Monday, April 25, 2016

Well-grizzled, Full-bellied,




















and in my case, certainly not Capo's, Half-assed.

See you in October, if the good wolf's willing and the bear don't bite.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Damage Control

Today was my last day working at the library and I'm mostly packed for my bus trip to Marquette tonight. Our winter in April period seems to be ending just in time for a vacation, with sun and 60s in the ten day forecast.

Dealing with people has never been one of my strengths (writes the guy about to go spend five months dealing with people at Yellowstone). Part of the reason I enjoy being alone is that it's the way I feel most comfortable and relaxed, especially after spending time with people when the ensuing solitude brings a healing feeling. When I'm around people, I always feel like I'm acting. I don't mean that I'm lying about anything specific, only that I'm always partly guarded and that I feel I have to pretend that I'm more like other people than I really feel in order to survive in this civilization.

My parents taught me well that no one can really be trusted or depended on. I once told a woman I was very close to that I felt like a character in Christine Lavin's song Damaged Goods. She was visibly shocked that I thought of myself that way and asked if I'd been abused (as she had). But I guess the point of the song is that we're all damaged in varying degrees and looking for some hope and healing.

At the library, those of us who have these part time unscheduled jobs have a board with our names where we mark off which days we intend to work in the next week. I'd intended to erase my name earlier this week but it had already been done and replaced by an unhappy face.

Today people at the library had baked goods, and a card with many nice things to say, and even a stash of cash which totally surprised me. I can't remember a job departure which felt more real to me. One woman who grew up in Livingston usually works at another branch but was there for a meeting today and envied my going back to Montana, and others talked about their trips to Yellowstone. After reading the card alone, I interrupted the meeting for a moment to thank them. I also made a point of telling several of them that if I'm eaten by a bear, they're to tell the press that I wouldn't have wanted the bear killed. Also told them it wouldn't make any difference, but we have to try.

Heading off to visit the person and dog I'm able to feel the most like myself with, I'm bringing along a couple library books. One is recent, Great Tide Rising: Towards Clarity and Moral Courage in a Time of Planetary Change by Kathleen Dean Moore. At first glance I thought this might be much too optimistic for me, too entrenched in denial and pushing false hope, but the preface is so heartbreakingly sad in its scene of two people at the shore and so detailed in its natural history description of what's happening there, that I'm going to give it a try in search of solace and camaraderie. And I happened to be shelving a couple Abbey books today, so picked up Jack Loeffler's tale of his Adventures with Ed to reread for camaraderie of a different sort before heading west.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Deja View



So  . . .  I’ve got a week left working at the library, then a week in Marquette, and then I’ll be practicing packing to see what I can carry to Yellowstone. It’s going to be a hellish trip out there. Jefferson, the bus company which took over the route after Rimrock was shut down, has ruined the trip in every possible way—times (I’ll have to spend a night at the station in St. Paul, leave Minneapolis early the next morning and then will arrive at 4:15 AM and have to sit for another six hours waiting for a ride—I guess waiting for dawn there will at least give me the trip’s first view of the mountains), locations (instead of a bus station near downtown Bozeman, I’m headed to a gas station ten miles away and won’t be able to spend any time in Bozeman, a favorite town), and route (instead of a straight trip along the interstate, I’ll be detouring through every fracking town in North Dakota). I investigated taking the train most of the way, but with all the extra connections and a hotel stay along the way, it would cost me four or five times as much which I can’t afford now.

Assuming my deteriorating body survives the trip and the elevation and the job, I’ll be in the park for over five months working for a different company, a company which is strongly opposed to people working more than forty hours a week, unlike my previous park employer which often schedules employees to work many more than five days in a row.

