Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Easy come easy go

As quick as my Internet came, it went. I awoke yesterday to a burning desire to do some web surfing and kill a couple hours (killing time has become rather hard and stressful now that I have been at it a few days). Alas, my internet connection was down for the count. To make matters worse, I actually had some important things to accomplish via the Internet that I could no longer get done. The situation was very annoying to say the least. I had almost slipped fully back into the 21st century but was then stymied by a finicky connection. Fortunately, the connection is back up and walking. I say "walking" because in no way, shape, or form is this a fast Internet connection. I'm talking marginally faster than 1997 dial up. I click and wait, click and wait, etc... But when you have nothing but time on your hands, waiting isn't all that bad. I have put some of my time to more useful pursuits though, like watching movies, reading, hiking, buying Christmas presents, feeding the resident horses, keeping the wood stove burning hot, and learning more on the guitar. Much more of this though and I'm going to have to start busting out some video games.

Monday, December 15, 2008


Hear Ye! Hear Ye! For the first time in seven months, I am sitting in the comfort of my own home browsing the Internet and writing a blog. Yes it is true, for the last seven months, the various structures that I have called home have all been devoid of an Internet connection. During those seven months I was required to use the computers at work after hours (Yuck), or pay an arm and a leg for a wireless connection outside the park (Yuck). I have recently moved just outside North Entrance of the park to a real house with a real Internet connection! And I actually signed a 12 month lease, Gasp! I have rediscovered the joy of browsing the Internet and wasting time. Of course I have a to-do list, but since I have to wait until the end of the week to receive news about some job applications I should have plenty of time to check my email every five minutes, look at YouTube, read news, and generally plug back in. And the timing is great. The temperature hasn't risen above 0 degrees Fahrenheit in the last two days so a little quality couch time can be justified.

Monday, December 08, 2008


The start of the holidays have been going splendidly so far though I have a bit of a hitch in my get up. Thanksgiving went great. The turkey was an adventure in taste due to the use of a delicious array of fresh spices conveniently sold together in a bag labeled "The Herbed Bird." Of course the eating included much merry making - courtesy of my apprenticeship to an accomplished Bloody Mary mixer. In fact there was too much merry making for my old body to stand. On the day after Thanksgiving - or Five O'clock Somewhere Day as we called it - some spontaneous dancing went down. I attempted to execute an airborne dance move and lightly come to rest on my left foot. Instead, I came to land heavily on a left foot positioned awkwardly inward. The resulting movement was an uncontrolled crumple to the floor. Fast forward ten days... the crutches are gone, the limp remains, and my left foot is back to its normal size but roughly the color of an eggplant. I've thus made great use of the couch and foot stool. Fortunately my travel plans included an extended stay in ID, so I haven't been forced to accomplish big things with a lame foot. On the up side, it's really easy to get people to stop on the crosswalks and let me gimp across.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Let Winter Descend

The first Sunday in November came and went, a notable day here in YNP. The fishing season ends on the first Sunday in November. I managed to get out on my favorite river, but the fish just stared at my fly without actually taking it. Of course now the rivers look better than ever and about all I can think about is fishing. Then came election night. Going to bed happy and waking up with a sense of satisfaction with this country's politics was so novel that it got my mind off of fishing. I missed the election of '96 by a few months, so my first Presidential election was that of '00 and we all know how that monkey show ended up. Up until Tuesday night, very few people that I have voted for were ever elected. Well, I'm glad to say that has changed and if feels rad.

