Friday, December 30, 2011

Winding Up

A few last scenes from a week ago to wind up 2011.

A few days ago I was planning to spend this day off snowshoeing because a good amount of snow was in the forecast for Wednesday and Thursday. That worked out for most of the park, but here in Mammoth we were too warm and got snow and rain mixes which made walking treacherous.

Today was the wettest day I've seen here. It's been raining all day, still beating against the window as I type. The parking lot area behind the hotel and back road I walk between home, work, gym, and food never gets plowed to pavement in winter--I'm walking on snow and ice and spread dirt for months. Today it became a mix of slush and mud and water and ice. I'm hoping an inch or two of forecast overnight snow will cover it all up before I head out in the morning.

After checking out events schedules, I've picked the last weekend in January for my vacation to Old Faithful. I'll make reservations at work tomorrow and hope my boss will give me the days off. Finding out if someone might join me will have to come later.

I haven't had much success losing weight since I've been back, in part because I've been having a couple beers most nights, but I have greatly improved my stamina on the elliptical machine watching the numbers climb higher. This morning I hit the near edge of the runner's high I used to feel during my Boston runs long ago, and feel inspired to make brief morning gym stops every day before work instead of only longer sessions on my days off.

I've followed up my New Orleans music craze by repurchasing most of my favorite 60s and 70s Motown and R&B music--Temptations, Four Tops, Supremes, Smokey Robinson, Bill Withers, Barry White, and Marvin Gaye. But the one which is just knocking me out with repeated back to back plays is Al Green--the sensuality side to Barry's sexuality.

Just after posting this with its mention of R&B, I discovered this video of one of the funniest songs I've heard--"Ooh Girl"-An Honest R&B Song.

My 2012 resolution--to become more natural, more wild, and go with the flow. Best wishes.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Best of Greentangle 2011

It's a short list of mostly photos. Early in the year I planned to write many posts about various Yellowstone issues but almost immediately lost interest in rewriting what other people have already written.

I'm not doing much writing these days, or spending much time following news of nature and animal stories. There haven't been many blog relevant books offered for review by Amazon this year either--from what I can see from searching their website, there aren't many being published either.

So I'm mostly living a life of either contentment or apathy depending on how you look at it, doing my jobs and enjoying the scenery.

The following list mostly represents my strongest memories as I looked back through the year.

Zoo Stories Combining a review of a zoo book and photos from Duluth's zoo

Lakewalk Icy photos from Duluth

Walking in a Spring Wonderland
Snowy scenes in Yellowstone

7 Seconds in Yellowstone
Bear attack humor which a couple summer visitors should have heeded

Abstracts, Still Lifes, and Bears
Norris, Old Faithful, and Mammoth

Bears, Wolves, Ravens At the Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center

Mysterious Shapes
Of owl and bear

Firsts: Hits and Misses Starring my first moose

A Day at the Lake A great trail and a near goring

It's a Wild Life A grizzly bear and two wolves in the same scene, just like in those nature programs (and some other much better photos)

Love is in the Air A much better than usual wolf sighting

Bunsen Peak Climbing and looking around

Mt. Washburn Climbing higher and looking around

The Other Park Grand Teton, that is

Season's End Saying goodbye and looking back

Winter Hoodoos and Flats Winter is my friend


Friday, December 23, 2011

And to all a good night

Tonight I attended the second of three nights of ranger presentations in the hotel. Last night was a bit of park history and tonight's was a look at winter and how various animals survive. Tomorrow night's talk will be about the days when the army was running the park and what winter was like for them. I'm not sure if these will be the only three topics for the winter or if there are more coming.

The area where I live, where the hotel and all the tourist buildings are, is sometimes known as Upper Mammoth. There's also a little suburb of employee housing known as Lower Mammoth which logically enough is down the hill. At tonight's talk, I learned that wolves killed an elk last night in Lower Mammoth leaving blood on someone's car.

