Saturday, May 31, 2014

Summertime (And The Living Is Easy)

            First off, sorry I didn’t make a post yesterday. As I said earlier, I didn’t originally think that I’d be making posts on this every day, but after going a few days doing so, I started to feel obligated to give y’all daily updates. Yesterday, though, I just didn’t have time to sit down and write one. At about nine in the morning yesterday Jesse knocked on my back door and asked if I wanted to go into town with him. Cristina was working until three, and I didn’t have any other plans that morning, so I said sure. He had to get a few supplies for the little grill party we’re having this evening, so we spent the morning going around the small, fun town of Jackson. We also stopped to eat lunch before heading back into the park since we figured we’d miss lunch at the EDR.
            When we got back to the lodge, Jesse and I put the things we’d bought in our rooms and hung out on our back porch for a while again, just enjoying the amazing day. Cristina eventually got off work and came out to join us, and Elliot came out too. The four of us then went to dinner at the EDR together. It was payday yesterday, so after dinner we decided to go back into Jackson to cash our checks and go out and enjoy the Friday night. We went into one of the local bars, played a few games of pool, and ended up having a really great night. We got back to the lodge a little after ten, then went over to the Whistle Pig. Nate joined us there when he got off work.
            This morning I had my first morning shift, and it was really easy. I was working with Cristina, and it wasn’t very busy, so it turned out to be a pretty nice shift. I also learned that I’d gotten a shout out for great service by one of the guests. They labeled me on the shout out as “Elizabeth (from Texas)”, which I thought was pretty funny.
            After work Cristina, Elliot, Jesse and I went to the lodge’s swimming pool for a while. It felt really nice to be in the water, which wasn’t as cold as I expected.
Nate went on a raft trip today with some of his friends from his dorm. When he gets back Jesse’s going to start up the grill. We got sausages, mushrooms, red peppers, and a few other things to have when we were in Jackson. Being out there on our beautiful back patio with them will definitely be really nice. It looked like rain for a while this afternoon, but cleared up. Tomorrow Cristina, Nate and I all work the later shift at the desk, which should be cool. 
This whole using song lyrics as blog titles thing is a lot of fun. Also, I think it proves that I was born in the wrong generation. This guy is way before my time, yet I've known a lot of his music since I was about five years old. 

Thursday, May 29, 2014

The Best Day

          So today began my second “weekend” since I started my job here in GTNP. As I posted yesterday, I wasn’t totally sure when this weekend would be since the schedule had been switched around. Yesterday was my sixth day in a row to work, but in a way I wanted to work another day so I could have Saturday off. Jesse’s planning to grill some food by our back patio and have some people over to hang out on Saturday evening, and I really wanted to be there. Turns out I do work Saturday, but it’ll be my first morning shift, so I’ll be done by three. Cristina works that shift too, and Nate’s off Saturday, so everyone will be free to hang out that evening by our dorm. A few other people we know may join us. It should be fun. The EDR food is usually pretty good, but it’s nice to switch it up every once in a while.
            Yesterday evening I worked with Nate and Cristina at the desk. They’re probably my two best friends that I’ve made here so far, and it was the first shift that all three of us had together. It was a really nice, stress-free, fun shift. Cristina hadn’t worked the later shift at all before, but thankfully it was a day that we weren’t busy and didn’t have any problems come up, so it wasn’t hard at all. In fact, a lot of the shift was just the three of us standing behind the desk talking to each other. A couple of hours before the shift ended, Christopher said one of us could go early since we didn’t have very many more reservations that we were expecting. Cristina was a little sick, so Nate and I let her go first.
            At one point in the evening when there weren’t any guests around, I went over to the activities desk across the lobby to book a rafting trip this morning. All the employees were advised to do those events earlier or later in the season, when it wouldn’t be as busy. It’s awesome that people spend a lot of money to stay here and do all of these activities, and this company lets employees do them for free.
            I reserved a spot for myself on the scenic guided raft trip that started at nine this morning (didn’t have to get up too early, but got back in time for lunch). I met up with five other people who were on the ride in the lobby this morning, and the guide drove us over to the area where the rafts entered the Snake River. One couple on the ride with me I’d actually checked in to the lodge a few days ago. They didn’t recognize me until I mentioned it to them, though, since I didn’t have my uniform on. We got into the raft at about 9:15 and were on the water until almost noon. One animal that I’d never seen in the wild before was a bald eagle, which I’d heard were often seen on the raft trips. Several people that had seen them in the wild had told me how amazing it was, so I was really hoping that we’d see one. Our guide, Jess, said that we would actually pass a nest along the river.
            After being on the water for about half an hour, I got to see my very first wild bald eagle, and the experience didn’t disappoint. It was perched in one of the trees very close to the river’s edge. It’s hard to understand how big and beautiful they are until you see one like that. Along the raft tour we got to see a total of four bald eagles- three adults and one juvenile, which looks quite different from the adults. Also near the end of the tour we saw a moose near the edge of the water. Its antlers were still in velvet, but we could already see how big and beautiful they were.
            I was able to get back to the lodge in time to meet Nate and Cristina for lunch. They both go into work at three today. After lunch Cristina and I both sat out on our back patio, just enjoying the beautiful day. It’s about 65 degrees here, bright and sunny, with a cool breeze blowing. I honestly don’t think we’ve had a bad day in the time I’ve been here. I’m really glad that we got lucky enough to have one of the few dorm rooms that have the back door to this patio; we’ve been using it a lot. The area right outside our back door is the best: mostly shaded by tall pine trees, while still having some sunny spots, and we see and hear wildlife back here quite regularly. It’s really cool to see “Todd”, our neighborhood fox, run right past us. Elliot came out to join us for a while, and the three of us planned to go on a horseback ride tomorrow afternoon, since he’s off and Cristina is done at three. We then texted Jesse, who said he’d join us. I might also go to the lodge’s pool tomorrow morning, or maybe even later today, since it’s now open. Cristina and Nate just headed over to work; I’m currently sitting on the picnic table by our back door writing this.
            Looking over this, I just realized that this is the longest blog post that I’ve written so far. It’s already been a really fun weekend, and I still have tomorrow to do more fun things around this amazing place that I live in. 

