Summer of 1993
Chapter 7--Early Adventures
In the mind of historians, the American mind has
always been fascinated by the West. They draw this conclusion from
the fact that so many people in the nineteenth century gave up everything
they owned for hopes of a better life in the West. We talk about
the migrations from Europe of immigrants to the shores of the East, but
the nineteenth century witnessed a great transcontinental migration.
Men often chased fool's dreams of getting rich on gold, leaving their wives
and children in search of adventure. The Mormons moved west to find
a place where they could live by themselves free from the scrutiny and
persecution of people back East. Entire families covered the Great
Plains, originally spilling into Kansas to fight a battle over slavery,
and later because the Homestead Act promised free land. Cattle throughout
Texas were rounded up by cowboys and sent on trails north. Later
grazing grounds were established further north giving places like Wyoming
the nickname, the Cowboy State. Myths grew up around legends like
Buffalo Bill as great Indian fighters and buffalo slayers. As the
real West disappeared, the romanticism of it failed to die. The myth
of the West was carried by Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show to Europe.
Immigrants from Asia came east to the West for hopes of a better life.
The West was and remains a land for adventure.
Those adventures were generally tragic.
The man who left his wife and children to find gold usually wound up broke.
The bison was driven to the edge of extinction. Indian nations had
been destroyed by disease, the destruction of the bison, and cruel warfare
brought on them by the United States. The land was tilled and turned
for the sake of civilization but at the expense of turning a vast and open
landscape into but a shadow of its former self. Rivers were dammed,
and beautiful canyons now turned into featureless man-made lakes.
Racism had left its mark on the Pacific Coast as Chinese and Hispanics
were repeatedly abused because of their ethnic identities. The myth
that made Buffalo Bill, William Cody, a hero and that he helped to perpetuate
romanticized the West so much that many failed to see that the region was
in great decay.
In 1872, by a stroke of luck, Congress created
Yellowstone National Park, believing that the park was of no use to human
enterprise. After many struggles, the Yellowstone region became one
of the last symbols of the Old West to survive. Yet, it was so atypical
of the West that anyone who bothered to think about it could not help but
feel sadness. Yellowstone had the largest free roaming bison population
in the world. Yet, is Yellowstone prime bison habitat? The
high elevation and the bitterly cold winters naturally keep the bison population
at low numbers. The American Bison was an animal of the plains, not
the pride of mountain plateaus. The other wildlife in the park region
was once typical of much of the rest of the region. The pristine
landscape, untouched by dams or farms or irrigation, was once not alone.
Even my native Ohio was once a gigantic temperate deciduous forest.
Before going to Yellowstone, my uncle Ken wrote, "Imagine Ohio as it used
to be. It is too bad you have to go 2,000 miles to find nature."
In fact, Yellowstone was not the Old West in every respect. Native
Sheepeater Indians had been removed from the park region and sent to reservations.
The situation in Yellowstone and in the West was not the land it could
Nevertheless, both remain a land of adventure.
When I was young, boys played "Cowboys and Indians." Even in my generation,
there were plenty of people who liked to watch a good Western or pretend
to be John Wayne. Who has never heard of Old Faithful? In school,
we would draw mountains, and they would resemble the Tetons. A great
plain we would draw where at the horizon huge triangular mountains would
arise from nowhere. As we grew older, many romanticized about road
trips across the mountains. Maybe, they would go through Yellowstone,
or Yosemite, or whatever it was called. Who knew the difference?
The point was that as I was growing up the West was as exotic as it was
a century before. Maybe, it was exotic in a weird Hollywood sense,
but it was exotic all the same. Yellowstone was a land where what
was exotic in itself was supposed to be spectacular. Grizzly bears
and buffalo and geysers and Yogi Bear . . . it was everything America was
supposed to enjoy. It was a symbol of the American heritage.
I came to Yellowstone to minister, but I did
not go without a sense of adventure. I still do not think of Yellowstone
without thinking of it in terms of adventure. Yellowstone was our
chance to explore, to take part in whatever remnant of the frontier remained.
It was a chance to see things that I may never see again the rest of my
life. Just the thought of Yellowstone had the ability to entertain
and to excite. It was different and exciting. It is different
and exciting. All that has changed was that I learned in Yellowstone
that an adventure cannot be selfish and at the expense of what I love.
