Sunday, June 26, 2011

The View From Here

Summer seems to have arrived in Yellowstone on the calendar's schedule as the weather has temporarily shifted away from cool frequent rain to warm and mostly sunny. Despite the weather, I'm spending the weekend in my room because my foot is going downhill, slightly ahead of the rest of my body. It hasn't reached the winter's every step is painful stage yet but seems to be headed in that direction so I'm resting it as much as I can before a couple long hikes I have scheduled for the first week of July. With my free time, I finished reading a not bad post-eco-apocalypse novel yesterday called Burn Down the Sky. We find hope where we can.

I did take a short walk uphill while on my morning break the other day and found some Rocky Mountain Irises so at lunch I got the camera and went back to take some photos.

The next plant was nearby but I haven't been able to figure out what it's going to grow up to be.

Yesterday I started up the outside stairs of the dorm and realized a ground squirrel was on the landing at the top. I tried to stay to the side as he did some panicked scurrying and then tore down the stairs like a possessed cat. When he reached the bottom, he stood near the safety of his hole and looked up at me. As I often do, I wished better interspecies communication was possible. Still, he fared better than the road-killed one I saw this morning being eaten by a raven while a magpie stood nearby waiting his turn.

Here's this morning's view from my window.

Even with the screen and the dirty glass and the scaffolding and netting, it's the best view I'll ever have from the window again. Tomorrow the window will be replaced with one which will be part of making the building look prettier to the tourists passing by. It will have a lot of fake panes breaking the view into little rectangles so we're not troubled by feeling insignificant by the great outdoors. The pesky wood siding is also being replaced by vinyl--as far as I know, I'm the only person against this project because as far as I know I'm the only person here who prefers beat up character to modern sterility.

Still, I've gone ahead and filled out a winter application. Mostly because when I was looking through this year's photos so I could send a few to my work email to use as a computer background, I was delighted by the feelings and memories the photos from March aroused in me--a time of quiet and few people. It would be nice to experience a winter here and keep a roof over my head for one more year before returning to face the eco-apocalypse.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Shades of Grey

I've had a cold which has kept me from doing a couple planned activities, but I pushed myself up the hill this morning for a five mile hike which made my foot sore but the rest of me felt glad to get some exercise for the first time in a week.

Just a few photos for your amusement.

The swallows of Yellowstone.

I hear there are more critters over the bridge.


How cute am I? Wouldn't you like to feed me? If not, I'll tear you apart with my claws.

Run for your life!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Elk Calves, Cookout

The elk put on a show one night last week.

That fence isn't about the elk--it's about the construction going on at our dorm. They might have been better off if they had been fenced in though, because a bear or bears continue to wipe out elk calves around Mammoth at a high rate. Three or four were killed in the past couple days, so all those in the photos could already be dead. Even in the developed parts of Yellowstone, life isn't easy. Despite the tourists who want to pet the animals and ask about swimming pools and televisions and microwaves (no, there aren't any), this isn't Disneyland or a resort and hopefully never will be.

Last night, over 150 employees including me went to a free shakedown (practice) cookout over at Roosevelt. It was a lot of fun and everyone involved did a great job, from the wagon drivers to the storytelling guides to the coffee pourer and the cooks to the singing cowboy. Tonight they start for real with paying customers--over 200 people attend every night, and I heard many employees say they plan to go back and pay to do it again this summer. OK, maybe it is a little like a resort.

Crossing the prairie.

Our team of Shorty and Squirt.

Wagons parked by the cookout site.

How many marmots can you find in the following photo?

OK, that wasn't too difficult because it was a relative closeup, but you can see how well camouflaged they are on a hillside of those rocks.

On the way back, we passed Phantom Lake which is a roadside meadow which is usually dry during the summer. Right now because of all the winter snow and spring rain, there really is a good sized lake there. The water was still, the setting sunlight was coming in at a low angle over mountain top and through clouds, the shoreline trees and various colors appeared in the water in the most stunningly beautiful reflection I've ever seen. Although everyone oohed and ahhed and others were stopped taking photos, our driver didn't stop so I can't share the moment. I did take some sky shots through the moving car's window shortly afterward.

I have a three day weekend and then only two more days to work in my first job of the season before switching next week. It's been a good three months, and if my decision were based only on the jobs I'd apply to work a ten month stretch here beginning in December but there are other factors I'll have to consider.

I passed up a long hiking offer today of a trail I'd like to do because I started getting a cold yesterday and I'm still trying to decide whether to do my shorter local hike today or just hang out in the room. Monday I have to choose between a hike and a trip to Bozeman.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Plants and Animals of the BPT

It was another lovely day in paradise and with no group hikes scheduled, I headed out early to see what was new on my neighborhood Beaver Ponds Trail since my last visit two weeks ago. There are still a couple wet spots but someone has been out there with a saw and cut a couple trees which had fallen across the trail. Apparently s/he hasn't done the entire trail though because the biggest, most awkward mess is still deep in the woods. The day was so enjoyable I may decide to do it all over again tomorrow.

Shortly after climbing the hill behind the dorm this morning, I started my hike by spending a half hour watching a distant coyote. I alternated between binoculars and camera. What had me particularly interested was that three pronghorns repeatedly walked back and forth in the same area as the coyote. Their behavior had me wondering if they were daring the coyote to chase them or if the coyote had a dead pronghorn.

I didn't want to interfere so I didn't get close enough to spook anyone but decided I would investigate the scene a couple hours later when the trail would take me back on the far side. When I did search the area, I didn't find the carcass or signs of blood I expected to find. I did find some coyote-sized burrows and a lot of ground squirrels. When I got back to my room and cropped the photos, this one seemed to confirm the coyote was mousing or in this case, probably ground squirreling. But I still have no idea what the pronghorn were doing.

When I got back, I found these elk waiting by the back door of the hotel.

Were they going to sneak in? Are they not allowed in the front door? Do they like scaring the tourists who try to exit? These are the mysteries of life in Yellowstone.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Blacktail Deer Creek

The road closed by a rockslide Saturday was still closed Wednesday morning so we couldn't reach the site of the hike we'd signed up for, but we could reach a fine substitute on a lovely sunny day. The first couple miles were relatively flat, as in the next photo, but the second couple miles made up for it, and though the round trip of nine miles didn't bother me as we were doing them, I felt some soreness later that night.

The early section was overrun with ground squirrels and badger burrows, and we also saw a pronghorn.

A waterfall and erosion along the downhill course of Blacktail Deer Creek.

At the bottom of the hill, we found another one of those suspension bridges across the Yellowstone River.

After crossing the bridge, we found grizzly bear tracks on the trail.

Grizzly (and humans), coming and going.

After checking out the tracks, we continued a short distance to the beautiful Crevice Lake and had lunch before beginning our return climb.

A lucky duck on Crevice Lake.

More tracks--not a grizzly, but still cool.

More views along the trail. As usual, I didn't take photos of the steepest sections because I was busy watching the trail.

This pond is near the beginning/end of the hike, and we found an antlered elk browsing just beside the parking area as we returned.

A couple flowers to end including, finally, shooting stars relatively in focus.