We Went Off: Clear and Present Nature (#4)

IMG_7710If you haven’t read Part One, Part Two, or Part Three, you may want to start there first.

After leaving Bozeman, we drove to Big Sky, just north of Yellowstone National Park. We camped in the Gallatin Canyon at Red Cliff Campground.

IMG_7733Our campsite was spacious and fairly wooded,

IMG_7724and it backed up to the Gallatin River. Red Cliff amenities included and were pretty much limited to “accessible vault toilets” (their words – and don’t get me started on the use of the word “accessible”) and its activities included hiking, fishing, and wildlife watching (you know, like bears and such).

The small people were instantly smitten.

In fact, the small people would later determine that Red Cliff was the favored campground of the four we visited. I, on the other hand, was a little taken aback. When LCB and the small people left to go find firewood and didn’t come back for an hour (LCB ran into fellow “talkers”), I began to imagine being stuck there alone.

IMG_7729The campsite was sparsely populated; from our site I could only see one other occupied campsite, and that was far in the distance. Then, I started thinking about what I would do if a bear casually strolled onto my campsite while I was, say, cleaning the picnic table.

IMG_7811This thought was perhaps provoked by the many bear boxes I noticed scattered throughout the campground. I can’t tell you how many mental pictures I had of bears clawing at those boxes, sensing the delicacies locked inside, while families slept in their nearby tents. As I sat alone at the campsite, I learned something about myself: I’m discomforted by the thought of clear and present bears.

This made me begin to ponder LCB’s bear prowess. After all, I’d never actually seen the man interacting with a bear, so who was to say what he’d do in the presence of one besides talk a lot? My younger son, on the other hand, had been eager to prove his bear prowess when we first began our trip, promising to use all his weaponry (a pocket knife, a stick, and three kung fu moves) if needed. This had prompted me to use my weaponry (mom voice, mom look, mom finger pointed at his face, and fabulous mom words) to order him to stand down.

IMG_7737Eventually civilization returned in the form of my family, and we decided to go for a hike on a nearby trail.

IMG_7741When we got about halfway up this incline, I realized that the descent would be somewhat treacherous on the steep and muddy trail, so I backtracked along with Baby-girl, and stood at the bottom taking pictures.

IMG_7773There are some great pictures of the menfolk in and at the base of the cave (which I was sure had a bear in it), but I’ve promised not to disclose them due to some of the compromised positions/expressions the males assumed en route and in the cave.

But now, should I ever need it, I have more “weaponry.” 😉

After the hike, which culminated in the boys literally sliding back down the trail, my older son and I went in search of kindling. Amid this search, we discovered bear tracks, thus crushing any of my secret hopes that the bear boxes and the bear warnings were really just to create ambiance. LCB built a fire that we used to cook the steaks and roast the potatoes on for dinner, and we ate at our picnic table as the sun set.

As we settled in for the night, I thought, “This may be as far away from civilization (excluding each other) as we’ve ever been.” It was a weird thought. And then, as I was drifting off to sleep, I began to wonder what it would actually sound like if a bear were rummaging around outside, trying to find food. This is not, by the way, recommended when your end goal is sleep.

The morning erased all fears, however; the light shone bright between the trees and we were Yellowstone bound. We broke camp, headed out mid-morning, and reached Yellowstone a short while later.

IMG_7821IMG_7833Stopping at one of the first pullovers we found, we walked out to the nearby river to explore.

Y’all will be so proud of me when I tell you this next part. When we returned, I climbed the Minnie Winnie’s ladder, and I stayed on the bull for well over eight seconds. Yes, it’s true: I picked a small battle with acrophobia,

IMG_7858and I won. The fact that the Winnie is a fraction of the height of the darn or the lighthouse is so beside the point.

IMG_7898Then, we headed down toward Old Faithful, stopping at several smaller geysers along the way.

IMG_7913The colors on some of them really are stunning.

IMG_7879Oh, and let me just tell you, there were some serious bison in the Yellowstone house that day,

IMG_7888walking around acting like they owned the place.

IMG_7926Predictably, we arrived at Old Faithful shortly after it erupted, so we had over an hour to kill before the geyser did its thing (on average, it erupts every ninety minutes). We walked around the visitor center for a while and then took front row seats to await the show. It was the typical tourists’ experience; the boys next to us, thinking themselves witty, wouldn’t stop talking about cannibal squirrels, and when Old Faithful was late, the “Old Faithless” and “Figures it stops working the day we show up” jokes came out in droves among those around us. Suffice it to say, it was a crowd that would have fully appreciated LCB’s earlier comments about the darn.

IMG_7952But erupt it finally did,

IMG_7961and then we drove on to our campsite at Bridge Bay Campground in Yellowstone. Our campsite was rather small, and the placement of the picnic table, the fire grate, and a small tree made the positioning of the Winnie challenging. When LCB had optimized the Winnie’s positioning (this would have taken me until retirement to do), we stepped out to find we already had company.

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