vine account. All of these different platforms for me to share the love that I have for the parks. Its a place to share the beauty, the meaning, and more of each place I work at. We are inviting more and more people to find their park, but are we giving them the resources they need to care for their park? Are we teaching them why there are rules for things? Are we encouraging them to become better stewards?

Its time for everyone to become observant because there  could be a start to an onslaught of resource damage. Some resource damage has already begun. Over the last couple years there has been an assault of negativity towards people posting images/videos of them doing something wrong in our federal lands. The case of individuals painting on natural resources and sharing it on social media. (Casey Nocket, Mr. Andre) When you read the comments that we post (yes we; nature-lovers, park-lovers, etc) they are filled with anger and judgement.

I am guilty of this as well. It’s human to get upset when we see people not taking care of something that we care for so much. It’s like someone being mean to your mom; there is an instinct in all of us to protect what we love.

I challenge us all this year to be more open. Let’s help each other learn how to properly take care of our National Parks. Let’s help each other understand why there are rules and ethics to visiting these places. Instead of commenting negatively; lets explain why we feel this way, why we need to work together so we don’t loose these places, and let’s be more open to those conversations.

While some parks have had visitation increases exponentially, the smaller parks have not. You may have already found your park, but do we really only need to have one?🙂
Find more in your area. Challenge yourself and check out a place you wouldn’t normally go to; find a battlefield, a monument, lakeshore, or seashore and make it your park.

The article that made me want to write this post:
Record Visitation Strained Some National Parks This Year

Other articles on the sharing subject:
Why ‘Instagram Hikers’ Are National Parks Saviors and Scourges
Why The Creepytings National Park Vandalism Is A Big Deal
The National Park Service Is Watching Your Instagram

The Crunch of Snow

So far, December has brought a lot of snow to Mesa Verde. We haven’t been getting a little at a time, but more like large dumps in storms where the plows can hardly keep up! I love the beauty the snow provides, but boy am I sick of shoveling! Living on the high end of the mesa top brings a lot of wind, and creates snow drifts that you have to shovel again and again.

After the chaos of Luminaria night, it doesn’t feel like my life has slowed down. There hasn’t been much time to think and reflect on the time of the year. Visitation on the other-hand has slowed down immensely the last few weeks. Today is the first day we seem to have quite a few people! (I just heard some kids knock down the icicles off the museum outside.)

I spent my Christmas Eve and Christmas moving. While moving in a snowstorm is not something I would recommend, it did provide me something to stay occupied with. I was unable to reflect on being away from my loved ones on Christmas. The Monday before Christmas I came home from work to find the laundry room flooded with water. Without phones  and no-one answering their radio, I had to drive down to find someone to help me. It took us all evening of stomping through the snow to find the manhole to the water line. The crawl space under the building was flooded with water, and many of the apartments. I was lucky that mine had not quite flooded yet and was able to get my stuff off the ground.

So; I’m surviving. I feel like I’m in automatic, but I’m surviving.

I get to help plan and run the Winter Festival Event coming up in the middle of January for the park. This is really exciting for me, and I have been enjoying planning immensely!

Only a few days left of 2015….. I hope to reflect on my adventures for my next post!

Lighting Candles

Today starts the beginning of the Holiday Celebrations at Mesa Verde National Park. For many years now, Mesa Verde has held a Luminaria Holiday Open House. The first Thursday of every December the Park Service lights the way down to Spruce Tree House with paper lanterns, farolitos. The archaeologists then add farolitos throughout the cliff dwelling making for a spectacular evening.

Spruce Tree House – NPS Photo

In celebration of the National Park Centennial next year, Mesa Verde is also lighting Cliff Palace! Today, Wednesday 12/9/15, viewing Cliff Palace is open to photographers with tripods. In hopes that this event attracts a lot of visitors and photographers, the park wants to minimize any congestion; giving photographers and their tripods a special night. Tonight, Wednesday, is just a preview for Cliff Palace. Tomorrow night, Thursday 12/10/15, both places will be illuminated but camera stabilization equipment are discouraged. 

Please check out the website for more information!  <click here

The true event starts tomorrow! (Thursday 12/10/2015)

What will I be doing?

I will be there! I get to help light the farolitos at Cliff Palace and will be at the viewpoint, Sun Temple, this evening. Tomorrow, a lot of the same adventures, but in the evening I will get to spend time at the viewpoint for Spruce Tree House.

There will be musicians, story-tellers, free food, a star program, and great company. “Parking for the event will be at the old Far View Visitor Center parking lot, a 15 mile drive from the park entrance. Free shuttle buses will take visitors from Far View to the headquarters area and Sun Temple Overlook.”

