Thursday, September 30, 2010

Day 11- Mountain Lions and The Swiss

September 25th 2010

I woke up this morning around 7:45am and took Hanz for a walk to the end of the campground and onto a trail that went down to the water. It is so funny how he tries to herd rocks. For those of you who are not familiar with this, one of his many antics, he’s a herding dog and he always needs to have a job or be doing something. If you are outside with him and you stop walking for a second, he will immediately occupy this spare time with finding a rock to repeatedly pounce on, pushing it to the spot he deems right, and then pulling it back with his paws so that he can again herd it to where it “should” be. The first time anyone sees it they find it hilarious and I will admit it definitely still entertains me! When we were down at the river this morning he was hilarious because he was trying to herd these huge boulders which just would not budge. He would do his pounce-pushing and seeing it was ineffective, he would look up at me all excited with his ears up and his mouth open slightly panting, in what we call his smile. I say, Come on buddy! And he immediately trots on over to me, looking at me as if to say, Okay what’s next?! Although the prickers that are prevalent in arid areas such as this are a huge pain in the derriere there is one thing that Hanz absolutely loves about this type of ecosystem and that is the vast number of holes that are dug by burrowing animals. Maybe it has to do with how dry this area is coupled with the fact that it gets extremely harsh in the winter but it seems to me that everywhere you look there are holes that have been dug that lead to tunnels. Hanz loves to pounce on the holes and stick his head as far in as possible and ferociously sniff around for any sign of life for him to chase. Sometimes he will even start to vigorously dig at the ground, in hopes of gaining access to an unsuspecting animal below. This has not turned out to be an effective method for him though because I always tell him it’s impolite to destroy something’s home so he’d better cut it out. Chasing after a thrown stick usually satiates him.

You can still see the moon above the canyon walls in Lander, WY

Tyler and I did laundry today, which was very exciting as you can imagine. We went to the Lander Bar again; it is quickly becoming our favorite spot. When we got back to the Popo Agie Campground (pronounced Po-Poh-Zha) we hiked up along the Nature Trail that is by the main parking lot. It was a nice walk that started out across a hanging bridge that was about 100 feet long. Poor Hanz absolutely hated crossing it and he looked completely sadly pathetic creeping along it, his body super low to the ground and his nose franticly sniffing every slit between the various boards. I was extremely proud of him for making it all by himself though. Oh the things he will do because he loves us! There were many interesting interpretive signs along the way that talked about the vegetation, the differences in north- and south-facing slopes, and the wildlife in the area. This included telling us about Mountain Lions which are the greatest predator in the area. They tend to be active at night. Their hunting technique often consists of them sitting up in a tree or some obscure location and waiting for their prey, like a deer (or a human?!!), to walk by. Then they pounce on its back, making the animal lose its balance, and bite into its neck. They will eat the soft internal organs first and then drag the rest of the carcass to a secluded area, covering it with leaves and mud to hide it until they are going to eat it. Interesting indeed.

It started to get dark and in the interest of not tempting the mountain lions with a cute, furry little waffle dog like Hanz, we turned around and headed back to the campground.

Hanz in hunter mode

On the Nature Trail near the Popo Agie Campground

On our way back to our camp site we passed a couple about our age hanging out by a campfire. We bid them good evening and they had cool accents, which immediately intrigued me. I absolutely love meeting people from other countries! So long story short, we ended up hanging out with them that night. They had never had s’mores before and I felt some kind of American Ambassador urge to familiarize them with this iconic dessert. We spent the next few hours sitting around the campfire and talking, while enjoying our s’mores. Their names were (forgive the spelling, it’s probably wrong) Rolph and Clarissa and they were respectively a mechanical engineer and a graphic designer from Switzerland. They were from a willage (I LOVE the way German type of language speakers say the word village) about an hour from Zurich. They spoke a language I was mortified to be unfamiliar with (it’s one thing to say, Sorry I don’t speak that language, but quite another to say, I have no idea what is coming out of your mouth?!) but I was able to avoid feeling like an awkward American by just avoiding having to identify it at all. Oh god that’s so embarrassing! I mean, it wasn’t German and at one point Rolph identified it but it was something I had never heard of that started with an R. Oh well, sorry if any of you reading this are German Swiss and I’ve just mortally offended you.

Rolph and Clarissa spoke enough English for us to be able to communicate, although there was the obligatory gesturing that went along with a lot of our words, which made everything a bit funnier. It’s important to have a good send of humor when trying to communicate with someone who doesn’t speak much of the same language as you do. I was very impressed with them though, because they had somehow figured out how to rent an RV to drive from Denver to the northern United States, and then they, like us, were heading down south to California where they were going to fly home. Around 9pm, the moon started to creep up from behind the canyon walls surrounding us and since Tyler and I are now in the habit of going to bed early and waking up early we bid them adieu and fell asleep.

Days 9 & 10- Hiking & An Old Friend & Hanz Can Open Windows Now

September 23rd, Thursday 8:40pm

Today we slept in a bit because of our hectic past couple of days. They were a lot of fun but it's pretty tiring to be packing up and moving around so often. We are definitely getting used to it but sometimes you really just don't feel like having to make everything in the travel trailer safe for the road, it can be tedious.

It's nice because we're just laying low in Cody for a couple days. I've been reading The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, which is a great book. I also bought the second book in the trilogy to have at the ready when I'm finished with this the first one.

When we were arriving in Cody yesterday afternoon we passed by an interpretive site just to the west of the city and near a huge dam that was built in 1908. Buffalo Bill Cody was the inspiration for the name of the city in Wyoming. I didn't know this but he was a Pony Express Rider and also a buffalo hunter, hence his nickname.

The beautiful Buffalo Bill Reservoir

We went through this tunnel to get to Cody!
One cool thing that we did today was to drive up into the neighboring mountains and go for a hike. It is absolutely gorgeous out here, especially if you get a bit outside of the city to the west or the north.

Shoshone National Forest

Great view of the Shoshone NF

Open Range Wyoming, I love it

Gorgeous Scenery

September 24th, Friday

Today I woke up around 7:30am and walked Hanz for a final time in Cody. We packed everything up, ate some breakfast, took advantage of the free showers and then hit the road. 

