A few weeks ago, I pulled into the North Yellowstone Lodge and Hostel (NYLAH for short) near Gardiner, MT to start my summer job. If you read my earlier post Ready or Not… you’ll remember that I approached this new adventure with
little some trepidation.
As I drove through the sea-kayak gate, excitement and anxiety whipped around my insides like a cucumber smoothie. I parked in front of the lodge, put on my best smile and hopped out of the van like I knew what I was doing. Within minutes Bill, a fellow Workamper, jumped off the riding lawnmower and welcomed me to the hostel. He made sure Katrina had a shady place to park, and invited me to look around while he finished the yard work.
There is a gentle ambiance about NYLAH that goes deeper than the manicured orchard, polished wood floors, community room in the lodge, recently renovated showers and hostel rooms. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, but knew I was in a safe and loving place.
Not far from the back door, the Yellowstone River stretches north on its way to the Upper Missouri River. Just like a playful otter, I wasn’t satisfied seeing the water from the bluff, so I poked around and found an easy path to the river’s edge. There, a pristine sandy beach invited me to wade into the cold-as-snowmelt waves lapping at the shore.
“Welcome Home!” whispered the trees, birds and river.
From that moment on, whatever apprehensions I might have had were pulled into the lazy river and sent bobbing downstream like rubber duckies.
Once I was grounded (or rivered) I was ready to meet the cast and crew of this special place.
Bill along with his wife Ann, daughter Amelia, sons Elijah and Micah (above) were part of the May-to-mid-July work session here at NYLAH. During their stay, Ann home-schooled the kids while Bill took meticulous care of the hostel. According to Ann, the kids thrived while they were here, but were eager to get back to Connecticut so they could participate in a Circus Camp for Kids. What a courageous and wonderful way to raise a family!!
Workamper Annie and her computer-wise hubby Zach, also on the early work shift, have been living in their renovated school bus – dubbed Stormy – with their dog, Lola. Ironically, I ran into them in Quartzite last January, but didn’t meet them formally until I arrived here. Annie has some great photos and stories about their travels, so go to Natural State Nomads to check out their adventures.
Although we didn’t get to spend a lot of time together, I have to admit that my heart sank a little as Stormy pulled out of the yard with Annie, Zach and Lola aboard. I hope to connect with them in the Arizona desert again this winter!
Now it is up to Parker and me to fill in where Bill and Annie left off. He has an impish smile, can-do attitude and lots of energy. I look forward to completing this season with him by my side!
Seasonal workers are an integral part of the hostel community, but the managers, Adam, and his fiance’ Amber are the backbone of the workforce. They met each other as river raft guides a few years ago, fell in love and have been experiencing life to the fullest ever since. Last winter they worked in Antarctica and the summer of 2016 they through-hiked most of the Pacific Crest Trail. Now they are pouring their heart and soul into NYLAH.
These easy-going characters have a nimble management style that promotes balance in work and play. The spontaneous raft trip a few days after I got here convinced me they walk the talk!
When Liza (pictured below with her two sons) invited me to work at NYLAH, she assured me that this was a family-run business (Adam is her brother). I didn’t have a clear picture of what that meant until I met her and the family over dinner a few days after I arrived.
Liza, hubby Kevin, the boys and employees gathered around the large table on the porch where beers were opened while grilled salmon and salads were passed around. It wasn’t the food that pulled at my heartstrings, it was the camaraderie. OMG! I’m with the Waltons!
One of my favorite spots at the hostel is the patio overlooking the river. This special venue has seen many a family dinner and will likely see many more over the coming years!
I’ve been at NYLAH for a few weeks now and although I don’t have all the answers, I am learning a lot about the time and energy it takes to run a small family-owned business. My hat is off to Liza, Adam, Amber, and Ken and Heather -Adam and Liza’s parents who live a few miles away and help with the ever-present list of maintenance items. Together this all-American family has weaved a family-owned nest full of happiness and love for all to enjoy!
This sums up my summer job perfectly! (Found on the neck of a Mike’s Hard Cranberry Lemonade bottle).
Follow me as I explore Montana and Yellowstone National Park on my days off.
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