Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Old Faithful Winter Day 1

It was wonderful to get away and see a snowier part of the park, but equally wonderful to get home. I was lucky enough to see several more parts of the park I'd never seen before. One of the problems with trying to write a blog about living in Yellowstone (even with very little writing involved any more as I just let the photos do their job) is that as wonderful day after day passes, it's easy to get behind. I took over 300 photos on my Old Faithful trip despite realizing about an hour into it that although I'd brought both my cameras, I hadn't brought the battery charger for either of them. So I'll divide the trip into three posts, probably followed by one about the lovely hike I had today with a friend.

Bison played a big part in the trip.

Here's a look at my fellow travelers ahead on the trip down. Yes, that is the main road we're riding on.

And a profile shot of my vehicle--they just replace van tires with tracks for the winter season.

One of the spots I don't think I'd ever had the chance to photograph before, although I'd passed it many times, was Gibbon Falls. The water here is passing over the edge of the caldera left when our volcano blew.

Volcanic eruptions are no excuse for unsafe picnicking.

Here's a look at the interior of my cabin.

I was very pleasantly surprised by the place. It was about twice the size of my dorm room, and with a very generous employee discount, cost me less than $50 a night. I loved the one cup coffee maker, or more often in my case, the one cup lemon zinger tea maker.

A look out my front door where I had to climb up and slide down a large hill left by snow falling off the roof.

Although I don't get that excited about geysers, I had some incredible luck with timing on this trip. This is the first of three times when I happened to catch Old Faithful erupting with no planning at all.

A lovely and serene portion of the Firehole River.

Following are a couple scenes from my favorite hike of the weekend, an obviously snowy walk through beautiful woods up to Solitary Geyser.

Mirror, mirror, on the ground, where's the loveliest place around?

And a very different view of the Firehole River.

It was fun to recognize a few employees I knew from past times in Mammoth. I finished off my first day by attending a ranger talk about bears in the park, followed by a long deep sleep which cured the exhaustion of a very busy day.

Friday, January 27, 2012


I'm packed and ready to leave early tomorrow for a few days at Old Faithful.

According to the latest NPS daily report, the snow depth here at Mammoth is 6 inches. At Old Faithful? 34. Am I excited? You know the answer. Photos in a week or so.

Monday, January 23, 2012


I had one of my best Yellowstone moments Sunday night, and I was in my room at the time. While reading, I heard the wolves again and opened my window to hear more clearly. A few of them were singing off to my left when suddenly to my right I heard one answer, so loudly and so clearly that he seemed to be right beside the dorm. I watched a long time expecting to see him but never did. Today a friend told me that a guest had seen the wolf last night, and my friend went to see the tracks this morning across the street by the visitor center.

We had planned a snowshoe walk today which instead turned into a two hour conversation in the cafeteria--another of my best Yellowstone moments. I feel continually amazed and grateful whenever I think of how my life has changed in the past year and a half, and stunned that it seems to keep getting better.

A little snow has been falling here almost every day for the past week or so, and so I took a walk up the hill later today.

I was the first human to walk on the old road since the latest snowfall.

Much more snow has fallen in other parts of the park and I'll be leaving Saturday morning to go see some of it.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Dreaming in Place

There hasn't been much going on lately. I tweaked a knee overdoing it in the gym and have been taking it easy for a week or so. I got my insurance card in the mail and celebrated by scheduling a physical for this morning. Ironically, I got sick with a bad cold and rescheduled for next week.

Planning a winter hike is complicated.

Good thing I don't have a roommate so I can use the extra bed.

As in most of the country, snow has been in short supply. Finally got a couple inches last night, and there could be more this week. The place looks prettier covered in white. I may try to schedule my free ski lesson for Friday if I'm feeling better.

Frustrated by the lack of free nature books offered for review, I broke down and bought a few very cheap ones--Walking Down the Wild: A Journey Through the Yellowstone Rockies, Sky Time in Gray's River: Living for Keeps in a Forgotten Place (which has greatly increased in price since I bought it), and Heart of the Land: Essays on the Last Great Places.

Things are looking good for trips to Old Faithful and Canyon within the next month, and chemistry seems to have surprised me while I was trying to force a reaction. Yellowstone continues to bring me good things. I've been to the mountaintop.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Sierra Nevada Wolf

OK, I'm messing with you. This really isn't about the wolf who recently emigrated to California. But I believe he may be trying to get to Chico, only two counties away from his present location, to get himself a Pale Ale.

I can't buy this fine brew here in Mammoth, and you wouldn't believe how much it costs to have it shipped (yes, I checked). A friend went to Bozeman yesterday and picked this up for me. She brought it to breakfast this morning and sat it on the chair next to me. As I was eating, my eyes kept drifting over to that lovely pale green box.

Coincidentally, I'm currently reading an advance copy of Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail, but it's really more of a memoir of trauma than a book about the trail. People are giving it good reviews.

A bus operated by the company which gets me back and forth between Minnesota and Bozeman crashed this morning, killing or injuring everyone on board. It was farther west than I've gone yet, just east of Missoula where I may travel on my next break in October.

If you've read this far, I'll finally reward you with a good Yellowstone ecology story about how our limited snow has caused one wolf pack to venture into other areas of the park, and the canine conflicts which have resulted. The sidebar mentions the pack which has been howling in my neighborhood. And if you click the discussion tab, you'll find several examples of the ignorance and wolf hatred which is unfortunately very common in this region.

Friday, January 6, 2012

The Year So Far

The wolves were howling again a few mornings ago, and this morning I heard owls for the first time since I've been back. This evening I feel a little bit like their sounds, mysterious and longing, haunted, calling out to the night and waiting for a mate's reply. A few elk were back by the hotel today, the first I've seen since the stormy weather of a week ago.

The paycheck I received a couple days ago listed the first insurance deductions I've seen in about ten years--it seems strange for it to happen in such a seemingly transitory position, and to hope that this steady transitoriness becomes my final home. I saw someone today who mentioned being glad I had liked (previously expressed) the cranberry nut bread she'd given me and I told her to save the recipe for next year because I'd be looking forward to it again. Alone, growing into community. Anticipating next week's opportunity to explain and express, to begin anew, one way or another. Opening to the winter, needing snow. Opening to the other, needing a hand in return. Winter here is a very different experience from summer and one which suits me better, except for the limited hiking.

A couple of the large trees here in Mammoth were decorated for Christmas--tonight for the first time their lights are off. I noticed this while walking back from a concert by a quartet from the Bozeman symphony--nothing from my favorite classical composers so the highlights for me were Dave Brubeck's Take Five, and Yesterday and Hey Jude from the Beatles. Culture in a village in a wilderness.

Today I hiked part of the Beaver Ponds Trail and hope to do the rest on Monday.

Most of the trail I traveled was obvious and well-packed, some sections traversing steep hillsides a little icier than I would have preferred.

Bunsen Peak with cloud.

Where the heart longs to be.

Oly Returns

Buried and lost in an avalanche which killed one of his humans just outside Yellowstone, four days later a dog made his way back to the motel where the family had been staying.

Here's the story.