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.