On A Mission

Yellowstone National Park

 

This is what we call in the trade a B.O.M. or a Bear On a Mission. When Spring happens here in Yellowstone several things occur. A Lot of the snow melts. The Rangers are nice to everybody because they haven’t seen a soul in seven months. The Geezers are running because school isn’t out yet and you can drive around the park without getting caught in bear jams, or squirrel jams, or I think I saw a wolf jam. And the bears come out. Not that kind of coming out. The kind where they wake up out of hibernation, dig themselves out of their dens, and are now ready to resume doing all manner of bear things kind of coming out.

One of the most major, cannot wait, this needs to be handled right now things that have to be taken care of, is getting something to eat. These guys have not eaten since they went to sleep last November. It is now May. That’s like, what, (counting carefully on fingers) seven months. Most of us can’t get through seven hours without wanting to hit the buffet line at the all-you-can-eat pancake house. At this point one would not want to be standing between this bear and a Quarter pounder, or even a long dead buffalo just emerging from a snow bank where it has been fermenting slowly all winter. One does not want to be wearing any Eau d’ Pizza cologne either. This is particularly good advice as bears can smell very well. They would notice you.

The bear above smells something and has set off to find it. You can tell by his body language that he is determined, confident, purposeful, a Scorpio, likes long walks in the snow, no, wait, I was just kidding about the Scorpio stuff, he’s actually a Libra, but he is determined. What is on the other side of the snow bank is unknown but since he is a bear on a mission we can assume it is food related. Spring has sprung and with it all manners of really cool stuff. So if you’re not busy hop on up to Yellowstone and check it out.

Into The Darkness

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Sometimes wolves go off on their own. Perhaps they just get tired of being in the pack and want some solitude. Earlier this morning the pack had been feeding on an elk cow they brought down on the Cascade Creek drainage here in Yellowstone a few days ago, and there was the usual melee of pushing and shoving, snarling and snapping as all the of the pack members fought to get their share. The kill was fresh and everyone ate their fill. Even the youngest were stuffed. It wasn’t long until the carcass was reduced to a pile of bones and wolf bellies were bulging.

The wolves began to drift apart, singly and in pairs. The younger wolves chased each other and played, burning off the energy that is a constant state for them. The older ones moved off to find a spot to curl up and sleep. This wolf, not ready to sleep and not in the mood to play with the younger wolves, began to prowl around the area checking  for intruders. A grizzly had been in on the kill the night before and the pack was nervous as they fed. Grizzlies don’t pose much of a threat to the wolves as they can maneuver away from them and even chase the grizzly off if they’re determined enough. But they don’t want the confrontation if they can avoid it.

The valley this black wolf is looking into is prime grizzly country. It’s deep and full of brush, trees and large boulders, just the place a well fed bear would hole up. The wolf’s body language says he’s not alarmed or at least hasn’t caught any scent from the bear yet but he’s carefully watching for the slightest movement. Magpies lifting, brush moving when there’s no wind, any telltale signs that the grizzly has decided to come back and feed again. All appears to be quiet so he may lie down here to keep watch, even catch a little nap himself.

Quiet times like this are rare in the wolves life. Carefully looking into the darkness at the bottom of the ravine and feeling at ease, it’s time for a rest. Soon enough it’ll be time to hunt again.

Moms Behaving Badly

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We’ve all seen it. Moms behaving badly. This can happen anywhere, at the mall, on the playground, out in the church parking lot. You get kids playing, overprotective mothers watching, Little Snortle pushes Jim, Jim pushes Snortle, moms think one or the other is playing too rough, tempers rise and suddenly you’ve got full contact MMA going on.

This can happen at the speed of light. One little misplaced head-butt, a surprised squeal from Snortle and Mom goes ballistic. That kid is trying to hurt her baby. Her first impulse is to trample little Jim but Jim’s mom isn’t having any of that because Jim didn’t mean it, and besides that Snortle is an ugly-looking little snot, and before you know it there are enraged bellows, forehead to forehead mayhem, and nevermind what happens to the kids at this point. One of them has to die. Jim was bright enough to see this coming but little Snortle nearly gets trampled in the melee. He’s not sure if he’s been snake bit, or struck by lightning as the conflict escalates. All he knows is when mom gets like this it’s time to put your tail in the air and haul buns out of there.

Buffalo have often been accused of being a few bales short of a truckload and never does this seem to be more true than when these moms get it into their heads that they have been disrespected, humiliated, insulted, or just looked at the wrong way. Once that happens nothing but total destruction can resolve the issue. Snortle’s mom, Heather, has always been a little sensitive and Jim’s mom, Gwyneth has always been a little overbearing and this match has been brewing for quite some time now. They didn’t get along in school, Heather thought Gwyneth had been trying to poach her bull, especially since she caught her rubbing flanks with him at the last neighborhood block party, so it was inevitable that a confrontation was going to happen.

Well, it certainly wasn’t pretty but it also wasn’t deadly. There was some smudged eyeliner and one of them had her hair totally trashed but all in all there were no broken bones or gored underbellies. Unfortunately buffalo being buffalo it didn’t resolve anything either. There is still plenty of bad blood between the two moms and we can fully expect to see this played out again and again. The kids on the other hand have forgotten all about what started it and they’re off to run around and chase each other through the herd until they irritate some other mom and then…. well you know whats going to happen.

This just goes to show you that people are people whether they’re buffaloes, or Baptists, when the ladies get touchy you know you’re going to see moms behaving badly.

