Wednesday, April 29, 2009
On the way back, we saw what looked like a plastic bag stuck in the grass next to a bison. At the same time, Dave and I said, "Hey, that's a cattle egret!" There were two following the bison very closely, picking out bugs that the bison stirred up, I guess.
While not unheard of in North Dakota, the Sibley Guide to Birds puts them at an infrequent status, but Cornell puts them in their winter range here. I don't know if I believe that. I've certainly never seen them in ND before.
In North America, I've only ever seen cattle egrets in Florida. We did see plenty of cattle egrets in Africa last fall.
Tuesday, April 28, 2009
We startled half a dozen elk out of the hillside, and they made a break for it. It was probably the third closest I have gotten to wild elk, but who keeps track of ridiculous stats like that?
The thing about the badlands is that everything looks big and far away in the photos, but in actuality it's fairly small and close. Maybe I've just spent too much time in the mountains and my perspective is all off. I could paraphrase Bill Sewall, who said something to the effect, "Without a point of reference, you can't tell how big anything is or how far away it is." That quote is way off.
Sunday, April 26, 2009
Desert Solitaire is about Abbey's experiences in the deserts of Utah, mostly centered around his time working at Arches National Monument (now designated a National Park), but extending into memories of other relevant experiences in the southwest.
Throughout the book, Abbey alternates between reverence for the sublime qualities of the desert wilderness and disgust at any form of development. Abbey discusses his amusement of having mice in his cabin, then of the companionship of a snake that ends up eating all the mice before disappearing. He writes stories about people who have come before him, of those he meets, and of his oft-foolish pursuits including getting trapped in a slot canyon and risking heat stroke to catch a one-eyed feral horse. Most precious is his story of rafting down the Colorado River before it was submerged with the construction of the Glen Canyon Dam. One of the most poignant remarks he makes is nearer the end of the book as he talks about how the dust infiltrates everything in his skin, hair, and clothes; he himself had become part of the desert.
At the same time, he expresses alarm for how the parks are being developed; he talks about the "National Parking Lot" taking over. Nothing alarms Abbey more than people in automobiles. He uses one, too, but enjoys driving through the washes, fishtailing and sliding down the rugged dirt roads. He despises pavement anywhere and rails against lazy tourists and the National Park Service alike. One of my favorite moments in the book was while one night he was contemplating his aloneness in the vast desert, a jeep of civil engineers pulled up. They were surveying to build a road right to his remote ranger station. After an extended rant - the chapter is, after all, called "Polemic: Industrial Tourism and the National Parks" - Abbey finishes off the chapter with the aftermath of the survey crew:
"Teamwork, that's what made America what it is today. Teamwork and initiative. The survey crew had done their job; I would do mine. For about five miles I followed the course of their survey back toward headquarters, and as I went I pulled up each little wooden stake and threw it away, and cut all the bright ribbons from the bushes and hid them under a rock. A futile effort in the long run, but it made me feel good. "
Abbey picks up his disdain for automotive tourism later in the book, saying of automobile tourists:
"Sealed in their metallic shells like molluscs on wheels, how can I pry them free?"
Part of his frustration, no doubt, is a product of his time in history. The book was published in 1968. This helps explain his comment, "Civilization is a youth with a molotov cocktail in his hand." He wrote the book at a time when the NPS was undergoing its most serious effort to date to provide facilities to make the parks pleasant and accessible for all people. While it can be fairly argued that opening up parks to vehicle traffic has caused as much harm as good (more harm, for Abbey), his thoughts encapsulate a sense of disappointment that something irreplacable was being taken away: truly wild areas.
The book is enjoyable, and I found myself laughing out loud many times. I don't always agree with Abbey, though. Abbey wrestles with the positive aspects of the wild and the city, and recognizes that man needs both, but he never connects the fact that the reason he has a job in the park he loves so much is because of the people he so often dislikes who he is meant to serve. He also interacts with the land in a way we discourage today - probably because we see so many people that the impact would be ugly - carving a message into a tree, accidentally starting a brush fire, and clobbering a rabbit with a thrown rock just because he wondered if he could.
