Spring visitors cherish Yellowstone’s quiet days before summer crush

YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK – Baseball fans relish opening day, movie mavens line the sidewalks at Hollywood premieres, and the glamorous glitterati flock to fashion week.

But for nature lovers and animal aficionados, there is no match for the first few weeks of the summer season in Yellowstone National Park.

Though May in Yellowstone seldom seems like summer, it marks a time when locals make that first dash into the park, as well as a chance for workers to gear up for the crush of the millions who will visit over the next few months.

May 3, 2009: Spring visitors cherish Yellowstone’s quiet days before summer crush


Heart Mountain holds special meaning for generations

HEART MOUNTAIN — Rising 3,000 feet from the valley floor, this mountain topped by a massive slab of limestone remains a puzzle to scientists and a powerful icon to those who live in its shadow.

A sacred site to the Crow Indians, Heart Mountain is visible from miles in every direction — a beacon by which generations have navigated Wyoming’s Bighorn Basin.

It is a unique place that leaves a lasting impression on those who visit, with each person in turn imparting his or her own special meaning on the mountain.

June 21, 2006: Heart Mountain holds special meaning for generations


Conservationists working to protect ancient antelope migration route

CODY — Each year, hundreds of pronghorn antelope spend summer in Grand Teton National Park before following a migration route of 125 miles or more through the Gros Ventre Mountains to spend winter in the Red Desert.

Archaeological evidence suggests that the animals have followed the same trails for more than 6,000 years, and radio tracking collars show that some antelope travel as far as 170 miles one way during the twice-yearly trek.

But increasing development — including new homes, fences and energy projects — has squeezed parts of that route into narrow bottlenecks, threatening the 400 or fewer animals that make the trip.

March 30, 2010: Conservationists working to protect ancient antelope migration route


Wyoming paleontologist studies tracks at Red Gulch

SHELL – Hanging out with emus might seem an odd way to gain a new understanding of dinosaur behavior, but it has yielded valuable insight for a Wyoming paleontologist studying the Red Gulch Tracksite.

Brent Breithaupt, director of the University of Wyoming Geological Museum in Laramie, has been using the large, flightless emu as a modern-day proxy in learning how dinosaurs laid down tracks near here 165 million years ago.

Breithaupt and other researchers have spent years collecting data on more than 1,000 preserved dinosaur tracks at Red Gulch.

Nov. 14, 2006: Wyoming paleontologist studies tracks at Red Gulch


Freudenthal revives tour tradition

CONVERSE and NIOBRARA COUNTIES, Wyo. – Bus driver Lee Stotesberry was gently nudging his 47-seat motor coach along a gravel road in rural Niobrara County when he had to slow down even more.

It wasn’t because of bumps or rocks in the road, but cows.

By the second day of the annual Governor’s Natural Resource Tour in eastern Wyoming, Stotesberry had taken his bus places most people don’t drive their cars: between uranium mines, across alpine pastures and through a herd of skittish cows.

“In some ways, it’s a town meeting on wheels as much as anything else,” said Gov. Dave Freudenthal of the tour.

Sept. 16, 2007: Freudenthal revives tour tradition


Freudenthal joins intensive bus tour

SHERIDAN – “You better keep moving, because they leave the lame and wounded behind,” Gov. Dave Freudenthal told a group of about 125 people last week as they were about to board buses for a 12-hour tour of Sheridan County.

The elected officials, farmers, ranchers, educators, business owners and others on the tour are selected by county commissioners across the state to attend the annual two-day field trip organized by the state Department of Agriculture.

Freudenthal spends time with as many attendees as possible, hopping from one bus to the next to listen to the concerns of people from across the state.

“My only advice is don’t miss the bus,” he told the group before its first outing, a sincere warning cloaked in humor, as the buses travel hundreds of miles each day, making numerous stops while keeping to a strict schedule. Laggards have been left behind.

Sept. 13, 2008: Freudenthal joins intensive bus tour

ALSO — More stories from Freudenthal’s Natural Resource Tours:
Sept. 9, 2008: Pesky weed got rancher’s goat – so he got goats
Sept. 10, 2008: Upstart Wyoming wool mill aims to share with ranchers
Sept. 11, 2008: Upgrade will bolster hatchery trout
Sept. 15, 2007: Park County officials learn from day trip
Oct. 27, 2007: Fish farm benefits women in prison


Greybull aviation firm slowly grew mighty, hit bottom fast

GREYBULL, Wyo. – A World War II-vintage bomber flying low over a raging forest fire to drop flame retardant became a familiar sight in the intermountain West, but four decades ago it was a radical idea.

Realizing that vision took the right combination of circumstances, including affordable planes, veteran pilots willing to take the risk, and a large, well-equipped airport close to forest fires.

That’s how Hawkins & Powers Aviation of Greybull grew to be an aerial firefighting pioneer and industry powerhouse.

At the height of its operations just a few years ago, H&P employed about 200 people and boasted the best fleet of aerial tankers in the business, according to former company executive Duane Powers.

Though a series of recent challenges – including two deadly accidents and more than $14 million in debt – may ultimately result in the dissolution of the company, it leaves behind a history rich in innovation and achievement.

Jan. 31, 2006: Greybull aviation firm slowly grew mighty, hit bottom fast


Up in the air – Hawkins & Powers workers seek new owner

GREYBULL, Wyo. – At the Greybull headquarters of former aerial firefighting firm Hawkins & Powers Aviation, two dozen people are completing what is likely to be the company’s last job.

Four days a week, the crew works 10 hours a day refurbishing a C-130 cargo plane owned by the U.S. Air Force, a job that takes about 40,000 hours of labor. Fewer than 3,000 hours of work remain.

“We’re working ourselves out of a job,” said Mike Sims, a maintenance supervisor who has worked for H&P for eight years. “It’s really something.”

After the H&P board of directors decided last summer to phase out operations, there was talk around Greybull about a successor company coming in to pick up the profitable refurbishing business.

But that hasn’t happened, and time is running out for the employees who are expected to finish their last scheduled job around the middle of February.

Jan. 31, 2006: Up in the air – Hawkins & Powers workers seek new owner

ALSO — More stories about the fate of Hawkins & Powers workers
Feb. 1, 2006: Plane workers due back today
Feb. 15, 2006: Hawkins & Powers successor company to keep employees
June 29, 2006: Greybull business taking off

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