On our way out of the RV Park we passed by the campground host’s truck and it had a sticker on it which read, “’Wolves,’ Smoke a Pack a Day.” Oh Wyoming, some things I absolutely love about you but some things I just do not get at all. I mean seriously. Wyoming’s official policy is that they want to exterminate every single wolf within their state borders. It is so completely ignorant that it just baffles me. Do they not understand the vital roles that predators play in an ecosystem? And it is because of their extreme view that Federal Courts have had to say states obviously cannot be trusted to manage their wolf populations on their own so they put them back on the endangered species list. So now everybody loses. I’m going to state what I think about this very clearly: Montana should be able to manage its wolf population because it actually has more breeding pairs of wolves than the federal government says is necessary. But now the conservation and hunting communities are being polarized by extreme anti wolf groups like Lobo Watch. This particular group calls for the extermination of wolves by any means necessary, including poisons (which can kill anything that eats them, not just wolves, or does that not matter?) and this recent re-listing has just added fuel to their fire because Montana does have too many wolves. Humans have had such a huge impact on the environment that it takes longer for Mother Nature’s rules of equilibrium to kick in. If we let wolves go on being unmanaged they will continue to decimate ungulate populations in certain parts of the state, possibly to the point where those populations will be not able to recover for a long time. Of course, in nature this would solve itself because as the wolves ate all the prey they would run out of food and start to die off. Once their numbers got low the ungulate populations would be able to recover and then the wolves would recover as well and the cycle would repeat itself. This would take a very long time though because these wolf packs would just move to new areas as they killed off elk and deer and also then start preying more or livestock. When they start to enter ranchlands and kill off cattle and other livestock you are presented with a whole new set of problems. It doesn't exactly endear ranchers to wolves or other predators. This exacerbates the relationship between ranchers and wolves, neither of which can be blamed for fighting for their livelihoods.

We were planning on driving to Thermopolis (which a friend of mine says only exists in Bugs Bunny cartoons, lol) and camping there tonight but when we got there we found there was no camping in the state park and that it was a pretty undesirable place to spend more than about 30 minutes. It is absolutely rife with geothermal activity. Everywhere we saw signs advertising RV parks with hot springs, parks with hot springs, spas with hot springs! We went to the State of Wyoming Bath House which had pools both indoor and out that were fed by these natural hot springs. The outside pool was pretty cool because it was right next to these rocks where the water was coming out of the ground. Between Thermopolis and Yellowstone I’ve had enough sulfur, rotten-eggs smell to last me for a pretty long time. Oh and word to the wise, DO NOT GO INTO HOT SPRINGS WITH SILVER JEWELRY ON!!! This never happened at the natural hot springs at Jerry Johnson in Idaho but when I got into the pool in Thermopolis my silver ring instantly tarnished! I looked down at it and was like, WTF, are you kidding me?! It must have been a certain mineral or metal that was in the water, but I’m not quite sure which one.

One extremely cute development on our road trip is that Hanz has learned how to open his own window! Oh my goodness it is so funny. He’ll hop his little paws up on the side of the door, which has a little ledge with a cup holder in it and put his head up to the window, showing that he wants to stick his head out, and then he’ll pick his paws up and down, moving them around until he finds the electric button to lower the window! Tyler and I would be in the front seats talking and Hanz would be in the back and all of a sudden the wind would be rushing in as we drive down the highway and we’d look back to see Hanz’s smiling face in Tyler’s side-view mirror, eyes closed and snout sticking up to catch all of the smells.

We passed by historical signs marking the sites of the Sand Creek Massacre, which happened in 1864. This was an incredibly tragic event where basically 700 militia men from Colorado attacked, mutilated and murdered many friendly Cheyenne and Arapaho Indians, most of which were women and children. You can look it up online for more information. What a sad and terrible chapter of history.

Since we did not stop in Thermopolis we figured we would just shoot on down to Lander. Tyler was really excited to stop there because he has taken three NOLS courses which are based out of Lander and he had some great times there. The scenery is absolutely beautiful and if you are into rock-climbing you would definitely hold some appreciation for what it has to offer. I had only been there once before, a few years ago in March when it was still freezing and pretty much deserted. This time, driving down Hwy 497 the sparse, high desert, sage brush landscape dominated by the depressing Native Americans’ casinos and trailers was replaced by aspen stands and some conifers and cattle ranches. It was actually very beautiful arriving here. It was like the landscape just came alive. Once we got into Lander it was bustling with people, very different from my last experience. We soon found parking and went to the Garret Grill, a lunch place with great, locally sourced burgers and beer brewed literally next door at the Lander Brewing Company. If you like dark beer and are ever in Lander I HIGHLY recommend the Stout.

It so happens that I spent several summers at Camp Onaway, an all-girls camp in New Hampshire, when I was growing up. It was a truly great experience and one of my former counselors, Miss Annemarie, now worked for NOLS and lived in Lander. While at the restaurant, Tyler and I saw a group of people at some tables nearby whom we felt comfortable assuming were NOLS employees. I would every once in a while eye them as new people joined the group to see if Annemarie was amongst them. In a small town like this I knew they would at least know her but I was not truly expecting to just run into her. We were there for a while and I had not seen her so when we finished our food we went to leave. I was just about to walk out the door when I turn and see her out of the corner of my eye; No Way! We are planning on meeting up at some point on Sunday to catch up because it has been at least seven years since we have seen each other! It is crazy how time flies. I am hoping to go back to Camp Onaway for the Centennial celebration next summer and hopefully that will work out because every summer I have wanted to go back there but I’ve been working or interning or doing one of the many things that makes it hard to set aside a 7 week block of time.

After chatting briefly with Annemarie, Tyler and I got back into his truck and detached the trailer in Sinks Canyon. It is an incredibly beautiful site: the canyon walls loom overhead, we are surrounded by sagebrush and conifers and aspens and native grasses. A little ways down the road are numerous trails that lead to the river below. With our windows open we can hear the water rushing around and across the boulders in its path.  

The beautiful river by our campground in Lander

Day 8- The Geysers Make Up for the Crazy Tourists!

September 22nd 2010, Wednesday

We woke up this morning and decided that West Yellowstone was indeed too expensive for our blood (plus the fact that it isn't even "nice-expensive," it's "cheap, let's rip off tourists" expensive!) so we were going to take a trip through Yellowstone and head to Cody, Wyoming for the night. We headed out along the same path as the day before, still scowling a bit (maybe hypocritically, but whatever!) at the absurd number of tourists swarming the roads within the park. I honestly believe this is one of the most dangerous places we've driven because someone will be driving along the road, while looking out their windows hoping to see a cool bird or animal, and definitely NOT watching the road in front of them. They also would randomly and abruptly brake so you had to be sure to give the car in front of you a wide berth, even though you were only going 15 miles an hour. Luckily today we didn't see anybody trying to get within a foot of a wild animal.

