Friday, February 28, 2014

How's the Weather?

The three months of December, January, and February have been the second coldest ever here--average daily temperature of 3.85, second only to 3.7 back in 1874/5. As far as the number of dates below zero, we've shattered the old record of 59 days--we're in the mid 60s now and with the forecast should hit at least 70 days. And this has happened without the record being broken for a single day--it got cold and stayed that way. The Lake has been almost frozen over.

As far as snow, we're in the vicinity of what we usually get for the full season, but with hardly any melting, it's almost all still on the ground--by far the most snow I've ever seen here. I went grocery shopping this morning. Usually when I'm waiting for the bus home, I can look across a parking lot to see if the bus is coming. Now there's a pile of snow about twice my height and as wide as a house and I can't see the parking lot at all.

It's been a wild winter out in Montana also. A friend outside Yellowstone told me it was -20 in the morning and +40 in the afternoon a couple days ago. Missoula is under a blizzard warning as I write this. In Billings, the city plowed residential neighborhoods for the first time ever. Before you ask, I have no idea how that usually works. Are residents required to plow their own streets or do they not get snow? I just looked it up--they average 57 inches annually, but warm winds usually keep it from accumulating.   

I don't know if I'll ever be in Yellowstone again, but I know it will be in me for the rest of my life. I went on a book buying spree to get my fix--In the Temple of Wolves (Lamar Valley in the winter), Yellowstone Has Teeth (year round life at Lake, an area inaccessible to most people in the winter), and the new edition of Death in Yellowstone which includes the bear deaths from my time in the park. Coming in May, Grizzlies on my Mind by a former ranger. Unfortunately, I can't read them right now because I have a time sensitive pile of library books and freebies to review including Bernd Heinrich's latest, The Homing Instinct, which is due out in April.

I was supposed to start my new job this week, but although I've been drug tested a couple ways, they haven't finished investigating my criminal past, so maybe I'll start next week. It's very part time and temporary which suits me well at this point.

Whether it be my age or the life transition or the cold, this is the first time I've ever had enough winter. I'm looking forward to seeing the ground, walking without more than one layer of clothing, and warm winds. A couple days ago, I contacted the company which does sailing trips on the Lake and got details about their different trips. On the subject of water, I did start writing Autobobography: Watching the River Flow, but I don't know if I'll ever finish it--don't have much inspiration at the moment. Maybe in the spring.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

So what's been happening?

First, I came to the conclusion that I wanted to keep this studio apartment year round whether I went back to work in a park or not. It’s very cheap and in a good location and exactly what I’ll need when I’m trying to live off Social Security. In the more immediate future, it gives me a home to come back to any time I’ve had enough of whatever situation I might get into if I’m working in a park--that would have come in handy last year. Or if I'm working here, I can easily meet my expenses working much less than full time.

I decided that safety net gave me a perfect option for exploring working in different parks. I started researching and came up against the same issues I’d forgotten from when I originally considered the idea years ago. 

As much as I’d love to spend months in Yosemite, I don’t want to live in a hantavirus tent as new employees do. Another favorite, Glacier . . . well, I couldn’t get anyone at a couple different email addresses to even confirm that they’d received my application, pretty much confirming the advice of a friend at Yellowstone who told me to not even apply for the first year or two that the new company is running the concessions because it will be too screwed up. 

I found videos online about employee life at Crater Lake and Bryce—the dorms looked fine, but they’re much smaller crews with a lot fewer choices in the employee dining room. Maybe worth a try at some point, but it looked like returning to Yellowstone would be the best choice for this year. 

I signed a year lease and ordered some furniture, and had a heart-pumping experience getting my new desk up the winding stairs. But when I sit at it to type instead of on the floor, I can see a cat in the window of the house next door which is a plus.

In a week or two I hope to hear about a part time job I think I have a good chance to get since I used to do it for them as a volunteer. With that in mind, and thinking about a summer by the Lake, it was becoming clear to me that it would take a perfect situation to make me go back to Yellowstone this year. 

A couple options were mentioned, one for the job I wanted but for a much shorter period than I wanted, another for a job which would have been the highest I’ve had in the park but not in a location I wanted. I would have taken the first one except that I felt there was a good chance I’d later cancel it depending on circumstances here, and I was concerned that might block me out of the park in the future. 

There are already people in Yellowstone who’d prefer I not return, but fortunately there are also people there who know me much better who’d be happy to see me back. All things considered, I opted to let things play out here for a while, and unless something unforeseen happens, I won’t be working in a park this summer. 

If things go well here, I might never go back to park life. If nothing great happens here, I’d consider returning as soon as next winter—I’d still love to spend a winter at Old Faithful. Either way, I think a long time away is a good thing. During the last two years in Yellowstone I let myself get caught up in bullshit which made me lose sight of why I was there, and I want to leave that and all the people involved behind me, and appreciate the park again.

After finishing work on my journals from the Yellowstone years, I put together a collection of words and photos from my blogs since that is where I’ve done most of my writing since 2007. It was actually a better way to relive those years of hikes and all the pre-park changes in my life, and I wound up with a 1000 page document.

It’s been a very cold winter even by Duluth standards, the 8th coldest December and 18th coldest January, almost always well below the average daily temperature. Double digits above zero were rare until the past week when I started getting back out for walks to town along the Lake. February usually begins the warm up. 

I’ve begun making enthusiastic notes about events and classes and hikes scheduled during the brief above freezing summer season. Not too excited about the names listed so far for the summer’s main music festival, but Robert Randolph gives one day some potential depending on who gets added. I’m looking forward to sailing on the Lake.

There’s a towering pile of library and free books for review from Amazon. Another freebie I received was a Kamagon ball, a fun item which you put water in to reach different weights and use in various exercises. I thought it might be handy to stick in a duffel bag if I work in a park.

I’ve made a very rough sketch for my autobobography--my life through eight Dylan songs (Watching the River Flow, Lay Lady Lay, Idiot Wind, Things Have Changed, etc.), which would be a very long and quite possibly last post (I know, you’ve heard it before—but I’ve got nothing left to say at this point) unless I go back to work in a park in which case I’d revive greentangle for photos/hikes. Otherwise, those two last last looks I posted in October really might be.