Yesterday was the mega controversial inauguration day of Donald Trump and today was the Women’s March on Washington. There were also local marches that I could have attended, but I’ve just been so conflicted about world issues of late that I just want to seek what little peace I can find. Despite being hung over, when a friend offered up the chance to go to the local museum, I jumped at it with full zeal. I’m so glad that I went. My heavy heart feels lighter thanks to the majesty of artistic expression.
I can’t recommend enough going out into your local community and discovering or rediscovering all the things it has to offer. Sometimes we need to be reminded of all the reasons we choose to live where we do. Today was one of those reinvigorating days for me.
The Herbert F. Johnson Museum is located on the beautiful Cornell University campus and is absolutely free to the public! I feel like a complete idiot for not going there all the time. I only live ten minutes away and I work right across campus. The 360° panoramic views of Ithaca from the 5th floor alone are worth going. I can imagine sitting there and either reading a good book or sketching.
Here’s just a taste of what you’ll enjoy when you visit:
The Battle of Gettysburg took place from July 1st to July 3rd, 1863. This battle claimed the highest number of casualties in the American Civil War as was considered the turning point. Approximately 51,000 soldiers died in those three days.
This summer, I took a break from craft shows to enjoy flea markets and to also rebuild a teardrop camper that I can use as a pop-up shop. With the teardrop, I’ll be able to travel to craft events farther away and perhaps even go back out to Yellowstone in Summer 2017. One can dream!
I found the teardrop on Craigslist and immediately jumped on it. This is something I’ve been wanting for a while now and the last few craft events trying to vend in the snow and wind was the last straw for me and my crumpled up festival tent. Strangely enough, an old acquaintance had built this teardrop a few years ago so it was great to see her and catch up. You can find her blog on the build at http://www.alligatorteardrop.com.
Sadly, the teardrop sustained some very serious water damage around the galley hatch and I had no idea how bad it was when I bought it. Once I got it home and began to peel back the layers, I realized that the water damage was completely throughout the camper and the entire thing would have to be demolished. This hasn’t stopped me though. I’m using the pieces as templates and reusing as much as I can. Honestly, I’m enjoying the crap out of taking the camper apart and I’m learning a lot as I go. Since I don’t know anything about building, this is the best way for me to feel confident in what I’m doing.
I will keep you posted as I progress but here is the beginning…
This is very late in the making but I thought I’d share it. Last October, I went on an overnight stay to Cooperstown, New York with my mother and we had an incredible time. It’s amazing how refreshed you can feel after getting away for just a night. I love Cooperstown, especially in the fall because the setting is just idyllic and there’s a lot more to enjoy than just the Baseball Hall of Fame.
We began our day with a few slices of pizza, drove around for a little bit to enjoy the Halloween decorations, checked in to our hotel, took a little nappy and then hit the epic Ommegang Brewery….
As soon as that tour was over, we had to hurry across town to the late-night ghost tour of the Farmer’s Museum. Sadly, I didn’t get any photos of the museum tour because it was pitch black, mostly outdoors and very rainy. Our tour guide took one of the worst tumbles I’d ever seen. I truly thought she had broken something but she was a trooper. I think she ended up more embarrassed than hurt. A part of the tour was sitting in on a performance of Poe’s Tell Tale Heart, which was astoundingly good. It was a one man show and he was extremely talented. I’d very much like to revisit the Farmer’s Museum in the daytime because the buildings had such history and their gift shop was pretty awesome. I even saw a book there by a girl that I went to college with. I never knew that she became an author so that tickled me.
Overall, both ghost tours were a lot of fun and I’d highly suggest them for history buffs and paranormal enthusiasts alike. Unfortunately, I didn’t run into any spirits that day although I had a strange inkling in Hyde Hall about people being pushed down this specific staircase and a minute later the tour guide told me that many people have been pushed down those stairs and that animals refuse to approach them. Humm… interesting. The Farmer’s Museum offered a séance at the end of the night but we didn’t join in because I’m not comfortable with such procedures but it’s an option for those adventurous souls.
