Some people listen to the morning traffic reports to determine the best route for their commute to work. I look out my front window. If there’s a bison staring back at me, it means I’m driving instead of walking. “The bison trapped me in my house” is not an acceptable reason for being late to work around here. If given the choice, I’ll always walk to work.
I live in a house in Yellowstone National Park, and to get to my office in the Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel I travel about a quarter-mile.
I have three route choices. From my front walk I can take a right and watch the sunrise over “Officer’s Row,” a street of historic homes that once housed high-ranking U.S. Army personnel. Interpretive signs along the sidewalk are a pleasant reminder of the human history of Yellowstone.
Or I can take a left and stroll past Liberty Cap, a funky-looking 37-foot obelisk formed by mineral deposits from a hot spring. My “left turn” walking route also takes me by the Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel dining room, which features massive windows overlooking the dream field. On these especially dramatic mornings I’ll see visitors – dressed for their daily adventure – just staring out those windows. You can see them taking it in. Often I notice the smiles and animated chatter.
Or I can head straight ahead from my front walk, into a big sagebrush and grass field that I’ve come to think of as my own personal “field of dreams”…daydreams, that is. Walking through the sage is a journey of the senses. The springtime scent of sage and bloom of wild irises, the occasional summer snake, and snowshoe hares in the winter are all part of the reward. The grassy part of the field closest to the Mammoth Hotel was once used as parade grounds when the Mammoth area was known as Fort Yellowstone and the park was managed by the U.S. Army. The parade grounds are a favorite grazing area for bison and elk.
In the fall, I’ll always see a massive bull elk surrounded by his harem. In the spring, I have to be extra cautious about cow elk as they’re especially protective of their calves. In the summer, I often pass visitors out for an early-morning walk, and if I’m lucky I’ll get to overhear them chatting about some terrific park experience.
This morning, a bald eagle flew directly over my head and slowly circled the field before disappearing over a snow-covered ridge behind the Mammoth Terraces. I paused and watched until it was no longer visible.
Regardless of whether I travel through or around my field of dreams, what I see throughout the year still surprises and motivates me. And by the time I get to my office, I am inspired.