Notes from Yellowstone #12

It’s only weather
It comes.
It goes.
It’s only winds
rocking the trees
making the great lodgepoles sway like grasses
It’s only rains
pounding cold against the window.
It’s only a stubbornly gray sky
hiding the sun.
It’s only the weather that has me
missing you until my bones ache from it.
It comes.
It goes.
It’s only weather. sgf///8/8/15

The fog is so thick over the lake this morning that you can’t tell there is a lake or even a lakeshore there. Just a soupy bank of gray cloud below the rim of the caldera. It’s clear here in the campground, or rather the clouds are overhead rather than at ground level. It makes for a beautiful, though eerie, scene.

Every day is different here. Every hour. Two hours later, the fog is completely gone, the lake is calm and glassy, reflecting a blue blue sky with puffy white clouds moving quickly before the sun evaporates them.

I suppose it’s that way everywhere. It just becomes more obvious when you are in such a beautiful place, without all the other stuff that usually gets your (my) attention: TV, telephone, internet, work, worry, etc. I find myself, in the early morning or late afternoon (when I am not working), just sitting in front of my window facing the forest on the edge of the lake. I sit and watch whatever is happening right there in the real world. Chipmunks, squirrels, weasels, ravens, jays…

I hear the Presidential Primary debates have begun. sgf///8/9/15

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Notes from Yellowstone #11

I was up early today. It’s the last hours of my break, and I was going to go back to West Thumb this morning, to watch the sunrise across the lake whilst surrounded by the steam and mists of the geysers there. It sounded so romantic.

I woke up to steady rain. It only let up a little for the dogs and I to dodge the puddles a couple of times this morning. No sunrise has been observed. 

So, we’re huddled inside the Hovel watching and listening to the rain until it stops or it’s time for me to go to work, whichever comes first.

Short shift tonight: 5-11. The rest of the work week won’t be as attractive. Sunday and Monday: 1:30-11pm. This includes two shower cleanings and closing. Tuesday and Wednesday: 6:45am-3pm. Then break. With no supply run to make this week, I’m going to try to see some more of the park. That is why I came here, after all. I want to do something that more than 98% of the people who visit Yellowstone fail to do: get more than 1/4 mile off the main road. 

I will repeat the above work schedule the following week, unless of course another coworker or two bales. I overheard some folks yesterday, who work in other departments for the same company, that there have been several exits this past week for all kinds of reasons: School starting for some, job offers for others, and of course some disappointment and dissatisfaction with the long hours, low pay, and difficult work. 

Another motivation for me to stay is just to see how all of this turns out. The park visitors will keep coming until the park closes the roads for winter, except for the road between Gardiner and Cook City at the north and northeast entrances. I wonder what the visitor experience is with lodging, housekeeping, campground and camper services all short-staffed in a year that Yellowstone is poised to break attendance records? This would make for a pretty good expose of how privatizing these functions in national parks with 20-year contracts may not be very beneficial to anyone except the contract awardee. It certainly doesn’t add to the perception of the government being very efficient, because even though these are not government jobs, the people filling them are the face of the national park and the face of the government. 

I suppose I will see some of the oversight, as we are due to have a Nat’l Park Service inspection sometime before the end of the season. As an old taxpaying, national park loving, somewhat experienced in standards and training, but totally unbiased employee (<— sarcasam), I look forward to speaking with the inspectors (as I always have {<— obvious sarcasm})

The rain is off and on now and the morning is almost gone. The spruce outside my big window occasionally glistens with drops at the tip of each needle while the sun teases, branches drooping slightly from the weight of the water diamonds. Just about the time I starty thinking about socks and boots, instead of wicked good slippers, another blast of wind and another driving rain squall convinces me that the Hovel, and its wonderful view of the storm and the trees, is a pretty good place to be.

Critters. Last evening I watched a chipmunk actually teasing the dogs. Who knew they were such pranksters? We were taking our last walk of the day at dusk. Down to the lake view, as well as a view of the steam rising from the West Thumb geysers, at the helipad. There, no more than 10 feet in front of them, a chipmunk stopped on the pavement and appeared to be observing them. 

Gidget want it SO badly.