The next day was spent slinking around the Otesaga Resort Hotel. To say that I’m kind of obsessed with this place is an understatement. Have you even been somewhere for the first time but you recognize it deep in your bones? That’s how I feel about this place. I found out about it because it was featured in an episode of Syfy’s Ghost Hunters (I honestly never get to watch the show but I happened to catch this episode) and I instantly recognized it. A few months later I dragged my boyfriend there to check the place out and have wanted to return ever since.
After walking around Cooperstown, we packed up and headed home but first we had to make a stop at the Fly Creek Cider Mill & Orchard to fill our bellies with tasty food samples and get a whole ton of homemade canned goods. It honestly looked like I was stocking up for the end of days when I left that place. It’s been almost a year since this trip and I still have some goodies left. Fly Creek was worth the trip in and of itself.
Last but not least, Howe Caverns was our the way home so that had to be experienced. It had been way too long since I’d been there…probably twenty years, at least. It’s always amazing to take a stroll underground and view all of the formations. I wish I could sleep down there. It feels like being back in the womb again but not gross. Ha! I guess there are caverns out west that they turned into a hotel. I need to experience this.
So that was last October. This October is Gettysburg! Yup, my ghostly dream is coming true. I will keep you posted.
Well since I didn’t do any blogging in 2015, I didn’t expect much as far as stats goes. I’m not sure what happened to my blog…What happened blog? Where’d you go? I guess I just didn’t have too much to report. Now, I know that’s not true but maybe after the whirlwind that’s been my life for the past five years or so, this year just didn’t pass my blogging muster. Yup, 2015 just wasn’t bloggable. It certainly wasn’t my usual nail biter, which I’m extremely thankful for. Here’s to hoping that I dust off my chops in 2016 and get back with it. Have a good one and see you next year!
The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.
Here’s an excerpt:
A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 1,100 times in 2015. If it were a cable car, it would take about 18 trips to carry that many people.
Well, my favorite part of having a blog is receiving the yearly stats. For not having posted in a while, I must say that I was delighted with the results. My blog was viewed 3,500 times, with 411 views in one day. Yow! I posted an average of two pictures a day and folks from 49 countries read what I had to say (Mere, little ole me? Awe shucks!). The United States was in the lead but Brazil and the UK weren’t far behind. Wow! Just, wow! Thank you all so much for keeping up with me. A special thanks goes out to Jess Bennett for being the most prolific commenter. I think she’s won three years in a row now. Girlfriend, I have to send you a prize when I get the chance.
From a more personal standpoint, I can say that 2014 was absolute hell for me and many people. I’m beyond relieved to see that it’s over. Back in October 2013, I suffered from a brain aneurism and lost the job I loved because of it. And just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse it, without fail, it did. I struggled for several months to find any work, I finally found a fantastic job only to not be able to physically do it, I had to go on food stamps to feed myself, no one would hire me, I could barely pay rent, I was digging myself into major dept just to pay bills, a store owner literally stole thousands of dollars worth of my products, I was losing my friends to other relationships, I saw a young boy get run over on his bicycle and smeared across the pavement while the driver took off, I witnessed way too may acts of human cruelty…the world was a mess. I had no one and nothing and I was physically and mentally suffering.
Yup, 2014 was a year of being dragged over the hot coals of hellfire but in April things started to turn around when I gave up the apartment I loved (for the second time), swallowed the last shred of pride I had, and moved my sad ass back home. As soon as I threw in the towel, out of the blue, Shenandoah, a long-lost friend from high school, asked me to fill her new store up with products. I spent two blissful, stress-free months creating wonderful things for her and then it was off to Yellowstone for the most amazing field season ever! I slept with wolves, ran around with river otters, literally bumped into moose and was stalked by grizzlies. When I returned home, I enjoyed a few months off and fell into this Cornell job, which is an adventure in itself.
So when I look back to see how far I’ve come in a little over a year, I’m completely in shock. After 2013 and 2014, I never thought that I’d ever see a silver lining again. But all it took was that relatively simple act of swallowing my pride and giving in to where the current was wanting to wash me instead of continuing to struggle against it. Sometimes I’m way too stubborn for my own good.
