How you doin Bob?

After an intense storm, the clouds parted just before dusk to warm the land.

After an intense storm, the clouds parted just before dusk to warm the land.

Was in Jackson for the night. I guess the billionaires pushed out the millionaires, but there are still good people who enjoy the life near Grand Teton National Park just south of Yellowstone. John Kerr offered a place to spend the night after I picked up Patrick from the airport. There were a few close calls with the elk along the dark highway with only the Tetons silhouetted in the horizon. After locating the essentials from the per capita leading town and leaving the airport we made our way through a maze of dirt roads, down the foggy abstract street names, the Garmin confused and not a streetlight in sight. A note was left on the door with instructions along with some snacks. Through conversation we dwelled upon the possibilities of the upcoming final week in Yellowstone. There was a four hour drive ahead of us in the morning, supposing to arrive by noon for a shift. There was much stirring in the darkness as we trekked from the carriage house to the main where the bathroom was located. Soon enough the night had to be called so an early morning would be possible. After the struggle to rise and depart, we enjoyed a breakfast at some local joint with John Kerr. “Time to go.” Hitting the road a little before nine added a little edge to the deal but with little music on the radio couldn’t be sustained. Perhaps a thousand bison delayed our arrival and busy was Tower Ranger Station with medical after medical. Once unloaded and dressed I shuttled some law enforcement vehicles to their particular locations while everyone else struggled to let the day mellow out. The grizzly sow with two cubs crossing the road close by as I directed traffic made the shift end happily although I felt sorrow that it might be the last time I ever see her. Trying to take as many pictures and video these final days only serves to exacerbate the pain of departure. So Patrick and I sit tonight with drink and work on the lyrics and melody to the “untitled tower ranger goodbye.” The video will eventually posted of the Tower Ranger Station singing at the 2nd annual hobo party this Wednesday evening.

I believe it was hail, but we did not stop to ask.

I believe it was hail, but we did not stop to ask.

Cousin Patrick Coyne in the truck perplexed by the massive herd of bison.

Cousin Patrick Coyne in the truck perplexed by the massive herd of bison.

The end peaks

Wildland firefighters prepare for a jaunt back to the scene of the fire to put it out.

Wildland firefighters prepare for a jaunt back to the scene of the fire to put it out.

The night was late but the morning started early. At 8am I walked to the gas station for coffee and talked with a few people along the way who were going fishing. I eventually made it back to my place and watched, “I hope they serve beer in hell.” My review: it is pretty good. Although part demeaning to our women, it is funny and a satire too. Just as I was taking a look at the outtakes I heard a knock on the door and saw a woman in the window. “There’s a bear just outside here.” I immediately grabbed the radio to tell someone on duty that we needed to move this bear away from the residential areas. Nobody responded so I threw on some boots, without socks which was foolish. With bear spray in hand and radio in the other I spotted the bear about 10 meters away so I started to clap and yell, “Get away from my house bear. Go now!” The bear started to move up the hill and I pursued behind making noise along the way. John Kerr, the ranger who I work with on bears, radioed in and provided support from the station. The bear did not care about me being close and I felt like using my spray because I did not want this bear hanging out any longer in the area because eventually it would find human food and will face the barrel end of several shotgun bursts. After chasing the bear into the thick woods up a hill, John Kerr met me over by the Roosevelt employee cabins of Zanterra Hotels. He gave me a ride back to my place and I reshowered for the day. Work started normal chasing bears away from the road and hiking for lost hikers. When it calmed down a bit I began to shuttle Ranger Scott Sabo to Mammoth, the next area about 45 minutes away, to pick up oxygen tanks and his vehicle. Before we left the Tower area we heard over the radio that there was a motorcycle accident. So I 180ed the HHR and drove as fast as I could back to the Ranger Station to get the ambulance. Before we reached the Station I spotted smoke about a mile into the tree line. Sabo radioed the communication center and we decided to go to the scene and assess the fire or even put it out. We hiked as far as we could before reaching the Lamar River. Once there we saw the helicopter begin to drop many gallons of water upon the fire so we did not have to ford the river and instead went to find a place for the helicopter to land and refill gas. As we were meeting the wildland firefighters, the helicopter came in fast to a smooth landing. I talked for a while with the pilot and learned that the helicopter had been in service since 1982. We joked around while it was refueled and I advised some fisherman to stay in their vehicle with the windows closed so the dust from the propellers would not disturb them. Two of the fishermen were from Belfast, Northern Ireland. Once the helicopter cleared the scene and the fire out, I returned to the Station to plan out the next night when my cousin Patrick Coyne would be visiting. The plan is to spend the night in Jackson Hole and then haul back to the Station for a noon shift, at least I hope if Ranger Claire Stout switches shifts with me. The rest of the day was easy going. I picked up Ranger John Murray from the backcountry. They had to kill a black bear because it fed upon abandoned human food from a campsite with a bunch of idiots who did not use common sense. We drove around some buffalo on the way back and I decided to call it a day and pour a drink and hopefully find some dinner.

