#27 The Patriot

You cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today.

~ Abraham Lincoln 

Those of you who personally know Ron and me are aware: we are patriots. It seems to make the division in this country in the last few years most disheartening, to say the least. I think that may be the reason God led us to Mt. Rushmore in our western state journey – to remind us that we are not alone in our love for this beautiful country of ours – and to challenge us in one vital aspect.

Driving from Keystone to Mt. Rushmore was exciting. I could see the massive sculpture from miles away. But entering and touring the National Memorial was more than we ever expected it would be. Not only were our eyes enraptured with it all but our hearts were gladdened, as well. 

“devoted love, support, and defense of one’s country; national loyalty.” That’s the definition given by dictionary.com and describes the bond that we felt with all the other “patriots” roaming the Mt. Rushmore National Memorial today. 

People were quiet. Polite. Just soaking it all in. The history, the magnitude, the beauty, the detail of this place. I expected it to be crowded, but the designers of this site planned it so that each visitor, or in our case, each patriot, could take his or her time, strolling the grounds and exhibits, examining each aspect, and experiencing a deepening gratitude, not only in the aspects of this Memorial but in being an American.

So in today’s post, I simply show you the Mt. Rushmore we viewed, from various angles, and I include a challenge at the end for you to ponder.

When you enter the grounds, you see all of the state flags raised before the four presidents whom the sculptor Gutzon Borglum selected because, from his perspective, they represented the most important events in the history of the United States. It was an impressive sight!
Our Michigan flag!
Views from the lengthy walkway encompassing the grounds.

The actual model used by the sculptor, inside his studio on the grounds.

The sculptor’s studio.

You see the photos. You wonder if you’ll ever really stand, looking up at Mt. Rushmore. Today, Ron and I stood, and we left – changed.

I challenge you today, fellow patriots, with the same challenge God gave to me today – a challenge to intense prayer and personal contemplation:

“If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”

2 Chronicles 7:14

I wrote about being “called by my name” in my last post in Adventure Awaits. Click here to read it.

#26 Mato Tipila

Once through the Bighorn Mountains, we continued east toward South Dakota, definitely wanting to see more of the Black Hills on our way to the Rapid City area. Oh my word! This land is stunning! We took Hwy 14 north to Devils Tower.

If you are a rock climber, you’ve probably heard of Devils Tower, as it’s  a well-known climbing butte. Climbers shimmy their way up its many parallel cracks. It’s also been made famous as the landing spot for the space ship in the 1977 movie,  Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

Located in the Black Hills of northeastern Wyoming, this massive butte stands 867 feet from its base.  It was established as the first national monument in our country in 1906  by Teddy Roosevelt. It was named by Richard Irving Dodge in his expedition through Wyoming in 1875. Dodge’s interpreter botched the translation as Bad God’s Tower, which later was shortened to Devils Tower. But it wasn’t always called Devils Tower.

The Arapahoe called it the Bear’s Tipi. The Kiowa called it Aloft on a Rock. The Lakota called it Mato Tipila meaning Bear Lodge. The tribes have similar legends as to how the rock was named, each legend referring to the “claw-like” lines on the sides of the butte, which appear to be left by an enormous bear. Indigenous peoples often use the site for ceremonial rituals.  And they want the name changed.

An online article  states, “In recent years, Native tribes have petitioned to officially change the name of Devils Tower to Bear Lodge, as they find the current moniker offensive. Meanwhile, other locals argue that changing the formation’s name would cause confusion and harm regional tourism.” 

Um, I don’t think it would harm tourism. In fact, I suspect it might increase tourism. I, for one, was hesitant to even visit Devils Tower – all because of its demonic name. I also made a quick and invalid assumption that the site was a place of demonic worship. Until I did some research and soon discovered the opposite.

Chief Arvol Looking Horse, spiritual leader of the Great Sioux Nation says the name is offensive  – that it infers the cultural and spiritual practices of the indigenous peoples in the Black Hills were – and are –  forms of devil worship. He wants it changed.

I don’t blame the native tribes for wanting this name change. A name is important. Very important. 

We can recognize the significance of a name from the very beginning. Our Father God gives His chosen people His name. He calls us His holy people, expecting us to keep His commandments. He says we will be called by His name, and He promises us prosperity. Why? Because we have His name.

He reminds us that we have responsibility to humble ourselves, pray, and seek His face. Why? Because we are His people, who are called by His name.

He keeps us. He has compassion on us. He will never leave us. And He will never forget us. His word assures us that our names are written on the palm of His hand. Why? Because we are His. We are called by His name. 

He knows us by our names. Each one of us. We are His sheep, and Jesus, our Shepherd, calls us by our names., He leads us. We follow Him.  Our names are written in His Book of Life.

But I’m referring to those of us who are believers in Christ Jesus – to those of us who have trusted Him for salvation. Are you called by His name? Are you following Jesus? He’s calling. Do you hear him?

Click here to learn more about following Jesus.