Even now though, I’m still having a hard time trusting that I’m okay. It’s hard for me to be that smiling, care-free, happy girl I once was because I’ve been through so much. I find myself feeling very depressed, for no good reason, even when people are having fun around me. Honestly, I often feel dead inside…zombified. I know I’m safe and comfortable now and that I should be able to be happy but I’m still very much in that fight or flight mode. With each passing day, I come out of it a smidge more but finding joy again is clearly what I need to work on in 2015. Don’t cry for me Argentina, there’s hope for me yet!
How was your 2014? I’d be interested to hear your take on things.
Here’s an excerpt of my blog stats:
A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 3,500 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 58 trips to carry that many people.
My field partner and I had fantastic luck this year with finding the unfindable. Seriously. Just like the salamanders hanging out in the Observation wetland, Mary Bay was even more of an unexpected surprise. There are only a handful of wetlands in the Park that have all four amphibian species and we were able to add Mary Bay to that list…it took us a few tries though.
The bottom portion of Mary Bay is filled with small thermal pools that dry up quickly and one very large pond that is so mucky around the edge that you can barely survey it. It’s actually pretty gross in there because it’s all filled with animal poo. The geese (as you can see in the photo above) and swans fill the wetland up. In fact, everything likes to poo in there. I’ve never seen so much tadpole poo in my life. I was scooping up large clumps of it. Heck, I even had to take a station break and go in the trees nearby. That never happens. Hailey’s Comet is more common.There’s just something very bowel releasing about the place. I’m not sure if that has anything to do with the fact that one scientist in the Park is convinced that if Yellowstone erupts, Mary Bay will be ground zero. Coincidence? I think not!
This is our annual July 4th survey. It’s usually scheduled for a half day and always takes a full day. Oh Mary Bay… The smaller sites were finished quickly because most had already dried up. The puddle-sized ones were bursting forth with tadpoles, adults still calling and attempting to lay even more eggs and metamorphs pouring out onto the dry ground. It was glorious. By the time we hit the Bay of Poo, the sky opened up and completely drenched us. Not the best way to begin an 1.5 hour survey! Because of the quicksand shoreline we were both only able to survey a small portion of the wetland. Despite this, we were convinced that we had seen spotted frog tadpoles, a load of chorus frog tadpoles, two fleeting salamander larvae and no toad tadpoles.
Later on, I spoke to Deb about what we’d seen and she mentioned being surprised that toad tadpoles are never found there because it’s thermal and they dig that scene. I began to question my amphibian identification skills at that point because, in retrospect, the thousands of small, dark tads clumped together along the shoreline seemed like they could have been toads. Toad tadpoles love to hang out in large congregations and are very curious. They won’t swim away when you approach them. In fact, they’ll usually swim right over to see what’s up. Other species definitely don’t act this way. At the time, we just couldn’t get that close to really tell for sure. So since we were returning in a few days to survey the dreaded upper sites, I agreed to give Poo Bay another looksee. Well, low-and-behold after much heated debate, we determined that the clumps of spotted frog tads were in fact, toads. By the hundreds! Thus, we were able to add Poo Bay to our small list of sites containing every amphibian species in the Park.
Surveying in Yellowstone is definitely like a box of chocolates…just not as tasty.
Yup, still working my way through Yellowstone pics. These ones will not disappoint! No way in heck!
Solfatara is another fun site with tons of wetlands which are not too far from a trail. The trail is an absolute godsend because the forest is all downfall with sparse regrowth from previous burns so there’s a fair amount of hurdling involved. It takes about four days to survey the site so it’s gargantuan but extremely manageable.
Adding to my already impressive list of animal encounters this year, I saw the one creature I’ve been completely dying to see and it was waaaaay better than I’ve ever imagined it could be. Right at the start of the field season, I declared that if I saw a single, solitary river otter, even from a distance, than I could immediately go home a happy camper. That was my absolute #1 bucket list animal. And actually the second animal on my bucket list was a moose and you know how that turned out. (If you don’t, well, shame on you and then click here. Actually, click there anyways because I updated the photos.)
