Posted by: greentangle | September 30, 2014

Of Wolves and Beer

It was a 50/50 choice which blog to put this on, but I didn’t want to write two posts. And here, it makes a nice follow-up to the last post of two links about a certain someone, which resulted in many visits from all over Montana, and the Department of the Interior.

Given that I still follow Yellowstone news and check a few Montana newspaper sites, I don’t know how I managed to miss last week’s news that Wyoming wolves had been returned to federal protection. When I learned about it yesterday, I mostly applauded and assumed it would quickly be overturned. Today the same judge refused to reverse her decision which at least means there won’t be a legal hunt beginning just outside Yellowstone tomorrow as planned. I have no doubt wolves will still be getting killed in Wyoming, and possibly more viciously and in greater numbers than otherwise. Wyoming far more deserves its Cowboy (in the most derogatory sense) State nickname than its other Equality State.

All this reminded me of a dark joke I read recently. Although I’ve cut way back on buying from Amazon, I’m still in their free stuff for review program and recently they were giving away mouse traps. Someone noticed that the package said they were not to be sold in Alaska, leading someone to quip that in Alaska mice could only be killed by rifle from a helicopter.

I discovered that the Bozeman bus station has moved to a very inconvenient location which will mean cab rides, finding a new hotel, and a longer walk to downtown if I go back to Yellowstone in the spring. I’ll be filling out the application in a week or two, and hopefully will have an answer in November. I do already have an offer of a ride for the eighty mile trip to the park for the price of a beer or three.

Beer has become my main project these days. Although I am enjoying trying a lot of different beers, it’s really more about my obsessive need to research. First I learned which breweries have the best reputations, then which of those were available locally, then which of their individual beers most interested me and were highly rated. As a friend wrote, I may be the only person to use beer and spreadsheet in the same sentence.

I was drinking Sam Adams back in Boston long before “craft beer” became a craze, but my current interest really began in Yellowstone based on what was available in the park stores, and then attending a magnificent brew master’s dinner one winter. I actually don’t like that evening’s brewer’s more common beers, but tonight I dug out that evening’s menu, checked their website, and discovered that most of what was served that night were their rarer specialty beers.

I made my first trip to a big liquor store across the bridge today because Wisconsin has some beers Minnesota doesn’t. For me that involves a couple buses and an hour trip each way, so I don’t know if I’ll do it again but it was fun to pick up some new brews. I was at the register loading my six pack and four packs in my bag and got asked if I was a sailor–apparently a lot of guys from a ship had been in this morning stocking up.

Unfortunately not, but I am the son of a sailor, one generation closer than Jimmy Buffett.

As a dreamer of dreams and a travelin’ man,
I have chalked up many a mile.
Read dozens of books about heroes and crooks,
And I’ve learned much from both of their styles.

Where it all ends I can’t fathom, my friends.
If I knew, I might toss out my anchor.
So I’ll cruise along always searchin’ for songs,
Not a lawyer, a thief or a banker.

From Son of a Son of a Sailor

Posted by: greentangle | September 15, 2014

Yellowstone Wolf Patrol

An old friend of us all returns.

Posted by: greentangle | August 11, 2014

Droning on

Hey World! No drones are allowed in US National Parks! Just doing my part to spread the word.

Last week someone crashed one into Grand Prismatic Spring, the largest hot spring in Yellowstone and subject of my mouse pad. It’s unknown yet whether there will be damage to the spring but people have destroyed other thermal features in the park over the years. Earlier this summer, another drone was crashed into Yellowstone Lake. They’ve bothered people at Denali, Grand Canyon, Yosemite, and Mt. Rushmore, and harassed bighorn sheep at Zion and bison at Grand Teton.

The folks bringing these machines into parks are part of the large numbers of people who I always felt shouldn’t have been let into Yellowstone when I was working there. Answering phone calls there was amazing–so many people didn’t have a clue about where Yellowstone was or how to get there, thought it was some kind of amusement park, and planned to go camping in grizzly country without ever having slept in their back yards. They had no knowledge of or any real interest in nature; they were just coming because it was a famous place.