The sky was clear, the sun was shining, and the Black Hills stunning when we arrived at Devils Tower. We were  astounded with the towering structure and coarse, “claw-like” vertical rock sides of Devils Tower. We wanted to see it more closely. Our hope had been to follow the trails and walk around this mountain – this butte, but it was “hot as the daylights” when we stepped out of the vehicle today. In the last weeks, we had more than tolerated temps of 103-106 degrees, but today’s temps of  114-116 degrees “stopped us in our tracks.” 

Being way too hot to eat in our trailer, we instead had lunch in a small air conditioned restaurant on site, took some photos of Devils Tower, and moved on.

One day we’ll return for a more extensive visit to this impressive national monument. Hopefully, by then, the name of Devils Tower will be changed to Bear Lodge, or whatever more closely represents the original name the Indigenous Peoples of our beautiful west choose. 

After all, a name has great significance.

And hopefully, the temps will be a bit cooler on that day!

Today, by the time we pull into our campsite in Keystone, the temps have dropped to a mere 101 degrees. Mt. Rushmore can be seen in the distance. Another national site awaits us tomorrow! 

Verses / passages used in today’s article: Deuteronomy 28:9-11; 2 Chronicles 7:14; Isaiah 49:16; John 10:3

#25 An Uphill Battle

We left Yellowstone, heading east toward Cody. The landscape of Wyoming still did not disappoint. Three highways, 14, 20, and 16 merged along this route.

We loved being in the west, driving through ranches and between rocky mountainsides, both landscapes unfamiliar to us Midwesterners.  On this overnight between Yellowstone and the Mt. Rushmore area, we had planned to camp at a Walmart parking lot in Gillette, but temperatures were above 100 degrees. We knew we would need electricity to power our AC and fan,  so again that morning, and somewhat “last minute,” I made campsite reservations in Buffalo,. Later, we were glad we had made that contact early in the day, as we would have no cell service throughout most of the afternoon. 


Once we reached Greybull, with Buffalo as our overnight destination, a decision had to be made as to how we would cross The Bighorn Mountains: the northernmost route on 14 or the southernmost route on 16/20. Because it was 40 miles closer, Ron chose the southernmost route through Worland and Ten Sleep, then on to Buffalo.

It started out beautifully. I looked ahead with anticipation: 

On the map, the southernmost route, known as “The Cloud Peak Skyway Scenic Byway” through the Bighorn Mountains, was dotted, indicating a scenic route. How exciting! We had read about the striking beauty of the Bighorns and now we could experience that beauty firsthand. Ron filled the gas tank with fuel before we began the long route from Worland  to Buffalo. Ahead was an 80 mile stretch with no stops other than occasional pullouts or dirt roads leading to rustic campgrounds.  

Photo from TripAdvisor, Karey K
Photo borrowed from Reddit
Borrowed from a YouTube video
Photo borrowed from WherearethoseMorgans.com

The gas tank was full. The sky was clear. We anticipated beauty. What we were not prepared for was the continual, steep ascent, continuing for miles and miles . . .

We were absorbed with the array of color in these mountains, the varied texture and geology around every curve. We looked for wildlife, especially hoping to see the namesake Bighorn Sheep or a bull elk, neither of which we had seen in its natural element yet on the trip.

I should write, “I was absorbed with the array of color . . .” Ron, instead, was concerned about something else. As the altitude increased slowly but surely toward Powder Ridge Pass at over 9600 ft, the engine heat increased, as well, paralleling the intense heat of the day. Ron’s eyes were focused on the engine gauges rather than the breathtaking landscape. 

We’d been through mountains in Montana, Washington,  Oregon, and Idaho, with gradual ascents and circling descents to reach their passes, but we had not yet experienced this constant uphill battle we faced today. It resulted in many pullovers to let the engine cool. And it seemed we were pulling this travel trailer uphill continually. Mile after mile. We needed a break.

Life is sometimes like that uphill battle. We have some small episodes, which we endure and even seem to conquer. But we sometimes find ourselves in an uphill battle, in which we find no relief. We’re constantly aiming toward that pass ahead, but it seems impossible to reach. There’s no end in sight. We get discouraged. 

Ron and I found ourselves in the greatest uphill battle of our lives some years ago. During that time I realized that we were not alone in the battle. I wrote about it in my book, When Life Roars, Jesus Whispers:

“None of those things mattered now. A spiritual battle was taking place. Ron and I were at war with the enemy – the thief. He was stealing and killing and destroying our family, right in front of our eyes. The Word of God is truth, and it told me about the enemy:

But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away . . .

            “. . . Where then did the weeds come from?”

            “An enemy did this,” he replied.

            “The weeds are the sons of the evil one, and the enemy who sows them is the devil.”

I had the power to fight back. I was in the Lord’s army. So I put on the armor. . .

“Ron and I were fighting the biggest battle of our lives in this struggle against the enemy . . .