A Journey Of One

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Buffalo are herd animals. They clump together, do everything together, find comfort in the closeness that develops within the herd. Kind of like us, I guess. Many of us see ourselves as individuals, loners, aloof from the herd. Yet we build our houses right next to each other, shop and meet in the same places, get nervous if we haven’t seen or be seen by others. We are herd animals.

So how does that individuality thing work then. For a very few of us it means withdrawing from the group, living somewhere remote, or simply doing everything in our power to be detached from everyone else. One can be a hermit in the middle of a crowd by choosing not to interact, or making every contact as minimal as possible. Living inside yourself. The jury is still out on whether that is a good or bad thing.

Buffalo bulls are ones that tend to be loners. Except during the rut and mating season. Then they join the herd and act like regular members, but  when their responsibilities are fulfilled and they’ve done their part in making sure the herd prospers and grows they revert back to being loners and individuals even if they stay near the herd. Their journey is complex. It’s also hard to understand unless you’re another bull.

Living in this world is a complicated process. How you go about it is as varied as the number of those doing it. But one thing is clear, when everything is said and done it is always a journey of one.

Unattended Landscapes

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Listen up America! we have just discovered a huge and growing problem in our favorite National parks. That problem is “Unattended Landscapes”. That’s right, some of our most desirable sought after landscapes, the very reason many of us go to these National parks, are being left unattended. Look closely at this image and you will see that there is not a single attendant anywhere. We even went down there and looked around the corner at the river and yelled a lot to see if anyone would answer and there wasn’t a soul.

This particular landscape happens to be on the Firehole river in Yellowstone National park, a park known for its attention to wildlife and the comfort of its visitors, and we found that not only was this portion of the landscape unattended but there were great huge stretches of the river that did not have a single person watching it. We were stunned. What is happening here? We pay enormous taxes to run this country right and we find that there are huge gaps in the allocation of that money. At least as far as protecting our scenic treasures goes. What is that money being used for? Sneaky, stealthy new bombers that we can send to wreck other people’s scenic areas? What about us. What about our important problems?  Where are the concrete attendants shacks? Where are the white hybrid cars with the big national park stickers all over the doors? Where are the attendants? Where are the klieg lights to turn on to see if anything is messing with our landscapes after dark? This is shameful. Is this happening in our other National parks as well?

This is a question we intend to pursue and we will get to the bottom of this situation. There are the makings of a national disgrace here and we’re not going to stop until we have examined every national park, scenic highway and byway, every national monument, state, county and local park, all those scenic areas on federal land that are visible from the highway, anything that looks landscapey, until these areas are fully attended and protected. We believe the problem of Unattended Landscapes is going to be our next national crisis.

Some of you may be saying “What’s the big hairy deal, some of these places have been unattended for a long time.” Well our response is “Yeah, So what ? What are you a communist?” There’s lots of reasons we need to attend to our scenic areas. Things have changed since Teddy Roosevelt was around. We’ve got more people now and some of them are bad. We’ve got people who want to mow down all the shrubbery and drill for oil in the middle of the Firehole river and there’s terrorists that want to sneak in and blow up a tree or something. We’ve got no idea what can happen. Some of these scenic places are irreplaceable. You don’t just go in there and stand them up willy-nilly wherever you feel like it.

We know that some of you may have already noticed this situation and perhaps even begun acting on it but we need everyone to support this important movement. We cannot leave our God-given scenic areas to the happenstance of nonchalance. Get involved. Volunteer. If nothing else go to an unattended scenic landscape and park your car and watch these places. Be an attendant. If you’re unable to spend weeks or months at a scenic site, write your congressman. Send emails to politicians running for office, find out their viewpoints about this problem, then vote your convictions. We’re going to. Several times if it will help. OK then, this is our month to attend to a particularly scenic site along Highway 287 here in Colorado so we have to go. Remember, Pay Attention, Do Your Part, and Be Involved, it’s the right thing to do.

 

 

Quiet Colors

Yellowstone National Park Sept 2005

 

No man-eating hummingbirds or cataclysmic storms today. No raging animals or volcanic sunsets. Today we’re going to have just a few quiet colors. Something soothing to let you ease into the weekend.

When you are in a spectacular place like Yellowstone you’re mostly primed for the big events. Bears charging out of the undergrowth, wolfpacks decimating an elk herd, waterfalls hundreds of feet tall and you tend to maintain a level of excitement that is very high. But it’s difficult to keep that level up forever. Sometimes the caffeine wears off and you find yourself back down on earth again and just able to put one foot in front of  the other. That ‘s when you begin to notice the quiet things around you.

Colors and textures that flow harmoniously together. Gentle little scenes that creep into your vision and your viewfinder that give you a different kind of rush. A realization that there is more to this place than the big exciting events. Things that give you pause as you try and figure out how this little vignette came about. How did this fair-sized boulder come to be here. There aren’t any others for as far as the eye can see. And what caused the different varieties of grasses to meld together so wonderfully. It’s as if some cosmic landscaper decided to create this little vision of beauty just because they could.

I dunno know, really. All I know is I like it. And I hope you do too.

When I Was A Young Bird

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When I was a young bird I did many reckless things

I left the nest too early to see where the songbirds sing

I was not used to freedom or my untested wings

I thought that I was ready for whatever life would bring

I made it through the winter and many following springs

I learned to hunt and fight and love and survive most every thing

I found the winds of chance blew cold and bitter cold did sting

Yet through it all I stayed the same unable to change a thing

Older now and more unwise I look back and I reflect

And wonder why as a young bird I did so many reckless things