The Yellowstone Experience

Trout Lake
Yellowstone National Park

Comments from Bob - Ulysses' Legacy

Over one hundred and thirty years ago, an often historically maligned American president, Ulysses S. Grant, established America’s first national park, Yellowstone National Park. The wisdom of that move was a gift to millions of visitors worldwide, who have come to feast and enjoy the Yellowstone experience. Having traveled there in late June a number of years ago, I was extremely pleased to discover in September that the crowds are gone. Photographers, fly fishermen, and vacationers aware of the advantage of off season travel were the vast majority of visitors. One could drive the roads without being backed up a half mile. If you missed a picture, a quick U-turn was easily made. Even more pleasurable, people were patient and courteous.

This issue will focus on my Yellowstone experience. The poems include one with a travel theme and the second on Yellowstone. There are also several suggestions should you decide to travel there.

Again, please be sure to go to the website pages of this issue to see the pictures taken in this glorious place. I, for one, am appreciative of this lasting gift that President Grant helped give to the world.

Trout
Lake

On the
climb
to Trout Lake

Poems

A Bowl of Memories

In the oversized brandy bowl
......covered with a haze of dust
......slumbers memories of travels,
......twenty years or more.
The matchbooks no longer await
......the quick strike into oblivion.
Instead,
......though some covers are faded from the sun,
......they remain a museum of remembrances –
......taste delights and euphoric adventures.
The mere glance at these authorless books
......awaken the past.
There is the L’Armagnac,
......a cow town’s first venture
......into French cuisine.
Its demise in the 80’s
......brought more than one tear
......to Francophiles.
Resting nearby is the Bali Hilton,
......whose elegance sets
......among the lush flora
......and introduces sojourners to a people
......where the gods govern each step.
A few layers down rests
......the cover from the John Dory Restaurant
......from downunder.
How can one forget
......the vibrancy of the City of Sails
......and the fresh seafood served
......or Sydney Harbor on a clear day,
......the bay overflowing with spinnakers?
Hundreds of matchbooks reside
......within this glass enclosure,
......each with a unique story.
Though the bowl is nearly full
......there is still space available
......for new adventures to assume
......their place at the top –
......the most recent ones to enrich one’s life.

Comments: Like many, I have collected matchbook covers from many places where I have dined or stayed. Though I have not officially counted the number in the bowl, I estimate that there are over two hundred covers. In recent years, the additions have been minimal as fewer and fewer establishments offer free matches. Instead you receive a business card, better for filing but not nearly as much fun as seeing a familiar or exotic cover in the bowl.


American Safari

“Ulysses' legacy is the destination,
......no guides or porters to lead the way.
Only a sense of adventure and willingness
......to let go are requisite.
The honey brown grasses, blue-green sage,
......golden aspens, crisp nights, and warm days –
......all herald the arrival of fall.
Meandering along windy roads,
......windows down,
......bathing in the fragrance of pine,
Big Sky above and crystal mountain streams
......assail the senses.
Gone are the crowds of summer.
Rather, fly fishermen, photographers,
......and seekers have arrived
......to this place called Yellowstone.

On a very special day,
......a strenuous climb to isolated Trout Lake,
......otters diving upon the rustle of human sounds,
......creates an awareness of greatness beyond self.
All the way down, the hiker sings
......not just in celebration,
......but to let the bears know
......the uninvited is visiting their home.

Sighting grizzlies and black bears
......awaken awareness of vulnerability.
Graceful antelope pass within feet,
......choosing to rest nearby.
Coyotes appear oblivious
......as they forage for their feast.
The ubiquitous bison transform
......one's thoughts to times
......when they were masters of the plains.

Later, alone in a picnic area
......by a gurgling mountain stream
......the mind is soothed
......and the world seems pure.
One pauses in reflection
......and thanks President Grant
......for his foresight and gift to the world.

Comments: You do not need to travel to Africa to experience animal life in the wild, some as exotic as anywhere in the world. Yellowstone in the off season brings you into close proximity with many including grizzlies and black bear. One of the joys of this seasonal experience is the opportunity to be alone and interact in your own way with the magnificence of Yellowstone. At times, the experience becomes very personal and spiritual.

Vignette: The Yellowstone Experience

When I heard that two of my office workers were headed to Yellowstone for a photography jaunt and fly fishing, my ears perked up. The trip organizer, Jim, is an outstanding photographer, having seen some of his wildlife pictures from previous visits. I timidly asked if I could join the duo. Graciously, I was invited. The other adventurer of the now trio was Chuck.

Jim and Chuck drove since they were spending two full weeks. I was limited to five days so I flew into Bozeman, Montana, and picked up a rental. I arrived at the Pine Edge Cabin #4 in Silver Gate, Montana, a few hours before they completed their two and half day marathon jaunt. I realized immediately that I was in for some unique experiences as two bison were lounging just outside my front door.