“It was through reading the Word of God that I recognized the enemy in this battle we were fighting for our daughter and her family. Paul defined the enemy in his instructions about putting on the armor of God:

“. . . be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms . . . so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground . . .

“I think I would have rather fought flesh and blood. Instead, the devil, himself, was our enemy. The day of facing this evil had come. . .

“We were at battle, but we were not alone. We had a leader. He was fighting for us. We were just members of the army:

“This is what the Lord says to you: ‘Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army [enemy]. For the battle is not yours, but God’s . . . You will not have to fight this battle. Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the Lord will give you . . . Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged . . . the Lord will be with you.’

“It was His battle. He would fight it for us. Our orders were to put on the armor and stand firm.”

During our drive through the Bighorns, particularly on “The Cloud Peak Skyway Scenic Byway,” we pulled over many times, Ron, letting the engine cool down. Then we moved upward and onward, toward the pass where the journey would change.

Likewise, in our spiritual uphill battles, we need to “pull over,” reminding ourselves of the promises in God’s Word, strengthening ourselves in our faith of Him.

(Gain some “strengthening” tools in Shh! Listen to His Whispers! Click here to order.)

Going through the Bighorns, after we reached the pass, the downhill trek was challenging, as well. There were many sharp curves in steep downhill grades.

 

What a relief to finally and safely get to our campsite in Buffalo, at the base of that beautiful, but steep mountain.

Ron and I were never alone in that huge uphill battle we faced years ago. And you are not alone in your uphill battle, either. Be strengthened in the Lord, knowing that He goes before you and He goes behind you. He hems you in. Put on the armor of God. Don’t be discouraged. Stay in the Word. Trust in His Word. 

Click here to order When Life Roars, Jesus Whispers

But more importantly, fill your mind with God’s Word. Here are a few passages I’ve used in today’s article:

2 Chronicles 20: 15-17 

Matthew 13:5-28

Ephesians 6: 10-12 

Psalm 89:14 

Psalm 139:5 

Click here to read the next post in our Adventure Awaits series, as we drive to Devils Tower. “Mato Tipila”

. . . but first . . . 

At the time Ron and I were facing that enormous uphill battle in our lives, which I wrote about in my first book, a friend sent me this video. It encouraged me, reminding me of God’s faithfulness, and strengthening my faith in the Father. I hope it strengthens you, as well: 

(Scroll down and pause the music player on this page, so you can hear the song, Always.

#24 We’ve “Hit It out of the Park”

Today, we hook up our travel trailer, leave our campsite of four nights. As we have for the last three days, we again travel three states on U.S.  20, in the short distance from our campground in Idaho, crossing into Montana, and entering Wyoming at the West Entrance of Yellowstone. This morning, as I pass the roadside wildflowers I’ve seen every day, they seem to say goodbye from Idaho. 

We look different today, pulling our travel trailer, planning to drive the south side of the Grand Loop through West Thumb, around the big Yellowstone Lake and exiting at the East Entrance toward Cody. U.S. 20 runs through Yellowstone, but once you enter the park, you wouldn’t know it. I’ve seen no typical highway signs. Instead, when you drive these Yellowstone roads, you are separating yourself from not only the three states on this western side but from all of the 48 continental states. You are not on a U.S. highway – or any highway. Instead, you are in a unique land of its own. A land of varied wildlife, mountains and valleys, rivers and lakes, obsidian cliffs, and a land of unusual geothermal features; geysers, springs, thermal pools,  mudpots, boiling waters, and travertine terraces. Along with a million other visitors, I  have gathered an understanding that I am treading upon volcanic surface, which may erupt at any moment, but in this magical land, I am at total peace with it.

Today, we cherish each site as we drive through one last time. And as I do, I again pray that I will never forget this land – that God will embed its sites deep into my long-term memory.

We’ve crossed the Continental Divide several times in this lengthy Adventure through our northernmost countryside , and today we cross it twice more within just a short distance, first at Isa Lake -and again a few miles further east. You can see the Divide shown in a dotted line. We are traveling the white route today.

Mule Deer nps.org

 

Suddenly, the forests surround us. I spot a mule deer, with large velvet antlers. We embrace the huge Yellowstone Lake for miles – then we climb and hug mountainsides as they drop beside us.  We round s-curves, both in ascent and descent. It is a beautiful day to go over Sylvan Pass on our way to the East Entrance.  

It seems we’ve traveled much of Yellowstone in the last four days, but we’ve only seen a fraction of all it has to offer. Yet today, as we leave, we take bits and pieces of this land, Yellowstone, with us in our hearts. Ron’s hand is resting on the console between us. I place my hand on his. We look at each other and smile as we pass the sign, “Leaving Yellowstone National Park, ” both feeling like we’ve “hit it out of the park” with this venture!

Have you read my book, When Life Roars, Jesus Whispers? Click here to order it – or the 6-part Study book,  Shh! Listen to His Whispers!

The Road Home

The road home led to security, safety, and comfort – a place of acceptance and of unconditional love.

