Archive for July 2010

Junior Rangers

July 30, 2010

Junior Rangers at work

My older sister, brother in law, and two nephews came to visit last week. It was a last minute plan that worked out great. Bret and Chris undertook some heroic driving to get from Kyle, Texas to Old Faithful in two days, with Jack and Will unleashing their peculiar kind of mayhem in the back seat. They arrived on Sunday night (July 18) and hooked up with little sis Jessica who is working down at Old Faithful. They spent two nights at Old Faithful and then headed up to Gardiner in mass on Tuesday. We all hooked up after work at our Bunkhouse home. Jack and Will loved checking out the winter fleet parked behind the warehouse. They got a tour and some time behind the wheel and out of the hatches of Plowboy (704), the Bombardier R-12 I drive in the winter. Then we roamed down to the junction of Yellowstone and the Gardiner Rivers behind the Bunkhouse, hurling and stacking rocks and getting our feet wet. We roamed Gardiner and ate at the K-Bar.

The next day I gave them a tour of my Mammoth hot tub digs and the Map Room and dined with them in the Terrace Grill. Then they headed down to Lake. I followed in Jesse’s  car when I got off work. We all stayed at Lake Hotel. The next day, July 22, was Jack’s 7th birthday. I switched my schedule to get it off. After a birthday breakfast at Lake Lodge, per Jack’s birthday wishes, we spent the day lounging on the beach of Yellowstone Lake near Pelican Creek. The same beach where my younger brother, Ted, and Jen got married. More good memories on the windy shores of Yellowstone Lake. We lounged, roamed, and built wood and sand structures for hours. Jack loved every minute of it. Will was not quite as enthusiastic, but still had a good time. After our beach time, we headed to the Fishing Bridge visitor center. Amongst the collection of stuffed birds, Jack earned his Junior Ranger honors through an interview with the interpretive ranger there. He answered all her questions and met all the criteria with flying colors. A public announcement and coronation was made in the visitor center, and Jack was an official Yellowstone Junior Ranger. Congratulations Ranger Jack! He was completely outfitted earlier at the General Store with hat, vest, and multi-tool, and made a handsome picture of a true Junior Ranger.

Junior Rangers collecting materials

After Jack’s coronation, we hit the road to West Thumb and a lakeside basin walk there. Then we headed over Craig Pass to Old Faithful to celebrate Jack’s Birthday. Emily came down for the party after work. We ate hot dogs, baked beans, cake, and ice cream. Jack’s birthday was a huge success. The next day they were up before the sun and heading back to Texas, Junior Rangers (Will unofficially) in tow for another heroic two day drive home. Em and I awoke to say goodbye and then slipped back into sleep until Jesse woke us up at nine. We hiked Fern Cascades Loop in the morning, our wintertime backyard ski trail. I have been around it hundreds of times in the winter, but never before in the summer. It was fun to see the trail in it summertime guise. Then we headed over to Grant, to spend time with Em’s father, who is working at the Grant Campground. Em and I got a campsite and roamed over to Grayling Dorm to find her Dad. We spent the day visiting the Grant Visitor Center and its fire exhibit, lounging in our campsite, roaming West Thumb, dinner in the Grant Restaurant, and fire late into the night. Saturday morning I headed back to Gardiner, and Em and John headed out for a scenic loop drive to Cody and over the Chief Joseph Highway back to Yellowstone through the northeast entrance. I had a night shift from 2:30 pm to 11 pm. Refreshed from a great weekend of family, the night shift flew by and set me up for a 7 day work week after switching my weekend from the usual Saturday/ Sunday to Thursday/Friday. Six down, one to go, before another weekend.

Junior Ranger Lakeside Research



July 25, 2010

Aspens along Rescue Creek

Hitchhike Date: Sunday July 18, 2010: After work on Friday, Em and I hiked 2.5 miles into Rescue Creek, campsite A2. We had a roaring fire deep into the night under clear star filled skies. Planets mimicked UFOs on the horizon. A tree fell in the woods up above our camp and it did make a sound. A big one. We slept in late the next morning and awoke to a black bear up the hill. Later a cub appeared to join mom. Well aware of us, they kept a respectable distance as did we. The cub romped over logs and through meadows. Eventually, the duo disappeared into the woods. We soon followed in the opposite direction. We continued hiking down Rescue Creek another 6.5 miles, walking directly to our Bunkhouse room in Gardiner. Leaving the retrieval of the car for Sunday. I needed to sleep on my hitchhike.

