Monday, May 31, 2010

A New Start

Today I was rescued. Saved. Given new hope. Relocated.

At my first Yellowstone stop, my dorm was down this road.

Obviously a pretty area for us tree and snow lovers, but the dorm room was tiny and the food not too good.

This is the road I was walking next to when I fell on my face, but there usually wasn't this kind of room for walking.

This is the best big waterfall photo I took. I believe this is Upper Falls. I was too afraid to get close enough to the edge to take a good photo of the bigger, more famous, more beautiful Lower Falls.

At noon today, a new coworker arrived to take me to my new home. On the way, I saw my first Yellowstone coyote doing a bouncy walk through a meadow.

I got my new dorm room. I have a roommate who's moving out in a couple days. He's far away on the other side of the room. There is room for another bed between our beds. We have a bathroom all to ourselves--I didn't even notice that the first time I was in the room.

I stopped by my new job and worked a couple hours. It's just like the real world. I'll be working M-F 8-5 with an hour for lunch. Since I didn't pack any dress clothes, I got a ride back to the uniform shop in Gardiner and traded in my big white kitchen hat for the black slacks and maroon dress shirts I'll be wearing all summer.

Here's one of my new neighbors. I walked around for less than an hour and I've already seen tourists being stupid with elk. Don't use the sidewalk when the elk are right next to it!

A view of my new neighborhood.

I've never lived in a neighborhood which looked like this. It will take some getting used to, but it's got a beauty of its own.

Another neighbor. You go ahead and try to enforce this speed limit.

At dinner, I met some more neighbors--a couple from Alabama who live across the hall from me. They were very nice and told me they have a convenience store in their room and I should knock if I ever want anything. All the folks who said the food here was better weren't lying. I went back for seconds of veggie lasagna.

More neighbors near the sidewalk.

This is my new home.

I like it.


Sunday, May 30, 2010


I apologize right now for that deceptive title--there aren't any photos of Yellowstone waterfalls. At some point when I'm settled, there might be a distant one or two. I did take some more snowy mountain photos.

This morning I told the managers at training my tale of how I have a job in another location. They wondered why I am here in that case--the same thing I've wondered myself. My manager and I both wanted me to start work tomorrow at Mammoth but the need for red tape and bureaucracy triumphed because the paper work wasn't done yet since I was only offered and accepted the job when I arrived.

So I did the basic training this morning that applies to everyone and now am done here, just waiting to see when what happens next happens. I'll call in the morning to find out the timetable; the sooner the better as far as I'm concerned. I just want to be at a spot where I can unpack my bag for more than a couple days.

So with the afternoon free, I took a mile walk along the main road to see the canyon. Of course, there aren't any sidewalks, the shoulder of the road barely exists, and there was a fair amount of big vehicles cruising by. So I was walking in a drainage ditch, trying to keep my feet dry by walking on slanted gravel and mud covered tar while looking around for grizzly bears and other cool sights. You know where this is headed, don't you?

Before I really knew what happened, I was on my face saying another four letter f word. I've got a good sized oozing scrape on one knee (not the one I'd already tweaked climbing up the bunk bed), and some permanent scratches on one lens of the glasses I just bought a couple months ago. This was actually my second fall this trip--back in Duluth, I tripped headlong over a piece of driftwood by the Lake. Maybe it's time for me to stop walking. I'm pretty much ready to sit in one spot reading and computing and petting a cat. And I guess I'll need to print some money too.

Anyway, with my record, it's probably just as well that as I expected before I got here, my fear of heights kept me from getting very close to the edge of the canyon to take photos. So that was my day. Tomorrow I have the full day to do nothing unless someone takes me to Mammoth. Have you ever read a more boring post from a majestic park? Yellowstone is stunningly beautiful but I feel a bit overwhelmed, like Thoreau on Katahdin. I guess I like my nature flatter and wetter and greener. I'm glad to have seen this place but I already know I won't move to Montana soon or become a Yellowstone regular.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Big Plot Twist

What do you think? Am I still in Bozeman? On my way to Duluth? Boston? Read on.