We drove along, the road winding up into the mountains and through coniferous forest, and we were pleased to discover that the number of tourists significantly petered out about 25 miles into the park. I was truly shock at how big the place was! All of a sudden the landscape opened up and the trees disappeared. The ground looked like it was covered in salt and there was barely any vegetation. This was home to Yellowstone's famous geothermal activity: geysers, steaming pools of water, bubbling pots of mud, and hissing fumaroles.


Me and Tyler in Yellowstone

The Boardwalk

Okay, this made all the craziness of yesterday worth it. I don't have accurate words to describe how amazing it was to be in this ecosystem. We parked and got out to walk on a boardwalk that looped around the various features. All around us the earth was alive, bubbly up, spurting out incredibly hot liquid that instantly vaporized and blew fiercely towards us. The air smelled strongly of rotten eggs, the famous sulfur smell. The crazy thing was how quiet it all was. You would think that such an explosive landscape would be loud but really, even when water and steam are bursting out of the ground it's more of a hissing sound like pressure is getting released than anything else.

We got to see the Fountain Paint Pot, which is a pool of mud that actually changes color depending on the types of bacteria present. It would be really cool to take a class on Yellowstone's geothermal features. I find thermophiles and really any type of extremophile to be absolutely fascinating. They are so specifically adapted to extreme environments and sometimes those methods of adaption can be mind-boggling.

Fountain Paint Pot
After this experience we decided we couldn't pass up seeing Old Faithful even though we knew it would probably be crowded. The went further down the road, not quite knowing what to expect. We followed the signs leading us to the parking area and were shocked by the hundreds of cars already there when we pulled in. It was a bit like when you go to Six Flags. Tyler made a joke about our needing to remember that we were parking in lot G, but he really wasn't too far off. Old Faithful usually goes off every 45 to 125 minutes, or something like that, quite variable really. But I guess that's just another thing about nature. There isn't some button that can be pushed for instant gratification. Sometimes if you want to try to witness a cool natural event you have to wait for when it is going to present itself. We waited for at least 30 min. The opening to the geyser sputtered a few times, fooling us into thinking the "big show" was beginning but then it would die down. After doing that a few times, each time getting a bit bigger, it finally sent a huge stream of water pulsing into the air. I saw the spectators on the other side of the viewing area running away from the water that was raining down on them. I guess I chose a good place to watch her go off! Most of the water evaporated like the geysers we had seen earlier but like a said, I think the people on the other side got their shower for the day!

We hung around for a bit after Old Faithful erupted to let the people who were in a hurry get in their cars and go and then we continued on our way through the park and towards Cody, Wyoming. If possible, when visiting Yellowstone NP, I highly recommend that you enter from the east. It is absolutely gorgeous and very remote. We barely saw anyone at all!

Day 7- Part 2- A Very Exciting Day Indeed!

September 21st continued

We continued along Hwy 287 as it took us through the Gallatin National Forest towards West Yellowstone. I was very glad we took this route because we got to pass by Earthquake Lake and Hebgen Lake which is the area in which Montana's largest recorded earthquake occurred late in the night on August 17, 1959. It was also one of the largest earthquakes to hit North America. Earthquake Lake was actually created by the earthquake (hence the name) and must have been absolutely terrifying for all those camping nearby.

This 7.5 earthquake caused an 80 million ton landslide which dammed up the Madison River. It is estimated that the landslide traveled 100mph and ended up killing 28 unsuspecting campers. The thought of this just sends shivers down my spine. The rest of the people in the area had to quickly gather their wits and get the heck out of Dodge because by early morning the campgrounds in the area were completely submerged under water. Today Earthquake Lake measures about 190ft deep and 6 miles long.

Aftershocks of up to 6.5 on the Richter scale occurred for months after the event.

It was incredibly eerie to drive by this area. There were several interpretive signs on pull offs so that you could read more about the history and get a good view of the scenery. The skeletons of hundreds, probably thousands, of trees still stood in the lake. Poking out of the water as an unsettling reminder of the land that once was there and of the people who had been sleeping on ground now covered by a body of water.

We drove on towards West Yellowstone, stopping for gas along the way. I'm not going to lie, carting a 22ft travel trailer up and down mountains and across poorly maintained roadways doesn't bode well for your gas mileage! We met another traveler at the gas station, he was from somewhere in the south and luckily in talking to him we realized we needed to re-evaluate our lodging choices because RV parks were commonly charging upwards of $50 a night!! Thats absurd! AND they were charging tax, which I was like, um hello we're in Montana there's no sales tax but evidently resort towns can charge you tax anyways, to make an expensive trip even more expensive! I need to just say why this drives me crazy, especially on the border of a national park. I mean, in our history we have absolutely ravaged the lands of North America (not to mention other places) making it necessary for national parks to be formed. So people who are born later and had nothing to do with that rape of the land get totally jipped because now, if you live like most Americans you don't have much access to wild places (which I think should be a fundamental right) and then when you try to get close to them these people who run touristy resort towns are going to squeeze every possible penny out of you. It's taking advantage of a tragic situation. Then, when you make it difficult for people to access wilderness it's not as common for them to do so and then they don't form that bond with nature that makes them realize the inherent value of it. It is this connection to the land that is vital in future and present generations having any desire to protect it.

So pretty much this marked the time when the trip started to get really frustrating. I mean, as you've seen in Part I of this Day 7 journal entry, this day has been crazy amazing and totally epic. Arriving in West Yellowstone and our venture into the national park is the anti-climatic ending to what I can still say was overall a wonderful day.

We decided to try our luck in the park; maybe we could find a good camp spot there to park our travel trailer. We had bought the America the Beautiful Pass that is an annual pass allowing entry to all federal lands in the USA. We took off towards the Madison campground, amazed at the sheer number of tourists creeping along the 2 land road through the park, occasionally and erratically screeching to a halt because the drivers, who were probably concentrating on everything but driving, were trying desperately to crane their heads out of their windows in case any amazing animals suddenly appeared. I will just say that it was a wonderful practice in defensive driving!

