~ John Muir
... so my fellas and I decided to take a big walk with nature.
We packed up the Tortuga and headed north to Yellowstone National Park. It was an adventure unlike any other. I'll turn the pages of the story as it unfolded before us, a day at a time.
The drive was going to be a big one and our little bear is a young one, so we chose to break the trip into two parts and camp one night in Casper WY. It was a good choice. The drive was magnificent! Amazingly beautiful landscapes of wide open spaces, cragged rock formations and diverse terrains. We went from bright skies to looming clouds. Beautiful contrasts of color and light danced around the highway. We began spotting pronghorn in the distances, only to loose track of the numbers we came across along the way. The horizon was littered with them!
Once in Casper, the campground road took us up a steep and windy little mountain. The sun was lingering in the west while we set up our little mobile cabin in the woods. As dad took care of the logistics, P and I trekked about and explored our surroundings. We found great logs to cross and a meadow to play in. The air was filled with the scent of a damp pine forest - glory to the olfactory. As the sun had it's last hurrah of the day, two deer bounded through the top of our campsite and P somehow miraculously discovered another little green bead in the woods (exactly like the ones at Mueller!). It was another sign of the Leaf Men honoring the Prince of the Forest. I wish I knew what those little beads were and where they really come from. Then again, maybe I don't. Maybe I just want to delight in the magic a little. Maybe they really are from the Leaf Men or the Fairy Queen. Either way, the sun finally set. We ate, we read, we slept.
The next morning, dad and I woke early to pack up and head out. As we savored our morning coffee, those two deer appeared again. This time they meandered and grazed. One even looked right at us before continuing on it's path. It was a lovely sign of adventures to come. On to Yellowstone!
We arrived at the park in a grey drizzle which quickly turned to blue skies and sunshine, which again gave way to grey drizzle. It was as fascinating and varied as the landscape - forest, falls, lake, plains, rocks, meadows, mountains. We came in from the east and our campground was in the west, so our eyes were the first to trek through the park as we drove. Our interest grew across the windy roads and changing views. Pointing our fingers, our voices we were a frenzy of "look!". We were overwhelmed with bison and giddy with little puffs of steam, not knowing the grand scale of sites to come. We were newbies. We stopped the car for every tiny thing and loved every moment.
We arrived at our campsite, opened the Tortuga and prepared ourself for a week of adventure. After getting settled, we took a drizzly walk to the Madison River. The sun was setting fast, but we wanted to squeeze out as much as we could of the very first day in Yellowstone. There were a couple of small thermal hot spots in the river and an elk across the stream. There were rocks to climb, water to touch and hills to conquer, and so we did. In addition to all the bison, elk, pronghorn and giant raven, we met a new creature on the walk around Madison River. A little fellow who wound up playing in our company every evening. He made tiny pip sounds and liked to hide behind trees and bushes and run through the lodgepole pines. He was very sweet and a little shy. We came to learn he was an orphan, so we asked if he wanted to follow us home. He pipped and nodded yes. He said his name was Ecosystem. We called him Eco for short. He followed us back to camp, tasting raindrops hanging from pine needles along the way and holding our hands in his tiny grip. The picture at the bottom is from our first encounter with Eco. He was pipping behind a rock, a little damp from the drizzle. He may be my most favorite souvenir of the entire expedition.