When I found myself climbing up a mountain, I loved that mountain so much
that I refused to say I was conquering it. Rather, I was relating
with it. I was communicating with it. If I took care of it
and worked hard, the mountain would reward me. When I got to the
top, I began to thank not only God but the mountain itself. For all
I knew, the mountain had a soul. I should treat it as if it did.
For, love was my mission, and love knows no limits.
However, as I have related, I did not expect
to adventure beyond those first days with my family. I was honestly
so humble about the thought that I would get a chance to explore for myself
that I would get an extra excitement if someone suggested that I do something
with them. Being the shy boy that I was, I did not ask to be included.
At college, that generally meant that I could find myself alone an awful
lot. I never felt right about pushing myself on others. I felt
that if I had to push that I would never really know if I was wanted.
I learned that the hard way when I was in high school finding myself romantically
obsessed with a girl, then not leaving the poor girl alone for nine months
as I wrote her letters nearly every day. I really had no, have no,
sense of where the line is between being too shy and being too aggressive.
I tend to error on the side of shyness because I do not like violating
people's sense of space.
Yet, in Yellowstone, I was not an outsider inspite
of my shyness. Maybe it was because I had a stereo, but people tended
to hang out in my room. They would visit to have me tape something
for them or to discuss music or just to talk. Sometimes, they came
to see Price, but I happened to be there. Furthermore, I was on staff
with ACMNP and found myself interacting with Dan and Michelle often.
Price had a car, we were friends, and so I could go places with him.
These things usually just came up. Only later in the summer did I
find myself initiating activities.
In my first month in the park, there were very
few adventures. Perhaps, it is better this way because these adventures
will not steal the thunder of the great events of the latter part of the
summer. Nevertheless, they were adventures. They were things
that were out of the ordinary that gave me the sense that I was active
in the midst of Yellowstone, that I was having the Yellowstone experience.
Because I truly did not expect any single one of them, they were all the
My first hike in Yellowstone was with my ACMNP
staff. It was a very short hike on a trail called the Lake Overlook
Trail. As a staff, we were supposed to do things as a staff every
once in awhile, and Matt had proposed that we do this hike because I did
not have the day off. We went on the hike during my break from work.
Although I was very tired from working the early
shift, and I already had a great sense of unease with my staff, I looked
forward to getting on a trail for the first time. I loved to hike.
I used to go through any wooded area back home and see where the trails
led. When we went to a state park, I always wanted to go on the trail
and was often disappointed when the trail was not long enough. I
liked the world of the woods, especially woods in Ohio where there is little
chance of seeing any signs of a bear.
Anyhow, we all drove to start this short but
first adventure. I believe that only four of us were able to go as
the TW colleague could not make it because of work. So, Matt, Dan,
Michelle, and I went on our merry way.
The Lake Overlook Trail is a short loop covering
two miles. The trailhead, a new word in my vocabulary at that time,
was located at the West Thumb Geyser Basin. The trail begins there,
crosses the main road, then heads straight into a lodgepole pine forest
where the trail forks. Even though the area is wooded, there is no
protection from the sun. It usually is not all that exciting to hike
through a Yellowstone forest. You feel like you are out in the open,
but the trees block you from any view. As it turns out, this is a
test in faith. The forest teases you into thinking that the hike
is an endless journey in boredom, but at the end there almost always is
quite a sight to behold. Besides, if I cared as much for flowers
as I do now, I might have noticed that there were plenty of pretty wildflowers
growing on the side of the trail. I definitely did not pay much attention
to flowers back then. Soon after the fork, the trail begins to rise
over a large hill. At this point, Dan and Michelle began to fall
behind. Although Matt and I spent much of the hike waiting for them
to catch up, everyone was in a good mood. Michelle and Dan were laughing,
and everyone was friendly and civil with each other. It was not as
if good friends were hiking, but it was not a bad walk up the hill.
As we approached the top, evidences of thermal activity became apparent.
There are pools of water with vegetation growing in them surrounded by
the whitish-colored crust that tends to surround Yellowstone's thermal
features. This was exciting. You can see the thermal regions
off of a boardwalk in the tourist areas, and then you can see a thermal
feature in backcountry. While the one in backcountry usually is not
as spectacular as the one off the boardwalk, the one in backcountry gives
you the sense that you are seeing something of what 95% of people do not
see. You have a sense that your experience is superior and that you
have a greater knowledge of the land. "Oh yes, you saw Old Faithful,
but I saw the simplest little hot pool off of the Lake Overlook Trail."
