5:00 AM is an active time in Yellowstone...I found myself in a Volkswagen Beetle with Ken, a science teacher from Arlee, Montana who has been taking eighth graders to Yellowstone for a week of hiking and camping for the past 24 years. He was a wealth of information in the four hours we spent watching animals, looking at plants, and exploring trails...After driving very slowly through a huge herd of Bison (I was taking pictures out of the top of the sunroof and yes, I was scared!).
Ken showed me a pack rats version of a family crest. It is a rock hard, black, tar-like formation made out of the rats spit and feces. I know it sounds disgusting but it is pretty awesome... it is a territorial marker and has been dated, by Yellowstone researchers, to show that this line of pack rats has lived in the same pace for over 12,000 years. WOW! Today we saw two grizzly bears, a fox, a bald eagle, a Peregrin falcon ripping apart a small bird, two spawning Cut Throat in a mountain stream, a wolf, and a MOOSE! This was all before 9:00am!
After the wildlife tour we went to the local art studio of painter Shirl Ireland. She lives in an incredible house and studio right next to Yellowstone. She paints "en plein air", or outside, in Yellowstone at sunrise and her artwork is incredible. We also visited the Yellowstone Heritage and Research Center. This holds Yellowstone artifacts from 12,000 years ago. We spent some time there sketching some of the artifacts that they have including a wolf skull and some hotel souvenirs from the late 1800's.
This afternoon, we saw a beaver dam then took a hike up to a wickiup site that was overlooking the valley with snow capped mountains in the distance. A wickiup is a Native American shelter made out of limbs, branches, and twigs. At the wickiup, Ranger Trudy told us about the history of a local tribe called the Sheep Eaters. It was a beautiful day, finally warm and sunny. We sat around as she spoke and showed us different artifacts.
Tonight we had our last dinner followed by a studio tour of George Baumann...That guy has an amazing and inspiring life! The end cap of the evening was singing and storytelling by Ken Voorhis, who is a great person with kind blue eye and a white beard. He is also in charge of the Yellowstone Association and a big part of bringing all of us teachers in the program here.
This is my last night here and I have so enjoyed my time with all of the incredible people that I have met...I am going to miss Yellowstone but am so grateful to have this experience. I have learned so many things and I am very excited to share with my students and colleagues.
Also...I can't wait to come back!!!