Back Home Again

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Author: Susan Helene Gottfried

We rolled into town just a few minutes late on Wednesday, and I’ve been playing catch-up ever since. It’s easy to tell which clients don’t read my blog or Facebook; I heard from all of them while I was gone!

(note to self: work on client-only mailing list)

As always, being in Yellowstone is a spiritual thing for me, and where I left last time desperate to return, this time, I left with the quiet knowledge that I’ll be back — the same goals from all my adult trips still remain to be met — and the surety that I’m where I  belong in life right now. That, as tough as running what is essentially a freelancing service business is, it’s the exact right thing for me to be doing. So all you authors who worry I’ll give up the ship, stop. I’m in it for the long haul.

Wildlife was surprisingly scarce, but the meadows were in full bloom and the mountains were demanding and the campground was quieter than the few nights I spent under a roof. Norris remains my favorite of the geyser areas, and I think Canyon and the Lamar Valley have become my absolute favorite parts of the park.

The Old Faithful area was the most disappointing. Older amenities — we stayed in cabins near the Lodge — way too many people (especially after being the only ones on some trails), and even dinner at the famed Old Faithful Inn wasn’t as good as the dinner we’d had in the Canyon restaurant. Interesting to note that most people only know Yellowstone for Old Faithful, which is a shame. The park is so much more, so much better.

Mammoth Hot Springs seems to be drying up. That was also disappointing, although for a different reason. Yes, still too many people and after six days we’d had enough of the people who insisted on posing in front of features and parking their photographer five feet away — and getting angry when we’d walk right on through. If we waited for all those people to take their snapshots, we’d still be there. But that’s not the part that made me saddest: it was that the springs are drying up. The place has an eerie, haunted feel to it. It’s a relic of a bygone day, and that’s sad. Even the last time I was there, it was more alive than this. I mourn its loss, and you can almost feel that the place is mourning, too.

Back to those other tourists for a moment. To be honest, I don’t understand the need to take pictures of yourself in front of a feature. Oh, sure, there’s the whole “Look where I was!” bit that’s a lot of fun. No argument there. The part I don’t get is the part where your back is turned to whatever it is you’re posing in front of. That means you’re not looking at it. You’re not seeing what’s going on. Sure, you may see it when you get home and look over your pictures, but you’re not experiencing it, and if you’re not there for the experience, why are you there?

I’ve been to Yellowstone four times now. Each time, I leave with memories and spots seared into my memory. The mailbox near the outhouse at what turns out to be the entrance to the Slough Creek campground. Fountain Paint Pots. The tree at Mammoth that I have taken pictures of three times now. I don’t need pictures of me posing for me to know I’ve been there. Part of me never leaves. But just in case, here’s me. Experiencing the view. Conquering something private — and resolving to come back and finish what we started.

Selfie on Mt. Washburn

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