With that sort of background it comes as no surprise that they have no idea how to act around wildlife and no respect for the natural holy place they find themselves in. People with drones don’t know how to be in nature, so they try to replicate the nature they’ve seen on television.

A recent issue of High Country News focused on the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act. Wilderness is passe in what passes as environmentalism these days, and people who spend any time outdoors are more interested in activities which provide an adrenaline rush than hiking and appreciation of natural history. I figure it’s part of the natural cycle preparing me to die as I get more and more disgusted with and more removed from human society as I get older.

I haven’t gotten official word yet on whether I’ll be returning to Yellowstone in December. Whether then or in the spring, I’m going to be bringing some new technology of my own this time. When I’d look out my dorm window and see tourists bothering wildlife, or see people walking on thermal features while I was hiking, I’d often wish I had a phone handy. This time I will, and I expect I’ll be calling rangers on a regular basis to report the various defilers of the temple.

Posted by: greentangle | July 23, 2014

Crown of the Continent

Some beautiful video moments in this trailer for a book of photography. That’s a lot of media forms in one sentence.

Posted by: greentangle | June 24, 2014

Keep It Wild

I was watching a library dvd titled Last Days of Man, a top ten countdown of the most likely ways to wipe out humans, and Yellowstone made a surprise appearance at #8 under Supervolcano. It was fun to unexpectedly see some familiar sights.

I’m missing some good events by not being in Mammoth this summer.The author of The Carnivore Way, one of the books I bought recently but have only partially read, gave a presentation last week.

At the beginning of every summer season, wolf and bear seminars are held for employees; this year an owl seminar was added, and the great horned owls are back in Mammoth after not being around last year. Interestingly, the name of the ranger who gave the owl talk came up here last week when I stopped by the falcon program where I used to volunteer. The people I used to work with aren’t there now, and chatting with one of the people running it now, he asked if I knew that ranger because he used to work with her.

The biggest new event is coming up in Gardiner this weekend–Speak for the Wolves, a couple days of speakers, films, music, and more aimed at reforming wildlife management.

The 5 Keys to Reforming Wildlife Management in America:
1. Restructuring the way state Fish & Game departments operate
2. Removing grazing from all federal public lands
3. Abolishing Wildlife Services
4. Banning trapping/snaring on all federal public lands
5. No killing of predators, except for extreme circumstances

Hopefully, lots of tourists will attend or there could be fighting in the streets of Gardiner this weekend–lots of people in the area like killing wolves and anything else that moves.

Even if I were in the park this summer, I might be missing all those events because I’d prefer to not work in Mammoth again–strictly because of people, not the location. I’ll be filling out my application for next winter in a couple weeks. There are only two locations open in winter–Old Faithful is much more difficult to get, and even Mammoth won’t be a sure thing for me. If not in December, I’ll definitely be going back next spring.

I’m happy to be in Duluth this summer–the job is fine, the temperature has been cool which I love, library books, restaurants, and buses are all good things. A few weeks ago I went to a benefit for a wildlife rehab group who I’d be volunteering for if they had a formal building in a more accessible location. It was fun to stop by the old falcon site even though only one egg hatched this year. I’ll probably go to a day of the blues festival later this summer.

But I know that I need more wild in my life–I want to be reminded every day that I’m sharing space with elk and bison, wolves and bears.


Posted by: greentangle | June 12, 2014

A Wolf Called Romeo

In late 2003, a large black wolf began appearing around Mendenhall Glacier on the outskirts of Juneau, Alaska. He was tolerant of humans and loved to hang out and play with dogs, sometimes carrying small ones in his mouth (and maybe he killed a couple though he generally released them). Author Nick Jans lived in the area, and along with many other people, spent the next six years observing these fascinating interactions.

Much as I would feel in those circumstances, Jans felt incredibly fortunate about his own good fortune but also protective and fearful of what might happen to the wolf as a result of spending so much time around humans. The book relates many anecdotes about events involving Romeo, and also explores the deep schism in attitudes toward wolves which I’m very familiar with from living in northern Minnesota and Yellowstone.

