Monday, November 1, 2021

Yellowstone Part 4: Realizations

I've not stayed in a log of log cabins, but this is absolutely my favorite one.
The last day and a half was honestly the longest and quickest time I have experienced. But I think that sort of thing happens to time passing when it's during a vacation or leisure filled excursion.

I could already feel a bit of melancholy about that creeping into my head, but I held it off, because there was still a lot I wanted to do and see before getting back on a plane to head back home.
The higher altitude lent a crisp fall feel to the air that morning.
There was a moment after waking and leaving the cabin that the presence of my surroundings really overcame my senses all at once. 

Having grown up with a military family, and been a Boy Scout, travel is nothing new to me, but there are moments when I feel like I see or experience things that will stay with me. Not the over the top moments necessarily, but more like this.

Just waking up on a mountainside, and for a few moments, feeling the weight of all my problems disappear as I live in that moment as fully as I can. That's something that I've become more aware of trying to do with my life. When I travel, when I have any sort of experiences, just so that later, as I am doing now in writing this, I have a good grasp of what I felt like. I soaked it in, and then snapped this photo of the clouds overhead.
Pahaska Tepee was down the road from where the cabins were located.
Pahaska Tepee is William "Buffalo Bill" Cody's old hunting lodge and hotel in the U.S. state of Wyoming. It's located about 50 miles west of the town of Cody, and two miles from the east entrance to Yellowstone National Park, which is great if you want to fuel up before entering the park.

It had no internet access (which was weird, because the cabins had internet and satellite tv), a pretty robust gift shop, and evidently a great restaurant in it (didn't eat there, I can't hike and drive on a full stomach).
I often wonder if the animals don't just troll us humans from a distance... it takes just one car stopping and the first person swearing they saw SOMETHING like a bear/bison/wolf/duck/jackalope and you have this happen.
There's a lot I want to say about the rest of the time spent there, but I feel that some of the photos may do just as well of a job. Not because I don't know what to say, but because I honestly find it hard to put into words just how compelling, impactive, and regenerating the whole experience had been up to this point, and how there were moments to come that would drive it home even harder for me.

I'm not a religious man, but if nature is a form of faith, something in me rekindled itself, in a way I'd not felt since I was hiking the trails of Philmont Scout reservations when I was sixteen years old. 
The more you take your time to look and explore, the more alive the park becomes.
No photo, no video, no memory will ever take the place of witnessing and being there in these moments. I felt more alive than I had for a very long time.

This was my antithesis to the urban lifestyle so centralized in many of our lives, through corporate jobs, blocked by cubicle views, and pined over when we are beckoned back to "the real world" of repeated actions and mundane tasks. 
This small crossing was off the roadway, down in a small valley. Easily overlooked by 90% of drivers by my guess.
The National Park system allows for so many areas to remain protected for appreciation by us now, and hopefully for future generations to come. 

I know that not everyone who came through enjoyed their visit as much as some others might, and that's alright. The outdoors is not for everyone. 
I lost track of how many waterfalls I saw...
I had been suffering from an intense amount of artist's creative block. For those of you who are not in the creative endeavors, to go through a block so severe that you end up questioning if you want to keep moving forward creating,... can be devastating. Emotionally. Spiritually. 

I had the chance to sit and think, to note, to be in the moment, and twice, meditate for a short while at a few places, to ask myself some honest and scary questions about my life lived, and where I wanted to go next.
and where exactly I saw them.
New and unfamiliar surroundings can be the perfect catalyst to get your thinking going in the right direction. It may not be the EASIEST direction, but for me, it was the pathway of thought I had to traverse.
This little tool has become a daily carry now, for hiking or art shows. I'll review it later in-depth.
Sometimes you witness life through the eyes of your fellow travelers. The good or the bad, and in some instances, both.

Near the rest area where I took the photo of the eating tool kit above, there was a gift shop. I noticed an older woman in distress who was standing by her dog, that was laying on the ground. 