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Change of Plans

            So turns out they changed the schedule around a bit and I’m actually working from 3-11 again today. Cristina and Nate will be working with me, though, so it should be a fun shift. It was also nice to sleep in a bit today, instead of having to be at work at seven, since I worked until eleven yesterday. They posted a new schedule yesterday that says, instead of having Thursday and Friday off, I’ll actually have Friday and Saturday off. If the second schedule is correct I’ll be working seven days in a row, but I’d honestly kind of prefer that since I would like Saturday off. I’m going to ask the supervisors today about which schedule I should follow.
            I got let out of work about half an hour early yesterday since it was pretty slow. Cristina, Nate, and Anthony, Nate’s roommate, had gone up to the Blue Heron, the lodge’s cocktail lounge, so I went up to join them. It’s a nice place, but probably one that we won’t go to often since it’s pretty expensive. The Whistle Pig is cheaper and overall more relaxed and fun. I really like that this company gives its employees a place to hang out and have fun without being around the guests. I've said a few times to people, working here kind of feels like a mix between college and summer camp. 
Cristina’s never worked the later shift before, so I think she’s a bit nervous. The morning shift is easier since checkouts are so much simpler to do than check-ins, but I got the hang of it pretty quickly. Also, since it’s Wednesday, I don’t expect it to be a super busy day. And it’ll be easier since there will be three of us again instead of two. I really don’t mind it being busy since that makes the time go faster than if we’re just standing around with not much to do. But since Cristina and Nate will be working with me, it’ll be nice even if it’s really slow. The managers on duty will be Christopher and Emily, like yesterday, and they’re both pretty laid back and fun as well.
Also, I just have to say, when I decided to keep a blog about this summer, I figured I’d try to update it a couple of times a week. I honestly didn’t think I’d make a new post every single day, like I’ve been doing. A few days I haven’t really had a lot of news to share, but I’ve still tried to find things to make my posts as interesting and fun as possible. I really like using this as a way to keep in touch with everyone back home, as well as just documenting this adventure for myself. 

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Friends, Fun, and Fire Alarms

            Last night wasn’t as busy at work as the past two nights. It was a pretty interesting and fun shift actually, though it did get pretty slow near the end. A couple came in the afternoon that had originally reserved one of the classic cottages outside, but asked if they could be upgraded to one of the mountain view rooms in the lodge. I checked on availability, and was able to move them to one of the better rooms. The couple then gave me my first tip of the season, which was pretty cool. Then, at about five, we had a fire alarm go off in the lobby. They’d briefly talked about the procedure in training, so we all walked out of the building to the flagpole in the parking lot, near the swimming pool, which just opened. After a few minutes we went back inside. Christopher later told us that there was some water in the elevator that had caused it. Don't know why that would set off a fire alarm...
            After dinner it got pretty slow, so I mainly just talked with Maggie and James, another one of my coworkers that was working with us, as well as Jen and Christopher, the managers on duty. Zach, one of the bellmen, hung around the desk and talked with us too.
            When the shift ended at eleven, I went to the Whistle Pig and met Nate, Elliot, Tanner, and some other people to hang out. Maggie and James came too, as well as Jen and Emily, one of the other managers. Again, we hung out in there until it closed at midnight. Cristina was asleep by the time I got back to the dorm.
            Today I work the 3-11 shift again, then Wednesday I work from 7-3, which is a shift I’ve never had before. I’m kind of looking forward to it actually. Check-outs are a lot easier to do than check-ins, so it shouldn’t be hard, and I get to leave at three, which will be especially nice since I have the next two days off. When it was slow last night I went across the lobby to the activities desk and got some information to get an idea of how to spend my next weekend. It should be fun. 