I had the day off today but other than an early trip to the gym I was feeling quite lazy and didn't get out much. Some days it's nice to lie around reading, and I worked on the annual list of greentangle's favorite posts for an upcoming day. I did practice putting my snowshoes on and taking them off and found the best way to attach them to my new pack. I'm hoping to actually use them outside on Monday.

I've started investigating making a four day getaway to the Old Faithful area in late January or early February and have a possible ok from my boss. This would involve a four hour snow coach ride each way, seeing the interior winter park, staying in a cabin, lots of snowshoeing and winter hiking, looking at steamy geysers, restaurant meals, and a nighttime tour complete with hot chocolate. I'd leave the internet and the outside world here but imagine I'd have a couple cameras full of photos when I got back.

Lots of employees are paying for a special Christmas dinner at the hotel restaurant but I'm going to pass on that one. I am looking forward to going to an international dinner in February complete with Indian food, and possibly a four course brew master's January dinner featuring Red Lodge beers. That's a pricy one though so I'll probably skip it unless I have a good date to go with. I should know the answer to that long simmering question in a week or at most two. Resolution either way will be good for the new year. Although I certainly have my preference for how the events and unspoken feelings and confusions of the past four months turn out, it's all good in Yellowstone.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011


Last night and this morning, we had our first significant snow since I've been back. Just a few inches, but I was glad to see it. We've been canceling and modifying some of the tourist activities because there isn't enough snow in the park. That was probably inevitable once I bought snowshoes, but I'm still looking forward to the one free ski rental and lesson we get as employees--that should be enough to tell me if I want to rent them again.

The day before the snow we had our first groups of bison and elk in town; before that, most of my wildlife sightings in the immediate vicinity had been rabbits.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Winter Hoodoos and Flats

Here's a highway walk from Mammoth I've always wanted to do but haven't been able to because of the summer traffic. Barricades are wonderful things. And while I'm wishing for more snow so I can snowshoe and take some skiing lessons, the lack of snow made this an easy hike.

I started by climbing the stairs up the terraces to cut a couple miles off the trip, then walked the section in the previous post until I got to new territory--the hoodoos.

The distant ridge is part of Terrace Mountain, believed to be the source of all these boulders in a long ago earthquake, eruption, landslide, whatever. This blog and Yellowstone could go out with a bang at any time, but if it's the big volcano, you probably won't have time to miss it.

That's frozen Rustic Falls.

There are some turns on this road you don't want to miss.

For perspective, the next photo shows one of our snow coaches making the turn. The driver had stopped and asked if I wanted a ride down the hill, but I was happy to stay on my feet.

The road in that section is covered with dirt and wood chips for extra traction.

It was a lovely walk through the trees and on the mountainside. But the biggest reward waits when you reach Swan Lake Flats by the Bunsen Peak trailhead.

The photos of course don't begin to do justice, but as I stood there I was thinking that if I called this place beautiful in the summer . . . What words could possibly begin to describe this stunning wide open view in winter?

After absorbing as much of that as I could, it was time to head back. I believe it was while I was walking the following curve that I started laughing and said, "It's all so fucking incredible!" Most people probably wouldn't regard that as a spiritual moment, but it's my version.

Before hiking, I had stopped to see the woman and though she won't be here for the next couple weeks, she was friendly and I didn't have to talk her into getting together again when she returns as I expected to have to do, so I was quite happy about that. And I still don't have a roommate. A most excellent day.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Loneliness vs. Solitude

It's been an interesting couple weeks here starting with very few people and gradually increasing. Even I, as someone usually quite content to be alone with books and computer and nature, sometimes felt the urge for someone to talk with, probably primarily because I haven't had the chance to learn for certain what resolution is coming with a woman who greatly interests me.

The full staff will be arriving within the next couple days for training before the hotel opens next week, so I expect a roommate any day. The hotel is only open for eleven weeks though so having a room to myself again is just around the corner. Between the roommate and getting trained for some new job duties, it's going to be a stressful few days of change.

