There isn't really a "typical" day at the Reserve, but our first morning we usually give you a âshow-meâ tour of the ranch, and how it runs, then return to a lunch of natural and organic foods that might be comprised of grilled buffalo burgers, homemade buns, Dutch oven beans, an abundance of fresh vegetables and scrumptious Dutch oven desserts!
After lunch,we can take a nature hike, check out the baby birds in our bluebird, swallow or kestral houses, or spend the afternoon interacting with the bison herd.
Evening time at Wild Echo comes late since weâre so far north. But after our outdoor barbeque dinner (bison steaks are often on the menu, along with homemade potato salad, chicken or other finger licking good stuff), there is time to sit in the wood fired âhot tubâ, sit around a campfire in the tipi, take an after dinner stroll, peek in on one of our wildlife studies, or learn how to make gooey chocolate delights in a Dutch oven. For those who want to look at the stars (and you will never see so many), we drive you up above camp, for some stargazing through our telescope. Or you can load up in the 4 wheel drive truck, and weâre off for a look into the evening lives of the wildlife that lives here. Bears, coyotes, deer, elk, mountain lions and bobcats all live here. Itâs kind of like Christmas - you never know how many presents youâll get, or what youâll see!
Here are some of our âprojectsâ that we have ongoing here and we can do any of them that you and your family decide you have time for.
Cavity Nesting Birds: We have numerous cavity nesting birds here on the Reserve, including bluebirds, house wrens, chickadees, tree swallows, and nuthatches, who will use artificial nest boxes. We will visit each box and record the bird species using it, how many young are in the nest, and how far along they are. For those of you who come later in the summer, we will discuss who lived there and look at their nests (the different bird species use different types of nest material in their box), while we clean out and repair the boxes for next year.
Bison Behavioral Studies: Monitoring bison behavior is one of our favorite jobs! We love spending time watching the bison up close - a glass of lemonade in one hand and binoculars in the other with a clipboard on our lap, lounging in the back of a 4x4 under a blue Montana sky- and we call it science ď! And for the adventurous kids, weâll sit inside the cage over the water tank to get REALLY close to the bison when they come jostling and grunting to get their drinks! Pay attention to what you see here ďż˝"after getting up close and personal with the bison here, you will better understand the behavior that youâll witness in the huge numbers of bison that we will see in Yellowstone National Park.
Small Mammal Studies: Small mammals are, well, just that ďż˝" the small furry critters (though many folks might simply call them mice) that are so important to our world for numerous reasons. They serve as an indicator of various habitat types and provide information on the health of those systems, as well as provide a vital food source for our birds of prey and mammalian predators (this little short tailed weasel is just one of the camp residents who depends on the mice in the area for food). We use live trapping and marking as a means of determining small mammal abundance and distribution.
Plant Studies: Donât you just love how biologists call all of the fun things they do, âstudiesâ. Lends an air of distinction to having fun with wilderness. Weâll take nature hikes and learn about the uses of the plants we see ďż˝" both by the animals that live here, as well as what the Native Americans (and you) can use them for. Weâll also collect plants (pick flowers), put them in plant presses and make them into herbarium specimens (flatten âem, dry âem and put them in a scrapbook for you to take home with you). Plants are a fascinating part of any ecosystem, and understanding them will go a long way to helping you understand the wild world around you.
Habitat Manipulation: We have numerous projects underway to improve, and/or protect, wildlife habitat for those who want to do something really physical. Some of these include:
â˘ Aspen enclosures: Aspen is an important wildlife tree, so we are fencing around groves of aspen to protect the small trees from the bison (they just love to use their horns to level the little guys). The fences are simple âjack legâ fences that are super easy, and quite fun, to put up.
â˘ Elimination of invasive non-native plants (weeds): We are monitoring various methods of trying to eliminate weeds which are invading the high mountain country and replacing native plant species. This involves some physical manipulation (pulling the obnoxious things up by the roots or cutting them off below root line, etc). Then, using GPS, we keep track of which methods are the most effective.
â˘ Piling slash and old deadfall to be burned during periods of wet weather to reduce fuel levels to prevent catastrophic wild fire. If weâre lucky enough to have some wet weather, we just love to do some big bonfires.
Kid Specials: Okay ďż˝" these are supposed to be for the kids, but we find that the grown-ups usually canât stand being on the sidelines.
â˘ Drum Making: We were taught by an Assiniboine medicine man, and we are honored to be able to share that drum making craft with those interested. There is something haunting about drums ďż˝" perhaps they take us into the past when our own ancestors used them to summon the spirit world.
â˘ Play with paint: If you like to get âgooeyâ, weâll play around with paint and Native American designs. You can paint your own medicine bag, or help us decorate the tipis.
â˘ Speaking of medicine bags ďż˝" each kid gets to make their own.
â˘ Stargazing: Itâs hard to ignore the stars when the night skies here at 6000 feet in the mountains are just dripping with them. Weâll take a night time sojourn where the only lights youâre going so see, are those that you can see through a telescope aimed at the heavens
â˘ Hot tubbing: Ok, itâs not like the âhot tubsâ youâll find at some luxury resort. Here itâs a rustic wood fired "hot tub" unlike anything youâve ever seen before. But just how we do it is a secret until you get here!
â˘ Dutch oven cooking: Weâve always been surprised at how many of our younger guests are fascinated by the Dutch oven. Donât know what that is? Well, weâve come up with a couple of simple yummy dessert recipes that the kids can whip up while learning just what this âpotâ is and why itâs been used for 200 years in the American West.
â˘ And, of course, there is the campfire. Sometimes outside, sometimes in the tipi, but itâs hard to let a night go by without one. We may sing around it, roast sâmores over it, or just watch the flames dance to the haunting sounds of the drums (you can count on the kids to get out those newly made drums). Serenaded by coyotes and mama buffalo grunting to their calves - it just doesnât get any better than this.
Day 4: Saddle (or Hike) Up! For those so inclined, we can saddle up to head high up into the Big Belt Mountains, meandering through meadows and under the forest canopy. When everyone is ready to get off and stretch out those saddle kinks, we gather around some bountiful picnic lunches (for any of you who choose not to accompany us on horseback, you can hitch a ride with the ranch truck when it brings us our picnic lunch. And you wonât even be stiff from sitting in a saddle all morning!) Or, if youâd rather not sit on a horse, we have some lovely (and very easy) hikes (we drive part of the way) that take us to an overlook point where we can see numerous mountain ranges surrounding us. And when we return to camp, we can fire up the hot tub for a long relaxing soak under the stars. What better way to work out muscles that have been on the back of a horse or hiking!
Day 5 & 6: A land of enchantment and wonder, and the most famous Park in the world ďż˝" weâre in love with Yellowstone National Park and think you will be too. Determined to show you as much of our beautiful state as we can while you are here, we will drive through the aptly named Paradise Valley at the foot of the Beartooth/Absaroka Wilderness and into Yellowstone through her northern boundary. Weâll stop and take a look at the fascinating terraces in Mammoth, enjoy a picnic lunch then continue on to the spectacular Upper and Lower Falls in the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River. Our schedule in the Park can be varied depending on what you and your group would most like to see. Wildlife watching means we get up early and look for grizzly bears and other wildlife before moving on to Old Faithful and the Geyser Basins. Weâll take some time to wander through the bubbling mud pots and spitting geysers, and then exit through West Yellowstone on the west.