Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The Call of the Wild

Life has definitely changed at Wind Cave! We are only doing 8 tours a day now (down from 27!) and they are all natural entrance tours. Everything else is shut down. Scott departed today meaning that there are but a handful of rangers left from the group that started the summer. I am also finding it harder to get out of the tour on time because the groups are consisting of a lot more older people (who can come to a national park in the middle of the week in September) who like to walk a lot slower. Combine that with a much greater interest and a lot more questions and it is becoming very challenging to get out of the cave on time! 

I have succeeded in catching three of my mice roommates (one by hand and two in traps) and for now any others seem to have gone "underground" and are not leaving evidence of their existence. I very much hope it stays that way!

I did make a couple of significant decisions in regard to potential employment for the winter. I decided not to apply for the lighting crew here at Wind Cave. I really want to do interpretation and if I can't get a job doing that I would rather take advantage of the chance to come home and do some other things instead. 

I also decided to go ahead and apply for the interp position at Jewel Cave for the winter. I wasn't going to, but it would allow me to stay in the area, make moving a great deal easier because I could just leave things here and would only have to deal with the stuff that is actually in the house in Oroville, and it is my best chance of actually getting a job. I do have several advantages when it comes to that position so it might me that that is my best chance of something working out. I have yet to hear anything more from death valley and have received no other positive response from any other park as of yet. So still waiting!

The most significant news for the moment is that the elk have officially entered into the rut, which means the bulls are bugling. Last night was our first elk program of the season. I went along, saw how it was done, and got to hear the elk out on the prairie. It is a really fun program! I will be leading that program next week. :) I am very excited about that! 

After hearing the elk last night I decided to get up early this morning and hike out before sunrise to see what I could find. Well.... I found a lot! I came across one bull on the trail and since I was upwind I was able to get about 150 yards away before he even looked in my direction. I froze and he eventually decided to ignore me and then bugled right in front of me. Very exciting! I tried to get around to get a better angle for a picture and he decided it was time to leave. He didn't run, but did move away from me. I climbed a ridge in an attempt to find where he went and actually discovered two other bulls and about 20 cows. I followed them, which in turn led me to a huge group. I was not able to get closer than about 500 yards to that group, but I got a good look at them with the binoculars! There were two large bulls, several yearlings, and at least 100 cows in that group. And both males bugled several times, which was answered by more bulls in the forest behind me. It was a powerful experience!

I was very keenly reminded of the power of rejuvenation and of life this morning. Nothing imparts the value of life so effectively as the temple of nature. I am reminded of the words of John Muir and William Wordsworth...

“A single say in so divine an atmosphere of beauty and love would be well worth living for.” –John Muir

“One impulse from a vernal wood, Will teach you more of man, Of moral evil and of good, Than all the sages can.” –William Wordsworth

It was a splendid way to begin 09/09/09! (even though I had to get up before the sun!) I definitely want to go out and do something similar again, but the next few days will be consumed with other adventure as I travel to Estes Park for the Highland Games!

Alba Gu Bra!   (Scotland Forever)

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