Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Yellowstone Then and Now

Normally this time of year I am at Cornerstone Festival.

But not this year. I'm leaving tomorrow for Yellowstone where we'll get to see if our daughter really can make a bed with tight corners. She works at Old Faithful in housekeeping.

It has been 32 years since I was last at Yellowstone and though some changes take thousands of years, millions, billions, I know a lot has changed at Yellowstone since I last worked there. Since that time the black mountain beetle has decimated the stands of lodgepole pines, a species of fir tree that one would have thought would NEVER go away--just like carrier pigeons--there were so many. So populous in fact that a great lodge was constructed of nothing but lodgepole pines. The Old Faithful Inn, the largest log cabin hotel in the world.
Also after I left the park a wildfire got out of control--back then the policy was let it burn, as controlled burns and other contained wildfires were actually good for the ecology and for the nation's forests. Except in 1988 the fire went viral and burned a total of 793,880 acres or 36 percent of the park.

I'm starting to feel anxious. That the park will seem somehow diminished in reality from the memories I took away. Back then the employees knew all the secret cool places to sneak off to. I worked at Lake Hotel and the first thing employees did was go off and day-hike Elephant Back.
 I'd like to see if it's still there. I doubt the Mud Slinger is still around. Yellowstone is situated on top of a geothermal caldron. The landscape is constantly evolving and the first year I was there I heard about the Mud Slinger, a combination geyser and mud pot. I got directions from a guy who worked as a busboy and borrowed a bike and rode out to it and then had to hike back in. It definitely was NOT on any tourist maps. You could tell you were getting close by the smell. Egg water or sulfur.  There was a huge mud cone that rose up perhaps 15 feet--according to my distant memory--and that mother slung hot mud well over half a football field. Only a fool would get close enough to see what she could do.
The next year I traveled back from my location at Old Faithful Snow Lodge where I was the worst comptroller's assistant in the world. Me, who can't get past the 5x in the times table and needs a calculator to subtract 1 from 1. I had absolutely no idea of how to rectify a cash drawer that might be off. It just was and I recorded it as such in a ledger.

That summer the Mud Slinger was a pathetic thing. The mud cone had melted down to a circle of mud the consistency of wet cement that occasionally burped--blurp, blurp, blurp. I've seen grits boiling more excitedly. I daresay it might be even more arthritic--if even there, or it might, like a lot of us, gotten fat, spread out a little bit, to become a field of blurpy messiness.

Things evolve, nature changes. I wonder if Yellowstone will recognize me.

WHILE I'M GONE check out where I will be guest blogging on July 9th!!!!

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