As our mountain adventure continues, we remain awed by the boundless grandeur of this land we call home (we actually call Happy Dance home, but hey, I’m waxing poetic here!). We’re talking purple mountain majesty on a huge scale, intact ecosystems (my new favorite science term) that live and breathe and change and excite; it’s all an unending series of oohs, ahhs, and – whoa, stop the truck I need a photo!!!
Our time in Yellowstone and Teton National Parks was incredible. We walked our little legs over many miles of trails and turnouts, scenic vistas and wildlife views. Granted, there is so much more to explore, but on this, our first foray into the parks we were able to grasp at least some of the wonder and wildness of these great national treasures. As one of the Park Rangers said; “as American citizens we all own a piece of these parks”.
One of our favorite hikes in Yellowstone was our hike along the South Rim of the Yellowstone Canyon. Along the way we were treated to the classic views of lower Yellowstone Falls, as well as some pretty stunning panoramas of the entire canyon. As we hiked along the edge we could look straight down to the rushing river, a mere 800-1,200 feet below us. A few steam vents dotted the sides of the canyon to remind us of where we were, and the trees were hanging on by the tiniest of root holds in a very thin layer of topsoil.
The vast caldera that is Yellowstone, the rugged peaks of the Tetons, and the incredible geological history that is displayed throughout the west left us with a sense of how complex the earth is and how short a time man has been here. For instance, in the Tetons “the granite on the summits of some of the peaks is more than three billion years old, which makes it some of the oldest rock in North America. But the mountains themselves are the youngest of the Rocky Mountains. Only 12 million years old, they are mere adolescents compared with the rest of the 60-million-year-old range.” *
One of the Rangers helped us to visualize just how vast a history it is; hold out your arm and consider that to be a timeline of the earth beginning at your shoulder, then try to picture where the formation of the Tetons 12 million years ago occurred along that timeline. Well, it’s out at your fingertips! When you place human history along that same timeline we are just the tiniest of slivers out at the tip of your fingernail. It’s pretty mind-boggling try to reconcile our place in the silent majesty of the Tetons with the thought of massive blocks being pushed up as the earth split along a north-south fault line to create the mountains and valleys. Okay, enough, enough of the geology lesson; but it’s fascinating!
Okay, so the mountains are beautiful, we get that, but what about those critter cams you promised? Yellowstone provided lots of critter watching of antelope, elk, deer, bears, cranes, osprey, white pelicans, eagles, swans, coyotes, and of course; tatanka**. One day we were sitting in our chairs enjoying our lunch while watching the herds of bison in Hayden Valley, when a huge male bison wandered down the hill, across the road (causing much confusion), right by our truck and down into the valley. It was so funny to see this grand shaggy beastie stopping traffic and basically just saying; “out of my way, I own this place”!
Near our campground in Teton National Park we were once again sitting in our chairs enjoying lunch (do you sense a theme?) while watching four bull moose and one moose cow munching on their own lunch and cooling off in the river. It was so fun to watch these big mangy moosekateers as they totally ignored the sound of cameras clicking from the other side of the river! However, once they crossed over to our side the river we decided it was time to pack up and go!
We hope you’ve enjoyed more escapades of the not so rich and not so famous. We continue to roam where the deer and the antelope play, and where the skies tend to open up in some pretty awesome cloud bursts!
**In the Lakota language, the word “tatanka” is translated as “buffalo” or “buffalo bull.” However, according to native Lakota speakers, the literal translation is something more like “He who owns us.”