Karen and Jeff Hogan who manage the Lamar Valley Cabins in Silvergate, MT–just a mile outside of Yellowstone National Park in the Rocky Mountains–have witnessed some of the most mesmerizing scenes that one can find in an American wilderness. Together this couple has made several nature films for the BBC about the wild goings-on in Yellowstone. “We’re artists,” Karen told me during an interview, and making films about the magic-inspired world out in Montana has been a dream. But in that time, another dream was realized. The family, now parents to their son, have built together two cabins just outside Yellowstone where guests can visit the Rockies in alternative style to the incorporated, hotel-chained way of seeing a national park. These two artists describe their larger cabin as being an “upscale mountain-view home that combines modern and traditional aesthetics.” To tell OneRooftop and our followers more about what can be discovered in Yellowstone, Karen Hogan joins us for an interview.
OneRooftop: You and your family have a pretty unique story about how the Lamar Valley Cabins came to be. Could you tell me what happened?
Karen Hogan: My husband Jeff is a wildlife filmmaker and Yellowstone is like the Serengeti for wildlife in America. When we began to grow our family, we wanted to have a place where my son and I could stay when Jeff was out chasing animals. My previous life, professionally, was in architecture, and Jeff had experience building houses before making nature films. So around 2006 we began building up our cabin. When we weren’t there, we decided to rent it. Well our first cabin—we now have two, a small one and a large— was renting really well and people were really enjoying their stays. We were digging the next hole a month later to start building the large one and now, we are working on an addition to the small cabin.
ORT: I’m sorry—You and your husband built these properties?
KH: We did.
ORT: With your hands.
KH: With our hands. We have a time-lapse video of us building it and our baby, Finn, is sitting there in front of the house on a pile of dirt as we built it all up. A lot of people get stressed out when they do a construction project but for us it was one of those projects where we worked really well on it together. We were able to take the ideas and just run with them on site.
KH: It was super satisfying to do it ourselves.
ORT: How long have you been visiting Yellowstone? How does a visit to the park make you feel?
KH: I really got out to Yellowstone when I met Jeff, who has been going for 30-40 years. I was more of a climber and would hang out in the mountains in Wyoming. But he showed me how to move through the woods. Jeff and I worked together for awhile making a film about a bear in Yellowstone.
And how does it make me feel? Well, our main home is in Jackson, WY, which is a pristine place but I am still amazed at how wild Yellowstone is. We’ll see bison just lounging in front of where we live. We see mountain goats in front of us out on the hill.
ORT: Can you make a trip to the Lamar Valley in any season?
KH: Sure! The Lamar Valley is accessible all year round. Right now, May is a really popular time to come and visit Yellowstone. It’s springtime so the animals are having their little babies. And July is really popular just because it’s warmer.
A lot of people don’t know, however, that Yellowstone is really nice in the winter! It’s become a premier location for backcountry skiing. People hike up the mountains and then are skiing down. It’s a great place for ice climbing, too. But most of all, the winter is amazing because you’ve never heard anything more quiet. You step outside and can’t hear anything anywhere. I guess, actually, you might hear wolves. Wolf watchers will come in January and February to spot the wolf packs passing through. So you might hear them, but not much else.
ORT: How experienced with the wilderness should guests be?
KH: You don’t really have to know much about the wilderness. There’s cool stuff to see: great grey owls, tons of bird species, otters, and the not-so-super-star species that are actually a lot of fun to watch, too.
We’re going to start a page on our website about how to watch animals in Yellowstone. Most people don’t really know how to do that. The first response is to go out in your car, but the cool part is getting out and seeing something no one else has seen. That’s a different experience. That’s out of your environment. My point is, Yellowstone is vast! It’s got wildlife and geysers, and a lot of people are drawn to those. It’s a huge and magical area.
“We live in Jackson, WY, which is a pristine place but I am still amazed at how wild Yellowstone is. We’ll see bison just lounging in front of where we live. We see mountain goats in front of us out on the hill.”
ORT: What’s the most amazing thing you’ve witnessed in the Yellowstone area?
KH: I remember when I was making a film with Jeff for the BBC on bears, and we would go to this place we called Split Tree Rock, and we would hang out on the rock, lean against it, and we would wait for the bear to come by with her two cubs. We’d hang out and watch the mom teach the cubs how to climb trees. It was just like being in the Disney movie. We were there for an entire summer, and we knew their route and we were right in there with them. We wanted to see where she denned and where they did their things. I think bears are my favorite species and are so much fun to watch.
ORT: What has it meant for you to run your vacation rental business?
KH: Well you have to understand that my husband and I are both artists. I mean, I used to be an architect but I am also a dancer. And my husband is a filmmaker but what are you supposed to do if the beavers you’re filming aren’t cooperating this summer? It’s hard. But renting our property has been an amazing business for us to remain artists and live in the area that we’ve completely fallen in love with. For people to have the income necessary to follow their dreams is a wonderful thing.
And how about you. Why did you choose to spotlight us?
ORT: We think you guys are awesome.
KH: Oh, thank you. You know, I was working on my own website for a while and then I finally found OneRooftop and thank God! It’s been so enormously helpful—there are things I just never thought to do until I had the right software.
To book a stay at the Lamar Valley Cabins, check out their website where you can see photos, get expert recommendations about visiting the park, watch video clips from Jeff’s nature films, and more.
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