There were many points where I really identified with what Abbey wrote. Many times, I have written very similar things in one place or another. Most significant for me was the last page of the book, as he is leaving the desert and on his way home. He cranes his neck to get a last look, wanting to go back. In the last paragraph, he says almost exactly what I said the first time I left Glacier:
"The desert will still be here in the spring. And then comes another
thought. When I return will it be the same? Will I be the
same? Will anything ever be quite the same again? If I return."
Abbey is the same as me in many ways. I understand exactly what he means, even though I have never been to the desert he writes about. The same ideas could apply to any person in any place. Places can do that to a person.
In local news, I've been at the North Unit over the weekend. Pretty easy work for a little extra money because of the travel time. I can hear meadowlarks singing outside. The bison were right by the front door this morning, rubbing on the benches, trees, and fire hydrant. Alas, it was raining, and no one else saw them. I saw a turkey walk by this morning, too. Yesterday, I saw a grouse sitting on a telephone wire, a red fox by a farmhouse, and a pair of northern harriers close up.
One month from today, I'll be working at Pipestone. I read through the pile of brochures they sent me, detailing the significance of the site and how the pipestone is collected and then fashioned into a pipe. It sounds tedious and laborious to produce, and because of the geology, it becomes more tedious and laborious to quarry the stone every year as the quarriers have to dig through an increasingly thick layer of quartzite to reach the sacred stone.
I found another interp ranger headed there who was interested in splitting the bill for a two-bedroom apartment. The park has no housing, a big drawback. After a pretty long phone conversation, it sounded like we'd get along just fine. He's going to check out the housing situation in Pipestone this week, which relieves some of the mystery for me.
Friday, April 24, 2009
We've had a weird problem with our LCD projector at the visitor center. All winter, there has been a blue blob in the upper left corner of the screen. This week, it started spreading. Thinking swapping out the bulb would make a difference, we did that, but the problem remained. We fiddled with it for a while this morning, which is always daunting because of the stern, written warning not to touch "anything" on the projector, lest an underling screw things up. Naturally, I started touching everything.
We wanted to check the lens and clean it, but that wasn't the problem. In the process, I screwed it out of focus. The lens in the projector is not a standard lens for that equipment, so it's a little bit funky. I made the picture blurrier and blurrier. With my already-stressed boss right next to me, getting ready to choke me, no doubt, for messing up the expensive-ass projector, I was getting a little nervous. As my boss turned to leave in disgust at me, I figured out that twisting it was not solving the problem, but pulling on the lens did. All was at least back to where we started. I decided since it wasn't the DVD and it wasn't the lens, the LCD screen within the projector must be failing. I proclaimed the LCD screen FUBAR. I hastily retreated while I was at least back to square one, the spreading, blue blob remaining.
Now I'm envisioning that the superintendent will read that last paragraph and that's how she'll find out and we'll all be in trouble. Please don't get us in trouble. If Gen Y can't fix it, it requires a professional.
After that, I walked out through the green grass and the falling snow - eerily like being in the mountains - over to the uniform cache to put things away, a lingering loose end to tie up in my remaining weeks. Miscellaneous junk had been piled up there, including an ancient UHF television. I decided not to mess with that stuff, since I had already "borrowed" two bottles of bleach from that pile and used them up. Who knows who might want the Swiffer. There wasn't much to put away, unlike the debacle last year as I hauled load after load of garbage bags full of uniforms we could not keep anymore. Mostly, there were size 10 jeans to put away. It went quickly.
After lunch, I headed up to the campground to begin construction of a new, gigantic rack that will house the new, gigantic projector there. It came in a big, heavy, black plastic box about 6 feet long with wheels and a handle wet with condensation inside the shrink-wrap. Inside the box were several brown paper-wrapped bundles of 1" square metal tubing in a variety of shapes. I found a nice, pleather bag filled with bolts, wing nuts, and "speedy cranks," and the instructions sheet. For some reason, the instructions looked like they had been written on a typewriter, mimiographed, and shoved into the nuts and bolts bag. Worse, there were no illustrations.