Furthermore, there was nothing that simple about it. This was an
amazing thing not to take for granted. Who walks through the woods
and happens upon hot pools? What average wooded trail shows evidence
of the powerful volcanic forces of the earth? Here was evidence of
the volcanic mixed in a world of trees, wildflowers, and wildlife.
It was surreal, and I refused to take it for granted. It was amazing.
Soon after, we reached the top where we had quite
a nice little view. As we sat on the bench provided for hikers at
the top of the hill, Yellowstone Lake opened up in front of us. You
could see the entire Thumb Bay of Yellowstone Lake. The blue waters
in the bright blue sky, Absarokas in the east, was wondrous. To the
south, Mt. Sheridan came into full view. The small mountain chain
in Southern Yellowstone sits off to itself. It made for a perfect
picture rising over the forest that lay between my view and the range.
There was a sense of peace and accomplishment at the top of this relatively
small hill. I was seeing something that millions of people who see
the park never see. Furthermore, and more importantly, it was simply
beautiful. It was a short hike, not too strenuous for an ex-athlete
like myself, but there was Yellowstone Lake and Mt. Sheridan in a way that
I had never seen them. I realized that this hike was nothing by Yellowstone
standards in either challenge nor aesthetics, and it made me happy that
even the smallest of hikes could be so marvelous. Did Jim Bridger
ever see the same spot as he was passing through in search of furs or as
a guide? I wonder now, but I did not wonder then. I never even
heard of the legends of Yellowstone past.
After hiking the rest of the loop, we took a
stroll through the geyser basin. This time, I had a little more time
to gaze into the features myself. I remembered what Dan the tour
bus driver had said about the colors of the running water being due to
different algae. I thought how interesting it all was as I read every
sign and took greater note of the features I had seen less than a week
before. At Black Pool, the swimming pool blue pool, I took time to
gaze into its depths trying to get a sense of where the water ended.
I looked out into the lake at Fishing Cone, still buried in water.
Here was a thermal pool underneath an ice cold lake. I remarked to
my staff members some of the coins in the thermal features and how angry
it made me that people were so stupid. I was social and happy.
West Thumb was beginning to feel like my own personal geyser basin.
At times, in my future, it was my own personal geyser basin.
Soon, we drove home to Grant Village, and I went
back to work. It was a pleasant adventure.
My next adventure was not a hike, nor did I leave
Grant Village. Rather, it was a short little bike ride that turned
out to be more adventurous for Price than it was for me.
Price and Brandon planned on biking after dinner
one evening. They asked me if I wanted to come along. Of course,
not having a bike, I said that it would not be possible. They did
not let this slide. "Of course you can get a bike. I'm sure
you can borrow one from someone. Jay has a bike. Ask him."
I did not tell them that I did not like asking anything from anyone, and
somehow I managed to get Price to ask Jay for me. He was more than
happy to let me ride his bike. As I would discover, very few people
that I worked with were the slightest bit possessive about very much.
If you wanted to borrow something, all you had to do was to ask.
No one sighed or cut a deal with you or held it over you that they did
something nice for you. It was not even an issue. Although
I would not say that there was a communal attitude amongst my co-workers,
it would be fair to say that it was far more communal than you will find
in most places, even your friendly small town.
Anyhow, all of us went riding around Grant Village.
I thought that we were just going to have some fun cruising the roads.
However, as we approached the lake, Brandon took a turn down a small wooded
area. It was not a trail, nor was it really the woods. It was
an area of trees between the sidewalk and a road down below. I could
not believe he did this, but I had not been christened into the mountain
biking fraternity. The problem was, we were biking pretty fast, and
I could not control my bike well. Almost immediately, I ran into
a tree and fell over. I was not hurt and my fall was soft.
Price and Brandon looked back and laughed at me. I protested that
I had no idea that he was going to take the crazy route that he did.
Anyhow, no harm done, no hard feelings. We continued to bike around
mostly on the roads, up the hills, down the hills, laughing it up and having
a good time. I was biking through areas of Grant Village I had never
seen before, so it was exciting to see where all the roads led.
After awhile, we biked on a stretch of road that
was near the old boat launch down on the lake. There is a big parking
lot there and a raised sidewalk above the lot. Brandon, who was very
good on his bike, hopped the six inches with his bike onto the sidewalk.