Monday, May 26, 2014

Another Day in Paradise

            Okay, so obviously not all of my blog posts use song lyrics in the title, but I like to throw one in if I can find a song title/lyric that fits. Thankfully last night’s shift wasn’t as crazy or stressful as the one before it. There were parts of it that came close, but most of the shift went really smoothly. There were about 130 check ins that we were expecting at the beginning of yesterday’s shift, which was about 100 less than the shift before. We also didn’t have any huge rush of people at once, like before, and the housekeeping department was moving faster, so most rooms were ready by four. There were a few issues with some rooms, but overall it went pretty smoothly.
            When the shift ended at 11, Nate and I went to the Whistle Pig again. Cristina and Elliot were already in there, and we hung with them until it closed. Nate’s working from 7 to 3 today, so he went home after that. Elliot, Cristina and I went with a few other people to another dorm room to hang and talk for a while longer, then we all went home. It was a pretty fun night.
            I work the 3-11 shift today and tomorrow, then the 7-3 shift on Wednesday, and Thursday and Friday I’m off. I think, since today is the end of a holiday weekend, there will be more people checking out than checking in, so I don’t think we’ll be too busy today. The past two shifts there have been three front desk agents, which has made things a lot easier. Last night Jen was the only manager on duty, and she got pretty stressed out for a while. Tonight Christopher will be working with her, so hopefully it won’t be as stressful for them.
            It’s hard to believe that I’ve only been out here for two weeks. Thinking about everything I’ve already seen and done, and everyone I’ve gotten to know, it feels like a lot longer than that. The weather has been absolutely beautiful. It can get up into the 60’s in the late morning and afternoon, sunny, with a regular cool breeze. When the sun goes behind the mountains the temperature drops pretty quickly, getting into the 40’s or lower at night. There are still patches of snow around, but not too many. I’m beginning to think it’s impossible to have a bad day here. 

Sunday, May 25, 2014

No Vacancy

            As of last night, Jackson Lake Lodge is at total capacity! Yesterday was definitely the craziest shift I’ve worked so far. The housekeeping staff was really busy trying to have all the rooms ready by four, when check in officially starts. There was actually a fundraiser event in the lodge, and a lot of people involved with that were staying overnight, which was the main reason we were totally full. They all seemed to come in one big rush to check in, which made it more stressful. When I started my shift at three, there were almost 250 check-ins that we were expecting. We were busy so consistently throughout the shift that none of the front desk agents were able to get a break for dinner. Near the end of the shift, when it finally slowed down, Jen (one of the managers) ordered us all food from the Whistle Pig. Nate, Maggie and I left the shift a little later than normal, so I didn’t eat dinner last night until about 11:30. Maggie just took her food to her dorm, but Nate and I ate and hung out in the Whistle Pig until it closed at midnight. I figured Cristina would be asleep by the time I got back to our room, which she was.
            We had to deal with a few angry guests while working. The main mix-up of the night was somehow two groups got checked into the same room. The first couple went and put their bags in the room, then left. When they came back, another group of people were in the room and their bags had been moved out. They came back to the front desk and were practically yelling at Nate. I felt kind of bad for him; it seemed like all the upset guests naturally went to the guy, and the happy guests came to the girls. Jen ended up giving the couple a free meal at the Mural Room, where they already had a reservation, and they calmed down. There were also some people that came in without a reservation that we had to turn down since we were totally full.
            At the end of the shift, both Jen and Brian, the bell captain, told me that shift was the craziest and most stressful that they’ll ever be. Guess it’s good that we got that one out of the way early.
            I go back in to work at three to work the same shift. Hopefully it won’t be as crazy as last night. Just now, as I was walking out of the EDR from having lunch, Nate texted me saying he heard that there was a bear at Moose Junction, only about a five-minute drive away. He picked me up in front of the lodge and we headed over. There was a large group of cars on the shoulder and several park rangers around the area. We pulled over, got out, and saw a large grizzly bear in front of the tall grass of the Willow Flats. After watching for a few minutes, we saw two yearling cubs crawl out of the grass to join her! Thankfully Nate had his camera with him and got some pictures of them. It was really amazing to see my very first wild grizzly bear, and then see the two cubs with her! 

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Best Days Of My Life

            There was a time when I honestly thought I’d never find a place I love more than the San Antonio Zoo. But I must say that no place has felt more like heaven to me than this park. It’s without a doubt the most beautiful place I’ve ever been, but that’s not even all of it. My job itself is actually really nice, especially with my fun coworkers and supervisors. GTLC is a great company to work for, and I’ve loved every minute of it.
            I worked the 3-11 shift yesterday with Nate and Jen, one of our managers. It’s gotten easier with shift. The only thing that took some getting used to was learning the computer system that we use to check people in and out. I think after doing a couple of check ins, though, everyone’s nervousness went away. Tonight, since we’re expecting it to be busier than yesterday, it’ll be me, Nate, and Maggie working 3-11. Still shouldn’t be hard, though. In a way I prefer it when it’s busier since the shift seems to go faster.
            Last night when we got off work, I sat right outside of my dorm building for a while and watched the meteor shower that was happening. Cristina was already asleep by the time I got in our room, and I was pretty tired too, so I didn’t stay out too long. This morning I did some reading on our back porch, and saw “Todd”, the neighborhood fox, again. He’s beautiful.
            At lunch today I looked up the zoo’s website to see the schedule for zoo camp, and almost automatically started putting it in my phone calendar. It was weird realizing that I didn’t need to do that, since that didn’t apply to me anymore. It’ll definitely be strange to not be involved with zoo camp for the first time in so many summers, but I’m glad I’m doing this instead. 

