Monday, August 5, 2013

My Latest Journey

"If  our future journeys are to be little different from flashes of light, with no interim landscape and no interim thought, I think we will have lost the whole good of journeying and will have succumbed to a mere preoccupation with getting there. I believe journeys have value in themselves, and are not just a device for saving time--which never gets saved in the end anyway."
-E. B. White, 1960


Yellowstone was our latest journey, and Oh! What a lovely journey it was! It was a large and merry gathering of people: Dad and Andrea and Jesse, Todd and Christine, Sue and Mel and the Gang, Caleb, Corbin, Tera and the Dicklings, and us (Brittney and Porter made it up for a few days as well, but were gone before the bulk of us got up there). We took Mr. White's words to heart, and we attempted to see every nook and cranny of the park! What a spectacular concentration of Nature's marvels! All in one gorgeous spot! How convenient for the nature-lover and the adventurer. We made the most of it, that's for certain.

What We Saw:
-Old Faithful (made it just minutes before it erupted)
-Steamboat Geyser (which, we later found out, erupted for the first time in eight years just hours after we saw it!)
-Mammoth Hot Springs
-Artist Paint Pots
-Norris Geyser Basin
-Bison, bison and more bison
-Dragon's Mouth Spring (the highlight of the trip for my Coco, who was thoroughly convinced that he could wake that snoring dragon up and get it to poke its head out of that steaming cave...which goal, in turn, filled me with more pride than I can express)
-The Upper and Lower Falls (A few of us took Uncle Tom's Trail, which was a ridiculous 500 foot hike down...and down was okay; but back up? Holy smokes! But so worth the view)
-Boiling River Hot Springs (Ahh, the most relaxing stop of the whole journey--I could have stayed for hours)
-Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone
-Mud Volcano
-West Thumb Geyser Basin
-Kepler Cascades
-Fountain Paint Pots
-Midway Geyser Basin

What We Did:
-Had campfires about half of the nights, cooking delicious dutch oven meals, etc
-Arrived into camp at 10:30 the other half of the nights, and the chickens--of their own accord--skipped dinner and climbed right into their sleeping bags and slept
-Dealt with two sick kiddos; but neither sickness lasted for long, thankfully, blessedly!
-Said lots of prayers during the continuous intermittent rainstorms that visited our campground; and marveled at the power of prayer when our tent stayed 100% dry and cozy-warm, even after a particularly strong deluge of hail!
-Enjoyed each other thoroughly while all the cousins enjoyed their own communal madness
-Waited for hours while bison decided to take full advantage of the right-of-way across the roads (and it wasn't bad at all, really, because the kids enjoyed every minute of bison-watching they got)
-Hiked and carried chickens in backpacks and on shoulders and hips
-Listened to Coren and Nathan run out to the woods and back into camp every few minutes, ticking off the list of wildlife they had seen....which got ever more exotic: elk, wolves, bears, even a few lions in there!
-Listened to our own private concert performance of an original piece written, composed and performed by Caelan and Genevieve especially for the occasion (we even got honorable mention in the lyrics)
-Looked and marveled and wondered and discussed and enjoyed and admired the endless natural beauties and wonders around us, and basked in that big-yet-small feeling you get when surrounded by earth's vast greatness
-Looked and marveled and talked and wondered and discussed and laughed and enjoyed and admired the endless natural beauties and wonders in the magnificent people around us, and basked in that large-yet-intimate feeling you get when surrounded by your family's vast greatness

It was a journey to be remembered. How happy I am that my chickens thrilled in it to the very end. And truly, I was impressed by their joyful contentment, even after a week of sleep-deprivation. They loved it to their very bones! How happy I am that we all made the effort.... I have heard people say that camping is too much work for them. And, well, it is quite a lot of work. There is serious planning beforehand; endless packing, unpacking, and repacking; food preparation; rushing through bedtime routines to dive down beneath layers of warmth in the freezing cold of mountain nights; conversely, the never-wanting-to-leave-the-tent-in-the-morning-but-needing-to-pee-so-bad-it-hurts experience; the dirt and more dirt that is everywhere; and the kiddos traveling all the way to and from the campground hidden behind and beneath piles and stacks of duffel bags, tents and equipment, etc, with absolutely no leg room to speak of. Camping is certainly not convenient, not in any sense of the word. But oh, I wouldn't trade it for all the stylish travel in the world! I will be forever grateful for parents that instilled in me a love for camping, with all its inconveniences. And I will forever be camping with my kids, with a bright hope that it will become a burning love within them as well, and that they will in turn pass it on to my future grandkids. I do not know where one comes to love and respect nature so deeply and intimately as while camping. I do not know of any place where I have built more fond memories of family adventures than on our countless camping trips together growing up. I do not know of any other journey that fills a child with wild abandon and deep wonder as the camping experience--where he wakes up and steps outside into forest; where he shares his breakfast with grazing deer; where he runs, wild as a banshee with his comrades, through dirt and wildflowers, and is never interrupted by cars or paved roads; where he takes pride in cooking his own meal over a fire, without Mom's help; where he looks up and sees a universe of stars and begins to ask himself where it all starts and where it all ends; where he sits in stillness and feels connected to the ground beneath his feet and the breeze in his hair and feels deep instincts that are daily hidden by screens and noises and electric lights and gadgets. There is something about camping that makes me feel grounded, and I will keep coming back to feel that again and again.... and hopefully always surrounded by the people I love best. Because the journey is that much deeper when fueled with an abundance of love.