In the middle of January I wrote a post about struggling to decide whether to go back to work in Yellowstone this summer. I continued that struggle almost every day until the beginning of April.
When I first started working in the park, I traveled there on buses operated by a Montana company which offered a 24 hour trip from Duluth to Bozeman, arriving in mid-afternoon directly across the street from a nice hotel where I'd spend a few days before and after work seasons. Going in, I'd stock up on detergent and toiletries so I wouldn't have to lug them all the way across country, have a few good last meals, and start adjusting to the higher altitude. Coming out, the pretty town of 40,000 or so made for a gradual readjustment to civilization. It was Bozeman which made me love not only the park, but that part of the country.
That bus company was eventually shut down by the federal government for safety issues, just in time to cancel my planned vacation from the park to New Orleans. Unfortunately, the route was taken over by a Minnesota company which doesn't give a damn about providing good service to Montana or its people. The trip now takes 36 hours, arrives only in the middle of the night (4 AM), and doesn't even stop in Bozeman, one of the most popular towns in Montana, but at a gas station ten miles outside of town. I've complained to the bus company and plan to write to state and city officials in Montana to ask if they can do anything to improve the situation (ideally by supporting another company).
If I decided to go to the park, my plan was to take Amtrak to the Glacier area and then bus my way south. The trip would be longer, more expensive, require a night's stay at a hotel en route, and I'd have to ship the items I'd usually buy in Bozeman from Duluth, since I wouldn't be able to spend any time in Bozeman. I'd arrive at the park to check in unwashed and unrested, having spent the previous night on a couple buses with long waits at stations.
I also had concerns about the job--not so much the job itself, but that being a more menial job than the ones I had in the park previously and knowing the company and how it treats most of its employees, I could easily wind up being told I had to work six days a week (and in that world, overtime doesn't even start until you've worked 48 hours) and I had no interest in being treated that way.
Additionally, something happened to a friend of mine and about a dozen other employees in the park last month which left a bad taste in my mouth. I've been asked not to write about it at this point, but you might be hearing about it in the news. And for me, there were insurance and prescription issues to consider, as well as how much more complicated and expensive it would be to keep my apartment while working in the park compared to when I was homeless and working there.
So as you've probably guessed, I won't be working in the park this summer though I'm still not ready to say I never will again. A friend there called me after he got my email that I definitely wasn't returning despite his months of encouragement and we had a beer together over the phone. If I had happened to run into Lola during the couple days I would have had to stay in Mammoth, I was looking forward to telling her to say hello to the Philadelphia reader who checked this blog, so I'm including that here as a personal aside.
Lake Superior and the largest population of wolves in the contiguous states were among my biggest reasons for moving here and I still appreciate them. But I also miss the bison, the grizzly bear, the pronghorn, the Uinta ground squirrel and many more, all those glorious mountains and views and open spaces, and being in a part of the country where most people (in smaller numbers, another plus) have more of a connection with the natural world. I hope I'll get back at some time in some way.
For now, it feels like a heavy weight has been taken off my shoulders, and I'm greatly looking forward to spending ten days dogsitting in Marquette next month, which will be the closest I've come to having a pet in much too long. When I return it will be time to find another part time job to boost my income out of the red.