Friday, May 23, 2014

First Two Weeks

Two weeks ago today I left San Antonio to begin my adventure in Grand Teton National Park. It doesn’t seem like a long time, but I honestly can’t remember the last time I was away from my friends and family in SA for two weeks. There are some things I miss, but being in this amazing place with these great people is so worth it. Since most of the employees here have similar interests, and this company does a lot to bring all the employees together, it’s been really easy to make friends here in the park. It’s cool getting to know people from other areas as well; I’ve met employees from all over the US, as well as England, Bulgaria, Ukraine, Russia… I could go on. No offense to the summers that I worked zoo camp- I loved those times- but I have to say that this is quickly becoming the best summer of my life.
            Last night, after hanging out on our back porch some more, Cristina, Nate and I went back to the Whistle Pig. Elliot, who’s another one of our neighbors, joined us when he got off work. He works in the Mural Room, the fine dining room in the lodge, and we’ve gotten to know him from just seeing him around. We all hung out there together until it closed at midnight.
            Thankfully I don’t have to go into work until three again today, so I let myself sleep late. I’m still pretty sore from that nine-mile hike yesterday, so it’s nice to have the morning off. 

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Emma Matilda Lake Hike

            Today, for my second day off I took another hike with Shane, GTLC’s awesome employee recreation director, and some other employees that had the day off. There were eight of us total on the hike. We decided to hike around Emma Matilda Lake, which is an absolutely beautiful place to view the reflection of the Tetons on the water. We all brought water and Shane gave us all packed lunches since we knew it’d be a long hike. It was about nine miles total, took almost five hours, and parts involved us having to hike through knee-deep snow, but the view of the lake was totally worth it. We also saw a group of elk pretty close up as well as some hawks and wolf tracks. Shane also told us that we were the first group to hike this trail this year, which was pretty cool.
            We left the employee village at ten, and returned, super tired, at almost three. I walked over to the back door of my dorm room, where my neighbor Jesse was hanging out. We got really lucky; our dorm room is one of the only ones to have a back door. In our dorm building, which has 22 rooms, only three of them have back doors, and some dorm buildings don’t have any. It’s nice to be able to get into our dorm room without having to go through the main hallway. Jesse and his roommate Mike have the room right next to us, which also has a back door, and we hang out on the back porch area in the evenings regularly. We’ve put a few chairs out there, as well as a picnic table.
            My hiking shoes were soaking wet from hiking through a lot of snow, so I left them out on the back porch to dry out and, after talking with Jesse for a while, went to shower. Cristina was done with her shift by the time I got back, and we both relaxed until about 5:30 when we walked over to the EDR with Jesse for dinner. Nate was working a few extra hours- apparently the managers accidentally didn’t schedule and front desk agents to work the evening shift today- but he walked in for his dinner break not long after we did, and we all sat together. We told Nate to come over and hang on our back patio with us when he was done with work.
            After hiking five miles yesterday and nine today, I’m pretty tired out and my legs are really sore, but I think I used this first “weekend” to my full advantage. 

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

My First Day Off!

            After one day of orientations, three days of job training, and two days of official front desk work, today was my first day off. I’d made plans to meet with Nate and Tanner to go hiking this morning, and invited three girls that work in one of the lodge’s restaurants to come along. The six of us mat outside of the Whistle Pig at 10:00, and after looking at some hiking maps, we decided to hike over to a lake that people had told us was really beautiful. I also heard that it was a popular spot for wildlife to hang out, so we armed ourselves with some bear spray. Thankfully, since there were six of us, the advice to “make noise on the trails” was pretty easy to follow.
The trailhead was right across the street from the lodge, behind the corrals. There was still snow on the path in some areas, but nothing we couldn’t walk through or around. We found plenty of hoof tracks, as well as what I’m pretty sure were mountain lion tracks. We also saw several cool birds. The trail involved a lot of up and downhill hiking, and we had to stop to catch our breaths a few times since we’re not all totally used to the altitude yet, but the lake sure didn’t disappoint. We were surrounded by amazing scenery of the Tetons all along the hike, and seeing it all reflected in the lake was amazing.
The hike was about five miles total and took us about two hours. After returning to the lodge and refueling some calories at the employee dining room, Nate and I headed into Jackson. We both needed to pick up a few things, and also wanted to browse some of the beautiful galleries that are all around the town. We spent several hours doing that before coming back to the lodge. Cristina was back in the dorm by the time I got back; today was her first day of work. We both relaxed for a while in our room, then met up with Nate again to go to dinner. Overall, it was a well-used day off. Shane, the employee recreation director, set up a hike tomorrow morning for any employees that have time off, so that’s what I’ll be doing for my other day off. 

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Open For Business!

            So yesterday I worked my first real shift at the front desk of Jackson Lake Lodge. Since the lodge just opened to guests yesterday, it wasn’t very busy. For opening day, it went really well. There were a few hiccups, but nothing too bad at all. I think everyone might’ve been a little nervous when they first started, but after checking in one or two people the nervousness went away. There were three front desk agents working the morning shift, and then me and one other girl, Maggie, working the later shift. As the front office manager, Rob was there most of the day running all over helping everyone. He finally went home around six.
            Christopher and Jen were the two supervisors that were with me for the entire shift. There were some times during the shift that were busier than others, but it never got too crazy. In fact, by about 8:00 there were only four more reservations that we were expecting to check in that night, and Christopher and Jen let Maggie and me go at 9:00.
            Shortly before I went on my dinner break, I checked in a couple that told me they were coming from San Antonio! Excitedly, I immediately told them that I was from there as well, and we talked for a bit about what areas we were from, the weather down in SA, etc. I also checked in three couples that were here celebrating their 40th anniversaries, one couple celebrating their 50th, and one couple that were here for their honeymoon.
            I went to dinner at the same time as Tanner, a guy that lives in my dorm building and works at the activities desk across the lobby from the front desk. Nate, a front desk agent that had been working the morning shift, also came into the employee dining room at the same time as we did and sat with us. We learned that all three of us have Wednesday off, so we’re planning to go explore the park together that day. We’ll probably go into Jackson for a while to hang out as well.
            I was planning to just go home and go to sleep after my shift, but since we got off at nine instead of eleven, I decided to go to the Whistle Pig for a while. Nate and Tanner were both there, as well as some other people I knew. We played a few games of pool and hung out. Eventually, Christopher showed up there as well, and when I asked him he said the rest of the evening went smoothly. I work the same shift today, then I’ll have Wednesday and Thursday off. 

