Lamar Valley Rhythm ~ Yellowstone National Park

 “Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. … There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature — the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter.”  ~  Rachel Carson, Silent Spring

Beartooth Mountains seen from the Lamar Buffalo Ranch

Golden fingers caress the eastern sky, drawing back the darkness and the sense of mystery that blankets this ethereal landscape.  The playing of light and shadows across the mountain peaks seems to evoke a spiritual presence.  It is the dawning of a new day in the Lamar Valley, a magical landscape that must be felt, as words fail to describe the sublime sense of serenity this wild landscape evokes.

Time spent at the Lamar Buffalo Ranch, immersing oneself in nature, can be soul-cleansing.  It opens the senses more fully, forces us to move “in the moment”.  Nothing here feels commonplace, from the robin who sings her melodious morning song perched on a rustic cabin, to the lyrical gurgling of the swollen stream that rushes past the ranch, to the tiny barn swallows perfecting their aerial dance above.  Everything is observed through a microcosm of acute clarity.

The air smells like sage, sunshine, and fecund earth. Winter snow melt and spring rains provide Lamar a cool, deep drink, resulting in a verdant valley. Springtime heralds the arrival of the “red dogs”, bison calves cavorting in the supple green grasses, never far from mom when they feel the need to suckle. The swollen streams that rush through the valley in the spring slow to a languid crawl in summer and bison graze placidly along the valley floor as far as the eye can see. As the lushness of spring surrenders to the warming of late summer, snorts and bellowing grunts carry over the breeze, broadcasting the “rut”, the bison’s mating season, when bull dominance ranking is challenged.

Beyond the human sight, wolf, grizzly, and coyote roam the shadows of the forest edges, awaiting that perfect moment when they are called to action, with the chance to provide a needed meal for their hungry families.  A familiar wolf pack, the Junction Butte pack, can often be seen hunting in the valley, reminding us of the disquieting nature that is the circle of life in the wild.  There is a poetic justice to knowing that these predators are part of the fabric of this lush landscape.

One can feel the sense of timelessness here in the Lamar Valley.  As the sun sinks lower into the western sky, the trumpeting call of the sandhill cranes wafts across the deepening shadows.  The majestic mountains looming over the valley floor reflect the geologic clashing of the forces of nature, and remind us of the intimate connection we all have with the wilderness, no matter our place in life.  To lose any part of these untrammeled wild spaces would mean a loss of part of our humanity.

A double rainbow emerges over the Lamar Buffalo Ranch following an afternoon rain shower.

The Lamar Buffalo Ranch is an intrinsic thread woven into the Yellowstone history.  A visit to the park would be incomplete without experiencing the magic of the Lamar Valley.

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A Yellowstone Forever Summer

Planning for our summer began in earnest several months ago but we just arrived at our destination, Yellowstone National Park, a few weeks ago and what a whirlwind it has been.

Giving back by way of volunteering is a passion of ours and this year we have elected (and been chosen) to be program volunteers for Yellowstone Forever.  Formerly known as Yellowstone Association, a merger in October 2016 between the Association and the Yellowstone Park Foundation created Yellowstone Forever, the educational and philanthropic partner of the park.  We will be supporting the naturalists who conduct the Field Seminars and soaking up every bit of knowledge we can along the way.  Their subject list is diverse, ranging from wildlife, birding, photography, geology, sketching, hiking, Native American studies, backpacking, fly-fishing, and an entire new Naturalist Series.  It is going to be an active and educational summer, one in which we feel fortunate to participate.

Training for our Yellowstone summer adventure spanned a couple of weeks and covered a broad spectrum of activities; e.g. orientation, bus driver training, an intensive two-day wilderness first aid class, course preparation, and camp duty…whew!

When we finally arrived at our summer home, the Lamar Buffalo Ranch, we hit the ground running with a dedicated group who travel from near and far to ready the campus for the upcoming summer season.  From top to bottom we scrubbed and scoured the bunk house, bath houses, and cabins, in anticipation of a busy summer.  If it sounds like a lot of prep, it is, but the care taken by Yellowstone Forever to ensure happy field seminar participants has resulted in numerous returnees year after year to consume the knowledge eagerly shared by the engaging naturalists who conduct the classes.

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Yes, it has been a whirlwind few weeks, tiring yet exhilarating.  Although far from being expert program volunteers, we both have one field seminar under our belts, “Intro to Wolf Management and Ecology” and “Bears, Bones, Signs, and Stories”.

As I sit on the back porch of our bunkhouse looking out over the heart of the Lamar Valley, known as the “Serengeti of North America”, I listen to the resounding thunder rolling across the landscape. Countless bison can be seen grazing, while their young “red dog” calves frolic.  I am humbled by the wonder of this magical landscape. I have no doubt that my Yellowstone Forever summer will change me in ways I cannot foresee.

Rumi said:

“There is a voice that doesn’t use words.  Listen.”

I believe that voice can be found in the wilderness, in places like Yellowstone National Park.  I plan to spend plenty of time listening.  As time and the internet permits, I hope to share what I have learned.

Hope you are all having a great start to your summer!

Disclaimer:  The views expressed here are my own and do not necessarily represent the views of Yellowstone Forever.  

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