wow wow WOW you guys. Today was my first day working in Mammoth Hot Springs here in Yellowstone, and it was totally overwhelming. The day started early with a mini shift in housekeeping, then I had some time to explore my new surroundings in Mammoth before starting my first shift at the ice cream counter. Along the way, I met my awesome new coworkers and some honestly unsavory ones. But I’ll explain it all, don’t you worry!
Waking up bright and early, mainly because the sun rises insanely early up here, I made my way down to the EDR for breakfast with my new buddies. By my new buddies, I mean K and the rest of the YMNP group (youth ministries in the national parks). They basically hold church services at campsites on Sundays.
While checking out my schedule, I was surprised to see that I was signed up for a housekeeping shift! Last I checked, that wasn’t the job I was told about. Confused, I asked my new manager and he told me that because housekeeping was so short-staffed, we’d have to pull an occasional half shift to help them. I was a little alarmed by the unexpected assignment, but I figured it’d be a new skill and some extra hours, so not all bad.
Let’s just say, I am not a natural at folding and tucking.
But it was cool to see the other side of the travel experience, now I know how the housekeepers make the rooms look so perfect! I’ll never tell though, secret of the trade 😉
Housekeepers are awesome and I always try to be a courteous guest, but this will make me an even better guest in the future, golden-standard!
Exploring Mammoth Hot Springs with the puma man
With a few hours between my housekeeping and my ice cream shifts, I decided to explore Mammoth Hot Springs, one of several “villages” in Yellowstone. Mammoth Springs was actually a sort of military base when the park was first created and before park rangers were invented. This is evidenced by a row of large, lovely houses where the US army was stationed to patrol the park, stopping poachers and squatters.
Something about me is that I am a sucker for visitors centers, so that’s where I headed first.
Walking past the EDR en route to the visitors center, a bunch of older employees were smoking at a picnic table. When one of them yelled “what’re you smiling for?” I sighed and started to walk faster. Unfortunately, as a girl, I’m used to these vaguely uncomfortable comments from strange dudes. But even in the morning, the park was getting crowded and so I was confident he wouldn’t try anything. Still, I picked up the pace towards the visitor’s center when to my surprise, one of the guys started walking next to me.
Unprompted, he began to tell me about why he was here. Apparently, a shaman had told him that “his spirit animal was a puma”, and that he had to find one out here in Yellowstone to “find himself”. He was immediately dubbed “Puma Man” in my head.
Over the next few minutes, I let him talk at me about the mountain lions in Yellowstone. He admitted that he had gone into the wilderness to find a mama and her two cubs during the spring, but hours spent walking in the snow had left him a “black spot” of frostbite on his foot.
He asked me if I wanted to see the black spot, and before I could say no, he had already pulled down his sock. It was, indeed, a black spot.
After an eternity, I finally got to the visitors center and was looking forward to ditching him. But of course, it couldn’t be that easy. It was currently around 8:50, and the visitor’s center didn’t open until 9am. And so I had to stay strong and just be talked at for a few more minutes. Just then, another guy joins the scene!
I don’t remember what kind of introduction he gave, but what I do remember is that he immediately launched a story about why he, too, had come to work at Yellowstone. He wove us a tale of a lover scorned, having found his fiance in bed with his best friend. He then went into graphic detail about just *how* he had found them, whereupon the puma man said, “Dude, TMI”. Oh, the irony.
Almost as if this were a silly little sitcom, in that very moment, a ranger-angel came and unlocked the front door, and I was off like a jet, successfully ditching the puma man and the forsaken lover.
I should probably talk about the museum given that this is a travel blog. It’s a great one! It provides a lot of information about the elk life cycle, and how their behavior changes with the seasons. This is handy info, given that Mammoth hosts tons of elk who live up here to avoid predators like wolves. The lower floor has exhibits about the founding of Yellowstone by Teddy Roosevelt, who, astounded by the natural beauty and disgusted by all the poaching going on, decided to preserve this land and others throughout the United States by creating the National Park Service. Pretty cool stuff!
First Shift as an Ice Cream Scooper
Soon enough, it was back to work for me. I met my manager and assistant manager, they seemed fine. They showed me all of the flavors we offered- chocolate, vanilla, huckleberry, salted caramel, moose tracks, mango, and butter pecan. They told me I was required to wear a wrist guard at all times to prevent carpal tunnel, and so I took what was essentially a long piece of velcro and wrapped it around my wrist.
It was kind of surprising how fast I was left to my own devices, but with the massive crowds, my shift seemed to be done in the blink of an eye.
Closing, I’ve decided, is not the move.
Cleaning a place with this much foot traffic is a nightmare, and I cannot count how many rounds with the mop it took to finally get the floor clean. Finally, my shift was complete! I am absolutely exhausted with the 1.5 shift from today, but at least my days off are on Saturday and Sunday, having the actual weekend off will make things tons easier.
My feelings about my coworkers? They are super cool. Most of them are also college kids just hoping for a summer of outdoorsy adventure. You know who I don’t like though? The assistant manager keeps making really gross jokes in front of my coworkers and I, and even the customers! There was one point where I was giving a customer their change and he cracked an especially unsavory joke, and I could only look at the customer in horror who looked at me in horror. Totally inappropriate! As if it couldn’t be worse, he doesn’t help us at all. While my coworkers and I are trying clean everything so we can go home, he just stands around and complains the whole time. Ugh.
As for my verdict on the first day working in Yellowstone: the work is hard and at this rate I’ll be working 50 hour weeks but I have access to ice cream all day and I love meeting the travelers, so I think I’ll be able to do this!
Note from the future: this was about 4 years ago, I was a lot younger and I didn’t know that this was something I could report. Now I know better. If you are working with someone who is making you uncomfortable, you can tell someone and not have to worry about getting in trouble for it! Nothing bad happened to me and he did eventually get fired but I do wish I’d said something.
Where did she come from? Bozeman, Montana, USA
Where is she going? Mammoth Hot Springs, Yellowstone National Park, USA