And then, IT happened. We were crawling along on the road, enjoying the scenery but mainly trying to just figure out where we were going to spend the night. Every hundred yards or so there would be twenty cars pulled off the the side of the road (and sometimes mostly still on the road) with tourists swarming to photograph whatever it was they were seeing, deer, moose, bald eagles, etc. I was looking out the window and narrating for Tyler who, as most drivers should, was driving. I saw a deer lying on the side of a creek and these tourists, the bane of my existence, creeping close and closer and closer until they were literally about 2 feet away from the poor thing. My teeth and clenching and I am shaking my head even as I recall this. Their cameras were stretched out in front of them, and seriously, I don't think they could even capture the whole deer in the photos because they were really that close. Seriously, this is how tourists get hurt. I mean, first of all, it was a fricking deer so that is evidence to me that these people were seriously clueless. This isn't some amusement park with trained animals posing for photos. These are wild animals! No, deer do not eat meat but that doesn't mean that it couldn't beat the crap out of you if you scared it or made it feel threatened. And this comes very soon after the story about the grizzly bear in this very area attacking and killing someone at a campground. This isn't just a case of wild animals gone dangerously crazy, it is more probably the case of a photographer baiting the bear with food so as to get a good photo or of some general kind of bear country ignorance. Don't go into bear country unless you are prepared and you know not to keep food in your tent, or any of the other basic safety precautions one must take. It is very, very uncommon for an animal to just randomly attack someone, usually there is a reason. When I first heard of the grizzly attack I was immediately skeptical about the circumstances leading up to the attack, now seeing this nimrod creeping closer and closer to the deer in hopes of getting a sweet picture, my doubts were confirmed. And the sad thing is that unnecessary ignorance isn't just endangering that person's life and the lives of the campers who will come after them, if a bear attacks someone it will definitely be found and killed by forest rangers. So now some poor grizzly bear is going to lose its life because someone thought it was acceptable to be ignorant and irresponsible.

Well, I'll admit that was a bit of a rant but really, can you blame me?! I've actually been kind of dreading writing about this because I knew I was going to be pretty pissed off but I'm trying to be honest and clear about all the things we encounter on this trip. I want to discuss them and I'd love to hear other people's thoughts. I feel that writing about all these day to day experiences and talking about them more in depth really shows something about the complexity of the human spirit. Seeing that tourist interacting with the deer did initially make me angry but if I break that down and think about what I actually think about it, it just breaks my heart. This basic ignorance is absolutely tragic because it shows how deep the disconnect is between the general human population and the wilderness.

We got to the campground, finally, and we were flabbergasted because there were over 250 camping spots! I mean, usually have twenty other parties of people at a campground is a lot but 250? Holy cow. We turned around and headed back to West Yellowstone, more than a bit frustrated at this point. We had some luck back in the town when a man who ran an RV park said he had a super basic spot that he'd rent to us for the night for only $20. That's more like it. We had initially wanted to spend a week in Yellowstone but we decided one night would suffice. Tomorrow we'll explore some more and hopefully have a better experience.

Despite the touristy feel of W. Yellowstone we decided to try our luck with getting dinner out because both Tyler and I were exhausted after the long day. We ended up going to an italian restaurant not worth mentioning because the food was not that great. However, the cool part of the evening was that when we got there we got the last table because it was very crowded. A middle aged couple walked in after we'd ordered and since we were sitting at a table for four, Tyler offered them the 2 remaining seats if they didn't want to wait. I was kind of surprised when they looked excited and said okay but it turned into a great time! They were a very sweet couple named Vicky and Emmett from California and we ended up having unexpectedly good conversation with them! Also they were the founders of the Mule Deer Foundation which does work to conserve mule deer habitat... pretty cool! Overall I'd say it was a good day :)

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Day 7- Part I- The Most EXCITING Day So Far

September 21st 9:30pm

Today we woke up with a familiar routine: packing up our stuff, hitching the trailer to Tyler’s truck and making sure everything was in tip-top travel shape. The water pump was off, the fridge was off, the propane was off and covered, the doors were closed; everything was put in its respective place so nothing ended up on the floor after being jostled around during the drive. You very quickly develop a routine and mental checklist of things to check on before departing because if you forget once it’s so aggravating that you do not forget again! Once we forgot to turn off the propane before we left and as Tyler put it, we were glad to not be towing a fireball behind us! Needless to say we haven’t forgotten since.

This would turn out to be an epic driving day through incredible scenic and historic lands full of thieves and gold and mountains and antiques and ghost towns. We headed down to Dillon from the Pioneers and then headed east on a small state highway.

I have driven on many many scenic roads all over the country but this was by far one of the coolest I have ever experienced. High way 287 is an unrelenting history lesson that is absolutely fascinating. We went through Sheridan, MT a tiny town with less than 700 residents but don't let that fool you because the town has actually paid to have a wireless internet network cover the entire downtown so no matter where in town you are you can go online! Pretty savvy!

We had to slam on the breaks because we almost missed the sign at Robbers Roost. Now, I grew up watching Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and being fascinated by Jesse James and other intriguing outlaws of the old west so I was beyond excited to be in a spot where similar such goings-on had occurred. See the below sign for yourself!!

Robbers Roost
This is the building referred to in the Robbers Roost sign!!!!!!! It happened right here!!
So here Tyler and I are, almost 140 years later, standing on the road where who-knows-how-many people were victimized by this gang. If we had been doing exactly what we were doing now, but in the late 1800's we could even have to fight to defend ourselves. It was such a dangerous time to live!

Soon after leaving the Robbers Roost area, my eyes still wide with excitement, we passed through Alder and the Alder Gulch area which had the richest gold placer (alluvial) deposits ever discovered! In 1863 the gold was discovered and within 3 months there were 10,000 miners filling the town in hopes of striking it rich. This area was referred to as the "fourteen mile city" and it was composed of several different towns. I know I previously said that I want to read about places before we reach them so that I can be knowledgeable but it was such a shocking and exciting surprise to be driving along and hit Nevada City. I am actually glad I didn't know it was going to be there because it made it feel like we had discovered something ourselves! 

We were driving along and we saw some buildings in the distance, as we neared we realized that this highway was taking us smack through the middle of a ghost town! Although the buildings were old and partially run down they were in surprisingly good condition, especially considering what we saw at Coolidge Ghost Town. We later found out that this area is actually now used as a keeping ground for "endangered buildings," which are basically historic buildings all over the country that are no longer safe for use and that cannot be restored but that people do not want to be destroyed because of their historical significance and value. 

Probably the eeriest thing that has happened on this trip so far was stepping out of the car, outside of an old music hall, and hearing the music fill the small town as if the ghosts from the past were still living there. Tyler and Hanz went off on their own to check out an old train across the street so alone, I stepped inside of the Music Hall. Outside there were a couple other tourists poking around in the many buildings but there was nobody else near the music hall. I stepped into the partially lit building and looked around in amazement. The place was absolutely full of old instruments and old-fashioned arcade games. On the right, against the wall, was a player-piano. I have never really liked player pianos because I thought they were creepy but man, if I thought they were creepy in a well-lit environment surrounded by other people it was triple the creepiness in this ghostly city. I stepped closer to it to investigate and to show myself that it was silly to be getting the heeby-jeebies and abruptly the music just stopped playing and it was completely silent. I was probably out of there in 5 seconds flat.

