Travel, yellowstone national park

Yellowstone: June 20th, 2013

Mud Volcano, etc...Cooking Hillside (4)Churning Caldron (3)Churning Caldron (5)Cooking HillsideChurning Caldron (6)Cooking Hillside (2)Cooking Hillside (3)Dragons Mouth SpringDragons Mouth Spring (4)DSCF2314Grizzly FumaroleMud CaldronCooking Hillside (6)Cooking Hillside (5)Mud GeyserMud Geyser (3)DSCF2386DSCF2387Mud Volcano  (3)Sour Lake & Black Dragons CaldronSulphur Caldron (2)Sulphur CaldronSulphur Caldron (7)Sulphur Caldron (6)Sulphur Caldron (8)

I spent most of the day puttering around the dorm trying to get my joints to re-lubricate themselves and my blisters to pop. Surprisingly, Andrew looked far better than I. He was up, bright and early, to drive back home to Casper to see his wife. I don’t envy him, especially in his condition. That’s a cramped 5.5 hour ride. I caught up on my journal entries, did some stinky laundry and then decided to stop being pathetic and savor this day off, in spite of my feeble body. I bought myself an ice cream cone at the Fishing Bridge general store, ate it in Hayden Valley and then walked around the Mud Volcano and Sulphur Caldron sites. I love how stinky it all is. A large portion of the Park smells like rotten eggs or really bad gas. As soon as I arrived in the Park, I rolled down my window and took a deeply satisfying whiff. I’m not ashamed to admit that I love the smell. I’ve got to find a way to bottle it so I can take some Yellowstone stink home with me! Sick? Yes, but I stand by my passion for all things smelly. After my sightseeing jaunt, I returned to the dorm and right at the front steps was a coyote with some sort of dead animal in its mouth. It sauntered across my path and then circled back around in front of me as if to show off what it caught. Then is proudly trotted off down the street. Everyone was in the dorm kitchen and they all happened to miss the coyote just outside the door. Duh! I spent the night laughing with the researchers in the kitchen and watching them play cards. Such a hilarious cast of characters here. Plans for the faux bear jam were stepped up and further fleshed out which led to us swapping bear spray stories. I told them about how in 2006 we were practicing deploying a few expired bear spray canisters in the dorm parking lot. We checked the area to make sure no one else was around and then we let it rip. Mere seconds later, from under a nearby truck we heard someone coughing and swearing. A beat-red, sweaty, extremely pissed-off man appears out from under the truck. He blindly zig-zagged over to us in a complete rage, ready to beat the crap out of all of us. We apologized profusely and explained that we were just practicing with our spray and that we had no idea he was under there. He calmed down and forgave us. A few weeks later he gave us all engraved mini-pocket knives as a way of apologizing…for spraying him in the face with bear spray. Yup, he gave us a gift for that. You gotta love people sometimes! I still have the knife. Tomorrow is another day off but it’s not just any ole day. Oh no. It’s my birthday! Not to mention that it’s also the summer solstice and the longest day of the year–I couldn’t ask for a better day for a birthday. The Germans and the Wisconsinites taking me to the Park employee pub for some pizza and cheap, yet delicious, beer. We plan to walk to the pub from the dorm which is right through serious bear country. So most of us will be packing bear spray. The only foreseeable problem with that plan is bear spray several beers deep may indeed become a toy, especially on the walk back. A very painful, uncomfortable toy. We shall see though. Maybe I’ll get another pocket knife out of the deal. Can’t wait!

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Travel, yellowstone national park

Yellowstone: June 16th, 2013

West Thumb Lake Overlook Trail (7)In previous blog posts I’ve mentioned having weird dreams but this morning takes the cake! Have you ever heard your name being called in the middle of the night or right when you are dozing off? I think it’s fairly common and experts say it’s a hallucination of a sleepy mind. I woke up at about 4 am to a disembodied voice say something. The freaky part is that Brooke, one of the new forest ecologists from Wisconsin, woke up at the same time and started yelling “What? What did you say? Who is there?” I just hid under my covers and freaked out. I would have never believed that two people could have the same hallucination or hear the same disembodied voice. The next morning, I formally introduced myself and asked her if she remembered any strangeness in the early hours. She had no recollection of yelling into mid-air in the wee hours of the morn.

