Monday, September 8, 2014

Piece Of My Heart

            Well, after being gone for four wild and crazy months, I’m finally back in the city that I love to call home. After a delicious Mexican meal and seeing my family again, coming home to shower in my own private bathroom, and now sitting on my soft mattress with a glass of ice water that I didn’t have to walk down to the employee village office to get, it definitely feels great being home again. One of the best things about being away for so long is that I learned to better appreciate coming back home.
            Last night at the Whistle Pig consisted of eating pizza, watching football, putting music on the jukebox, and playing pool with Nate, Brian, and a bunch of other employees. Hugging and saying goodbye to everyone one last time was hard; I’ll miss all of those people a lot. I really hope that one day I’ll get to see Nate, Cristina, Tanner, and Jesse again; they’ve felt like a second family to me. But whether our goodbye was temporary or permanent, one thing’s for sure: we made some great memories together this summer.
The drive to the airport with Jesse this morning was pretty much the perfect way to end my time in that park. We left the lodge at about 5:15, when it was still dark out. There was a big full moon in the sky, though, that was just getting ready to sink behind the mountains. That moon provided just enough light to let me admire the beautiful area around me, and perfectly silhouetted the Teton Range against the sky. Jesse and I talked about the beauty of the place, future plans, and life in general on the drive. I’m really glad I got to spend those last forty-five minutes or so with him.
The flights back home were really easy, despite being the first time I’ve flown by myself. I felt a little rushed at the Dallas airport since my layover was less than an hour and I had to go basically all the way across the place to get to my new gate, but I made it with some time to spare.
This will be my 125th post to this blog, and it looks like it’ll also be the final one. Writing these daily posts has been a ton of fun for me, and it’s been great to be able to look back over them and remind myself of all of the crazy experiences I had this summer. I don’t think I’m done with blogging as a whole; I guess now I’ll just have to find a new theme. I’m really happy to be back home in San Antonio, but I’m pretty sure I left a piece of my heart in Wyoming today. Goodbye, Grand Teton National Park. Thanks for giving me the best summer of my life. 

Sunday, September 7, 2014

The Night Before Life Goes On

I woke up this morning and the first thought that popped into my head was, "this is my last day here in this park". After an unforgettable summer here, it's almost unreal to think that tomorrow I'll be back in San Antonio. It's been on my mind almost constantly today. Getting ready for work, all I thought was that it was the last time to put on that uniform. At breakfast and lunch I just thought that it was one of the last times I'd eat in the EDR. Right before walking out the door of the EDR after having lunch, I paused and looked around the place one more time. I'd been in that room at least twice a day for almost the past few months, and though the food left some to be desired, I'd made a lot of memories eating in there with friends.
While I was eating breakfast before going into work at seven, Nate walked in, wearing his work uniform, and sat down next to me. It turns out he'd come in to add some extra help since we had so many check-outs to take care of today. Even though it was pretty busy, getting to work with Nate, Cristina, Emily, and Maggie was a pretty perfect way to end my job at the desk.
After work I went over to the vault and turned in my bank and the key to my safe. I will not miss the long, elaborate process of printing out shift reports, filling out deposit slips and bags, and doing cash drops at the end of any shift when I took in cash (which is the large majority of morning shifts). I was glad that today was my last day to have to do that.
This morning while I was in the front desk office Brian, who was also working this morning, told me that I should go to the Whistle Pig this evening, since they'd be serving free pizza. That definitely sounded better than the EDR, and I'd been planning on hanging out in there one last time anyway, so I said I'd be there. Since Cristina, Nate and Tanner are all off this evening, they said they'd all be there as well, so we could all hang out one more time. I don't know what Jesse's schedule this evening is, but hopefully he can come too. I ate lunch with him in the EDR, and he was also working at the time, so I'm hoping that he'll have the evening off. He still said that he doesn't mind giving me a ride to the airport early tomorrow morning, which is awesome.
After changing out of my uniform and turning it in as well, I finished the last of my packing and room cleaning. The empty walls, closet, and dresser made the room feel different; my side of the room no longer had an identity. It was back to the blank slate that it had been when I first arrived in May, and would remain that until someone else arrived next year. I didn't feel sad about that exactly, just a little strange.
I'm going to head over to the Whistle Pig soon to enjoy my last night here with my friends. I won't be able to stay there too late since I have to get up really early tomorrow to get to the airport on time, and want to spend as much time in there tonight as possible. I'm excited to be back home and see my friends and family in San Antonio, but the thought of saying goodbye to Cristina, Nate, Jesse, Tanner, and everyone else here really sucks. I hope it's not a permanent goodbye, but I know that it very well may be. They've been a big part of the best summer of my life, and helped make memories that I'll hold on to for the rest of my life.

“Tomorrow she'll be rolling down I-10
Baton Rouge, LSU
18 years in her rearview
He's got a Friday paycheck lined up down the block
At daddy's shop
It ain't much but its a job
They've been dreading this moment all summer long
The night before
Life goes on”
Carrie Underwood (again), The Night Before Life Goes On

