Yellowstone Between Raindrops

We went to Yellowstone earlier this month and it rained on our parade. Every day. But it was okay. Not only did it bring a lovely overnight snow, we were able to squeeze in several new and favorite stops between raindrops.

Usually, we find Yellowstone’s autumn grasses dry and done, ready for a covering of winter snow. This year? In many places the grass was fresh. The aspen were more green than gold. And the moss was lush.

Every season is different.

This one showed us a new and unexpected face of Yellowstone’s autumn.

LeHardy Rapids

Just a short walk from one of two pull-outs three miles north of Fishing Bridge, a quiet path leads through the woods along the Yellowstone River as it dances over these gentle rapids.

LeHardy Falls Yellowstone National Park

LeHardy Falls
Yellowstone National Park

Wraith Falls

An easy, half mile trail through the delicious scents of sage and pine leads to a short stairway from which you can see the falls.

Wraith Falls Trail Yellowstone National Park

Wraith Falls Trail
Yellowstone National Park

Mammoth Hot Springs: The Chapel

This was the last building constructed by the army during their thirty year tenure as overseer of Yellowstone. Because it is hard to heat, services are held in this stone chapel only during temperate months. We attended the final service for the season and I was both challenged and encouraged. During the rest of the season services are held at the hotel. Non-denominational services are conducted park-wide by Yellowstone employees who volunteer for A Christian Ministry in the National Parks.

Chapel, Fort Yellowstone District  Mammoth Hot Springs

Fort Yellowstone Chapel

Mammoth Hot Springs: The Elk

Some of the park’s elk make their home at the former Fort Yellowstone, drawn by the sweet grass that the army planted. For most of the year, it goes fairly smoothly, but the rut brings out the craziness in elk and tourists alike. Bulls gather their harems and defend their mating rights. Tourists risk their bodies, their vehicles, and sometimes their youngsters in search of the perfect photo.

During autumn, my family calls it The Elk Show. Sometimes that refers to the bulls. Sometimes it refers to park visitors and the rangers or volunteers who come each fall to keep distance between photo-seekers and territorial, testosterone-driven bulls. Sometimes the education and protection is carried off with as much flair as the strutting, sparring, and bugling from the elk.

Elk at Fort Yellowstone

 Mammoth Hot Springs: Randy Ingersoll and the Map Room

Randy plays music both familiar and original—some of it inspired by Yellowstone—from from 5:30 – 8 p.m. most weeknights. Sometimes park visitors sing or play another instrument along with him. At 8:30 he presents a program born from his love for Yellowstone. With live music, games available at the front desk, tables, desks, couches, and an espresso cart just around the corner, it’s a relaxing way to spend an evening after a long day on the trail or on the road.

MaproomCollage

Red Rock Point

This half-mile trail—paved, switch-backed, and stepped—leads to an artful vantage point of the Lower Falls of the Yellowstone, a graceful drop of over one hundred feet. The fenced deck is distant enough to afford a broad view of the falls yet still close enough to allow the mist to settle on your skin.

Lower Falls from Red Rock Point

Lower Falls from Red Rock Point

Artist Paint Pots

This is a family favorite. A one mile loop into the woods leads to mudpots, unusual and colorful thermal features among the trees. Usually, the contents of the mud pots are gloppy but this year, probably from the rain, the mud was thin.

artistspaintpostsCollage

Upper Geyser Basin: Home of Old Faithful

OldFaithfulsunbeams

Old Faithful erupts every ninety-two minutes, on average. Each eruption is different and influenced by the one which came before. Its appearance is affected by the steam, the sky, and time of day. Cloud formations and moonlight add their own influence. You might be able to catch an eruption on Old Faithful’s streaming webcam here.

Upper Geyser Basin

Upper Geyser Basin

The Upper Geyser Basin is home to more than just Old Faithful. Morning Glory Pool, and Castle, Grand, and Riverside are favorite destinations of our family. Prediction times are posted at the Old Faithful Visitor Education Center.

Fairy Falls

The trail to Fairy Falls is a flat, non-strenuous five-mile roundtrip hike which takes you along the Firehole River and through once burnt but quickly regrowing lodgepole pine forest. We set off on a thirty-seven degree morning and added the steep trip up the slope across from Midway Geyser Basin which warmed us and gave us an aerial view of Grand Prismatic Spring. Grand Prismatic is usually shrouded in steam and so far from the boardwalk at Midway that from that walkway it’s hard to see anything more than a blue haze. The view from the hill was worth every fallen tree I climbed over and every uncertain step I took.

