Friday, July 4, 2014

A Writer in Yellowstone

With the GROG on summer vacation, we thought our readers might enjoy learning how we're spending our summer vacations.  Summer for me means working full time as an interpretive guide to Yellowstone National Park.  Yep, pretty much the best job on the whole planet!

Our Nation's First National Park

I work for a private tour company based out of Cody, Wyoming which is 52 miles from Yellowstone's East Entrance.  Our company specializes in small tours ( less than 12 people) and we provide lots of great information to help our guests learn about the park and appreciate it even more.  Our work is referred to as "environmental interpretation" which means we tell the stories of the resource (Yellowstone) in such a way as to make intellectual and emotional connections with the listener.  I like to say I turn the facts of Yellowstone into the stories which cause my clients to learn something new, deepen their understanding of the park and awaken their sense of wonder.  I feel like I'm writing every day, only none of my words end up on paper!
Our company - yLoop Road Trips

Taking technical subjects like the complex geology of Yellowstone National Park and unwrapping it like a gift until the heart is revealed, is the cornerstone of environmental interpretation as well as any good writing.  I love having folks tell me, "Oh, so now I understand how a geyser works!"  Understanding leads to greater appreciation.
Grand Prismatic Spring
Old Faithful Geyser

What are my days as a tour guide like? First of all, they're LONG days!  I report to work at 7:30 am and am usually not home until after 8:00 pm.  I get the vehicle ready, pick up our lunches, pick up the passengers and we head out on a glorious adventure to our nation's first national park!  Seeing the sights and wonders of Yellowstone never gets old.  I've seen Old Faithful erupt countless times and each one is amazing.

Artist Paint Pots

Mammoth Hot Springs Terrace
For those of you who have never been to Yellowstone, the park is divided into a northern loop and a southern loop.  And it takes a full day to only see a few of the features on either loop.  Yellowstone encompasses about 2.2 million acres, which is larger than both Delaware and Rhode Island combined.  

Throw in some great attractions like Old Faithful, the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River, the Upper and Lower Falls of the Yellowstone and the Mammoth Hot Springs Terraces and you've got plenty to do!  

Not to mention lots of wildlife viewing! Here are some photos of wildlife from this year.
Grizzly rolling in the last snow of spring
Another grizzly
Yellow-bellied Marmot


Bison crossing the Lamar River

My summer job definitely has an impact on my writing.  First of all, because my days are so long, I don't get a chance to write much during the summers.  But I've had a couple of ideas for a middle grade novel set in Yellowstone and I want to write some nature-related non-fiction picture books.  Who wouldn't when you're surrounded by so much nature?!
Grizzly digging for roots, mice, whatever it wants!

My son asked me last year, "Do you really enjoy doing these tours?"  My response was, "For me, going up into Yellowstone every day is not a problem!"  I find peace and contentment just being present in such an amazing place.  Along with writing, being an interpretive guide feeds my soul. That's what makes both interpretation and writing my careers, not just my jobs!
Lamar Valley early summer


  1. Great post. We were there over Labor Day several years ago. We should have taken your tour; I think we missed a lot. Your passion for Yellowstone will definitely end up in books or articles kids will enjoy. Great photos, too.

  2. Leslie,
    Wonderful post!! I can't wait to visit someday. You make an incredible place sound even more intriguing and inviting! Thank you so much for sharing this little piece of your heart and giving us a glimpse with your photos of our beautiful country!

  3. Stunning photos! I really enjoyed your post and now I am even more eager to go on vacation. Sadly, not Yellowstone this year but someday!

  4. Amazing! Beautiful! Breathtaking! Yellowstone is filled with great wonder! And I too, just like Pam, look forward a visit to see and learn about all that Yellowstone has to offer. May the words that you speak as an interpretive guide, Leslie, become words in a book[s] written by you. ~Suzy

  5. Yes, we GROGers need our own retreat out there next summer. Wonderful post, and those pics are amazing! Love the wildlife.

  6. What an awesome job! I'm sure you could make some wonderful nf pbs about nature!! Do u do these tours in winter, too? I enjoyed your post.

  7. Wow, Leslie, what a terrific way to spend your summer, and I know the tourists are lucky to have you as their guide! Your time in Yellowstone will prime the pump for your middle grade novel. Who knows? Your main character might just be the next young tourist to step into your tour van...

  8. Leslie! O. My!
    Thank you for the visit to Yellowstone.
    When you life shifts back to writing time, I hope you do work on your idea for a park-set story. You have a front-row seat to one of the best settings in the West.
    Yes I feel fortunate to have visited years back but not with a tour guide such as yourself. Think of the great memories you help families create.

    Wishes to you for continued for adventures. What a wonderful post.

    Thank you!

  9. Leslie,
    Jack and I were 'almost' there a couple of weeks ago. We even saw the sign that would have taken us further north to you! It's amazing how big the country is. On the final leg of our trip we drove for nearly 8 hours, just in Colorado. We had a phenomenal time, but from the looks of your entry, we need to go back and visit your neck of the woods! Hopefully next year! Thanks for sharing these outstanding pictures and words. I'm a little jealous of your summer job!