Thursday, October 16, 2014

Wilderness Song - Inspiration Thursday

My Life Shall Be A Little Curling Wave by Everett Ruess

My life shall be a little curling wave
     Gaily racing forth from the great blue sea.
A moment it will sparkle in the sun;
     Jewelled and scintillating it will flash,
Then with a little tinkling tune
     It will shatter on the cool brown sand
And turn to bubbling, milk white foam.
     So, broken, slowly it will retreat, 
Leaving the beach a little smoother
     For the other waves that come.
Storm Point along Lake Yellowstone in Yellowstone National Park, August 2014
A bee and a peony in our yard, June 2014
Geothermal area along the south rim of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone in Yellowstone National Park, May 2013
Mountain Goat near Hidden Lake in Glacier National Park, August 2013
Snow accumulation on the porch railing, December 2013
Wilderness Song by Everett Ruess

I have been one who loved the wilderness
Swaggered and softly crept among the mountain peaks;
I have listened long to the sea's brave music;
I have sung my songs above the shriek of desert winds.

On canyon trails when warm night winds were blowing, 
Blowing, and sighing gently through the star-tipped pines,
Musing, I walked behind my placid burro,
While water rushed and broke on pointed rocks below.

I have known a green sea's heaving; I have loved 
Red rocks and twisted trees and cloudless turquoise skies,
Slow sunny clouds, and red sand blowing.
I have felt the rain and slept behind the waterfall.

In cool sweet grasses I have lain and heard 
The ghostly murmur of  regretful winds
In aspen glades, where rusting silver leaves 
Whisper wild sorrows to the green-gold solitudes.

I have watched the shadowed clouds pile high;
Singing I rode to meet the splendid, shouting storm
And fought it's fury until the hidden sun 
Foundered in darkness, and the lightning heard my song.

Say that I starved; that I was lost and weary;
That I was burned and blinded by the desert sun;
Footsore, thirsty, sick with strange diseases;
Lonely and wet and cold, but that I kept my dream!

Always I shall be one who loves the wilderness:
Swaggers and softly creeps among the mountain peaks;
I shall listen long to the sea's brave music;
I shall sing my songs above the shriek of desert winds.
Geothermal area in the front basin at Norris in Yellowstone National Park, May 2013
Red-winged blackbird on the plains near Roundup, April 2014
Juicy, red raspberries from the garden patch, June 2014
Sunset on an evening bicycle ride, September 2014
The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone from the south rim, May 2013
I recently finished a fascinating book about the spectacular short life and subsequent disappearance of the young artist, poet, and adventurer Everett Ruess.   It was called Finding Everett Ruess: The Life and Unsolved Disappearance of a Legendary Wilderness Explorer by David Roberts.  It was quite a thrilling tale, particularly as it is a true one.  It was a intriguing blend of mystical nature writing and adventure with an unsolved mystery thrown in for a twist.  I am currently reading a second about him entitled On Desert Trails with Everett Ruess.  I don't know that a life of total solitude in the desert is what I'd like to do with my own life, but I do have to admire the passion by which Everett lived.  He had a dream and a vision and he lived it.  I suppose it is no surprise that have my own leanings towards the joy and revelation found through quiet, humbling communion with nature, so its no wonder, really, that Everett appeals to me.  His words and philosophy seem reminiscent of John Muir or Henry David Thoreau, both of whom I admire.  As a person who frequently sighs and swoons at the delights of sunlight on rocky cliffs or the miniature marvel of insects Everett's letters from the wild canyonlands of the American southwest fill me up with joy, wonder, and wanderlust.  They made me long for the trail.  There is so much beauty in the world to see.  So many cliffs and waterfalls and lakes and forests.  So many rainbows and leks and geysers and canyons.  I know that I will never see it all.  The world is too vast and my time in it too short.  But, I try to be diligent about noticing the beauty all around me each and every day--on our megavactions and on our walks around the neighborhood.  There is so much beauty, so much wonder.
A Lone Star Geyser eruption and two happy campers, August 2014 

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Hiking To Storm Point

Ever since we got our first Yellowstone hiking guide I've had my eye on a hike called Storm Point.  We've never done it before though because in previous years we made our visits almost exclusively in Springtime when the lake is still frozen and the trail not recommended due to bear activity.  When Matt and I decided to go to the park for Labor Day this year it was one of the first hikes I suggested.  I don't know why exactly,  but I just really thought it would be cool to stand on a rocky point staring out into the expanse of Yellowstone Lake. I just thought it would be a good hike.   Matt, who has less of an affinity for large bodies of water than I do--he really is more of a mountain man than a lake man--was more than happy to finally let me check this off my list, so to speak, on our autumn visit.

