Death was not in God’s original plan, nor was it a part of the life He had planned for us in that beautiful garden. But Adam and Eve chose sin, and death followed. Consequently we all know the grief suffered by every human being since. He didn’t want it for us, but
You know how it is when you’ve gone someplace you were really looking forward to – then you head home. Oftentimes that drive home is simply a boring drive. There’s nothing more to see. Your trip is over and you just want to get home. I did not want to end this awesome month-long journey in that manner!
I usually rode the school bus home, but when I needed to stay for 7th grade cheerleading practice, Mom picked me up after work at 3:30. The inside of the old car had soaked up the warm sun of the fall afternoon, and I immediately relaxed as I slid onto the fabric seat. Although far more exhausted than I, having worked all day in the shop , Mom greeted me with a hug and a smile. As she drove, I pulled out my book, Little Women, read all the way home,
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
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.
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.
And we were amazed at an entire mountainside covered in steam vents: Roaring Mountain
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.
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.
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.
We left the Redwoods, our hearts full. (Have you read that post? Click here.) We yearned for more time in these forests, but it was time itself that caused us to move on. We tried not to look at all we left behind – rather at all that lay ahead for us.
We took a bit of the Redwoods with us – a seedling for our grandson, Noah. It would yet travel over 2500 miles with us. I babied it all the way. We headed north on US 199 to Grants Pass and then continued on Highway 62.
As we had done for 20 days, we continued on this 21st day – to observe our surroundings with its varied landscapes and features throughout every mile we traveled. The truck was most comfortable. Ron and I conversed about everything we saw. We drank fresh hot coffee and cold bottled water and munched on trail mix. Unlike other shorter drives near our Michigan home, I did not read or write while we traveled on this trip. Instead, I soaked it all in. Ron and I loved every moment of travel and every moment together. We were creating sweet memories.
It was a hot day, but we found shade as we lunched along the Rogue River.
Shortly after, we stopped to view the remnant of Mt. Mazama in the distance, which now held Crater Lake, the deepest lake in the United States.
But soon an unexpected treasure loomed ahead of us. I quickly looked at my map to find the name of this mountain I had not anticipated. It was Mt. Thielsen, over 9000 ft. high with the sharpest, horn-like peak of any mountain we had seen thus far.
Called the “Lightning Rod of the Cascades,” its peak often receives lightning strikes, which have actually melted some of its peak, forming fulgarites. We were fascinated by this mountain.
A beautiful, clear day with perfect road conditions, we reached Bend, Oregon, where we had planned to overnight, much earlier than expected. We stopped and had a milkshake, discussed our plans, and pressed on, turning east on US 20. We drove 100 miles through sagebush and tumbleweeds, with no towns in sight, rarely meeting another vehicle, feeling like we were driving our truck through an episode of Death Valley Days. But unlike those old days of bumpy roads in a covered wagon, this drive was smooth and quiet.
The sun set to the west, behind us, casting pink rays upon the sagebrush. It was a sight I’ll never forget.
We settled our little trailer into a quiet rest area just at dusk, looked at each other and smiled. It had been an awesome day on our own Oregon Trail.
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