In the longer run, now that fishing season has ended, I welcome the snow back and hope it starts piling up. I retrieved my winter gear from SD last week so I am ready to start sliding on the white stuff. With the white stuff enters one of my favorite two month stretches of the's eating season. It started with Halloween candy courtesy of my sweet ninja costume and will only build from there through the fourth installment of the O brother's Thanksgiving celebrations and on to Christmas. I'm trying to start slow and build up so I can peak on Thanksgiving and Christmas eve.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008


I officially lead/taught my first group of kids in the program that I am now an employee of. Basically, the kids come for three or four days and rangers take them around the park and teach them stuff...i.e. "Yellowstone is super cool because of (insert unique aspect of Yellowstone's ecosystem) so you should work to protect it and other places like it. I was skeptical at first that the kids would assimilate this attitude, but I've been very surprised at how large an impact both the program and Yellowstone have on them. Usually, the most wild/misbehaved kid ends up loving the park. Last week, one of them declared that he would rather be in Yellowstone than at home playing video games! Chalk one up for the home team. The kids aren't the only ones having fun. I've come to realize that I am having a really good time with the kids. Some of the reasons...

1. Kids always want to give hugs.
2. You never know what they are going to say or do.
3. The younger kids are really eager to participate - none of that "I'm too cool for school" b.s.
4. I get to wear my ranger hat.
5. Two nights a week I get to stay in the Lamar Valley. The Lamar Valley has been the wallpaper on my computer for 4 years because there's nothing else I'd rather put there.
6. The kids have to cook for the rangers (fortunately I like hot dogs and nachos).
7. Kids laugh at all my stupid jokes.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

The respite of autumn

The summer craziness has finally left the park. I can now breathe a little easier and find time to actually blog once in awhile.

I am no longer working in the visitor center. I am staying in the park until Thanksgiving as an emergency hire in the education program. I will be leading 4th through 8th graders through the park on hikes and doing activities. It should be a fun job. Plus I will work 4 ten hour days, thus giving me some extra time. I've put some pictures up on flickr which will highlight the summer better than me rambling on about it. Overall it was a great summer. I stayed busy with work and trying to be outside as often as possible to enjoy the park. But the change in seasons is a welcome one.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Big List

I've finally found a little time to do a little blog posting. Instead of my usual claim of being busy when I'm really not, I actually have been busy the last three weeks. I'm getting settled into Yellowstone and the job. I've designed three programs, and have one left to design. I giving talks on bears, and bison, and leading walks on the geology of Mammoth Hot Springs and the history of Ft. Yellowstone. I'm really looking forward to the Ft. Yellowstone walk because, of course, it's history focused. Living in Yellowstone has been exciting. Even in Mammoth you never know what wildlife is going to show up. I've had herds of buffalo and elk within arms reach of an open window, a black bear hunting newborn elk in the neighborhood, and uinta ground squirrels in the yard. I've also watched from my living room window on three separate occasions, herds of buffalo crossing a road bridge to avoid having to walk down in a canyon and ford a river then climb back up the other side of the canyon. The rivers are really high and muddy so I haven't done much fishing yet. In fact, the snow melt in the high country has hardly begun. It has snowed off and on for the last few weeks throughout the park.

I've put up some Chile pics on flickr, but my internet connection isn't cooperating at the moment so some are missing and a few seem to have reverted to their original sideways orientation. Hope you enjoy the ones I did post.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Home again, home again

The siblings and I made it safely back to the states on Friday night. Since then, I've been packing, satisfying a month long craving for peanut butter, French toast, and ketchup, and battling an annoying head cold that caught up with me. Today I drive to Yellowstone and jump right into work tomorrow. I'll post some pics of the trip when I get settled into the new job.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

The Armpit of Chile

So, if you ever decide that a slow paced wander up the coast of Chile toward Valapraiso sounds like a good idea don´t start your voyage in Cartegena. The guide book claimed that Cartagena had a special ¨soul.¨ I think they meant ¨sole¨as in the sole of my shoe afer I just took a run through a dog park. Seriously, don´t go to Cartagena.* Why you ask?
1. The town hobby seems to be rubbernecking at tourists, especially blonde and red haired ones.
2. The restuarant promoters are far more persistent even though their establishments are more shabby.
3. The town is small, but packed with taxis constantly honking at you in hopes you want to go somewhere.
4. The populace seems unable to understand simple directions, such as ¨dos noches.¨
5. The whole town has a feel like and X-files episode where the outward look is a facade to cover up some devlish cult that will eventually entrap you in order to use your body to incubate their alien overlord.