Long story short, it was having issues breathing. It wasn't tired, it was labored breathing, the kind when someone is possibly at the end of life.

I asked if there was anything I could do, the woman who was by the time I'd walked over, now accompanied by another lady, said through teary eyes, "No, he's... I think it's his time, he's quite old. 17. I could not bear to not come here without him, he's always traveled with me. But now..."

At that moment, I felt that I should not have walked over, as I could not hold back my own tears. Another fellow was walking over quickly at that moment. I didn't know what to say in response, what DOES someone say in that moment? "I'm sorry" doesn't seem to carry the truth of heart sentiment I wanted to say.

All around us, others not aware of this sad moment unwinding in a small area of the parking lot, were heading into the shop, and talking and milling about. I chose to head inside to the gift shop. I don't know if it was because of the weight of what I just was part of, but then I realized I also needed my wallet, which in my haste, I had left in the car. 

As it turns out, I saw the woman from just moments ago, carrying her dog, and the man I'd seen quickly running up to them was talking to her about something and she had a look of what I took to be relief on her face. The dog's tail was wagging, and he looked far more alert. They were standing near where I had parked and the man as it turns out was a vet or a vet tech of some sort. Regardless, he was telling her that the higher altitude was hard on the elderly from an oxygen and hydration standpoint, that domestic animals especially were no exception, being smaller than us.

He assured her that so long as she didn't go hiking or do anything strenuous with the old pooch that he should be fine.

I'd really like to think that if the dog did pass, that it was back home, and that his loving owner would have gotten one more finished adventure with her companion. I guess I was in the mood to believe in the idea that good things could happen.
I know people rely on phones to get places, but I will always prefer my GPS, and not just because I can make my car look like an X-Wing fighter on screen.
For some reason, I had totally missed the fact that there was a lake in Yellowstone. A massive lake complete with one or two little islands that looked like they wanted no visitors on. 
This areas was a bit creepy to drive through as there had been a fire a while back, and the still standing burned out, bleached remains of the trees looked a bit alien.
There was an overlook along the main driving route that the phone navigation app had noted "If you've got time, you might want to take a moment to stop and appreciate the majesty of the lake from this point just off the roadway. You might even get to see some of Yellowstone's more rare residents, if they don't see you first!"
I am a sucker for wildflowers.
I'm glad there's an app for that. And "that", would be seeing something once again, that I've only seen a few times before, but each time is memorable beyond belief for me.
This is what could be seen from the side roadway...
I think I held my breath and rubbed my eyes when I saw what was down below in the valley.
And this was through a HUGE CAMERA LENS...a Mama bear and cub sharing a moment.
As this moment went on, more people quietly came up the road and saw the pair below, and so many various camera lenses and tripods came out to silently chronicle and observe these two majestic creatures playing, interacting, and eating on what was left of a deer carcass, all the while very much aware of the line of humans watching from a short distance away.
So, SO aware... that there were some people up above on the ridge overlooking them.
I saw my first bear when I was in a tent, in a bleary eyed zoned out moment that I barely remember because I was so exhausted from hiking at Philmont in New Mexico, that was a black bear that had some into our campsite looking for things we'd left out and about.

The second one I saw, was in Colorado when I went looking for a spare tire that... it's a long story for another time... got violently ripped off my trailer by the wind, and bounced a LONG distance at high speed down into a streambed. I managed to find the wheel, but forgetting that I was in a pretty remote area of Colorado, I also found a bear. I didn't look at it long and thankfully, it wasn't interested in me.
It's moments like this, that will live in my head forever.
This now third time, fully seeing TWO bears, was emotional. In all the best ways. I didn't want this to end. I would have sat there just watching them for hours if I could have.

I'm sure more than a few of the others did, especially the one fellow I saw pull out a Hasselblad 100 Megapixel camera. It was his moment, and judging by others that knew what his camera was, they gave him a choice spot.

