Friday, January 28, 2011

2010 in My Own Photos

Lunch with Mom and my sister at Red Lobster. I took my nephew to look at the lobster tank.

Living in Wyoming, I had a freezer stocked full of wild game meat that I enjoyed cooking up everyday.

I started to run several miles a day with my roommate's dog Ranger on red dirt roads through the Wyoming countryside.

A blizzard in Wyoming left snow drifts that came up to my chest.

During bird training in South Dakota for my new job I wandered off and found a pair of mountain blue birds on an old cabin.

Camping every night across the state of Wyoming looking for birds, I encountered a lot of lightning storms in my tent. This night was my first, I thought I was going to die.

A rodeo in Sheridan, WY shut down a business that I needed, making me wait for hours.

I was busy helping with the cattle on a ranch in Manitoba, Canada.

I protected three barn kittens from Tom cats and cattle hooves, but they still all died by wintertime after I left.

Wheat still not harvested late in the season in front of a home long neglected in Canada.

Not the photo I wanted to put here and I might change it. I moved back to Wyoming from Canada to research sage-grouse and lived in this little cabin entertained by the length of my icicles.

Ordering an elk burger in Jackson Hole, WY at the famous Cowboy Bar.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Moved to New Blog!

I have moved to Canada for the summer, please check out my new blog Oh! Canadian Cowgirl

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Morning Swim

I woke up around 6am and decided to go swimming in the cool morning air. The bullock’s orioles where nice to hear and see, they had nests in the cottonwood trees surrounding the pools. A western wood pewee was screaming his heart out nearby and several robins were perched. I talked to an older lady with knee trouble, then floated around the large cooler pool with a floaty and listened in on a Swiss German conversation between three very fit looking older people.

I went to shower off the algae from the natural water, but the water wouldn’t turn on! I wrapped a towel around myself and stepped outside. A man came out of the shower room next to mine and I asked him how the shower worked. He laughed and said I needed quarters, and he dug in his bag chatting in a heavy French accent from Canada, and gave me 50 cents for a 5 minute shower. I’m glad I had two quarters, because the water stopped at a time when I had soap everywhere, and with slippery hands I put the next quarter in. The little box hummed and my water came back. It brought up a good memory of an apartment that brown eyes and I had in Bonn, Germany were we had to pay for the shower in the basement of the building. The country just switched over to Euros, but the shower still took Deutschmarks. I kept asking brown eyes why we couldn't shower, and he said I had to wait. Then his landlord came one day with a huge bag of Deutschmarks from the shower and he gave him money for them.

Ayla and I later headed to Worland and ended up staying the night in a campground so I could use their internet. I don't like library summer hours, they close at noon, and I depend on them so much. The lady who runs the Worland Campground is so nice and takes good care of the place, and extreme opposite of that place in Lusk. The bathroom is so cute even with the gilded mirrors. More tourist families were excited to talk with me, it always starts like (sometimes them speaking in unison)...
"Hi, We are the Smith family from Ohio!" Big smiles all around, a few pets to my dog.
I say, "Let me guess, are you on your way to Yellowstone?"
"Yes, how did you know?"

Then I tell them about the bear and lightning deaths and they leave me alone :) or invite me to have hotdogs and beer with them as they tell me the exciting time they had at Mt. Rushmore. Tonight there was a guy I could tell was from Germany alone at the sight next to mine.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Thermolopolis Hot Springs

I woke up early, had a pop-tart and followed and elk trail to my point for over a kilometer. I was so high up in elevation in the mountains that I heard some olive-sided flycatchers. The fallen trees were extremely thick and hard to climb over all day.

I decided to take Ayla to the vet in Thermolopolis after finishing my bird point, she needed her shots to go to Canada. The vet there helped out so much when she was sick over a week earlier. I drove over some of the hottest land in Wyoming, much of it covered in oil wells, and Ayla dealt with the heat with pants and by hanging her head out the window. When I got to the vets office, I was told that he just left on vacation to Alaska. So the dog and I got a campsite nearby with the “largest hot spring in the world” they advertise at the Fountain of Youth Campground. I had visions of getting a lot of work done with my laptop, I had a plug in for it. Ayla and I made a trip down to the river and she swam just offshore for a little while, I had a hold of her leash so she wouldn’t be swept downstream. Then I tied her to a picnic table with a bowl of water while I went swimming in my brown polka dot bikini in the giant pool that felt like a hot tube. She barked in protest from the table, telling me she wanted to swim too. Dog aren’t allowed in a lot of places though, and she pictured the water being cool I’m sure, not hot. I got out and put on my t-shirt and new cut off jean shorts that I made when I couldn’t find a decent place to buy shorts in town.