Fortunately I have a plan for escape on Friday. Since I don't go away for weekends, I decided to split up my days off so I'll work a maximum of three days in a row. Friday will be my first day off under that schedule and I'll be hiking to the hoodoos.

Unplanned and improperly dressed, I walked partway there Sunday, passing the barricade which closes the road to traffic and walking along the road completely alone. Simultaneously feeling much less alone than some of the nights I've spent in the dorm while actually being much more alone, more peacefully alone with a greater sense of complete responsibility for myself than I've ever felt in Yellowstone.

I heard coyotes at one time as I walked and always half expected to see some creature trotting down the middle of the road toward me.

My snowshoes are here, but we haven't had much snow and they're not really not needed right now. I've ordered a new backpack to attach them to; if I had that now, I'd take them along Friday and wander away from the road anyway but this time I'll just stick to the road with the small laptop backpack I've been using on all my hikes here.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Today's Tracks

The interstate trail.

I'll hibernate when I'm damn good and ready.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Did you hear . . . ?

The big question many people were asking at work Tuesday was, "Did you hear the wolves this morning?" And almost everyone who lives here had indeed heard their early morning chorus. If they missed it, there was another chance at 6:00 this morning. I tried to record them for you using my camera but they weren't loud enough to be picked up by it. It's a pretty special way to start the day though and I'll be listening for them again tomorrow.

It was a slow day at work today and I got out early and took a little walk up the hill. Looked like this.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

The First Weekend

Welcome back to my village.

It's more mine than usual right now because there are very few employees here. It's easy to have the cafeteria to myself, and on this morning's first walk the only person I saw was exercising in the gym.

A flock of waxwings exploded with a roar of wings.

The place is so empty, I can stroll along the road.

But I can't go here.

Several people have encouraged me to get skis, and I'm sure I'd enjoy the experience, but skis seem like a too large and impractical purchase for a non-driver who doesn't want to be dependent on others to get to most of the places to use them. My snowshoes are ordered.

Starting next month I'll have medical, dental, and vision insurance for the first time in years. It will cost about 1/3 of my paycheck and there's only a tiny medical clinic anywhere I can get to until next October, but there's nothing else to spend it on but beer and my favorite brand isn't sold here anyway. I'm going to have to find a supplier from Gardiner.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

61 Miles To Go

I've made it to Livingston. One more cab ride in the morning back to the bus station where I'll be met by someone from the park and driven through Paradise (Valley) to Human Resources. And soon I'll be writing HR about the inefficiency of using the bus station here as the pickup point (more mileage and driving for them and more cabs for everyone they pick up since the station is at the end of town farthest away from the park and motels).

There isn't a phone at the bus station (actually, there isn't even a bus station--just a warming hut) so I had to use the phone at the coffee shop next door to call the cab company where I got a recording and had to call again later. Tonight I had to call back to arrange tomorrow morning's ride and I have to call back again in the morning to make sure she's up.

After the paperwork and the new photo with bushy Abbey beard for the winter, one last ride up to Mammoth to see the new dorm room furniture and probably some kind of required training in the afternoon. It will feel good to unpack my bags and stored boxes and settle down for 10 1/2 months.

In Bozeman I started investigating possibilities for my next vacation period, checking weekly rates at my usual place, and taking a look at a room at a nearby motel (much cheaper and much dumpier--I think I'll pay more.) I think I'm likely to finally spend some time in Missoula next fall also.

The weather and scenery during the 25 mile bus ride here from Bozeman today was outstanding. Patches of blue sky, patches of dark clouds, patches of snow. I heard someone behind me saying how beautiful it was. Maybe his first visit, maybe his 100th--it remains just as stunning.