Besides disturbing my new dorm-mate with stories of strange voices and such, I started the day off by creating a mock-up of the book I’m writing–with Cassie illustrating. I got farther than I’d imagined and am feeling really good about the potential benefits of having a book like this available. When my ideas became less than awesome I took a break and went to the Fishing Bridge general store to eye the fishing poles and lures. I’ve been manhandling their fishing gear every day since I arrived. When I saw there was only one more metallic green pole left, I knew it was time to spring into action. I gathered up the pole, a lure, a huge hunting knife and went for it. Then I headed to the marina to purchase a fishing license for the entire season. Now I need to find me some pliers to crush the barbs down (a requirement in the park since it does less damage to the fish). There are only a few species considered native to the area and the rest you are legally required to kill. You can either puncture their swim bladders and let them sink to the bottom of the lake (which adds nutrients to this nutrient-deficient ecosystem) or eat them. I’m not sure I am capable of either. I’m a bleeding-heart sucker but we shall see, maybe I will get in touch with my inner mountain man.

The afternoon was spent hiking the West Thumb Lake Overlook. It’s an easy hike with a beautiful view of Yellowstone Lake. On the way back to the car I literally ran into a herd of elk. Since they are not hunted in the Park, they’re accustomed to having humans up in their grill taking photos of them. They didn’t mind me being there at all. I took a photo or two and continued on. As I walked back to the car, I couldn’t help but consider the 4+ million visitors to the Park, most of whom only stay for less than 1.5 days. They’re idea of enjoying the Park is the cheap and dirty pay-off. It’s the view from their tour bus window or the instant gratification of a roadside peek at a herd of bison or elk. Most never get to feel the exhilaration of stumbling into the middle of a herd of bedded down elk. It’s better than nothing I guess, but to me it’s still sad.

Now I’m back at the dorm, sitting at the picnic table, typing this. Just behind me, our favorite bison from years passed, named Swing Set, is lying down next to the playground equipment he’s named after and it looks like he’s brought a friend. Awe. We also have a marmot scurrying around the dorm. Chunky little waddler! He ate the corner of our grass welcome mat. Gross!

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Travel

A Hudson Valley Hike: Falling Waters Preserve

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Tuna butt!
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What’s that over there?
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I wandered off the trail and stumbled onto a labyrinth.
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Some words of inspiration.

Here are a few pics from my Easter walk with Petunia at the Esopus Creek Conservancy’s Falling Waters Preserve in Saugerties, New York. If I return to the area in August (my future remains unclear at this point), I plan to volunteer for the Esopus Creek Conservancy. I met the Vice President, Susan, a few months ago at the Saugerties Farmers Market. She was clearly passionate about the Conservancy and was thrilled to be there educating the public. Her booth always had a long line of people wanting to know more about the Conservancy. Throughout the day, I heard her talking with folks interested in volunteer opportunities and saw that there was a sign-up sheet on the table. During market break-down I swooped in and told her my credentials and experience. I love this moment because people usually experience a wave of feelings that can be clearly seen on their face. When I’m standing behind an overflowing table of handmade items and they hear biologist, reptiles, amphibians, Cornell, environmental communication, SUNY ESF masters degree, outreach, volunteer coordinator, mediator, veterinary technician, etc… it’s a palpable mix of confusion, disbelief and in the end, luckily, it usually turns into excitement. The next question I usually get (while scanning me up and down) is “How old are you?” Hah! Needless to say, she was overjoyed with what I had to offer. Over the following weeks, it became clear that my current schedule would not allow for volunteering but if I return to the area, I will be knocking on Susan’s proverbial door. Anyways, back to my Easter walk…I wandered just off the path and found a labyrinth. Tuna and I tried to give it a go but she didn’t quite understand what I was doing. She was patient with me despite her confusion (story of her life). When I reached the middle, there was a shiny, little angel waiting for me. Awe! I left it for the next person to find and be inspired by. Overall, it’s a lovely place to hike and there is Hudson River access, which is nice if you enjoy dipping a toe in. There’s even a historic element to the site: an old carriage road and remnants of the ice house era. Falling Waters Preserve is kind of hard to find because it’s tucked into a neighborhood, but the webpage has decent directions. It’s also a great hike for all ages and fitness levels. So if you’re in the area, you have no reason to not visit and enjoy.