Rain On The Hoodoos

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We were at our favorite observation point at Bryce national park observing the state of the rock formations in the Valley of the Non-essential Hoodoos when it suddenly began to rain. That in itself is not that unusual, however it was only raining on this one particular set of hoodoos. Not on any of the other hoodoos, (of which some say there are too many of, but we disagree thinking that one cannot have too many hoodoos), but just on these particular hoodoos. As if by design. As if it was being created by some unknown entity just to rain there and nowhere else. A weather modification as it were.

“Hmm,” we said to no one in particular “this has the look of some nefarious organization at work here. Could it be *The Institute?” But then we remembered that The Institute had gone bosoms up, as they say, hunted down and removed root and twig, never to be a formal Worldwide organization again. All of its minions, staff, even its Director cast to the four winds to seek employment elsewhere or to starve pathetically in a ditch somewhere. It’s tons of equipment melted down for the slag market. All of its records, data and spiral notebooks snapped up by its jealous vindictive competitors to be pored through for their secrets. Secrets The Institute had developed over years of blood sweat and tears, not to mention hard work and no small amount of intellectual theft.

We were interested yet dismayed to find that a certain huge, yet well-known imaging processing software company (who shall remain nameless, but whose initials are ADOBE) have blatantly appropriated the Weather Modification program pioneered by the Oceanography and Atmospheric weather modification team of the now defunct organization known as The Institute and incorporated it into its shoddy yet expensive software. You can find it under Adobe/ Photoshop/ Filters/ Make it Rain on the Hoodoos/ Light/ Moderate/ Heavy. To support the claim that The Institute first developed this program we have done some research and found several items that reference The Institutes use of its weather modification program to do good in the world and not do bad, which we have listed below for your perusual.

 

Bad Weather Day

All Dreams Must End

Storm of The Full Moon

Moon Painting

Cloud Cutting

Stored Away Storms

Greenery

Behind The Ridge

Thor’s Revenge

Although those of us that remember The Institute are pretty darn mad at that heartless yet soulless large Company that apparently is getting filthy rich off the sweat of the people who made it all possible, we kind of secretly like the ease of how they made it work. The Institute’s program was unwieldy, requiring lots of nuclear power and boring deep into the bowels of the earth for the pilings that held up the equipment and to keep it from shaking causing the neighbors cows to abort. Not to mention the excessive production of enormous quantities of EMF’s around the power shed whenever they fired that stuff up. If by some stroke of fate The Institute ever returns we may just appropriate it for our own use again. Be warned Adobe whats good for the goose is good for the gander.

That Montana Gold

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On a recent fact-finding trip through Montana for The Institute, we noticed a rather odd occurrence. We had sent our tame Geologist on a mission to discover whether or not  there was any gold left in Montana. He was to locate, then find, any gold deposits that may still be available to people that didn’t have any so they could go up there and get some. Thereby making their lives better because they had become filthy, stinking rich. They would, the new filthy, stinking rich people, then give The Institute a large percentage of the total value of the find, making us Filthy, Stinking rich too. We saw it as a win, win situation. Plus a nice thing to do for the general public.

Well imagine the output of our salivary glands when these photos began downloading into the central information receiving center’s photo receiving and downloading machine here at The Institute. We were stunned and amazed, some of us were even GobSmacked, that was our Brit contingent, they use words like that all over the place. Sometimes you can’t even understand them. But never the less we were surprised.

We debated about telling anyone about this find, preferring to keep this motherlode for ourselves so that we could become even more filthy, stinking rich than we already were, but then we decided that as it was on public land, and in a national park (Glacier) and right next to the road they would find out about it anyway, so we decided to look like heroes and disclose the find to the general public.

This is a nugget about 60′ long 40′ wide and 40′ deep which is slightly longer than a semi-trailer and a lot wider and frankly we were surprised no one had hauled it off by now. That’s a lot of gold sitting there. Our resident metallurgists figure that there is well over 800 maybe 850 dollars of gold sitting there right out in the open just for the taking. That isn’t cheese whiz laying there that ‘s gold.