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Starts With Goodbye

            So today at the desk I was actually working with David and Rebecca again, along with Jen. Cristina had today off; I only saw her for a little while at lunch in the EDR. It was another fairly slow, simple day at the desk. We’re actually sold out again tonight, so I’m glad that I’m not working the later shift today. At dinner I saw Felix, who’s working right now. He said it’s been a really busy evening. Tomorrow we have over 200 check-outs, so my last day at the desk will be a busy one. It won’t be hard though; the earlier shift never really is. I think I’m working with Cristina, Maggie and Emily.
            We had some kind of difficult guests come to the desk today. Overall it wasn’t too bad, just a little annoying at times. The most ridiculous one came up not long after I’d come back from lunch. It was a man who came up to Jen, who was sitting at the manager’s desk. He told her that he wasn’t actually a guest staying here; he lived in Jackson. Today was his wife’s birthday, so he’d made a reservation for lunch in our dining room. He hadn’t been aware, though, that there was some construction on the road between town and the lodge, and due to the delay, they’d missed their reservation. After explaining that, he went on to tell Jen how mad he was that no one had told him about the construction when he’d made the reservation, and demanded some compensation because of that. As Jen tried to tell him that it’s not up to us to tell him about the construction and we couldn’t give him anything, David and I just stared at each other and shook our heads. We both obviously couldn’t believe what a ridiculous request that was, and how rude that man was being. Soon, his wife came storming in, acting even worse than he was. After practically yelling at Jen for a few minutes there in the lobby, they went up to the dining room to talk to the manager up there. Dan, who was the manager on at the time, later came down to tell us that he’d also refused to give them anything, and they’d left, both absolutely livid. We all agreed that if they’d been nicer about it, we might’ve tried to help them out. But with the way they were acting, we all just wanted them to leave.
            After getting off work I came home to find Nate and Jesse hanging out on the back porch. I talked with them out there for a while before coming in and packing up some more. I’ve got pretty much everything packed away. Tomorrow I’ll have to turn in my uniform and work keys, and give my room one last sweep to make sure that I can get my deposit back. Monday morning I just need to take my linens off the bed and drop them off at the employee village office before heading out of here with Jesse.
            I might go to the Whistle Pig for just a little while tonight, since I have to be up early again tomorrow. I’ll also go tomorrow evening one last time to hang out with everyone before saying goodbye to this place.

“I guess it's gonna have to hurt,
I guess I'm gonna have to cry,
And let go of some things I've loved
To get to the other side.
I guess it's gonna break me down,
Like falling when you try to fly.
It's sad, but sometimes moving on with the rest of your life,
Starts with goodbye.”
Carrie Underwood, Starts With Goodbye

Friday, September 5, 2014

Back To The Place Where I Belong

            I just finished spending this evening packing up my suitcase and cleaning out my dresser drawers here in my room. Tomorrow I’m sure I’ll take down the decorations that I’ve put up on my wall and sweep up the place. It’s hard to believe that I only have two more full days left in this park before it’s time to head home. The main thing I’m dreading about leaving is just saying goodbye to Cristina, Tanner, Nate and Jesse. On the other hand, though, I’m more than ready to see everybody back home in San Antonio.
            This morning was pretty slow and easy at the desk, as I knew it would be. I was working with David, Rebecca, and Rob- it was actually my very last shift with Rob. He’s leaving tonight to go to San Diego for a few days, and by the time he gets back here I’ll be gone. I was originally scheduled to work the later shift tomorrow, then the earlier one the next day. Today, near the end of my shift, Rob asked me if I’d actually work the earlier shift both of the next two days, which I said would be fine. I would’ve kind of liked to sleep in tomorrow, but I knew the morning shift would be easier, so I agreed to switch. So now my schedule is to work seven to three tomorrow with David, Cristina, and Jen. It’s kind of strange for Jen to be working that shift tomorrow; it seems like she’s always working the later shift. I thought that yesterday’s shift would be the last time we’d work together, though, so in a way it’s nice that I got switched. On Sunday, my last day at the desk, I’ll be working with Cristina, Maggie, and Emily. Maybe Sunday evening I’ll go to the Whistle Pig one last time. I probably won’t stay very late, though, since I have to be up really early to get to the airport Monday morning. I’m still surprised that Jesse actually offered to drive me there that early; it’ll be nice to have a little more time with him.
            I wish that I had more fun news to share today, but I really don’t. It was a day of work at the desk and packing up. I’m sure tomorrow will be pretty similar.

“Well I'm going home,
Back to the place where I belong,
And where your love has always been enough for me.
I'm not running from.
No, I think you got me all wrong.
I don't regret this life I chose for me.
But these places and these faces are getting old,
So I'm going home.”
Daughtry, Home

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Hold On, We're Going Home

Well, there’s not a lot of news here since yesterday. I just got back from having lunch at the EDR with Nate. We both go into work at three today, along with Maggie and Jen. Like I mentioned yesterday, it’ll be the last shift that I have working with Nate and Jen, which is kind of sad. This entire week is supposed to be pretty slow, so I’m sure we’ll get some time during the shift to just hang out and talk, which will be nice. Tomorrow I work the morning shift with Rob, David, and Rebecca. At first I thought that I wouldn’t be working with Rob at all anymore, but it looks like the schedule changed some, so I’ll actually be working with him one more time before I leave. It seems like a while since I’ve worked the back-to-back shifts (3 to 11, then 7 to 3), but tomorrow will be slow again, so I think it’ll be okay.
Today I’ve been continuing to clean up my room and get my stuff organized to pack up. Tomorrow after work I’ll probably pull out my suitcase from under my bed and start to actually get stuff packed up. The fact that I’ll be home in less than a week is getting more real all the time. It’s been almost exactly four months since I left San Antonio to begin this adventure; that’s much longer than anytime I’ve been away from it before. This was the first summer of my life that I didn’t get to go to Port Aransas for vacation, the first summer that I wasn’t with my family for the Fourth of July, along with many other firsts.
Grand Teton National Park- my home for the best summer of my life. I had some amazing, crazy, unforgettable experiences here over the past few months. Some were things I expected to do. For example, I went on some incredible hikes, saw some beautiful scenery, went cliff jumping into the super cold Gros Ventre River, went kayaking on Jackson Lake, and camped up on a hill with a perfect view of the Teton Range. Some experiences, on the other hand, were some I definitely didn’t expect to have. I witnessed my first bar fight. I sang in public for the first time. I played my first drinking game. I ate my first meal from McDonald’s. I took risks that the 20-year-old version of me wouldn’t have. I don’t regret one second of my time here; despite missing home, I loved everything about it. I got to share in celebrating Nate’s, Jesse’s Cristina’s, and Maggie’s birthdays here this summer. At the same time, though, I missed several of my friend’s and family’s birthdays back home. These past few days have been really slow, knowing how soon I’ll be home. I never thought I’d look forward to returning to the crazy heat and humidity that I know San Antonio is in right now, but I am. 