In the two hours that followed after unpacking everything, figuring out what was what, and starting construction, it became painfully clear that one or two drawings would have really sped the process. Once I got the shelves where they needed to be, or at least close enough for now, I had to admire the gall of the sadist who wrote the instructions to write "notice that the shelf fits neatly onto the 7" frames," as I cranked on the metal and pounded with my fist to get it to wedge in properly. Lastly, I was left with four pairs of "anti-sway bars." They folded four ways, had screw holes in two different directions, and I could not figure out how to use them. The instructions were no help because they said, "See illustration." I admit there was some profanity at that point. Only the noisy flickers outside heard me.
Back at the visitor center, I asked whether we had a picture of what this thing was supposed to look like when it was done. I was way off in thinking the anti-sway bars went crosswise when they actually, inefficiently, stick out from the sides in every direction, a trip hazard. We have two days blocked out next week for me to go and set the electronic junk up with the IT specialist. When the project is finished, it will be the culmination of many months of personal effort digitizing the park's slide collection, enhancing the photos, and organizing them into a massive file system that hopefully others can navigate and then show in presentations on the big projector for which I am building the big rack. It's a shame I'll never actually get to see it in action.
With two hours still remaining in the day, I set out to disassemble the aquarium in the visitor center and to liberate the rock catfish and the flathead chub that have been living there for quite a while. The catfish was there when I started work here in 2007; the chub was added over summer along with a bunch of minnows that the cranky old catfish ate. I thought of naming the catfish Garfield because of Garfield the cat in the cartoon, but then I thought of James Garfield, the President, which led me to also link Chester A. Arthur and the Cheshire cat. Long story short, I have been thinking of the catfish as Chester A. Arthur for a while.
With a little help from another ranger, I transferred 80 gallons of water from the tank to the janitor's slop sink down the hall. My boss thought there couldn't be that much, but I told her I worked in a pet supply warehouse and moved tanks even bigger than this one, and it was definitely 80 gallons. Once I worked the water down far enough that the fish couldn't try to escape in three dimensions, I scooped them up and tranferred them to a nice, big bucket of water. The catfish put up a struggle and got me fairly sprinkled with fetid aquarium water. I put the bucket into the back of a car and drove over to the river to set them free.
There was concern whether they'd survive the transition, and the ethics of releasing fish to potential doom via cold shock. I figured that they're fish and they'll know what to do, or at least fulfill their destiny to a greater extent than they could in a tank. The problem with getting them into a position to fulfill their destiny was that the mud was horrific down there. I got caked in bentonite practically to the top of my boots, working it into my only pair of uniform dress pants. Sinking into the mud like quicksand and as close to the river as I dared without descending the steep bank, I spilled the bucket out with a forward thrust to shoot the fish toward the water. My last glimpse of the catfish was it wriggling on its belly, riding the wave I created, slipping into the muddy river.
In my socks, I finished removing the rest of the water and set about taking the aquarium apart, putting the rocks outside and attempting to dampen the fish smell with some glass cleaner. We decided to move an existing display to the aquarium's place after the two-seater chair/table thing didn't quite fit in the space. It is well that the fish went home to the river; most people assume there are not fish in there because they are very good at hiding. Being good at hiding will come in handy out there in the wild.
If you catch a catfish that answers to the name Chester A. Arthur somewhere out there in the Little Missouri (he might be in Lake Sakakawea right now with all that current), tell him I said hello and that I hope he's having a good life out there in the wild. I bet he's burrowing in the mud right now, loving it.