Were we to, say, bring this nugget back here to The Institute, we would have to string a couple of our empty tuff sheds together to put this thing in to keep it out of the weather and away from prying eyes of whoever may be checking us out. We might even have to build a barn or something to put that thing in and you know how expensive it is to build anything up in the mountains now days so we’re still debating on whether we want to borrow our friend Jim’s flatbed and go get it or not.

Anyway that’s our problem. Yours is to figure out if you want to go up there and get any of that gold that’s just laying around next to the street, as it  were. You might check gold prices before you get all excited though. The last time we looked, gold was at 30- 35 bucks a pound, which make the cost efficiency of dealing with it problematic. But if you’re out of gold and need some, it’s up there. But then maybe you think being filthy, stinking rich is too much bother,
A lot of people do. We’ve done our part the rest is up to you. Good luck.

 

The Day The Color Stopped

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Running a national park is very expensive, like astronomically expensive, and Yellowstone is the most expensive of all our great parks to operate. It takes mammoth amounts of tax dollars every day just to keep the lights on. I’ve heard people say “Yeah, so what’s so expensive then. You got a main gate with some ticket booths, a couple of buildings scattered around and a few guys in ranger suits driving around in prius’s. I don’t get it.”

What these misguided folks don’t know is that there is more to running a park than ticket booths and prius’s and that deep in the wilderness off behind Virginia cascade, there is a huge complex that is the very heart of Yellowstone. You’ve seen these innocent appearing roads marked Service Road Do not Enter as you drive around the park. Where did you think they went? They all lead back to this complex discretely called Main Park Services. There are buildings above ground and buildings below ground that control every aspect of the park. It is a huge undertaking and responsibility.

There are huge pumping stations that power all the rivers in the park, from the slow-moving Madison to the raging torrent of Yellowstone falls. You didn’t think these rivers flowed by themselves did you. There are turbine barns that house giant fans that create the wind throughout the park. They are large enough to create the maelstrom of straight line winds that cause the massive blow downs of thousands of trees you see everywhere, yet gentle enough to keep the golden grass of the Lamar valley waving peacefully as you drive by.

There is a separate building that only houses the IT department for the park. Hundreds of backwoods nerds drink coffee by the boatload and keep the computers running so that everything looks normal for the millions of visitors that pass through the park yearly. They have a division that does nothing but make employee name tags 24 hours a day. They create the schedules that designate where all the wildlife in the park needs to be at a given time on a given day. Just keeping track of all the widgeons and Harlequin ducks takes a full-time employee. And that doesn’t even begin to explore HR and payroll.

One of the most important functions of this complex and one that keeps a team of full-time Engineers busy night and day is maintaining the system of Shock Absorbers that keep the park geologically stable and maintains its ability to dampen the effect of the near daily earthquakes that plague the park. Buried deep within the earth are a series of hydraulically manipulated cavities approximately 1 1/2 miles wide and 2 miles deep lined with a complex material woven out of Teflon, cobalt and spider silk that are filled with 10w-30 motor oil. These huge bladders occupy about 2/3’s of the cavity and when an earthquake occurs they have the ability to swell up and absorb the energy through compression. This keeps the surface of the park from the heaving that causes road and structure damage. This is a key system to operating the park safely and cannot under any circumstances go all wonky of a sudden.

Another system that is very important, not just for keeping the visitors of the park safe, but more for their emotional welfare is the C L T C system (Chroma, Luminosity, Tonality and Intensity).This is the heart of the parks color generating ability and is crucial in keeping the attendance level up in the park. No color no visitors. It’s as simple as that. People will put up with 6 point earthquakes, long lines at the restrooms, snafus in scheduling the wolf packs but screw with the color and that’s that. They’re gone.

Huge color projectors are running constantly generating all the hues you see as you travel through the park. The sunsets over the Firehole river where it meets the Madison, the burnt orange of the newly hatched buffalo calf, the flicker of blue as a Stellar Jay flits from one branch to another, all of these are as important to the visitors as the earthquake dampening system. Without the color all you have is a park that looks like a 1940’s B&W film of Czechoslovakia except with hills and grizzlies.

