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Beth Howell
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Hometown:
Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
About Me:
45 swf wanting western sabatical and adventure in the great outdoors. I'm a high school English teacher who, probably because I'm a Sag, loves the outdoors, animals, golf, hiking, photo-snapping, and biking.
Last Seasonal Job:
Teaching, because its only for 9 months.
Favorite Seasonal Job:
Front office Manager/Golf Director at the Caravelle Resort in MB
Dream Job:
Living out west doing something I enjoy but one that allows me to move around, change, intergrate, and learn new things about myself and life.

Beth Howell's Blog

Working in Yellowstone National Park this 2008 season!!!

Posted on January 17, 2008 at 6:37am 7 Comments

Everyone,

I am sooooooo excited. I finally applied to Yellowstone National Park (YNP) and was hired for the upcoming season. I will be working as a desk clerk/sales agent at the Old Faithful Snow Lodge from April 18 thru October 17. I will be living in the Obsidian Dorm right behind the lodge.

Does anyone have work experience with Xanterra and/or YNP? I have many questions about what to bring, clothes, etc.

While I won't have a laptap of my own, there are computers…

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My First Blog Entry

Posted on June 24, 2007 at 10:34pm 0 Comments

First, I'd like to thank Bill for inviting me to CoolWorks. I'm very excited to be among people who apparently share many of my own interests. I hope to apply for a season-long position in one of the National Parks for the 2008 year and hope that many of you "seasoned" people will share your ups and downs with me regarding your employment histories. I'm trying to research as much as I can, but you guys have been on the front-lines and can offer a plethura of info that one just can't find at…

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Comment Wall (4 comments)

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At 8:56am on October 24, 2008, Lisa J said…
So how was working at Yellowstone and Xanterra? Inquiring minds want to know. : )
At 4:23am on January 18, 2008, Dan said…
Hi Beth,
I've worked in Jellystone 3 times and the front desk can be good or bad, depending upon the front desk manager. As you can imagine, it can get very busy.

That is either a fun, bright, hectic atmosphere or something like being stuck in a crowded bus depot when the air conditioning breaks down. The real pay in Yellowstone is the Park itself.

You will be right on the geyser walk and it is a wonderful place to walk in the morning before work, seeing the "smokes" and maybe a bison or two. Old Faithful is also the hub of some wonderful hiking and going out in early season when everything is completely fresh is an experience in itself.

You don't hike? Well, there is a great swimming hole on the Firehole River drive where geyser-heated water pours into the river, making it warm year around.

You can ride the rapids and dive off cliffs or just swim under the crystal clear water. It is a great outing.

Have the kitchen make you a sack lunch on a day that is predicted to be sunshine and head over to lay out and swim. From there it isn't too far to West Yellowstone, the metropolis of the area.

West has an antique rail car to see for free at the Holiday Inn and one of those theaters with the 30' screens - IMAX. It has some bears in a zoo-like display as well as a museum in the old train depot.

I shouldn't fail to mention there is limited stakes gambling in the bars there - video poker machines near the front door are your best bet. The employee pub at Old Faithful is nice and new with a pizza restaurant and reasonable prices for the Park.

The atmosphere there changes with the employees of the season - sometimes mellow and sometimes rowdy. It is nothing like the old employee pub that was like a stateline tavern that had been squashed to half-width.

One of the real treats to do by yourself it to take one of the bus tours that are free to employees on a space-available basis. You can set it up so that you are at another location in the Park at lunch time and your employee ID will let you eat at Lake or Caynyon during their normal hours.

The Lake Hotel is kind of a landmark in itself and the Lake is one of the great things that many people don't know about the Park. The Hotel is billed as something like the 'largest wood-sided hotel in America' or something and was really remodeled nice not too many years ago.

Eating at the locations other than in the employee dining rooms can be spendey.but you can hang with the guests in the monumental lobbies with a beverage after chowing down in the Employee Dining Rooms. If you keep you eye out, you can go to lectures and tours conducted by the Park Service.

A great thing about Old Faithful is that they have a complete employee gym with a few weights but a regulation-sized, hardwood-floored basketball court that is perfect on a rainy day, especially the free lending library.

As for clothes, a whole summer will see you in snowstorms early and late and July-August days when it is in the 90's with scant air conditioning save maybe in the F & B establishments. You will appreciate some decent hiking boots as tennies are more than matched by trails a foot-deep in snow in May, muddy in rainy weather and so on.

It doesn't rain so much but it will on occasion wipe out your day/days off without letup and hundreds of workers dorm-bound for 36 hours wears on the spirits. Obsidian is the old dorm and kind of historic but known for its noise carrying.

The new dorms are just like college dorms but a half-mile farther out. That walk in a freezing sleet is not to be sneezed at especially when you have to make a little detour because of some wildlife.

Bison often are on the front lawn. Elk are plentiful and are usually peaceful.

Bears are not seen too frequently and when one is sighted from the scenic highway loops, immediately a bear jam shuts down the road and the rangers have to force cars to drive on.

Moose are the real demons of the woods. They are the most likely to charge humans and a typical year might see dozens of people bitten, trampled and/or gored by moose.

