Thursday, April 26, 2012

Follow Me

I'll be touching up the new site when I have time but the first new post is now up at the new blog, same as the old blog. Update your bookmarks, readers, feeds, etc.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Goodbye, Blogger

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. 

Friday, April 20, 2012

A Bison's Eye View

A brief assortment of photos from recent days.

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.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Comings and Goings

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.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012


The big picture:

The big chipmunk:

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

First Bear

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.

Sunday, April 8, 2012


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.


Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Pronghorn Portfolio

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.

Grizzlies, Humans, and Peacocks

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.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Walking the Walks

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.