It had been about nine years since the last time I stuck out my thumb for a ride. It had also been in Yellowstone to retrieve a car left at a trailhead. On Sunday morning, Em and I hiked the Old Gardiner Road up from Gardiner to Mammoth. Upon our arrival at Mammoth, we headed to the Map Room. Em hung out there, while I headed out on my hitchhike to Blacktail trailhead. A short 8 mile hitch. I was hoping for one easy ride back to the car. As I headed out of the hotel, a truck came screeching around the corner making the turn towards Roosevelt just as a ranger approached from the other direction. Justice moved in swiftly. The ranger turned the siren on and pursued. He pulled them over in front of the old General Store that now sits empty and unused (I think due to asbestos issues). Unfortunately, that was exactly where I was heading to set up my hitchhiking shop. An inauspicious start to my hitchhike.  I roamed up to the scene, and situated myself on the far end of the parking area away from the unfolding Ranger justice. My thumb extended, I smiled and waited in the sun, trying not to look like too much of a shady dirtbag amidst the flashing Ranger lights. It didn’t work. 20 vehicles passed my by. No one bit on my thumb. I decided to set up shop one pullout down, away from the Ranger show across from the chapel beneath Capitol Hill. Another 20 vehicles passed me by. They employed some classic techniques: stare straight ahead and avoid all eye contact, the shrug, the “our car is full” sympathetic nod/ smile, or the stare of horror. But finally, a kind soul stopped. A lone fifty something woman in a sedan. She made room for me and handed me  a jar full of peanut butter pretzels to dine on as she talked. And talk she would.

She was overjoyed that she could help out a wayward traveler. She lamented that she had passed some other hitchhikers earlier, but they were going the opposite way that she was. The 8 mile ride turned into a stream of consciousness jaunt through her life story. The Jerry Springer Show come to life at forty miles per hour. I listened to the roller coaster ride as I munched peanut butter pretzels. Her story veered and leaped from riding the rails, hitchhiking, living on the streets, her many jobs, her mom, and her old man. She was heading to Lava Creek Picnic Area, 2 miles short of Blacktail. But upon reaching Lava Creek, her meandering story was nowhere close to being done. She said she would take me to Blacktail. The story was still going when we got there. My car beckoned but I sat and listened until it hit some sort of pausing point. I made a quick and grateful exit. Fellow travelers come in all shapes and sizes. Most keep going too scared and suspicious to help. Luckily some stop to help and tell their story.

In general, hitchhiking is a demeaning experience. Begging for a ride, at the mercy of the kindness of strangers. The vast majority of my hitchhiking has been in National Parks, motivated by hiking. My first hitchhike attempt was in 1991 in Yosemite. My sister, a friend, and I attempted to hitchhike from Yosemite Valley to Hetch Hetchy. It was a complete bust. We never got out of Yosemite Valley. We gave up and rafted the Merced River instead. My second attempt was on our ride back to Texas after our summer working in Yosemite Valley. Car broken down in the Utah desert. A kind soul stopped and brought us into Green River. Our cause bolstered by the broken down car. 1992 was my first year working in Yellowstone. The vast majority of my hitchhiking career has taken place here. Especially when I was car-less in 92, 94, 95, and 96. My longest hitchhike to date was from the Jackson Hole Airport to Lake Lodge on the shores of Yellowstone Lake. No epic cross country journeys, but carloads of people and rides nonetheless.  While demeaning, there is a certain footloose and fancy free allure to hitchhiking. And the cast of characters driving by is endless. It is usually the most interesting or like minded that stop. The days of On the Road cross country hitches is probably over, fear and paranoia driving nails into the coffin. But I am keeping my thumb limbered up for future hitchhiking jaunts in the friendly confines of the Greater Yellowstone.

Roll the Bones


July 18, 2010


Beartooth Pass


Ski Date June 16, 2010: After the post Dunraven griz encounter, I headed to Cooke City. Splurged for a room at the Hoosiers Motel. A few beers  in front of the tube watching the Lakers/Celtics Game 6 followed by a night stroll through the mostly slumbering street of Cooke City. I was up at 7:30 the next morning. Packed up. Grabbed some coffee. And headed up Beartooth Pass. The sun was shining after a night of rain in Cooke City and some flurries higher up on the Pass.  Pilot and Index were booming in the sun. Out of the Absarokas and into the Beartooths. Climbing switchbacks to the top of the pass at nearly 11,000 feet. Still plenty of snow for skiing up high. I scoped out the ski lift area, lots of cornice falls and more  waiting to come down. I headed elsewhere, to just under the other side of the top of the pass.


Cornice drops at Pommel Lift



The Beartooth Plateau





After skinning to top of my chosen ridge, I sat down amongst the ridge rocks, in the sun, out of the howling wind.  I  looked down at my skis and noticed one of them was bowed out. Cracked in the middle and bowed out. The Telebirds would soon meet their maker. But they had 2 runs left. Still skiable I headed down. The turns were a little shaky on the bowed ski but good. Worth another climb into swirling clouds. I skinned up for another round. A break amongst the boulders and my final run of the season. Tour ons snapped some photos and gawked as I made my way back to the car. The Telebirds had turned their last turns. Dropping out of snow country I drove back to Gardiner contemplating new tele skis.