This was my third year surveying Solfatara and I’ve never seen an otter there but I heard through the Yellowstone grapevine that they’ve been hanging around those parts so my fingers were crossed. About halfway through our third survey day we got to a rather large pond/small lake. I began surveying first and about 1/4 of the way around a large brown creature plopped into the water only a few feet ahead of me. As you can tell from other posts, when I’m surveying a wetland, I’m not doing a great job of staying aware of my surroundings. That’s definitely something I need to work on because as you’ve read from the moose post, it’s gotten me into dangerously stupid situations.
Once I heard the plop, I froze and just waited for a second because whatever it was sounded rather large. As I stood at the waters edge, the adorable heads of not one but two river otters popped out of the water right there at my feet. I should have known something was up because I kept seeing spots where something(s) had been sunning itself along the edge and leaving behind half-eaten salamanders. I decided to start my surveys back up again so that I could give them some distance, but much to my surprise, they swam alongside me as I walked along the edge. Then my field partner got into the mix and they had to split their time between us.
Eventually, they found us boring and slid back on to the grassy edge to pose for pictures, perform their obviously well-rehearsed circus routine (which included laying on top of each other and then moving their heads in unison) and tying themselves into a knot and falling asleep. At the end of my survey, I decided to be a bit brazen and see how close I could get to them before they’d actually wake up. Well, it was only about ten feet. They poked their heads up at me, yawned and went back to bed. Its pretty sad when even an otter twosome finds you completely harmless.
Welcome to Disneyland people! This site was another first for me and I certainly hope it’s not my last. Honestly, as soon as we parked our car and started hiking, we had elk bounding across our path and birds were perched on our shoulders singing Zip-A-Dee-Do-Dah. I felt like I was in a cartoon. We followed a great horned owl flying from tree to tree along with its tubby two fledglings. This blew me away because I’ve never encountered an owl in the daytime before and a great horned at that!
Our first wetland was occupied by a bison herd so we had to work around them as best we could. They were less than thrilled so they begrudgingly decided to move on about halfway through my survey. This was a bummer for me because everything is better with bison, including field work. As the mass migration was taking place, a few folks on horseback came down into the valley to chat with us while we surveyed. We must really be a site for people to behold. Here they are in the backcountry taking in the beautiful rolling hills of Yellowstone, never expecting to see another human soul, and two little girls with nets and waders pop out from the middle of a bison herd grazing in a wetland. Surprise!!!
Not only was the hiking and the wildlife viewing spectacular, the surveying wasn’t too shabby either. A few of the wetlands were absolutely filled to the brim with salamanders. No complaints there. The last wetland was an extremely large wet meadow comprised of tall, sharp grass which sliced my skin with every net swipe. Not cool. That’s a lot of pain just to find nothing but that’s how the job goes sometimes. The one rather neat thing about that meadow was that the substrate was comprised of itty-bitty fresh water clams. I kid you not. I’ve never seen anything like it in Yellowstone. Until further inspection, they looked like small pebbles. I told my field partner to examine the substrate and she agreed that I wasn’t totally out of my mind. Later, I told my supervisor what I’d seen and in all of her decades working in the area she’s never heard of anything like it. Thus, I’m not sure if someone slipped me some crack or not but at least my field partner was right there with me.
As you will discover from my blog, we survey a lot of Blacktail sites: Blacktail Pond, Blacktail Plateau, Blacktail something-or-other. These areas are in the northern part of the Park which includes a harrowing, pants-pooping trip over Dunraven Pass to get to. Usually, I’m frazzled and in need of medication and new pair of undies by the time we arrive at our destination. It’s certainly worth the trip though.
In all seriousness, this is where the rubber meets the road for climate change. Here, wetland loss is measurable and can be witnessed from year to year. People can argue the causes all they want but unless they have their head completely in the sand, they can’t deny that climate change is happening. This year Andy, Kenda and crew installed some data loggers in a few Blacktail wetlands to measure how rapidly this is all taking place. Time will tell but for now the future remains uncertain for the amphibians in this area. If only it was as easy as gathering them all into a large knapsack and releasing them somewhere safe. One can dream…