I am a little late in writing this report but the time has come for me to share it:
It was early in the Summer and my family and I had been through more than our share of trials. My wife had been in the hospital several times with Cancer treatments and would not be able to join us for our adventure this year. I was left with two choices: Wait it out, or go ahead and do it solo with our 5 children. The death of an infant due to abuse hit our community hard, especially those of us in the child welfare field. I had a nasty case of the what if's and needed some time away. It seems like there is nothing quite like some distance and the open road to get my mind clear and look for healing. An earlier road trip this past year had helped give me some distance and put things back into perspective so I could go on and it was time for another therapeutic journey.
With that, I scheduled some time off, got our gear together, pulled out the maps and emailed a few members in Wyoming to find the areas that we would explore. Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Park were on the list and we scheduled some time for the back country areas to help get us away from the crowds. We only traveled a few hours from home our first day, stopping just North of Vernal, UT to camp in the National Forest. It was the 4th of July weekend and there were several camps already staked out for the locals to come back on the weekend. Early the next morning we arose to continue on our way. The truck would not start and I could not get it jump started either. I called Hugh at Safari Ltd in Colorado and he helped me troubleshoot it over the phone (Thanks Hugh!). Some other campers made the run into town to get us the part we needed and 10 minutes after the part was received we were on the road again.
Our next stop was Pinedale, WY. I had traveled through here 7 years prior while returning from Idaho Falls and fell in love with the scenic backdrop for this town. I enjoyed traveling through communities of less than one hundred residents and was told by one of the locals that there are less than 5000 residents in the whole county. We journeyed onward making it to our campsite for that night in Yellowstone National Park. We spent the next 4 days in the park visiting the natural wonders of the area. We enjoyed a small town fireworks show in West Yellowstone that weekend.
Fly fisherman on the Madison River:
Cooling off in the river near camp:
Viewing the wonders of nature:
With one night left in the Park at one of the campgrounds I had grown tired of the crowds and was not feeling the peace that I had come looking for. Not that we did not enjoy the sights, just that we felt the need for a change of pace. With that we cancelled our last night at the campground and headed out of the park to see what Grand Teton National Park had to offer. We left around 6am as we had been told the campgrounds in Grand Teton park were first come first serve. We found a place to set up camp by mid morning and headed to the Visitors Center and Jackson Hole to plot out our next few days. There was little in the way of back country areas to enjoy so we contented ourselves with some hiking and viewing a small townsite called Mormon Row. Word had it that the pioneers to this area set up their village in the shadow of the Tetons to make their living with Cattle. They soon found out that it was tourism that was more profitable and made most of their living off of lodging from those who came to see the Park.
Another local ranch from times gone by:
The rangers told us there were bears in one part of the park, so looking for more adventure we headed to that area. Once there all we could see was tourists pulled off side the road, some of them were sitting on top of their cars with binoculars and cameras in hand. It had been a slow day and the children were getting tired and grumpy. In an attempt to revive their interests I lowered my window and pointed to one side of the road and yelled: "Hey look it's a bear!" We went on down the road another 10-15 miles or so before I realized we had made a wrong turn. We retraced our journey and while nearing the turnoff saw a large traffic jam on both sides of the road. Park rangers were out directing traffic and curiosity got the best of me as I pulled over and asked my teenage daughter to get out and find out what everyone was looking at.
My daughter returned to the truck to inform me that someone had seen a sow and her two cubs just 20-30 minutes ago and everyone else was stopping trying to see if they could see them too. My daughter did not see anything so we continued on our way, finding some nice back country areas to explore in another part of the park. Later on, my daughter looked at me and commented on the traffic jam: "You know dad, that was all your fault? If you would not have yelled out about those bears no one would have stopped." I reflected on the chain reaction that this caused later as we traveled back towards camp and saw that there was still a traffic jam nearly two hours later. It was like a game of telephone as the people were now stating that someone saw a sow and it's two cubs hunting a elk calf.
The following day we broke camp and headed past Jackson Hole to another obscure dirt road just outside of a town that was not even mentioned on the map. We drove several miles back until reaching the forest boundary and found our camp in a broad valley with a river running through it. As we cooked dinner I watched peacefully as a local rancher wet his line in the river, directing an unheard symphony with his fly rod as he casted a perfect silhouette by the river's edge. With dinner finished we readied ourselves for a dutch oven cake for my son's birthday. The fisherman had caught his dinner and more by this time and came over to our camp at the end of his day. He struck up a friendly conversation with us as he told us of the area and warned us of bear precautions. I had come prepared for those so we were in good shape. He bid us a good evening and made his way back home. I enjoyed our visit from this local rancher and reflected on the warm hospitality he had shown us and some other travelers who joined him earlier in the day.
On our trip back out we watched some antelope run along side the road. The river meandered in a hypnotic trance throughout the valley which lead to a large glacial lake that is set at the base of two mountains. We marveled at the desolate beauty of this area and watched as a cowboy directed his herd through the area to graze on the grassy banks of the river.
Upon reaching Pinedale again we discovered that there was a town celebration going on. A local Rendezvous. We stopped at one merchants booth in a large wall tent on the outskirts of town to view his wares and visit with he and his dog. We went to the local grocery store in town and purchased a large quantity of saltwater taffy for the candy cannon at the merchants row. We joined in the celebration and the children had a blast running and gathering candy after it shot out of the cannon.
The following day we explored a sheep herders camp in the mountains of Utah. The children enjoyed the short hike to the camp and exploring how people lived back then.
As we journeyed on our last stretch home my mind once again reflected on our trip and why I had been drawn to Wyoming for our travels this year. It came to me as I reflected on the other journeys I have had through that State over the years. The small towns I had once passed through were still there and the one room schoolhouse still stood to serve the children of the area. The small town celebrations and the hospitality of the local ranchers. The cowboys still tending to their herds and the unspoiled splendor of the pristine backcountry areas. In my past year of rapid fire changes and trials that had been experienced, both personally and in the family, it was what we needed. I realized that Wyoming was like an old friend from grade school. You may move away from them, but you always find time to check in. You realize that this old friend is someone who knows you well and someone who accepts you as you are. I had been content to come back to that same sense of serenity that the backcountry and atmosphere of the small towns had to offer. When several other things had arisen in my life, it was the consistency and sameness that I had been seeking for deep within me. Wyoming was that old friend, it was much as I had remembered it in spite of an ever changing world, and I knew that everything else would go on.