Sunday, September 16, 2012

Westward, Ho! Day 5

What an incredible day! We were up god-awful early. That would be around 6am in my vernacular. Grabbed some coffee and donuts and went to the lobby to await our tour.  After consultation (which means after Mom realized that we could pay someone to drive us all day instead of driving through the mountains ourselves) we decided to take the “Yellowstone-in-a-Day” tour offered by one of the many tourism companies.

We waited with four others for the bus. They were, um, interesting. We surmised that the three women were sisters. Two were very unhappy with the third who was, by their standards, unhealthily engaged with some event happening back home. The disengaged one seemed, well, disengaged throughout the trip, disinclined to emerge from the bus to see the wealth of Yellowstone.


The bus came. Our tour guide was Doug. Who was a Character. Really, would you expect anything else from someone who was a Yellowstone Tour Guide? Doug combined a voluminous knowledge of the history and geography of Yellowstone with the bullshit-stretching of a born storytelling teacher. He was great! 

I don’t even know what to say about Yellowstone itself. The many different climes and scenes and topography and breathtaking vistas don’t quite defy description, but completely exceed the limits of my writing skills. Read John Muir instead. 

And I'll quote Theodore Roosevelt, who saw with stunning clarity over one hundred years ago the need to preserve and conserve our national treasures: 
"Defenders of the short-sighted men who in their greed and selfishness will, if permitted, rob our country of half its charm by their reckless extermination of all useful and beautiful wild things sometimes seek to champion them by saying the 'the game belongs to the people.' So it does; and not merely to the people now alive, but to the unborn people. The 'greatest good for the greatest number' applies to the number within the womb of time, compared to which those now alive form but an insignificant fraction. Our duty to the whole, including the unborn generations, bids us restrain an unprincipled present-day minority from wasting the heritage of these unborn generations. The movement for the conservation of wild life and the larger movement for the conservation of all our natural resources are essentially democratic in spirit, purpose, and method."

The many waterfalls were amazing, with white roaring rapids and splendid thousands of feet of falls moving into to white-roaring rapids down sheer rock cliffs. 

The geysers and paint pots were incredible and weird, all bubbling and colorful or bleached white. 

Old Faithful was faithfully oo and ahh ish. The anticipation was so much part of the fun, sitting with others, chattering about “is this it?”  I was close enough to feel the spray.

I took a million photos, of course. But, while I see and appreciate good photography, I can't create it! All my photos can do is remind me of the brilliance of the day. Mostly, I tried to stay present every single second. To blink and then really see the myriad beauties. The mountains, the grasslands. The water. The never-ending sky. 

Oh, and the animals. Of course, I didn’t get to see a bear. I will never get to see a wild bear, of that I am convinced. There have been a number of incidents during which I thought I saw a bear. I particularly remember a trip to the U.P. during which I ordered someone to pull over late one night, as I was convinced I had seen a bear on the side of the road. 

And I had. A plywood cutout of a bear. Sheesh.

Other than bears, I am really good at spotting animals while driving between 70 and 80 mph. It's been my family job for many years to point out deer and various raptors along I-94 as we travel to Michigan and along I-90 to Minnesota. 

I'm even better at spotting animals when NOT driving. I was the only spotter of a porcupine up a tree on this trip! We also saw elk, prong horns, mule deer, pelicans--and lots of bison. We had several up close and person experiences with a male elk with a spectacular rack. I managed only to memorialize the moment with a lovely shot of the behind of said male.   

I tried to imagine GG Grandpa Alex leading Yellowstone tours here 120 years ago, couldn't transform him from a faded photo to a real being. He and his father-in-law, Nelson Richmond, also helped build some of the initial park buildings. But Nelson and Celia’s life took a turn when their daughter, Emma, died in birthing her and Alex’s only child, Emmet. 

While Nelson and Celia took their grandchild back to Michigan, to raise him on the family farm, Alex stayed on out west. As I've already noted, he was hardly a stellar human being. Yet he went on to marry two more times, have other children and live a fascinating life: gold mining in the Klondike, running a hotel in Montana, and homesteading in Oregon before settling in Livingstone and Grass Range. 

Ah, I digress into genealogy, the reason for the season. 

We came back from the 12 hour tour exhausted. Had a reasonably decent meal at The Antler (Angus burger for me, elk and bison burger for Mom), drank too much, caught up with the news from home, and slept like logs. 


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