Friday, April 29, 2011

Five Ungulates

Took a short hike last night along the end of the Rescue Creek trail near Gardiner and spotted the title characters: Pronghorn, Bighorn Sheep, Bison w/babies, Elk, and Mule Deer. We were only missing White-tailed Deer and Moose to make up the full Yellowstone native collection. I didn't get any good animal photos because of distance but the scenery along the Yellowstone River was nice.

Face left.

Gotta go.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

On Tour

We had another one of those snowy mornings which made everything look like it was photographed in black and white.

Today I went on an employee tour of some of the park. Since my future here was still undecided (my Duluth landlord had no apartments available for May, but did for June and I'd already told my boss from last year that I might be leaving so she could start reviewing applications), the trip felt very bittersweet, perhaps the last time I'd ever see parts of the park.

We made a stop at Fountain Paint Pots, a place I hadn't seen before.

I found the bison we saw there a lot more impressive than the geothermal features. Those ribs show you what a tough winter it has been for the animals here.

Here's a look at the lobby of the Old Faithful Inn. I got to see a lot of the rooms I've been reserving for people for the past month. If you ever stay there, try for a room in the Old House rather than the wings.

Saw my first new bison of the season, if only through a bus window.

The following photo from the Canyon area will give you an idea of how deep the snow still is in the interior of the park. And really, the depth in this photo is nothing--traveling between Canyon and Lake, the drifts by the side of the road were sometimes higher than the bus.

Coming up, one shot of Upper Falls (109 feet) and two of Lower Falls (308 feet). Click on any of the photos for better views.

The road between Canyon and Lake is still closed, but we had the key allowing us to pass through those huge drifts. I've been hearing and seeing quite a few sandhill cranes in recent days and in that section of the park, we spotted a pair running across nothing but whiteness in all directions.

Here's a view from the road beside the lake.

When I returned I learned that my roommate was moving out tonight so my immediate crisis was resolved. Not a situation to celebrate but I was very relieved. I'll be getting a new roommate any day and can only hope it will be a better match for both people.

The situation here is frustrating because I like both of my jobs and I'm good enough at them that the manager of my current one asked where I switched to in the summer and if there was anything he could offer to keep me where I am now. I told him no but that if my upcoming decision were based solely on the jobs, I would gladly apply to work here the annual maximum of ten months (which would be six for him) for seasonal employees, thus making myself eligible for health insurance and all those other things I haven't had in a decade or so.

But the living situation for me here sucks. Some of that is due to my not driving--that would have provided a much easier solution to the most recent problem. But that solution might have been prohibitively expensive given the low pay we get for working here. So I'm stuck with sharing a small room with a stranger even though I'd pay any amount to have a room of my own, and with surviving on food of much lower quality than I eat when I'm living in the outside world.

Hopefully that difficult decision is now delayed until later in the year and I'll be able to enjoy the summer doing many of the things in the park I didn't get to last year. If I get them all done, maybe I'll be ready to leave for good more happily in the fall than I almost left this week.


Sunday, April 24, 2011

The Last Yellowstone Post?

Here's a different view of the creek I often photograph up close.

Out walking today, I saw lots of chipmunks.

Am I the boy who cried wolf or just the boy who cried pronghorn? Got a rare closeup view today.

Making a break for it.

I'm at a crossroads. Because of a situation with my new roommate and how personnel is choosing to (not) handle it, combined with my mixed feelings about being here anyway, I may be heading back to Duluth in a couple days. I really don't know where the next post will be coming from.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Saturday Getaway

A suitemate arrived Thursday and my roommate arrived today so my days of a place of my own are over for six months. Decided it was time for a hike this afternoon--it's easy to get away here.

It was so quiet up there I could hear the rapids from a different section of this river. That's the road between Mammoth and Gardiner and the outside world.

Saw some elk, much better camouflaged than when they're hanging out around the dorm.

Some handsome lichen.

Aspen grove.

Former snow tunnels.

A look at the cabins in Mammoth. Wait, what's that in the middle?

Mommy, there's a buffalo on the porch!

Why are you taking my photo? You wouldn't like me when I'm angry.

A long way from sharp, but at maximum zoom and maximum crop, finally a semi-decent photo of a bluebird.

Taking flight.

Care to identify this similarly maxed out blur? I have no field guides here.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

7 Seconds in Yellowstone

The scenario: somewhere in 3472 square miles, greentangle walks alone.

Suddenly, an angry bear charges.

Greentangle draws his weapon, flips back the safety, and waits for the charging bear to get within 30 feet, the limit of his weapon's effectiveness. 30 feet isn't far. Greentangle must have some serious balls.