On the first page of the book, Jans describes the wolf running towards him after they’d had a few experiences with each other. “I’d seen my share of wolves over the years, some point-blank close, and hadn’t quite shifted into panic mode. But anyone who claims he wouldn’t get an adrenaline jolt from a running wolf coming straight in, with no weapon and no place to run . . . is either brain-dead or lying.”

I’ve stood face to face with a captive wolf’s paws on my shoulders, and know well how extremely rare it is for a wolf to attack a human (another subject Jans discusses in the book). But on a winter day when I was hiking alone above Mammoth Hot Springs and the alpha female of the Canyon pack crested a hilltop running straight at me with loud howling coming from others out of sight behind her, you can be sure I immediately changed direction and moved back toward Mammoth (not that I would have made it had the wolves actually been coming for me) so I’m very familiar with that adrenaline jolt.

As anyone can learn on the internet, this isn’t a book to be read by anyone looking for a happy ending. A couple pieces of human scum, one with a history which included minors and molestation and one who proudly showed photos of killed animals to strangers, who specifically wanted to hurt anyone who cared about the wolf, eventually succeeded. And there was no justice.

People who care about wilderness and wildlife often have to turn to fiction for justice so I’ll mention a series of ecothrillers I’ve been enjoying—not great literature but fun for us radical treehuggers. Buffalo Medicine, inspired by Buffalo Field Campaign, is about the bison vs. cattle, park vs. ranch brucellosis nonsense around Yellowstone. Alpha Female, which I just started reading, is about Yellowstone wolves and wolf haters, and Trapped is about trapping and poaching in Yellowstone and Glacier, and the law change from a few years ago which allows people to bring guns into national parks. The books are written by April Christofferson, who is the mother of the former YNP ranger who wrote the book I reviewed in the previous post.

Posted by: greentangle | May 14, 2014

Did you ever wake up with grizzlies on your mind?

Grizzlies on my Mind: Essays of Adventure, Love, and Heartache from Yellowstone Country by Michael W. Leach


I know that I probably can’t be completely objective when it comes to reviewing Yellowstone books while I’m in the midst of spending a year away from the place I love. In this case it was even more difficult because the author was a ranger in the same part of the park where I lived. He was no longer a ranger by the time I arrived, but was still guiding in the park and coaching basketball five miles away in Gardiner.


I worked out in the gym which is the subject of one essay, and know the man he hiked with in another essay. I haven’t experienced backpacking in remote parts of the park he writes about, such as Bechler, the Hoodoos, and a three day trip from Slough Creek to Pebble Creek where people in his group got lost and sprayed with bear spray, and he asked to borrow a tent from the people sleeping in it. But I did spend four years experiencing the elk show he describes, and know the mix of stillness and excitement of the park’s interior on a winter morning after having the privilege of opening a locked gate and traveling the road beyond it. His love of fly-fishing made me think of my former roommate who year after year fished almost every day of the season.


As would be expected from someone who includes Abbey and Peacock among authors who inspired him, he has some strong opinions I agree with regarding snowmobiles, and how bison and wolves are treated in the area around the park, but they come from a place of love rather than vitriolic politics.


Although there is a little repetition in setting up some of the essays, I loved everything which is actually about Yellowstone in this book. Less a cohesive book than a collection of individual essays, it’s the non-Yellowstone parts which cause some problems. The second longest chapter in the book comes near the beginning and had me wondering if I was going to be disappointed by the book because it was more about Native healing ceremonies than Yellowstone. There are a couple other, fortunately much shorter, mystical chapters later in the book. Combined with the book’s title, I was reminded of David Bromberg’s long rambling version of waking up with bullfrogs on your mind, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.


Another issue I had was with the personal changes which have taken place from his arrival in Yellowstone to the present day which are never addressed. We read that being a ranger was his dream but never find out exactly why he decided to stop being one. There have been a couple moves and changes in towns and jobs, and his wife is apparently no longer in the picture—it’s not that I want to be a voyeur, but by including his personal life in the book and then not explaining changes, it becomes a bit like a novel with plot holes and characters who disappear.


So, not a perfect book, but definitely one which should be read by everyone who knows and loves (yes, that’s probably redundant) Yellowstone.

Older Posts »



Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.