DescriptionIntro: Marianne S.
Narrative: Sherry M.
We may not normally think of our national parks as community gardens, but consider that Yellowstone Park itself, an ecosystem protected for the enjoyment of the public, averages 3-4 million visitors a year. And as a counterpoint consider the day-to-day experience of this world by a unique resident -- Sherry Moffatt -- whose entire life has been spent in Yellowstone Park and the Absaroka/Beartooth – parts of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. Together with her family she has moved their cattle to and from federal grazing allotments in the Absaroka region and for most of her adult life, Sherry has been one of the few female wranglers in Yellowstone or perhaps anywhere else in the world.
Sherry is lovely, quiet and modest: her praises must be sung by others. She has been called by her husband, Doug, a man of strict standards, one of the best and most trustworthy wranglers he has every worked with. Here is her story.
“I have been riding these trails for years. I’ve worked with hunting and outfitter camps throughout this area. There used to be many more people on the trails. At night when we camped, you would see dozens of lights from other campfires. But ever since the [devastating] 1988 fires, many of the trails were blocked by deadfall and still are closed. We used to come from our ranch down to Silvertip Ranch on Slough Creek every spring over the Absaroka mountain pass. We haven’t been able to do that for years. No vehicles are allowed in this part of the Yellowstone. We and all our supplies come in by horse and wagon.
The smells are different after the fire. There used to be more forest and meadows and you would smell the trees and flowers. You could ride all the way up to Tucker Creek and the high meadows and it would be all timber.
At the ranch, I tried growing a garden. The season is short. My days working the trails and on the ranch are long. The ground squirrels ate most of my produce, so I eventually gave up. But I am so blessed. Everywhere you look here there are flowers and I love them. In the first part of May we get the early flowers – blue bells, glacier lilies (they don’t last very long), shooting stars and phlox. And then it just progresses. After riding these trails for years you just get to know where they are. One of my favorites, the magenta paintbrush, grows only at the higher ranges. There is the fairy slipper orchid which you very rarely see. Someone told me there were a couple in a small spruce grove near the ranch. Only twice have I every seen one, they are very small and hard to find.
One year when we had a lot of small stream runs through a nearby meadow, I found a White Bog Orchid. That was exciting! I haven’t seen one since. I have a camera for the first time ever and only today [July – 2017] took a picture of some small pink flowers 2-3 inches high. I am still seeing things I have not seen before. Now I can take pictures of them and go home and check in Whitney’s book.
Thanks to Sherry, who pointed out the White Bog Orchid to Whitney Tilt, it was included in his guide, Flora of the Yellowstone.
I am blessed to wake up each morning and put my feet on the ground. I feel blessed to be able to live in this world.”
-Story contributed by Marianne S.