There have been days when I’ve wanted to hit the highway and head straight back home. “I’m done with exploring, the curiosity is waning. I’m through with the Parks. I’m getting pretty tired of being by myself, I just want to get home.” But then I remember I don’t have a home to call my own. On that note I’ll rest for the night and in the morning, once I hop back into my Mini, I realize there’s so much to see between here and there.
I’ve lamented, some would say it’s been out and out whining, about how crowded the National Parks have been. It’s true. The crowds make me uncomfortable and I want to go in the opposite direction. My avoidance of these multitudes has led me to give short shrift to the some of the highlights of the Sequoias and of Zion. At one point I was seriously considering bypassing Yellowstone altogether just so I wouldn’t have to deal with the people, knowing I couldn’t possibly enjoy the geysers and springs and bison with others around. But truth be told, I’ve been extremely lucky in finding true peace and solitude in the busiest of these national treasures. They are big enough. Even in Yosemite, where all the main campgrounds were bursting with campers and tents of all sizes and colors, I was able to sleep for two nights at the edge of a wilderness area and hike for 17 miles with only passing 4 couples—in the space of 20 minutes—as I began my descent from the summit of El Capitan. Eight hours alone in quietude, in serenity, in awe.
At Bryce Canyon immediately after sunrise, I was allowed three hours among the haunting hoodoos to soak in the beauty and majesty and glory of nature with nary a soul around. Here was quiet and solitude and reverence that I alone held near and dear.
Yellowstone is next. I’m hoping that the lousy weather of the past week will deter many of the tourists, but I know better. Yellowstone is Yellowstone after all. My dear friend Nancy has been tracking my progress and has been to many of these places before me. She knows me well and has been feeding me helpful information on lesser known parts of these busy parks. Where the locals here on the western approach to Yellowstone say, “Be sure to see Old Faithful.” Nancy says, “If you have to see Old Faithful, be forewarned…there are fewer crowds on the north end.”
The National Monuments, the National Forests and the other non-National Park areas have been less trodden and quieter by far. Pecos National Historic Park and El Morro National Monument in New Mexico, Canyon de Chelly in Arizona and even the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center in Great Falls, Montana have provided me with excursions into ‘the moment’, into myself.
There was something about that swing eastward though. Moving inland from the Pacific, there was something inside me that said, “Ok, you’ve made it to the coast, now you can go home.” The weather didn’t help. For several weeks I endured the hot, dry, blistering heat that the Southwest has been coping with for quite some time now. Drought and wildfires for miles. Then I advanced through the Redwoods of Northern California and the thermometer hit 30 degrees and it was snowing at Crater Lake, Oregon. More snow at Mt. Hood. Rain in Idaho. Rain, fog and snow in Western and Northern Montana and I’m thinking, “Enough.” I’m over the Parks, “There’s nothing really left to see in these northern states.” And then I recall someone, somewhere saying that if you find someplace boring, you’re not looking hard enough. I’ve read others who have said that the northern plains are featureless, boring, and simply go on and on and on and on. Now I have to find out for myself. I didn’t find the Navaho lands of Arizona boring. I didn’t find the Blackfeet territory west of the Continental Divide in Montana boring. I’ve already written about how I felt about the Panhandle of Oklahoma.
So the sense of curiosity and exploration seeps back in. The mornings are the best time for me to recall that I’ve been finding serenity and peace far from the maddening crowds. There is beauty all around and I want to find it where I have been finding it, in those out of the way spaces between here and there.