Friday, September 25, 2009

Big Sky

The thing about writing about a trip you took two weeks after you get back is that everything seems a bit old, you know? A couple of weeks ago, we travelled cross-country (in a metal tube that flies) to World’s first National Park. Yellowstone. We are outdoorsy people. Our shapes and sizes belie this fact about us, but it’s true. Cross my heart. We cannot spend a week sunning on the beach; for one, who needs a tan here, we have a perma-tan and its gets to be boring. Really, really boring. We need to “do” things and “see” stuff. And there is not much in terms of history (compared to say, India or Europe) here, but tons, I mean tons of natural wonders to see.

After a long grueling flight that took us to Ohio, then Utah, we finally set our hiking boots and backpacks and 2 cameras and 6 lenses and a tripod on the soil West Yellowstone, Montana. The county is called Big Sky. What an awesome name, I think that is. I would love to live in a place like this.

West Yellowstone is your not-so-friendly Western Town. Small. The place where they look at “tourists” with disdain or at least with a certain je ne sais quoi, which is ironical, because that seems to be the only source of income for this little town. Takes them a couple of days to warm up. After that, one is actually surprised to find out that the waitress-with-a –viper-tongue or the reluctant-coffee-man actually have the requisite muscles to mould their faces into a smile.

The first I ever read about Big Sky and Montana was in “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” when I was in college. The book has become a rather kitschy icon of philosophy. In not so insignificant ways, the book exhilarated me then, when I read it again a decade later, it sadly failed to have that effect, so a word to the wise, if you really really like a book, it’s best not to read it again. Not after a decade. In the novel, the protagonist rides his motorcycle, thinking about “Quality”, philosophically. It seemed like such an idyllic environment and the name of the county stuck. Big Sky. Like Big Sur. Another name, another place, another book. One day, I said to myself, I would like to visit Big Sky. More than 15 years later, I was in Big Sky, grinning.

Yellowstone is huge. We had 5 full days to explore. And we also wanted to see the Grand Tetons. To try and see the park in 5 days is impossible. So we decided to see what we could, but see it to our heart’s content. And if that meant going to a certain canyon and falls (Fire Hole Canyon) every day as we passed, so be it. It was not a race of been-there-done-that. Or those horrid two week tours of Europe: if it’s Wednesday, it must be Belgium, kinda of thing. That’s no vacation. That won’t life your spirits or make you purr and sigh and wonder about your place in the Universe and all that lark.

Yellowstone is a place with magic. Especially - without the crowds with their $3000 Canon L-series lenses- at twilight, shrouded by a velvet sky, the hot geysers spewing steam and hissing, boiling underneath – a place where the earth comes to PMS. If it decides to get mad, it will turn everyone and their kangaroos in Australia to toast. But it has kept its cool so far, thankfully. The park has over 250 lakes. They haven’t even bothered naming all of them. Countless waterfalls and canyons. Bison roam and graze and cause traffic jams. And gently walk towards your car while you sit there and wonder about how much harm can a 2400lb creature hitting your car at low velocities can cause. The bald eagles and ospreys sit atop trees while hundreds of people park their cars at the side of the road and get their expensive equipment and try and get that perfect shot a la National Geographic. We were no different. Wolves disappear into the maze of light and shadow in the woods. Their hungry eyes leaving you with pity and discomfort. Moose and Elk come graze lazily as the summer winds down. Winter is tough in Yellowstone. Of all the elks and moose and bison and wolves and eagles we saw, how many would actually make it to next spring? It’s a jungle out there.

Chip did remarkable well. He loved the place and he had picked a sturdy stick that became a fishing rod, walking stick, weed whacker and lawnmower with his mind. He made me follow a bison for a 1/2 mile on foot because he was tired of seeing its butt and wanted to see its face. He did not understand the bit about volcanoes or geysers or wasn’t impressed by it, but he found the wide stretches of burnt trees to be fascinating and tried to educate another 4-yr old boy about forest fires while standing in a line for bathroom.

We took pictures. In fact we took a LOT of pictures. 600+. Seriously. We are pixel crazy. But the daunting task that we haven’t got down to doing is to sort, correct and convert their sizes to from Brobdingnagian proportions to human. But the pictures will be stunning. And even if they are not, we demand you stay away from truth, or at least not ask us to come near it.
So, on a scale of things (things being as the national parks we have been to) where will I place Yellowstone? At #2. It’s a beautiful place, quite unlike anything else in the world, yes, but what captured our hearts truly and still has was Denali and Kenai Fjords in Alaska. That, my friends, you should plan to visit once in your lifetime.