It is up for debate whether or not the fire should have been put out. The lodgepole pine needs heat.

It is up for debate whether or not the fire should have been put out. The lodgepole pine needs heat.

Instead they brought in the big guys and they took care of it. Cool dudes

Instead they brought in the big guys and they took care of it. Cool dudes

The Blacktail Drive

The Blacktail Plateau drive is a road that goes 6 miles off the main highway and is filled with sights of the grizzly along with the wildflowers of August and other things. The rest of the experience can only be understood by driving through it at night. Susan and I did so and came across very little but the twists and turns were enough to make the day view so far beyond explanation.

Happy Birthday Brian Wick

Jim Coyne, Colby Anton, Brian Wick, Brady Kirwan, Amanda Wilson

Jim Coyne, Colby Anton, Brian Wick, Brady Kirwan, Amanda Wilson

23. Of course when another year goes by it feels like time is fleeting and age is gaining a tragic obesity. Life is long if you know how to use it according to Seneca. Please remind that whole discomfort of growing older that experience and memories gained are the point of living. Keep on keeping on and believe that each new day is a gift worth enjoying. Take the time to remember all that. Happiness is deserved only if you seek it out and continuously prioritize the fact that you must earn what you want. Keep the golden rule and all that selflessness in your mind and nothing but good things will happen. The big point that I hope I can make is that I am in the debt of the birthdayee. I really want him to understand that I am grateful. But in the end Brian Wick made the past 80 or so posts possible and so much more that the experience was and still is for the next few days. So with the oddness of saying things like that aside, let’s hope that the night is full of good times and perhaps some singing if the confidence comes around.

Again with the photographer who couldn't figure out how to press the shoot button.

Again with the photographer who couldn’t figure out how to press the shoot button.

