Friday, July 19, 2013

Living Here

Mammoth vs. Tower
Some people have been asking me, "What is it like to live in Yellowstone?"  I'm going to try to give you guys an idea.  First of all, I have found out it is very different from place to place in the park.  Let's start with a comparison between Mammoth, where I am living now, and Tower, where I have lived for the past four summers.
Modern Technology:
In Tower, the most technological advanced piece of equipment in my house was my iPhone.  There was no TV and no internet AND no cell service.  Some of the permanent employees there at the ranger station had satellite at their residences, but everyone else has to deal without it.  The closest internet was the office, but that's a government computer, so some of the sites were blocked on it.  The next closest internet was Gardiner, MT, and that was 45 min away.  The closest AT&T cell coverage for my phone was two miles up the road.
In Mammoth I am living in the lap of luxury.  I have internet!  Dial up, but I am still finding it quite speedy.  I still don't have AT&T cell service where I am, so I broke down and bought a cheap Verizon pay as you go phone, because there is Verizon cell service.  No TV, but that is okay.  I am completely fine without it.

Food and Dining:
While we had a small general store up the road at Tower, the prices there were and still are absolutely ridiculous, so everyone avoided shopping there if possible.  There's a grocery store in Gardiner, (a 45 minute drive,) but the variety is somewhat limited and some of the packaged foods are still a bit on the expensive side.  They do sell some really good local bread that I like to get from there though.  The best place to get groceries is Livingston, which was 1.5 hours away from the ranger station.  I'm pretty happy with the prices and variety there.
Living in Mammoth, I'm pretty much still shopping at the Livingston grocery store.  Upside is it is only one hour away now.  There still is a general store nearby, (with atrocious prices and everything!), but this time it is only a short walk away from my house.  I have a great kitchen that I get to cook my own food in.

General Living Stuff:
At Tower, in the morning, sulfur was sometimes smelled throughout my house.  We had a somewhat major thermal feature, Calcite Springs, about 2 mi south of Tower, and the smell came all the way from there in the morning.  Over the past couple years I've been noticing it less and less, so I must have been getting used to it.  I used to step out the door of my house in the morning and there was a creek about 20 feet from it running parallel to my house.

This was the view from my front door.  It was a pretty awesome view.  I did have to look around the corners of my house when I left it to make sure there wasn't any bison or bears hanging out around the sides of it.  
The commute to work was about a 50 yard walk up to the office.  When I first got there, the uphill walk to the office made me out of breath because of the fact that the ranger station is 6272 ft above sea level.  That's over a mile high and also a higher elevation than Denver.  But once I got acclimated, the walk was no problem.  
Here in Mammoth we have the Mammoth Hot springs just a few hundred yards from my house.  They are nowhere near as stinky as the Calcite springs near Tower and I have only smelled them a couple of times on hot days with no wind. Instead of waking up to the soft sounds of a bubbling brook, I wake up to RVs and other loud vehicles passing by my house on the road near it.  Thank goodness I'm a sound sleeper, I still wake up when I want to, and not when the first motorcycle or diesel engine goes by. My view is a hill....behind that road.  It's a pretty hill, but I miss the mountain view and the bubbling brook.....
Walk to work is only a couple hundred yards.  Although when I got switched to night shift, I drove my car at first because I was nervous about meeting elk, bison, and bears on the walk home at night.  I have gotten braver and stronger in my resolve to walk home at 3am (the end of my shift), and have started walking home over the past couple of weeks.  I was so scared my first time.  I had my bear spray in my hand, ready to spray anything that came at me; be it a bison or a squirrel.  Now it has gotten to be a normal activity and I am no longer nervous, (although the bear spray is still always within reach....)

So, which one do I like better?  Despite all the perks of living in Mammoth, closer to grocery, more going on, more people around, bars and restaurants only a 10 min drive down the road, I desperately miss living at Tower.  I miss the wilderness and the quiet.  I miss being disconnected with no internet and no phone (no, I really do.)  Honestly I think I miss the small tight-knit community the most.  The way someone would offer a potato to someone else if they needed it for a recipe because the closest store was 45 min away.  Or the way we would amuse ourselves in ways I had never done before such as playing and learning cribbage and other card games, or just even sitting around and talking.  Movie night was always a time of excitement.  Someone would get a cool movie in from Netflix, and we would all plan what time we would watch it around schedules so as many people could join in.
But one must not dwell in the past.  What am I doing about it now?
...actually [confession] I'm driving out to Tower a lot to hang out with people there.  It's hard to make friends when you work night shift.  I've done some stuff here, I swear!  I'll talk about them in other posts.


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Myself in my uniform from a couple of years ago. I wear normal clothes to the office now.