Grand Prismatic Spring, Midway Geyser Basin Yellowstone National Park

Grand Prismatic Spring, Midway Geyser Basin
Yellowstone National Park

Fairy Falls is a long, thin stream of water befitting a fairy. This year, it ran especially strong and full.

Fairy Falls Yellowstone National Park

Fairy Falls
Yellowstone National Park

Pebble Creek

We, along with a few fly fishermen, parked by the gate to the closed-for-the-season Pebble Creek campground and walked to the canyon that the creek flows through. We didn’t venture too far in because some hikers coming out told us that they’d heard a bear on the ridge above. It was late and cold and we didn’t want to risk coming face to face with a bear, nor did we want to have our way back to the car blocked by its movements–even for a little while.

Pebble Creek Canyon Yellowstone National Park

Pebble Creek Canyon
Yellowstone National Park

For When It Rains On Your Parade

chesterton2A few Saturdays ago, I woke to thunder and began to pray that it wouldn’t rain. Seconds later, I realized that it was 6:30 a.m., the time when my post The Best Thing One Can Do  was scheduled to land in inboxes, mine included.

I wasn’t following Longfellow’s advice for a rainy day.

Sometimes weather is a painful metaphor for life. Trials don’t have to come from camping to do their work, and their work isn’t limited to relationships.

Chesterton says to look up. Longfellow, to let it rain. And James tells us to consider them with joy. None of those are my natural first response. They all pertain to perspective and perspective changes everything.

J’s perspective was different. He came out and said, “Well, I don’t have to worry about keeping the sod wet.”

He let it rain. He looked up. He found a rainbow.

Trials have power and the purpose. They will come. The handling of them is up to us.

Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. James 1:2-4

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Sharing stories at Coffee for your Heart (holleygerth.com) and Unforced Rhythms.

Rest Area Closed

Comeawaywithme

Two years ago my family, parents, brother and sister-in-law, nephew and niece, along with the ones who live in my house–the whole tribe—made the drive to our current summer gathering place: Campfire Bay in Minnesota. That was the year that the Minnesota government shut down while it wrangled over the budget.

Minnesota itself remained open, of course, but the interstate rest areas were closed.

We didn’t suffer too much. The gas stations and fast food restaurants along the way filled the gap and provided us and the other interstate travelers a place to stop for a restroom, a drink, or a stretch. What they couldn’t offer a weary traveler was rest.

My family has long history of driving straight through to distant destinations and an equally long history of pulling into a rest area to, well, rest. My dad cat naps and my husband does, too. Our kids have eaten their share of happy meals, but when we’re on the road, they eat food from a cooler so they can run off some energy and rest their backsides. We know how to use a rest area.

DSC_0138_3But sometimes I live like the rest areas are closed.

Sometimes it’s because I forget that I have a choice.

Sometimes it’s habit. Or pride. Or convenience. Or stubbornness.

It doesn’t matter why. It looks the same. Barely stopping at the signs. Not looking up from the whatever Important Thing I am doing when my husband or children come in to tell me something and having no idea what they said when they’ve gone. Haphazard meals consumed and cleared away before any real conversation occurs. Disconnected living.

Whether I notice or not, eventually someone—or something—will let me know. The quality of my relationships will deteriorate. Or my sanity. Or even my health. My husband will mention it. Or my children. Or even my dad.

DSC_0128_2

And then I have to make a decision: Continue to barrel down the road at full speed or slow down and pull off so that I’m ready for the next stretch of road.

It feels easy to stay in the habit of living like the rest areas are closed—to settle for fast food and fast stops and fast lives. It isn’t easy to pull off and rest—to linger at the table, look at people’s faces, read the book or play the game.

Sometimes it feels more spiritual to keep on going, to ignore the signs and just move, but I’m not certain that it is. Jesus sent the disciples out to preach and cast out demons and heal the sick. They returned and told him all about it. His response was not to send them right out immediately. He said, “Come away by yourselves to a secluded place and rest awhile,” and they got in a boat and went away. (from Mark 6:31-32)

The rest seemed short. Interrupted. The crowd saw where they were going and beat them to the destination.

