Waiting For What We Can’t See

 Along the road between Mammoth Hot Springs and  Cooke City, the meadows are open and greening, quite in agreement with the calendar: spring has arrived. Leave the dry, temperate north end of Yellowstone and try to head into the interior, though,  and you’ll see a place still in waiting. The most obvious sign: You can’t actually get there. Many of the roads are covered in snow. And closed. It’s too bad, because there’s something there I want to see and never will. In winter, the Lower Falls on the Yellowstone River develops a cone of ice, constructed by cold air and the mist {Continue Reading}

Overwhelm: A Bridge Toward Saner Living

J and I took our first trip to Yellowstone together twenty-two springs ago. As we zipped down the interstate ahead of schedule in the middle of the afternoon, I realized we could make it to the park that night. We could cancel our along-the-way reservation, drive to the Old Faithful Inn, and wake up already there rather than still long hours away. I calculated the miles and the time. I figured we’d pull into the Inn’s parking lot by ten. What I didn’t do was reckon on a sleet-spitting storm and the sludge that passing semis threw over the windshield of our little red {Continue Reading}

Because of New Normals

On the eve of our son’s return to college when the kids were snarly and I was weepy, my husband looked at us and said, “Transitions are always tough.” They are. I know. But I forget. With his words barely out into the air between us, I remembered Yellowstone’s roads and the rough transition from spring-summer-fall to winter and that it’s hard sometimes to get from where we are to where we need to be. Because I see the road as a metaphor for life, remembering Yellowstone’s roads smoothed my frayed nerves and gave me perspective. And because I know that transitions the road to {Continue Reading}

Rest Along the Way

We sprinted up the switchbacked trail, pausing occasionally to measure how far we’d come, to rest our already used-up legs, to fill our lungs with as much oxygen as the mountain air would give. In previous years, I would have decided that it wasn’t worth it. Not the rush. Not the climb. Not even the destination. But over a lifetime, I’d come to embrace hiking, to believe that forest trails led to worthwhile places, to want to finish what we’d started. So we pressed on, putting one foot in front of the other, making painfully slow progress toward the solitude of one of Yellowstone’s backcountry {Continue Reading}

Tracks in the Snow

The twelve-passenger van made its way down Yellowstone’s snow-covered road not on traditional tires, but on treads meant to traverse the groomed roadway. Gone were the crowds and the fly fishermen of fall, replaced by seas of white broken by swaths of evergreen and dots of brown, bison in search of last year’s grass to fill their bellies. Two adult trumpeter swans, their arched necks highlighted against the steamy Firehole River, swam alongside a grey cygnet, all camouflaged by the white of the snow and the deep of the water. A cow elk foraged alone for food on a hillside and a {Continue Reading}

Do Not Approach

The girls and I emerged from the cozy, fire-warmed lobby,  braced ourselves against the chilled morning air, and took to the sidewalk that led to Mammoth Hot Spring’s historic chapel. Aware of the cow elk lounging on the lawn between the buildings along the way, I said, “Don’t worry. I won’t risk our lives on the way to church this morning.” It was the end of September, well into the annual rut, and the local bull was busy defending his harem from challengers and his territory from vehicles and passing pedestrians. It was just the girls that morning because the guys were taking advantage of {Continue Reading}

On Breaking Trail

We pulled into the gravel parking lot at the base of Bunsen Peak, piled out, grabbed day packs and water from the back of the vehicle, and set off. Dust had barely begun to accumulate around our ankles when we saw him: a lone bison, a bull, just twenty-five feet off the trail. Someone was going to have to change trajectory and it was going to be us–my husband, our children, and me. First, because it’s the rules. The park service has clear regulations about how close visitors can get to animals: Approaching on foot within 100 yards of bears or wolves or within {Continue Reading}

Everywhere

We’ve taken to watching a little football at our house on Sunday afternoons and when the talk turns to the Super Bowl, I remember the day I found some unexpected beauty in Yellowstone. Oh, I expected to find beauty, but not indoors, not around the television, and not watching football. In memory of that day, a repost–because great good is on my mind, and it can be found in the most surprising places. We dragged ourselves into Yellowstone’s Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel according to plan, just after midnight Sunday morning. We’d driven twenty hours and that last one was hard. We {Continue Reading}

Roads in Transition, Part 2

On December 12 the National Park Service posted a news release to inform the public that Yellowstone’s interior roads would open on December 15, just as predicted. Yellowstone’s fall and winter travelers knew when the road crews would start to let the snow build, when they’d get dangerous, and when they’d be safe for snow machines. They knew. Sometimes I wish I knew. You know, about changes, about transitions. About the things I’m waiting for and the ones I’m dreading. I imagine that a little more information would help me hang on. Often, a more accurate assessment would be that I desperately {Continue Reading}