I could go on, but I won´t. The one day we spent near Cartagena was a few miles north in Isla Negra at the home of Pablo Neruda. This town had a great vibe. Our arrival today at Vina Del Mar has been a relief, even the weather is better. Our taxi cab driver gave us a discount and the hotel guy spoke slow enough so we could understand what he was saying for a change.**

*Cartagena is in no way representative of the rest of Chile. In fact it seems to be the exception to the rule that the Chilean people are welcoming, friendly, and the country is a pleasure to travel in.
** He informed us that people named ¨Mateo,¨in Chile, the Spanish version of Matt which I quite like, are nerds and when asked to go out and party say that they have too study.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

A bit more relaxation

So the volcano climb went well, especially since our guide Klaus the German was quite a character. I think the ride up to the volcano in his white van was more dangerous than anything on the volcano. There was no liquid magma, just a lot of noxious smoke. We also did some good old fashioned relaxing in Pucon, where the volcano was. Fortunately it is offseason here, so happy hour at some places runs from 7:00-1:00am. The best deal going is the 2 for 1 ¨schop grande¨or big draught beer. Plus I enjoyed some of my first pisco, which is an alcohol made from grapes that tastes somewhat less sweet than rum, but without the bite of whiskey. The drink of choice is the pisco sour, but with its high price, the piscola (not pronounced piss cola, but with a long ï¨I found out) is a better option. Yesterday, B and I headed north for the next leg of our journey. We spent 9 hours in a bus, and were eventually just let out on the side of the interstate at our scheduled stop. Apparently it was not a scheduled stop at an actual bus station. We eventually found our way to the bus station and caught another bus to the coast. This bus was packed, and I had to stand for part of the trip. Fortunately there were TVs that played Ël Mariachi¨and some kickin´Buce Springsteen live performances. He really hit his stride with ¨Born in the USA.¨ We arrived in Pitchelemu at 10:45 and found a place to stay. We are right near the beach, which is great. We surfed for 2 hours today. I should say that I tried to surf. I did get up on the board once or twice, but as B put it ït´s all survival surfing for us.¨ Most of the time I spent trying to avoid getting thrashed by waves. It was fun, though because it is so novel. Plus we plan on drinking 40´s on the beach this evening, and the thrashing from surfing will make the beer taste better. And more relaxing is on the way in the upcoming week. I´ve been extremely happy with the first month of my 29th year on this planet spent traveling, but I´m feeling my age a bit. I think I´ll be able to predict the weather with my right knee when I get back. Sweet.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

I can´t resist

I just can´t resist, it is chilly in Chile. At least down south. The bro and I are in a town called Pucon. It´s kind of the epicenter for outdoor pursuits. Almost every business in town is a combination Internet cafe and guide service. Most of the guided trips are for fishing, climbing, rafting, hot springs, biking, caving, and my personal favorite the ¨hidrospeed.¨ The hidrospeed is described as a ¨water sleigh¨that you ride down churning rivers. Basically it is a foam board of sorts three or four feet long and a couple wide that you lay on with your upper body. Your lower body hangs off the back and you wear fins. You then ride this thing down rapids. We are actively looking into going on this guided trip if for no other reason that it sounds so random and I want to say that I´ve been on a ¨water sleigh.¨ We are also planning on ascending to the top of the local volcano Villarico with Klaus the German. We´ve heard that there may be liquid hot magma at the top. Fishing may also be on the docket.