Don't approach moose for any reason. I have been charged by one and it is not something you would repeat.

Another nice thing about Old Faithful is that there is more than one employee meal hall so you can vary your site. The South entrance to the Park provides easy access to Grand Teton only 70 miles away and your Yellowstone ID provides free access there.

Colter Bay location on Jackson Lake is a must-see and there are funky estalishments alond the lake like Signal Mountain Lodge and on the edge of the Park going South, like Dornan's. A nice day trip would be a visit to Colter Bay and see if they'd let you use a rowboat for free like they do their own employees.

Lunch at Signal Mountain Lodge and then drive something over an hour to Jackson, the real town of the combined Yellowstone-Grand Teton area. The wildlife musem there is worth seeing and you ought to drive the 10 miles out to Teton Village where the ski hill is.

It is beautiful in the summer and just sitting at the base of the gondola is an experience that one has rarely no matter how much you travel or pay. After Jackson, you can head home with a stop at Dornan's just off the road at the South end of Grand Teton.

They have some funky shopping and eating. There barbeque is a big outdoor deal that's nice but none to inexpensive.

They have a funky convenience store and deli where you can have home-made brownies or a sandwich that's more in line with a Park employee's budget. As you head home, if you're lucky, you can maybe catch Old Faithful going off just as you're returning to the dorm.

Not scheduled to go off for an hour? You can always head over to the pub and see how it's behaving tonight.

Old Faithful has a 100-mile club for hikers to reach that plateau in a whole season. That's kind of a club for beginners as there is one hike alone from the pub area that is more than 30 miles and can be done in a quick day.

If you're new to the hiking game, the club's fun and supportive and will save you from embarrassing moments like when you miscalculated your speed and are the wonder of your room mate while you crawl down a rough trail in the dark. The tips they always give are good ones.

Tell someone clearly where you are going and stick to that. Plan to have plenty of daylight even if something like snow or mud slows you.

Hiking alone is something that everyone does and that everyone realizes is risky. Animals will generally get out of humans' way when they can hear them in advance.

A lone hiker walking makes far less noise and is stuck pretty badly if he or she turns an ankle at a distance from others. Glacier Park had a employee die each summer for many summers in a row.

They slipped crossing streams and drowned. They were mauled by bears or simply disappeared with a glacial crevice being the chief suspect.

The wilderness is wild and taking it for granted is something no Forest or Park Service employee ever does. They do plain vanilla efforts with extra equipment, ample time and support always.

When you are 10 miles out at 2pm and a huge blister opens on your heel, slowing may make dark something you now have to really contemplate. Suddently the lark on a sunny day is intruded upon by the realization you have only seen maybe one or two people every 2 or 3 hours on that trail.

When I was last there, the dorms were very quiet at night. Anyone accused of being noisy was given one warning then escorted to accounting for a check and into West Yellowstone, day or night.

They have church groups on Sunday at West and there is a sleight of employee activities by the recreation office. A dance or two is scheduled during the summer with free live music.

Employee movies ares shown maybe once a week and so on. A little road tripping, a little hiking, some pub work and a little of the employee activities can make for a full summer with the opportunity to save in the low four figures.

One note: every National Park in the country with the exception of the Everglades lets its employees go at about the same time, i.e. thousands of resort workers added to those of the dude ranches and lake resorts nationwide - all out on the labor market and only a part of them are going back to school.

Winter resorts can be wonderful but there's a gap from summer resorts closing to winter resorts opening so plan ahead as there's very little work nationwide. At Old Faithful, if you check later in the summer, you can usually keep track of some way to extend your contract to later if it isn't one of the ones going to October or whenever they close these days.

They used to have a little open until in November and you could check with Human Resources and keep your name in for a transfer to something lasting longer when your particular job was up.

It might be some odd job or just a contract that someone left early but getting into October shouldn't be a problem is you look early and often. Big ski resorts all open around Thanksgiving so if you coordinate, you can end in Yellowstone in October and start in Vail in Novemver with just enough time to visit home or Mexico in between, provided you didn't spend every cent all summer.

The size of the pure wilderness makes the air and the water seem friendly. You can go out on a trail and not
see anyone for hours, yet be home in time for a hot shower and a dinner prepared at the Employee Dining Room.

Try to get anything you'll need like shampoo and batteries for your camera at a discount place on the way. There are seriously high prices in the Park and the nearest discount stores are hours away in Jackson or Bozeman.

You will probably find you need serious rain gear - a poncho - and sunblock - Pf30, if you spend time outdoors and that's pretty much the story about a National Park. With the rainy days, snowy days and muddy days...a set of good hiking type boots is really a good investment even if you're not a hiking buff.

You will need a good winter coat and hat, period. I have been at Old Faithful when I would have killed for a pair of long underwear very early and very late in the season.

May and October have the cold weather, but rains aren't unheard of and it is hot in July-August even if not after 10pm. If you are interested in money, you can often pick up extra shifts for banquets and so on but when I last worked there, we had plenty of hours pressed upon us without looking for any overtime at all.