It was snowing when I left Bozeman this morning on the Yellowstone bus, but it didn't last long. A big beauty of a mountain dominates the first half of the drive from Livingston toward the park. There was some occasional white water in the Yellowstone River but it mostly looked placid.

Two busloads of us pulled into Gardiner to fill out paperwork; I was one of the first off the first bus and joined a long line already there. It took me an hour to reach the person taking IDs and he handed me a note to call someone as soon as I got there.

So I did and was offered an accounting job at Mammoth Hot Springs which I took without knowing the pay or the end date, and knowing that I'll be spending a lot of time on the phone, something I don't enjoy. But because the paperwork obviously isn't done, I still had to come to Canyon so I'd have a place to sleep and eat. The food so far hasn't been great and I've got little appetite, but I've seen the 20 day menu cycle and to my surprise there is tofu and even tempeh on it. I got placed in a room here which already had someone for a couple days so I'm stuck with the top bunk and he doesn't seem thrilled with my presence. I should be out of here this week though, so I'll get through it. I've just made a little nest of sheets and blanket--won't even bother making the bed.

On appearance I'm not sure I made the right choice. The Canyon area is surrounded by trees so I have no idea where the actual canyon is yet. I thought Mammoth would be a lot flatter than it is; it's also pretty stark with some big mountains around--might leave me claustrophobic and still not wanting to hike in the area.

There were elk lounging on the grass at Mammoth, and I saw bison in a couple spots. From the bus we saw a grizzly with four cubs romping. Pretty damn impressive introduction. Have ridden through areas which burned in the big fires, past smoking pools and creeks, between some spectacular mountains. You could pretty much just click your camera constantly here but I haven't yet and not sure when I will.

I'm going to training at 8:30 tomorrow morning but when I tell them I'm leaving (I was told it would be Thursday at the latest) I'm not sure if they're going to have me do anything or if I'm going to be sitting here until I leave. And I also have a debit card and two books headed here midweek which I hope I'll get eventually.

So, I'm here in a temporarily awkward and uncomfortable position for an unknown period of time and wondering what to do with myself since I'm not going to bother unpacking or settling in. Maybe I'll go see if I can find the canyon, although it sounds like it's raining.


Friday, May 28, 2010

Crossing the Rubicon

It's been a wet, gloomy, raw day here in this waiting room of a town. In Duluth, the fog makes the Lake disappear; in Bozeman, the clouds make the mountains disappear.

My bus companion stopped by and we talked and said goodbye. It would have been nice to have a friend in the area but complicated circumstances on both sides made it impossible. I knew I was passing into a strange new place when I even spoke to someone on the bus, much less suggested we get together.

What did I do on my last day? I took a nap on a bed where I can't reach either side of the mattress when I'm lying in the middle. I'd like to take it with me. And the microwave and the refrigerator and the tv and the private bathroom. Why am I doing this again? I've already seen the mountains.

After my nap, I wrote down the bus schedule from here to Duluth. I thought the first cigarette in years might be good, but I'm in a non-smoking room. I wondered how many minutes it would take me to pack up yet again. I cranked up the tinny sound of Bruce Cockburn on the laptop. The trouble with normal is it always gets worse.

Off to the abnormal I go early in the morning, hoping the internet really exists in the canyon. The weekend's high temperature looks to be around 40; I might wear my winter coat across the river. Still pacing the cage, looking for the door. . .

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Bozeman in the Morning

I meant to tell you that one of the bus stops along the way was at a bowling alley. I thought it might amuse you as it did me.

My motel is right across the street from the bus station. When I walked out early this morning, the first thing I saw was the Yellowstone Park bus loading up employees. I should have taken a photo to show you, but I wasn't thinking clearly. I was thinking, "NO, I'M NOT READY YET!!" Then I remembered it was only Thursday and it was OK.