Did you know that on most devices, you can enlarge each photo? Are you hearing the music on this site? If not, scroll to the bottom of the page and make sure your “Music Player” on.

In the cold winters of Michigan, the road led to  warmth. Daddy had stoked up the huge, round, iron furnace in the basement, and gravity drew the heat up the square-yard grated register in the middle of the living room, radiating the heat throughout the house.  When the thermostat, bracketed on the window trim outside the “picture window,” reached sub-zero temps, we were cozy inside. The long, cold drives from town, or from Grandpa and Grandma’s house were nearly finished once we saw the hill ahead and reached the end of our road home, where we found comfort in our big old yellow house.

Because I grew up in the country, of course I rode the school bus. And coming from either direction, the north or the south, the road home took me to a peaceful place , where Tippy, our collie mix, greeted me in the yard, and where I skipped up the porch steps into a house fragranced with freshly-baked breads and cookies or of a hot chicken pot pie, baking in the oven. The road home was the avenue to the promise of rest and refreshment.

I grew up, moved away, then settled once again at the top of that hill – this time, in a home, built by my husband and me – next door to the yellow house. In the summer, the road leads me to a place of serenity, amidst the greens of nature, the voices of birds, and the distant sounds of the bleating of sheep and the farmers working their fields. As it did throughout my childhood, the road home continues to bring anticipation of  security, safety, and comfort – the expectation of a place of  acceptance and of unconditional love.

Our driveway – at the top of the hill – in the autumn season.

But perhaps the most beautiful time to travel the road home is in the autumn, when palettes of vibrant reds, oranges, and yellows, blend with greens to create ever-changing landscapes, from day-to-day, sometimes from hour to hour.

And in the autumn, when  I reach that place in the road where I look ahead and see the hill, knowing that I’m nearing home, I’m reminded that the Lord  led me through another summer and another beautiful autumn. I’m reminded that He will lead me through the long, cold winter ahead. And I’m reminded that I can trust Him through it all because the place where He leads me is a place of security, safety, and comfort – a place of acceptance and of unconditional love.

My friend, perhaps you didn’t grow up with that place of security at the end of your road home. Perhaps you don’t have that place of acceptance and unconditional love even now, at this time of your life. The place of which I wrote is not only a physical place but it is a place of rest and assurance that God offers to each of us. It is a place of security, safety, comfort – a place of  acceptance and of unconditional love we find when we belong to God the Father through Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ suffered in your place on Calvary’s cross, so that you can have eternal life with Him, as well as abundant life here on Earth. Just reach out to Him through prayer, believing on Christ alone. Click here to learn more!

The Father loves you and wants to give you a place of security, safety, comfort – a place of acceptance and unconditional love!

While you’re on this website, I invite you to “subscribe” to my postings.

Loneliness. I am not a stranger.

The word lonely has different implications for all of us.

Some are lonely because they are truly physically alone. They sit at home – or shop the grocery aisle – alone.

Years after her husband died, Joan still says, “I’m lonely, Kathi. It’s so hard to be alone.” Like Joan, many are lonely because their soulmate is gone.

Others, although surrounded by family in their home, active on Facebook or social media sites, and conversing with people as they shop the grocery aisle – are lonely. In the midst of noise and activity, they, nonetheless, feel completely alone

It’s sad. And it happens to many of us. I am not a stranger to loneliness. For whatever reason, sometimes from rejection,  frequently unexplainable, and often misunderstood by others, we are lonely.

God wrote the book on loneliness. He certainly did not intend us to be lonely. He doesn’t want it for us. But He understands.

He understood the Psalmist as he poured out His heart to God, asking that his enemies be scattered, and He understands us.

Rise up, O God, and scatter your enemies.

Let those who hate God run for their lives.

Blow them away like smoke.

Melt them like wax in a fire.

Let the wicked perish in the presence of God.

The lonely Psalmist asks God to get rid of his/her enemies, and we must do so too. This might be people – or it might be unavoidable grief – or unwarranted bitterness that has developed – or something we are dwelling on that needs to drift away, like smoke. Our enemy needs to go, and we must let it go.

I patiently waited, LORD,

for you to hear my prayer.

You listened and pulled me from a lonely pit

full of mud and mire.

Let the Father lift you up. Pull you up. See His hands reaching to you. Feel His arms holding you.

After the Psalmist asks God to scatter his enemies, He praises God. He rejoices and is happy and joyful. He sings to God and extols His attributes and faithfulness. And he cites God’s faithfulness to us – a promise we must read over and over. A promise we must trust:

God places the lonely in families.

God sets the lonely in a homeland.

Our Faithful God will set us – will place us – in a family – in a homeland. This is a place where we will not be lonely. It might still be within our own home but without that pit of despair we feel. It might be a state of our being rather than a physical place. God knows the place. And we can trust Him to set us there. One thing we know is that it will be a place of peace.

And directly following that promise, we are reminded that the Lord God is faithful. This, by the way, is one of the things we have to rejoice in! And this reminder strengthens our faith. 

