I had to stand in the doorway on the way to breakfast this morning until a bull elk was finished banging his antlers into the grill of a Park Service truck. After breakfast, I caught him expressing his opinion of tourists who park too close.
Some mostly very blurry scenes just to give you an idea of the circus out the window. Along with running elk, highlights include me saying "Oh, shoot" when I realized the camera was still recording, the guy down the hall yelling "You're asking for it" at a tourist, and elk saying who knows what.
I hiked the Beaver Ponds Trail this morning for the first time this season. I was going to tell you about it and show you some scenery and coyote photos, but Blogger's new 'improved' interface seems impossible to use with photos for me. The old one was inconvenient but at least predictably so--the new one is just a mess, randomly moving photos and text around.
The same thing has happened on the job--all the information we use when talking with people on the phone apparently wasn't in a pretty enough format for some people, so now it's pretty and much of the information we had before is no longer there. I have to put up with that (for another six weeks), but I don't have to put up with this.
So I'm going to look around a bit and see if any other blogging options will work more easily for me. If not, I'll retire from this hobby and spend more time reading and hiking. Let me know if you have any recommendations.
A double crest with overflowing water at Palette Spring.
A double helping of bison, by a trail and a river. The first bison baby has been seen, but not by me. Wolves were also back in Mammoth, but I didn't see them either. I did see a kill site tonight on the way to town--lots of photographers, but no wolves on the remains of the elk carcass.
Last night was the last chance to walk the road before it opened to traffic today. A friend and I headed out toward Bunsen Peak and Swan Lake Flat.
Rustic Falls was flowing nicely when we approached.
There's nothing quite as lovely as coming out into the open area of Swan Lake Flat after passing through a couple miles of trees and mountain sides. We watched a coyote and a northern harrier, each hunting for rodents. It's an area where I've seen grizzlies with cubs several times from vehicles, but there were none in sight yesterday.
It's getting crowded around here--lots of managers and other employees from throughout the park are here for weeks of meetings and training before spreading into the park to start opening other locations. My roommate will be here in a few days; our suitemate has arrived and as a manager will have that room to himself, so at least there will only be three of us instead of four sharing a bathroom for the next six months.
My first boss here is gone now; I thanked her one more time for giving me an accounting job and saving me from the kitchen I originally came here to work in.
One of our employees recently died in his sleep. He was only in his late thirties. In one of our last conversations he asked if I'd heard from a friend who returned a couple days ago.
I was hiking with her last night when she grabbed my arm and quietly said, "There's a bear!" I'm pretty sure it was the same black bear from a few days earlier though much closer than on that evening. I asked if she wanted to take pictures or get out of there and she opted for the second choice. Although I wasn't really concerned, I played it safe and pulled my bear spray for the first time as we walked past. The bear completely ignored us.
Tonight a brief blizzard of snow and hail hit around dinnertime and walking home in it was painful. Later I looked out my window and saw a bison dancing on the other side of the street. I've seen this once before and it looks like nothing other than joy and pleasure. Somehow it reminds me of a dog playing. Unfortunately by the time I got my camera out to 'film' the scene, the dance was over. If you search for "dancing bison" you'll find a YouTube video of a pet bison doing the same sort of moves. It looks a lot better when it's done naturally and without the people. .
It was a good day to have off, sunny and 70. In the morning I climbed the stairs and did the year's first walk around the upper terrace road which is closed to everyone but skiers and snowshoers in the winter. It's a nice quiet walk now when still closed to cars.
Later in the day I heard that right near where I took the above photo, someone had seen a black bear yesterday.
This afternoon I went to a farewell party for my summer boss whose last day is Friday. We shared a couple hugs, I chatted with friends, and snacked on shrimp and chocolate-covered strawberries.
In the evening I headed out for a casual stroll around the neighborhood and was told there was a bear up the road. I only had my small camera with me but decided to go see anyway. I had to part a herd of brown elk to get up the hill where I found a small crowd watching this bear.
