When I passed Teresa cycling on the way up Lookout Mountain, she mentioned that this was her first ride up Lookout this year and she was not expecting to go any faster. When I saw her at the top, she said that she had stopped once on the ascent and wondered why I wanted to chat with someone who rides Lookout so infrequently and so slowly. I ended up having a longer conversation with her than any other interviewee since I started a year ago….because we had a lot in common. Until today I do not believe that I have ever started telling a story that a complete stranger has not only finished for me, but added a myriad of details that I could not have personally contributed.
As she mentioned that she had been in Yellowstone National Park recently, I wondered if she had experienced the flooding. She and her husband had missed it by two days.
I told her that a high school friend of mine had been a ranger there for thirty years. Paul Schullery had received the Will Stegner Award from the University of Colorado for Contributions to the American West some years ago for his writing. When he received the award at CU, my wife and I showed up for the presentation only because I had seen an article about it in the Rocky Mountain News while I was sitting under a tree in the mountains eating my lunch. At the end of the evening Paul entertained questions from the audience- who were mostly students interested in writing. When the moderator said ‘We will take one more question’, I raised my hand and asked ‘Have you had an experience in Yellowstone that none of us would probably ever have?’ Paul is such an excellent story teller that he had been interviewed by Ken Burns for Ken’s special on the national parks. Paul proceeded to tell a tale of the reintroduction of the wolves into Yellowstone.
Another ranger (‘-probably Doug Smith-‘ Teresa added a bit later) had invited him to provide roadkill for relocated wolves held in a large pen inside the park. Doug told Paul to take the meat inside the pen, put it down and take a couple steps back. When Paul entered, the wolves scattered to the perimeter of the pen. As Paul stood motionless, the alpha wolf started to run circles around him at the fence line. The more the wolf ran, the tighter the circles became and the faster he ran. Doug finally said ‘OK, come on out’ and Paul gladly left the enclosure.
At this point of the discussion, Teresa said ‘I know this story…’ and picked up where I left off. She told of letting the wolves loose and alpha male wolf ten mating with female wolf nine, then the male getting killed and the rangers tracking the female, who had had her pups, and bringing them back to the enclosure. She gave me many details about the pups and the female of which I was unaware. She knew much more than I had learned during the limited time listening Paul during the evening at CU. (And as I told her, every person in the audience was so quiet listening to him that you could have heard a pin drop.)
Paul eventually returned to the enclosure with Doug and had the same experience with the alpha pup of the litter as he had had with the father.
But more about Teresa- Originally from Southern California, she (who most recently worked for an environmental consulting firm) and her bicycle-riding geophysicist husband (both grads of UC Riverside) lived for a while on the slopes of Haleakala in Maui before moving to Colorado. (Very few bugs, she noted.) She remembers cycling with one of her daughters ensconced in a Burley bike trailer when the daughter was only months old. The family ended up in Colorado many years ago and the daughters were both members of the Golden High School Mountain Bike Team and had had classes with Jesse Swift (see previous interview from last week). The oldest daughter is now in Scotland where she is studying global warming, having majored in fluvial geomorphology at CSU, and the younger daughter, a biochemical engineer graduate from CSU, is local to Boulder.
And her advice to local cyclists is- “If you are riding up North Table Mountain- whichever route you take- do not stop until you get to the top, because it is difficult to restart”. And referring to an incident this week in Yellowstone- “Be careful of the buffalo because, while you are gazing into your scope at other wild animals, those buggers will come very close to you. They can be extremely quiet.”