But maybe the destination wasn’t the rest. Maybe the rest was the pause along the way.

My family has aged into a busy season, one which makes it hard to pull off. I’ve asked them to think about what rest means to them and how we can live in such a way that they find it, even in the midst. I’m looking forward to hearing from them.

How about you? What does rest mean to you? What is one way you can pull off for a short rest along the way?

Sharing this week at Unforced Rhythms.

Rest Area Closed

Comeawaywithme

Two years ago my family, parents, brother and sister-in-law, nephew and niece, along with the ones who live in my house–the whole tribe—made the drive to our current summer gathering place: Campfire Bay in Minnesota. That was the year that the Minnesota government shut down while it wrangled over the budget.

Minnesota itself remained open, of course, but the interstate rest areas were closed.

We didn’t suffer too much. The gas stations and fast food restaurants along the way filled the gap and provided us and the other interstate travelers a place to stop for a restroom, a drink, or a stretch. What they couldn’t offer a weary traveler was rest.

My family has long history of driving straight through to distant destinations and an equally long history of pulling into a rest area to, well, rest. My dad cat naps and my husband does, too. Our kids have eaten their share of happy meals, but when we’re on the road, they eat food from a cooler so they can run off some energy and rest their backsides. We know how to use a rest area.

DSC_0138_3But sometimes I live like the rest areas are closed.

Sometimes it’s because I forget that I have a choice.

Sometimes it’s habit. Or pride. Or convenience. Or stubbornness.

It doesn’t matter why. It looks the same. Barely stopping at the signs. Not looking up from the whatever Important Thing I am doing when my husband or children come in to tell me something and having no idea what they said when they’ve gone. Haphazard meals consumed and cleared away before any real conversation occurs. Disconnected living.

Whether I notice or not, eventually someone—or something—will let me know. The quality of my relationships will deteriorate. Or my sanity. Or even my health. My husband will mention it. Or my children. Or even my dad.

DSC_0128_2

And then I have to make a decision: Continue to barrel down the road at full speed or slow down and pull off so that I’m ready for the next stretch of road.

It feels easy to stay in the habit of living like the rest areas are closed—to settle for fast food and fast stops and fast lives. It isn’t easy to pull off and rest—to linger at the table, look at people’s faces, read the book or play the game.

Sometimes it feels more spiritual to keep on going, to ignore the signs and just move, but I’m not certain that it is. Jesus sent the disciples out to preach and cast out demons and heal the sick. They returned and told him all about it. His response was not to send them right out immediately. He said, “Come away by yourselves to a secluded place and rest awhile,” and they got in a boat and went away. (from Mark 6:31-32)

The rest seemed short. Interrupted. The crowd saw where they were going and beat them to the destination.

But maybe the destination wasn’t the rest. Maybe the rest was the pause along the way.

My family has aged into a busy season, one which makes it hard to pull off. I’ve asked them to think about what rest means to them and how we can live in such a way that they find it, even in the midst. I’m looking forward to hearing from them.

How about you? What does rest mean to you? What is one way you can pull off for a short rest along the way?

Sharing stories at Holley and Lyli’s.

The Road Ahead: October

DSC00880My oldest children were six and three when Jonah—A Veggie Tales Movie came out. When we went to see it, they hopped down the street toward the theater with glee. All their favorites were on the big screen: Bob the Tomato, Larry the Cucumber, Junior Asparagus, and Archibald the, well, we never did decide what Archibald was, but he played Jonah.

The movie featured a new character, a decidedly non-vegetable named Khalil, a little guy who struggled to find his own road and turned to motivational tapes to help him find it–tapes which featured a soothing voice that told him useful bits of insight such as, “You are a skilled metal worker.”

“I am a skilled metal worker?” said an amazed Khalil. “I did not know that!”

The Veggie Tales creators know their audience. The kids loved it. They thought it was hilarious. They repeated it for months.

One morning after going through a Khalil-and-the-motivational-tape routine, my son stopped suddenly and said, “It’s funny that Khalil has to listen to those ear muffs to know who he is.”

Even as I exchanged one of those he’s-so-funny looks with my husband and laughed with our kids, I knew my son had given me something to think about: How do I know who I am?

