Sunday, October 30, 2011

Scenes from the Lake Shore

My first week in Duluth has been spent doing necessary things, eating at restaurants, walking when possible, thinking of New Orleans, and longing for mountains. I expect that next year when I leave the park, I'll only be coming back here to ship whatever I'm keeping to Bozeman or Gardiner. It's on to the next life.

Yesterday a couple friends and I hiked about seven miles on Wisconsin Point, across the channel from my favorite hike on Minnesota Point. Not sure I feel the need to do that one now. Probably not this week anyway, which will be filled with more necessary things and a day in St. Paul.

Sometimes a lighthouse is just a lighthouse.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Last, The First, My Everything

Yes, I'm channeling Barry White these days, if a little out of order.

So here are a few photos from along the way. First up, the last of fall hiking in Yellowstone.

Going off-trail, I found a long snakeskin, with boot for reference.

And up by the old Gardiner road, a couple pronghorn were browsing.

The first photos from elsewhere. Clouds over Bozeman.

Where the season depends on the elevation.

The Lake has waves.

And gulls.

I find that I actually enjoy talking to strangers when I leave Yellowstone. Don't worry, it's wearing off. Whether they're bank tellers, cab drivers, hair cutters, or librarians, they all seem to think it's pretty cool that I live and work in the park. What's amusing is that most of them think it's even cooler that I'm going to New Orleans. Three weeks from today, my train will be pulling in and I'll see if the Big Easy can live up to the big memories, big expectations, and shared enthusiasm which have led to the trip.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Season's End

On this quiet fall morning as I walked to breakfast, another employee said, "This place sure is nice when there's no one here." So true. This is when it becomes our Yellowstone. As the ghost town atmosphere has increased with the closing of the hotel and dining room and resulting departure of most of the tourists and employees, my deepest appreciation has also increased. The silent beauty can be more easily heard, the patch of golden aspen sets off the dark green of the fir and spruce, the smell of autumn engulfs.

There's a common Yellowstone adage that employees put up with the summer here so they can live here the rest of the year. Often in my life, I haven't been a very happy man, and I was getting close to the end a couple years ago before this place saved me with a series of improvements--a bad job which served as something new to wait for, which turned into a much better job when I got here, followed by a second job so I could spend more time here. And now for forty-six weeks of the year, I live in Yellowstone National Park. Then I go on vacation for six weeks! What a freaking lucky man I am.

A few Then & Now photos.

6/2/10 Notice all the orange color under the three trees.

10/16/11 This is what makes people think the hot springs are dying out. In fact, what actually happens is that the water reaches the surface in different locations causing color changes as the thermophiles live in the hot water.

5/31/10 I took that photo of my dorm on my first day here. I had no idea I'd wind up spending time in the car which belongs to a coworker and hiking friend.

10/7/11 The remodeling finally ended in September resulting in a dorm which looks just like all the other buildings here instead of old and funky.



As I spend more time here and the place becomes more of a home rather than a dream/fantasy, the never seen sometimes becomes the commonplace. I haven't taken as many photos of the terraces this year and hardly any of the elk. Here's a couple recent ones.

One last look. I'll be leaving Thursday morning, but right now I'm just waiting for Tuesday night when I'll find out if Yellowstone will possibly have one more big improvement in store for me when I return. I dare to think she might. An update on that as well as the fantastic music I've discovered in recent weeks over in the other place at the end of the week.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Here It Comes

This morning the only road open in the park was the one which stays open all winter long. We got updates throughout the day as sections reopened. No major snow here, just enough to make it pretty.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Right Place, Right Time

Today was one of my favorite days in the Yellowstone ecosystem annual cycle--the first temporary road closures of the season due to snow. From the park website:

South Entrance Road, Craig Pass, Beartooth Pass are temporarily closed due to heavy snow.


Tonight, another annual event--we went to a bar in town for pizza since many of my coworkers are leaving tomorrow. Folks who have been attending for a decade or two said this was the biggest crowd ever. We've got a good crew and everyone is planning to return next year.

And, oh yes, earlier this week we received an email at work notifying us that the NPS had confirmed the presence of a mountain lion behind the hotel the night before.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Wrong Place, Wrong Time

The Park Service has killed a bear for being one of the many bears at the scene of this summer's second human death. The reason essentially is that she was the bear who caused the death of the first human this summer. (Although I don't think I ever posted after the long investigative report was issued about that first death--you could say that mosquitoes caused the first death. The couple had been hiking away from the bears but decided there were too many mosquitoes--perhaps they didn't have bug or bear spray with them--so they turned around and hiked back into the fatal encounter.)

Despite what I've already read in some inaccurate news articles, there is no evidence that the bear killed the second hiker or even that she ate any of him. She was simply one of the bears identified as being there. At least nine grizzlies were in the immediate area feeding on two bison carcasses, one of which was only 150 yards from the trail. Seventeen bear daybeds were found in the area.

The killed bear was estimated to be six or seven years old. Her two cubs will now spend their lives in captivity.


Sunday, October 2, 2011

Transition Month

No photos. No trip. No hike. I'm easing into moving mode. My (former) roommate left Friday along with many other seasonals and I've been enjoying a weekend of leisure, spreading out my stuff and packing boxes that I'll store here for the six weeks I'll be gone.

Most of the seasonals I work with will be leaving at the end of this week and there will be some sort of farewell party mid-week. The hotel here closes early next week, and I have about 2 1/2 weeks left before leaving with the majority of those who will still be left. Anyone sticking around after that has to move to Gardiner housing and find their own food until December when the dorm and cafeteria reopen.

Last night the power went out in the dorm and hotel at 11:00. There was still electricity on the other side of the street, but the darkness here made things seem a little wilder. It has been hard to sleep lately with the constant bugling of elk and last night coyotes joined the midnight chorus.

Today there is an elk herd resting across the street beside the post office. Earlier I watched a ranger waving a cloth at a couple cow elk to try to back them away from the sidewalk. One of them stamped her feet and fake charged. Soon, the bull wandered over as if to say, "You messing with my woman?"

Thanks to loaned cds from my New Orleans-bred coworker, I've been listening to some new musicians and hoping I'll get to see some of them play during my trip. My favorite discovery has been Jon Cleary, but Ingrid Lucia and Johnny Sansone have also had their moments. I'm still waiting to learn most club schedules, but I have one show planned for the last (presumably--I considered moving there the last time I visited) of my six nights in New Orleans [Edited to add a new discovery--the day of that last night show will be spent at the Po-Boy Preservation Festival in the same neighborhood] and a Saturday which will be spent exploring City Park and the adjacent St. John's Bayou with a neighborhood restaurant already picked for lunch. I learned that by coincidence I'll be there for the Fringe Theater Festival so I may try to catch some of that. Unfortunately, I'll just miss the annual literary festival Words & Music. I may have to try that next year.