Being in a social mood, I ended up talking to several people on the phone, then talked to another camper for a while. She had rented one of those “Cruise Across America” RVs and said she was on her way to Meeteetse with her young son, she grew up there. We mostly talked about bears and mountain lions, she was more scared of mountain lions having grown up around the bears. Then I had a beer with another camper, as we built a fire with the free wood I still had from the game warden out north of Cody. This camper is a former marine, and has been working down here with dinosaur bones for a few weeks before he heads back to med school in Montana. He talked about being stationed in Japan as a medic mostly. He had a German Shepard who was scared of my dog as she kept barking, her tail between her legs. It was late, I crawled in my tent instead of my car, because the nights thunder clouds were already broken up and I could see the almost full moon through my tent mesh.

Friday, June 18, 2010

The Dog Barf

I woke up to the hum of a street sweeper, but it wasn’t a bad night staying in the city park by the flooded river in Douglas, WY. The dog and I slowly got up, and I was determined to go swimming today. I checked by the pool though and they didn’t open until noon, so we went on a few river paths, and visited a veteran memorial. I decided to go to the library to get caught up on a lot of work and my blog. I never can spend much time in the library now because I’m worried about leaving Ayla in the car.

I parked in the shade and rolled her window down the whole way and cracked the other a few inches. I wasn’t gone too long when I came back to check on her…she was in the back seat. I knew something was up and let her out of the car and could smell throw up. I chose to ignore the smell for the moment as we went on a long walk around the city, she was certainly sick again, and I was heartbroken for her. I tied her in the shade and took out my makeup remover wipes to deal with the throw up all over the front two seats. It could have been a lot worse if it wasn’t made up mostly of the Iams dry food that I gave her the night before. My car smelled like throw up though, I needed to shampoo my seats. She looked at me with sad sick eyes and I wished I had a house that I could leave her at until she felt better.

The chamber of commerce told me to go to the Ford dealership, which was the only place I could get my seat shampooed in town. It was too expensive though for a broke biologist, $50. I can still remember when money wasn’t an issue a few months ago at my past corporate job, but somehow I seem a lot happier in Wyoming. A sales man got a hold of me, which led me to ask I could trade my Nissan Versa for a 2003 Chevy Silverado truck. He started up the paperwork, and said he would call back in a few days if they found a lender willing to give me a loan. He was the nicest sales man ever, and didn’t even cringe when Ayla threw up water right next to his feet. He talked to me for a long time about the bald eagles down by the river and about how exciting my wildlife job is.

I later drove out to Lusk, WY (somewhere near Kansas) for the night and now have my laptop plugged into an RV hookup. The campground here is not so nice. All the bathrooms were locked and I rang the doorbell hoping the person who owned the car out front from South Dakota would answer, and she did. She doesn’t run the place but rents an apartment above the office. She helped me unlock the bathrooms, and mentioned that the owner was out of town. I was so pissed that I set up my tent on an RV space for the electricity. Trust me, no one will want to fill it, this place is empty.

Ayla is looking so sick and sad, I didn’t even bother tying her up to some pole. She went in my tent for a few minutes then laid down under my feet at the picnic table, where she still is. I keep saying encouraging words to her and her tail wags a little every time. She hardly touched her water, which worries me, I will try some more dry food. The lark buntings are going crazy out in the “prairie” behind me, and coal trains from Gillette keep chugging through headed east at just enough distance to not be annoying. Each open car is filled with the exact same amount of the black energy in a mountainous pile, the one going by now has hundreds of train cars of coal attached, the same amount of energy as a couple of pieces of small uranium that could be held in a gloved hand.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

#@%&*! Wind

The wind tried to blow my tent over with me in it this morning, and I didn’t sleep much last night. A lightning storm came in late, a pink cloud full of electricity and lightning but not enough thunder it seemed. I had a hard time finding my flashlight I was so disoriented, and Ayla didn’t want to get out of the tent. We finally made it to the car and she laid down in the front passenger seat with a sigh, her snout over her paws. I was so tired that I didn’t even unroll the blanket over me that I pulled out of the tent or put the pillow behind my head, I was out quick. When I woke up in the morning light, the sky was clear, but the wind was strong and crazy. I tried to get as much sleep as possible in the tent, with the rain fly flapping wildly, and the whole thing lifting up around me.