We are working on walking skills, as opposed to pulling Mom on her face skills, so I kept the leash very short and let them creep forward a step at a time.

The chipmunk remained motionless. We were now perhaps 8 feet away, and the leash is 6 feet. I let it out, a little at a time — and the chipmunk was off to the woods. Those little guys move like rockets, and I knew the critter was pretty safe from my two predators. 

Ah. Sorry guys. So close, too! But what a story you’ll have to tell, next time you’re at the dog park. That time you almost caught a chipmunk in Yellowstone.

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Notes from Yellowstone #10

Monday. It’s cool and wet this morning. We had rain overnight and could have some more today. We needed it. It doesn’t take long for things to dry out up here. It will perk the wildflowers up, and bring a lot of people into the showers and laundry today. Something about camping overnight without electricity sets off this basic human need which I’m sure Maslow merely overlooked in his pyramid of human needs. My sense is that it comes between safety and security and before self-esteem, given some of the behavior I’ve observed by campers in their single-minded pursuit of a shower. 

We’re a combination laundry, as well, and that leads to  even more interesting behaviors.  The other day, a family (European) came in to do showers and laundry. Mom, an attractive woman in her late 30s, went into one of the restrooms and stripped down to nothing, wrapped herself in a thin towel, and then came back into the laundry to load the family’s clothes into the washers while they showered. When they had finished, she went to the shower. I would not have noticed, since we were so busy, but she came to get a refill on her coffee while the boys were all in the shower. As she stood there, holding her blue microfiber towel up in one corner, with no obvious self-consciousness, and I filled her coffee cup, I wondered who else was paying attention. I looked around. No one. I even asked one of my male co-workers, after the family had showered, laundered, dressed and gone, if he had noticed. Nope.

Speaking of co-workers…I seem to be losing them. Two of them will be quitting in the next week. So, those of us left get more hours and more work during those hours, since there are less people and the same number of tasks. I’m not the least bit excited about this. I’m going to continue to “chop wood and carry water” for the time being, but I am reassessing the situation daily. Another co-worker has already made it known that she will not be staying until the end of her contract. That will bring the crew down from seven to four to cover the showers and laundry from 6:45 a.m. to 11 p.m. seven days a week. This could get ugly, and I didn’t come here for ugly. 

This news going into my catnap/coffee break/ turn-around has me a little depressed. On the other side of that is my break, and two days off! 

Wednesday. I had “the talk” with my manager yesterday. I told him that I had some serious concerns about being able to physically keep up with the increased work hours and smaller crews and not get injured. I explained that at 65 with a 16-year old hip replacement and a knee my ortho described as “messed up,” I am a little slower, more deliberate, and not as mobile as someone in their 20s. I didn’t want to be whiny, but I needed to be realistic about my abilities. He was understanding and willing to accomodate my biggest worries. I think he thought I was going to tell him that I was quitting. He doesn’t know me very well, yet.

The red and purple pink light of the sunrise coming through the lodgepoles is accompanied by hard cold rain on the roof of the Hovel. It will be a busy morning for the showers today.

Two days later: I was right. What an analyst! We did >290 “free” showers (comes with the campsite in Grant), and at least 150 paid showers between 7 am and 1:30, when we closed to clean and sanitize the whole shower/restroom complex. We also check them regularly in between the two cleanings to keep them spiffy-ish. There are 12 showers on each side and four restrooms each for women and men. We also have three very nice ADA shower/restroom combinations. It all stayed busy. I won’t go into the details of the whole process of cleaning and sanitizing. It’s pretty rigorous, and high on the yuck factor.

I get that men love long hair on women. I read Desmond Morris. Long shiny hair indicates healthy breeding stock.  If men had to hose down a women’s shower facility and watch all that hair sliding down the walls in ropy clumps and then across the floor to the drains — which then have to be cleaned to keep the water flowing in the drains — I suggest they might lose some of the fascination. But, that’s just the practical side of me talking.

Yesterday, after the dogs were fed and walked, and I had a second cup of coffee and my supply list in hand, I headed for the eastern entrance/exit to Yellowstone and Cody WY beyond it. 