I discovered a website which shows all the Yellowstone webcams on one page and substituted that link at the bottom of the Yellowstone Sites list on the right. Check them out. Well, wait for daylight here in Mountain Time (a coworker thinks it's fun that I get to leave messages mentioning my working hours in Mountain Time). Maybe I'll wave to you on the Mammoth webcam sometime this winter. At the bottom of that page are links to many other National Park and wildlife cams.

Tomorrow's high temperature will be in the 20s early in the day, dropping into single digits by afternoon. Welcome to Yellowstone.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Big Easy, Big Sky, Bit Pieces

I woke up whiny on my last morning in Duluth; I don’t wanna get on another bus. During the past few weeks, I’ve sometimes woken up in the middle of the night and been unsure both of what town I was in and where the bathroom was. But by the time I was leaving Minneapolis that night, I was eager to ride for the first time in the past six weeks of traveling.

I saw lots and lots of egrets in the waters as I approached New Orleans, and then a couple pelicans as I took a ferry ride across the Mississippi River. Hawks along the highway in Minnesota, and deer and hunters in Montana.

Many things conspired against my enjoyment of New Orleans this time. Of the six hotel rooms I lived in during these weeks, the one at the Frenchmen Hotel was by far the worst as well as the most expensive. The lighting was dim, the shower terrible, and the toilet iffy. The noise level was incredible but I expected that because of the proximity to clubs. The door, loose in its frame, was very difficult to lock which I suppose didn’t really matter because anyone could have come through the window which didn’t lock after they’d passed through the gate which had a defective lock. The excuses of being an old building carried no weight with me because I’ve stayed in equally old hotels in much better condition including in the French Quarter for a similar price. I checked to see if any of them were available for my full stay but they weren’t.

The weather was usually much too humid, except on the days when there was a chilly breeze. On the day I left, I decided to walk the mile or so to the train station. When I got there, I had to take off my soaked through t-shirt and put the one I’d worn the previous day back on.

The first couple times I walked around I was pretty aggressively panhandled which put me on the defensive for my short stay and kept me from fully enjoying conversations with the street people as I usually would. I did pick up a new nickname based on my shirts (as in “Hey, it’s Yellowstone, how ya doing?") and was asked while passing if anyone had told me I looked like Jerry (why yes, they have).

I got sick. Twice. Once from something I ate, a muffuletta I believe, and once from the weather changes. And though I knew it was an extreme longshot, I was disappointed that someone from Yellowstone didn’t appear at my door.

Despite all that, I enjoyed many parts of my stay. I would love to have dba as my neighborhood bar, a club with long lists of beer and single malt scotch, and great music. It was by far the best of the bars I visited, in part because the others were too small. Because of my sicknesses, I didn’t sample all the mixed drinks I planned to—no Monsoon, no Pimm’s Cup, no Sazerac—but based on a friend’s recommendation I did accompany an early lunch (gumbo and a garlic oyster po-boy at Liuzza’s by the Track—one of my favorite meals) with a fine Bloody Mary which sent me back out into the sun with a bit of a New Orleans stagger which made me feel like I fit right in. I didn’t go to the really fancy restaurants, but my best meal was catfish, shrimp creole, greens, and yams at The Praline Connection. I think every waitress in the city called me some variation of darlin’, honey, or sweetheart, and it comes across as real instead of designed to get a bigger tip.

The free ferry ride across the river was nice, and City Park is a lovely spot deserving more exploration than I gave it. Streetcar and bus rides gave nice looks at parts of the city which I hadn’t seen before. The city’s architecture is lovely, but the French Quarter felt more cramped than I remembered, which I’m sure is largely due to the wide open spaces where I now spend most of my time.

At bus transfers in Fargo and Billings, employees move your checked baggage for you, unlike anywhere farther east. The first time this happened last year I got very nervous having my bag’s fate determined by others, but by now I’m grateful to not have to deal with the big monster I can barely carry. It would have been nice to not have to pay for a locker in Minneapolis while I went out for something to eat.