The Music Hall... <>
Tyler and Hanz were close by outside and we walked down the deserted streets for a little while longer. One of the things that made this unexpected stop so strange was the lack of people in any capacity. You would think that at a site like this there would be tour guides of interpretive talks or at least someone to be there to make sure no unruly teenagers had a party there but there was no human presence whatsoever (aside from the 2 other people who also stopped and looked around, bewildered). 

We passed by a tree next to the sidewalk with a sign on it declaring this was the site that George Ives had been tried (a famously unfair trial) and actually hung! To make it creepier there was still something rigged up in the tree where they had hung the poor unfortunate fellow. I am continually amazed by the idea of standing in the very spot where such extraordinary history took place. To think of all the people who stood in the same spot as I did and to imagine that some pretty consequential decisions could have been made there as well, it's just flabbergasting. To think, I very well could have been standing where George Ives stood, moments before being hung, it makes me wonder what was going through his head. Being in places with such important history and where emotions ran so high it makes me feel like there must be some kind of residue, even if it's just a shiver. 

We got back on the road and soon hit the remains of Virgina City, which was actually the capital of Montana for ten years. This was nowhere near as eerie as Nevada City because it had shops that were actually still functional. They sold tourist shirts and the like. We did not stop except to check out if the brewery still brewed any beer, which it unfortunately did not. 

The non-functional brewery in Virgina City, MT
Driving towards Ennis, after leaving the fourteen mile city behind, I looked off to the side of the road and saw movement next to some brush and a stream. As we got closer I realized it was a bull moose! I have seen a female moose a twice in the past couple months but I had never seen a male one... so exciting! It was HUGE and its antlers were amazing. I would love to find some antlers that a moose had shed. Hopefully sometime in my life that will happen. 

We arrived in Ennis and as soon as we started driving through the downtown I realized we were going to have to park because it is a really nice downtown! I wasn't expecting that in such a small town and in such a rural area. They had a couple amazing, amazing antiques stores. Tyler ended up getting a leather vest lined with sheepskin that fit him perfectly for only $5 and I got a really nice pillow that definitely wasn't an antique. I could have spent hours looking around but Tyler has considerably less of a tolerance for antiques stores than I do and we were anxious to make it to Yellowstone. Actually, after last night's frigid weather we decided to alter our course so that we'll be coming up along the coast in November and December. The weather will be considerably nicer then and this way it won't be super snowy in Colorado and Wyoming when we go through that area. 

Outside of Ennis we stopped at a fishing access site on the Madison River for some lunch and to exercise Hanz. We made friends with some fly fisherman who, despite the windy day, were going to go try their luck in the water. I had such a great time fly fishing this past summer. It is definitely something that I want to keep up with. As soon as I have some extra cash (which definitely won't be any time soon!) I'm going to buy a fly rod. Even if you don't catch anything it's just relaxing to be out on the water. <3

Leaving Ennis and heading southeast

On the Madison River- Hanz found a large stick! 

Day 6- We are Blown Away By the Pioneer Mountains

September 20th 2010 Day 6- Monday

Today is the first day that we are starting to venture into unknown territory. We headed south from Butte, mid-day, on I-15 to a state highway and onto a parkway that travels through the Pioneer Mountains after passing through Wise River, MT. It is super beautiful out here, aside from the tragedy of all the beetle-killed pines with their sad brown needles in place of where healthy green ones should be.  I wish I knew more about this area, especially about the homesteaders in the Pioneers, so in the future I’ll have to research the areas we’re about to enter so that I can better understand them.

There were so many beautiful trailheads and overlooks and campsites that we were not sure where to stop but we eventually turned up an unpaved forest road (despite our experiences with the unpaved Skalkaho mountain pass) that led to Coolidge Ghost Town. We stopped after a mile at a campground and detached the trailer from the truck. It was pretty chilly so we put on an extra layer. We decided to check out the ghost town so we got in Tyler’s truck and chugged 4 miles up a dirt road to the former mining camp. It was about a ¼ mile walk to the first part of town where the remains of only a few buildings remained on the ground. About another ¼ of a mile further exposed the heart of this mini-city, once home to at least a thousand people. I wish there was some more interpretive materials to go along with what we were seeing (like there is for Garnet Ghost Town, for example) but it was still interesting to be in a place with such interesting history. It’s fascinating to think of all the people who toiled in the exact spot in which you are standing, all of the hard work that went into building this civilization and maintaining a livelihood through incredibly harsh winters. One thing that was different about this ghost town is that it actually had electricity! They spent close to $150,000 on setting up power lines to connect this town to the electrical grid! I want to find more info on Coolidge and get back to you with more accurate history in the near future. 

At Coolidge Ghost Town

An Outhouse at Coolidge Ghost Town... Why are there 2 toilets?!

Tin Cans in a pile represent how garbage was disposed of in the early 20th Century

We returned to the campsite just before dark. It was so cold we had multiple layers on. This was the first night we had to worry about our pipes freezing because it was going to get well below freezing during the night. We turned on the hot water heater and ran hot water through our lines so they wouldn't freeze. We turned the heat on a bit to help as well. 

We went for a walk before going to sleep and ran into one of the other people staying at the campground with us. He and his wife were visiting from Wisconsin. I don't often think of people from Wisconsin as having accents but my god! He pronounced Wisconsin like Wis-can-sin! After chatting for a bit we headed back into the semi-warmth of the travel trailer.

The next morning we woke up and the water in Hanz's outside bowl was frozen. Good thing we were anticipating that!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Day 5- The Giants Make Me Cry & I Finally Get a Real Shower!

9/19/2010 6:28pm Day 5

Well, it’s Football Sunday so the Colts and Giants are about to face off, Manning versus Manning. The media just loves this. There have been 13,500 games or so in the NFL and this is only the second time that Eli and Peyton Manning will be facing off. Let’s go Giants!

