Winter isn’t coming, it’s finally here…
The snow has finally come, and the icy temperatures. With those temperatures comes “winter mode” for Yellowstone. I don’t mean winter mode for the Park Service and the visitors, I mean winter mode for everything.
If you weren’t around for my winter posts last year, I would encourage you to go back and read a few of those. I’m not going to repeat those posts, other than to point to a few of the differences wrought by the change of season for those folks who are new to this stuff:
- Winter is the time for wolves. Contrary to what most folks believe, summer up here is a terrible time for wolves and other predators. In summer, the prey animals — elk primarily — have all the food and energy they could ever want. In winter, however, food is scarce, and so is the energy to fight or flee. Food is scarce, I should expand, for those who live on grass and leaves. For those who live on meat…well…there’s always something on the menu.
- Yep, the bison are still effectively armored tanks in winter, just as much as they are in summer. Everyone still leaves them hell alone if they have any choice in the matter (except, of course, the idiot tourists who deserve their post-bison trips to Urgent Care). Oh, every meat-eater within ten or twelve miles of a carcass will try to come to the feast if a bison dies naturally, but actual predatory kills are pretty damned rare. It’s pretty much just “my” pack that does it here in Yellowstone, mainly because that pack’s range has some of the harshest winter conditions in the continental US (the Hayden Valley area, if you’re wondering). Hooray for Mollie’s Pack, lupine overachievers!
- Snowshoes ain’t fashion accessories. I lost a snowshoe, once, on a solo backcountry hike. Ever tried to walk ten miles through thigh-deep snow on only one snowshoe? I had to spend two hours hunting around in sub-zero temps to find my lost ‘shoe. Trying to get out without that missing ‘shoe, however, would very likely have had a best case result of frostbite and hypothermia. Ahem.
- Cougars are still a thing in winter, by the way. People ask me if I’m afraid, doing the stupid shit I do in the backcountry. No, I’m not. The only wildlife that scares me, honestly, are cougars. I can read the signs to know what’s going on in an area, predator-wise, and have a pretty good idea how close I am to danger. But a cougar… If they’re doing it right, the only time I’m gonna know a cougar is stalking me is when I feel the teeth and claws.
- No more tourists! I have a good month to month-and-a-half before the snowmobilers start coming through, and the number of non-local folks willing to brave the cold and snow to go wildlife viewing is pretty damned small. That means things are blessedly, happily quiet. Of course, it also means that there is jack shit actually open in this tiny town, but with every silver lining comes a black cloud…
Random writing thought…or, more accurately, a random language and word-use thought. Now, I’ve mentioned before that I write naval history, alongside (distantly) my fiction stories. Well, as part of that, I read and watch a ton of stuff — both fiction and nonfiction — about ships and navies, both in war and in peace. I watched, the other day, a French movie about subs.* Now, this movie had some “accuracy issues,” but so does pretty much every US submarine movie (the German flick Das Boot was one of the very, very few to get it right). The word-use thing, however…that’s what set my writer-nerd nerves to tingling, not so much the movie itself.
The movie (and a plot point of which they didn’t make enough) was called Le Chant de Loup. Netflix translates that as The Wolf’s Call, but I prefer my own translation of The Wolf’s Song. That phrase is referring to the eerie, screeching “cry” of active sonar when it is hunting you. I’ve heard (in recordings…not actively) that sound, both the lupine and sonar versions. It is not a perfect metaphor by any means, but the emotion and imagery behind it…I hadn’t heard that phrase used in that way, and I absolutely loved it. Writers for the win!
Yep, I’m still a nerd.
*You can stop snorting about “cheese eating surrender monkeys” right now. The French have a navy that is larger and more effective than the British, as a matter of fact, and behind only the three major powers (US, China and Russia). They are actually one of the very few (beside the US, British and Russian navies) to extensively use nuclear subs.
COVID update — erm…if you thought the virus was magically going away, that bubble of yours needs some freaking bursting. My tiny little town is in the middle of its third outbreak. Including, I will add, me. What do you call a bitter, cynical writer in quarantine? Bored.