It’s a question I have to revisit occasionally, often because I’ve fallen apart a little—evidence that I’m listening to the generic and useless and dated information.

DSC00827

As we step out on our road this month, may each of us know who we are based on today’s truth rather than yesterday’s worn out distortion. May we disregard the voices that know just enough to be dangerous and heed the One Voice that knows us. And through the trials that come our way, may we seek to know Him.

DSC00961Sharing stories with the writers at Unforced Rhythms.

 

The Intruder

DSC00776A low rumble of a growl, that’s how it started. Our first camping trip found us buried further down a country road than I had ever traveled, stuck on one of those rural grassy drives between dusty gravel and green pasture.

The little red Plymouth Sundance that I brought into our marriage lost the battle with the deep ruts that passed for a driveway. My husband’s manly Jeep from antiquity would have prevailed, but we wouldn’t have been able to hold a conversation during the drive. So there we were, in my vehicle instead of his—a vehicle stranded with its undercarriage on the dirt, wheels dangling in the air like a little kid in a grownup chair.

A distant cousin lived this deep in the country so J calmly walked us down the road to their house, where we found him home and able to extract us from our predicament. We thanked him and drove the remaining fifty yards through the open pasture and pitched our tent amid the close timber. J unpacked while I worked on dinner.

That’s when I heard the growl.

I surveyed the surrounding trees, looking for a bear. (Because what else would growl in the Iowa woods?) I saw nothing. Not a bear. Not a squirrel. Not even a cow. Someone rented the land for their herd, but we hadn’t seen any of them yet. I told myself it was a cow, but I didn’t believe me. I grew up around my grandpa’s cows and I never heard them make a sound like that.

I heard it again, closer this time. I turned and there, ambling our way, was a bull. Grandpa’s warning to my seven-year-old-self erupted in my head: “Tillie, I would never keep a mean bull, but if the bull is in the pasture, you stay out.” That was enough. Bulls were obviously dangerous and to be avoided.

Now one was aiming for my outdoor kitchen.

I walked to the car and informed my husband about the intruder. We went to opposite sides of the car and stood, mesmerized by the bull as he plodded toward us. We opened the doors. He advanced further. We got in and sat down, shocked, because who gets stalked by a bovine on a camping trip? He held his course all the way to the front of the car and I wondered if he would crush the roof when he stepped up and walked over us.

bull - Version 2He pressed his legs against the front of our tiny car, stretched his rippled neck, and nearly touched the windshield with his immense nose.  Apparently he didn’t need much personal space. When he pulled his head back we waited to see what he would do next. We didn’t wait long. He bent down, stuck his nose under the car, and lifted it into the air.

And then he dropped us.

J had the vehicle started and in gear before we hit the ground. He backed through the maze of trees with impressive speed and got us to the fence where we could put a gate between us and the bull, the conqueror in full possession of our gear.

Back to the cousin’s house we drove. Once he finished laughing, he told us that yes, he knew the farmer who kept the cattle on the land. He called and miraculously, he too was home on a Friday night.

The farmer met us at the gate and climbed out of his truck with a bag of Cheetos. The bull was a rental, brought in for breeding purposes. He’d been raised as a pet. His owner had shared his cheese curls with him while he chored, so he was unusually interested in people.

The gear extraction plan was simple: The farmer would distract the bull with his Cheetos while my husband made the grab. I waited on the safe side of the fence.

It worked.

We drove even further into the country to the empty farmhouse where J’s grandma grew up. J pitched the tent on the lawn and I restarted dinner. We fell into our sleeping bags in the deep dark and slipped into sleep to the mooing of the cows across the road, mooing broken by an occasional low rumble of a growl.

bull

We shared camping’s trial and by the next morning we shared its laugher, first together and later with J’s great-aunt who roared up in her pickup not long after we peeled ourselves off of the ground. Now it’s one of our stories. Not all of our stories are happy. Some are sad or even dull, but each one is a different type of thread in the fabric of our life. With the threads of faith, hope, and family, they hold our life together.

And you? You have stories. What do you do with them?

This is the final post in a series about the trials of life outdoors and their effect on relationships. Part one is here and part two is here.

The bull photo is courtesy of a friend who risked life and limb, under the supervision of the farmer, because she knew I wanted a photo of a bull. What greater love?