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Every New Beginning...

            Well, it’s been a pretty bittersweet day. After tossing in one last load of laundry at the employee village office this morning, I headed to lunch at the EDR with Jesse. Nate walked in just a little bit after we did, and sat down with us. He went into work at three today; Jesse had the day off as well. After lunch, I went to the upstairs lobby of the lodge and picked up a few keychains from one of the gift shops- I can’t leave anywhere without grabbing a few of those! I also picked up my final clearance form from HR, which I’m supposed to fill out as I turn things in (my keys, uniform, linens, etc.). After putting away my laundry and cleaning up my room a bit more, I grabbed the box that I’d packed up yesterday and walked over to the lodge to ship it back home. Basically, it’s been a day of getting ready to leave this beautiful place.
            Nate told me at lunch today that he was originally scheduled to work the morning shift tomorrow, but Rebecca had asked him to switch shifts with her, so he’ll actually be working the later shift with me. I thought I wouldn’t be working with him anymore, so that was nice to hear. Tomorrow evening will be Nate, Maggie, Jen, and me at the desk. I think it’s supposed to be another pretty slow day. It’ll also be the last time I’ll get to work with Nate and Jen, which is kind of sad.
            I just got back to my room from having dinner with Brian in the EDR. I’ll miss all of the bellmen in the lodge; they’re a lot of fun to hang around. Later this evening I’ll probably go hang out in the Whistle Pig for what’ll be one of the last times. That place is always so much fun to go hang out and relax with other staff members in; I’ll miss not having it.
            Well, I probably only have a few more posts to add to this blog before finishing it off. I’ve had a lot of fun writing these posts, as well as being able to look over previous posts to remind myself of all the fun I’ve had this summer. This blog has been a great way to keep friends and family back home updated, as well as a great way to document this wonderful summer for me to look back on. This is my 120th post to this blog; that’s definitely a lot more than I expected I’d make. When I first made this, I thought I’d probably make updated once or twice a week. I certainly didn’t think I’d be able to make one every day. After I started making daily posts, though, I felt obligated to continue to do just that, even if there wasn’t much news to report about the day. Part of the way through the summer I realized that people that I don’t know at all were reading my blog. I know that part of the point of a blog is the fact that it’s public, but that still surprised me. I found it pretty cool that people that didn’t know me still wanted to keep up with this blog. I’ve also had several people even tell me that I should just find a new topic and continue to keep a blog after I get back to San Antonio. It may be hard to keep that interesting, but I’ll think about it.
            I guess this is a good time to announce on here what the title of this post means. A song called Closing Time by Semisonic says multiple times, “Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.” I think that, right now, that quote applies to my life. As this new beginning ends for me, the beginning of a new adventure is in the making! Anyone that knows me can tell you that one of my biggest dreams is going to Africa. Now, after many years of dreaming, I’ve officially started planning to make this trip a reality! With some help, I’ll be in South Africa from January 15 to March 23 of next year. My plan is to spend four weeks working with a great white shark conservation project, and then five weeks working in a baboon sanctuary that a friend of mine worked at a few years ago. Hey, depending on the connection there and the amount of free time I have, I might be able to keep a blog of that adventure as well.
I think that working here in Grand Teton National Park this summer has opened a lot of doors for me. I’ve met people who have previously worked and lived all over the world, and that’s just kind of opened my eyes to what other opportunities are out there. This has been a truly unforgettable summer, and I’m so glad that I made the decision to come out to this spectacular place for these past few months. 

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Piece Of My Heart

            So, as I suspected, today was a day of relaxing, hanging with people, and getting ready to ship some of my stuff back home. This morning I was able to hike up to Lunch Tree Hill again and enjoy that beautiful scene for one of the last times. I’ll miss the incredibly peaceful feeling I have when I’m up there, and watching the moose and elk grazing out in the Willow Flats below me. I heard some elk bugling for the first time a few evenings ago. In the fall male elk often bugle, especially in the mornings and evenings, to attract females. It’s a fairly high-pitched sound, and can be heard for miles. It’s known as one of the most distinctive sounds in nature, known as being almost as recognizable (and almost as haunting) as a gray wolf howl. I thought I might be leaving too early to hear them, but thankfully some of the elk have already started.
            I met Jesse, who also had today off, in the EDR at lunchtime. After that I headed over to the employee village office and got a box to use to ship some of my stuff that I’m not going to use anymore back home. Since I’m going back on a plane, I don’t have enough room to take everything back that I brought here. I also started to clean up my side of the room as much as possible so far, so I won’t have as much to do on my last day here. On the seventh, my last full day here, I want to be able to have some time to say goodbye to everyone after work, instead of just spending that entire time packing up. On the eighth all I’ll have to do is drop off my linens at the employee village office, grab my suitcase, and head out to the airport with Jesse. I’m really glad that he offered to give me a ride, instead of just getting a taxi. It’s about a 45-minute drive over there, and it’ll be nice to get a little more time with him that morning. He’s one of the people that I’ll miss the most.
            I just spent some time this evening sitting out on the back porch hanging out with Jesse and Cristina, who worked the morning shift today. It’s an absolutely beautiful day out today; the temperature is in the low seventies right now, and dropping since the sun’s going down. That back porch is a very simple place but, as I’ve mentioned before, it’s probably my favorite spot in this entire park. Some of my favorite memories with people here have taken place out on that porch, from Cristina’s birthday, to meeting Jesse on my very first evening here, to the multiple grill nights we’ve had out there, all of which have been a ton of fun. I’ll miss sitting under the overhang on rainy evening, taking in the wonderful smell of the rain mixed with the pine trees, and taking a pillow and blanket out there at night to lay on the picnic table and gaze up at the stars, which absolutely fill the sky here.
            Tomorrow will probably be a day of doing one last load of laundry, shipping out the box I packed up today, cleaning up my room some more, and hanging out with people around here while I still can. 

