Our Lewis and Clark Journal – Day 23
Day 23: Yellowstone National Park: Canyon and Fishing Bridge (Aug. 18, Lewis’ Birthday)
Though we are staying at Fishing Bridge, we spent most of our day at Canyon. On the way there we saw Mud Volcano and stopped to gaze at wildlife and outstanding vistas, like that of Hayden Valley above. Simply beautiful.
We took in the views of Upper and Lower Falls, though August was too excited to stand still long enough for even a single good photo. Every picture looked like something out of The Walking Dead. After having a good “run-around,” he attended a Ranger talk that was advertised as specifically for children, but was not. He hung in all right and got the ranger to sign his Junior Ranger book. And then we made our first mistake of the day.
In our hurry to get off on a hike, we didn’t get very good directions. Our “one mile hike” from Artist’s Point to Point Sublime turned out to be more like four miles as we wandered along ridges, through woods, past mud pots, beside springs, and across fields. And we never reached Point Sublime, having taken a wrong turn, and instead wove our way along other trails. Having missed our final connection to what would have been a really stunning walk along the Falls, we ended up with another 1.5 miles along the road back to our RV.
Here we are walking along the ridge…
. . . and beside the Yellowstone River.
I should mention here that we had not intended to take a significant hike today. If we had, we might have bought bear spray. But at $45 a canister, I refused. Well, we learned to clap as we walked past bushes, and to keep pace with other hikers so as not to be alone. The warning signs are certainly enough to make one very nervous. I took to asking everyone we passed going the other way whether they had seen any signs of bears.
August got excited when he found animal tracks beside a pond, and convinced us to let us let him walk into the water and mud! Covered with mud half-way to his knees, he bathed himself and emerged “mostly” clean but very wet for the rest of our hike. I could not believe we were letting him do it at the time, but will always remember his sense of adventure and the fact that Yellowstone was for him a physical and messy experience.
For a relatively short hike, every turn or crest seemed to bring us into a new landscape.
Back at “West-Crasher,” our RV, August did his best impression of Cold Stone Creamery and made Oreo/Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup ice cream for our “first” lunch.
And then we made our “second” mistake. Or I did. I took off for another hike along the Uncle Tom’s Trail while Noelle and August ate a “second” or “real” lunch, and accidentally took the keys to the RV with me. That would have been ok, except that Noelle and August were going to pick me up at the far end of the trail when they were finished. With two miles between us, Noelle and I played a waiting game, each refusing to move lest the other one come searching. Oh, and I also forgot to bring my cell phone with me. So while we had our stalemate, I pulled my cap over my face and fell asleep against a tree.
One of my dilemmas about going back was, which way? Do I go back by way of the trail? Or do I walk along the road, assuming that they were just running late. (You see, I hadn’t yet realized that I had the keys). I had finally given up as was actually on my way out to the roadway when I heard my name being called. Noelle and August had hiked to me – a nice hike beside the Falls that I’m glad they experienced.
I then, of course, had to hike back to the RV with the keys, to get the RV and drive down to Noelle and August to pick them up. (Shades of our day on the KATY Trail back in Missouri).
We made a quick stop at the Canyon Visitor Center, and would like to have stayed longer, but word was out that the road back to Fishing Bridge was to be closed on account of the fires in the park. We saw these fires from a distance late last night, glowing orange as we drove into the park and covering the road with smoke. But the actual fire was moving quickly toward our road, and the only other route back to our campsite was 100 miles out of our way around the park. We made it back, though we were one of the last ones on the road.
This was also an amazing evening for August as he met several children about his age at the campsite and explored with them the little slice of trees (“the forest”) between our rows of campers. He played outside for almost five hours, constructing a lean-to out of sticks large enough for five children, and other activities I know nothing about because he was on his own! (And did not come inside until nearly midnight – there are no bedtimes in the wild!)
Ironically, I spent that time reading Richard Louv’s book about how children today spend very little unstructured time outside in wild places. I had seen this book in every National Park bookstore since The Badlands in South Dakota, but only picked it up today in Yellowstone. The clerk who sold it to me shared that he had given copies to all three of his daughters, and that one of them had taken it to heart. She lives in the Hudson River Valley, where we are from, and recently moved her family so that they would be immediately closer to green space and free space for her children.
I went to bed thanking God again that we have set aside this time to take this adventure as a family. We knew it would change August’s life. I hope is changes all of ours.
Recommended Reading: Richard Louv, Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder. (2005/2008). Recipient of the 2008 Audobon Medal). If you consider reading any of the books I have recommended, put this one at the top of your list (says the Pastor/Husband/Father, as well as the historian).