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.

Posted by: greentangle | April 7, 2014

Listening and Reading

I found a website tonight — — which offers access to a couple dozen nature-related interviews with people such as Doug Peacock, Derrick Jensen, Craig Blacklock, Tom Brown, Cristina Eisenberg, and others I’m not yet familiar with. I’ve also been working on filling a hole in my music collection caused by the absence of early blues folks like Howling Wolf, Muddy Waters, and others.

Also tonight I pre-ordered three books which are due out the first week of May: The Carnivore Way, Keeping the Wild, and Grizzlies on My Mind. Recently picked up but not yet read–Wild Rides and Wildflowers. And I’m finishing up an advance copy of The Predator Paradox. And there are some other nature books that have been in the pile longer which I still haven’t gotten to–I’m too easily distracted by fiction.

Temperature warming, snow melting, greentangle aging.


Posted by: greentangle | December 16, 2013

Yellowstone News

I’ve been interested in many news stories from the Yellowstone area lately. Here are a few quick mentions and you can look for more info if you’re interested.

For an update from NPS on the condition of the park, check out Vital Signs. This includes brief summaries of the status of some species and issues, a summary table, and some nice photos.

The group which studies grizzlies in the area has again recommended delisting them. This isn’t a bad idea except for the politics and culture of the surrounding states. Wolves are the more controversial species, but living with grizzlies is a completely different animal. I almost agree that people from outside the area can’t possibly understand what it means and should have limited input on the question.

But before I get too understanding, Montana wants more white people to kill bison. And the Gardiner asshole (my opinion based on reading news stories, backed up by the opinion of people I spoke to who actually know him) who used sheep to lure some Yellowstone wolves to their deaths? His sheep have now inspired the curiosity of some bighorn rams and coincidentally there is a new round of respiratory illness among the bighorns.

The Livingston newspaper had a good two part article about the gentrification of Gardiner. Many area employees can’t afford to live there any more, and many living places are being used for summer tourists instead of for year round residents. A proposed solution–companies providing housing for employees. Let’s make it a Companies Town. This is actually already happening, and being surrounded by National Park and Forest land limits expanding options.

There is finally some new bus service to Whitefish, nine months after its cancellation prevented me from meeting Amtrak for my New Orleans vacation last spring.

An oil well (possibly a fracking one) has been approved less than 100 miles northeast of Yellowstone and even closer to the beautiful Beartooth area. Drilling starts in the spring.

And today comes news that the magma chamber below the park is 2 1/2 times larger than previously thought. 55 miles long by 18 miles wide, 3-9 miles below the surface, would make it the equivalent of about 2000 Mt St Helens eruptions. Let’s go out with a bang.

Posted by: greentangle | October 17, 2013

The Last Last (?) Look

As predicted, the park opened today, a few hours before I left. It was snowing again.

lastam 003

The gates blocking roads into the park were open.

lastam 011

This next gate stays closed all winter–it’s a dirt road to Gardiner. The sign on the gate is the standard one used everywhere for the past two weeks–area beyond closed due to government shutdown. Since the park was open and it was my last morning, I ducked under the gate and kept going. But see that tripod farther up the road?

lastam 014

That wasn’t there when I first read the gate sign a week ago. Here’s what that second sign looked like.

lastam 015

I admit I had some doubt whether it was true, but there has been an unintimidated  grizzly in the area the past couple weeks. And the way the year went, I decided not to risk a mauling on my final day especially since I wouldn’t have had a view from the top anyway because of the weather.

The last walks and goodbyes were emotional–I had a persistent lump in my throat and break in my voice. But I’m feeling relaxed in Bozeman tonight watching the Red Sox.

I don’t think I’ll be posting on this blog often although I hear there are some tame foxes in the area of my favorite Duluth hike who could make for some interesting photos. There will probably be more posting at Hard Wood to Whittle, but I don’t know yet if I’m going to get internet at home in Duluth.


Posted by: greentangle | October 16, 2013

Last (?) Looks at Yellowstone

Photos have been against the rules since the shutdown, so I’m sworn to protect my source for all that follows. Hiking on trails has also been forbidden but walking on roads has been allowed which must be where these were taken.



It’s been a snowy October with a couple good storms, one leaving almost ten inches. I’m probably going to miss a good winter in the park.

snowday 029


And as miserable as this year has been for me, it still hurts like hell to leave this beautiful place, unsure of whether I’ll ever be back.


And as I’ve predicted, it looks like the park will reopen as soon as I leave. Thanks for nothing, teabaggers.


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