Yesterday afternoon I spotted a patch of thimble berries on a trail by Flint Creek so this morning when I woke up to walk Hanz we brought a little basket and collected some. Yum! We hung out for a little bit to enjoy the scenery and then started to pack up to move to our next destination. Hanz saw a squirrel of some kind run over to a tree by our trailer and he chased after it. It proceeded to tease him for at least the next half hour by going down to the base of the tree, making Hanz run over to it, and then running up- just out of range for him- and loudly chattering at him. I’m not sure what kind of squirrel it was. I’ll post a picture below and if anyone knows, please tell me! It’s definitely smaller than a typical squirrel and the coloring is a bit different. It let me get really close to it. I was staring at it up in the tree and it would literally come down to about shoulder height on the tree but on the opposite side so all I could see was its bushy little tail waving back and forth. I would dart over to try to get closer to it and then it would scamper up the tree, just out of reach and then stare me straight in the face... cocky little bugger! So I guess it wasn't only Hanz that this squirrel was teasing! 

The Squirrel that gave me and Hanz a headache

When we finally departed we continued along the Pintler Scenic Loop. Right before passing Georgetown Lake we saw the locally famous “heart” on the mountain. It’s basically a scree field on the side of a mountain that is perfectly shaped like a heart and surrounded by trees. There’s also a dramatic and unexpected waterfall just off the side of the highway. Tyler commented on how this is a very interesting and dangerous place to put a highway and I have to agree. Sometimes it's pretty crazy to think about all the work that goes into building the first roads through rough terrain. I remember when I was in Costa Rica a few years ago for school we talked briefly about all the lives that were lost in building the Pan-American Highway and I bet it is the same out here. 

The Pintler Scenic Loop just up the road from the Flint Creek Campground

Check out the waterfall!

Georgetown Lake is where I went fly fishing with the CFWEP camp about a month ago. It’s a very beautiful area. You can see the Governor’s house overlooking the lake and supposedly a cell tower was built nearby specifically for his convenience. I checked my phone, the reception is great!

We passed through Anaconda, a town named after the company which ran the famous Butte copper mines starting in the late 19th century. Anaconda is home to the smelter which processed a lot of the ore that came out of the Butte mines. There is still a railroad connecting Anaconda to Butte. If you do not know much about the history of mining in Butte I highly recommend looking into it because it is absolutely fascinating. There is a great book called Fire and Brimstone, which I believe I mentioned in a previous blog, which documents the events leading up to and following a huge mining disaster in 1917. It also discusses Butte’s role in American history and really, without Butte and its prolific copper mines there would not have been an industrial revolution and our world would be a very different place. Not to mention the fact that Butte was ethnically a microcosm of Europe because of all the immigrants that came over to work in the mines so it was socially a fascinating place to live in during World War I and II.

Tyler and I had planned on stopping in Butte and staying at an RV park but we opted to stop just outside in Fairmont for the night. We found a sweet little RV park with really nice owners originally from Minnesota. It’s nice to every once in a while stay at a place that gives you internet and cell reception and (gasp!) a warm shower! Allelujah! So right now I am sitting at our little dining room table typing away while the winds outside are insanely blowing. Even with the windows closed it is loud and every once in a while the travel trailer gives a nice little shudder reminding me or how exposed we are. Of course this is the one night we choose to stay in a campground that isn’t surrounded by mountains and trees. It’s not raining yet but starting at 5am it’s supposed to be thunder storms all day and into tomorrow evening. Makes for interesting traveling! 

By now the Giants game is over, and not just the over that it has been since the Colts initially asserted themselves in the first quarter. It's so frustrating when they get dominated like this!! I want the 2007 team back! And Amani Toomer! And Tiki Barber!!!! Is that so much to ask for?!

Day 4- Mountain Pass Insanity & A Sweet Little Camp Spot

9/18/2010 8:47pm Day 4

Tyler and Hanz panting on a boulder
Yesterday when we got back to the Como campground Tyler and I biked over to the lake while Hanz ran alongside us. It is a gorgeous area but it’s funny because there is a lot of contrast in the scenery. On one side, the direction from which we came, there’s a huge concrete dam and then another huge concrete put-in area. If you look across the lake, however, you see incredible mountains rising up into the sky. The actual color of the water is beautiful as well. I think that is just something about Montana lakes in general, because so many of them are so high up and pristine, they are absolutely beautiful. We went back to the travel trailer for some dinner after a little hike and then ended the night by watching the second half of North by Northest, further proving you can almost never go wrong with Cary Grant.

This morning I woke up and took Hanz for a long walk down an old road off to the side of the campground. It leads to a narrow trail in a beautiful coniferous forest and ends up at a creek. It was such a wonderful way to start the day. The air is already delicious in a quiet forest but in the morning it seems to be even more so. Hanz chased the ball, which I threw from a Chuck-It (he’s obsessed!), a good hundred times. When I got back we packed up our stuff and got on the road at around 10:30am. We were going to work at Homestead Organics in Hamilton, but giving that it was a Saturday and they did not do much work on the weekends we decided to just stop by the farmers market and then head on our way towards Butte. We ran into an old friend of ours, Paul Madeen and his girlfriend Terri at the market, which is always nice. Terri said she has a farm in Stevensville that she is working on and that she has goats and chickens and grows produce. Since Tyler and I are trying to find a place to stay where we can work in exchange for rent we are possibly going to help her out starting this spring with the produce and since the goats will be having kids there will be more to manage. We’ll see how it works out!

The Creek near Lake Como where Hanz and I took our morning walk
I had taken the Skalkaho Pass only once in my life and that was two years ago with 4 girlfriends in a small car heading to Butte for the National Folk Festival. I remembered the road as being beautiful and having gorgeous falls, maybe it is a bit windy as well. Well, obviously I was not the one driving and it is funny how your experience can change the way you remember something but as soon as Tyler and I started the ascent we started to get nervous. The road immediately narrowed and a sign warned of imminent “narrow mountainous winding gravel roadway.All those descriptors on one sign… wow! Tyler glanced over at me with his brow furrowed and asked, “Are you sure this is going to be alright for my truck with this trailer?”

What followed was a who-knows-how-long period of extremely tense driving and the occasional wince as the trailer’s shocks worked overtime. We did momentarily stop at the Skalkaho Falls so catch our breath and take in some of the scenery. While we were stopped Tyler talked to another young couple who assured us that the road widened as you started to descend and that people took rigs this big up here all the time. Yeah, well it turns out the road widens alright but it also becomes a series of unending potholes that forced us to literally travel about 5 miles an hour. On the bright side we were surrounded by beautiful conifers the whole time so if you had the window down it smelled like Christmas!

At the base of the descent we turned our heads to look at a sign meant for those just beginning to take the pass from the east. It read something to the extent of: trailer attachments of no more than 20 feet advisable. Ours was 22 feet. Thanks for the warning.