We also learn from the Psalmist that we are protected – that my heart is protected from loneliness.

. . . for in you I take refuge.

May integrity and uprightness protect me,

because my hope, Lord, is in you.

We must not waver in our adherence to the moral and ethical principles God has designed in His Word. We must be sound in the Faith, and we must be honest. Integrity and uprightness can protect us from becoming lonely. They also can protect us from remaining lonely.

Jesus often withdrew to lonely places – for prayer. And to grieve.

Learning takes place in lonely places. But like Jesus, we mustn’t remain there. We find that instead of Jesus going back to where He was, sometimes God led Him elsewhere. And God will lead you.

Jesus did not dwell in His grief or in His loneliness. Instead, He had compassion on the people, and He left His place of loneliness to minister to them.

We can learn from Jesus. And we can trust His promises

. . . because my hope, Lord, is in you.

Bible passages given in this article are from NLT and CEV:

Psalm 25:16; Psalm 40:2; Psalm 68:1-6; Matthew 14:13; Mark 1:35; Luke 5:16

#23 Oh Give Me a Home Where the Buffalo Roam

Ron’s greatest desire was to see the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. Mine had been to see Grand Prismatic Spring. Both of our highest priorities had been met in those first two days in Yellowstone, and in doing so, we had  seen and learned more than we had possibly expected.

As soon as we entered this magnificent park, we knew it would be impossible to cover all the areas we desired – spend all the time we wanted. We had to choose. Now, on this third day, we had to choose between going through the south entrance to The Grand Tetons or to the northernmost side of Yellowstone to Lamar Valley. We chose Lamar Valley.

It was a long drive – nearly 100 miles – and not typical driving at that! You can see our route in gold on the map, and photos taken along the drive follow, as well.

(Did you know you can click on each pic to enlarge it?)

The roads differed from those we’d traveled in the middle of the park, in that they were sometimes tight and curved with short stretches in mountainous areas. We were glad we weren’t pulling the travel trailer.

We saw Obsidian Cliff and stopped at a kiosk where we observed some obsidian close up. I picked up a few flakes from the ground where people had chipped the beautiful dark volcanic glass, although they had been asked not to. Original peoples had used this rock many years ago for tools and weapons.

By Acroterion – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=12213799

And we were amazed at an entire mountainside covered in steam vents: Roaring Mountain

This National Park Service video explains more about Roaring Mountain. It’s short. Click here. 

A short walk along The Artists Paintpots was like walking along a painter’s palette:

Certainly this drive had already brought many delights, but reaching the main junction of Mammoth Hot Springs brought us something we hadn’t yet seen anywhere:  Travertine Terraces of steaming hydrothermal features, always changing. They were beautiful:

Continuing east, we saw the beautiful Undine Falls, a three-step waterfall, which had once been on the cover of National Geographic

A petrified tree fascinated us, as well:

And antelope (pronghorn)

Although we saw buffalo here and there on this eastbound route along the north edge of the park, we began seeing them in herds:

Soon we entered a massive open area, a valley larger than Hayden – a valley larger than any we had ever seen. We parked along the road to take it all in. As far as we could see – left to right – east to west – were buffalo – thousands of buffalo:

And as we drove further east, this scene continued for miles.

In this valley, of course, A River Ran Through It. And  men fly-fished in the river, the buffalo grazing a short distance behind them. 

When you’ve seen buffalo and deer and antelope, how can you help but not sing, 

Oh give me a home where the buffalo roam,

and the deer and the antelope play,

Where seldom is heard a discouraging word,

and the sky is not cloudy all day.

As we began the long drive back to our campground, the roadside flowers, as they had throughout the last three weeks, welcomed me. Today, they softly sang  Oh give me a home, and it felt a bit like this valley really was my home. 

Click here to read the next  post in this series, “We’ve Hit It out of the Park”

Click here to view a wonderful video from the National Park Service about bison (buffalo) in Yellowstone. 

#22 The Living Rainbow

In every walk with nature, one receives far more than he seeks.

~ John Muir

Oh yes. John Muir is spot on.  We are receiving far more than we had expected in today’s “walk with nature” here at Yellowstone National Park.

(I hope you have the music audio turned on! It might be located at the bottom of the page.)

We stand before Excelsior, once the largest geyser in the world. Its boiling water bursted 300 feet high and just as wide before the 1900’s, but with the exception of a two-day eruption in 1985, is now dormant as a geyser. One can only imagine what those monstrous  earlier eruptions must have been like. But I am fascinated  with simply observing it as it is today – a massive, boiling spring:

(Did you know that you can click on each pic to enlarge it on most devices?)

In his book, Our National Parks, John Muir wrote,

“Near the Prismatic Spring is the great Excelsior Geyser, which is said to throw a column of boiling water 60 to 70 feet in diameter to a height of from 50 to 300 feet, at irregular periods. This is the greatest of all the geysers yet discovered anywhere.”

As he continued, Muir referred to Excelsior as “incomparable” and that “nothing in the world” could match it.