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
At Sully Creek State Park, where we put in, camptender Roger Clemens came out to greet us. I asked if his nickname was "The Rocket" before I could stop myself. He had the nicest, most extraordinarily well-trained border collie I've ever seen. "Smokey" was its name, if I remember correctly. With shaggy gray and brown hair, and up to its hips in dried mud, it laid down on the ground about 30 feet away, head upright and ears perked, while Roger came over to talk to us. I went over to say hello to the dog, and it, very obediently, stayed in its prone position. Later, Roger gave it a little signal or a whistle and it ran over and acted just like a normal dog, sniffing and greeting all of us. Roger was very helpful helping us get Valerie's raft down the newly-steepened bank. Smokey tried to help, too. We wished they could come along.
It was a relaxing trip from Sully Creek, three miles south of Medora, to the Cottonwood Campground, where we had left the retrieval vehicle. The weather was perfect as come clouds cut down on the glare from the water but temperatures were in the high 70s. The river was fast and the only real effort expended was to keep the raft away from the edge a couple of times and otherwise to keep it pointed downstream. Keeping it pointed downstream isn't that important in a raft, but my Whitewater Canoeing merit badge training makes me feel better when I can see where I'm going.
Throughout the course of the river, it was easy to see where the water had been at the crest during the flooding: an obvious line had cut through the clay, undercut some cliffs slightly, and completely scoured the banks of the river throughout. In at least one place, a barbed-wire fence had been entirely undercut for a significant distance and was simply hanging over the river. Naturally, it didn't take much to get all muddy in the process of putting in and taking out along the steep banks. The bentonite clay that got on everything got a good hosing-down at the end of the night.
We saw several Canada geese, a couple white-tail deer, some ranch horses, a bison, mallards, and about seven small ducks that I'll claim as wood ducks. We saw two unusual things. While we were watching for "killer beavers" (long story) a big chunk of the riverbank broke off right next to us. I was glad we were slightly past it and in the middle of the river as it happened. The mud and debris from the slide washed past us shortly after the collapse. Later, an entire tree did a Loch Ness Monster maneuver, bobbing straight up, then straight down in the water. It was the strangest thing. I wonder whether it was going down the river and actually pole-vaulted when it hit something. I don't know how else that could happen. Maybe a giant, killer beaver was carrying it.
In other news, I heard a Say's phoebe outside today. I expected the insect-eating birds to show up now that it is getting warmer and the blooming plants are attracting insects reliably. The grass is turning greener and the buds on the bushes are opening up. Medora is awakening. More people are evident every day. I think I actually prefer the "iron desolation" of winter to nice weather and abundant phoniness of Medora in the summer.
I was reminded how much I enjoy doing business in North Dakota today as I called to set a date to end my phone and internet services in my apartment here. When I called the phone company, I got a person right away, she asked me about the weather first (legitimate topic of conversation in North Dakota - in fact, the only news worth talking about, usually), then got to the business of my call. Real people.
Sunday, April 19, 2009
Here's what the river looked like from Wind Canyon at 14.5 feet on Friday:
I have a panorama of Medora during the peak of flooding but for some reason it's not embedding here. Click on Medora Flooding and see if that works.
And here's the campground at 16.3 feet:
Saturday, April 18, 2009
After presenting a scat and tracks program for K-2 graders in Beach, ND yesterday morning, I cruised the park and took pictures. The river is flooding and still on its way up today. After walking around by the river trying to take pictures of it, I hopped in the car to find a tick crawling up my arm. I nearly put the car in a ditch, but then calmed down, picked the tick up, and flicked it out the window.
It's getting greener outside. The forbs in the prairie dog towns are turning the towns green, despite the "damage" prairie dogs do in the eyes of cattlemen. The gooseberry bush in the native plant garden by the visitor center is leafing out as of this morning.
I went up to Wind Canyon and could hear meadowlarks for what seemed to be miles around. I haven't seen the tree sparrows lately, so they might have left along with many of the juncos. Grackles showed up.
The river is currently at flood stage, though we don't seem to be doing anything about it. I'm not sure about the cause, but it must be melting snow near the headwaters of the river. It's higher than it was when the ice broke up in March.
