It seems I cannot say enough good things about the Yellowstone Association Institute (YAI). Yellowstone, for me is the quintessential American National Park. About all it’s missing is the ocean. And if you are eager to learn more about the environment, ecosystems, geography, geology and the impact of the growth of the human population on Planet Earth, there are not many locations which can offer such a diverse-opportunity classroom.
I’ve experienced their “classy” instruction during summer, fall and winter. I grew up in rural, forested countryside, and I still possess that childhood inquisitiveness about nature that permits a talented instructor to soar while teaching a group of students. The YAI staff never fails to satisfy my yearning to learn more.
The enthusiasm, knowledge and downright friendliness of the Yellowstone Association Institute staff enables students of all levels to comfortably participate in the Institute’s programs. If you are up for a vacation that is something different, a bit of roughing it and far from a Four Seasons Resort, I highly recommend arranging a trip to Yellowstone National Park that includes a class offered by the Yellowstone Association Institute.
Yellowstone Association Institute has just announced their summer schedule. And it’s none to early to start thinking about a trip to America’s first National Park. Shop for your low airfares now, and select your preferred Yellowstone lodging while there is still a great selection.
This summer, the non-profit Yellowstone Association Institute will offer 73 Field Seminars – including 23 new programs. The organization, Yellowstone’s official partner for education, offers educational opportunities for park visitors and began accepting registrations January 18, 2012.
Field seminars are educational park outings taught by experts (some with PhDs) focusing on topics such as Yellowstone’s animals, geology, history, and more. Most courses last from one to four days and are limited to 13 participants. They are offered from early-April to mid-October.
“One of our goals of the Field Seminars is to offer a variety of topics that will appeal to many people,” said Jeff Brown, executive director of the Yellowstone Association. “Those with an interest in science, for example, tend to gravitate toward topics covering geology, wildlife behavior, plant life and the effects of fire in the park. Hiking-based programs are more appealing to people who want an active visit. Workshops covering photography, writing and other topics will be geared to people with a more artistic approach.”
New this year: Lamar Wildlife Getaways are offered every month and include three days of wildlife watching and hiking, catered meals, and lodging at the Lamar Buffalo Ranch, some of the best wildlife habitat in North America.
New wildlife courses include a June bear class that looks at grizzly/human interaction, an August raptor course that meets up with the Yellowstone Raptor Initiative, a September pika study that looks at habitat patterns of this elusive creature.
New hiking courses include a backpacking expedition around the base of Electric Peak and another through the heart of Yellowstone’s canyon country, as well as day-hikes off-trail on the northern range and through lake country.
Additional new topics include making your own Yellowstone video, wilderness route-finding, fly-fishing for families, and more.
Many Field Seminars are held at the Institute’s Lamar Buffalo Ranch Field Campus, where simple and comfortable log cabins are available for $30 per person per night. The Yellowstone Overlook Field Campus in Gardiner, Montana features two three-bedroom, two-bathroom modern log cabins for up to 12 people and a two-bedroom, one-bathroom cabin for up to five people. (I’ve stayed in these cabins in December. They are simple but provide the perfect atmosphere for “camping” other than in a tent.)
In addition to its Field Seminars, YAI offers Private Tours and Lodging & Learning programs. Private Tours are tailored for families and small groups and tours typically focus on wildlife watching, natural history and geology, thermal features and hiking. Lodging & Learning programs are offered in partnership with lodge operator Xanterra Parks & Resorts and combine daily field trips with comfortable lodging in park hotels at night. My experience with Xanterra employees has shown that they are as interested in the park as they are working to ensure visitors to one of the world’s most spectacular locations are pleased with Xanterra services. They will make you feel at home and have answers to many of your questions.
Reservations for Field Seminars, Private Tours and cabins at the Yellowstone Overlook Field Campus and Lamar Buffalo Ranch can be made by calling 1-406-848-2400. For Lodging & Learning program reservations call 1-866-439-7375. For more information about any Institute program visit www.YellowstoneAssociation.org or FaceBook.com/YellowstoneAssociation.
For information about becoming a member of the Yellowstone Association Institute, please visit the membership website.
If you’ve not heard of them before, the Yellowstone Association Institute is a non-profit field school operated by the Yellowstone Association in partnership with the National Park Service. The Institute was founded in 1976 and offers more than 500 courses each year on the park’s plants, animals, geology and history. Courses are based at the organization’s Lamar Buffalo Ranch and Yellowstone Overlook field campuses, at park hotels, and in the backcountry.
The Yellowstone Association was founded in 1933 to foster the public’s understanding, appreciation, and enjoyment of Yellowstone National Park and its surrounding ecosystem. In addition to operating the Institute on a break-even basis, the Association manages educational bookstores and a membership program that generate revenues for the National Park Service. Since its inception, the organization has raised more than $27 million for Yellowstone.
To receive a course catalog or for more information, go to www.YellowstoneAssociation.org, write to the Yellowstone Association at PO Box 117, Yellowstone National Park, WY 82190 or call 406-848-2400.
Convenient air service to Yellowstone National Park is available through Cody, Wyoming (worth a few days’ visit itself), and the Wyoming resort town of Jackson Hole. If arriving by air, you will most likely need to rent a vehicle, too, to get into the park. Transportation is provided by YAI for a class’s students. But Transportation to the park is on your own. Besides, when class is over for the day, you may want to explore the area on your own. And if you fall inlove with Yellowstone, as I have, you will want to spend extra days there after your class(es) is completed. It’s never too early to start planning your trip and reserving your transportation.