This was another phenomenal drive. I saw that bull elk again! (NFY#1) This time he was grazing on the left side of the road, between West Thumb and the burned area going toward East Entrance Road, for those of you keeping track on that map I gave you. 

It’s a 200-mile round trip to Cody from Grant Village. People who work in Yellowstone make it because

  1. It’s Cody, Wyoming. Buffalo Bill Cody. Rodeos and Wild West shows. TV and movie recreations. Some of you will get this and wax nostalgic about Saturday mornings. I feel a little sorry for those of you who don’t understand.
  2. Sierra Trading Post Outlet, where I scored a $140 pair of Keen water proof over ankle suede day-hikers for $49. And dog toys. Of course.
  3. Walmart Super Center. I won’t comment on the politics or the optics. I had a list that included hardware, kitchenware, groceries, and liquor (Woodford Reserve and Yukon Jack) and needed to be back to the Hovel for the dogs before 6. Walmart it was. 

As I said earlier, the drive was pretty glorious. Starting with the elk. Turns out, I’d miscounted before. He’s got 14 total points (7×7) and possibly 15. Enormous!

The drive out to the East Entrance Road is all along the west side of the Lake Yellowstone, and then the Entrance Road continues along northern part of the lake, through Fishing Bridge complex (in a bit of irony, no fishing is allowed off of Fishing Bridge), and out the park entrance into greater Wyoming and the Absaroka Mountains. These are the mountains I can see from our vantage point on the western thumb of the lake. 

The early morning light and early morning mists on the lake, with it’s random steam pots and geysers along the edge, make it one of the most mystical places I’ve ever visited. You can imagine that it was somewhere like this that legends like The Lady of the Lake were born. 

From Yellowstone out to Cody,  and back, I drove through the rugged and craggy Absarokas. All day, going and coming, I saw hundreds of bikers wither going through Yellowstone on their way out to Sturgis, or on their way back. Hundreds. Singles, pairs together on one bike or two, groups. All kinds of demographics, but mostly middle-aged and older. Making the sacred pilgrimage.  

sgf///8/7/15

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Notes from Yellowstone #9

Another week behind me! Not that I want the time to go by too quickly. It’s the work I want to go by quickly, so I can get to the fun…now that I am recovered enough from the work to have some fun.

The frigid cold gave way to the most beautiful series of days, with weather ordered up to please almost anyone. Sunshine, warm but not too warm, blue skies with only a few puffy clouds on the horizon, light breezes, and it’s payday!

My take-home for 43 hours (less campsite rental, medical program, and electricity along with the typical payroll deductions): $251. I don’t know what I will do with it all. I’m glad I’m not trying to pay student loan debt on this job, or simply live. I could not have done this summer without the benefit of my AF retirement and Bill’s social security and DIC. 

I’m grateful for them both, you know. The Air Force and Bill. The benefits I count from both go way beyond the material benefits, mentioned above. I probably wouldn’t be where I am, doing what I am doing were it not for all they gave and taught me. Them and the parents and grandparents, of course. 

The past few days have been rather tender anniversary days for me. Bill left this life on July 29, five years ago. I took some time with that, and enjoyed a couple of beautiful drives in the park.

On Thursday evening, a few hourse before sunset, the dogs and I drove from Grant Village to Canyon , along the western edge of Yellowstone Lake, and through Hayden Valley (here is a map to make it easier for you to follow along). This drive is enhanced (or complicated) by the number of wildlife, primarily bison — a LOT of bison — that wander back and fort across the road in parts of the valley.  The bison aren’t really the problem. It’s the tourists. The park is full of them this year. They stop their cars in the middle of the road. Dead stop. They park willy nilly on the sides of the roads, whether or not there is a turn-out or even a shoulder. They get out lawn chairs — I kid you not — they get out lawn chairs and watch these enormous irritable beasts from a ridiculously close vantage point. Yes. The calves are SO cute! But mama bison are not warm and friendly, and do not take kindly to your efforts to ensure your front row seat.

I guess you’ve heard by now, we’ve had another bison vs. human incident in the park. Another person, this one apparently a seasonal employee, trying to get that selfie with the bison. I wish I could say that I have no words. I do have words. Plenty of them. They’re just not very charitable words, and so I will keep them to myself.