Thursday, April 16, 2009
Jen, Dan, and I all had the day off yesterday and I was kidnapped to go to the Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center in Washburn, ND. That museum is close to where the Expedition wintered in 1804-1805 at Fort Mandan. My roommate of two weeks at Theodore Roosevelt last year is now a permanent employee at that museum. The museum involves more reading than anything, with replicas of the sort of things the Expedition had with it. The special exhibit for the time being was a collection of aquatint prints of Karl Bodmer's artwork from his trip through North America with Prince Maximilian of Germany in the 1830s, just prior to most western native peoples' decimation by smallpox.
My favorite exhibit in the museum was a little sidebar about life in Ft. Clark regarding rats. Several rats were peeking out of a hole in the fake wall.
I was admiring the flooding and looking out over the river, scanning with my binoculars for ducks while Jen and Dan worked on their Flat Stanley project for their nephew, I think. I saw three pintails and a male bufflehead.
I despise Flat Stanley, who appears via mail in many guises from many elementary schools nationwide. Every time, Stanley shows up to suck away valuable time while I take him on a "tour" of the park. Stanley usually makes it about ten paces from the front desk over to where I can take his picture in front of the cabin, slap the picture into a form letter I've created, then shoot him back in the mail.
Meanwhile, Jen and Dan noticed a man from Kentucky struggling in the wind with a piece of paper. He had a Flat Stanley, too. Jen and Dan told him they were doing the same thing! They decided to get a group picture with all their Flat Stanleys next to the statue of Seaman, Meriwether Lewis's dog. It was pretty funny all around.
It has warmed up and it's a little bit rainy today, or at least it's trying to rain. The Little Missouri River is coming up again, and is predicted to come up to its banks but not necessarily flood. We continue to see groups of sandhill cranes going over. The snow has melted with temperatures in the 60s this past week, and green growth is beginning to be visible all over, even if it's just the weeds that have overtaken the grass in my front yard. It's just been super windy outside and I haven't wanted to be out in it. It smells like grass outside, which is a refreshing smell after smelling nothing but cold air and snow for the last several months.
We negotiated an exit strategy for my "transfer" to Pipestone, though it was looking ugly for a while because of a variety of monetary, administrative, and logistical issues I won't bother explaining. I'll be at TR through most of the third week of May, then will have a few days to get re-situated before starting at Pipestone.
Sunday, April 12, 2009
In town, the snow has melted completely except where it was plowed off the road. Some green grass is starting to become apparent. The buds on the trees are inching ever larger, but it will be a while before they open. The juncos have not left yet, and the occasional tree sparrow still comes to visit my bushes. However, flocks of hundreds of sandhill cranes passed overhead yesterday. I would estimate I saw 500 throughout the day. Right on time. Soon enough I'll have migrating sparrows, thrushes, ducks, geese, and warblers.
Saturday, April 11, 2009
1. Cash machine, check!
2. New prescription sunglasses (that I got chewed out for spending too much on but they are fantastic), check!
3. Haircut, check!
4. BBQ lunch at JD's, check!
5. Swimming at the West River Community Center - Well, that did not work out because there were a ridiculous number of kids in the leisure pool (you got a singularly Christian holiday off and you got to go swimming?!) and there were not enough lifeguards, which provoked me to get a refund and chew out the guy at the front desk. Since that part of my day got my heart rate up - "If you advertise that the lap pool is open these posted hours, it had better be open if I come all the way from Medora!" - check!
6. Groceries, check! Wal-Mart is cheaper for anything that comes in a box, bag, or can, but the produce is better at Dan's Supermarket. I think most people like me who realize that end up stopping at both grocery stores while getting the groceries. It's inefficient. I hate Wal-Mart, but I eat too much to afford to get all my groceries at Dan's.