Monday, May 19, 2014

Lunch Tree Hill

Some deer I saw on the way up the hill

Me with the willow flats in the background

The beautiful Jackson Lake

Mount Moran- my favorite peak in the Teton Range

A moose I saw grazing out in the willow flats
            This morning I decided to hike up to Lunch Tree Hill, which several people have told me has a beautiful view. Cristina went over to Yellowstone for the day to hang out with her brother, who’s working over there. My shift isn’t until 3:00, and I knew I didn’t want to just sit around the dorm until then, so I grabbed my camera and headed out. The trailhead for the hike is actually in the employee dorm area, right behind the Whistle Pig, so it’s a fairly secret little path. I saw two white tailed deer on the hike up there. They actually stuck around long enough for me to get my camera out and take a few pictures of them.
            The hike was almost entirely uphill, but only took about fifteen minutes to get to the top. The view was absolutely spectacular. I could clearly see the Tetons, Jackson Lake, and the large meadow area between the lake and the lodge that we call Willow Flats. We’ve been told that we shouldn’t walk out into Willow Flats since there is a lot of wildlife that hang out in that area, so it’s pretty dangerous. That’s the same area that I saw the wild black bear two days ago. I learned on this hike that it’s also a great spot to see moose! I saw at least three moose there today. Along with being next to Jackson Lake, there are also several smaller streams that run through Willow Flats, which makes it a prime spot for moose to hang out since they eat plants that grow around water.
I decided to go ahead and make today’s blog post now since I work until 11:00 tonight and will probably be too tired to post one after that. The lodge is officially open to guests as of today, but we won’t be very busy yet. I’ll make another tomorrow about how my first real shift goes. 

Sunday, May 18, 2014

We Open Tomorrow!!

            Today was the third and final day of job training; the lodge officially opens to guests tomorrow! Training has really seemed like information overload, but I think we’ll be okay after some more practice. We won’t be too busy at first anyway. I heard that tomorrow we’re expecting to get to about 25 percent capacity based on the reservations we have, which is about 65 people.
            Today I also learned that one of the perks of working in a lodge with two awesome restaurants is the staff gets to sample all the dishes they offer so we can offer recommendations to guests. At lunch time today, instead of going to the employee cafeteria, we went upstairs to the Pioneer Grill, which is a fifties style diner in the lodge. The staff basically brought out two or three plates of most menu items, and we passed all the plates around, tasting everything. The chicken wings and one of the burgers were especially delicious, but everything I tasted was really good. It was a pretty fun lunch.
            The supervisors let us out of training at about 2:30 so we could go back to our dorms to change out of our uniforms and be back to the lodge at 3:00 for the summer 2014 kickoff event. There were several speakers including the head of Grand Teton Lodge Company, the manager of the hotel, and one of the head park rangers. They all talked about what their “experience of a lifetime” has been in the Tetons, and also asked some people in the audience that were returners what their favorite experiences were. When the speakers were finished we all gathered for a big group picture, then just mingled for a while and headed back to the dorms. Cristina and I were hanging with one of our coworkers, who we were walking back with. We’re meeting him in about half an hour outside our dorm to head to dinner.
Tomorrow I’m planning to go for a hike since I won’t need to be at work until 3:00; I work the desk from 3:00 to 11:00 the next two days. 

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Second Day of Training

            Today was the second day of job training. It’s felt a bit like information overload, but I don’t feel too nervous. Today we mainly learned the computer system that is used to check people in and out, and got an overview of the restaurants, gift shops, and other amenities in the lodge that we should offer to guests. This lodge is huge and absolutely beautiful. There are only guest rooms on the third floor; the second floor has two restaurants, one bar, a lobby with huge windows revealing an amazing view of the Tetons, and three gift shops. Most of the rooms we offer are actually the separate cottages around the lodge; there are nearly 350 of those.
            The supervisors I’ve been working with are the absolute best! I have four main supervisors: Rob, Emily, Jennifer, and Christopher, and they’re all great. They’ve all told us multiple times that at least one of them will always be close by while we’re working so they can help out.
            I just got back to my dorm after having dinner with some of my coworkers. I think later we’re going to go hang out at the Whistle Pig, which is the employee only restaurant and bar here in the dorm area. I hung out in there last night for the first time, with Cristina and our neighbor Jesse. It’s a nice little building, with a tv, a few pool tables, and just some tables and chairs to sit and hang out with other employees.
            Tomorrow is our third and final day of job training, then in the evening there’s a big employee party in the lodge to kick off the season. It’s the first of a lot of parties, socials, game/movie nights, barbecues, and other employee only events set up for us throughout the season. Again, I’m really amazed at how well this company treats its employees. 

