Yellowstone Makes Merry
Christmas in August is a longstanding tradition in the park. According to Yellowstone folklore, it began in the early part of the 20th century when a freak snowstorm stranded a group of visitors at the Old Faithful Inn on August 25th. Rather than lament their misfortune, the group decided to embrace the situation by decorating a tree, singing carols, and watching the snow fall.
While it's possible this could have happened (it can - and has - snowed in all 12 months), there is no modern historical record of an August blizzard in the park.
In reality, the tradition probably traces its roots back to the 1930s and/or 1940s when seasonal park employees annually held a celebration toward the end of the tourist season before returning to their homes. By the 1950s this morphed into Christmas in August. The 25th was designated as the date, and the rest is history.
The park gets into the spirit in a big way. You'll even find lights and decorations at campgrounds.
Someone makes their way into the Firehole River every year to decorate a little lodgepole pine tenaciously growing from a boulder. See below. (The present at the base of the tree is a six-pack of Moose Drool.)
The nexus of holiday spirit remains the Old Faithful Inn, though, where legend says the whole thing began. You'll even find Santa there, as he takes time out from his summer vacation to swing down from the North Pole and make an appearance.
Last week the park was once again decked out in its holiday finery and "Merry Christmas" was the appropriate greeting for the day.
"Christmas comes twice a year - once at home and once up here."
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Rut season is now underway for some of the larger animals (bison, elk, moose) in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. At twilight, you'll hear bull elk bugling - a signature autumnal sound.
Berries are ripe and plentiful. When you encounter them along hiking trails, exercise extreme caution. Bears love berries, and they're actively seeking out food sources to put on weight in advance of winter.
Grand Teton National Park allows berry harvesting, with a limit of one quart per species per person per day.
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