I started cursing when I tried to take down my tent in the wind, I'm sure no one could hear me over the its loud lion like roar. I noticed a boy hiding behind one of my juniper bushes, spying on me. I yelled at him for being rude and he ran, but not far, and was still watching me. Creepy kid! My dog saw him soon after me, and she kept looking at me telling me that we were being watched.

I got out of there as quick as I could, and headed to Douglas to try to organize myself.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Fresh Grizzly Bear Track

I was out on the ranch early, and soon discovered that I had an access issue. I talked to an oil man headed in to work on another the ranch I didn't have access to and he showed me which fence lines separated the properties. I had to walk 3 kilometers to get to my bird points without being shot at. It would have been a short stroll across the other land down the private road, but even when no one could see me I was trying to follow the rules. I parked my car, and Ayla was mad at being left behind again, so she wouldn't scare the birds. I left all the windows down for her and put shade in the windows, and a water bowl on my seat. I started my long hike in over sage covered hills.

I hate it when ranchers don't label their fences, because I don't know whose land I am on. It was a struggle today. A large group of elk spotted me and several cows and babies ran from me for miles, they were so sure I was stalking them. One brave cow was the lookout. She would run back to were I was and would let me know she was there as she stared at me and made noise, then she would talk to her friends and report I was still following them, they were all sure I wanted to eat their babies like everything else in Wyoming. This went on until they crossed the fast rough Meeteeste Creek to the other side and I passed them. They stared at me from a hill above the creek, talking among themselves in elk mews and barks.

Exhausted, I arrived at my first bird point, which was easy, then realized the next point was across the creek. I walked along the creek forever to find a good crossing spot, but the fresh melted snow made it a wild bubbling river that was too fast and wide to cross. I finished the few points on my side of the creeks and then gave up when I found the fresh grizzly bear track. The rancher had warned me that he had seen a mama with two cubs and a single male down in his creek. Here was the proof, so fresh a chill went down my spine. I was being loud and noisy, but this track looked like it was following me, my track next to it, I didn't see the track on the way in. There were so many willows the bear could be hidden anywhere. I went the other way, and headed up into the open sage, as if being in an open place could protect me with just my bear spray.

I then cheated and walked a few meters to the main private oil road instead of over rough terrain for miles. I walked up the long winding dirt road for over an hour with the sun beating down on me, I didn't bring water, I wasn't use to it being so hot. I worried about my dog and told myself that was the last time I would keep her in the car like that. I kept picturing her dead from heat exhaustion which made me walk as quickly as possible. Several oil men passed me, leaving a cloud of dust for me to breath. They weren't so helpful and friendly like the man in charge I met in the morning. I really wanted one of them to give me a ride to my car, but they didn't even slow down. They weren't even curious why a woman was walking so far from anything in the heat! When I made it to my car, Ayla was cool and fine, the car had a nice breeze and she wasn't hot. She barked at a few cows on the way out. A bull stood in the middle of the road and challenged me, I stayed on the other side of the cattle guard and honked my horn, no luck. A cow walked by and smelled too good to him, he left the road to chase her. I sped by the love scene grateful that she came by.

My next point was in Saratoga, WY, which was across the state! I stopped in Thermolopolis determined to go swimming in the warm pools on such a hot day. Ayla was acting weird, and very anxious to get out. I told her to wait, I was looking for my camera. When we finally walked out of the car I got an email on my blackberry which captured my full concentration. I started to reply as we stood there, she was dancing with impatience then she got really sick, so sick that it scared me, blood was involved. I was crying as I took her into the vet office, and they assured me it was because she had a change in diet. The vet gave her a shot of penicillin and gave me some mild dog food to feed her. I didn't know what she use to eat, who knew that new food would cause such serious problems for a dog.

I drove for hours, the prettiest spot being some kind of reservoir made up of the Shoshoni River. I drove through Rawlings around sunset. It was ugly, and there were signs for a jail and a state prison. I stopped at a Pamida, some kind of state wide store filling the need of a Walmart with cheap stuff in it, for a can opener to open the dog food. We then continued on to Saratoga. It was dark, and since I had been talking to my boyfriend on the phone for hours, I almost ended up in a flooded river, stopping just short of the water that covered the road that led to the campground.

I went to town and asked where to camp at a Kum and Go gas station. It was now so late and so dark, I could barely see as I drove around the lake he recommended. I set up camp, and we both collapsed in a deep sleep from the tiring day.