Wednesday, September 29, 2010

More Falls

One of my first posts from Yellowstone was titled Falls, but there weren't any waterfall photos in it. This one has some, but there are more falls too.

First, a little housekeeping. I told you recently about the magpie who was repeatedly jumping up from the sidewalk to pick bugs off a truck's grill. Sunday I heard a thud at my window and with all the elk action recently, my first thought was that it was an elk. But no, it was a magpie clinging to my screen during a bug meal.

In thinking of my current vagrant life, I've been wondering how I could turn my boxes of stuff into something more portable which wouldn't require a storage unit or apartment. Since half of those boxes are books, I thought a Kindle might be a good idea--carry those five boxes with me wherever I go. So I checked into it by pulling up my spreadsheet of books in boxes and investigated to see how much it would cost to replace them all. I didn't get far: Abbey, Edward--apparently the only one of his books available on Kindle is the one novel I sold. Clearly not a workable idea.

Nothing new on the possibility of working here this winter.

Today some of us from work took a five mile drive and half mile walk to a couple waterfalls--Wraith:

and Undine:

Monday night I learned the sad news that the cat who lived with me for my last five or so years in Duluth is dying. I'm not sure if I'll make it to Duluth before he dies; I've considered leaving early or going for a weekend and would do it if I thought my company would be any comfort to him, but based on his apparent lack of recognition when he saw me in May I think my presence would just be an additional stress to him. I haven't told this to anyone here yet; I don't think I've said much of anything for the past couple days. I'm telling you to explain in advance what may be a lengthy absence as I deal with this news, finish up the next couple weeks here (no more hikes or events currently planned anyway), visit Duluth to apartment hunt, and hopefully get to Boston at the end of October for the vegetarian food festival and to ship my stuff.

Until the next post from here or somewhere out there in the other world . . .

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Competing Elements

Yellowstone Lake

Antelope Creek Fire

Yellowstone River

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Elk, Wolf, Bison, Bear

There's a big bull elk bugling and grunting deeply just outside my window as he works on moving his harem of about twenty cows up into the hills for the night. This morning as they passed in the opposite direction, I listened to the sound of a dozen elk ripping up grass--somehow it sounded like caterpillar frass hitting leaves. The bugling often continues all night long but not so nearby--most of the time I sleep through it. I have no idea when the elk sleep. (As I write this, I continually take breaks to look out into the darkness to watch them.)

Most evenings I spend an hour or so watching the elk/tourist/ranger show just outside the dorm. It's much more entertaining than what I remember of television and tonight was an especially good episode. I can't possibly describe the events in a way that will do justice to the chaos when it's being witnessed live. The best action happens when a larger male chases a smaller male--often right at people. Tonight a large crowd of people beside the visitor center frantically scattered as two elk came running right at them. And the elk are very fast--I stood in a doorway with two other people as one being chased went tearing past us before we even had time to get inside. Meanwhile rangers are constantly trying to adjust to where the elk are, moving traffic cones around, closing streets, turning one way streets into two way streets, racing back and forth in their trucks, telling bewildered and/or clueless tourists to stop, to not stop, to speed up, to move, to get in their car.

On the way to today's group hike, we hit a bear jam and pulled off the road to watch a black bear's backside moving up a creek bed. I didn't even bother taking a photo because of the distance, just watched through my binoculars.

We were on our way to visit Rose Creek and the last remaining pen which held wolves when they were reintroduced to the park in 1995. The trail began behind the Yellowstone Association's Buffalo Ranch Field Campus. They offer many very interesting classes and if a winter job becomes a reality for me, I'll probably try to take one before or after the job.

Wolf researcher Rick McIntyre told us the history of those first wolf days during breaks along the trail to the pen, which was well hidden and distant from roads because of death threats. Even so, rangers patrolled and guarded the wolves 24 hours a day. This however was an unplanned stop on the trail as we waited for a bison to move on.

Along the way, we also examined an old elk skull.

And had a nice view of the Lamar River, with some haze from the Antelope Creek fire which as of Friday morning was reported at over 3000 acres, making it the largest of the season.

Along with the treats for the eyes, I made it a day for the nose as well, pressing my fingertips into pine sap and snorting the scent as I moved along the trail. Later I switched to crumpled sage leaves.

Approaching the pen.