My day off

I am near the end of this particular adventure and even though it was my day off was filled with action. I woke late around 10am and wondered what to do with the day. I have no car but still can enjoy the surrounding lands on foot just fine so decided to reorganize the fire cache which has a bench, free weights, and a punching bag. We received a rubber mat along with some other things so I hung up some lifting posters and tried to make the place more like the All Pro that I know, inspired by Tom Carder. I had my phone on the Like a Rolling Stone station while trying to do what I could and made it a little nicer. Teddy, the horse, was bothered a bit by some Neil Young lyrics but I did not care. Once I finished and had some bench presses in, I walked to the gas station in search of an energy drink to propel me to some hike that I so wanted to accomplish before I leave on the 14th. As I was making my way there I noticed some commotion on the horse trail that visitors pay to ride a short roundabout. I didn’t have a radio so continued on to find my drink, talk to the attendant and head back to the Tower Ranger Station. Once I came to the back country office I knew the commotion was someone falling off a horse. So I stood there near the road and as the ambulance was making its way to it was thrown a radio and told to run to the scene to assess the situation. I had my ipod playing The Wall by Pink Floyd and a tasty energy drink in my hand but went with it anyway. I was not sure whether to drop the music and drink so just started running through the sage brush with Comfortably Numb playing through the headphones and my drink spilling everywhere. When I reached the scene I saw a 7 year-old with what looked like a bruised shoulder although with the wails he was making seemed like his arm fell off. I called in but was ignored. I called again and recommended the ambulance to stay where it was and send the runners with the back board to the scene but was also ignored. So the ambulance went on the stage coach road and Rangers piled out frenzied to reach the scene in time for what they thought was a far worse scenario. I assured them it was nothing too serious but was ignored, possibly because I was not in uniform. I mean it was my day off so whatever. I had on a bathing suit and t-shirt, but I was wearing my FBI cap so there must have been enough authority there for Ron Sprinkle, the retired Secret Service Agent, to give me command of the ambulance. I could not see what they were doing up the hill with the patient so just sat upon the back of the ambulance enjoying my energy drink and wishing I could finish The Wall. Two stage coaches where heading in my direction so I moved the ambulance into the grass and let them pass. The first stage coach had some goofy horses and I was worried they would panic, but luckily the didn’t. After they went by I brought the ambulance back into the trail and waited for what was to come. I again attempted to radio in that the road would be a better place for the ambulance so that we wouldn’t have such a rough drive once the patient was loaded, but again was ignored since the Rangers thought it best not to disturb traffic. So I waited and my energy drink was consumed and that is when I realized that it was my day off. It was not upsetting, but I had some angst about missing my hike. That did not last long when I saw the litter with the child being brought down the hill. I hastily sought out a camera and took as many shots as I could for the record. I had a stuffed animal in my hand for the child and planned to give it to the mother so she could distract him from his pain. She adamantly refused and was quite mean to me, so I just said “screw it” and continued taking photos. Once the patient was loaded into the ambulance I thought I could go back to my place and have some lunch. But since Ron gave me command of the ambulance I was detailed to drive the patient, the mother, and two EMTs to Mammoth clinic, which was about 30 minutes away. I agreed and got into the drivers seat and radioed in to Yellowstone Communication Center that we were on our way. I did my best to avoid bumps in the road but apparently my best was not good enough for the mother who claimed as a lawyer could sue me for negligence or some other tort term she was ranting about. In my opinion she should have been tazed but that is a different matter. We try not to use the sirens so the wildlife is not disturbed and panicked people do not drive off the road, but three times I was forced to because of traffic, bear jams, along the way. The mother refused to wear a seat belt and constantly interfered with the EMTs. The only thing I could hear was the patient screaming so I was self-pressured to drive as fast as I could through the curvy roads even though the situation way not dire. Once we got to the clinic the EMTs, John Kerr and Claire Stout, and I unloaded the patient brought him into the ER, then carried him off the stretcher to the bed and took a minute to breathe. I wandered around the clinic admiring all the stuff, then grabbed the back board and other amenities we provided and prepped the ambulance for service. Once all the paper work was done we headed out. And for the record, the patient was totally fine, perhaps a strained muscle in the shoulder. Good thing for billing, although I knew I wouldn’t see a dime out of the whole operation. I wanted to take a nap on the way back and finish listening to The Wall, but John Kerr made me drive to Claire’s dismay for more experience. We talked about what happened on the way back and when we returned I topped off the tank, parked the ambulance in the bay, and immediately returned to my place for a beer. The night continues now and I hope for some peace and quiet unless the noise is laughter and drunken conversations. Tomorrow is a brand new day.

What now?, what’s left?

Bethany Gassman and her husband Gabe organized a birthday party along with good-bye and long living.

Bethany Gassman and her husband Gabe organized a birthday party along with good-bye and long living.

The final work schedule has just been printed out, at least for me and a few others. 8 work days left with 5 to spare and enjoy what I can is what the deal is. There is no regret and I am ready to return home and see the good people that I know well. Ranger Colette Daigle-Berg will be forever in my debt as well as Brian Wick for making this summer possible. You meet so many people that really love their job and each and every day they get to live here. There is no reason why people everywhere could not wake each morning and feel the same way. Life should be good no matter the situation. Whenever I hear the saying, “life sucks and then you die,” I want to punch the person in the face. And I’ve heard a lot of good people say that, so I hope they don’t say it again in front of me.