Now we are watching the boiling  turquoise water of Excelsior spring up from deep within this crater and discharge 4000 gallons per minute into the Firehole River. It is amazing to think of the volcanic atmosphere underground.

Yes, John Muir, this Excelsior Geyser Crater is “incomparable.”

As we entered the park today, we had again followed the Madison River, but unlike yesterday, today we  turned south. It seems every road in the figure-8 loop of Yellowstone and those extending beyond the figure-8 loop follow rivers. Our ancestors and those original peoples of this area did the same – traveled beside the rivers. Today, we travel along the Firehole River, suitably named for the boiling water that feeds it. Here and there, a short distance below the boiling discharge from Excelsior, we see people wade and swim in its waters. Yesterday, we had seen men fly fishing in the Madison. (Click here) Not only does this park belong to its wildlife, it also belongs to us – the people of this country. And I am honored.

You’ll see today’s route in blue:

When you travel this area of Yellowstone, hot spots of this Yellowstone Volcano are even more visible than in other areas of the park. You can see them on either side of the road – for miles.

Planning for Yellowstone, Ron’s greatest desire was to see the Grand Canyon, which we had done yesterday. (Read about it here.)

Today,  we will view my greatest desire at Yellowstone – what I’ve most been looking forward to. And as awesome as I find Excelsior Geyser to be, I am most enthralled with the beautiful, colored spring behind it: Grand Prismatic Spring:

The center of the spring is near-boiling, and as the water reaches out to the edges and cools, colorful bacteria fill its waters. It is 300 feet long and 160 feet deep. The water in the center is 188 degrees! “The hot spring has bright bands of orange, yellow, and green ring the deep blue waters in the spring. The multicolored layers get their hues from different species of thermophile (heat-loving) bacteria living in the progressively cooler water around the spring.”

It’s not surprising this spring is called a living rainbow. 

We have arrived mid-day. Having read that the colors are best if the sun is shining, we’ve pretty much hit it perfect! I am blessed.

Ron spots buffalo prints and a “cow pie” it left in the crusty geothermal area between the boardwalk on which we stand and the spring itself. We humans are forbidden to step in this area, for our own safety. Temps had dropped to 40 degrees last night, and a buffalo had come here to warm up. The few rules of Yellowstone do not apply to those who call it home – its wildlife. 

Before we leave, we stand and stare. Others move past us, but I am still, standing and basking, trying to push this scene of the Grand Prismatic Spring deep into my long term memory. The photos will help me to remember, and later I am pleased by their quality.  

When we finally leave, we drive just a bit further on this road, around a curve to the trailhead that will take us to a lookout point of the Grand Prismatic Spring. And along the short distance, we see one single buffalo – between the huge hot springs and the trail to the lookout. This is the big boy who visited the hot spring in the night – I am sure!

We hike a half mile uphill to see Grand Prismatic from the overlook. It’s challenging on this hot day, but oh so worth it. Can you tell from the looks on our faces? 

Finally we hike back to our truck, parked along the road. We enjoy a few minutes of air conditioning as we drive further south on this Grand Loop, following the signs for Old Faithful. Amazingly, we find shade in the outer area overlooking the geyser.

So we sit on a log to picnic, awaiting the eruption, and within the time frame predicted, Old Faithful erupts! Afterward,  we browse the buildings in this “tourist attraction” – both old and new – and have ice cream on the porch of the Inn.  Old Faithful most obviously attracts thousands of people a day. At least that many are here for this one “faithful” eruption. The number of people makes this spot so different from others throughout the park. Throughout the afternoon, we see smaller geysers erupting in this area. 

 

All day, I thank God I am here in this place of the yellow rock,  Mi tse a-da-zi , which I wrote about yesterday. I thank God for the opportunity to be here and for the good health He has given Ron and me to hike these paths. I thank him for my travel mate of 50 years, my Ronnie. But most of all, and continually, I breathe spoken prayers of praise to my Father, for His amazing creation and this tiny bit of the original magnitude of that creation and a foretaste of what I will see in heaven. 

At the end of this second day, we again follow the Madison River toward our West Yellowstone exit, and today, our eyes are fixated on Mt, Haynes, named for the first official photographer of the park.  Mr. Haynes might be appalled at the quality of my photos, but I am thankful for each one. I am already reviewing them with joy as I send them to our children, while we drive back to our sweet little travel trailer for the night. Tomorrow is another day in Yellowstone!

 

Click here to watch a video from the National Park Service : Yellowstone’s Restless Giant

#21 Mi tse a-da-zi

Yellowstone. There’s no beginning and there’s no end to this place – at least, we couldn’t find either. Your own personal beginning might be the time and location you enter – something like your first time at Disney World but in awe rather than excitement. You can’t take it all in, so you absorb whatever you can – whenever you can – as you drive and stop and hike and stare and bask.

In awe.