Monday, September 1, 2014

One Week More

            So, just as I suspected, last night at the desk was really slow and easy. Just like the night before, it was me, Sofi, Felix, and Jen working, and by the time we got there, we only had about 85 check-ins to take care of for the day. We didn’t have any tour groups (that would’ve made it way too easy!), and housekeeping had enough rooms ready before four that we could check most people in as soon as they arrived. We were also offering a walk-in rate to fill as many rooms as possible, and we raised our percent capacity quite a bit due to walk-ins.
            At around eight o’clock, Jen went up to the Pioneer Grill and got us all desserts. The desk was incredibly slow, so I spent some time in the back office chatting with Jen and enjoying the chocolate milkshake she got me. Zach, one of the bellmen, also told me yesterday that I’d won that week’s “fridge contest”. Most of the guest rooms don’t come with mini fridges (only the view rooms have them), but we can rent them out to guests for a twenty-dollar fee. The bellmen are the ones who deliver and collect those fridges, so the money from that goes to them. Needless to say, due to that, they try to get us to sell as many fridges as possible. So, a few weeks ago they started a contest among the front desk agents. The one who sells the most fridges that week will get twenty dollars in cash from them. This past week, I guess that person was me. I sat with Brian, the bell captain, at lunch just now, and he said to remind him when I came into work this afternoon and he’d give me the money.
            This evening I’ll be working with Jen, Maggie, and David at the desk. I don’t remember how many check-ins we’re expecting, but I’m sure it’ll be pretty low again. I was also sitting with Nate and Alyson at lunch today, and Nate said that we have a Backroads group expected in this evening, which will make it even easier. I really like Backroads groups- they’re much easier to check in, and the people in the group are just really pleasant to work with (unlike Tauck). Backroads also makes it easier on the activities desk, since they have all of their activities already planned out when they arrive (also unlike Tauck).  After my shift today, I have the next two days off. I have a feeling it’ll be a weekend of laundry, shipping some stuff home, and starting to pack, but hopefully I’ll have time for some fun as well.
            Well, a week from today, I’ll be off the plane, back in the crazy heat of San Antonio. It’s starting to really sink in that so soon, I’ll be leaving this beautiful place and these people. Today at lunch I mentioned that I’m not working any more shifts with Nate. I only have five total more shifts at the desk, one of which I’ll be working with Cristina, two more with Jen, two more with Emily, and no more with Rob. I’m ready to sleep in my own bed again, but it’ll be weird not waking up to the smell of Cristina’s shampoo as she comes back into the room from taking a shower. It’ll be weird never hearing Jesse or Tanner walk past our open window, going to or from work. It’ll be weird never hearing Elliot’s music playing as I walk past his door, or saying hi to him when we see each other in the hallway. I got so used to dorm life really quickly, that returning home will probably also take some getting used to. I’ll really miss living right around these people that I’ve become so close to. We pretty much knew from the beginning that we wouldn’t be together for too long, but within a couple of weeks we all felt like family. I’m excited to go home and see everybody that’s waiting back there, but at the same time, saying goodbye to these people won’t be fun. 

Sunday, August 31, 2014

No Vacancy Once Again

            Well, surprisingly, Jackson Lake Lodge was sold out last night. I guess I didn’t even think about the fact that it was Labor Day weekend until I got to work at three yesterday and saw that we were at full capacity. That definitely also had to do with the fact that we had 238 check-outs expected today. I’m sure Cristina and Nate have been very busy at the desk this morning taking care of those.
            Despite the fact that we were sold out last night, it was actually a pretty easy shift. The majority of the check-ins were taken care of pretty early, and by 8:30 we were down to less than twenty remaining. Jen, Sofi, Felix and I just browsed the Internet and talked to each other for most of the time after that. Those are actually all the same people that I’m working with tonight.
            I just got back from having lunch at the EDR with Nate, Maggie, and Alyson. Maggie’s also working this morning, and she told me to prepare for a slow night. When I looked at the schedule last night we only had 108 check-ins to take care of tonight, and Maggie told me that the morning shift has already done a few of those and inevitably will do some more before I go into work at three. I’m sure that at least one of the desk agents will go home early tonight.
            Rob was making the schedule when we arrived at work yesterday. Thankfully, on my last morning shift, a week from today, I have the morning shift like I asked. Soon I’m going to get a couple of boxes from the bellmen and ship some of my stuff back home. After being here for almost four months, it’s crazy to think that a week from tomorrow, I’ll be home. It’s been an amazing few months, but I’m ready to be back in San Antonio.
            The weather here today is cold and kind of rainy. When I woke up this morning I could hear the rain coming down outside my window. By the time I stepped out to go to lunch it had mostly stopped, but was still really cloudy and pretty cold. It’s about 46 degrees outside right now, and almost one o’clock in the afternoon. This place has probably the strangest weather of anywhere I’ve ever been. 

Saturday, August 30, 2014

I Will Remember You

            I just got back from having lunch at the EDR with Nate and Alyson, who works at the activities desk. They’re both working this morning, and said that it’s been pretty slow so far in the lobby. It will probably be an easy shift later on as well. As I said yesterday, we have 190 check-ins scheduled, but as long as housekeeping has the rooms ready in time, we should be fine. The earlier shift should actually be able to take care of some of those check-ins before I even get there. Nate also mentioned that we have a Backroads group coming in today, and maybe a few other tours as well. I think our time of really busy, hard shifts at the desk is over.
            Today Rob’s making the schedule for next week. When I go in at three I’ll have to make sure that I get the morning shift on the seventh, which is my last day at work. I’ll miss having Rob as a boss; he’s pretty fun to work with. Pretty much everyone here is nice to work and hang out with. I definitely miss my friends at the zoo, though, and can’t wait to be with them again.
            There are a lot of great memories that I’ve made here in this park over the summer. Kayaking on Jackson Lake, cliff jumping into the Gros Ventre River, and camping out the night before the fourth of July are just of the experiences that I’ll never forget and will be very special to me. More than anything, though, I’ll take the friendships that I’ve made this summer with me wherever I go. I hope that, when I say goodbye to these people in eight days, that it’ll be only a temporary goodbye and that, in whatever circumstance, I’ll see them again sometime. Whether that be back here in a future season, or somewhere else in the world, I’d really like to see my friends here again sometime, especially Cristina, Jesse, Tanner, and Nate. They’ve come to feel like family in the few short months since we met. We all come from different areas: Cristina from Florida, Nate from Arizona, Jesse from Michigan, Tanner from Virginia, and me from Texas. Different ages, different families, different backgrounds, yet we’ve become so close to each other since we moved into this spectacular place in May. And even if next week’s goodbye is a permanent one, and I won’t get to see them again, those four people especially helped to make these last few months the best summer of my life.  

