Two mother bison and their calves. Notice how close they are to keep their offspring safe from wolves. (They are shedding winter coats, not dying of some horrible disease.)
I have a theory. Call it the Yellowstone Peace Protocol, or YPP for short.
It’s simple: take people from all over the world who can’t agree on anything or are fighting over an age-old conflict. Place them together in a beautiful landscape populated with majestic animals in a sort of wildlife pilgrimage. Humans of all colors, shapes, nationalities and languages, all inspired by nature. Now make sure the ratio of people to binoculars and spotting scopes is skewed. Say, 20 people for every five pairs of binoculars and two spotting scopes.
Now stand back. I don’t care if there is a staunch Republican next to a Democrat, or a Palestinian next to a Jew, or a Michigan State fan next to an Ohio State alumnus (am I pushing it with that one?). They’re going to start talking about wolves, bison and bears, not some other age-old conflict. Next thing you know, they’re sharing the spotting scopes and binoculars and sharing cold brews from a cooler. Agendas and nationalities melt away in the face of the YPP and all you’re left with is the fact that all of us are human.
A rather large elk that meandered through our campsite in Grand Teton about five feet from the van. We watched him for quite awhile.
French, Czech, Dutch, British, Texan, New Joy-sey, or Aussie. Talking to a fellow animal watcher in a National Park for the first time, you never know what their accent will be, so it would be a level playing ground to get started. With a thread weaving us all together, our eyes and intention are trained on the mama grizzly bear and her cubs bouncing in the tall grass, not the differences that “separate” us.
A dusk shot (not so good, sorry) of a mama grizzly and her tiny little cub. I didn’t want to get any closer than this for the shot!
I think this would trump the effectiveness of any UN meeting or mediation. Find a calming common ground and resolution lies just beyond that boundary. A clean, easy solution! Leaders of the World, feel free to borrow this anytime you’d like.
P.S. Yellowstone and Grand Teton are just amazing. We can’t wait to get back there. Here are a fair number of other pictures that I haven’t had a chance to share. Plus a few fun ones from Colorado and Montana to get these shots out once and for all!
The aptly named Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. Amazing just like its counterpart to the south.
Multi-colored bacteria brighten up a geyser pool in Yellowstone.
The majestic, old-timber lodge near Old Faithful. A great dinner in a cool rustic space that reminded me of Timberline near Mt. Hood.
Tent caterpillars lounging in Yellowstone.
Bubbling pools of hot water and the colorful bacteria that live on them.
I know, I know, you’ve seen it…but it’s just so pretty with flowers and mountains! (Grand Teton)
Oh give me a hommmme, where the buffalo roooam… (Grand Teton rocks.)
A big ol’ bison munching away in the fields.
Cows under an incoming storm in the middle of nowhere Wyoming.
A lizard keeps an eye on the scene in Fruita, Colorado.
Assisting with a friend’s move near Boulder, CO by holding down roof freight while also wielding his favorite trident (we don’t have one of those in the van). Got a few odd looks on the drive over. 🙂
Lewis and Clark Caverns near the North Entrance to Yellowstone.
The tunnel out of Lewis and Clark Caverns. You start way up at the top and descend wayyyyy down before exiting through this tunnel.
Amazing spring bloom in Grand Teton NP. (Click to expand. Mo betta!)
We humans love to celebrate and formally close chapters of our lives. Loose threads, relationships ending and open books need to be tied up and closed with graduations, parties and awesome drunken nights jumping off bridges into rivers. (You know who you are!) New adventures invigorate us, yet tying up a thread of the past in a neat knot is extremely satisfying. The infinity symbol, ∞, always starts anew, the mobius strip woven back to the beginning. This article is a brief reflection on our time traveling in the van from November through June, a chapter we recently closed, for the time being at least.