I also saw another bull elk (looked to be 4×4) with a crowd building alongside each side of the road, and people walking with singularity of focus and paying no attention to the traffic on the road or even to the rangers attempting keep them all safe, including the elk.

At Canyon, I went to Camper Services to get an idea of how they were layed out, compared to our facility at Grant. Just a look-see, give the dogs a walk, and get home before dark.

The drive home was a special treat, with a fullish moon rising over Yellowstone Lake as the sun was going down brilliantly through the trees on the western rim of the caldera.

Yesterday, I went to Old Faithful, by myself this time. There aren’t too many places you can really walk your dogs in Yellowstone. Besides the actual park restrictions, which keeps them off of boardwalks and trails, most dogs would either be prey or competitor to a predator in these woods, and at risk. I keep mine on a pretty short leash. I’ve also never been comfortable forcing my dogs to interact with crowds of tourists, some of whom have apparently lost their minds, as evidenced in Hayden Valley.

The Old Faithful village complex is about an hours drive from Grant, north and west. I was there in time for the 10:53 eruption of Old Faithful. I took lots of pictures! I then took the trail up past some of the lesser known, no less spectacular, geysers in the same thermal complex. Beautiful colors in the organisms growing in the hot streams of mineral-laden water flowing down from these pressure cookers, against a fabulously blue sky with just enough clouds to make it intteresting in a photo. Speaking of which, it was about this time that I discovered that my camera memory was reading as full, although i had downloaded it all to my Mac before I set out. Downloaded and erased on the card. 

“Well. Shoot!”

Yep. That’s exactly what I said. That’s my story and I am sticking to it.

I tried ejecting and reinserting the card a couple of times. No joy. I tried deleting the picture that was on it. Yes, that’s right, picture. As in one. The camera was telling me that the card was full, even though there was nothing on it. The one picture I had was of Old Faithful, steaming about 10 minutes before the eruption. It was a setup shot. A throwaway. According to the camera message that would come up momentarily when I opened the shutter cover, this image was recorded to the camera’s internal memory. 

I had one choice left, before I went in search of a new memory card. I reformatted the card. Brilliant. It worked. In time for me to see the Beehive geyser erupt. It’s a bit more dramatic than Old Faithful, in height and gallons of water expelled under pressure. And it only erupts once a day. I got the picture [to be included later].

On the way out of Old Faithful yesterday afternoon, I picked up a pair of hitchhikers, fellow seasonal contract employees, from Taiwan. They work in different areas of the park and were on their way to Fishing Bridge, on the northern edge of Lake Yellowstone, to rent boats and paddle on the water for a while. I was able to get them about a third of the way and to a junction where they could easily get their next lift. These hitchhikers are quite common in Yellowstone, and are almost always young folks working here for the summer and without personal transportation. They are pretty safe, and all have interesting stories.

Critters. The chipmunks have been so busy stripping the grasses of their seed tassels and the wildflowers of all their tasty bits. I always thought the tired mid-summer look of a meadow had to do with the age of the plants and the weather. This morning, it struck me that there were always these little critters pruning the meadow of its goodies, and storing a good bit of the haul for the snows to come. But not too soon. Please.

sgf///8/1/15

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Notes from Yellowstone #8

It’s gone cold and damp and gray in the space of less than a day. And of course, I have a cold now. I don’t have to be back at work for 20 hours, so I am having a nice herb tea in my outside pjs (sweat pants, long t-shirt, jacket, and some wicked good slippers over sox). I hope the propane holds out. I wouldn’t want to run out tonight. I’ll be sure to check it before the service station closes and I check out for the night. 

I’m using Mama’s medicine on Mama, tonight. Tea and graham crackers to snack on, while I decide what to pull out of my hat for dinner. Something nourishing and nurturing to keep me upright for THE TURNAROUND, or what I have nicknamed the coffee break. I’m going into it like it’s a hard training weekend for a marathon. It’s 15.25 hours of “workout” divided by 7.75 hours I can use however I want to. I’ll have the bed turned down and waiting for me when I get home.