7. Car wash, check! My car had not been washed since August, still had mud from the Going-to-the-Sun Road on it, and was the same color as everyone else's car in North Dakota. I believe the color is called "mud." The Oldsmobile is nice and red and shiny now except for the growing rust areas I have been unable to impede.
8. I found my missing notepad, the NPS "Ten Standard Firefighting Orders" notepad that fits neatly into the uniform pocket. Asked whether I would be "screwed without it," I said, "No, but I would really like to find it, if you know what I mean."
9. The loop road is open now, so no more complaining from people! That neither adds nor subtracts from my stress. I don't have to deal with the complaining as much, but instead I get the stress of paperwork and making sure I don't screw up, lest I go to jail.
10. I have seen two flights of sandhill cranes passing over, as I expected. Yippee!
11. Summer seasonal ranger Mary returned, supplanting my neighbor in the apartments. She seemed excited to be back, and immediately headed to Beach to hit all of its cultural hotspots.
12. I didn't write about this before, but I burned the back of my hand against the heating element of my oven. I'm not going to explain exactly how or why. It's getting better now.
13. I got a letter saying I was qualified for some Oregon State Parks job. I didn't realize that by applying for one position there, I was automatically being considered for other jobs! I guess that's OK with me!
Somebody called this morning and asked if Theodore Roosevelt National Park was "close to the Musical." I can't believe how many people come for the Musical first and the park second, third, or not at all. We got free tickets to the Medora Musical last year, to see opening night, which Amber blogged about back then. I would never pay to watch that cheesy show.
I'm nervous that my favorite TV shows, The Office and 30 Rock, are becoming worse and worse by the episode. The Office is unraveling, but still funny. 30 Rock is getting too predictable. NBC also launched a new show called Parks & Recreation, which is in every way The Office applied to a government setting. It hits too close to home to be funny to me. Why did they think this show was anything worth producing? Maybe I should read more books instead.
Thursday, April 9, 2009
Based on my experience on a Cub Scout trip circa 1992, quarries are the most boring and headache-inducing things on the planet. I will try to keep that version of Nathan in mind when preparing programs. Mature Nathan, however, recognizes that Pipestone National Monument preserves an important archaeological site. The particular stone quarried at the site is interesting and significant, and its story is one that a historian like me can latch onto. The pipestone, or catlinite, mined at the site was traded by Native Americans across the continent, and is known to have reached as far as the Pacific and Atlantic coasts. The rock has a sacred significance because it was used in ceremonial calumets. Who would have known that the bored-out-of-his-mind Nathan taking that Archaeology class (with a bunch of grad student nerds who constantly asked annoying grad student questions) and learning about the importance of pipestone, flint, and chert, and the various sizes and shapes of paleo-Indian spearpoints, might one day need to dust out that corner of his brain and become an expert with a badge and nametag.
Pipestone National Monument is located in Southwestern Minnesota, approximately 50 miles northeast of Sioux Falls, SD, and 30 miles north of Luverne, MN. Luverne is one of the towns featured in Ken Burns' The War and the home of pilot Quentin Aanenson from the documentary, if my memory serves me correctly, and the home of National Geographic photographer Jim Brandenburg, who I met by a freak occurrence while traveling with a geology field trip while a student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The monument is small, just 282 acres* that encompasses a native tallgrass prairie, three quarry sites, and a waterfall. It may be interesting to note that upon working there, I will have worked in all three types of prairie in the Northern Great Plains - the shortgrass prairie of St. Mary, the mid-grass prairie of Theodore Roosevelt, and the tallgrass of Minnesota. I'll have to learn a bunch of new flowers again, though nothing will ever be as familiar or as nostalgia-inducing as the plants of the Northern Rocky Mountains.
*The meadow in St. Mary is roughly the same size as the entire monument, for those of my friends who might look for a comparison. Pipestone is equivalent to .02% of Glacier's land area.