Friday, August 29, 2014

Closing Time

When I arrived at the desk for work at about seven this morning, there were only ninety departures scheduled for the day. I don't remember ever seeing the number of check-outs being that low. I didn’t feel fully awake when I got to the desk, but it didn’t really matter since the lobby was so empty. Cristina, Rebecca and I knew it was going to be a long, slow morning, especially considering the fact that quite a few people don't even come to the desk to check out, but just leave the keys in their room. The only thing that occasionally makes check-outs a little more difficult is if there's a problem with the bill, but even that doesn't happen very often.
By the time I went to lunch the number of departures remaining had dropped from ninety down to about twenty. The rest of the shift was mainly just the three of us browsing the internet on our computers and occasionally checking people in that came in early. It was a very easy shift.
Cristina and I left at three, came back to our room, and relaxed until about 5:30, when we headed to dinner. We met and sat with Nate, Tanner and Brian in the EDR. They’d all had the day off, and had spent most of it going for a long hike over in Paintbrush Canyon. They looked a little worn out, but also happy.
Tomorrow I go into work at three, which I’m happy about. If I had to choose between being at the desk at seven in the morning or eleven o’clock at night, I’d prefer the latter. Both shifts have their typical busy times and slow times, and overall I’d say that the later shift is busier. I still like it better though. When I looked at the schedule I saw that we have about 190 expected arrivals for tomorrow, which is more than we’ve had in a while, but not overwhelming. Hopefully we have at least a couple of tours coming in. Sunday looks really easy for the later shift, with only exactly one hundred check-ins to take care of. Cristina and Nate, who work the earlier shift that day, will be really busy though; there’s about 230 check-outs scheduled. Even though check-outs are easier, I think that their shift that day will be harder than mine.
It definitely feels like the season is very close to its end. I can tell that some employees have already left; the EDR doesn’t feel as full at meals anymore. There are also a few signs up in employee areas asking if anyone wants to stay a few extra days to help the lodge close up for the winter. The end is definitely near…
 I work with Jen, Felix and Sofi for the next two days. Then on Monday I work with David, Maggie and Jen, before beginning my next and last weekend here in this park. I have nine more full days here until I head back home. Yes, I’m pretty much counting down at this point. I still love this place, but I’m ready to be back in San Antonio. 

Thursday, August 28, 2014

My Happy Ending

            Today overall went very similar to yesterday (not that that’s a bad thing). I relaxed out on the back porch that I love so much, went to the pool for very possibly the last time, and called a few friends back home. It was a good day. I’m not certain that today was my last day at the pool. Tomorrow I work the earlier shift at the desk, so if the weather stays as nice as it was today, I may go back there for a while after work.
            My schedule this week looks pretty easy. It’s another four day week, with my next days off being Tuesday and Wednesday. As I said, I work the earlier shift tomorrow, then the later shift the next three days. That will be my final “weekend” to enjoy here in this awesome park. In total, it looks like I have ten more full days to spend here before I board a plane out of Jackson Hole bright and early on the morning of the eighth. I’m honestly not sad about that though. The excitement for going home is definitely overpowering the sadness of leaving. I’ll miss this place, of course, and especially these people, but mainly I just want to go home. It turns out I’ll be home just in time for the animal handling update training at the zoo. I’m really glad that I’m not missing that, like I thought I would.
            Tonight is actually the docent recognition dinner at the zoo. This time it’s being held in the new restaurant in zootennial plaza, instead of in Africa Live. It makes me kind of sad to be missing that- reminds me of the feeling I got the night of bowling for rhinos at the beginning of the season. That was the first one of those events that I’d missed since I first started at the zoo, so missing it was hard. I can’t wait to go back to the zoo and see the docents, staff, new baby gibbon, and everything else about that place that I love so much.
            Last night I went and hung out at the Whistle Pig with a few people from the activities desk, and other staff that I know. I’ll miss having that place to go play pool in, put music on the juke box, and just relax and hang out with other employees. I’m really glad the company gave us a place like that.
            Tomorrow I’ll be working with Cristina, Rebecca, and Rob. It feels like a while since I’ve actually worked with Rob, since he almost always works the earlier shift, and I’m usually working the later one. He’s pretty fun to work with though, as are Cristina and Rebecca. Cristina and I also don’t work together very often, but of course we still see each other every day. One thing that I think makes Cristina and me work together as roommates so well is the fact that neither of us feel the need to constantly be talking to each other when we’re in the room together. Especially at night, when we’re tired, we’re both perfectly content to just sit on our beds and read or be on our laptops instead of talking. Now, there are times when we’ll choose to talk to each other as well, of course, but sometimes it’s nice to just sit in silence without it feeling awkward.
            I just got finished spending some time out on the picnic table on the back porch with Cristina, Tanner, Jesse and Nate. I’m going to miss the four of them more than anyone else that I’ve met here. They’re a lot of fun to hang out with. I don’t think I’ll go to the Whistle Pig tonight since I have to get up early for work tomorrow, but I’ll probably go there for at least a couple of nights this week after work. I’m sure I’ll also spend a few mornings up on Lunch Tree Hill, enjoying the amazing view up there. I want to enjoy those kinds of things as much as I can, while I still have them. 