Seriously, go look that camera up. I'm not even a decent amateur photographer, and I would die to have a chance to use a Hasselblad for just one day. I can only imagine the images he got with that thing.
If this photo was any more "American West", Sam Elliot would be standing in it
So as the day went on, and the sun finally started to set. I felt that pang of this all closing up as an experience. or so I thought. I mean life is what we make of it, even the muted moments right?
Another late day bear in a far off corner of the park.
So I'm not lying when I say that there was no way in heck I thought another bear sighting would be lined up in the evening hours. This one was just off by itself in another remote area of the park.
Take your time looking around...
After getting back in town, I noticed this building off over to the side of the main roadway, and that it had an information display in front of it.
Some great overlooked things are hiding in plain sight.
This was the only US mail carrier post in this area. I don't know how much of it is original, when you take away the rest of the town that is around it, you really can get a scope of how remote it must have been living and working out of this cabin so many years ago.
An evening meal.
Dinner in Cody can be found at a few different places, and this buffalo burger was one heck of a way to end a day's wandering around. I don't always like to post food pictures, but this was part of the experience, so here it is. 

Like any tourist area, try to get to dinner early, and beat the crowds as best you can.

After dinner, it was back to the hotel, to get an early rise to get maybe a few more things seen before heading home.

Museum find: The Railroad Museum

I love anytime I can find a museum. The fact is that the United States has them all over the place, museums about the Old West, Military History, Toys, Art, Technology, I mean you name it, it's out there. 

When I was young, I became obsessed with them, because I tend to have a penchant for hyper fixation on things, so finding a museum that has catered and ordered sections of information and physical presentation of things, is a literal nirvana of the mind for me.
Having some time before the flight and finding a niche railroad and movie history museum was so great!
This museum had one very informative fellow explaining all sorts of great things about the history of the local railways. But it also had two other sections included. A small film history section upstairs, and traveling temporary exhibit dealing with animal herd migration, history, and preservation efforts across Yellowstone.

The last part was a nice little quick injection of Yellowstone before heading off to the airport.
I took SO many photos. Reference like this isn't always easy to come by!
Finally, it was time to head to the airport. I learned two things on the two flights home. I hate flying in the tail of the plane. And next time if it kills me, I WILL sit in first class. Evidently those are the only seats sized for humans.
At least the inflight movie on the second flight was more than great. I love The Last Crusade!
So you know that feeling after a vacation, or after attending/working a comic convention?

Pretty sure these people felt the same way.
Coming home means more than just that late night drive back to the house, means more than sitting down in my office chair and greeting my animals and being happy to be home. 

It means time to reflect, time to enjoy what I saw, what I experienced, and what I will miss.

Yellowstone is a geographical and historical icon, of immeasurable environmental wealth. It is a location that resides in a particular area in the map, but moves into that part of your heart filled with adventure, amazement, love, and appreciation for the natural world. 

I went from being someone who never thought they'd ever get to go to Yellowstone, to someone who can't imagine what it would have been like to have missed out on it.
The first road picture at a stop in the park, and the last one I took before leaving the park.
Will I go back? I can't predict the future, but if I had my way, I'd have already gone back. There is still a lot more to see. It got me to pick up my spirit from a pretty low place, and see the sun in a new way.

Even if I never make it back to this park, there are a lot of others, and my sense of adventure really ignited again in ways I never expected, and to be honest, never had thought would have happened as they did. 

It reminded me of how important it is to stop and focus on where one is in life, to take the moments to breathe in, to observe exactly where you are, and to want more out of life. 

It did make me realize that I waited too long to want to see more of the world, and frankly, even if I had 300 years of life, I'd probably never see all of the world. 

But I'm sure as hell going to try.

Until next time, support artists and local businesses! Always take the path less traveled. We all may live in times uncertain, but kindness, understanding, and believing in the good that is in most each and every one of us is what can bring about better days! Keep being awesome you glorious people.

Mario, the Artisan Rogue
Illustrator, Voice Actor, Writer, Animal Rights Activist

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