So come find me if you are going to be around! I’ll probably look like a green marshmallow with how many layers I’ll have on. If you can’t come, follow me on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter. I will do my best to share when I get cell phone service again!🙂


As still as the lake


It has been 54 days since I have put on my uniform and went to work. Most of my time off has been spent in Virginia; sleeping in, reading, looking at social media, and sleeping. Those of you who know me understand why I put sleeping twice. While this has been great, its given me a lot of time to think. I never handle “thinking with nothing to occupy myself” well.

As someone who suffers from anxiety and depression, I tend to over analyze almost everything in my life. When I don’t have something to concentrate on, it can get a little out of control. I’ve also noticed this has a direct correlation to the number of people I talk to and if I have been outside recently. Community and the outdoors are a part of me that I need to take care of.

If you haven’t heard yet there are some great ways to get outside this upcoming Friday! I know, its #BlackFriday, but let’s make it a #GreenFriday or #FreshAirFriday instead! Skip the stress of shopping with thousands of other people and find a way to get outside instead. No, waiting in lines outside early in the morning doesn’t count.😉 But enjoy that if that’s your thing!

Lots is happening with those hashtags or check out REI’s #OptOutside event. Many state’s are making their state parks free for the day.

Enjoy the time outside with your family this holiday season.
Remember, Adventure is Out There!

Getting Out of Yellowstone

The month of September went by incredibly fast; with my season ending, closing the Fishing Bridge Visitor Center on the last day, and trying to pack. For awhile, I kept saying “I got to get out of this park”. I was craving home. I was struggling with keeping a positive attitude with visitors. The frustrations of visitors choosing to be rude and not listen to me plagued my dreams. The immense amount of road rage I got when I drove through the park. It just felt like it was time to be done.

Sounds horrible doesn’t it?

Do all these feelings and frustrations mean that I didn’t enjoy my summer? Definitely not!
While I do a lot of complaining, I truly enjoy this job. Yes, those people make it hard to stay positive all the time but, for every one of them, there are 10 great visitors. People who are enjoying their National Parks and learning/exploring and doing everything they can.

My summer, now that I can look back on it, was made of smiles, laughs, rolling my eyes, and getting to know some amazing people. A lot of people ask me if I miss it, or if I have any desires to go back. At this point in my career I’m hoping for the next step and Yellowstone just isn’t going to give me those opportunities. The Fishing Bridge Visitor Center crew is amazing, and I will miss them if I don’t go back.

Bison in Lamar Valley - Photo By Neal Herbert. Click this photo to see more of his work!
Bison in Lamar Valley – Photo By Neal Herbert. Click this photo to see more of his work!

I have nightmares of bison in my yard.


At this point, I am very excited to head back to Mesa Verde National Park in December.
In the meantime, I will be at home in Virginia and Michigan. Permanently goofing off and doing a bunch of random stuff.

A Few New Favorite Hiking Trails for Yellowstone National Park

The end of this season has snuck up on me. All of a sudden I have no more evening programs, and visitation is slowing way down. Although, Labor Day weekend is always busy. My parents recently came out to visit for a week and we were able to do a bunch of hikes I’ve wanted to do! Three people, compared to one, is much better for hiking in grizzly country. In fact, we saw two grizzlies while hiking! THANKFULLY, from a distance away; still, the feeling of seeing one in an area with no trees for safety makes you feel very vulnerable. Of course, trees don’t do too much for safety anyways, but it makes you feel better anyways.

There were a series of unfortunate events and my parents ended up having to stay with me in my little efficiency apartment; but we made the best of it! Check out some of these trails next time you are in Yellowstone; we focused on the eastern side of the park.

Natural Bridge
2.5 miles – Easy – old service road – Fishing Bridge/Lake Village Area

A nice evening walk before dinner, Natural Bridge can be considered to be a great “walk through the woods”. Since the trail is part of an unused service road it is nice and wide and relatively flat. The road portion leads to the view-point where you can see the small arch that is Natural Bridge. There is a trail that leads up and around the bridge; which is no longer “easy” but worth it.

After my parents and I came down from the bridge I noticed a big brown thing moving down the road, and sure enough, it was a bison! He was heading right towards us, so we moved off the trail into the woods. Everything seemed to be fine, the big bull was moving along at a steady pace, and we were standing behind some trees off trail and up a small hill. However, the bison stopped right across the trail from us to check us out.

It was a tense moment, with us all whispering with nervousness, but the bull decided we were not a threat and moved on. After a few minutes of waiting, we got back on the trail and continued on ourselves. My dad and I thought we spotted a bird and were stopped on the trail checking it out when we heard my mom gasp. Both of us wheeled around expecting to see the bison right behind us!

It was just some bicyclists though; but my dad and I had a good fright!

The view of the trail through the Natural Bridge.
The view of the trail through the Natural Bridge.

