Please be advised, this is going to be the most unexciting post to date. Put a pillow next to your head and tuck a towel into your shirt because you’re going to be nodding off and drooling in no time. I spent most of the day finishing Robin Hobb’s Farseer trilogy. It was getting waaaay too exciting to justifiably put down. I finally finished the book at about 3 pm. Then I decided to test out my new rod by ineptly fishing Yellowstone Lake. Oh, I’m so glad no one saw me. My new fishing pole blew up during maiden cast. I had fishing line all over myself and the surrounding rocks. It seems that I’d forgotten how to fish. Eventually, I got the hang of it. Fishing from the shore of Yellowstone Lake is lovely but not really advisable if you want to catch something other than rocks. I had to wade through the water several times because my lure got stuck on the bottom and required some tough love to free it. So after my unsuccessful fishing attempt, my wet butt went to the Lake Lodge to eat a really overpriced, yet delicious, dinner and use the internet until 12:30 am. Yup, that was a whole lotta internet. I paid $11.95 for 24 hours of internet so I intended to make good on every last second. I started my Holistic Life Coaching certification so I had to download of bunch of PDF’s for that; I made reservations for a cabin at the Lake Lodge and some campsites for the 4th of July weekend; I caught up on FB and email; and I began updating my blog. My pictures took forever to upload into WordPress because the connection speed was fairly slow and also because I’ve been taking high-resolution photos. I probably should dial back the resolution a bit but who knows, maybe I’ll want to make big ass posters out of a few of them someday. Who the heck knows? I finally found the car in the pitch-black parking lot and returned to a very dark and creepy dorm. I started reading the first few pages of Hart’s Hope by Orson Scott Card. I love his other books so I’m looking forward to this one. It’s relatively short so I should be through it in no time. I’m seriously eating books for breakfast out here in Yellowstone! I’m a reading machine!
I spent most of my birthday traveling to and from the little town of West Yellowstone, Montana. It’s a scenic two-hour drive, each way, from the dorm. West Yellowstone is the absolute epitome of a tourist town and I love it. It’s only several streets long and wide, each store sells Yellowstone paraphernalia (Deb calls them rubber tomahawk shops), the outskirts are camp sites, there’s a huge IMAX movie theater showing the Yellowstone movie (presumably to get people pumped to go into the Park), there’s a museum, a nice visitor center, and there’s also a small discovery center which houses all of the wild animals from Yellowstone that were too naughty to live in the Park, such as wolves and grizzlies. It’s a cute little town. I found a bakery with delicious food, ate till my heart’s content, and then wandered around the shops for a little while. There’s one store that had amazing wildlife art. There were raptor feathers fashioned into an enormous fans and turtle shells made into purses and rattles. It was really neat stuff. Of course, I manhandled all of the art on display and only afterwards saw the very obvious sign telling patrons to not touch it. I felt compelled to compliment the owner on the curation of his store and apologize for not following his signage. He loved that I appreciated that art so much that he encouraged me to continue manhandling it. Then I finally found the library. Free internet! Yay! By the time I set up my computer and got the password, I only had a half hour to check my email before it closed. I certainly had hoped for a lot more time but I had no one to blame but myself. I had gotten way to side tracked by food and stores. So I headed back to the dorm feeling a little downtrodden but that was short-lived because the drive back was beautiful. A coyote even trotted in front of my car. So although my day didn’t go exactly according to plan, it was still very nice. No complaints here.