I’ve checked the propane, and it looks good. Green is good, right? That’s the way I read the manual. Green=good. Red=bad. I’m going with good. It will be a very early night tonight, and a sleep-in to 6:30 or 7 tomorrow (Do you hear that, dogs?) Huddled up in the Hovel with an extra blanket on the foot of the bed. The gray and cold outside stops at the green of the trees around the Hovel. A dimmer light to see things around us in another way. I wonder what will come out in this grayer light that we don’t normally see during the day?

Speaking of critters, I’m pretty sure I saw a pair of martens chasing each other through the trees outside my bay window, at the north end of the Hovel. I also watched a chipmunk destroying, or rather consuming, the petals of one of the wildflowers that grow in the bare spot between the Hovel and the forest. It would eat flowers for a while and then move to the seed stalks of the shorter grasses. He showed a clear preference for specific flowers and grasses, rendering both unrecognizable after he’d feasted.

Tuesday morning. The rain put me to sleep last night, and I woke up to heavy frost on Old Blue and the furnace keeping us from freezing. I’m wearing layers today, for sure, and carrying gloves. I’m going to guess that there will be a lot of showers today, for shivering people camping in Yellowstone without hookups or generators. Because it’s July. July in the northern Rockies, that is. 

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Notes from Yellowstone #7

Every morning, when I walk the dogs out to the ridge overlooking our little corner of the lake, I can see steam rising from the West Thumb Geyser basin. Yesterday morning, I drove over there to walk around and take some pictures. West Thumb is a caldera within the caldera. A more recent eruption created it from within the giant caldera that holds Yellowstone Lake. While you won’t actually see geysers of the Old Faithful variety here, you will see boiling springs of azure blue (indicating the hottest of the pools) and steaming colorful paint pots with micro-organisms providing oranges, ochres, browns, and greens that steam away from the springs and into the lake.

And wildflowers. There were different wildflowers here than at our campsite, only two miles away. Harebells in abundance around the hydrothermal feature named Bluebell. 

The place was thick with tourists, taking pictures of themselves with steaming geothermal stuff as the backdrop. There was a Ranger Interpreter out, leading a group from feature to feature, and teaching some geology as he went. I even learned one or two things by eavesdropping on the lesson. I learned, for instance, that you could gauge the temperature of the spring by the color. Blue is the hottest — over 163ยบ. No micro-organism survives that high a temperature, so the only color you see in these pools is from the light being refracted by the water (similar to the water droplets that refract the light of the sun and produce blue sky).

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Notes from Yellowstone #6

I’d forgotten how quickly two days off can go. Thursday was a good day to clean up the Hovel, from stem to stern. Then laundry. Then some internet time to catch up with the happenings in the world outside of Yellowstone. Yeah… Well. Enough of that.

Yesterday, Friday, it was time to get some groceries and other supplies. For workers in Yellowstone, the choices are West Yellowstone MT, Gardiner MT, Cody WY, or Jackson/Jackson Hole WY. Each of these choices is a 2-hour drive or better from Grant Village, where I am living. Each of these drives is charming. Going to West Yellowstone would take me past Old Faithful and the Upper and Lower Geyser Basins. Gardiner means a drive through Hayden Valley (where most of the bear sightings are happening and where I saw the bear my first day, only a few hundred feet off the roadway) and along the Yellowstone River up through Mammoth Hot Springs. The drive to Cody takes one over the northern edge of Yellowstone Lake and over some beautiful mountain passes. This time, however, I opted for Jackson and a drive through Grand Teton National Park. No major wildlife sightings, just a few weasels and squirrels, and maybe a fox, but the scenery on the drive…

Les Grand Tetons. Named by a lonely French fur trapper, reminded of his favorite part of the female anatomy. These are a young woman’s breasts — pointy and perky — dominating the western skyline for miles, catching the early morning light on their pointiest parts, and admiring their own relfection in Lewis Lake and along the Lewis River. They occasionally played peekaboo using the Lodgepole Pines as fingers for peeking through. How horrible that I have to drive two hours for groceries.