Friday, May 16, 2014

Job Training! Day One

            We got out of job training early today, so I figured I’d go ahead and make a blog post before dinner since I have some free time. After getting into my uniform (which we’re supposed to wear for training), I headed over to the lodge with Cristina to pick up our employee ID cards, then eat breakfast. We saw several other front desk agents in the cafeteria and joined them to eat, then we all headed over to the front desk to meet for our first day of training. There are nine front desk agents and three night auditors in the training, which is lead by our four main supervisors.
            Today seemed like mainly an overview of what we’ll be doing, standards and expectations, policies, and guest service information. We also got a tour of the lodge, including a few types of rooms they offer, and the separate cottages around the lodge that are also available to guests. Turns out one of the rooms in the lodge was once stayed in by John F. Kennedy and his wife, as well as Marilyn Monroe (not at the same time lol). Of course, that’s also a room that now rents out for over 800 dollars a night. A lot of the rooms in the lodge have absolutely spectacular views of the Tetons from their large windows, as do some of the cottages.
            While we were all standing on the balcony of one of the second story cottages this afternoon, I noticed a black bear in the field between the lodge and Jackson Lake itself. Having never seen a wild black bear before, it was pretty exciting.
            Before being let out of training for the day, we found out our schedules for next week. My days off are next Wednesday and Thursday, the 21st and 22nd. I think on Wednesday I’ll probably go hiking with one of my coworkers who also has that day off. On Monday, Tuesday and Friday I have the later shift of the day, 3:00 to 11:00 PM. The supervisors told us that we wouldn’t necessarily have the same schedule every week. 

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Day One in the Dorms

            Today was my first full day here in the dorms, as well as orientation day. In the morning, after having breakfast, I went to HR to turn in my paperwork and get my employee nametag and uniform. While in line to turn in the paperwork, I noticed that a girl came from Bulgaria to work here, and one of the culinary cooks at the lodge is completely deaf. He was right in front of me in line, when he got to the front I realized he was deaf, then when he was done and I came to the front, I saw on the sign in sheet he’d filled out “culinary cook” as his title.
            After coming back to the dorms to put my uniforms away and hanging out for a bit, I went with my roommate back to the cafeteria for lunch. The employee cafeteria here is awesome, by the way. The food is great, they’re well equipped with several choices for every meal, the line moves really fast, and they even have ice cream available after dinner. Anyway, after lunch we went to orientation, which started at one.
            Orientation lasted about two and a half hours and covered a lot of information. The first speaker was one of the training managers of the Grand Teton Lodge Company, then the employee recreation manager (yes, that’s really his job), and finally a park ranger. As they said in orientation, people pay literally thousands of dollars to come stay here and take part in all of the activities GTNP offers, and we have all of it available to us for free. I’m also just amazed at how well this company treats its employees; there are tons of parties, socials, barbecues, and staff-only activities that are happening all the time. There’s actually a party coming up Sunday evening, right before the lodge opens to the guests on Monday.
            When orientation was over, at about 3:30, I decided to walk around the dorm area for a while. It warmed up nicely this afternoon, and was an absolutely beautiful day. There’s a small basketball court in between two of the dorm buildings, and some guys were playing around on it while several others were sitting near it watching. I recognized two of them as the guys that had introduced themselves to me at dinner last night, so I went and sat next to them and struck up a conversation. After a while Cristina came out of the dorm and started hanging out with us too. I learned that the two main guys I was talking to will both be bartenders and servers in the restaurant in the lodge, so they’ll be working very close to us. I think we’ll all probably hang out again soon.
            After going and getting dinner, the rooms department had an informal get together to get to know each other. I met the other front desk agents- there’s about ten of us- as well as some of the housekeeping staff, and all of the supervisors in the department. 

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Temporary Home

            So my suitcase is unpacked, my stuff is put away, and I’m officially moved into the employee dorms here next to Jackson Lake Lodge! I just got back from having dinner at the employee cafeteria with my roommate, Cristina. Turns out we’re both animal and literature nuts (we both love Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy), and we’ll both be front desk agents at the lodge this summer.
Along with getting settled into the dorm, I’ve briefly met three of my supervisors and gotten a tour of the area, including walking around the lodge itself. The view of the Tetons from the upstairs lobby is just spectacular. I’ll take some pictures and post them later, but there’s nothing like seeing it in person.
Tomorrow we’ll have an orientation, get our uniforms and employee ID’s, and meet the other coworkers. It looks like a lot of the employees are already here. The employee parking lots are pretty full and the cafeteria was very full and busy this evening. So far everyone’s been really friendly; while eating dinner several guys came to sit at the table next to us and introduced themselves, and the supervisors that I met seemed really nice. I’m living in dorm two, which is a co-ed dorm. Our dorm definitely doesn’t seem full yet. In fact, so far it seems like Cristina and I are the only girls in the building. The dorm buildings are fairly small; one floor with about ten rooms on each side of the hall. The whole area seems pretty easy to learn. I’ve only been here a couple of hours, and already feel like I know it fairly well. Awesomely enough, the walk from my dorm room to the lodge desk where I’ll be working is less than ten minutes.  