The ground inside is still covered with the many bones of their long ago meals. When the time came, this was the gate to freedom and history.


Rose Creek

Friday, September 24, 2010

A Little News that's Fit to Amuse

I'm not blogging at work; I have the afternoon off because I'll be working Sunday taking inventory at a site which closes this weekend (and I'll be doing the same at another site Monday).

This has apparently already become a national story, but somewhere in Montana there's a bear who's afraid of zucchini.

Yesterday I was walking by the general store where a giant pickup truck was parked. A magpie kept jumping up from the sidewalk to pick dead bugs off the truck's grill.

Wednesday's hike got canceled so I don't have any new photos for you. At this point one more person needs to sign up for next Thursday's hikes by Yellowstone Lake for them to happen. Expect lots of water photos if it happens and lots of disappointment if it doesn't. There will be a short hike tomorrow to a former wolf pen site.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Week Ahead

There's a good sized lightning strike fire burning in the park and we've been having smoky days here in Mammoth. You can see the smoke on the two Mt Washburn webcams here. Over the weekend, it exploded from 60 to 1600 acres--that was as of Monday morning; I'm not sure of the current status but it was definitely going to get bigger before it's done.

A fire alarm went off in the dorm after 1 AM a couple nights ago;
I'd been asleep for an hour and was awake for hours afterward. So last night I was in bed by 7:30 and slept nine hours; I usually average about six.

A couple free books for review are arriving today (Dennis Lehane's newest and The Great Bay: Chronicles of the Collapse) with the chance to pick a couple more Thursday, tonight there's a wilderness seminar, tomorrow I'll be on a group hike to Sentinel Meadows all day, Thursday is bingo night--I'd prefer poker, but I take what's offered, and Saturday will be a group hike to Rose Creek, one of the pens where wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone. There will be a talk
by a wolf researcher which will likely include this history I found. Warning--there's a gruesome ending there, and a punishment not nearly severe enough.

A little fall coloring has started showing up and with the cooler temperature yesterday I took a good lunchtime walk instead of returning to the room. This weekend I finally bought a couple books of dayhikes--I've already done quite a few of them and many of the others I either don't want to do or couldn't without transportation, but I thought it would be fun to relive the ones I've done and look for future possibilities.

I was told yesterday I might get recruited as part of an inventory team to go to a couple of the locations which are closing next weekend. Sounds like a fun job. Meanwhile, it will be next week at least before I know if I'll be working here this winter. Besides not really knowing the specifics of the job yet, ther
e would be lots of details to work out regarding me getting to and from here in winter because of not driving and not having a place to live when I'm not here. But for an old guy in this economy, any job and roof is a good deal (not to mention the scenery) so I'm hoping it works out.

I haven't forgotten the other blog and have had a few ideas, but between the uncertainty about the future and sometimes struggling with another situation here, I haven't been writing anything either.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Old Faithful: The Two Hour Hike

Some of my office mates had gone to see the new Old Faithful Visitor's Center last week; today a new group including me made the trip. A day's pay for having fun, a free lunch--believe me when I tell you this is not how most employees here get treated. I've lucked into being among the rich upper class of non-management seasonal employees, and I try to never forget that whatever else may go wrong.

So yes, today I saw Old Faithful erupt for the first time. Although geysers don't really thrill me, I even took some photos but the water blurs into the steam and I'm not going to bother posting one. But I've got a bunch of other spots to show you from my solo hike after lunch.

As soon as I make it past this bison who seems to be contemplating sending me for a ride. After this photo, he did turn and take a couple steps toward me. I moved on.

Spots such as Castle Geyser,

Shield Spring,

Crested Pool,

and one whose name I don't recall.

It's not easy being a tree around here. You don't want to be at the front of the line.

Here are a couple views of the Firehole River which runs through the middle of these features.

Here are Chromatic Pool,

Grotto Geyser (which looks a bit like ET to me),

and another whose name I don't remember. Maybe it's even anonymous--all of the features aren't named. Actually, now that I look at it again, I think it's the same one whose name I didn't know up above. But I like both photos anyway.

After my boardwalk walk I was ready to get in the woods so I headed uphill to Observation Point. This is what that trail looks like.

And here's the view from the top.

I wanted to show you what the trail was like, because on my way down I heard a "Huff, huff, huff" from behind me. I turned and looked around but didn't see the bear I think made the sound. I forgot to look up in the trees, so the only bear I actually saw today was the drawing of one at the beginning of the trail.