I went for a hike, climbing up a little hill a couple blocks away. I'm close to 5000 feet here but haven't noticed anything different with level walking; was maybe a bit more out of breath after the hill. I'll be close to 8000 in the park. The park near the motel has a handy brochure which notes that there are over 220 species of plants and lists which are likely to be blooming in which month. I'll try to get back to look down instead of around. Here are a few of the neighborhood views.

The building on the right is the library. On the building on the left, the graffiti advices you to read a book.

The next mountain has an unusual geological M formation.

There are lots of magpies around which is cool with me. I'd only seen one in the Duluth zoo before. Birds grow big here--I saw a robin I thought was a crow at first.

After my hike, I opened a bank account at what turned out to be the wrong bank--I picked it because they had ATMs in the park; halfway through the process I learned they no longer did. I doubt I'll be doing much spending of cash there anyway; I just wanted a place for direct deposit. Had a bagel better than any in Duluth, and walked on to a much larger, cheaper coop as well. Now I'm just hanging out waiting for my free books newsletter, then it's out for lunch as long as the rain holds off.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Not Home, But Not Bad At All

Where did we last meet? I had a nice coconut curry (tofu, red pepper, broccoli, portabella) rice bowl before leaving Duluth. Did I ever tell you that I was pleasantly surprised by my Duluth motel room? I was expecting to stay at a couple dives on this trip. 

Despite many bus issues, I've made it to Bozeman as scheduled.Traveled through Theodore Roosevelt National Park with its wild topography and saw four bison from the bus. Crossed the Yellowstone River several times--doesn't look like it would have such a dramatic falls in the park. Here's a falls from back in Duluth along Tischer Creek.

At lunch today, I had a tasty veggie sandwich at a cafe in Billings based on the tip of a new Bozeman friend from the bus. We're going to get together Friday if we've recovered from the bus trip. After checking in this afternoon and showering (Did I mention I was pleasantly surprised by the motel room in Duluth? Well, this one has a microwave, refrigerator, and big screen tv to go with the wifi, and I'm doing laundry as I type. And it's dirt cheap.), I took a walk to a nice downtown with a beautiful new library, visited the cool Vargo's Jazz City and Books, ate possibly the best pizza of my life (pesto, sun-dried tomatoes, artichoke hearts, and toasted pine nuts) with an icy Glacier Ale at MacKenzie River Pizza, and bought a few things I need for the park.

Tomorrow I open a bank account, hike, eat, take photos. I haven't taken the camera out in town yet even though there are some pretty impressive mountains in a couple directions from the motel. But I think you'll be satisfied with these Crazy Mountains taken from the bus stop in Big Timber.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Goodbye Again, Lake

I went out this morning to take a few last photos of Duluth. That's the famous lift bridge. Isn't it lovely?

Those are the famous gulls and the closest I'll be to the Lake for awhile.

And the next stage of my journey into the unknown. At least there are some lamp posts.

The last five days have been a miniaturized version of the ten years between when I first visited Duluth and when I moved away--growing interest, ecstasy, good times with people and cats, hopelessness, sadness at leaving. I moved here because it was pretty, and I thought it represented my best chance to find a job near Lake Superior. After some time passed and I met some interesting people and joined some groups and started volunteering, I realized that I'd not only found a pretty place, I'd found a place that felt like Home--it took me a while to realize that because I'd never known that feeling before, even as a child. 

Understand that I didn't want to leave Duluth last fall. To be honest, I wanted to die rather than leave Duluth last fall. Without going into all the details of why I didn't and did, all that matters is that none of it was being true to myself. Coming back here is the best thing I've done since--I was home again and as one friend I saw said, it seems like I've been here all along. A dose of the old depression hit Sunday after I looked at job websites, but other than that it's all felt good and peaceful and right despite three days of fog and still missing the old booming foghorn.