The hike to Storm Point leaves from right near Indian Pond where a small mixed group of shorebirds were wading.  There was a handful of leggy American avocets all in their sharply contrasting white-and-black winter plumage.   There were a couple bobbing, tottering spotted sandpipers.  

The Storm Point hike is almost completely a loop--just under 2.5 miles total.  There are a few hundred yards of trail along the west shore of Indian Pond that are traversed both coming and going, but the rest of the journey is a large loop.  I like loops because they allow you to see a wider range of landscapes.  We took the fork to the left following the trail out along some bluffs over the shore of Yellowstone Lake. 
The views just got better and better the closer we got to Storm Point.  There was a stretch of forested trail as well as a really lovely open meadow with the lake as a backdrop right before Storm Point itself.  Yellowstone Lake is the star of the show for sure.
There is a spur trail out on to the point.  I must say, it was not quite what I had expected.  Storm Point stands much higher over the lake than I anticipated from reading about it.  The elevated observation point made for sweeping views though so I cannot say I was disappointed.  I'd like to go back on a day that is more clear.  It was quite cloudy and misty from all the rain when we were there.  In a way this added a soft, romantic filter to the surrounding panorama, but I'd like to see in on crisp, clear day sometime as well.
It was also out on this rocky point that we learned about marmot latrines.
After rejoining the main loop we followed the shoreline of the lake once again--crossing paths with one of the resident yellow bellied marmots.   I felt compelled to break into a run.  The wide open sky and lake, the wind, the freedom...  I couldn't help myself.  My boots thumped the trail and my hair flew out behind me.  It was quite exhilarating.  And Matt caught up eventually.  (When I hit sand and running became quite challenging!)
This is Matt catching up after my spontaneous trail run.
At the portion of the hike where the loop turns northward and starts heading back toward the trailhead we found another point jutting out into the lake.  This one was much lower--pretty much at lake level.  This was sort of what I'd envisioned Storm Point to be, with the waves lapping at my toes.  So, it was great.  I got to have both!
This is the lake-level rocky point, as seen from Storm Point.
Closer up it was even more interesting as there were so many layers and ledges from the erosive action of the lapping waves.
In this conglomeration of rocks we found a tidepool, for lack of a better term, that was geothermally heated.  We could feel the warmth rising from the surface by holding our hands in the air above it.  Every now and then we'd catch a hint of visible steam.  The sheltered and warmed pool was loaded with tiny fish.  There had to have been hundreds of thousands of them, all an inch or less in length.  I am not greatly knowledgeable about the lives of fish, but it seemed a pretty superb nursery pool to me. 
The remainder of the Storm Point loop turns away from the lake shore.  It was perfectly lovely, but I think I'd have preferred to stay lakeside.  I was pretty enthralled with it.  As we passed Indian Pond on the return trip we again stopped to watch the party of wading birds.  The motion of a female belted kingfisher caught our eye as she came in for a landing on a limb over the pond from which to look for fish.  We enjoyed the avian antics a while before deciding that the increasing winds and rains meant we should call it a hike.  
And it was just as good as I'd hoped it might be.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The Fungus is Among Us

When Matt and I were in Yellowstone National Park over the Labor Day weekend we were astounded by the volume and variety of mushrooms we saw.  Every single trail we traveled was lined with them.  There were pink ones, orange ones, white ones, yellow ones, smooth ones, flat ones, pointed ones, and bumpy ones.  They had sprung up in the grass, on fallen logs, and in the bare earth.  I had never seen such a proliferation of mushrooms before in my life.  I wonder if my nephew from Washington would have been so amazed as I was.  There are loads of fungus in that perpetually moist clime, but not so in our arid state.  Much of Montana and the surrounding region, including Yellowstone, experienced quite a rainy August though and the mushrooms were capitalizing on all that moisture.  I find fungus to be so interesting.  I'm not confident enough to harvest my own for eating, but I am keen to stop and admire them!  Mushrooms are pretty amazing.  Check out this video, Six Ways Mushrooms Can Save the World, if you want to learn a little more about just how amazing they are!  Matt and I have spent a good share of time in Yellowstone and we've never seen the fungus so prolific.  Nature has an incredible ability of being different each time she is encountered.  Each visit to the forest or meadow is new.  Each season holds different possibilities.   Its not as if I could say, "Oh, I've seen that already. Or been there already."  Nature is so dynamic and ever-changing--as illustrated by this remarkable mushroom bloom.  That is why I keep going back over and over and over again....
The long grass was speckled with mushrooms and a few late wildflowers.
This one was almost as red as a tomato.
This photo in no way does justice to the countless hundreds of teeny-tiny mushrooms that were growing at the base of this tree.
These were flat like leaves or paper.
This one was my favorite.  I like the little white bumps on top.
Some of them were pretty huge.

