Saturday, June 5, 2010

First Week in Yellowstone

The view outside my window right now--there are 13 of them, the most I've seen at once so far.

What are my thoughts after my first week in Yellowstone? Looking at the calendar, the main one seems to be, "What? Only 18 1/2 weeks left? Oh, no!" And that's not just because I don't know where I'm going when I leave; now that I'm in the right situation here, it's a pretty fine life for me. But the folks who work here year round aren't allowed to live in the dorm, and as a non-driver, living five miles away in Gardiner wouldn't be an option for me so leaving is definitely going to happen. But I might not mind coming back after all, if I can figure out how to live for the other seven months without a permanent job or year-long lease.

How's the dorm? Damn nice, considering the alternatives. At my last location, my two nights were spent in what was labeled the quiet dorm--this one's much quieter. My new room is more than twice the size of the first room and both beds are on the floor. The window is half the width of the room and yesterday elk were fifteen feet away eating dandelions. It's a tight squeeze to shut the bathroom door after you enter the room, but there aren't going to be thirty other people using it.

How's the food? Damn good, considering the alternatives. This is the administrative center of the park so more than us peons eat in the cafeteria and the quality of the food is widely acknowledged as better than at other locations. But while tofu and tempeh often appear on the menu in tempting sounding entrees, it appears that no one really knows how to cook with them and in fact the last couple times tempeh was listed it didn't even appear so they may have given up on that one. The best vegetarian entrees have been those without either of the t words such as lasagna rolls and some sandwiches. The best bets have been the soups--spicy winners such as peanut curry, tofu with vegetables, vegetarian chili, and others I don't remember at the moment.

However, the presentation leaves a lot to be desired. We don't get plates, but compartmentalized trays with the food slopped right on. This was unappealing to me from the start, and my appreciation didn't grow after watching one server inspecting each tray before putting food on--"Been getting dirty ones all day." Maybe that's part of why I like the soup--I put it in its own bowl myself.

How's the job? It's going to be fine once I learn the various computer screens--it's essentially going to be research and problem solving for visitors which I enjoy. More importantly, it seems like a great bunch of people who have put extra effort into getting my situation straightened out after the last minute change of location and job, coming to get me and drive me here, helping get my Amazon packages here after they were sent to my original location, and dealing with my total lack of packed clothes for this job. In a couple weeks, we're spending a morning cleaning a mile of highway. And no offense to the teenagers I met in my two days at the other location, but it's nice to be in an office full of adults.

How's the weather? Well, that's been a drag mostly--rain followed by rain and the threat of rain. Today about a third of the sky is blue (but it still just rained on me on the way to dinner) and I swear there are mountains here I haven't seen before. June is the wettest month here so I can expect more before it gets better.

How's the wildlife? Fabulous! I currently have daily views of bison, elk, magpies, and ground squirrels. I won't get bored with them. While traveling, I've seen the grizzly sow with four cubs who is a current park sensation (today in the general store, I heard someone say she'd just killed an elk within binoculars sight of the road) and a coyote. Still to be checked off the Yellowstone list--black bear, wolf, pronghorn, cougar, bobcat, lynx, etc. I don't expect to see them all but I'm happy to see any of them.

How's the hiking? I haven't really done anything I'd call hiking. Part of that is because I've been sick--I actually called in sick Thursday--but I may not do all that much hiking here. I know that is going to be shocking and disappointing to probably everyone who reads this, so I'll at least explain why. First, my favorite hiking has always been solo, and that seems like it would be stupid for me to do here in a place much more rugged and wild and unknown to me than any place I've ever experienced. I also think my physical body has passed the time when it would have enjoyed pulling itself up the mountains which now surround me. I love looking around me here, but when I do I feel no desire to get up there. And acrophobia is a major problem for me. I don't mind being on a mountain if there is solid ground all around me, but I can't walk anywhere near (meaning a couple yards or more) a sharp drop--my sense of balance just disappears. I wish that weren't the case, but it is. I was considering a group hike this morning, but a trail photo of a suspension bridge crossing a river changed my mind.

I'm certainly not planning on staying in my room all the time (though I am enjoying having a room of my own again temporarily)--there are hikes and other activities offered by several groups. I'm just going to choose mostly flatland activities and I have a couple of them on the calendar already. If no more paying customers sign up, there will be room for me on a 6:15 AM wildlife trip to Lamar Valley tomorrow. I may get slightly more adventurous as I get healthier and more comfortable here and after I pick up a new roommate, but you're not going to be taking any dramatic climbs with me, or even climbs most people wouldn't consider dramatic at all. We'll certainly make it up the hill right behind the dorm when the lungs are working better. If that's good enough, stick around--we're just getting started.


Ruahines said...

Kia ora GT,
I think the mere fact you can look up at those mountains, appreciate them, and contemplate what they mean, that this also represents the freedom they offer. So I wish you well in getting to the top of that hill, and look forward to your sharing your view, and thoughts with us. Kia kaha.

Judy said...

Glad you are liking Mammoth. Everyone gets sick when they first get here. I'm with you on the hikes. I usually don't have anyone to hike with and it isn't safe to go alone. Try to find my friend Ken Paules in your dorm. He is older and enjoys the photo hikes which aren't strenuous. We just spent the day together and had a blast. He also has a truck! He is in sore need of adult conversation there. Help him out.

Sonya said...

I've been reading your blog, and not commenting, but I do want to say that I'm jealous of the adventure that you get to go on this summer. I am currently marginally employed and kind of floundering, so the idea of stepping away from everything and hanging out in the mountains for a few months is very tempting.

greentangle said...

Robb, thanks, that means something coming from a mountain lover such as yourself. I look forward to your future climbs.

Glad you had a good day, Judy--I was starting to get worried about your roommate's safety. ;-) I'm not much for conversation, but if I see your friend I'll say hello.

Sonya, since I'd been unemployed so long, I really always thought of this more as a job than an adventure. It's just a very, very, very cool place to have a job. And it even comes with a place to live!