For years, I wondered how I could ever leave Glacier National Park. For the first couple years, the thought made me physically ill. I ached to go back, longing to find whatever it was I was looking for there. I don't know what I was looking for, or if I found it. I do know that the experience shaped me as much as anything could. I was lucky to be selected for an internship there (a whole other story) and luckier still to ever get that job. I didn't want to let it go, much to the disappointment of every SCA intern who ever came into St. Mary since then, with but one solitary exception. It will be a sea change, at least in St. Mary, as most of my friends who have also worked there for several years are moving on.
Thinking that Pipestone would never be able to offer me a job before I needed to commit to re-hire at Glacier (the period to apply only closed the last week of March and it usually takes weeks if not months for them to come back with an offer), I already had visions of huckleberries and mountaintops dancing through my head. I was slated to be at Two Medicine, where I would have hiked every day through woods, sub-alpine, and alpine zones, looking for familiar friends flitting among the trees or blooming on the forest floor. It would have been good for the heart, the lungs, and the waistline. I would have hiked in the hot sun among whitebark pine stands to Scenic Point, through the woods to Rockwell Falls and Cobalt Lake, and up to the ever-windy Dawson Pass; I would have ridden the boat across Two Medicine Lake and walked to Twin Falls and yukked it up with the crowd as I attempted to follow Pat Hagan's popular acts at the Two Medicine campground. I had some jokes at the ready: "How many of you have visited Two Medicine before? Keep your hands up! How many of you have seen one of Pat Hagan's programs before? Keep your hands up! How many of you were expecting Pat tonight? Keep your hands up! How many of you were disappointed when you saw me walking up instead?"
Pipestone will be a change of pace. I am very excited to make the most of the opportunity there. Now I just need to find a place to camp out while I'm there. I also need one of those things that hangs off my grill from which to hang grilling tools.
Tuesday, April 7, 2009
There are lots of cedar waxwings feeding on the juniper berries. Their high-pitched "pwee!" sound can be heard throughout the forest edge.
Then a robin came and scared the waxwings away.
"Mrrah-mrrah! says the nuthatch. I leave the translation to you.
Dark-eyed juncos are very plentiful right now, both males and females. The males are a winter bird here, but very few actually stayed over winter. Seeing the abundance of them, and seeing males and females together, indicates that they are in their migration north for the summer.
Townsend's solitaires are highly territorial, and only during the breeding season (and in Glacier) have I ever seen two together. Like the waxwings, they feed on juniper berries.
Lots of mule deer were out in the morning. This one is a yearling. I also saw quite a few white tails near the campground and one elk in a wooded ravine.
Painted Canyon Visitor Center, not your average rest stop.
Monday, April 6, 2009
The recent photo is from near Silver City, South Dakota, and was sent via e-mail with the text, "Summer's almost arrived in South Dakota. We can see the deer moving around. Yep, won't be long now."
Saturday, April 4, 2009
The only positive lately has been that we converted to summer weight uniforms on April 1. No more long sleeves, itchy pants, and choking ties. I get pretty sweaty under all that wool. The magical park ranger summer pants that shrink over winter have made their way onto the hangers in the closet and the unfathomably stuffy winter uniforms are back in a box.
There should be migrating cranes and bison calves any day now. Perhaps the cranes will come through as it warms up this week and the wind is out of the south.
I recently found out that I will not be working at the Painted Canyon Visitor Center this spring because I have the distinction of having the ability to collect fees and am needed in Medora. That's OK with me, though that means I will get less reading done. Were it not for Painted Canyon, I might not have read Citizen Soldiers or Nothing Else Like It In the World, both terrific books by Stephen Ambrose. My current reading project, in between bathroom-time installments of Newsweek (which I will not be renewing), is Desert Solitaire by Edward Abbey.
Edit from a few hours later: I forgot to include that I updated the Google Earth thingy for the South Unit to include a little doohickey for the Painted Canyon webcam. When you click on it in Google Earth, it zooms down to show you the webcam image transposed over the GE terrain. Pretty neat.
I also forgot to include this photo that I took of an elk a couple nights ago.