Tomorrow will mark eight months since we rented our house, packed our van and lit out on the open road. Our first stop was to drop off our cat Oliver at C’s parents’ up in Idaho, followed by a big, wandering loop south, east and back to the homestead just in time for my 32nd birthday. Eight years ago, I spent my birthday exploring the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia with my brother Finn. In June, for the first time in over a decade, I celebrated it in Moscow, Idaho with my family around a big table in my parents’ dining room with giant cottonwood trees framing the view. Looking back at the arc of those intervening years, it is amazing how we end up where we do! I’m exceptionally grateful to have the life I do, and even with the hard work to get here, I also realize how lucky I am.
A full moon rises over Yellowstone.
Next up is the bike tour, another leg in the journey that will eventually loop us back somehow, logistics TBD! The first loop added eight thousand miles to the van’s odometer and baked a cake of hundreds of memories mixed with dozens of new friends, all iced with beautiful landscapes to serve up one fantastic journey. Who knows how many miles our bikes will see before we return to the comfort of the Sprinter van?
As Steinbeck said, “We find that after years of struggle we do not take a trip; a trip takes us.” The initial goal of our “winter escape” was to explore the California coast and get close to nature, with lots of mountain biking and hiking. Check mark next to that…and so much more. The journey (obviously) continues!
Bike tour, day 1! Cruising farmland in eastern Washington, somewhere near a little town called Farmington.
Traveling always breaks loose blockages within me and free up creative flows. I hadn’t written creatively for almost seven years prior to departing Portland and now can’t seem to stop words from tumbling forth. I think of travel in pre-computer days when people just disappeared over the horizon with promises to call on holidays over a crackly line or send a postcard from afar. It’s so different now, with WiFi available everywhere and cell phones linking us to the world. Still, disconnecting from a place physically stimulates a confidence in me, a seething wanderlust, to pursue goals I’ve only dreamed about. Momentum is a powerful force and we’ve been flying downhill with the wind at our back since November.
How has this trip changed me? I feel my brain rewiring priorities daily as distractions and maintenance items like fixing a porch disappeared and made room for creativity and time in nature, which leads to my mind spinning as fast as the wheels on my bike. I’ve always felt tied down by possessions and now I’m also realizing that I can’t do all the activities or hobbies I identified with in the past without sacrificing true competency. Expectations for who I should be or how I should live my life that don’t ring true any longer? Time to jettison those over the starboard side pronto presto.
Chelsea showing her signature style in Yellowstone.
I’m learning that the threads of judgment other people levy upon us are merely constructs of our own mind and we can choose to not be controlled by them. Powerful forces, for sure, yet our reaction to them imbues their fiery power. I’m trying to operate from a place of courage rooted in self-confidence instead of obligation to anything or anyone. It’s difficult, and I’m by no means perfect, yet clipping restraining strings one by one lets me pivot and wheel about to seek my North Star.
There’s still a little voice inside me questioning, “Hey, why are you traveling? Do something to help the world!” I guess I’m no different than most people in that I need a mission and want to be of service in a positive way. I’m considering this a sabbatical that I’ve earned, yet dealing with that internal questioning while also acknowledging that traveling is exactly what I want to be doing at this moment is a balancing act that I’ll probably struggle with for the rest of my life. In some respect, I think we all toss and turn over the best use of our limited time on this planet. So many factors tied to “best” – for us, for other people, for the environment.
For now, I’m going to continue to explore the world and share what I find. I’ve always wanted to use the syrupy cliche phrase “This road trip called life” and it’s starting to feel accurate for our existence. Where does one trip and another end if we’re on the road the entire time in an untethered ship? As this trip continues to unfold a day at a time, it’s a giant wave of nostalgia and dreams that we are lucky enough to be surfing. Who knows where this section of the infinity loop will take us or how we will change, or where we’ll cross through and return in some fashion, physically or mentally, to the beginning.
Onward we go,
P.S. More photos from Grand Teton/Yellowstone coming soon. Didn’t want to bury you all at once!
A slow-moving section through Grand Teton NP where all the animals congregate.
Moments before rolling out the driveway toward Maine.
https://www.traipsingabout.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/15-DSC01378.jpg10651600Dakotahttps://www.traipsingabout.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/Traipsing-About-logo-white-background-450x156.pngDakota2014-06-30 11:22:482014-07-02 20:25:07Closing the Loop and Starting Anew