Saturday, August 22, 2009

On the Road Again - Wild Kingdom


Massacre Rocks State Park

We awoke early, and in my case, grudgingly. A shower made an amazing difference. (Little did I know that on the way back, when we stayed there for the second time, I would accidentally use - or misuse - the disabled shower and get my clothes all wet.) After a flurry of artistry, photographic and painterific, the camp wife (me) got started cooking breakfast.

It was such a nice camping spot. The flat space for the tent, as well as where the rest of us slept out under the stars, was right down by the car, then we walked up steps in the bank to reach our picnic area. Above the table and firepit, more rocks lured the kids into climbing.

When the visitor's center opened, we went in to learn more about the area. As a bonus, we all got to try on a bunch of pioneer clothing. Except Grandpa - we didn't want to offend his dignity. Tiggy had it the best, and the boys didn't do too badly. By the time Tina and I pulled on as many layers upon layers of clothes as the pioneer women wore, over the top of our own clothing, we looked a mite pudgy, to say the least. On the bright side, we looked and felt very sturdy. Devon couldn't help but benefit by the appearance of extra pounds. And I still think Tina grabbed the thinner dress first. That's just the kind of sister she is.

What the place is really known for, instead of the nonexistent massacres, (ten pioneers and an unknown number of Native Americans were killed in a skirmish somewhere else...) is Register Rock. In the days of the Oregon Trail, the wagons followed a difficult road, coming at last to a peaceful spot not far from the river. As they camped and rested, many of them carved their names on the rocks, particularly the one very large boulder that gives the place its name.

One enterprising young fella did a whole lot more than carve his name. JJ Hansen, age 7 in 1866, carved pictures of a parson and an Indian chief, facing each other on the same rock.

Later to become a famous artist, he returned as an adult to the scene of his youthful sketches and added in the date of his visit.

Not bad at all for a 7-year-old.

Speaking of kids, 8-year-old Devon was kind enough to demonstrate one of the sad and scary aspects of pioneer life. Don't tell anyone, but sometimes the men had to wear bonnets.

See, hats were so very flyaway. All it took was one big gust of that ever-present prairie wind, and no more manly hat. The sun would take over, blistering day after day. These poor desperate men with no hats were driven, driven I tell you, to wear sunbonnets. With their handy-dandy fasteners, they didn't blow away, and the long floppy brims shaded their faces so nicely.

Don't mock them. You have no idea how many of your great-great grandfathers had to wear those cute little flowery bonnets.

After lunch at Harriman State Park, we drove through West Yellowstone, skirting along the edges of the park. And thus it was we found the fulfillment of a life-long dream.

"What are all those people looking at?" Tina asked. "Probably some stupid elk."

"I wouldn't mind seeing an elk," I needled. (Hee hee, I just typed 'elf' by mistake - I'd be real interested to see one of those, too!)

Still muttering, Tina pulled off to the shoulder. With her sharp eyes, she saw what it was while I was still squinting and looking for antlers.

"A bear! A GRIZZLY bear!!!!!!!!"

Immediately we all began clawing and trampling, trying to be the first out the door. Except for Tina,
who blithely stepped out the driver's side, already holding the binoculars.

What I wouldn't have given for a monster telephoto lens as big as my arm! My digital camera was smoking as I cranked up the superzoom, always a bit fuzzy but at least you can see it's a bear.

Then a few miles down the road, we came on another clump of people. This time it was a moose, a thin young female with all her ribs showing. Devona the Moose was so busy eating, head stuck all the way in a bush, that we never did get a look at anything but her flank. Win some, lose some.

That night we camped in a teepee in the Crow Nation. Once again, everyone else stayed awake long enough to listen to the coyotes, except me. This, in spite of yet another night in the same sleeping bag as Devon, since we had somehow ended up one short. Short one sleeping bag = short one in my sleeping bag.

We slept, we dreamt, visions of grizzlies danced in our heads.

Until the next adventure,
Noni Beth

Harriman State Park

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