I was hoping to get a good view of the badlands terrain of North Dakota’s Theodore Roosevelt National Park, but I could only see shadows in the dawn light as I did this March also. Only last year’s late May trip gave me a good look so I guess it won’t be fitting into my bus schedule in the future. In Montana, I took a few photos through the bus window—nothing great but it felt good to have my “real” camera in my hands again after a couple weeks of using the mini. That said, I’m thinking that I’ll try to reduce the number of photos here somewhat and get back to my words.

I haven’t been offered any great free books for review in quite a while (though I was amused that while on vacation in New Orleans, I was offered a travel guide to New Orleans—what the hell—I took it) and since I no longer have a library card and very rarely buy books now either, my reading has been pretty casual stuff. The Kindle has crossed my mind a few times. Since I didn’t make it to the UP, I’ve been reading Jim Harrison’s True North which isn’t a bad substitute. And I have what sound like good readings to attend at the local bookstore the next two nights--Extremophilia and Where Elk Roam.

Tomorrow is shopping day--at REI for snowshoes and winter clothes, and at the evil big box for ten months worth of toiletries. I have more meals to eat here, then Wednesday head over to stay in Livingston for my last night out here before being picked up Thursday morning and returned to Neverland.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Leavin' Louisiana in the Broad Daylight

It's my last night and I don't think I'll be back. I didn't feel any of the magic which made me consider moving here after my visit twenty-some years ago. The city has changed but that probably has more to do with the changes in me. I heard some great music and ate some good food, but this isn't a place for a solo traveler of a certain age, at least not this one.

The weather has varied between humid 80s and 60s with a cool breeze and I've gotten a cold as a result and have stayed in the past couple nights and limited my days' activities as well. Now I get to travel sick on Thanksgiving week--oh joy!

This is where I've been staying--great location for the clubs I've been frequenting, but everything else about it sucks. If I ever do come back, I won't be staying here.

I did get to visit several parts of the city I hadn't seen before, including City Park and its botanical garden. I forgot there's also an arboretum there so missed that.

This cemetery is between the park and a restaurant I visited. I believe this is the one my guidebook says you'll probably survive visiting on your own. It advises avoiding another one even on a tour.

There's snow on the ground in Yellowstone, Bozeman, and maybe even a little in Duluth. I'm looking forward to getting back to the northern lands where I belong.

My next seven nights:
New Orleans
St. Paul

See you in Montana.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Humid N'Awlins

We were a couple hours late getting here yesterday because of problems near Memphis. There was a car accident on the tracks which stopped us for awhile, and when that was cleared, starting from a standstill couldn't get us up a hill's tracks which were slick from rain and wet leaves. So we had to back up a couple times and get running starts. A trainman tried to get us all to say, "I think I can, I think I can," but it didn't go over very well.

A couple scenes of varying naturalness from the train as we approached the city.

A wave of humidity hit us as soon as we got off the train and continued this morning despite overnight rain.

It seemed like a good day to spend indoors so I went to the Audubon Aquarium and Insectarium, and saw an Imax film about Katrina which choked me up a bit.

One highlight was an outside roomful of parakeets which flew around me.

Find your state insect. If your state isn't listed, you don't have one, at least not when the exhibit was made.

Another highlight was an indoor roomful of butterflies which flew around me. I would have spent more time here since it was set up nicely for contemplation if I hadn't had the film to get to.

I'd researched music to see in the afternoon, so I went to Margaritaville where I saw more photos of Jimmy Buffett than I'd seen in my entire life. Not a place I would have gone except I'd sampled the music of Colin Lake who was playing there and liked it. Enjoyed it enough in person to buy a cd. Right now I'm waiting a couple hours to go out to see Walter Wolfman Washington a couple blocks away.

The weather forecast is better for the rest of my time here, but I'm still looking forward to eating the Yellow(stone) snow.