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Welcome to Paradise

Some of these bison got really close to us!

Me in front of the huge and beautiful Jackson Lake

Jenny Lake, still frozen over

            I think I’ve said the word “wow” more in the past two days than I did last year. This morning we were out exploring the park by 8:00. First we returned to the same spot that we stopped yesterday, so we could take some pictures with the sun in a better spot. Then we headed up to Jackson Lake! The temperature dropped a little as we got closer to the lake, and by the time we parked by one of the overlooks, it was less than 30 degrees. Jackson Lake is absolutely huge! Part of it is still frozen over, but a lot of it is melted by now. From where we were, we couldn’t even see the entire lake; it just kept on going.
            After admiring and taking pictures of the lake for a while, we returned to our warm car and drove back down the road, looking for another interesting spot to stop and walk around. On that drive we saw a small group of bison and even a moose beside the road!
            We pulled into a small parking lot near the head of a hiking trail and decided to walk down one of the shorter hikes. While out on the trail, we passed the horse stables they have here, saw a family of chipmunks and ground squirrels, and then sat by a creek to relax. We’re at an altitude of nearly two miles here, and the elevation made us tire out faster.
            After getting back to the car and stopping at a small restaurant in the park for lunch, we went to look for Jenny Lake. The hike over to it wasn’t very long, but was a little tricky since most of that path still had a lot of snow on it. Jenny Lake, which is smaller than Jackson Lake but still pretty big, was still mostly frozen over. There were a few open patches of water near the middle, but most of it still had a layer of ice over the top. We wanted to see some more wildlife, so I suggested we go back into the town of Jackson for a while to relax and do a few things, then head back into the park in the evening, when a lot of the animals are more active.
            Following that plan, we went back to the hotel for a while, then headed back into the park at about 5:30. We turned onto a small road that I’d heard was in a good spot to view wildlife. We drove slowly, looking around, and parked for a while near an overlook of a river where a few other cars were parked. There were a few Canada geese and trumpeter swans by the water that I got a few pictures of, but nothing else that we could see from that point. After going a little farther with no luck, we turned around and headed back. About halfway back to the main road I saw something and quickly told my dad to stop the car. He pulled over and we got out to see a moose mostly hidden in a thicket about 25 yards off the road. We stayed there a while and watched the moose, who eventually moved out of the thicket and gave us a better view of it. It was my favorite moment of the day, especially since we almost missed seeing it.
            On the way out of the park we saw several cars pulled over in front of us. As we came up to them we saw that a lone bison was grazing just about twenty feet from the road. Needless to say, we stopped again to admire it and take pictures before coming back into Jackson. 

Monday, May 12, 2014

A Little Piece of Heaven

            Thankfully by the time we woke up this morning, it had stopped snowing and the highways were being cleared. By 8:30, we were back on the road! The first hour or so was a bit scary since there was still snow on the road, but after we passed that, the rest of the way was pretty easy. The scenery around us got more impressive the closer we came to the park. Almost as soon as we crossed into Wyoming I saw several bison standing beside the road. The first animal that I got excited about seeing was a pronghorn, standing in a field next to the highway. The pronghorn is the fastest animal in the western hemisphere, so, having never seen one before, I was really excited. We saw several more groups of them along the way.
            At about 5:00, we officially entered Grand Teton National Park for the first time! The view of the Tetons from the road we were on was absolutely amazing; I think my mouth was literally hanging open in awe. We pulled over for a while to get out and take some pictures. We also saw some more grazing bison while driving through the park.
            When we got to Jackson we checked into our hotel, then walked around the town for a while looking for a place to eat. We ended up having a really nice dinner at a local grill, then walking over to a little ice cream shop to get dessert, and walked around exploring town for a while. When the sun dipped behind the mountains, though, it got really cold pretty fast, and we walked back to our warm hotel room.
            Tomorrow will be my first day to get to really explore the park that will be my home until October. Don’t worry; I’ll definitely bring my camera along for the adventure! 

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Stuck in Colder Weather

Wonder who knows what song I'm quoting with this title... So, unlike planned, I'm writing this post in the same spot that I wrote yesterday's. We woke up this morning to see that it was actively snowing here in Fort Collins. It didn't seem that bad, though, so we checked out of the hotel early and were back on the road by 7:30 (which felt like 8:30 for us). We hadn't been on the road long when we saw a sign that the highway we needed was closed from here to Laramie, WY due to the snow. With not much else to do, we returned to the hotel, got our room back, and looked up alternate routes, road closures, and weather conditions from here to Jackson. Most of the highways were closed or at least in bad condition, and by about 10:00 we could tell we probably wouldn't be able to continue the trip today. The snow is still steadily falling outside the window as I'm writing this, and the wind is blowing pretty strong as well. Thankfully we planned to have a few extra days before I have to report to work, and the bulk of the trip was made yesterday, so we're not in too big a rush. Hopefully tomorrow we'll be able to continue though. 
I honestly don't really mind that we were pushed back a day. Call me young and naive, but this is the heaviest snowfall I've seen in my life. As long as we're here in this warm hotel (that serves dinner!), the snow outside is beautiful. 

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Look Out Jackson Town!