I took my time, yesterday. When I got to Jackson, I drove around it a bit to get a feel for the place. It’s a typical mountain tourist town. Prices are higher for everything. It has charm, no question (although I prefer Silverton CO for its more rustic and less dense features). Jackson also had at least one decent taquieria: Hatch. Excellent food. I had the tacos carnitas with beans and rice. The green chile sauce (Hatch, natch) is the bomb. I had a margarita — ok, I confess, I had two. 

I got hardware supplies, a haircut, and a pedicure – without polish, but a treat nonetheless for my hard working feet. They deserved a little pampering, and a rub! I got a nice lunch overlooking Broadway, the main artery through town. I got a nice walk through the shopping district and scored a warm vest in an acceptable Navy blue I can wear with my work uniform. It’s a men’s vest, but had more pockets for pens and notebooks and cameras and such AND was 50% off. I got groceries. I got gas. And I got back on the road to Yellowstone, for that perfectly horribly drive :-D with the Tetons now on my left in the late afternoon sun; the sun now joining the mountains in the peekaboo through the Lodgepoles.

By the time I got home and got all the stuff put away and the dogs attended to, I had no juice left for writing or reading news. But I did make time to sit for a moment in the truck in the parking lot of the closest employee wifi source to collect my mail. A note from the kids, perhaps. A report from my favorite weatherman, who keeps me apprised of all kinds of weather through all kinds of weather (my unfair weather friend). A love note from one of my sisters in life and in spirit? I can always count on one of them. There is always a little something, or sometimes a long note filled with news for me to bring back to the Hovel to read and read again. 

I hope they all know that they can always, likewise, count on me. Ain’t it good to know that you’ve got a friend?

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Notes from Yellowstone #5

Work. Cleaning the showers and the laundry room is an amazing workout. Now, I need every bit of the upcoming 2 1/2 days off to recover! The “coffeebreak” nearly killed me. I left the building at 11:05 pm on Tuesday night — I’m still learning the tasks and definitely not as fast as I once was. By the time the dogs were walked around the camper (no forays after dark) and I was fed (fig newtons and milk, a balanced meal) and showered, it was after midnight. I had to be in to work NLT 6:45. So, I fell right to sleep.

Right.

Because that’s the way our bodies work. Right? Not exactly. More importantly, my mind needed a little time to come down from the frenetic pace of the week. When I finally did drop off, I had dreams of bookkeepers and accountants holding me hostage until I confessed that my cash drawer was over (or short)…I have no idea. When the alarm on my phone went off at 0530, there were deer and very aggressive fawns in the dream, and I wasn’t faring too well.

Wednesday was a busy day. We gave a LOT of showers during the morning. And, like the rest of the team, I ran the register, let people into showers, kept those showers clean and supplied, kept the laundry spiffy, and sold ice and ice cream. It’s my summer job in Yellowstone. :-)

I’ve made it more than a week! I don’t think they’re going to fire me right away, so I may get to stay another week, and maybe another after that, and perhaps another.

Flowers. I’m embarrassed to say that the flower I mistook for Queen Anne’s Lace is a white yarrow with the yummiest aroma. It’s the prevailing scent in the air up here on the hill above the lake. It’s quite unlike the yarrow I grow in my Colorado garden. It’s smaller, more delicate, and intoxicating. The purple is lupine. I should have known. My mother’s favorite wildflower growing wild all around me during her birthday month. With them, and the goatsbeard (salsify), I am up to three! Now I want to find out their medicinal applications. I know yarrow can be used in tinctures, but I don’t know if this heavenly sweet variety is the best for that application. And no internet to waste my days on — starting in one corner of my mind and ending up in another.

There have been thunderclouds bumping around us this afternoon. I’m pretty respectful of the potential of that kind of weather at this altitude. And I am also afraid of lightening. A couple of close calls. So we are staying inside for a while.

Listening to the wind in the pines.

Enjoying a Moose Drool

The simple pleasures of a hard working woman.

I’ve come to the realization that The Hovel is not level. We’re not going to lay any blame here, but an idiot installed the level master on the front of the 5er, and then relied on it. And I am living with her.