We drove on a little while longer and eventually turned onto the Pintler Scenic Loop towards Anaconda. At this point we just wanted to find a place large enough to park the travel trailer for the night that would also afford us some nice scenery. We soon happened upon the entrance to the Flint Creek Campground also home to the Flint Creek Hydroelectric Project. Let me preface my initial hesitation towards stopping here by saying that I had only heard one thing about Flint Creek and it was not very great. A couple months ago I went to the Montana Audubon Society’s Annual Bird Festival where we went on birdwatching field trips and listened to all different kinds of people talk about birds and conservation and current research. One of the presenters was from the University of Montana and he had been studying mercury levels in osprey chicks. He found that Flint Creek, which passes by a gold mine, picks up mercury (a by-product of the mining process?) and is the largest contributor of mercury into the Clark Fork River when it flows into it. Since osprey eat lots of fish mercury, a heavy metal, can bio-accumulate in their blood, causing them to get sick. This is exactly what happened with DDT. So, knowing this I was not too thrilled about the prospect of camping right next to the water but I realized that it’s not the whole creek that has mercury, it’s really only after it meets up with the source, the gold mine, that it possibly gets hairy. Plus, once we drove down to the camp I saw a site that was located right on the creek with the water rushing by in the most beautiful way. So we set up camp. The water is so loud but relaxing, the perfect thing to lull you to sleep. Needless to say we did not go fishing.

Our Campsite on Flint Creek

The Traveling Trio
The hydroelectric project we read, was initiated in 1891 and generated about 1,100 kw of energy. The old carved wooden sign also informed us that it was “open to the public without discrimination.” Man, do I love some of the signs you can find out here!

Tyler grilled some delicious Italian sausages that we got from Jen at Lifeline in exchange for our work (a very tasty gift!) and put a can of beans on the embers of our campfire to cook. Baked beans have to be one of my favorite all time camp foods. That and s’mores, which we also had! We actually got the stuff in Philipsburg where we stopped to find a bar in which to watch the University of Montana Grizzlies dominate Eastern Washington University. We found a really nice bar, called the Club Bar, “the friendliest corner bar in town.” We did not actually see any other corner bars in town but they did seem to be a friendly crowd that was luckily Griz fan dominated. We weren’t sure if they would be Griz or Cat fans out here but we lucked out. We also found a sweet thrift store where I found a gorgeous leather Coach purse for a total bargain. Yes, Please!

Hanz being a Waffle

Friday, September 17, 2010

Day 3- Lake Como & Sheep on the Open Range

9/17/2010 9:28am Day 3
Today I woke up at the RV park at Lake Como. Unfortunately when we left Lifeline Dairy yesterday afternoon, about 200 flies came with us. The truck and RV were both full of them, buzzing around and making Hanz snarl at the air and then snap his jaw, trying to catch them. As we headed deeper into the Bitterroot we stopped in Hamilton to get ice cream. Our favorite ice cream place is a small local joint called Out West. Well, it was called Out West a couple years ago when Tyler and I worked at Homestead Organics, a family-run produce farm also in Hamilton, MT, now it’s called something less endearing and is attached to a greasy food joint. It was formerly attached to a really cute shop that sold home goods and western wear, including cute cowgirl aprons. Luckily, the ice cream is the same so they still had my favorite flavor, Montana Moose Moss; it’s mint ice cream with fudge swirls and mini peppermint patties. Yummmm.

We took our ice cream to go and then headed towards Lake Como to set up camp in the RV section. Tyler spent the rest of the evening fixing the various things that did not work in our Springdale 179 travel trailer. He had called someone at Bretz, where we had bought it to ask about using the hot water heater and they gave him wrong instructions. It is seriously absurd how much they charge for these things, when they are made with such cheap parts. But that’s another issue. So anyways, Tyler finally figured out the hot water heater so omg we had hot water! I could take a shower! That was the worst thing about working at Lifeline, the inability to really clean up at the end of the day, so now I was super excited to be able to take a shower. Oh the wonders of modern living!

I’m at River Rising, a cafĂ© in Hamilton, sipping on a mocha and waiting for my sandwich to arrive. We came into town to do our laundry. Evidently when you use the shower water leaks onto the floor in the travel trailer so we used all our towels to mop it up. Lake Como is a really beautiful place to camp. When I woke up this morning, around 8:30am, I took Hanz for a little hike and he loved it. He loves hikes and areas where he can run around and act like a wild dog. He especially loves new places where there are foreign smells for him to investigate vigorously with his nose. After our walk I went back to the trailer, fed Hanz and put some water on for oatmeal, the breakfast of champions!

We took a small road from Lake Como to Hamilton, bypassing Hwy 93 and opting for the beauty of the back roads. What a gorgeous road! There were signs warning that this is “Open Range” so be careful of the roaming animals, they may very well be in the road! We passed by a farm with a couple sheep just walking around, right next to the road. Instead of having fences to keep animals in the people in this area had fences around their gardens to keep animals out of them.

We passed over the Bitterroot River on a little one lane bridge and saw a fly fisherman casting in the waters below. We passed over the bridge and continued along the dirt road, rising above the valley with incredible views both of the land below as well as the mixed jagged and rounded peaks above. I learned from my visit to Wilson, WY this summer, which is just outside of Jackson Hole and almost at the very base of the Tetons, that jagged peaks are present on younger mountain ranges that haven’t been around for long enough to be very weathered. So geologically speaking, the Tetons are one of the youngest ranges in this country. There are sections of the Bitterroot Mountains that are jagged like that but not nearly to the extent of the Tetons, which are famous for it.

Passing over the Bitterroot River 

We soon realized that the canoe, which was strapped to the top of Tyler’s Tundra, was not attached tightly enough to the roof so we pulled over. It is things like that, little seemingly random events, that can lead you to see or experience little pleasures that you would have otherwise missed. When I stepped out of the truck I heard Tyler remark, “Oh wow, look at the sheep!” I hurriedly scrambled around the back of the truck and looked down into the valley: hundreds of sheep were grazing not too far below. I could hear them going “bahh” back and forth and couldn’t help but smile.

Sheep Grazing Below

Tyler and I have decided to stay another night at Lake Como. We bought the “America the Beautiful” pass that allows you free access to all national parks and monuments and federal lands in general. We have yet to actually go down to the lake but I think when we are done with laundry we will explore that area with Hanz. We left him in the travel trailer to guard everything. It’s been beautiful fall weather this past week, cool and a bit damp but really nice for being outside. 