Trout Lake
1.2 miles – Easy to Moderate – Lamar Valley

Trout Lake is a short hike just west of Pebble Creek Campground. It is ranked easy, but does have a hill climb at the beginning that will make you catch your breath if you’re not use to the elevation. After the climb, you reach Trout Lake, a small but beautiful high alpine lake. The best time for this hike would probably be early summer; late June through late July. The wildflowers could be blooming, there may be river otters with pups, and the Yellowstone Cutthroat Trout could be spawning in the little stream inlet. Of course, there is no bad time to see this lake. It reflects the mountains around it and you will want to take your time walking around it. I saw some of my first Columbia Spotted Frogs on this trail as well!

Wapiti Lake Trail
Easy to Moderate – Canyon Village Area – South Rim Drive

This is a back-country trail found on the South Rim Drive near Canyon Village. We however thought this would be a neat trail to do a there and back on for a little bit. (Plus, we saw some back-country hot springs on the map and we wanted to see if we could find them!) All in all, since it was late in the afternoon we probably only did about 3 miles round-trip. The trail starts of going through an open meadow/sagebrush community and with it being this late in the year, it was golden splendor. It was a little hilly but not too steep.

As we started out on the trail making noise, I saw a Northern Harrier flying 3 feet from the tops of the grasses hunting! It was awesome! Before we headed off again, I did a quick 360* check around us and saw something big and black in the distance. Sure enough, it was a grizzly bear! Thankfully it was at least 300 yards away and moving south at a steady pace, not towards us. In the moment though, you want to find something with cover instead of standing in a meadow with grasses only thigh high. After seeing that bear though we were extra careful to make lots of noise from there on! On the trail we saw lots of wolf scat and we did make it to the thermal areas.

This will definitely be a trail we will do more of in the future.

Yellowstone Picnic Area
3.7 miles – Moderate – Tower-Roosevelt Area

This trail was an extremely pleasant surprise for us, and we were glad we took my coworkers recommendation to check it out! The trail does have a steady climb to it in the beginning, but the rest of the hike you are on top of the east rim of the Narrows of the Yellowstone River. This is the same bench you see from driving on the Grand Loop road from Tower Fall to the Lamar Valley Junction. A perfect hike for my family because it had everything we enjoy on it; a canyon, funny looking trees, rock formations, and a river view. We did not complete the hike because the end of it is walking along the road. Instead, we made it to the halfway point and turned around and went back the way we came. We heard birds of prey, watched an Osprey soar, and saw lots of weird insects!

Lost Lake Loop
2.8 miles – Moderate – Behind Roosevelt Lodge

The Lost Lake Loop trail seemed like it would be right up our alley, but we may have done it backwards. The trail description says to start behind the Roosevelt Lodge and begin your climb up the ridge there (about 300 feet). Two things; we decided to head to the Tower Ranger Station part of the trail first, and we found out the hard way that the climb is much more than 300 feet in elevation. Our recommendation is to follow the trail description like it says in the day hike guide to complete the loop, or just follow the description until you reach the Petrified Tree and turn around from there. While we were not a fan of the big climb after doing Yellowstone Picnic Area,  it still was a neat hike. The valley from Petrified Tree to the Lost Lake is beautiful, and so is the lake! A very pleasant surprise indeed. I have heard from visitors that this is a good place to look for Moose, I just don’t recommend going during the middle of the day like we did.

This trail is combined with the horse-back riding trail from the Roosevelt Lodge and we did pass a caravan. They met a bison and it was interesting to see how they reacted to it, both the bison to the horses and the horses to the bison.

Pelican Valley
6.2 miles – Easy to Moderate – Fishing Bridge Area

One of the mornings before work we did a small part of the Pelican Valley trail. Since we were limited on time we just decided to hike out to a certain time and then turn around and head back. I have wanted to do this trail all summer but it is recommended that you hike in groups of 3 or more. After going through the first small meadow, you head into the woods. There we were surprised to see a male mule deer rubbing on a small tree. He seemed to not be surprised by us, which was weird, considering I had just begun practicing being loud in different accents. After going through the first 1-2 miles in the woods the trail opens up into Pelican Valley. We saw birds of prey soaring for food, wolf scat, and a small herd of bison. Up ahead there were two people sitting on a small knoll in the valley and waved us to them. They could see a grizzly bear about 500 yards away, but it was close to the trail if we continued on. We decided to watch the grizzly bear from the knoll through our binoculars. He certainly was enjoying eating something in the grassy area next to the creek, but every now and then he would stand up on his hind legs sniffing the air. We watched this bear for 20 minutes until he stood up again, and then shortly afterwards took off in a full sprint away from us towards the woods. We think he finally may have gotten a good smell of us since we were up wind.

How could we top watching a grizzly bear in its natural habitat? So we headed back to my apartment for an early lunch.