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Pocketful Of Sunshine

            Today was a very nice and relaxing beginning to my next to last weekend here in Grand Teton National Park. It’s been pretty cold and rainy the past few days here, but thankfully the weather today cooperated enough to let me spend some time in the pool this afternoon. It was nice and sunny, with the temperature in the low seventies. It’s predicted to be the same tomorrow as well, so hopefully I can go back to the pool. The water felt absolutely great, as it always does.
            Yesterday I got off work a little early, as I kind of expected to. It was another slow evening at the desk with me, Sofi, Maggie, and Emily. We’d had a couple of groups come in, and so by about nine there were less than twenty check-ins left, which is when I went home. I also got a tip at work yesterday from a couple that was here for their anniversary that I upgraded from a classic cottage to a mountain view room. Since we’re not sold out anymore, we’re able to do that kind of thing a little more, which is nice. Front desk agents almost never get tipped, so it was nice to get one.
            Rob was back at work yesterday, so he heard that I’d put in my two weeks notice. I asked him if I could be scheduled to have the earlier shift on the seventh, which will be my last day. Seeing as how I’ll also have to turn in my bank and uniform that day, and I have to leave the lodge at five o’clock in the morning the next day in order to get to the airport on time. He said to remind him again later in the week, and he’ll make sure I get the earlier shift.
            Today Jesse and I both headed over to the EDR for lunch at the same time. He didn’t go into work until this evening. When I told him that I was planning on getting a taxi to the airport on the eighth, he offered to drive me instead. I told him that I’d have to leave really early, but he said that as long as he wasn’t working really late the night before, he wouldn’t mind getting up early to drive me. I was pretty surprised that he actually offered to do that, but thought it was awesome. Hopefully Steve, his boss, doesn’t make him work the previous night.
            Well, I don’t really have any other news from today. I think I’ll head over to the Whistle Pig tonight. I really love that place, and don’t really have many more opportunities to go hang out there. 

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Someday Soon

            Well, thankfully I didn’t have to jump out of bed early this morning to catch the shuttle into town again. As I said in yesterday’s post, hanging around Jackson was actually pretty fun, but it was nice to be able to just sleep this morning. The rest of last night’s shift at the desk was very easy and slow, like the last few have been. Looking at the schedule of arrivals last night I saw that we have about 125 check-ins to take care of today, which will also be really easy. It’ll be me, Sofi, Maggie, and Emily working the desk for this shift. I think there’s probably a decent chance that I’ll get to leave work early this evening simply because I don’t think they’ll need all of us there the whole time, especially if we have any groups coming in. That always makes it easier. Also, since we haven’t been sold out in a while, housekeeping has been getting the rooms ready ahead of time every day, so we’re always able to get people into their rooms by four, or usually earlier.
            I’m definitely happy that today’s my Friday. Even though it’s only been a four day week, I’m ready for a couple of days off. The sun’s out today, so it’s a little warmer than it’s been the past few days- it’s in the low sixties right now. The next few days it’s supposed to get into the seventies, so maybe I’ll be able to go to the pool again. It’ll close up for the season right before I leave. If I don’t do that, I’ll at least have to go for a hike or something like that. I want to really enjoy my last few days to myself in this beautiful park.
            Rob’s been off the past few days, but he’s back today, which means today’s the day he’ll probably find out that I’m leaving early. I’ll try to find time to talk to him today to ask if I can have the earlier shift on the seventh, which is my last day. I’ll also have to turn in my uniform and bank that day, and finish packing up, not to mention I have to leave here at about five o’clock the next morning to get to the airport in time for my flight. Considering all of that, I’d really like to not have to be at the desk until eleven that night. If I tell him all of that, I think he’ll agree to give me the earlier shift that day.
            It’s really nice to think that, two weeks from today, I’ll be sleeping in my own bed back home in San Antonio. Just that in itself is something I’m looking forward to. The mattress I have here in my dorm room takes “firm” to the next level. I’ve woken up many, many morning with a sore hip, shoulder, or both because the mattress I’m sleeping on has almost no give to it. I’m definitely ready to be back in my own, soft bed back home. 