The First and Second Day- Lifeline Dairy

9/16/10 8:34pm Day 2
Yesterday and today have been kind of rough. Unfortunately I have a cold so when I woke up my throat really hurt. It's very difficult to get into the habit of living in a travel trailer. You would not believe the amount of stuff we are carrying with us. It's just all very compact and efficiently packed. The only problem is that I HAVE NO IDEA WHERE ANYTHING IS!!!!!!! So ideally we would have spent our first night at a campground so we could have gone through things a bit to organize them better and not be working but it is alright. We are going to go to a campground after our stay at Lifeline so we'll do it then.

I was going to meet Jen to start work at Lifeline Dairy at 8am today but we didn’t really get started until around 9am. Tyler took the travel trailer to a Les Schwab to get our flat fixed and to buy a new tire for the other flat. Oh my goodness, 2 flat tires in one day?! Seriously, what are the chances?? The first one happened when we were literally about a mile from our house. We turned a corner on a really narrow road and the tire hit the curb and popped!! So then we had to pull over and luckily we had the equipment to change the tire. We then drove to Victor but when we got to Lifeline we realized we had run over a screw, which was still stuck in the tire, and we were losing air. It was at this time 6:01pm. Literally. On the dot. Every auto store in the area was closed for the day. %#@! We went to a gas station down the road and I ran inside to get something. It just so happened that at that very same time an automotive mechanic from the shop across the street was also in the gas station and saw Tyler outside checking out our rig. He was incredibly nice and ended up helping us out. We determined the air wasn’t leaking fast enough to require immediate action so we were able to go back to Lifeline for the night as long as we fixed it the next morning. So that’s where we were before, with Tyler leaving that next morning to fix the tire and I working at the dairy.

Our first night on the farm we were able to help Jen out with some work on the dairy but spent most of our time just chatting with her in the milking parlor as she milked the cows with an automated milking machine. I have such respect for her and her family’s hard work. She was out there until 11pm milking the cows and makes just enough to get by with her family. Thankfully she was going on her annual vacation with her family on Friday so she had that to look forward to. I can imagine that it couldn’t come soon enough!
Today working at the dairy I definitely learned a lot. It was also nice to do some physical work and to feel like I was really able to help out with things. The family who runs Lifeline: Ernie, Jen and their children Liam and Belle, are incredibly sweet people. They are very willing to explain how everything in their operation works. I worked with Jen for the most part and it was really nice to learn from someone who loved their work so much. Passion is really contagious and in any learning situation I feel a passionate teacher has a much greater probability of being effective in their teaching.

Jen in the Milking Parlor

Today, Tyler and I got to help hold down calves as Jen tagged their ears with a fairly unpleasant looking device, and “castrated” the male calves, using a device that stretched a rubber band around their testicles so that in time, since the rubber band cuts off circulation to the testes, they would just eventually fall off. They also got 3 vaccines, one to protect against scour diseases, another that was Vitamin A and D, and I believe the third was a B vitamin. It was really interesting and great to witness this process, not because I feel that the cows really enjoyed it but because this was the reality of the everyday process that eventually brings milk and steak to your table. It is these little chores that just have to be done consistently to ensure a steady milk flow for customers and to keep the operation up and running.

One of the many interesting things that I learned was that calves are actually born without any immune system. They are supplied with something special in their mother’s milk that develops their immunity and ability to cope with germs and disease. It is critical that a calf get a good amount of it within the first 2 hours of being born. That’s why it’s a big problem if a calf doesn’t nurse or is rejected by its mother because if it doesn’t get those vital nutrients it will have immune system problems for the rest of its, probably not very long, life.

A cow who does not get pregnant (and therefore does not produce milk) is called an “open” cow. You “dry off” a cow who is pregnant (as in you do not milk them) starting around 7 months into the pregnancy. 5 months after a pregnancy is when the heifer’s milk production reaches its peak.

I think one of the not so great things about the whole process is when the mother has its calf taken away for the first time. The calf refuses to eat at first, choosing to wait for its mother to return, but eventually it gives in to being hungry. The mother will carry on for a couple days, mooing up a storm and searching all over the place for their baby. There was one mother in particular, a small black and white heifer, which seemed especially ornery. She kept looking like she was going to go after Liam, Jen’s young son, and Jen said it was because she thought he was a dog or some kind of predator and she wanted to keep him away. She even threatened me by lowering her head with its horns and kind of stomping towards me. I got out of there FAST.

One of the exciting things Tyler and I got to do was to bottle feed the baby calves. They were SO cute. I like them a lot because their noses are dry and they don’t slobber as much as adult cows!

A calf being bottle-fed warm milk... So cute!

Cow tongues are so strangely fascinating. I put my hand up to one of their noses so it could see I wasn’t a threat and it thought my finger was a nipple so it started trying to suck on it. Its tongue was super coarse and had a strangely powerful tip that probed around trying to figure out if it could get any milk from my hand. It quickly realized it couldn’t a looked at me like I was a very mean person, but then I made it all better by producing a bottle with a rubber nipple for it to suck from. It’s funny because some of the calves get it immediately and latch on, sucking for dear life to get some of that warm milk (it’s bad for them to get cold milk) but some of them just don’t get that this is what they are supposed to drink from… obviously this bottle is not their mother. Maybe cows are not as dumb as we think they are! It’s like they are saying, okay I’ll take the milk from this weird device because I’m really hungry but I don’t get how I’m going to get the milk because this is not my mother!

We helped to clean up one of the stockyards that had tons of equipment and metal slabs in it. Tyler put lug bolts in all the posts but unfortunately there was an electric wire running right over his head so every once in a while, while he was putting the bolt in place he would shock himself. This is not an electric fence meant to keep chickens in place, this is electric fence meant to keep thousand pound animals in check, so you can imagine what it felt like to a person. Around the fourth time that he got shocked, he happened to be holding onto something metal and he actually blacked out! He said he felt like he was having a dream that lasted for a split second and then when he came back he was disoriented and had no idea where he was. I felt so terrible! I hate it when he gets hurt. I guess that is something that you learn to be super aware of when it’s your fulltime job raising livestock. Jen said her young son had even gotten shocked when he was less than a year old!

Working on a dairy and raising cattle is definitely not a job for the squeamish. There is cow poop and urine everywhere, including all over you, which I quickly realized was just the nature of the business as I began my days work.  I did not have too much of a problem with it but when I had to coil up a long extension cord that was on the ground and had to be squeezing the poop-covered cord between my hands, I grimaced a little, but carried on. Onward Ho!

Oink Oink

The morning light on fields near Lifeline

Lifeline Dairy