And by the time you leave, you are saddened because you want more of this place, Yellowstone. You have stepped upon only a few of its 2,221,766 acres, have gazed upon only a fraction of its 3,472 square acres, and have spotted only some of the 67 species of mammals or  300 species of birds. You desire more, but you must save it for another time. It’s like a difficult breakup because you’ve established a relationship with this place that you’ll never shed. You’ll take it with you as you go, and it’ll never leave you.

Yellowstone.

(Make sure your audio is on. You’ll find the adjustment at the bottom of this page.)

You’ve read about it – see pics of it. I joined some social media groups that shared information about it. Then you make a plan. Many people have a perfect strategy before arriving.

Ron and I know we are a bit weak on our plan. The night before we enter the park, after we are settled in our campground just ten miles from the West Entrance,  we review ideas and brochures. We have allotted three full days in the park and a fourth day to drive through the park, exiting through the East Entrance, planning much of that drive to be in yet a different area than we will see throughout the first three full days. So we plan our days in order of their significance to us, wishing for more, but realizing our time limitations.

We enter the park from the West Entrance each day, but the first day is something like that first day at Disney World, but both exciting and awesome! The traffic slows, and I fumble with my camera. I’ve heard that when the traffic slows, it’s most likely because they’ve seen wildlife. Yes, that is the reason today. This is the first but not the last time a park ranger coaxes us – well actually yells at us – to move on. “Don’t stop in the road,” she hollers to the row of cars in front and behind us. “View the wildlife from the pulloffs.”

But actually the traffic moves slow enough that we have ample time to view the wildlife from the vehicle. Our windows are down every day – all day. A big dark buffalo saunters in the tall bright green grass of the meadow. Elk eat from the plants a bit further back.  This is a pasture unlike any I have seen across the Northern Great Plains or anywhere through this land so far. It is an unusual scene for this Michigan girl, for sure!

We seem to flow with the Madison River along this welcoming route, first on our left, then on our right. The first day we view the splendor of this river. The second day we fall in love with it. The third day we adopt it as our own. And the fourth day, as we leave, we pledge to always remember it.

We soon discover that this place belongs to the wildlife and to the plants and the trees and the water and to their Creator. We are merely visitors. But we are welcomed visitors – you and I – if we recognize and accept our place amongst all of this. We are humbled by its magnificence and by its uniqueness and by its beauty. We eagerly accept our place.

Day 1 in Yellowstone. Yellow route.

The  Madison River runs through the pastures like a cutout intended for watering livestock on a farm. Then it widens as it edges the mountain beside it, finally disappearing in the forests beside us, as we turn north onto the Grand Loop. Now the Gibbon River accompanies us. This land is filled with rivers and lakes and waterfalls, and with something quite foreign to us – geothermal features: geysers, steamvents, mudpots, and hot springs. We pull off to view the first hot spring we come by: Beryl Spring. I video – and photograph, soon realizing I wouldn’t have the time or opportunity to video each of the unique elements of the Yellowstone caldera, even if I lived here.

Gibbon Falls.

We see the Norris Geyser Basin with its many geysers, springs, and geothermal grounds.

This park is like  Michigan’s Upper Peninsula on steroids. Here, as in the U.P., one doesn’t find “Do Not . . .” signs all over the place – only occasionally and when necessary.  It’s all original and inviting – in its natural state. We are welcomed here. Roadside Parks are abundant, and we enjoy our picnic lunch up at one of those roadsides, along the Gibbons River. 

We follow Norris Canyon Road to the Hayden Valley where we drive slowly, stop, walk, view – and repeat this over and over for hours! Herds of buffalo, valleys as far as the eye can see, mudpots, caldrons – all along the Yellowstone River, from which this National Park was named. We have many close-up opportunities to view buffalo from our truck. We find that the bulls are often loners – near the road – far in the distance – but the cows are always seen in the herds, often with their babies.

Nearing the end of that first day in the park, we visit the location Ron has most anticipated: The Grand Canyon of Yellowstone.

We have developed the habit of praying for one of our immediate family in each beautiful location we’ve visited on this western Adventure. We had started with our son, Matt, who we prayed for on the Going to the Sun Road in Glacier National Park. Today we pray for our grandson Noah as we stand in front of the powerful Upper Falls. The magnitude of its power and beauty is compelling, but when we proceed to the Lower Falls . . .

As I had been in the  Redwoods (Click here)., I am  again speechless. My eyes well up; I am so appreciative of being able to see this site. Ron stares in wonder. It is all he had thought it might be and so much more: the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone: 

Borrowed photo of the canyon

First, the River was named by the Minnetaree Indians, who called it Mi tse a-da-zi, or Yellow Rock River in Eastern Montana, but the park then took the name Yellowstone after the yellow sandstones in this canyon. Now we understand.

Yellow sandstone formations in the Grand Canyon.

We literally force ourselves to leave this site to drive back to our campsite, our hearts full of the wonders we’ve seen, but our bodies tired from the day.  We look toward tomorrow –  another day in Mi tse a-da-zi – Yellowstone.  