The first 10 days here have been good. The main event was our 8 day trek in Torres del Paine national park. We attempted to do a trail called the ¨Circuit.¨ The trail was officially closed, but that doesn´t really mean much around here. We got three days into it but were then unable to make it over the pass to the other part of the trail. The snow was waist deep, it was raining, and our progress was so slow that we had to turn back. Fortunately we found a shack at one of the closed campground with a fireplace in it made out of an old 55 gallon drum. We managed to put the chimney back together and light a fire so that we could dry out in relative comfort rather than be in the tent. We then headed the 2 days back toward the trailhead and did a great day hike on day 7 to the Towers, or Torres. There was apparently a flash flood in the lower part of the park while we were attempting to cross the pass. So, we had to cross lots of engorged streams that had washed out their small foot bridges. We made if over these with little problem outside of wet boots. Overall we accomlished our goal of getting out for a good backpacking trip and having a true Patagonian experience (meaning intense weather of all sorts...lots of rain, snow, sleet, really strong winds, and a little sun)

Sunday, April 13, 2008

The old and the new

As I type, it is the calm before the storm. I'm enjoying some CO sunshine on the back porch of my and and uncle's house in D-town. The birds are chirping and the trees are budding. I'm packed and ready to head to Chile. I've made my list and checked it more than twice. If I've forgotten anything it must be an insubstantial item like toothpaste. Tomorrow the storm starts. I fly out at 3ish to Atlanta from whence I depart overnight to Santiago. From there the trip continues south for several more hours on a plane and finally a bus to end the trip approximately 28 hours after I left. That thought is a little overwhelming.

A couple good distractions have kept my mind from the upcoming marathon of travel. One is new and one is old.

The New: The Raconteurs just released a new album called Consolers of the Lonely. Jack White continues to be his versatile, eclectic musical self and the album has some good new songs. There are a few grating moments that I think will grow in appeal over time as good music often does. The i-pod is getting rested up for a marathon as well.

The Old: Star Wars Episodes V and VI were on the TV last night. It has been some time since I've had the pleasure of sitting down and watching them. Once again they proved to weather the test of time and leave me appreciating their greatness. Han Solo is still a badass, Luke still manages to make you like him despite is wining, Lando is still the smoothest operator around, Chewie still makes a great sidekick, and Leia's hair still rocks. Quality story and believable acting...what a novel combination.

Off I go to a land far, far away...

Monday, April 07, 2008


I've finally managed to muster the gumption to make a blog post and upload some pics to flickr. Finally. I'm crediting the emergence of spring's rejuvenating warmth and cheer as the goad that has awoke me from blogging hibernation. The last few weeks have been full.

I finished my volunteer time at Mt. Rushmore to great thanks and appreciative murmurs from supervisors and colleagues. I believe that the decision to volunteer has paid off and will continue to do so. The big wigs at Mt. R. were very supportive of my efforts and pledged to help throw their weight behind my attempts to break into permanent status. I even received a medal of sorts from the biggest of the big wigs.

Despite the accolades from the many bosses I had at Mt. R., the best confirmation of the benefits of volunteering I had came in the form of a job offer from none other than Yellowstone National Park. The position is seasonal still, but it is based in Mammoth Hot Springs at the northern entrance to the park. The combination of Yellowstone and Mammoth is basically my career version of a wet dream so I'm quite happy to be making it a reality. It could only be one-upped by a permanent job there. I'll be leading guided hikes, giving talks, and working at the visitor center. I have a growing list in my head of all the hikes I want to do and hatches that I want to fish. And there's a certain place called the K-Bar that has a pool table that is calling my name.

I'm in Denver as I write this post, holding the fort down at an aunt and uncle's house while they travel abroad. Their house is a convenient embarking point for several upcoming journeys. Tomorrow I am heading to Moab, Utah for some sun and biking. Upon my return to Denver I am preparing for my departure to Chile on the 14. I also just returned from a visit to cousins M and G in Seattle. G and I made a backcountry ski trip into the Cascades. The trip featured great scenery, great snow and weather conditions, a long trudge into camp pulling a sled, and gourmet eating backcountry style made possible by the sled. I was also given a fantastic tour of Seattle that included gourmet cupcakes, the San Juan islands, sushi, the Pike Place Market, Ballard, and of course some good coffee. As Another Kind of Nerd put it "Washington's cool."

