​A visit with Yellowstone's winter caretaker

While most people around the country have just about had it with this winter that never ends, one man is reveling in its quiet and solitude in northwestern Wyoming. And why not? He's the Winter Keeper at Yellowstone National Park. Our Cover Story is reported by Lee Cowan:

To understand Steve Fuller and his passion for solitude, you have to understand his job.

He's the winter caretaker of Yellowstone National Park -- one of just a handful of hearty souls who remain in this wilderness long after the Summer tourists have gone.


"What an extraordinary landscape, huh?" he said. "You see all kinds of animals passing through -- Grizzly bears, big herds of bison, elk.

"When you're out alone, you don't want to make any noise. You wanna whisper if you're talking."

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CBS News

Cowan asked, "How do you describe your job here?"

"I usually start off with caretaker, and their immediate response is, 'Have you seen 'The Shining'?" he laughed.

A peak inside Yellowstone's deserted Canyon Lodge, and you can see why.

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Steve Fuller carves through the giant snow cornices that form on rooftops with a two-man timber saw he modified with a shovel handle. CBS News

"The expectation was that you were in here for the winter," he said. "You got snowed in until you got plowed out."

The closest town is at least two hours away, by snowmobile. Or snow coach -- that's how we got to Steve.

"This job has never been by the calendar or by the clock," Fuller said. "You work with the Winter. You work with Mother Nature."

He lives in one of the oldest structures in the park, a small cabin on a hill that boasts the only light for miles.

He doesn't have a television, but does have a vast library.

At night, when Yellowstone's temperatures can dip to 20 below zero, his books keep him company, as well as his cats. His kitchen is crammed with just enough food to make it through the winter.

Most Yellowstone Winter Keepers last only a few years tops. But Steve has stuck out this solitary existence for 42 years, ever since the winter of 1973.

"I was the only applicant," he said, "which is the only reason I got hired. No one applied. I was paid $13.24 a day."

"Even that didn't discourage you?" asked Cowan.

"No, no. It was enough."

"What do you think the value of solitude is?"

"Well, the opportunity for self-knowledge, reflection," Fuller replied.

He raised a family here -- home schooling his two daughters and teaching them the ways of Nature. They've gone on to live their own lives -- as did his wife -- but Steve says he fit best, staying put.

"It seems like it's the kind of job that would suit a hermit pretty well, or an eccentric pretty well," said Cowan. "How would you describe yourself?"