I know what needs to be done. I just dread doing it in a campground that is becoming increasingly populated by seasonal workers of all sorts. It’s a bit a of pride thing. (Or trying to prove things to myself, of course. Same thing)

In the meantime, I get annoyed at cupboards that want to shut themselves on my head, or open wide, slamming against themselves. Also, when I am very tired, it plays with my equilibrium.

Maybe Friday, after folks around me have left for work…

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Notes from Yellowstone #4

Monday, about 0830, and I have to be at work in a couple of hours. It’s only a four-hour shift for me today. It will be lovely to see the sun set! Over the west side of the lake. With a beer!

This morning has been one of the prettiest since I’ve been here. It’s already been a week! I took the dogs for a long hard walk after their breakfast, and before mine. We did our cool down out on the helipad, overlooking Yellowstone Lake. Blue, blue, blue sky with wisps and puffs of clouds. No dew (for the third day). Lake as calm as a baby’s breath. And the alpine meadow showing off her summer glory of wildflowers and tasseled grasses. Some of the tassels are deep red, almost a bordeaux. 

I have no need for a garden outside my door. I have already been given one with Queen Anne’s Lace and some others whose names I will have to get to know. For now, they are purple and pink and yellow and orange and big puff ball that isn’t a dandelion, but looks like one on steroids.

Critter note: The chipmunks, and other small critters that come around the Hovel, are apparently driving the dogs out of what little minds they possess. Gidget has gone full-blown terrier on me. I have to really power walk them for a bit (with lots of redirection on a very short leash) before we can slow down and let the leash out – all 6 feet of it – and enjoy a walk. It’s taking them a little time to adapt to the new schedule(s) and the changes in their environment. Imagine that.

Work wasn’t as brutal yesterday, but still pretty challenging. I only had to do the showers once, during the afternoon cleaning. I got to clean up the laundry room last night while the others did the showers. It was made less difficult by all the efforts of the other team members, throughout the day. These folks are mostly pretty grown up, and with all of us looking out for each other and working together, everyone’s job is easier at the end of the day. It would be nice if government worked that way.

I’m meeting my team mates, one by one. We are, most of us, past 50. A few of us past 60. A couple of us, by a pretty good bit. Kids are grown, gone, with families of their own, and they are here, living the dream. Banking a little to pay to haul themselves to the next dream location.

Late day note: I didn’t exactly see the sun set. I lay down for a nap and woke up at dusk. The sound of the breeze through the pines, like waves on a beach, knocked me right out. It was a wonderful nap!

The dogs and I had a couple of nice walks today. They were sniffing out chipmunks and I was sniffing the air. The air up here smells like honey. No air pollution and the essence of wildflower and sweet grasses and pine fills the air. It is a fabulous aroma. Mountain Meadow. So much more nuanced than a dryer sheet or candle. And no chemical aftertaste.

Tonight, the crescent moon joined the bears above the trees.

7/21

Re work: Today starts the hell shift. I work from 2-11 pm today and 6:45-3 pm tomorrow. If I can fall asleep on the washers in the laundry room, and forget about going home to bed, feeding and walking the dogs, or eating breakfast, I can get 7 hours and 45 minutes of sleep. This is a test. I’ll know by Thursday morning (the first of two days off) if I can possibly last the summer.

Re pictures: I took some more today. Mostly of the wildflowers and grasses. They are so beautiful in the early morning light. I have to get a wildflower guide so I can learn their names. It goes on the shopping list.  And again — the air smells as sweet as honey. Intoxicating.

Re critters: Mine are not the only dogs in camp. (Note to son: Also not the worst behaved) We are working on some training while we are here, and they are coming along pretty well. If I can get them out for at least one good walk during a time of day when the chipmunks are active, so they can “hunt” the fence-line (the length of their leash), they are happy campers. 

Two weeks

without TV

without the morning news shows

the morning noise shows

breaking noise

6 o’clock noise

10 o’oclock noise

without the news noise

nothing to be angry about

nothing to be scared of

Except bears

of course

Bears can kill you. sgf///7/21/15

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Notes from Yellowstone #3

Pictures. Some of you have been asking for pictures, please. I understand the craving. Especially those of you who are highly visual, artists attuned to the nuances of light and color; space and perspective. I have a little Fuji that I carry with me every day now. I’m trying to take a few pictures every day. 