            Okay, maybe there’s a theme forming as far as my post titles. And before someone asks, yes, I know that the city Johnny Cash is referring to in that song isn’t Jackson, Wyoming. Anyway… we survived day two of the road trip! After being on the road for nearly ten hours today, and passing into Mountain Standard Time, we accomplished our goal of getting to Fort Collins. Not long after getting off the highway here, we passed a pond with several Canada geese standing around it. A fairly simple sight, but I still thought it was pretty cool.  
We came a lot farther today than we need to go tomorrow, so we should be in Jackson with some time to look around the town before the sun goes down. Then, Monday we’ll finally get to explore Grand Teton National Park!  
            On the road today we got a view of the Rockies- which still have plenty of snow on them! It’s definitely a lot colder here in Fort Collins than it was in Lubbock this morning. Also rained a bit this evening. So it’s very possible that it’s snowing in GT tonight.
            When we crossed into New Mexico this morning, it felt strange knowing that I’ll be out of Texas for much longer than I’ve ever been before. But the view of the snow-covered mountain peaks made me too excited to be sad. I’ll be in Jackson tomorrow!!! 

Friday, May 9, 2014

Amarillo By Morning

            Forgive the title; being the lifelong Texan that I am, I just have to put out an occasional George Strait reference! Day one of the road trip has been successful. My dad and I are in our hotel in Lubbock; just finished having dinner with my brother. We figured we’d come see him one more time before leaving, and spend the first night here. We had lunch at a Dairy Queen on the road today. Needless to say, I cherished that meal. Don’t think I’ll be having DQ again for quite a while.
            The plan for tomorrow is to hit the road by 8:00, go up through- you guessed it- Amarillo, into New Mexico for a while, then Colorado. Hopefully we’ll be able to get passed Denver by tomorrow evening. We don’t have a hotel reserved anywhere; just going to keep on driving until we get tired and find a place! Our goal is to get to about Fort Collins, or at least near there, so the next day's drive won't be as bad. I slept a little in the car this morning, since the drive from San Antonio to Lubbock isn’t the most scenic in the world, and it’s a road I’ve already traveled multiple times. It seems almost impossible to me to drive more than an hour in Texas and not see either livestock, oil rigs, or windmills, and on the drive today we saw plenty of all of those things! We should definitely see some nice scenery tomorrow, though, going through New Mexico and Colorado. Just for fun, I’m keeping track of the different state license plates that I see on this trip. I’ve already seen Oklahoma, Colorado, California, Georgia, Illinois, New York, Florida, Arizona, and North Dakota. Wonder how many states I can add to that list tomorrow… 

Thursday, May 8, 2014

See You Later, San Antonio!

            Well, I guess this is it. My bags are packed and waiting by the door, and I’ve hugged and said bye to my friends here in SA. I went out this evening with my family for one last Mexican food meal before leaving (kinda doubt I’ll find great Mexican food in Wyoming), and I admit, I got a bit emotional as I said goodbye to them. It’ll definitely be very different being away from all of them for this long.
            Yesterday I spent the day at the SA zoo, seeing all the people and animals I love one more time before leaving. I managed to avoid crying, but as I hugged and said goodbye to some of my education buddies (cough cough Laurie and Lana) I came pretty close. Not working zoo camp this summer will be weird; it’s been a part of my life for many years now. I’ll miss working with the crazy teen volunteers that kept my job interesting and fun, and the regular campers that I’ve gotten to know over the summers. But at the same time, I’m really glad that I decided to try something different this year, and I can’t wait to get up to Grand Teton National Park! The emails I’ve been getting from my soon-to-be supervisors and coworkers just makes me more excited and happy to be spending my summer this way. I really can’t wait to meet them all, and especially to meet my roommate. Since I’ve never had a roommate before, I’m curious about how that will be.
            Well, tomorrow morning my dad and I are going to pick up the rental car we’re using on the drive up, and then hit the road! To my amazement and excitement, he offered to drive me up there instead of put me on a plane. Neither of us have been in that area of the country before, so it should be a great road trip! Heading to Lubbock first to hang with my bro one more time before leaving, then on to Wyoming! 

Friday, May 2, 2014

One Week!

A week from today I’ll be leaving San Antonio for five months. I can’t believe how fast this has come! I got the job offer in early March, but it feels much more recent than that. I’ve been getting introduction emails from my supervisors at Jackson Lake Lodge, as well as the people that will be my coworkers. So far I haven’t heard from anyone else from Texas. I keep wondering if I have a “Texas accent”, or if the people up in Wyoming will sound different. Guess I’ll just have to wait and see.
I spent this afternoon hanging out at the zoo and, not going to lie, when I thought about the fact that I’d soon be leaving, I almost started to cry. Just kept telling myself that it’s not a permanent goodbye. Since I was a very regular zoo guest even before I started volunteering, this trip may very well be the longest I’ve been away from that place in my entire life.
However, all of that being said, the thought of being up in Wyoming so soon makes me super excited! I’ve looked at plenty of pictures that were taken in and around the park, but I’ve learned from behind the scenes opportunities at the zoo, seeing a picture and seeing the actual thing are two very different experiences. It’s impossible to decide what I’m most excited about. I do know that May is a great time to see the park’s wildlife with their babies. That should be awesome; I’m definitely bringing my camera!