Laugh Tracks in the Dust 10-11-10
October 8, 2010
I just got back from a fabulous vacation out to Jellystone National Park to see my old television friends Yogi and Boo Boo. In spite of my advancing years, I’d never been to Yellowstone Park. I’d been west of it to Dubois, Idaho. I’d been north of it to Billings, Mont. I’d been south of it to Rock Springs, Wyo., and east of it as near as Casper, Wyo. Why, I’d even been five miles above it on an airplane where I saw Yellowstone Lake. But, I’d never set foot within the borders of the park.
All that changed with the eight-day vacation with our good friends, Mr. and Mrs. Arken Sawyers, whom we’ve known for decades. They drove and picked ol’ Nevah and I up and the first day we traveled by way of Salina, Kan., York and Scottsbluff, Neb., and ended up in Douglas, Wyo.
The second day on the road started out fun for me as we stopped at a feed store in Douglas and I dropped off a small bundle of papers with my column in them and asked the lady behind the counter if she’d see to it that her customers got a paper. She agreed and then I asked her if she’d ever heard of Milo Yield and she said she read his column pretty frequently. When I told her I wuz Milo Yield, she thought that wuz pretty cool – and so did I.
From Douglas, we went to Ayres Natural Bridge park and enjoyed the scenery. We traveled through Casper, came into Yellowstone Park through the southeast entrance, saw the Grand Tetons in the distance, and ended up staying at the Yellowstone Inn in West Yellowstone.
But, before we got there a funny thing happened right in front of us. We were caught in a traffic jam as visitors stopped both ways to shoot pictures of an elk herd and two rutting bull elk. There wuz a motorcyclist caught in the traffic two vehicles in front of us. While the rider wuz patiently waiting for traffic to move, along came a big bull elk with royal antlers and crossed the road not 3-feet in front of the surprised guy on the motorcycle. In fact, I saw the guy duck his helmeted head from being accidentally struck by the big bull’s antlers. I know that guy has a better story to tell about his trip to Yellowstone than I do.
We spent three days in the park and saw all well-known sights such as Old Faithful geyser, upper and lower Yellowstone Falls, Tower Falls, Firehole Falls, and a whole host of hot springs, fumaroles, mud pots, and Mammoth Hot Springs. My favorite of all the hot springs wuz Saffire Springs. It wuz a most magnificent blue. I’ll add that the trail to the brink of Lower Yellowstone Falls got me plum tuckered out. But I made it.
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One thing that surprised me wuz the extent of the active volcanism through a big part of the park. Everywhere we went there were active signs that we were indeed on top of a volcano just waiting to go off again some day in the hopefully distant future.
Of course, we saw most of the park’s wildlife species: elk, bison, mule deer, antelope, a black bear sow and twin cubs, coyotes, swans, a variety of waterfowl, chipmunks, ravens, and trout. We didn’t see any of the big three: wolves, grizzly bear, or moose.
We left the park via the northeast entrance through Cooke City and the spectacular Lamar Valley, then to Red Lodge, Wyo., after going over Bear Tooth Pass – a stunning drive that took us above timberline, above the clouds, and above the remnants of last year’s snow.
Next stop wuz at the Battle of the Little Bighorn where George A. Custer met his Waterloo and got his ears pierced. I learned a lot about that historic battle from both the perspectives of native Americans and the whites. My thanks to the park rangers for their clear and entertaining interpretations.
Then we stopped at Devil’s Tower in northeast Wyoming and stayed overnight at Hulett. I’d been to the Tower before, but the return visit wuz just as much fun. We saw crazy climbers near the top of the Tower at 6 p.m. and I wondered what their plans were for the night.
Next stop wuz Deadwood and Mount Rushmore National Monument in the Black Hills. Again, I’d been to both before, but enjoyed returning for a second look. I dropped $30 bucks to Mr. Slot in Deadwood. And, the presidents on Mount Rushmore inspired me once again with the greatness of our Founding Fathers.
The last night out we stayed in Chadron, Neb. Overall, we traveled 2,910 miles round trip from Damphewmore Acres. And, while we enjoyed the trip immensely and will never forget the grandeur we saw, home never looked better to me.
Sorry for my unhumorous travelogue. I’ll get back in the swing of things next week. Until then, here’s a quote from Stephen T. Mather, National Park Service Director, 1917-29, that pretty well sums up my feelings: “Who will gainsay that the parks contain the highest potentialities of national pride, national contentment, and national health? A visit inspires love of country; begets contentment; engenders pride of possession; contains the antidote for national restlessness … He is a better citizen with a keener appreciation of the privilege of living here who has toured the national parks.” Amen!
Have a good ‘un.