Which is why, when we had the day the color stopped, it was so catastrophic. It all started innocently enough. People were lined up at the overlooks at the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone taking in the massive array of colors as they gazed at the multi-hued canyon walls. The impossible blending of every color you can imagine in a symphony of never-ending harmony that stretched for as far as you could see. What they didn’t see was the little relay switch on the main color projector blow with a small quickly dispersing cloud of smoke. Which led to an insufficient amount of power getting to the main bulb which suddenly flickered and died. Without the input from the bulb the CLTC system began to fail and the overload took out the backup system and color began to drain out of the Grand Canyon of The Yellowstone.

This had never happened before and soon people’s’ worst nature came to the surface. There was pushing and shoving, and instances of someone nearly going over the edge as the crowd stampeded for their cars. Children were crying, their arms outstretched waiting for someone to pick them up in a safe embrace, but the lack of color had the crowd panicking. They had only one thought in their minds. They had paid 50 bucks to get in and there was nothing to see. Fortunately there were no fatalities but it was only dumb luck that prevented them.

Yes, it was a terrible day, the day the color stopped, but the selfless employees at the complex did what it took to rectify the situation. A new bulb was slapped in, the CLTC system was rebooted and the little relay switch was replaced. Within hours the situation was back to normal. Yes there were a few people who left and felt they had wasted their 50 bucks, but those who had faith in the system were rewarded for their patience and loyalty with an extraordinary display of the colors of the Canyon that only a new bulb in the projector could provide.

We have provided an image from that fateful moment as the color began to drain out of canyon and you can see how depressing and mood altering this was for the spectators. It wasn’t long after this image was taken that the color completed drained out and flowed down the river lost forever. We have images of that too, but cannot in good consciousness show them to you.

The next time you visit Yellowstone National park and you feel the ground shake slightly, or see the rivers running freely, or notice the incredible beauty that color lends to the scenery you might think of that hidden complex called the Main Park Services and be thankful that the park is up and running as usual. I know I do.

 

 

 

Trail of the Cedars

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Thinking of visiting Glacier National Park this summer? Good choice. If you go there is one part of the park you do not want to miss and that is Trail of the Cedars, an open air cathedral of giant trees, small streams, spectacular rock formations and most impressive of all, a silence that is as soothing as it is welcome.

Foot of the Monarch

There is a raised wooden walkway that is wheelchair accessible and wanders past the big trees and over small streams in a loop that takes about half an hour to travel unless you are a photographer, then it will take you about three hours. If you are one who likes solitude it may take you even longer.

Reaching for the sun

Sunlight penetrates the canopy and highlights the leaves above your head.

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Shadow pictures against this huge cedar are constantly changing as the movement of the branches above are affected by wind, clouds and sometimes your imagination.

Dappled Sunlight

This is a green place in the spring. Green is every where and made even more pronounced by the deep red background of cedar mulch that has accumulated over the  years.

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One of the highlights of your stroll through this enchanted forest is this grotto with it’s purple rock face glistening with snowmelt and lit with dappled sunlight. You can easily imagine elves and other creatures holding their very important meetings here.

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The colors are nearly other worldly, deep purples and magentas, flecks of silver and swatches of emerald green compliment each other in a way only nature can achieve.

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The cedars give reason to all that you see. The hidden areas behind the trees beckon to you and you want to be able to go in there and see what treasures are concealed in it’s beauty.

Color of Cedar

As in everything that nature creates there are endings, or beginnings depending on your viewpoint. This giant cedar is returning to the earth and replenishing the soil as it completes it’s transformation. While it slowly breaks down it is a constant source of beauty adding it’s rich colors to the forest floor.

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Although you could easily stand inside this tree I wouldn’t. Some times when you are very still you can hear sounds way off in the background, sounds like a very heavy door closing perhaps. So just to be safe let’s stay on the trail.

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On the way out the forest you will cross Avalanche creek which formed Avalanche gorge and flows out of Avalanche lake. I know it’s a lot of  avalanches but it is gorgeous none the less. The best time to see the Trail of the Cedars I believe is in the early spring, the crowds haven’t hit yet and you often have this place to yourself. This is a heavily used area later in the summer and as the hike is only a mile long you won’t often be alone. Having said that I would not miss this whatever time of year you happen to be there.