Life in a National Park

Ambassadors, Amelia Mayer, Lifestyle, Mountain Life, National Parks, Outdoors, Yellowstone -

amelia govOur family joins the 800,000 out there furloughed due to the government shut down. Politics aside, this affects many people. We are thankful that our past financial decisions allow us to enjoy a little extra time home with Daddy.

However, not only does the shut-down touch our lives from the career perspective, but our very living situation, as well. My husband’s job requires us to  live in Yellowstone National Park. While we are thrilled we have not been asked to leave (because, really, where would all these families go?), it still touches every aspect of our life right now. Like the rest of the world out there, we are restricted to where we can go, how we can recreate in our own home, and what we are allowed to do. In fact, we were given an official statement detailing those rules.  While the “rules” at least provide us with some guidelines (so we don’t have to play a guessing game of trying to span out what’s allowed and what isn’t), it’s hard not to feel a little trapped and restricted. Yes, we are allowed in and out of the Park, but not allowed to recreate or see any of the sights along the way.

Here’s the good news – the animals are coming out because the number of people in the area is eerily low. Only those deemed “essential” continue to work and occupy their desks and parking spaces. The elk are slowly coming out of the “rut” (therefore calming down), and there have been sightings of at least three (maybe four) grizzly bears in the area, which is an usually high number for Mammoth Hot Springs.

While the shut-down coincided with an October snow storm bringing 10 inches of snow followed by a 12-hour power outage (which added a little insult to injury), we are doing our best to remain positive and taking advantage of the (very) slow times around here.

Shut-down aside, we are often asked what it is like to live in a National Park. Honestly, we are “babies” to Park living, having been here just over a year now. These are our opinions–which may be drastically different from those that have lived here 10-20 years.  Some aspects of it have proven exactly as we expected, and others are not at all what we thought.

Undeniably, there are some perks:  an incredible community willing to help anyone out, elk and bison literally in our yard, access to the first National Park of our country, an incredible view out of the living room window (including the Helipad that means hours of entertainment for little boys who like to watch helicopters), having Daddy’s work within a quick bike commute, and the list goes on!

But, there are plenty of parts of it that are a little less than desirable. While the animals are very cool to look at, you really have to be careful. In the spring, the elk cows (females) are very protective of their young and charge often. The bulls are extremely aggressive during the fall “rut” time and inevitably take out a car or two. The pine in our front yard has branches that go only as low as the bull elk can’t reach – because they have been thrashed otherwise. The bison are always to be respected and given a safe distance. Most of the year we run, walk, and bike with water and bear spray for our own safety.

We live a little ways away from the main tourist area, but find ourselves dealing with visitors to the Park who choose not to respect the animals or the two-lane dangerous road, and there pose a safety issue to us all. Despite all the attempts at protecting the general public–this area is wild and can’t be simply tamed. Yes, even if you CAN get close to that elk for a million dollar photo shot, it doesn’t mean you should. I have seen more than one visitor running for their lives because they got too close to an animal. Usually they just get a good scare, but not always. Even in just the year we have been here, there have been too many unfortunate stories that included an ambulance ride.

We also live in a government house (which means it’s hard to get away from work at the end of the day) and must follow the ordinances of the neighborhood. While this is nothing out of the norm to most people, it means leaving a corridor for passing wildlife between houses, having to work hard to convince them to let us have a shed, and the fact that no in-ground gardens, bird feeders or certain plants/flowers are allowed. Years ago they removed the woodstoves in these homes (which is a whole other debate we’re still sore over years later…and we weren’t even here for) which means we have to pay a pretty penny to pay to heat an inefficient home built in the sixties.

All these realities aside, it is cool to be raising our kids in a National Park. The mountains and wildlife that surround us are exquisite, humbling, and amazingly beautiful. Walks are never boring. I don’t know how long we will be here or where we will be led next, but for now we do our best to take advantage of our life here and now, government shut-down and all.

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