Monday, August 25, 2014

All By Myself

Well, I think this is the first time I've worked the later shift at the desk when I haven't posted a blog update earlier. In fact, I'm currently writing this post as an email note to myself while standing here at the desk. Normally I'd have no trouble updating my blog before coming into work, but it's already been a really full day for me! I'd been needing to head into town to pick up a few prescriptions and other things at the Albertson's there, but I hadn't been able to find anyone I knew that was going. Yesterday at work I grabbed a shuttle schedule and printed out a schedule for the bus that goes around the town since I knew that I had to pick up the prescriptions today. Thankfully, both the shuttle around the park and the town bus are free and pretty easy to use.
After getting up as quietly as possible to avoid waking Cristina, who's off today, and grabbing breakfast in the EDR, I got on the shuttle in front of the lodge at about 8:30. After making several stops in between, we got to the edge of town a little before ten, and just a few minutes later I was on the town bus heading for the Albertson's. Thankfully the bus dropped me off pretty much right outside the parking lot of the store, since the temperature was in the thirties. The sun was fighting to come out, so it eventually warmed up a little, but not too much. After grabbing my prescriptions in the pharmacy, I picked up a few other things, then ordered a small cup of coffee from the Starbucks that was inside the Albertson's and sat at a little table by the fireplace to relax for a bit. Yes, you read that right- there's a fireplace right inside the grocery store. And, even crazier, it was lit and burning brightly in August! It was insane for me, but here they seem to actually need it. It definitely felt good to warm up there by the fire with the coffee. When I was finished with that I left the store and walked a few blocks over to a small fast food place to grab a quick lunch, since I knew that by the time I got back to the lodge, the EDR would be closed. As I was eating lunch, I realized it was a little strange how comfortable and at ease I felt. I was on my own, with only the buses for transportation, in a town that I'd only known for a few months. Yes, Jackson is a pretty easy to navigate place, but it still surprised me how at ease I felt, especially considering that I had to be back at the edge of town by 12:30 to catch the shuttle back to the lodge. Despite being alone and on a time limit in a fairly unfamiliar town, I didn't feel at all rushed, lost, or unsafe. At one point I actually thought to myself, does this mean I'm growing up?
I ate lunch, got the town bus to the edge of Jackson, and caught the park shuttle, getting back to the lodge at about two. Cristina's been feeling a little bit sick the past couple of days, and when I got back to our room she was sound asleep. I put away the things I'd picked up and had just a few precious minutes of relaxation before getting ready to head into work.
So I've basically been running around since I first got up this morning, which is why I haven't been able to write a blog post yet. Using the shuttles to get both to and from town, as well as around inside it, was surprisingly very easy. Looking at the schedules at work last night I thought I might be a bit rushed to get back to the edge of town by 12:30, but it wasn't hard at all. The first shuttle actually dropped us off in town a little earlier than the schedule said, so I was able to get an earlier bus to the Albertson's, which definitely made me feel less rushed.
The weather today has made it pretty clear that summer here is over. When I headed out this morning it was 36 degrees outside, and stayed that way for most of the morning since it was mostly cloudy. While I was eating lunch the sun started fighting its way out, so it warmed up some this afternoon, but not much. I think it might've gotten into the mid fifties at some point this afternoon, but now it's gone down again. Right after I got into work it started raining. The downpour didn't last long, but while it did, it was strong!
I currently have about an hour left of tonight's shift, and there are already less than ten check-ins left. I've been working with Sofi and Maggie. Jen was here for a while at the beginning of the shift, but she left because she wasn't feeling good. Thankfully it's been a really slow night, so Maggie, Sofi and I can easily handle it. I think tomorrow I'll probably sleep in since I wasn't able to do that this morning. I go back into the desk at three, then I have Wednesday and Thursday off. Today's been a busy day, but hanging around Jackson by myself this morning was actually pretty fun. Don't get me wrong, it's fun to hang out there with friends too, but sometimes just being independent is nice.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

We Always Find Our Way Back Home

            Last night’s shift at work was really slow and easy. When Nate, Rebecca, and I arrived, we had about 115 check-ins to take care of. We were also expecting three groups, two of which we could batch check-in, which made it a lot easier. Since we didn’t have as many check-ins today, housekeeping was really on top of things, and had most of the rooms ready even before four o’clock. We didn’t have any problems with any of the rooms or guests, making it a very simple, easy shift, even though it got really slow for the last few hours of the night.
            Today I work the same shift with Nate, Sofia, and Jen. When I looked at the schedule yesterday, I saw that we had a lot more check-outs than check-ins today; about 250 check-outs and 160 check-ins. Hopefully housekeeping will do as good a job as they did yesterday, and we can start getting people into clean rooms by four, if not earlier. One hundred and sixty check-ins is more than we had yesterday, but we’ve certainly taken care of more than that pretty easily, so this shouldn’t be a bad shift either. We weren’t sold out last night- I think we ended the night being at about 94 percent capacity. Today we’ll be at considerably less than that since we have so many more people leaving than arriving. The good thing about that is we’ll be able to take in walk-ins, which we haven’t been able to do in quite a while.
            Now that I’ve already told Nate, Jesse, Tanner, and Cristina this in person, I guess it’s safe to announce this to everyone else on here. Today I officially put in my two weeks notice with my manager. I love everything about this park, except for the fact that it’s not home. I love waking up to the almost unreal beauty of the mountains, seeing the neighborhood foxes running around near my back door, the beautiful smell of rain mixed with pine trees that could never be recreated by people, and the wonderful friends that I’ve come to be so close to in only a few months. But, despite all of that, deep down I’ll always be a Texas girl, and I’m ready to come home to the city and the people (and, I’ll admit, the food) that I love so much. I’m really glad that I got a change of scenery this summer- I think that it’s just what I needed- and I don’t regret one second of being here. That being said, with my notice at work put in and plane ticket already booked for September 8, I’m counting down the days until I’m back in good old Texas! 

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Bitter End

            Well, the temperature’s still in the forties here today. It’s not raining anymore, but it is still really cloudy so I doubt it’ll warm up much. I just got back to my room from having lunch in the EDR with Nate. He also goes into work at three today, along with Rebecca and Jen. He was working last night as well, and when I asked how it was he said it’d been really slow pretty much the whole night. We saw Haley in the EDR, who’s working the morning shift today, and she said it’s been really slow so far today as well. Our busy season is definitely ending. Tonight should be very easy; I don’t know how many check-ins we have to do, but probably not very many. Nate said that when he came in yesterday, there were less than a hundred check-ins to do. It hasn’t been that low since the beginning of the season.
            This will be a four-day week for me since Rob gave me my normal Wednesday-Thursday weekend back. I just looked at the schedule, and all of my shifts this week are the later ones, which is fine with me, especially since I doubt we’ll be sold out any of those days. Today is actually Haley’s last day here at work. She was using this job as an internship, and she needs to head home to get ready for school to start back up. I know several other people who have also already left, for school or other reasons. It’s sad to see them go, but it’s just another sign that the season is coming to a close. I think that the summer weather here is completely over now, which is part of the reason that our occupancy levels are going down. Not as many people want to come out here in this weather. I don’t mind it, but that’s mainly because I was also here in the middle of summer, when it was almost constantly in the low seventies. I learned recently that the swimming pool here at Jackson Lake Lodge was the first swimming pool in all of Wyoming, and I think my time using it is over. It’s not officially closed just yet, but I don’t think anyone’s going to want to go swimming in cloudy, forty-five degree weather. It’s supposed to clear up a bit tomorrow, but even so, the high is only predicted to be about sixty. 