Price tried to do the same, but he completely wiped out. Price landed
smack on the sidewalk and completely bruised up his arm. I could
not believe that they were jumping to the sidewalk. It was at least
six inches, which is no small rise. Even in Price's pain, we both
found ourselves laughing at him. He was hurt, but he thought it was
funny, too. He was going to be okay. I thought they were crazy.
I liked to bike, and to bike hard, but I did not have any ability for acrobatics
or riding through a stand of trees. Price was in pain for days over
that injury, but the way he flipped out left more laughs than hard feelings.
Sometimes, it is better to live than to worry about taking care of yourself.
I was beginning to realize that it did no good to live in a shell my whole
life. I might as well be dead. Sometimes, if we feel the call,
we should be willing to take a few risks, a few daring leaps onto the sidewalk.
Even to hike in backcountry was a risk. Yet, the rewards are the
reason I have so much to write about, so much to share, so much of Yellowstone
in me. I began to understand why people climb mountains. Sir
Edmund Hillary arrogantly put it, "Because it was there," after climbing
Mt. Everest. I think he must have been sarcastic. We climb
and put ourselves into danger not to find enlightenment or to heighten
the breadth of our experience so much as it is to quench our need for drama,
our need to express ourselves in the "face of it." I found also that
I do so because I had no fear of eternity, no fear of my own death.
Christ was my savior, and I was free to love and to live lovingly.
I was free even to die if such a thing happened. Dangerous adventure,
when I happened to partake of it, became a worship experience. It
seemed to me what the very nature of Yellowstone invites.
It was only appropriate that climbing the mountain,
or rather hiking up the mountain, was the next thing of an adventurous
feeling about it. Besides my very short excursion into backcountry
with my ACMNP staff, I did not go on any hikes in my first couple of weeks
in the park. That changed in the end of June when I hiked up Mt.
Washburn. I think that Price probably had gotten the word out that
I had not seen much of the park. Patrick was planning a hike up Mt.
Washburn and asked Lynn and I if we would go with him. More than
eager to see this enchanting land and hike up my first mountain, I readily
agreed. It was very kind of Patrick to invite me. I was probably
as excited that someone had actually asked me if I wanted to go hiking
with them as I was about the hike itself. Growing up, I rarely found
myself being asked to do anything. Only my best friend, Matt Klempner,
whom we will talk about much more later, ever asked me to do anything with
him. In college, I had a group of people I hung out with, however,
I do not recall any of them ever going out of their way to invite me to
do anything. To be honest, I was quite lonely. Not only had
I never had a girlfriend, but I had rarely had enough charisma to attract
people who wanted to do things with me. Patrick does not know it,
but his gesture meant a lot to me and still does.
In fact, most of my adventures in 1993 were by
invitation. Price and Brandon had asked me if I wanted to go biking.
Price often asked me if I wanted to go with the pub with him. Patrick
was now inviting me to hike with him. Later, Jay Clayton took it
upon himself to make sure that I had seen what should be seen. What
was fantastic and made some of these adventures special for me personally
was that I never begged or asked to go along. In that, I could feel
confident for one of the first times in my life that I was wanted.
I felt that I fit in without trying in the least to fit in.
I cannot remember whether it was Lynn or Patrick
who drove, but we all rode up together to Mt. Washburn. The mountain
which we planned to climb was supposed to offer one of the best views at
its peak of the entire region. They said, on a clear day, that it
was quite possible to see the Tetons sixty to seventy miles in the distance.
Just north of Canyon, on Dunraven Pass, Mt. Washburn has two trails which
lead to the peak. One of them, the Chittenden trail, beginning further
north on Dunraven Pass was originally constructed by Hiram Martin Chittenden,
the great road builder and greater historian of Yellowstone. He would
become a bigger part of my life in the future, but I had no idea who he
was that day. Perhaps, then, it is only appropriate that we took
the other trail to the peak of the mountain. After parking the car,
we began to ascend the trail.
Or, should we say the trail was a road?!
The trail most of the way was as wide as a road, and all three of us more
than easily walked side-by-side as the trail gradually climbed. Apparently,
in the past, it was possible to drive up the mountain. Later that
summer, ex-President Jimmy Carter visited the park and was said to have
been driven up most of the way. The trail climbed around the perimeter
of the mountain, not very steeply, without much feeling that we were in
Although there was a strangeness about this relatively
easy trail that is on the face of it unsavory to the person who had dreamed
of a hike in the woods, the beauty of the area far surpassed anything else.