A ranger came along and moved us back so I started to leave when I noticed that three of the elk were heading straight toward the bear. I decided to go back and wait for further developments. In the photo below, the bear is to the left and an elk is in between the signs.
I have no idea why elk would choose to walk up to a black bear (which will be eating elk calves in the near future) but the bear showed no interest and soon walked down the path for home.
I read a book titled Fauna by Alissa York recently, and though it isn't among the greatest novels ever written, it's pretty damn good because of its focus on urban wildlife and people who care about them. Road kill are buried after being taken away from the road so no other animals get killed feeding on them. An injured red-tailed hawk and orphaned raccoons are rehabbed. Birds stunned by flying into skyscrapers are gathered up. A dog defends his homeless human. People (one named after a fictional otter) leading alternative lives bond into lovers and a family of sorts, sharing dinners and reading books such as Watership Down and The Jungle Book.
One of the characters cares about a mouse in her apartment and as I was writing a review of the book this morning, I was distracted by a rodent racing across my floor, too quickly to really be identified. I assumed it was a mouse but walking to lunch I saw my first ground squirrel of the season, and a friend in this building had one in her room two years ago. The dorm is surrounded by ground squirrel holes and we wouldn't be at all surprised if the entire building sinks someday.
I was planning to take a walk after dinner, but these guys cut me off.
As I headed back to the dorm, I was told there was a coyote down there. Coyotes play an unfortunate part in the book as a deranged fellow wants to kill them and writes about it on his blog Coyote Cop. I only had my little camera with me but managed to get a grainy shot of the barking dog leaving the area. A wild chorus of them just took place as I wrote this post.
The book's conflict between lovers and haters of wildlife plays out all the time in real life here, especially when it comes to wolves. The local states are doing their best to come as close to wiping the wolves out again as they can without having the federal government protect them again. Here's a story about a trapper with (WARNING) a disturbing, disgusting photo which provides an example of the conflict between two very different types of people.
I forgot to mention my experience with ravens a few days ago. I was hiking in an open area when one came flying low to the ground over the sage, making the powerful sounds their wings make when flying. As I watched that one fly away with admiration, a second one flew low behind me, sounding like a helicopter and causing me to instinctively crouch.
I'm off to Bozeman Wednesday for some REI shopping, a good meal, and my annual haircut. The forecast temperature is in the 70s. .
It was a lovely day to walk the dirt road (still closed to vehicles) to town, with the sun and breeze at our backs and downhill for almost all of the five miles. I had my camera with me, but I hadn't taken it out of my pack because there are only so many times you can photograph the same scenes. I still love looking at the scenery, but I don't need new images to remind myself of it.
About a mile from town, we approached five pronghorn very close to the road. Two of them started climbing a hill away from us as soon as they saw us, and I decided to take a couple shots before they all left. Much to our surprise, the remaining three remained as we slowly approached and passed them, as far away as the road would allow. This was the closest either of us had ever been to pronghorn (you can see the edge of the road in one of the photos). We were well within the 25 yards we're supposed to keep between us and other animals, but the other part of that rule is that if you cause animals to change their behavior, you're too close. They watched us, but were still in the same spot when we left.
Here is a long article about last summer's grizzly attacks, and what criteria people try to use in determining the response when a human gets killed. For me, the most interesting part is near the end when the author takes a hike in Yellowstone grizzly country with Doug and Andrea Peacock.
This evening I finished off a day of walking about eight miles with a lovely stroll which was amazingly quiet. I paused to listen to a coyote howl.
The first photo of Mammoth is actually from a few days ago in case you notice a change in sky.
The first walk of the day involved testing out the far end of the Beaver Ponds trail. I found that a hot spring was building up a new terrace just across a stream from the beginning of the trail. Behind me, some overflow had entered a parking lot and driveway. Might be more changes coming such as across the street where a now mostly dormant terrace sits where a tennis court once stood in someone's yard.
I didn't have to go too far up the trail to see that this end is still muddy with snow patches. The killdeer are back, and I later discovered that the ticks are too.
Next I headed up the stairs for my exercise and to see the latest changes in water flow and deposits. The colors seemed especially bright today.