Friday, August 22, 2014

Colder Weather

            This will be a short post since there’s not a whole lot to say, and yesterday’s post was one of the longest ones that I’ve done. The temperature’s been in the forties here all day, and it’s been raining on and off, so I’ve had kind of a lazy day. Thankfully I did quite a bit with my day off yesterday, so I can kind of justify not doing too much today, especially considering the weather. I think that “summer” here is pretty much over. It’s expected to stay in the forties and fifties until at least Tuesday. It might warm up a bit after that, but probably not much. This weather feels especially weird knowing that the temperature is still in the triple digits back home. I woke up last night feeling pretty cold, so I pulled an extra blanket up over me. Cristina and I will probably go back to turning the heater in our room on at night soon, like we did at the beginning of the season. The weather here seems to be the total opposite of home, what with having such a short summer and long winter. And even what they call summer here would feel more like spring or fall back in San Antonio. I’ve actually heard that you could pick any day on the calendar, and sometime in the past 100 years there’s been snow in this park on that day. I definitely remember the crazy feeling of looking out the window on the morning of June eighteenth and seeing it actively snowing. Cristina and I both thought it was insane.
            I go back into work tomorrow at three. It’s felt really weird, but nice, having so much time off this week. What with schools starting back up and summer weather ending, our busiest part of the season is coming to a close. Most employees are getting more time off than the past months, and the overall stress of being constantly sold out is starting to fade away. I’m honestly not sad that this season is coming to a close. There are things about this place that I’ll miss, for sure. But there are also so many things about home that I’m missing and looking forward to returning to. It’s been amazing to get a change in scenery this summer, but I’m glad that this adventure was temporary. It’d be really hard for me to move away from Texas permanently. 

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Midnight Sun Where The Hot Springs Blow

The obligatory picture by the sign

One of the hot springs we saw

Old Faithful in all its glory

Upper Falls of the Yellowstone River

The stunning Lower Falls surrounded by the beautiful canyon walls that gave this park its name 

            Okay, first of all, I just have to say that this lyric has always kind of annoyed me because hot springs don’t really “blow”. Geysers do. But, anyway, it fit for today’s post. Yesterday I mentioned that I had an activity planned out for today that I was pretty excited about. Well, I finally got on the bus tour up to Yellowstone for the day! I’d been meaning to do it all season, and finally got to go today. It was me and fifteen other guests on the bus, plus the driver/guide.
            We left from the lodge at about 8:30 this morning. The first quick stop we made was at Flagg Ranch, just below the south border of Yellowstone, to pick up a couple more people. We also made a quick stop at the entrance of the park. Warren, the driver, took pictures of all of us in front of the Yellowstone sign. Early on the drive he told us that he’s originally from Oregon, and this is his seventh season leading the bus tours here. His wife works in the reservations department. They both work here in the summer, Colorado in the winter, and they travel in between. Sounds like a pretty good deal to me.
            Our next stop was at an area that had several hot springs and mud pots. Yellowstone is home to the greatest concentration of geothermal features (mud pots, hot springs, and geysers) in the world, and they’re the main reason that it became the first national park in 1872. The hot springs especially are very beautiful, since they have such crazy colors. They’re also the reason that Yellowstone is one of the more dangerous of the national parks. There are cases every year of people illegally stepping off of the boardwalks around the hot springs and getting too close to take pictures. The boardwalks are there because the ground near the hot springs is often very thin, and usually when people walk on it, they break through, fall into the hot spring, and literally boil to death. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is called natural selection.
            We walked around that area for a while, getting pictures and enjoying the beauty of the hot springs. Our next stop was at the most famous geyser in the world, Old Faithful (or Old Slightly Irregular, as the employees call it). The beautiful Old Faithful Inn is, appropriately, very close to it, and most of us ate lunch on their upper balcony, which has a great view of the geyser. It went off about twenty minutes after we arrived. The eruption lasted about three minutes, with water shooting up to about 150 feet into the air. It was definitely an impressive spectacle.
            After the eruption finished, I explored the inside of the beautiful inn until it was time to return to the bus. It had a very rustic feel inside, with nearly everything made of wood, a large fireplace in the center of the lobby, and some rocking chairs placed around it.
            The next stop after Old Faithful was to see the largest hot spring in the park, Grand Prismatic. It’s considered the third largest hot spring in the world, with the water in it getting up to 200 degrees. The colors in this spring are really amazing, with deep blue water in middle, turning yellow, then orange, then brown around the edges. It was drizzling a little when we got out, so I decided not to bring my camera. I knew this wouldn’t be my only chance to see it anyway.    
            We spent about twenty minutes walking around the boardwalk the surrounded the beautiful hot spring, before the cold, wet air drove us back to the shelter of the bus. It was a lot colder in Yellowstone than it was at the lodge, which I wasn’t too surprised about. The elevation throughout Yellowstone is about a thousand feet more than the lower park, so naturally it was colder there.
            After the hot springs, our next stop was to see Upper and Lower Falls of the Yellowstone River. Both are beautiful, but Lower Falls is more impressive just due to its size. It’s a little over a 300 foot waterfall, and is considered to be one of the most scenic waterfalls in the world. It drops the Yellowstone River into a huge canyon with bright colored rock walls that gave the park its name. It wasn’t raining there, thankfully, since it was a perfect picture spot.
            We returned through Lamar Valley and Hayden Valley, which are some of the top wildlife viewing spots in the park. We saw bison, elk, deer, moose, foxes, a coyote, and even a grizzly bear and a few wolves. It was a great trip back. As we drove by part of Yellowstone Lake (which is absolutely HUGE!!), I saw some cormorants playing in the water, and it reminded me of the cormorants that hang around the river by the zoo back home. They’re one of my favorite species of birds.
            I got back to the lodge just in time to meet Tanner and Cristina for dinner at the EDR. The weather’s a little rainy here tonight; I like the sound of the rain outside my back door here in the dorm. I have tomorrow off as well, and don’t have any plans so far. Tanner’s off as well, so maybe he and I will do something. I don’t expect to do anything big though.