Because this was no hike through the forest, we were afforded great views
of the region beyond the mountain. Great green meadows that appeared
like natural golf courses, though thankfully were not golf courses, went
on endlessly between trees. Burnt forests mixed with unburnt forest
to create beautiful designs in the landscape below us. Far off, we
could see a giant gorge that was unmistakably my beloved Grand Canyon of
the Yellowstone. It looked from our distance like a mere interruption
of the progress of the forest. Even then, the canyon walls looked
like a mass of red mixed with trees growing completely up and down its
sides. Every shot of it we got at each higher elevation left my heart
to drop. Then, if that was not enough, at even higher elevations,
Yellowstone Lake was visible. We could see the region from where
we came, a vast lake but just a small part of the earth in my visibility.
Then, on the mountain itself, we came across snow. It was not very
deep in most places and easily passable but nevertheless just as amazing
to see. We knew we were approaching the peak.
The peak itself left me with mixed reactions.
On the negative side of it, the peak is not simply a point of land at the
top of an impressive 10,000 foot mountain. The peak is a large man-made
building in which there is a little visiting area. Above, it is said
that a ranger lives keeping track of such things as meteorological observations.
What lucky ranger commands such a job? However, like the road leading
up to the peak of Mt. Washburn, the peak itself is a strange thing to see
at the top of a natural miracle.
The view, however, was impressive, as impressive
and more impressive than I could imagine. You could see all of Yellowstone
Lake, trace the Yellowstone River as it flows out of the lake through Hayden
Valley and into the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. The Falls themselves
were not visible; but had I never done so and knew anything at all about
reading the land, I would have deduced correctly as Lt. Gustavus C. Doane
had done more than 120 years before when from the peak soon named after
Henry Dana Washburn, leader of the expedition that Doane was escorting,
that there had to be a great falls to create such a magnificent canyon.
Looking from the peak into that direction, I was simply amazed at this
world. It seemed as though the world was so large and small at the
To the right of the Yellowstone Lake, which is
to say to the west and much further to the south, the Tetons were quite
visible. Although pictures I took of that day render them invisible,
the Tetons laying out there beyond everything shown as clear as day.
In fact, when I used the telescope at the visiting area, I was able to
make out individual trees on the Grand Teton itself! They looked
like little cartoon figures painted on by a child. I had seen trees
on the Grand Teton from approximately ninety miles away. What could
be more exciting than that? I felt like a kid in a candy store.
Earlier that year, I had seen Niagara Falls for the second time, and that
is an amazing thing, but this gave my eyes an endless fascination.
Below me and beyond were some of the most amazing things ever created.
The eye began searching for them all.
Old Faithful and the geyser regions along the
Firehole River were not really visible although it was possible to make
out where they were. I looked repeatedly over the vast forest to
pinpoint the locations of fond memories traveling with my family and seeking
out the world I had never seen before. To the north, the grand Gallatin
Range acts as a natural border to the park. They were stunning, covered
in snow at their peaks, and with a strong purple look about them.
Since they were to the north, the sun was kindest to them showing off the
brilliance of their color. I began to see that the northern part
of the park I had not seen yet looked very different than the southern
part I had only begun to know. The vegetation seemed more sparse
as there seemed to be many great pastures. Indeed, the park was beginning
to show itself as an amazing diversity. Soon after this, I began
to realize that Yellowstone was like all the national parks rolled into
one with geysers thrown in. It had a Grand Canyon, waterfalls, wildlife,
forests, mountains, great rivers, petrified forests, and much more.
Other parks often had individual features which surpassed those in Yellowstone,
but what park had every grand thing thrown together into one paradise.
Furthermore, let us not forget that no other park had geysers, that distinct
thing that made Yellowstone especially unique. Here, on top of Mt.
Washburn, it seemed that Yellowstone had achieved an axis upon which the
entire complexity could be unified into a simple panorama.
Patrick, Lynn, and I ate lunch at the peak, proceeded
to descend the mountain, but we were only half through with the adventure.