A Sap Lick in the Back Basin

There are some woodpecker-like birds out there called sapsuckers.  They belong in the family picidae, along with the rest of the woodpeckers.  However, they are a little bit different because, as their moniker might imply, their diet revolves around sap.  They don't really suck it, but rather lap or lick it up with tongues that are specially designed for such purpose.  Compared to woodpeckers the sapsuckers have shorter tongues.  They also have little hairs on the end of their tongues which help slurp up the sap.  I've heard it compared to the way a paint brush picks up and holds wet paint.

Matt and I have seen sapsuckers before, but we'd not seen a sap lick until earlier this year.  We found one along the boardwalk in the back basin at Norris in Yellowstone National Park.  The sapsuckers chisel out rectangular notches in the bark in long and strikingly even columns.  These notches ooze sap which the sapsuckers eat.  They also eat insects that are attracted to and then caught in the sap.  What a brilliant system!
The geothermal features in the back basin are certainly remarkable with their dazzling colors, steam, and sporadic eruptions.  Geyers are usually my highlight for every trip into the park.  I cannot get enough of them.  But on this particular day the birds and their fascinating behavior stole the show.
Still, boiling mud is always pretty cool, too.  What a fascinating world.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Purple Mashed Potatoes and the Fall Garden

Our garden is winding down for the year.  It never quite stops as we've always got one thing or other overwintering--even if its just the garlic bulbs we plant in the fall--but, things are certainly clearing out.  Matt pulled all the corn stalks.  We didn't get much in the way of corn, but alas, what can you do.  We got a handful of ears.  We are lucky in that we can supplement our corn with the plot they have for communal use at the community garden.  In addition to fresh eating, we froze maybe 24 cups or so.  That may be all she wrote for corn this year.
Carrots for overwintering in the front with tomatillos, summer squash, and corn in the rear
We've been having a good haul of potatoes--especially the All Blue--and are eating them daily.  We have an 8 foot by 4 foot plot at the community garden which we planted all with potatoes.
The earthworms we uncovered while we dug the potatoes were mighty impressive.  One was over a foot long!   We also have a couple small potato patches at the home garden, but we haven't harvested much of them yet.
Matt has an unfortunate tendency to spear the biggest potatoes with the potato fork as he digs, but its all good.  That just means its time for purple mashed potatoes!  Fine by me.
The summer squash, watermelon, and eggplant were all really unhappy after another frost last week.  The watermelon vines against the house are still alive, but barely.  We may get a teeny-tiny watermelon off it yet.  Matt has pulled the summer squash and eggplants.  We're eating eggplant every day this week, I think.  Again, fine by me.  Matt picked all the tomatoes ahead of the frost as they already looked pretty sad.  They are ripening in boxes in the craft room.  While it was better than last year we were once again pretty disappointed with our tomato yields.
This was the zucchini plant after the first frost.  After the second we decided to put it out of its misery, so to speak.
The sad eggplants are in the foreground with their curled, dying leaves.
We pulled the dry bean vines and stripped the pods off.  Most are still not completely dry and so are spread out on screens in the garage.  I was sick with a nasty cold over the weekend and this proved to be a very good garden task when the day was just too sunny and nice to lounge in a sickbed indoors.
The peppers continue to be my garden pride and joy.  They did so well this year.   They were plentiful and enormous and almost without exception have gotten the chance to ripen fully.  I adore all peppers, but green are my least favorite.  Huzzah for an abundance of red and orange!  We're still eating them fresh out of the garden, but I bet we'll be chopping and freezing the rest soon enough.
We'll be planting the 2015 garlic later this month.  Matt is already working on crop rotation plans for next year, too.  The freezer and larder are filling.  The homegrown goodness is at is peak.  There are still winter squash to pick and store, as well as tomatillos to process and a second crop of raspberries ripe on the cane.  Life is good.