I think I wrote recently about how the water was overflowing the boardwalk leading to Canary Spring. It has now been torn out completely to keep people out until new construction takes place. It's not a spot that can be easily detoured, so I imagine they'll just be putting in a more elevated new boardwalk.
I took a combination of road and trail to get home, and after a couple hours was ready to get back outside again so I headed up the hill to check out my end of Beaver Ponds. The wide open first mile was in good shape but mud and snow returned as soon as I entered the woods.
As is the case every time I start a new hiking season here, I'm still a little jittery about hiking alone in bear country, even on trails I've hiked dozens of times without any problems. It takes time to adjust one's attitude, calm the mind, and become an aware but relaxed part of the landscape. Tomorrow a friend and I plan to walk the dirt road five miles to town to have a beer before hitching a ride back up the hill.
It was a lovely day with blue sky, light breeze, and temperatures in the mid 50s--the kind of day which still smacks me in the head as I look around and think how bleeping beautiful this place is. The ground is bare in Mammoth and while I may be a winter lover, at this point I hope it doesn't return.
Our gym is closed for a month for painting and repairs, so now that the earth is showing I've started climbing hills again to get my legs and lungs in shape. The first time I tried the mild uphill old dirt road I wasn't sure I'd even make it to the top without stopping, but have now started doing the beginning of the steeper Beaver Ponds trail instead. I've only done a half mile of the trail which is still muddy and snowy with pools of standing water.
I'm still discovering new things here, like a perfect-for-sitting rock with a view, and a trail to Lower Mammoth housing which is an even steeper workout. Along that trail today, I saw the smallest chipmunk I've ever seen. Bluebirds are back too.
Elk were everywhere today, from hilltop to hotel lawn.
Here's a pretty good column from High Country News about hiking in grizzly country which includes info on last year's Yellowstone deaths and why bear/human encounters are likely to become more frequent.
The recent warm weather not only has bears coming out of their dens, it was also teasing me with thoughts of hiking season. The dirt road to town (and much of the ground) was largely clear of snow and patches of my local trail were also clear. I did brief walks up the hill a couple nights after work, and was looking forward to a longer hike on a day off. But we got a few new inches of snow and now everything is icy again, so no big hike for me tomorrow.
I made a couple free book selections from last week's Amazon newsletter--here's my comment about them from the forum there:
"I got Lonely Planet Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks -- Hey, I live here, I figured I had to. and Lustfully Ever After: Fairy Tale Erotic Romance -- Hey, I . . . um, never mind."
I'm looking forward to comparing the Yellowstone book (which includes 40 hikes) to my own experience.
I've been going through a bit of a dark period lately, but things seem to be working out. Concern I had about my summer job has been resolved. I've moved to the room I'll be in for the rest of the year, and I'm looking forward to my roommate returning in about a month. And things seem to finally be getting on track with someone I've been interested in for a long time. Spring's not in the air right now, but it's due back tomorrow and with some good melting, I might still make it to the trail Thursday.
I've often wondered how many stairs I climb to get from the Lower Terrace street level to the Upper Terrace loop road. Unfortunately, I usually start wondering this when I'm halfway up and resting to catch my breath. That was the case again this morning, but I counted them on the way down.
283 stairs up the hill, 283 stairs, You miss one step, Trip or lose grip, 282 stairs down the hill.
At least by my usual route--there are alternatives which could change your total. Or you could just walk along the road which would be about two miles. Or, shudder, you could even choose to drive it.
So why did I do 566 stairs today? Because I like to look at scenes like these.
Click on the next one and you can see a rainbow.
On the way up today, I noticed there had been an avalanche since I last passed.
This is the same spot where a much bigger one last year destroyed some of the boardwalk.
By the time I came down, warning signs were in place.
Here's the next rerouting project before summer--hot water is starting to come over the boardwalk approaching Canary Spring.
Good news this morning--I found out one of my current winter bosses is going to be replacing my departing summer boss. This is the only person I could imagine dealing with after losing a great boss, so I'm breathing a big sigh of relief today.