The climb to the top of the mountain only took two hours though it was
three miles up. The hike down took less than an hour. Now that
we had all this time left in our day, Patrick suggested that we go see
Tower Fall. There was nothing even close to an objection; and upon
returning down the mountain, we headed north.
This trip to Tower Fall was not planned, and
it was quite a bonus. I had no idea what this waterfall looked like,
only knowing that it was about half the height of the Lower Falls.
Even though I knew that what I was about to see could not surpass the enormity
of that, I came to expect that if this was a stop in a national park that
it must be special. It was inspirational.
The ride to Tower Fall is along another very
bad road. This road is made worse by the fact that it is so narrow.
At times, a mistake along this road could send you tumbling over a cliff
into the pastures below. Behind us was often a grand view of Mt.
Washburn. It was unmistakable because we could easily see the building
on its peak. As you approach Washburn from the south, the mountain
is hard to spot. From the north, it seems like a very classic mountain
by itself with giant spurs extending from its base like the tentacles of
As we approached Tower Fall, it was evident that
this was a great tourist trap. It was great, but it was a tourist
trap. Parking is very hard to come by in the middle of the afternoon
as cars and buses circle around looking for a place to park. We ended
up on the side of the road about a quarter mile from the Hamilton Stores
which stands at the bend in the road near the falls. The falls itself
is not visible from this point, but it is clear where the throngs of people
are headed and by the lay of the land. The Tower Fall area feels
a bit like you are in an exotic corner. There is a large hill on
the left side as the road takes a ninety degree turn toward the west.
The hill and the forest out of which the road comes forbids any view of
the south. Furthermore, the high terrain to the west through which
the road winds forbids any view of the west. To the south and east,
the only area visible, high terrain makes getting a good view hard.
The way the land lays, it becomes quite clear that any view of anything
depends upon going with the throngs of people headed to see the Fall.
Before we explored, we all went to the bathrooms.
The store at Tower Fall is a small one, but it is very crowded. Unlike
the modern appearance of the Grant Village store, this store leaves nothing
of a sense of beauty about it. The layout is crowded, the fountain
consists of microwaved food much of which you could have bought in the
Grant Village grocery, and the bathrooms are outside. Of course,
it is only practical that the bathrooms are outside. It would have
destroyed the poor store as thousands of people waited in line to use the
wretched restroom facilities. It is said that the dorms at Tower
are as nice or nicer than the ones in Grant Village, but I sincerely doubt
I would have wanted to work in a place several times more crowded than
our little corner of the park. Going to the restroom took about fifteen
to twenty minutes, and I was starting to lose the excitement for the area.
As Patrick and I waited for Lynn, we looked out
over what we could see. Squirrels raced around begging for food.
Despite signs posted all over the place not to feed the animals, parents
often gave their small children pieces of bread to feed the animals.
As a child, I would have wanted the same thing. I used to think the
greatest thing about going to the zoo was the chance to feed a bear.
As rules changed preventing the feeding of animals, I did not like going
to the zoo nearly as much. So, I can understand the temptation.
Nevertheless, it began to make me feel sick and angry again. Sure,
these tourists were likely as complex as the people I got to know in Yellowstone,
decent people living their lives. Sure, they were ignorant about
what they were doing. These days, I work in a Garden Center where
I hear people coming in repeatedly worried that if they do not buy birdseed
that their wild outdoor birds will starve. Like the misplaced act
of feeding birds out of good motives, these people at Tower Fall may have
not had entertainment on their minds so much as making their children happy.
Yet, I was angry. People had not thought about what effects their
actions might cause. I wished that at least they felt some guilt.
On the way down Mt. Washburn, Patrick and I took a couple switchbacks probably
contributing to the erosion on our path, and although it was thrilling,
I had begun to feel guilty. Where was the guilt here? Maybe,
all they had to do was be told that they were hurting the animals.
I know one reason I am writing this is because I want to educate people
that Yellowstone is far more complex than the simple act of giving your
child the small pleasure of feeding a small animal.
When Lynn finally escaped from the bathroom,
we headed to the fall. Without having to hike very far, a view of
Tower Fall was soon to be had from above it. This was very pleasant,
but I did not really get why it was called Tower Fall. Sure, there
were a couple pointed rocks around the top, but I could not see them as
towers. The fall itself was very eloquent, however. A small
creek flows between these rocky formations and over the edge spilling below
over one hundred feet to the ground. This was nice, but I wanted
to see it from below. There was a trail going down, and I had never
seen a large waterfall from the ground before. It was only from the
bottom that I saw the real power and beauty of Tower Fall.