During my stay, Chuck spent much of his time fishing while Jim and I pictorially captured wildlife and the daily changing fall scenery. On one day, I was on my own as I explored and wrote. Nothing beats writing beside a babbling mountain stream and the Yellowstone vista before you.

Fall is a glorious time to visit, not only because of the reduced crowds, but because of the ever-changing fall foliage. Be warned, the weather is changeable. The snows had arrived in the high passes and a dusting greeted us in the morning on two days. By noon the flakes had vanished, replaced by 60 degree temperatures. Only by visiting this area can you understand how the term “Big Sky” came into being.

Each day had its own drama. A black bear sow had her cubs treed as she warded off a prowling grizzly. Coyotes stalked their prey, one quickly ending the life of a field mouse. Elk, antelope, and moose claimed their territories.

The scars of the “big” fire are still evident in sections of the park, but nature is slowing reclaiming her birthright with new growth. Part of the visual experience is observing the "goldening" of the foliage. Just in the few days I was there, the leaves of many of the aspens changed from pale greens to golden yellows.

For me, the Yellowstone experience can be summarized by these words, “Moved into a state of awe at the majesty of the Creator’s touch.”

_______________

Recommendations

1) Visit Yellowstone during the off season, spring or fall. If you want a real treat, I hear winter is spectacular.

2) Stay at Silver Gate Lodging near the Northeast entrance to Yellowstone. The cabins are continually being upgraded. Be sure to ask for a refurbished one. For slightly over $60 per night (fall rate) I enjoyed a queen size bed with warm duvet, kitchen with new appliances, and more than adequate utensils. There was ample room for one or two people or a family of four. Be prepared to give up telephones, cell phones, TV, and Internet connections. However, the office offers communication options. Expect to see wildlife outside your front door including bison, moose, and mule deer as well as the majestic mountains that rise above you. The hospitality of the onsite manager Holly cannot be beat. I plan to return there again in another year. (Since the Beartooth Pass, even in September, often closes due to snow, be prepared to enter the park from the Gardiner entrance. The drive across the Lamar Valley will take you close to ninety minutes depending on how many times you stop for pictures.) Contact information: Holly or Bob at 406-838-2371 (Be prepared to leave a message, and one of them will call you back.)

The websites: http://www.silver-gate-cabins.com or http://www.pineedgecabins.com

Here is the poem I wrote in the logbook of Pine Edge Cabin #4.

Pine Edge Cabin #4

The honey brown grasses
......in the Lamar Valley
......and the golden leafed aspens
......herald the arrival of fall in Yellowstone.

The massive crowds of summer
......have dissipated
......replaced by fishermen, photographers, and onlookers
......who wander to a slower pace.

After a day of sightings–
......bears, moose, elk, antelopes, coyotes
......and the ubiquitous bison–
......the traveler returns to the cozy cabin
......nestled among the mountains and pines
......at a crossroads, Silver Gate, Montana.

Following a delightful meal
......at the Beartooth Café,
......one crawls into the sumptuous bed,
......the thick duvet guaranteeing warmth,
......and marvel in the wonderment of the day–
......ready to dream about tomorrow.

3) Food – serving sizes are more than ample wherever you eat. This time I had two cohorts help me rate establishments. (Remember, I never list a restaurant unless the overall dining experience is 8/10 or above. In short, I would eat there again.) Here are three that I believe you will enjoy. Two are in the small town of Cooke City, MT, about three miles from the cabins and the third in Bozeman, MT.

            ready to dream about tomorrow.

- Prospector Restaurant is located in the Soda Butte Lodge. The salmon and chicken were especially good. Service is very laid back. Overall Rating: 8/10.

- The Beartooth Café is even better. The overall food selection and quality are superb. If you are a beer drinker, there are 130 to choose from as well as an adequate wine list for the location. The servers are very friendly and efficient. The décor is definitely western rustic. Jim claimed to have eaten one of the best steaks ever while I enjoyed the mountain trout. If nothing else, a simple dish of seasoned fried potatoes will bring you back again. Rating: 9/10.

- John Bozeman’s Bistro at 125 West Main St. in Bozeman, MT (406-587-4100). Yes, I know that it is not in Yellowstone, but I am compelled to recommend this bistro. Before departing for home, I met Dave, a former student of mine that I had not seen for close to ten years. I treated him to dinner. Based upon several recommendations from locals, I chose this delightful restaurant. The food was very upscale, including the prices. However, the dress attire is definitely informal western. Food quality, variety, and service were the best I have experienced in a long time. Ask for Zach to be your server. Be sure to try the sushi options, a first time experience for Dave, along with the fish offered in a variety of sauce options. The Asian choice is magnificent. Based on this onetime experience, I sense that you cannot go wrong with any food choice. There was also an excellent selection of quality wines at reasonable prices. Food: 9.8/10; Service: 10/10

4) As always, I encourage you to visit my website at.http://www.poeticaljourneys.com.

Place where I wrote the draft of American Safari
Visitors near the cabin

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