I'll now return to planning and looking forward to Chile.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Flying time

Time has really been flying around here lately. All of a sudden it's March and I only have one month of work and permanent SD residence left. How did that happen? I've spent a lot of energy trying to think of ways to occupy my time until the festivities and adventures of spring travel and summer (paid) work come along. Well, apparently thinking of things to do has taken up a fair bit of my "doing" time. But, in between the creation of to do lists, pro and con lists, and flow charts I have managed to do a few fun things. I've found two, count 'em two, sushi places in RC that have surprisingly good sushi given the proximity of an ocean. I became a beer-pong champion and subsequently convinced myself that I not only could, but should sing The Righteous Brother's "Unchained Melody" for karaoke. I've become a member of Netflix and watched a lot of DVDs on my computer. Who knows, I might even get rid of my VCR and buy a DVD player. I've applied for shit tons of seasonal jobs and received some attractive offers. The Chile trip prohibits me from taking most of them, but Yellowstone and the Tower are still on the list of possibilities. I've assisted in brewing a batch of "Belgian Tripel" - review to come in three more weeks of fermentation.

From here on out to the end of March there promises to be more planning as I'm squeezing in a backcountry snowboard trip for the first week of April and then Chile will be looming. At least travel planning is fun.

Monday, February 11, 2008

The groundhog is full of crap

The sources I saw all agreed that Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow so we are in for six more weeks of winter. I'm all for more winter, even in this drought of snowboarding I'm enduring. But I have reason to think that Phil might be wrong this year. Some of you have had the pleasure of observing my yearly spring ritual of getting my short "schoolboy" haircut which makes me look about five years younger than I already do. Inevitably, my right hand then gets a workout extracting my ID from my wallet over the next month or two as my hair grows out. Well this year my schoolboy haircut came February 5, markedly earlier than normal. I didn't intend to get it cut this short this early, it just kind of happened. My ever imaginative hair cut person suggested a shorter cut, and it seemed like a good idea to me at the time. This can only mean one thing - spring in on the way. But I sit with a near blizzard raging outside and me feeling like I should be prancing around like some pretty boy in an American Eagle add. Yikes, not a good combination. Perhaps I subconsciously jumped the gun with the haircut in anticipation of the Chile trip and plans-in-the-making for a spring back country snowboard trip in the Sierras or Cascades.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Going's on

My blogging effort has been sorely lacking of late. I attribute it to a lack of inspiration. It's been cold, gray, icy, and dark lately - this combination usually means great snow and good turns but the clouds have thus far refused to give up their fluffy gift. So, to occupy my time I've turned to rodeo. That's right, rodeo. The cold north winds ushered in the annual Black Hills Stock Show and Rodeo with herds of cattle, flocks of sheep, and many a cowboy-hat-sportin,' tight-jean-wearin' resident of nearby states. Before the week of the stock show concluded I attended no less than three rodeos. One was the "ranch rodeo" in which anyone is welcome to compete provided they form a team of four and pay the entry fee. The events simulate modern ranch work such as a relay race to unload a horse trailer, race the horses around a circuit, load them back up and jump back in the truck. The novelty factor ranked high. I received free tickets to the second rodeo and paid for the third. These two were traditional rodeos with all the normal events and, of course, a wise cracking rodeo clown. The rodeo really is entertaining to watch and appreciate all the skill that goes into the events. On the flip side, the average fan at the rodeo could be a poster child for the Bush-backing demographic who only see what they want to see and refuse to accept any criticism of that view. Maybe it's the tight pants - though I have to admit there certainly are some good looking cowgirls out there making a strong case for Wranglers.