The trail down is steep and flooded with people.
Since it is not incredibly wide, basically one must walk at the pace of
the crowd. This turns out to be best because it gave me time to look
at the land. The trail heads in a direction opposite of the falls
and our first good view of things opens up into a very gorgeous canyon.
I was so excited that I could not contain myself.
Here again was a canyon touching whatever artist there is in me.
There were light yellows and great amounts of white, very subtle as the
river flowed below us. Instead of heading back in the direction of
the fall, my heart has always wanted to travel in the direction of the
canyon alone seeking out this marvel. It resembled the Grand Canyon
near the Lower Falls, but it was more subtle and secluded. My excitement
left me loudly pointing out what I thought was beautiful in everything
I was seeing. Patrick was no less enthusiastic, and I doubt Lynn
was either though she never displayed as much emotion as I. She,
too, was having a good time, although Patrick found himself asking her
several times if she was. Still, we felt like comrades who had been
to the mountaintop and were now seeing what was in the mountain's shadow.
As the trail turned towards the fall, the creek
below remained fairly narrow. Large rocks were at our side and in
the creek, and the walls of the canyon above us again gave us the feeling
that we were in a box. It was like going to the movie theater.
There was the canyon all around us and the movie screen (when we could
see it) would be the grand waterfall.
Before we could see Tower Fall, we could hear
it. Sometimes, we have a tendency to think of what a waterfall looks
like, but there is an unmistakable roaring sound that is also a trademark.
It becomes hard to hear others as the waterfall commands a presence not
to be denied. As we could hear it, we desired even more to see it.
Then, there it was.
If I had trouble discerning the towers from the
top, I had absolutely no trouble from the bottom. From the top, the
towers just seemed like small little pointed landscape features.
From the bottom, I could see that the towers surrounding the falls began
from the base rising with the falls and demanding as much attention as
to the water itself. We were but a dozen feet from the crashing waters,
and so we were covered in mist. Large rocks were strewn all over
the place, and I had to go on a prominent rock near the base. There,
Patrick took my picture. It looked like I was the only person there.
Of course, behind Patrick, there were dozens of others taking pictures
of the falls. The picture can lie, unfortunately. You think
that Yellowstone is a beautiful feature when in reality there is a large
human spectacle behind the scenes like in the production of a movie.
Nevertheless, Yellowstone rises above the crowds, those things which could
otherwise take from its nature. For me, the truth was that I had
found a spot in this crowd where I could appear to be one with this amazing
thing and record it. The appearance is not really the case, however,
but Tower Fall is all the more beautiful than my photographs or my words
can describe. To say that something is indescribable is something
of a cop-out, but Yellowstone has that way of humbling us over and over
For all intents and purposes, that ended the
adventure. We did have a long ride back to Grant Village, but we
were tired. We probably saw large amounts of bison in Hayden Valley,
but this was no longer so adventurous. We had all seen plenty of
bison. It became far too easy to take them for granted. We
had no time to stop at the Mud Volcanoes. This was nothing new.
The sun upon the lake made us more drowsy and the glare off of it did not
encourage us to gaze too deeply into its mysteries. Maybe, we did
not take advantage of this trip home. However, I believe that even
in Yellowstone, we need to rest and reflect. Our minds cannot commit
themselves to too much adventure without the need to step back and contemplate.
I cannot remember, but we probably said little on the ride back, each to
ourselves. I know that I had had a lot of fun that day.
So, those were my early adventures in Yellowstone.
They were not incredibly different than a lot of people's and probably
fewer in number and less interesting than the average person who has been
fortunate to spend a lot of time in Yellowstone. Nevertheless, they
left me feeling as though I was extremely lucky. I had by the chance
of following Rob to the ACMNP table after chapel to happen on the chance
assignment in Yellowstone to the chance of having been asked to do a few
activities in the park. It had been a very adventurous time for me.
I had seen things and felt things that I had never felt. I was left
in awe that I had been and was so ignorant of this land. It was all
new to me, and it was a frontier of sorts. I had found the West,
and it was handed to me on a silver platter without even dreaming of it.
Fortunately, I could appreciate these great surprises like few others I
have met. I was blessed.
to next page
back to Table of Contents
to the front page