The deal is that I have relatives and friends who are real, honest-to-goodness photographers. Like my cousin, Arla Ruggles, who does fabulous portraits of the Nevada landscape and its denizens (particularly the wild horses that she is so passionate about protecting). Or my friend, Sam Corum, who is busy documenting history through his camera lenses in Washington DC and Ferguson and Charlotte. They and others like them can tell stories with their pictures, using light and color and space and perspective.

I’m not a photographer. I’m a writer telling a story, using and honing the tools of the trade…finding my “voice.” Playing with words, sounds, rhymes, light and color, space, and perspective. Photographs never tell the whole story, for me. In Zion National Park, I became quite frustrated with my lack of photographic ability. The place was stunning. Majestic. And I couldn’t get a single photograph that captured any of it. A real artist (with a real camera) might have done it. I’m not that artist.

I’m a writer. Whether I am a good writer, or not, I write. There will be photos. As soon as I find the guru to help me throught getting them from computer into blogware, there will be photos.

Work. I went back last evening, working a six-hour shift that included closing the facility for the night. This meant cleaning the showers and toilets once again, to make them sparkly for the early morning risers. It was a little easier this time. I wasn’t in competition with my 27-year old self. I still fell into bed and slept pretty hard afterwards. I go back in at 2 today…until 11. That means I get to participate in the great hose down, twice in a single day. I’m so jazzed. Yeah. We’ll see how that goes. I have dreams of being trapped in ropy strands of long wet hair and congealed soap. It makes me want to shave my head again.

Last night, I got home in the pitch black dark of night. The stars were brilliant, but they don’t do much to light a path, and there are very few area lights in Yellowstone. The dogs’ wee walk was only as far as the vacant campsites across the road from The Hovel. All the while I am furtively searching the edge of the wood for bears with my little LED flashlight. I don’t really know what I would have done if that thin beam of light had actually come across anything. Scream? Jump at it, shouting “Booga! Booga!”? Perhaps I should get some bear spray? Then I can juggle it with the leash, the poop bags, the flashlight, and two mindless little dogs while I get eaten by a bear.

By the way, there are still jobs at Yellowstone for this summer. You won’t get rich. Pay starts at $8.30 an hour for housekeeping jobs. Camper Services is a little better at $8.60; however there are no tips left behind by showerers and those doing laundry. (Unless you count the used soap left in the dishes or the bandaids left on the shower room floors. And the hair. My dear Lord. The hair. ) There are deductions for taxes, the campsite or dorm room, electricity using at the campsite, and the company-contracted medical service provider. I figure I will clear at least a dollar two ninety eight by the end of the pay period. It’s like we used to say in the Air Force, “If you’re in it for the money, you’ve picked the wrong career.”

Most of the people working here have been doing this seasonally for more than a few years, because they love it here. It allows them to live in the wilderness for more than a day and a half. It gives them time to sit on the water’s edge and watch a storm coming across the lake in time to get inside to shelter. Meteorology learnt by observation. Dozens of observations.

I met a beautiful young woman serving at one of the village dining facilities the other night. She is spending her third summer at Yellowstone from her home in Prague, Czech Republic. Her English was exquisite, unlike my Czech. I speak none. We had a nice chat. I was fortunate to have visited Prague for a week in 2003, as well as a couple of the little villages nearby. I was building training for a US client who spent a lot of time traveling. It was early November, and the weather was becoming a little dreary and definitely frigid. I was grateful for the new jacket that I’d hoped was not a needless splurge. It was a lifesaver on that trip!

It’s now my utility jacket

and I’ve left it behind

of course

opting for a fashionable cute black number

that renders me invisible

in the dark.

Did I tell you?

It gets dark

really dark

coming home late at night

when there is no moon

to penetrate these trees.

Creeping carefully

along the audacious trail

threading through looming lodgepole giants

headlights swallowed by the forest

Would there be a bear?

And there was

two 

Ursa

Major and Minor

walking the shifting spears

at the tops of the trees.       sgf///7/19/15

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