Click here to read the next post, A Living Rainbow.

#20 The Trip, Itself

On these 21st and 22nd days, we were “headed” to Yellowstone, although we didn’t consider it our “destination.”  Instead of a place, every mile, every jaunt, of the trip itself was our destination. This was practice I had developed as a youngster and Ron seemed to come by naturally.

When I was growing up in Michigan, my Daddy and Mama took our family on vacation every year – never across the country or to another continent – but to northern Michigan many times and to Virginia once. The destination was never our focus. The trip was our focus. We stopped along the way at roadside picnic areas where Mama tossed a tablecloth across the table and set out cold fried chicken and homemade lemonade carried in a glass gallon jar that had previously held apple cider vinegar. As we travelled, my brother, sister, and I played games in the car and occasionally fought like cats and dogs, while Daddy and Mama discussed sites we passed. My little ears and mind must have picked up their conversations, as I remember such things as The North Begins at Clare. I learned in those years that the trip, itself, was the destination. 

Then, after Ron and I married, whenever we took our three kids, Matt, Kristen, and Amber, on trips – camping in the Upper Peninsula or the long drive to Florida – we tried to make the trip, itself, our focus, too.

That first travel trailer, a used 20′ 1971 Holiday Adventurer, was probably our all-time favorite – undoubtedly because with it,  we created our first camping memories with the kids. We loved our little trailer, its cushions covered in a green flowered print,  coordinating with the avocado green appliances. (I wish I had it today!) We had some great experiences in that trailer. The first time we took it out, our two new bikes fell off the new bike carrier on the back, and a tree limb took the antenna off the roof when we backed into the campsite. Camping was always an active adventure, from Kristen falling out of the upper drop-down bed to Ron and I yelling at each other nearly every time we backed into a campsite at a State Park!

In addition to camping, the hours spent on the road throughout two days of driving to Florida hold special memories, as well. I wrapped small gifts to keep the kids busy in the car: new crayons and coloring books, small  magnetic checker boards, or my favorite – Colorforms.

The fascinating thing about those long drives was our mode of transportation . I particularly remember traveling in a 1976 Chevy Caprice Estate Station Wagon. Ron and I had driven a couple hours away to buy this used wagon, a few years old but in excellent condition. We lovingly referred to it as The Tank.

The Tank was huge – three full seats, each with plenty of leg room. Behind the third seat was a huge cargo area. The back gate rolled under and the back window rolled up (see the pic). Everything was automatic. It was all decked out with power options. When we went on vacation, we put the second and third seats down flat and placed a full-size foam mattress in the back and let the kids have at it (it’s a redneck term). I placed a suitcase beside each back door so the kids didn’t get near the door handles or automatic windows. Lunches and snacks were packed in shoeboxes, so we only stopped when necessary and for an overnight at a reasonable motel. They played all the way to Florida and napped only occasionally! It was a joyous trip – one for which we would be chastised today – but in those days . . .


Regardless, whenever we left for a vacation – either pulling a travel trailer or in a big old station wagon, my Daddy and Mama reminded us, “Remember now, your vacation starts when you leave home.”  It was a statement they had made all those years ago when they took my brother, sister, and me on family vacations; they repeated it some years later to Ron and me and our kids as we left home for vacation; so Ron and I have the same mindset to this day: the destination isn’t the focus of our travel. Each mile of the trip, itself, is the focus.

So, on these 21st and 22nd days, the trip itself – not Yellowstone –  was our destination. 

The trip today took us further east, through the high desert region of Burns and Hines, Oregon. 

The barrenness of the high desert region eventually gave way to bits of green, first found in small evergreens, then in pasture and hay fields, and finally in a few green corn fields, irrigated, of course. 

Lunch at rest areas in 95+ degree heat meant finding a picnic table shaded by a small pavilion, as trees were rare.  

To look on the map, one would think it a hop, skip, and a jump to cross into Idaho and up to the edge of West Yellowstone, but in reality, it was a long drive. It required another overnight, one which we had expected to spend at a Walmart parking lot or at a roadside rest area, but we had a problem with either: the intense heat, which permeated the surface of our trailer with no means of release without electricity to run the AC or even our little fan. So, I called ahead and booked us a site at Mountain Home, Idaho. The campground and campsite left much to be desired, but we were just thankful to refresh the inside of the trailer with AC!

Ron stopped along the road occasionally to cool the truck in this heat. 

The landscape was fascinating. In spite of the heat, I was thankful for these two days of the trip itself through Oregon and Idaho.  

 (Have you read the post about our 21st day? Click here.)

Late in this 22nd day, the Tetons loomed to the east as we turned north toward Montana.

We settled in to our campsite just before dark. Behind us, chalets dotted the mountainside. To the west, the sun set, the end to another beautiful day of the trip itself. 

Tomorrow, our destination would actually be Yellowstone.

Click here to read the next post in this series,

#21 Mi tse a-da-zi

Click here to read the next post in this series, #21 Mi tse a-da-zi

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