...Growing, Building, Cooking, Preserving, Crafting...

2006 began our urban homestead when I broke ground on a garden, which now includes perennial fruits, flowers, & many vegetable varieties. We dream of solar panels, keeping bees and hens. Until then we'll continue growing and preserving our own fruits and vegetables, building what we can for our home, cooking from scratch, and crafting most days.


Bison in the Mist

(I promised my sister-in-law I'd use her creative title for this post.)  WE'RE BACK FROM YELLOWSTONE!

LeFort Cousins at Yellowstone

Right outside our car window
Female and Male posing for one last bison photo before we left the park
Yellow stone--hydrothermal bacteria gives the park its name
Bison in the Hayden Valley

We recently returned from another summer respite, this time out west.  For the second time in my life I've had the amazing opportunity to explore Yellowstone National Park, our nation's first park in the system.  What an incredible place!  I couldn't have been more wrong when I thought I'd seen it all twentysomething years ago as we drove the family van out there from east-central Illinois--my mom running the video recorder practically non-stop as we were fascinated by the bison jams, mountains, cliffs, waterfalls, and thermal features throughout the park.  (Though all of those things were something to behold, the most entertaining part of the video then was the sound of three children arguing and nitpicking in the background.)  On our 1988 trip--the same summer that memorable fires devastated acres of the park--I took in as much as my adolescent mind could as I was distracted by the looming school year when I would nervously start junior high.  I had a completely different perspective this go round, which I'm sure not only results from my later stage of life, but also the road I've chosen to travel since then--one of much greater appreciation for the Earth, its wonders and natural beauty.  Though distractions weren't completely absent from this trip.  Miles and miles and hours of riding in a car with an almost 2 1/2-year old whose regular routine was turned upside the minute our plane left the ground in Milwaukee kept my focus for a good part of the journey.  But overall, we took in an incredible number of sites in just over a week.

Cousin Quinn, Vera, and Me

We started in Bozeman, MT at the C'mon Inn.  After a huckleberry margarita (hucks are all the rage of the season out there!) and one of the best burgers of my life--a bison burger at celebrity Ted Turner's restaurant--we strolled the main street in downtown Bozeman, home of the Montana State Bobcats.  The college town feel was apparent as we walked past food co-ops, hip pubs, book stores, and other funky shops.  Ben and I agreed that we'd love to return and spend more time in this quaint town, possibly at one of the adorable bed and breakfasts just off the thoroughfare.

We began our Yellowstone excursion at park headquarters, Mammoth Hot Springs just south of Gardiner, MT, viewed some other thermal features on the drive, and finally reached our day's destination and home base for the week, the Yellowstone Lake Hotel.  Built in 1891, it's the oldest lodging in the park and without television, radio, cell phone access, or WIFI.  Even if I'd wanted to, I couldn't have checked e-mail, Facebook, blogged, or watched the nightly news.  It was wonderful.  In the evenings we'd either sit in our suite with the rest of Ben's family, play cards and enjoy a nightcap or sit in the hotel parlor and listen to the piano player tap out classic jazz and show tunes while we sipped wine and cocktails.
Yellowstone Lake Hotel from the lake cruiser
Yellowstone Lake Hotel, built in 1891
One side of the hotel parlor--beautiful morning light
Hotel Dining Room, imagine it in the 1900s
Lake Cabins
Wildflowers in front of our hotel
Vera by the lake

We began our week with a ranger-lead hike near Indian Pond and around Yellowstone Lake where we were warned to act accordingly to protect ourselves from curious (or hungry) grizzlies if we needed to step off the trail to relieve ourselves.  We felt the black, volcanic sand of the beach; saw a dozen yellow-bellied marmots living in the rock formations, learned about bison scratches on the trees; tasted wild strawberries on the trail; and saw black currants and wild--apparently hallucinogenic--mushrooms growing along the path.
Morning Hike around the lake
Lake Bluffs on our hike

Black Currants (yes, I dared to taste them...but already knew them by site)
Ranger Amy holding tiny wild strawberries (reminiscent of a favorite meal in Italy.)
Bear claw marks on a tree
Wild Mushroom, but not necessarily of the hallucinogenic type
Yellow-bellied marmot
Vera practicing her sprint in case a bear approached
Sulfur Buckwheat
Silvery Lupine
The rest of the week took us to Old Faithful Geyser, The Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, the Lamar Valley--lush and inhabited by the country's largest bison herd, Grand Teton National Park, and the Laurance S. Rockefeller Preserve (a LEED Platinum Certified facility including a bathroom with no wasteful soap dispensers or paper towels and no energy sucking hand dryers--I love it!)

Incredible toothpick-like architecture at the Old Faithful Inn
Yellowstone Tour Bus

Beautiful lanterns at Old Faithful Lodge

Thermal Features at Old Faithful site

Upper Falls of the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone
Grand Canyon of Yellowstone from the Brink of the Lower Falls

Laurance S. Rockefeller Preserve Visitor Center entrance
LSRP Visitor Center hallway

LSRP Library
LEED Platinum Certified structure

I also enjoyed the Indian Art Museum at the Colter Bay Visitor Center in Grand Teton National Park.  The beadwork and weaving were most inspiring.
Jenny Lake, Grand Teton National Park
Bear Claw necklace at Indian Art Museum
Indian Weaving
Beaded Moccasins

Bighorn sheep horn 
Palmate Moose Antler
One of the highlights of the week for me--besides the spectacle of the Lower Falls overlooking the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone--was the Chuckwagon.  We hopped a covered wagon at the Roosevelt Corral near the Lamar Valley and followed the wagon train of several others on a leisurely ride through the hills to end up at an outdoor cookout including steaks, baked beans, corn, potato salad, coleslaw, cornbread, apple crisp, and cowboy coffee--all of which (except the gluten-laced cornbread) I'd have gladly taken seconds.  We were entertained around the campfire after our meal by some of the covered wagons' drivers, or "wranglers," who told us stories about their experiences on the range.  

Stagecoaches and Covered Wagons in the Roosevelt Corral
Covered Wagon ride to the Chuckwagon for dinner
The Hitchin' Post at the Chuckwagon
Dinner bell at the Chuckwagon

Making cowboy coffee over the campfire
Elks Bones
My cozy spot fireside got me in the mood for fall.
The morning of our second to last day in the park I slipped away early to do laundry at the Lake Lodge just a short walk from our hotel.  A chilly morning brought sunrise around 6:40.  After retreating to the cozy lodge where I found a warm fireplace, hot cup of coffee, comfy leather armchair and ottoman, and a very quiet though large room, I managed to sneak in some personal time and read a couple chapters from a novel about Yellowstone I picked up at one of the many general stores throughout the park.  I'd ripped through the rest of the books and magazines I'd expected to last me well into the last leg of flights home, so I had no choice but to pick up a book on the road.  It was an adventure novel Lake of Fire by Linda Jacobs that I was glad I got my hands on while the images of that glorious park were fresh in my mind.  I felt like I was in the book and could appreciate the terrain the folks of the early 1900s had to battle before cars entered the park.

"For the Benefit and Enjoyment of the People"...benefit and enjoy we did.
Now we're back in Milwaukee, our fair city on the lake.  The garden's a jungle; I still have to wrangle my tomato plants, pick beans, clip summer squash.  All in time.  I don't want to jump back into this routine too quickly and forget all the beauty I enjoyed last week.

One last shot on our final day

1 comment:

  1. I enjoyed reading this as I am filled with memories of my first trip to Yellowstone in May 2010. I hope to return one day! I've never witnessed such a diverse landscape. It literally took my breath away!