I did look up in the trees when I got back to the parking lot because of the noise being made by this raven.

And here's the other half of the conversation, perched on a van.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

A Little Old School Greentangle

This is my Amazon review of a new book titled Some We Love, Some We Hate, Some We Eat: Why It's so Hard to Think Straight about Animals by Hal Herzog. I titled it Some We're Willing to Let Live if it Doesn't Inconvenience Us.

It was difficult to come up with a star rating for this book. On one hand, I think the subject is both interesting and extremely important. On the other hand, although I give the author credit for thinking about issues and hypocritical behavior which most people never consider, I strongly disagree with most of his opinions, conclusions, and self-justifications. For every case where he writes that hardly anyone thinks something, I'm one of the people who thinks that. And I don't think it's that hard to think straight about animals; I just think saying that it is makes it easier for folks like the author to defend their choices.

The book gets off to a very bad start by using an example in which someone who never actually was a vegetarian is then classified as an ex-vegetarian to suit the author's bias. Everyone should be able to see the flaw in this "reasoning" regardless of what they eat.

A lot of questions involving animals are then looked at briefly and interestingly. In this section, he makes some good points. but follows up with chapters on pets and dogs which I personally found dull. I was more interested in later chapters on the abuse of animals as food and research subjects.

Here's an interesting sentence about how supposedly normal people justify their participation in an activity: "The answer is that they construct a moral framework based on a mix of wishful thinking and logic in which cockfighting becomes completely acceptable." I believe you can substitute meateating for cockfighting and the sentence is just as true because later in the book, the author mentions four arguments against meat which he acknowledges are hard to dispute.

And so, in order to not have to dispute them or act properly based upon his knowledge of them, the author must tell us that it's hard to think straight about animals and that we're all hypocrites (by redefining hypocrisy as humanity). This is fantasy most of his readers will lap up because it suits how they choose to live their lives. But there's nothing admirable about unnecessary cruelty and murder, and nothing noble about embracing your inner yahoo.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Catching Up

Disclaimer: there is no relationship between the following words and photos.

Winter's coming and things are winding down. I no longer have twenty weekend messages when I show up at work on Monday. The general store has cut its hours to 9-6. One of the cashiers there has chatted with me about my Thoreau shirts during the season; on a recent visit I had on my Porkies sweatshirt and learned his family has a place in the UP. And I've been told there's a new chance that a winter job might be offered to me--I should know this week.

There have been some local moments I haven't mentioned. Such as the bear who was right in the middle of my usual walk around Mammoth--I didn't see the critter though. I was at work and only saw the flashing lights across the sage meadow from my office window as the rangers hazed him out of town. Today on that walk, there was a bugling elk on someone's front lawn.

I haven't heard any cause of death of the big grizzly who was found several weeks ago. One of my coworkers and a bear surprised each other at about twenty feet. She has left for the year but said she's glad to be alive and is getting bear spray when she comes back next year. Another coworker unfortunately continues to hike alone without it. I do too, but unlike her I stick to mostly open areas where we can see each other coming. I'll also be buying spray next May if I come back because I plan on more solo hiking if I do return. I don't imagine death by bear is a pleasant way to go even though I feel like I'm living on borrowed time these days anyway, but my biggest concern is that I'd be rolling in the grave knowing I got a bear killed by not carrying the damned stuff even though hardly anyone ever actually has to use it.

There hasn't been any dramatic rut activity yet, but the elk and the rangers were both around last evening, and there are a couple bulls in town. The big-shots of recent years are dead, so these guys may not be too sure of what they're doing.

This morning I took a walk down to the Gardner River. I suppose I'd qualify for a 100 miles t-shirt if I'd kept track, but along with everyone else I wouldn't have come close to the woman I'd guess is in her seventies and who hiked 500 miles this season.

The great horned owls were calling on a sunny chilly evening walk this week.

On another walk, I heard a heavy cone drop followed by a nutcracker who repeatedly took the cone in bill and tried to fly back up into the tree, dropping it each time. I was tempted to try to wedge the cone up on a branch myself but thought that would just scare the bird away.

Walkin' Jim Stoltz died earlier this month.

There was an employee photo contest recently. You can check out the winners here. Be sure to click on the winning wildlife photo to get the whole picture.