Girl Next Door (gnd) said...

SO look fwd to the pictures, esply after seeing the couple you teased us with :)

So cute abt Chip telling another 4 yr old abt forest fires!!

2 more places added to my list :)
T1 and T2 (esply t2) are not as patient as Chip, so such outdoorsy trips will have to wait a couple more years tho

Vinita said...

Awesome write-up. Totally agree with you about" never read a book which you have liked"again after 10 years. (Aplyalach ugach watata ki kai awadla hota hya pustakat mala tya veles)

dipali said...

Sounds wonderful, Dottie.
Get your pictures sorted soon!

B o o said...

Wonderful description, Dottie. You do give us a vivid picture of the places. In one way, am glad you did nt post the pics coz I could let my imagination run wild picturing the places! :) That said, get the photos sorted asap! :)

Mamma mia! Me a mamma? said...

Sounds absolutely wonderful! Will patiently wait for the snaps till they get sorted out.

Anonymous said...

It made us envious that we were not part of the party following the Bison, butt or......... in fact, no but !

Additional credit is doing such an outdoor trip with Chip. This is no small job in itself. His enjoyment clearly shows that he has inherited the Outdoorsey genes from both parents.

This instantly reminded me of Stephan Crane's "Bride comes to Yellow City"... I do not know why! Is Yellow Stone related to Yellwo City in any way, just wondering.

Some times, one wonders, how much generous could God be, to bestow so much in just one part of the planet Earth.

Very nice post, worth the long wait. Now, I am musing, if I need to revisit "Zen & The Art...."


p.s. A small typo,though.
Originally, it is "If it is Tuesday, then it must be Belgium".

Doli said...

Hey if you loved Yellowstone, I'm sure you will fall in love with Yosemite National Park. That is much much bigger than Yellowstone and is amazing! I was amazed at Yellowstone, but when I saw Yosemite, I just cried in wonder at God's creations :)

DotThoughts said...

gnd: soon, soon!!! oh you will be surprised at t1 and t2..they will love the outdoors!

vinita: thanks :)

dipali: will, will.

boo: nothing compared to swiss :)

m4: yes m'am:)

Aba: so come here and you can be the leader of the bison butt-watching party :) No idea where yellow city is. will ask Google baba :) but that too was somewehre in the wild west, if I remember right.

Doli: I have been the Yosemite and loved everybit of the redwoods. They are indeed magical. But Yosemite, I thought was too crowded and commercial. Yosemite is 1/3 the size of Yellowstone. Yellowstone is huge..
here is the link to the numbers-

Vinita said...

Ajoon thode details taak ga trip che. Mhanje kiti mahinyan purvi plan kelit, kuthe rahilat , reservations lagech miltat ka, sadharan kiti kharcha yeto, fly karun ka road trip, divas bhar kai kai activities karta yetat etc. etc.karan khup divas zhale manat ahe ki hi trip karavi pan ajoon jamla nahiye.

DotThoughts said...

vinita: e-mail taak malaa. kinva tuzha email address dey.. email kartey details.

Vinita said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Lovely write up. Been there, done that @ both parks. And I could not AGREE with your ranking as well as analysis anymore. :)
I was nodding so vigorously around the lines where you said you were passing a certain canyon n times. Thanks for refreshing the memories.
Did you get so see any bears?


DotThoughts said...

vinita: check your inbox (my email is on the about me page).. and i am deleting your last comment because you don't want to publish your email id here...

RM: Alaska is heaven, no? Thinking of visiting Kodiak there, we didn't see any bears in YNTP.. but saw many in Alaska!

Nagesh.MVS said...

Sounds wonderful, Dottie.
Work From Home

K 3 said...

Aww Dottie, you are making this beach lover into a hiker with your descriptions! :) Post those 600+ pictures - am sure I will envy each & everyone of them!

DotThoughts said...

K3: thanks! pics are up!

Hurricane C said...

You have brought back beautiful memories from my trip to Yellowstone and Grand Teton. The wildlife we saw there was amazing. Totally worth the 4:30 AM wake up call. I would love to take my lil one RK there someday!