Yesterday I had brunch with a couple friends (tofu scramble for me), said hello to the librarian who was my boss when I volunteered there, then met with the woman who runs the peregrine falcon program where I've spent so much time. It was too foggy to watch the birds, so we watched the dvd of a PBS show's episode about the falcons which was filmed last year--first chance I've had to see it, and it was very good except when I was onscreen. Then back for a last visit with Walden which went pretty well and I have the photos to prove it. And even after those ten years here, I was shown a little Lakeside park I didn't know existed.

So now it's time to leave again, but this time I do it a lot more willingly, with better expectations, given some new strength by my days here, and fully convinced that I'll make it back. Although I still feel a little sad about going, I'm also starting to feel a little excitement about going into something completely new, which I haven't done for too long. I do wish I had a companion to share the experience with, but I guess that's where you folks come in.

The motel's letting me hang around a couple hours past checkout since my bus doesn't leave til 4:00, so I'll have time for lunch soon. I've been looking for things to do in Bozeman for a couple days and have discovered some interesting facts. They have free bus service for everyone, including until 3 AM Thursday through Saturday--that's better service than you'll get in Boston. Their library is open more days and hours than the libraries here and in the towns where I was staying in New England. There are some interesting book and music stores downtown, and a coop grocery. There are local trail maps available though it might rain the entire time I'm there. I might wander around Montana State University since graduation was earlier this month. Friday night, I may go to a performance of A Streetcar Named Desire as my last taste of kultcha before being driven off into the wilderness (where I wonder if it's going to be more difficult for me to get away from people than it is here).

Montana in the morning; first impressions tomorrow night.


Monday, May 24, 2010

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Ships that Pass in the Fog

Ships that pass in the night, and speak each other in passing,
Only a signal shown and a distant voice in the darkness;
So on the ocean of life we pass and speak one another,
Only a look and a voice, then darkness again and a silence.
--Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Lovely Day

Anyone remember that Bill Withers song? There were some other lyrics, but primarily the song consisted of him singing "lovely day" over and over and over and over (with three syllables in lovely). It was a lovely song and that's the kind of day today was even with the dozen or so crawling ticks I pulled off my body in a car, a restaurant, and a couple bathrooms. So that has to be a pretty damn lovely day.

It started with a Lake... so many lovely days do. Shades of grey kind of suit me anyway.

And there was more water, in a river.

There were trees.

Some had holes.

Below the trees, trillium

and lady slippers

and many more, including one of my favorites, columbine, just beginning. But every columbine photo I took was badly out of focus. I guess it can't all be lovely.

There was wildlife.

What? You lookin' at me?

We were also looking at the porcupine we saw waddling along the ground, too fast for me to take a photo if you can believe that. Hey, porky was heading uphill and behind and between a bunch of trees. And it's not nice to chase porcupines.

Then off to lunch where I had some tofu with dipping sauces and spicy Thai noodles. After lunch and a shower to get my ticks clean, I decided to visit Walden the cat. Figured I'd bring some beer and what was the first six-pack I saw? Moose Drool. Never put off til Montana what you can do in Minnesota, so that's what I bought.

For whatever reason, Walden was a little more amiable tonight and I got in quite a few pets and even a few head rubs and a kiss. He's an amazingly silky smooth cat.

You might not be able to tell from the photo, but I noticed the title of that red book is How to Live with a Calculating Cat. I can't swear that it was purchased after they took in Walden.

Then I sat by a fire drinking Drool and feeling more at peace than I have since leaving Duluth eight months ago. The beer? It's OK, but the name was really the best part for me. And afterward I came back to my temporary home and ordered a Rustler: pizza with seitan, pineapple, banana peppers, red onions, and barbecue sauce.

A lovely day. Many thanks to T & W for making almost all of it possible, from the trip to Jay Cooke State Park to the care and feeding of an emotionally challenged cat.

Oh, and on my way back, out on the Lake was a lovely fog. It's good to be home. No questions asked.