Absaroka harbingers: Pilot and Index



Gravity works



July 16, 2010

Track of the Griz

Ski Date June 15, 2010: I was up just after dawn and driving the 30 miles from Gardiner to Dunraven Pass. Milking all I could out of the Washburns snow. This would be my fourth and last spring venture up Dunraven Peak. Griz tracks crossed every time before, but no Griz. I hit the pass around 8 a.m. Early morning crowds were gawking at something on the slopes of Dunraven just over the Canyon side of the pass.  I parked at the Pass parking lot, which they had finally opened up. I geared up and took a picture of a family next to the Dunraven Pass sign, freeing the aging patriarch from a death defying snow to pavement to sprint across the road. I asked them what everyone had been gawking at. Mother Griz and two cubs. I crossed the road and started skinning up the spine of Dunraven Peak, bear spray at the ready. No Griz sign as I climbed. I reached the first hill of the ridge and looked down on the road where the bear jam had been. It had cleared and the people in the pullouts were all looking down below the road. I told myself the Griz had crossed and passed below the road.

Beckoning terrain

Undaunted Carnage

My skin up continued into the blue skies. The Tetons, The Reds, Yellowstone Lake and Hayden Valley spread to the South. The Absarokas to the East. On the Caldera Rim I climbed. Slogging up hill I catch movement in front of me. 2o feet ahead and moving down ridge after an up and over Dunraven Peak journey from Hedges. I look up. She looks down moving, 2 little ones bumping into her rump. Mama Griz as startled as me. My split second decision. Turn around and bomb 30 feet down slope to  a shelter of a clump of trees and a little more distance. I land in a controlled heap glad for the mohair and expecting mom to be on my back. She isn’t. I deski, flip around, and grab bear spray at the ready. She is moving down slope eyeing me, but on the other side of the trees. She glances towards me and stares me down as she passes. The babies halt and stand for a second to stare at me. I want to roll in the snow with them and exchange kisses. They all keep moving steadily downhill and disappear off the rise. I crouch in the snow heart pounding. After minutes go by, I finally get up the nerve to scoot to the edge of the rise and look down the 30 degree slope. I see the trio far below and moving cross drainage to the next ridge over.

Dunraven Pass

Jumble of tracks

I strap back on and continue the climb. More distance between mom and cubs. I follow their tracks to the very top of Dunraven Peak. These were not the same bears being looked at from the road by the masses. There were other mom and cubs in play on Dunraven. Tracks were all over on the ridge. Trail of the Griz I hit the top and rested. The Mount Washburn lookout, who I had chatted with 4 days earlier on my ski trip up Washburn, had just been given a grand show if he was spotting the East ridge of Dunraven as I danced with Griz. Spring skiing in Yellowstone. Skiing with the Griz adds a whole new dimension. An alert ride down. Griz caused car jam just on the Tower side of  the pass. Mom and cubs grazed on the slopes of Washburn. Mine or the others? After an apre skis parking lot lounge I scoot by the jam unsure. Weaving through the manic bear crazed tour ons. High on the Griz experience of a lifetime. Next stop Cooke City. Post Griz splurge on a hotel room to watch the Lakers/Celtics Game. Next day ski in the Beartooths. My last ski of the season. No griz to report in the Beartooths. To be continued…

Convergence of paths

Glad to be unmauled shout out to Washburn Lookout

Trailing off into the distance

Ween Missoula

July 2, 2010

On May 30 we went to see Ween in Missoula at The Wilma. It was beautiful. Ween channeling other dimensions of rock under Boognish’s watchful eyes. Smoke Billowed and rock descended. My mind was blown.  Emily and I attended with Fred and Jody. A quartet to be rocked. Kudos to Jody’s foresight at acquiring tickets.  Em and I drove up from Gardiner on Sunday morning for the concert that evening. Doors opened at 7 and Ween kicked off, sans opening act, shortly after the 8 pm start. They played for three hours. Mas o menos. Previous to the concert we hung at Jody and Casey’s new home with Saul, Ellie, Jody, Casey, Fred, Christina, and Tolliver. 3 of the party 6 or under. We slept at Jody and Casey’s  after the concert and hung out the next day for breakfast and lunch. I hiked up to the M on Mt. Jumbo with the clan while Em toured the University of Montana Art School. We headed home to Gardiner after lunch. Below is Ween’s setlist for the May 30, 2010 Missoula, Montana show. All Hail Boognish!

don’t shit where you eat
take me away
don’t get to close to my fantasy
transdermal celebration
even if you don’t
Bananas &  Blow
learning 2 love
piss up a rope
my own bare hands (totally rocking dude! you don’t even know!)
voodoo lady
did you see me
Buckingham green
your party
let’s dance (cover of David Bowie, spot on)
johnny on the spot
pandy fackler
stroker ace
touch my tooter
powder blue
ocean man

the mollusk

its gonna be alright

the roses are free
awesome sound (going down!)
freedom of ’76

baby bitch
spinal meningitis
bison burger ode to montana cosmic mindsear
you fucked up

This is a combo of how somebody and I remembered it. Order approximate. Truth is relative. Even if they didn’t play some of these songs I still heard them. Touch my Tooter, smoocher!