Thursday, September 01, 2005

Old Faithful Under the Milky Way

'Bout 11 PM here in Yellowstone... Just got in from watching Old Faithful erupt under dark skies (no moon) but with enough lights from buildings and a few errant headlights to see the big plume of steam easily against the black of space. But the nifty thing was that the Big Dipper was right overhead. As the steam plume rose over 100 feet, it obscured the lower stars of the Dipper, quite a sight. And high overhead, the blotchy band of the Milky Way stretched far and wide.

There were a few other people out on the boardwalk, but I stood alone far from them, and all I could hear was the geyser itself.

Earlier today, I'd hiked past Fairy Falls to Spray Geyser and one of my favorite geysers, rambunctious Imperial, erupting with an amazingly consistent interval of just 15 seconds. And then I really got the heart pumping and the senses awakened by heading off trail and up and up another mile or so to the north summit of the Twin Buttes, affectionately known around these parts (to the hokey tour guides) as Dolly Parton's Hills or Marilyn Monroe's Mountains. When you get up on them, there's nothing breast-like about them. They are sort of spokey in their tracklessness. And being offtrail in a national park feels a little naughty - but an official guidebook suggested the excursion to get sweeping views of the Midway and Lower geyser basins as the same time, quite a sight.

And along the way, I watched the white head and white tail feathers of a bald eagle dive once, twice into a lake beyond the trees to catch a fish. I saw my second snake in two days on the trail, and high up in a fresh young forest on the butte, I was calling out and clapping to alert bears, but instead I came face to face with a huge and silent bull bison staring right at me. I gave him a wide berth and kept moving up trying to see in all directions around me.

I now wear a canister of bear spray when I hike alone or along any trail that is not busy. It's strapped to the sternum strap of my daypack, right there ready to go. Some wonder about the black cannister. Is that necessary? I say no, but do you wear a seatbelt when you drive? And I want to save the bear's life, too. If I or another person along the trail were attacked, the bear might be "put down," a terrible shame because no bear is at fault. But if the bear got a shot of pepper spray and turned tail, all might be saved, and that is as it should be.

I want the bears to roam just like I want the bison to roam.

And as for roaming myself, I'm such a goody two shoes nature nerd, I almost always stay on the trail (unless the guidebook corrupts me), but the trail is good for finding our way, not keeping us safe. Out here, miles from the parking lot and far beyond the aid if not the jurisdiction of the rangers, nature rules.

Nature rules.

It's a grand and haunting feeling to be alone.



At 9/02/2005 5:25 AM, Anonymous rq said...

I always say that all you have to do is just get out there, and things happen. I'm glad they're happening for you.

At 9/03/2005 8:27 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm so glad to find LW is alive, well, and, well, still the same. Hope that if he needs $$ he will come back to the world with those other worldly bicycle tours. ML

At 9/12/2005 11:57 AM, Blogger Lawrence said...

ML, ML... Bahlissa, is that you?


Post a Comment

<< Home