They have a nice medical service at Old Faithful with a doctor and everything so you aren't far from civilzation in that regard. Work on a car, for example, is end-of-the-world prices and you don't want to be stuck having it done in the Park if you can help it.

Everything from ice cream cones to film is kind of on the spendey side and you will miss Wal-Mart prices. There are lots of programs from singing groups to art shows to employee group outings that are free, though and a little effort can find you making the better ones to enrich your experience.

One last tip. A good reference from your supervisor can pretty much be a passport to being easily employed at front desks throughout the Park system.

When they spot someone who's got the job skills down and knows the seasonal routine and is hip to the housing and so on, they jump on them so long as they don't wait 'til the lat minute with their applications. A good season is a platform for moving into a supervisory position in your own field or moving to one you desire more.

A good reference helps you get the location you want and even your contract dates. They are more willing to dicker with the start and finishe dates with an employee of proven quality.

Finally, Aramark has many locations they run and you can move around freely so long as you fulfill your contract and your immediate supervisor likes your work. In addition, other concessionaires in other Parks value the successful season in a rival concessionaire so keep that in mind if you are thinking of leaving early.

One thing that many people don't think of when they are in a job they don't like in a Park is that there are many departments and locations in a single park and if you get going with Human Resources they will often let you transfer. Ask people at lunch about departments looking for people.

I was in a job I hated at West but someone at lunch told me about a guy who hated his job and would only be able to transfer if he found someone to take his place. It took 30 seconds for us to trade jobs and both were much happeier fulfilling our contracts instead of quitting.

I worked at the camera shop at Lake one summer and the after-work "powwow" bon-fire, keggers just off the location were some of the most enjoyable times I have had in my life. We would have a lip-synch contest for six-packs of Molson and I can still laugh today about someone on top of a log bench in front of a roaring bonfire head high imitating Mick Jagger or Michael Jackson in the clear star-filled air.

Summers vary! Sometimes the weather is awful or there are forest fires.

Sometimes the crew gets along fabulously and couples marry. Other times there is just no chemistry and little clicks form and make it kind of like an unpleasant cross-country bus trip months long.

Fortunately with what people, events, amenities, sights and accessible locations Old Faithful has, you can kind of eke out a summer one way or another. Just the lack of TV and radio changes your whole perspective.

Once you realized there are no people or development in an area half the size of Rhode Island, you begin to see stars and wildflowers and pay attention to weather and wildlife like you check the drive time on the Santa Monica Freeway.

Some never become Park people. They don't want to stand in line for fried chicken on Friday night or they don't want to share a bathroom.

They can't stand the 1/4 mile walk from the dorm in all kinds of weather including pitch black or they don't dig being rather underpaid doing lots of service work. For those who can take their pay in scenery, clear sinuses and a Spring meadow untouched this year, filled with birds, you are wealthy beyond your wildest dreams.

Only one person is the first person to posthole through the snow over some pass for the season. You get to report back to the Park Service how much snow, mud and downed trees are on the trail this year.

You see the bird in the sunset reflected on a crystal clear lake. You see the trophy elk against a hurtling skyline of clouds lined with yellow and a wind blowing across your cheek.

You skip across a sand bar and get across a snowmelt-swollen rivulet with dry feet. You whip out your poncho and finish the hike in a downpour to some remote geyser.

You might also get stinking drunk in the Geyser in West and get left in town to catch a company bus back the next morning and have to call in to work. You might have run out of sunblock and gotten so badly burned your uniform shirt hurts.

You might chance it from the dorm in your street shoes only to find the puddles were ankle deep and your feet will be wet all day while you stand at the desk. Whatever your persuasion, you will almost certainly have some memorable times with people, weather, and sights at Old Faithful.

Many people become perpetual resort workers, sampling islands and national parks and ski resorts one right after the other. Your fellow employees will tell you, "I hated Big Sky," or, "I loved Lake Powell." Soon, you can sift through the reasons and find some level of fact as it applies to yourself.

You are no sooner acclimated to one job than you are applying to the next. Cape Cod for the summer and Aspen for the winter; Glacier Park for the summer and Vail for the winter; and so on.

There are more than 1,000 employees at Old Faithful and there are no small number of people older than their 20's. However, Yellowstone is not particularly upscale and the real drawing point is the access to the natural wonders and not the money or trendy clubs.

Nobody likes every resort so even if Yellowstone isn't for you so much, you can use if for a starting point to tailor your search for a place with single housing or higher pay, if in a less sublime natural environment.

Good luck. Yellowstone is a place to spend one season if you are to get into the resort hospitality field, really!
At 3:00pm on June 25, 2007, Richard ohl said…
hi there alot of the big parks have caferteria. big bend doesnt. in the summer we have a small employee menu and in season we serve them in the employee dinning room
At 9:03am on June 25, 2007, Ted said…
Hi Beth, GNP is awesome. You must do some hiking while your'e there. The hike to Iceberg Lake was my favorite.

My nephew has been station at Malstrom AFB in Great Falls for about 4 years and he loves it. His name is Eric Johnson.
 
 
 

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