I had hoped to get a job at Tower, where the company has a better than average dorm (with three meals a day, and semi-private bathrooms instead of the standard communal down the hall) next to a thirty site primitive campground. It’s an area of the park with a lot of black bears and a three mile hike through the woods would have taken me to the Roosevelt area and my favorite thimbleberry patch. Unfortunately, by the time I applied, there weren’t any jobs which interested me left at that location. After hearing what was left in the park, I decided I’d wait another year and reapply.

During the following week, I realized I didn’t want to wait another year to see Yellowstone again, and that there was no guarantee I’d even be alive then. So I called back to see if a couple jobs we’d discussed were still available, and decided a job at Mammoth Hot Springs would be my best option. One plus at Mammoth is that because most of the employees there are driving to work from outside the park, people work eight hour shifts instead of the split shifts with two or three hours off in the middle of the day which this company requires at other locations. And when I think of missing Yellowstone, it’s the wildlife and those stunning views around Mammoth which I’m thinking of, not geysers or the canyon or the lake. Between not driving, my possible schedule, and where I’ll be living, I may not even have the chance to see those other parts of the park this year, and that doesn’t really bother me.

What’s most interesting to me about the upcoming season is that although I’ll be working in the same area of the park, I’ll be living a completely different life than I did before. I won’t be living in the big developed area around the hotel, but in an employee area a mile farther into the park and away from the tourists. I’ll have my own room, which is very rare for low-level park employees, in a trailer shared with one other person. There is a trail between home and work which I plan on walking most of the time for a beautiful mile commute, although I might get stuck in a bison jam in the spring or encounter the rare bear. I guess I’ll have to flag down a passing tourist. New bear spray—first purchase.

No meals are included with this job. The store at Mammoth has a very limited selection of expensive food, and I’ll hope to get occasional rides to a town to stock up on cans and produce for some cheap meals. Other than those options, if my schedule coincides with a meal I like at the cafeteria where I used to eat, I’ll probably be having some all you can eat meals there to get some vegetables and make up for the many meals I’ll probably be skipping. Between the walking required to get to work, whatever recreational walking I’ll do, and trying to spend as little money as possible (this job pays even less than what I used to make in the park, plus I’ll be paying rent in Minnesota unlike in previous years), I’m hoping to lose some weight this summer. One weight loss factor I’m not happy about will be the greatly reduced availability of the craft beers I’ve been enjoying for the past few years. My biggest disappointments in that area are that I’ll almost certainly miss Odell’s seasonal St. Lupulin and this one time only 12pack from Sierra Nevada

Another major difference will be that there will be no internet where I’ll be living. I’ve already unsubscribed from most of the email lists I’ve been on, but I’m still spending many hours a day online. Yet I’m actually looking forward to this change, and expect to be spending more evening time reading, listening to music which in some cases I haven’t played in years, and typing up old journals. Maybe I won’t even want to pay for internet again when I’m done in the park.  I bought a cheap copy of Walden to take instead of my hardcover annotated copy, and I’ll hope to find some books worth reading there because I’m definitely going to miss the library and Minnesota’s great interlibrary loan program. 

In any case, this probably means neither blog will have any activity while I’m in the park. I’d expect a last post on May 1st with photos of the grizzlies and wolves at West Yellowstone where I’ll be spending a couple nights to recover from the hellish bus trip. After that, you might not hear from me until mid-October. But I’ll still be writing and photographing, so imagine how much time you’ll spend here once I post it all!

I don’t expect to feel as much a part of the place as I used to—I was blessed to be able to experience the Yellowstone ecosystem almost year round for a few years and I won’t get that feeling back. Now I’ll just be a tourist on an extended vacation. I expect this season to be a one last time venture to hopefully say goodbye to the place under better circumstances, but given that I have no idea what I’ll be doing after Yellowstone, that might be open to change. If my landlord had agreed to let me out of my lease, I probably would have put my stuff back in storage before heading west to save money. Instead I had to get a one month extension so the lease wouldn’t expire while I’m a thousand miles away, and I’ll have to make a decision about renewing it while I’m in the park.