It was hot when we arrived in Montana. Ninety degrees hot. In October. After sweltering for a couple of days, we drove toward Yellowstone over the Beartooth Highway, where the balmy morning temperatures plummeted into winter, one degree at a time. By the time we made it to Mammoth, the front had chased away the heat. Second-summer had been usurped by cold and a grey, sunless sky.
With our eyes fixed more on our plans than on the forecast, we began our journey to the summit of Mount Washburn. Questionable clouds morphed ominously and delivered a biting wind that blew our cloak of warmth away and reminded me–again–of how frail we are in the face of weather. Rain followed the wind and drove the girls and me down the mountain to the dry interior of our car. The guys made it but were denied the view by misty clouds over the mountain.
Rain kept us in, or at least near, the car for the next several days. Our subdued moods matched the sky. It wasn’t that we didn’t have any fun. We did. Our plan, though, had focused on miles on the trail, not hours in the car.
We drove south through the rain to stay at the Old Faithful Inn. The rain stopped and the sky cleared as we approached Artist Paint Pots, a thermal basin made up primarily of chalky, thick, bubbling thermal features. Set among the trees, it’s a favorite, especially of our youngest, and we were itching to get out and hike, so we risked a soaking and set off into the woods. The rain held off almost–but not quite–long enough.
As we dried ourselves, we noticed snow on a nearby vehicle. And when we pulled onto the road to resume our journey south, the cars that were driving toward us were covered with snow. Covered. As we made our way toward Old Faithful we accumulated snow of our own. Our moods were no longer influenced by the clouds, they were buoyed by the swirling snow. By nightfall of the next day all five roads in to and out of the park were closed. The Inn’s cellist added Winter Wonderland to her evening’s program. We relished not only the snow but the surreal fact that we were snowed in. In October.
The Inn is a place of early activity, of quiet door closings and muffled footsteps, of subdued voices and idling tour buses. The next morning, though, we were among the few who ventured out. The high mountain passes had not yet been cleared, so the people who would usually be scurrying to their car to get to their day’s destination were probably either still asleep or prowling the halls as they waited to hear they were free to go.
We weren’t interested in going anywhere by car. We left on foot to walk Geyser Hill in solitude, swathed in the hush of a fresh blanket of snow.
I could have lived without the intense heat that greeted us when we arrived in Montana. I had no interest in the rainy, sunless days which followed. But without the rain, we would never have gotten the snow. We would have missed the warm excitement of being snowbound, not only in our beloved Inn, but in the park. We would have missed the sound of silence broken occasionally by the squeak of shoes on snow or the splash of water from a geyser. We would have missed a wonderful morning and a favorite memory.
And you? Has anything wonderful followed the rain in your life?