Now that the rodeo has left, though, I'm back to planning for the future and happy to have finally booked a ticket to Chile. April 14 - May 15, it'll be a good month.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008


Over the last few months I've attempted to drastically reduce the amount of time I watch TV. This hasn't been hard since I had no TV at all at the Tower. I still permit myself to watch the occasional British comedy on PBS or a Premier League game now and then. The crappy quality of most TV seems to be the driving force behind my lack of desire to try and commit to watching the few good shows that are out there. A notable exception of late, as per the high quality recommendation of Another Kind of Nerd, is HBO's "Deadwood." With a free two week trial of Netflix, the first season arrived promptly in the mailbox. Coincidently, I had the recent pleasure of spending a day on the slopes and a night in lovely Deadwood. I'm happy to report that Deadwood still harbors some really interesting characters and places. The atmosphere of those places has certainly changed over the last century and a third but some traditions just can't die. So to commune with the ghosts of Wild Bill, Calamity Jane, etc... a little nip of whiskey had to be enjoyed. Also, to keep with the traditions, the Saloon #10 still sports a dirty floor - saw dust. I've got to admit I like the sawdust. It facilitates some sweeeeet footwork on the dance floor.

In the category of "odd and unexpected" news, my mom has set up a blog. So for an occasional dose of good old fashioned fun and games check out Sunshine Blue Sky. Welcome aboard, Mom. Good to have you.

Monday, January 14, 2008


As most of you have likely gathered, not a lot of note goes on in SD. Of course I still love the state, just not necessarily the prospect of long-term residence. When something of notable does happen in SD, as a loyal resident I am obligated to support it and talk with pride about it to anyone who will listen (I think this obligation is actually written into the state Constitution right after the article prohibiting anyone from slandering the Corn Palace). So to fulfill my civic duty I attended a showing of National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets. The South Dakota connection stems from the prominent place Mt. Rushmore holds in the plot line.* Of course for me this was a double wahmmy since I'm working at Mt. R. The movie was no National Treasure 1, which was no Mummy, which was no Indian Jones etc... But at least NT2 featured the beauty of the Black Hills, right? Right. NT 2, while entertaining, requires one to completely turn off any trickle of analysis that may have snuck into the theater lodged in some dark corner of the mind. Where NT 1 seemed remotely plausible, NT 2 goes off the deep end. But I didn't go to the movie to be prompted to think deep thoughts - so it succeeded in that goal. Was I entertained? Yes. Was I impressed? No. Would I recommend it to anyone else? Heck Yes (remember, I'm duty-bound here). Just don't pay full price, save that for Sweeny Todd.

* To head off any more annoying questions at the visitor center
1. There is no lake behind Mt. Rushmore
2. No, you can't climb behind the heads
3. Yes, Nicolas Cage is an ass in real life

Monday, January 07, 2008

The Holidays

I finally seem to be emerging from the whirlwind of the Holliday season. I remember feeling really busy over the last few weeks, and I guess I was, it's just hard to remember every big meal, family get together, and gift opened. Overall though it was a grand time. Sister S came home a week or so before Christmas and we proceeded for the following three weeks to watch movies, eat, lay around the house, and eat some more, and continue laughing at jokes and memories that you probably had to be there to appreciate. And we both got harmonicas for Christmas so we are planning some kind of harmonica recital for the upcoming year. New Years was cold, S, my buddy Matt, and I camped in the snow, requiring lots of fire, hot liquids, and cheese to stay warm. We survived the cold, but my trusty digital camera froze to death. Fortunately we had a second camera to document the fun. See Flickr for some weird demented facial expressions. Even work was good over the holidays. I got to hike to the top of Mt. Rushmore - the top of Washington to be more specific. I really wanted to stand on the very top of his head and dance a jig, but rules don't allow for someone as low on the totem pole as me to be seen in broad daylight on top of the heads. Flickr also has some images of some Presidential facial expressions, though they may not be demented.