This party we had was for many reasons. Of course you need no reason to enjoy the company of friends. We had homemade pizza, we had several salads, we even had bear meat. The bear meat did not sit well the next day, but that may have been the beer. Stories were told but mostly conversation of three people talking of what is to come since most people who work in the Park are seasonal. I heard tales of the back country wilderness borderland. I heard mistakes of youth and how much has changed. It was a shame that night had to end but my ride was tired and I was in no reasonable shape to drive. So we said our final good-byes to those who would be leaving so soon and made our way through the darkness back to Tower Ranger Station avoiding any buffalo we could. I fell asleep before we arrived back and made it to bed and that is when the next day began.

It started off like any other. People asked me if I had a headache or nausea, but I never felt better is what I told them and it was true. The bear jams were not as frequent as usual but we still had a buffalo carcass that had four grizzlies and a pack of wolves hoping for it near the road. And then we had a sizable black bear, let’s call him Balu, attempt to stroll through the Roosevelt Lodge cabins. Rangers Amanda Wilson, Scott Sabo and myself sprinted after the bear in a thunder storm yelling to chase the bear away from the people. The biggest fear was lightening. Balu was almost toying with us as we stalked it uphill into the woods. Once he was far enough away we returned back to wherever we had our vehicles parked. Amanda had dropped her radio along the way so after we found it decided to take lunch. Back on the road again I drove up to Mt. Washburn in the hope I could have some peace and listen to music. Before I got there I came across a developing traffic jam. I knew why they were stopping and hoped that the grizzly sow with two cubs was far enough away to give me some time to disperse the people and give the bear mother enough room to cross the road as she does. After boiling some blood and telling people to not park in the highway, with as much charm as possible of course, I cleared an area of road where I predicted the bears would cross. The people, numbering in the hundreds were crowding behind me and I had to constantly yell across the clearing to ensure that nobody walked toward the bears as they readied to cross. Amanda showed up just before it crossed to provide me with some support, but before she got out of the car the bears were across the road and up a hill heading out of site. So with the show over we ushered the exuberant visitors back to their vehicles and sent them on their way to clear up traffic. They were all so happy to have seen the grizzly, but we were all far too close, probably 30-40 yards. I did my best to keep people back and thankfully the bear did not get mad, although I had my bear mace just in case.

So what comes next? And how will it come? Back home in Cleveland then off to school. Maybe enjoy the pool before hitting the books. All are invited.

Rangers Chris Scheid and John Murray debriefing after bear chase

Rangers Chris Scheid and John Murray debriefing after bear chase

Grizzly bear attack

The news is bent on sensationalism whenever something out of the ordinary occurs. A few nights ago, a man from Michigan was dragged from his tent and eaten. Two others were also bitten by a sow grizzly in a campsite just outside the Park. The sow has three cubs with her and since the incident was captured and her fate is to be determined by a DNA test. If positive she will be killed and her cubs too if there is a possibility they participated in the attack. It is sad for all involved. The news makes it sound as if the grizzly are on a rampage through the Park in herds looking for the next human they find. First of all, the main food source for bears is not meat but a variety of plants and berries. Second of all, they put the number of grizzlies far higher than their actual numbers. The behavior of that sow that led to the killing is rare. We still do not know why it happened, but in a likelihood, she had found human food or was fed in the preceding days. Cooke City, the nearest town to the camp, is renowned for people feeding wildlife, and although blame cannot be put upon them or the Forest Service, they still have been breaking rules of common sense for years. The bears were here long before them. Nobody forced the man from Michigan to camp where he did. We need to develop greater respect for this part of the country when it comes to terrain and wildlife. Too many have died over the years by acts of ignorance and stupidity. Nothing has changed after this deadly bear attack. The rules are still the same and the treatment of the wildlife will remain at status quo. Let it be a wake up call for all the fools who think it is ok to approach the wildlife and feed them to get a good photo. Let it be a lesson and let us not forget the awesome power of the grizzly bear.

Rainy back country camp

with G. Wick, B. Wick.

with G. Wick, B. Wick.

The three of us journeyed from the Soda Butte Lamar confluence to enjoy a night of rain, cold, and fear of bear attack. It was fine, except for the forgotten sleeping bag that kept me on edge all night. In the morning a herd of bison stampeded across our site. We returned and all was well.

It rained, it got dark, cold, and the grizzly was near

It rained, it got dark, cold, and the grizzly was near