Then me, Alex and the Wisconsinites headed out to the pub, on foot, packing our bear spray. First we had to wait a half hour at the front desk of the Lake Lodge for the Wisconsinites to get their pub pass–which was a complete bust. Alex and I tried to get them into the employee pub sans passes but the stubborn doorman, who took his job waaay too seriously, wasn’t having it so we ended up back at the Lake Lodge’s bar. We lounged on their oversized chairs and couches in front of a fire and made each other laugh until about midnight. Then we weaved our way through the cabins behind the Lodge until we found the wooded path we hiked in on. Right behind one of the cabins we spotted two little glowing eyes and it turned out to be a martin. They are similar to a ferret but bigger. They are pretty rare in these parts so we were completely in awe. We watched the mischievous little bugger play around in the trees nearby. It was adorable and didn‘t seem to mind us one bit. The rest of the walk was fun and really beautiful. The moon and the stars were out, lighting our way home. It felt like we had the entire park to ourselves. We watched Alex and Brooke spin around a field for 30 seconds and then they had to look into a flashlight for another 30 seconds, which was supposed to make them instantaneously fall to the ground. Well, since we had been drinking a bit and they choose to spin on a slope, they didn’t even make it through the 30 second spin. Hah! We arrived back at the dorm safe and sound, without having to use the bear spray or without any accidental deployments. What more could a birthday girl ask for? Nothing, of course.
Today was an official day off of work. I spent most of the morning reading, writing and organizing my photos. Then I took a brief walk to the Elephant Back trail. This was the first hike we went on as a group back in 2006 and I felt like I was on death’s door the entire time. I was lagging way behind the rest of the crew, huffing and puffing. To tell you the truth, that first hike had me terrified that I didn’t have what it took to make it through the field season. But, as we know, I certainly did. So I found myself, once again, at Elephant Back ready to tackle the beast. This time around it was easy. I’m not sure if I’m in better shape now (doubtful) or if I’m just better at going my own snail-like pace. I believe the latter to be more of the case. Overall, it was an easy hike and the views were gorgeous–which I was too busy gasping for air last time to fully appreciate. I had to laugh because there was a 75-ish-year old couple complete with walking canes making the trek as well. A great example of what a sissy I can be at times.
Then I went to the Lake Lodge to use the internet, which ended up being down so I had to drive the 16-miles to Canyon in the hopes of there being internet. It took about 45 minutes to drive those 16-miles because the bison just loooove to slowly meander right in front of the cars. God, I just adore bison. I have to resist the urge to molest them by running my fingers through their soft, shedding coats. They just look like gentle giants, although I know they’re not. In fact, my little nephew, Pugsley (he’s a black pug), looks just like a mini bison, which just compounds the urge for me. Needless to say, it’s never advisable to be on a tight schedule in this Park. Anyways, I made it to Canyon, paid my $4.95 for internet service just to find that this very electronic journal would not upload because…well it’s a long technical story but I can’t update my blog now–unless I want to drive two hours each way to do so. That was a huge bummer for me. I was so hoping to keep everyone up-to-date on life in the field. So I drove back, extremely downtrodden, with Guns & Roses blaring my angst throughout Hayden Valley. Every bear, moose, elk, bison, wolf, coyote, frog and shorebird got to hear a little Welcome to the Jungle. It’s just my way of sharing the musical highlights of human society. I went to bed feeling rather defeated but grateful, knowing that tomorrow promises to be a serene, internet-free day off.
Training Day: Deux
Amphibian id training today in Gibbon Meadows. I remember doing the same exact thing in the same exact location in 2006. This entire experience is going to be like some wonderful kind of déjà vu for me. We saw every species on our very short list, including tiger salamander larvae. And I was reminded that I have eyes like a jungle cat; too bad I lack the reflexes of one! I can spot a reptile and amphibian from a mile away. I was finding adult boreal toads, spotted frogs, chorus frogs, and snakes like it was going out of style (which it never will, of course). I was doing it with such efficiency that I think they were beginning to suspect that I was just pulling them from my pockets or something. They should see me with turtles! At each site we were followed by Japanese tourists taking photos of us; they can’t resist funny-looking people with dip nets and waders. So, maybe I’ll become the next big thing overseas–hopefully even bigger than Hasselhoff (one can only dream).
After work, I got re-acquainted with the Lake Lodge. I love it there. It’s good to be back. I was sipping a local microbrew and writing in the lobby when I heard someone playing on the piano one of my favorite Yann Tiersen songs from the Amelie soundtrack. Could it get any freakin better than that? I think not.
Here’s information on the four amphibian species we’re looking for in Yellowstone.
Here’s a link to my employer’s webpage explaining the amphibian monitoring project.
Here’s a link to our protocols and reports.