Saturday, July 31, 2010

Oh Give Me a Home Where the Buffalo Roam...

...and the deer and the antelope play.

And the grizzly and black bears and wolves too, don't forget.

A bison herd in Yellowstone's Lamar Valley.

That doesn't matter much to me though. You can still give me a home in bison country out there in Montana or Wyoming. Funny, I never would have thought of myself as someone who'd have any inclination to live in backwoods-cattle-ranching Wyoming of all places, but now that I've been there I'm in love. In love with the mountains and the unimaginably deep blue skies, rivers so sparkely you have to squint your eyes, and of course Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks. Even in love with the crisp dry air, which wreaked havoc on the inside of my nose but made for the most pleasant hiking days of my life. Hiking with no humidity must be what its like when hiking in heaven. At least, I think it would be like that.

As someone who has lived on the east coast of the country her entire life and very rarely travelled anywhere off it, and never to the Western part, I was in some ways unprepared for the differences in climate and scenery. Mid July. Temps soared to 105 back here in the Old Dominion, with humidity making it feel like a roasty 130, I'm sure. While in Montana, a day's high of 80 degrees was considered surprisingly warm, and even on those days sitting in the shade for any period of time required a light jacket. Without humidity, shade is actualy cool. Will wonders never cease.

Sure I woke up every morning with my nasal pasages crusted over and my hands nearly screaming for an entire bottle of moisturizer, but that was a small price to pay for being completely comfortable all day, even on our more strenuous trips. We did learn the hard way, though, that we did not carry nearly enough water and juices with us the first day. And some learned the hard way, despite my loud insistance about reading warnings before hand, that the sun is much stronger at higher altitudes due to thinner atmosphere, and therefore skin burns more quickly. Well, there's only so many times I can say "I told you so" without sounding like a jerk (okay, maybe one time is too many, but I DID tell them so), but my kids and I, at least, were not in the burned-party list.

I think what most surprised me, though, was the landscape istelf. And I'm not only talking about the wonders of Yellowstone, spectacular as they are. It was the wide expanses of flat valleys and sagebrush plains suddenly giving way to mountains jutting up with little to no foothills to ease the eye into them. Mountains so rugged that often times greenery stopped about half way up, and snow was still cradled in their sheltered jagged peaks. The sweeping abyss of vibrant blue sky and occasional puffy white clouds created the perfect backdrop to take my breath away with every glance out of the car window. Everywhere you looked, it seemed like a snapshot from a postcard was right there in front of you. Amazing and Incredible are words that still do not do the scenery justice.

I felt so free and at ease everywhere we went. The wide open spaces were not just limited to the flats and valleys. The lakes were open and sprawling. The rivers were shallow and usually with wide, gentle banks. Even the forests, which consisted mainly of lodgepole pines, seemed more open and airy than our thick Virginia lanscapes. The town of Big Sky, Montana certainly got their name right. The sky is huge, and the sence of the vastness of the world is like nothing I've ever experienced before. They say everything's bigger in Texas, but I'm inclined to think that Wyoming should have gotten that slogan first. From the ranches and fields of horses to the towering mountians to the biggest land animal in North America, I think Wyoming might give Texas a run for its money.

It was an eye opening experience for me. Even more so than my trip halfway across the globe to experience China on our honeymoon almost 10 years ago. Somehow being immersed in a completely different culture and history wasn't as life changing as seeing a 'foreign' part of my own country. I repeatedly told myself that I would look for a way to move and live out there, where heaven meets earth, but then I would suddenly be reminded of the 400 inches of snow they recieve each year, and how fleeting the Yellowstone Country summer actually is. Although I do love a good snow or two in Virginia, I don't know how someone can shovel snow off their car day after day and not have a mental breakdown. Or how a human can actully function in temperatures considered 'normal' even at 20 BELOW zero. At those temps I don't think the buffalo are roaming as much, and there's certainly no playing by the deer and the antelope, if they're even still around by then and the wolves haven't gotten them first. Hmmmm... Ah, well. Perhaps just a summer home is in order. Maybe even in Big Sky.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Summer 2010: A Dream Come True

Yes, Summer has officially hit its middle month. I can tell because I haven't had much time to breath, much less blog! Between Cub Adventure Camp and Fourth of July festivities and the pool and hiking and preparing for the Cub Olympics it has been a whirlwind the last two weeks. Not to mention initital stages of Project: Pack and Fly the Family to Yellowstone. Yeah, lets not forget to mention THAT piece of incredible stress that I'm trying hard not to get over excited about!

I had wanted to write a full post about Cub Adventure Camp, but every time I'd start one I would realize it was about to turn into a short novel instead of a blog post. I can sum it up in one short word: FUN. Fun for my son, who experienced his first time at resident camp, and possibly even more fun for me, who got to experience camp from whole new perspective and see all our boys having the time of their lives. I am so incredibly pleased with the quality of the program and the staff at camp. In many ways it was better for OS and myself than many vactions we've gone on. No plnning, little down time to be bored, and lots of friends to keep us both well engaged. Its something I am very much looking forward to doing again next year!

So this week, since returning from camp, we've been on a self-induced whirlwind schedule of outdoor activities and home preparation for upcomign events. I'm amazed when I remember past summers that I've looked back on and wondered where the summer went. That I recall thinking I really didn't get to do as much as I had wanted for that particular summer. At least this year I know that will decidedly NOT be the case. Instead I will be looking back in September, wondering how in the world we managed to fit so much into just a few short months.

I used to daydream about the things we'd do when my son was older. People always told me not to wish your children grow up too fast because time passes too quickly as it is, but I couldn't help thinking about the cool things that lie in store for my sweet baby boys. While its great when kids are little flailing and cute chubby monsters, I was definitely meant to be a parent of slightly older children. The realization of all those previous daydreams has already begun, and I am loving every speedily passing minute. From hiking out to search for beavers to learning about rocks while working on the Cub Scout geology pin, THIS is the reason I wanted to have children. Lucky me to have this opportunity to spend so much of this important year with my suddenly growing-up kids to really experience this turning point in their lives. It really is a summer for some of the closest dreams to my heart to finlly start coming true.
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