Greentangle follows directions, aims at the bear's face, presses down for 1-2 seconds to "create a barrier" then must "stop to evaluate the impact of wind and other factors and adjust" aim before spraying again if necessary. Don't spray too casually however, because your weapon only contains a total of 7 seconds of defense (that's about $6 a second). Hopefully the bear has also stopped charging to reevaluate all factors as well. If not, well, 30 feet wasn't far to start with, and it's a lot less after all this evaluating has gone on. With luck, the bear flees before eating too much greentangle.

Today's Quote: Endgame

The visionary poet Robinson Jeffers enunciated the situation bluntly, describing mankind in poems including "The Broken Balance" (1929) as "a sick microbe," "a deformed ape," a "spreading fungus . . . slime-threads and spores," "a botched experiment that has run wild and ought to be stopped." For many decades I've been slow to agree with him, feeling of course more empathy for people than for fungal spores or microbes--but a botched experiment, yes, I fear so. And I think by this point, Thoreau, Emerson, Aldo Leopold, Rachel Carson, Herman Melville, John Muir, would too. The word "Creation" was in common parlance throughout my young years, meaning what human innovation had not brought into being but, rather, was provided for us to start with, either by a "man upstairs" or by eons of vitality evolving before; and people, although spendthrift, felt somehow that they were embedded within it. An inherent awe or mystery was taken for granted, whereas now, I suspect, the metaphor of cancer will become commonplace, as we eat our planet's skin and soil its liquids, like a metastasizing disease. Another visionary writer, Edward Abbey, put it well, in 1970, for the new century: "We are none of us good enough for the world we have."
---Edward Hoagland, Sex and the River Styx

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Turning Point

The ground squirrels are above ground!

It's Spring!

Even if it was snowing with a high of 30 today.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Today's Photos

At lunch today, I heard that the first red dog of the season had been spotted. I had my camera and binoculars with me anyway since I had planned an after lunch hike so I headed out with extra enthusiasm. I scanned bison on hillsides above me, valleys below me, on roads, and in parking lots, but I didn't see the one I was looking for. A woman in the general store had been going to work at the right time this morning though and took a great photo of the little one in midair leaping across the creek I often photograph which is about two feet wide and all of two inches deep.

The little doggie got along without me, but I was happy to take more photos around the lower terraces. You're probably sick of these scenes by now, but I still love shooting and posting them.

I was starting down from the top of this road and the bison was starting up from the bottom. Even though he's keeping to the right, it looked like one way traffic to me so I circled and went down the trail instead.

I looked up idiot in my dictionary and it had the following photo. One of the cowboys proceeded to get closer to have his photo taken. Whenever I see this kind of behavior, I'm rooting for a goring and make no apology about it.

Let's end with a more intelligent creature.

Death and Life in Yellowstone

I finished reading Death in Yellowstone and along with the expected deaths by nature (hot springs, falling rocks, trees, and humans, bison and bear attacks, drowning while fishing, boating, or swimming, poisonous fumes and plants, avalanches, exposure, lightning, etc.), it seemed a little amazing how much death by human there has been here in my little mountain village and the surrounding area--murder and suicide abounds. I went back to my photographs from last year's visits to two of the three cemeteries mentioned in the book and found a couple relevant photos.

The book refers to the grave of a man which is
"marked by the only wooden marker" in the cemetery, but then in an appendix which lists everyone buried there includes a map which shows only some of the names on the list and says the rest were moved to Little Bighorn. Obviously this wooden marker is still there but it's not on the map. So I'm confused, but believe this is the grave of a man killed by a grizzly in 1916.

The boy in the following grave had his throat cut by his mother, who then chased her other three children but they escaped. While being taken to an asylum, she jumped off a train into the Yellowstone River and was never found dead or alive.

I counted 25 bison from my window the other night, some obviously pregnant with the red dogs who will be born in the next couple weeks, and some obviously those born last year. Some of the brown grass is beginning to turn green, but there is still plenty of snow to melt.

Some more sections of the park's roads opened Friday and those who have traveled them report that it's like passing through a white tunnel. Admission to the park is free because it's National Park Week, and between the tourists (already stopping their cars and inviting trouble from the bison who are starting to gain a little energy) and the managers who are having meetings here before spreading out around the park, the quiet days are over here at Mammoth. From now on, it will just keep getting busier until September.

But as more people are trained or return to work in our office, our hours are at least temporarily being reduced. Next week I not only have what has been my standard Monday of six hours, I only work a half day on Friday as well which is more than fine with me. On May 1st we begin taking reservations for the summer of 2012 and I hear the phones will be ringing nonstop all day. That falls on what would normally be a day off for me, but I don't know yet if that is going to hold true.