In the Rockies

In the Rockies
Butler Gulch

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Yellowstone -- the canyon, waterfalls and a "mountain" hike

                                            Lower Yellowstone Falls from bottom of the stairs

So this is Lower Yellowstone Falls.  You have likely seen many photos of it.  I have some black and whites from my working summers in the park.  The difference is that I walked down some 300 plus stairs to the platform closer to the bottom of the falls where I took this photograph.  A 60-something couple from Panama City, Florida, walked down and back with me, encouraging me to make a rest stop with them each way.  I took many photos of this falls from various points as I also walked down a rather steep path--some 600 ft. down the sign said--to look at the falls as it fell from the Yellowstone River.

 It was also on those canyon falls and rim hikes that I chatted with folks--from the Midwest and South.  Many Asians were on the stairs, some urgently passing to get to the bottom.  The two pleasant older men from Kansas and I started down to the brink of the falls early enough that only one young couple passed us. By the time I left to go up, traffic coming down was much busier.  Up top, I visited with the wife of one of the men, enjoying our conversation.

  The canyon's colors, which I saw at different times of day, were amazing and caused me to stop and look, not only at the rainbow arching through the waterfall's mist, but at the colors I so love.

 I also went into canyon village, most of which was built after I worked there.  First, I stopped there early, to get coffee and an egg from the snack bar as it opened at 7:30, chatting briefly with my college-student waitress from South Carolina and the teacher cashier from Tulsa.  A now replaced Visitor's Center, a Hamilton Store (these no longer exist), and a few newly opened cabins were there, and construction on other cabins and a lodge was under way, making for huge traffic jams in that area, particularly the second summer I was there.  When I drove into Canyon Village mid-afternoon I found a bustling, overcrowded tourist center, fortunately, away from the canyon and falls, the campground and cabins.  While the Visitor's Center and its displays are lovely, the other facilities and the large parking area made me want to get out of there as quickly as possible. To me, it was a blight on the wildness of Yellowstone.

I took a side drive to the Firehole River.  It was on the main road to West Yellowstone when I worked there, but has been bypassed with a wider less narrow highway.  There isn't a good spot to stop and photograph the Firehole River Falls so my picture doesn't do it justice, and I was almost out of battery so I didn't try a picture of the swimming hole.  I did stop and walk down the steep path to the riverbank, remembering our days in that same spot.  I dangled bare feet in the water, enjoying its sloshing between my toes as I watched children gleefully jumping around in the stream.
                                                              Firehole Canyon Falls

I enjoyed a number of other waterfalls, as a rushing stream or a mountain waterfall has often been a symbol for tossing off pain, grief or resentment.  The other one I'll show in this writing is Mystic Falls, which is a 3 plus mile walk (if one counts the walk through the Biscuit Basin to reach the trail head) and well worth it, especially again, as I was there early and was able to perch on a rock near the end of the trail and enjoy the sounds and beauty of this falls.
I have only dipped into Yellowstone, our first national park in these two blogs.  I had a great chat with a couple who met when they worked at Fishing Bridge and he proposed at Lake Lodge in 1968, while visiting the Mammoth area and the historic Ft. Yellowstone District.  We agreed that the spirit of the park employees that we enjoyed no longer existed, at least in the larger concession areas.  There were no longer "savages," (the employees) and "dudes" (visitors) and no celebration of Christmas on August 25th.  More of the employees were older and more from other countries; however, I was told that many of the college students had left for the opening days of their schools.

I did see Old Faithful erupt on my way into the park my first morning and had time to walk around all the smaller geysers in the area while waiting.  Almost out of battery, I saved what I had for less-photographed sites that morning.

I will include my hike, perhaps some geysers, and the Tower Falls area in another blog.

It was a great trip!!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Yellowstone -- Fifty plus years later -- Part I

                                                    Rockers on the porch at Lake Lodge

As worker bees fifty some years ago, we wished to sit in these rockers and enjoy the view of Yellowstone Lake.  Last week I did just that.  Inside, the lobby had newer furniture but hadn't changed much either.  The dining room where I waited tables was the same as long as I turned toward the windows that looked out at the lake and ignored the cafeteria lines.  I considered eating there, but didn't.  I had good chicken and potato salad that needed to be eaten the night I stayed in a cabin at Lake Lodge. They have renovated the cabins and attached them in groups. I stayed in the one with the door in view.  Inside they had shower stalls, sinks, toilets, hot as well as cold water and a heater I didn't turn on.  Nothing fancy, but t was good to have a hot shower (2) and shampoo my hair. 

I knew that the Fishing Bridge cabins were gone, but it was still strange to see only a general store with a coffee bar and a short-order bar-stool "restaurant" and a gas station where a cafeteria, a Hamilton stores gift shop, and many cabins had been.  Behind the gas station, a few of the original cabins were standing, but my camera app malfunctioned so those photos didn't turn out nor did the one I went back to Lake Lodge to take of the dorm where I lived both summers I worked there.  The wing where I lived looked the same.  Across and back from the road was the Fishing Bridge Visitor's Center, and through the back door, I could walk right out on the beach/shore of Yellowstone Lake, which I did the afternoon before I left to come home.    

I looked at the Bay Bridge campsite from the entrance the day before I checked in and was concerned about being in a long row of tents out in the open.  I somehow misread and thought the toilets wouldn't be the flush variety.  Fortunately, I was assigned to a campsite in an added area, on a hillside backing up to the woods.  I also did a better job with my tent there and located it as much under the large pine trees as possible for shelter when it rained.  And the "comfort station" in our area looked almost new--it even had a hand dryer where you put your hands down inside to dry them--no hot water, of course.  

The folks nearer my age were camping in RVs and campers, not in tents.  I was in a "tents only" area, and the young people stuck to themselves.  A young German woman camped with her "man" down a couple of campsites came to say "hello" while he was napping.  They recognized my tent from the campsite in the Tetons so knew it was the American woman who was by herself, she said.  And I met the couple who moved in next to me late the second night on the Mt. Washburn trail.  I recognized his "Cardinals" sweatshirt and could have told him I had heard him snore, but I didn't!    

My first night at the Bay Bridge campground, I attended the 9 pm forty-five minute ranger talk.  I arrived early and sat near the front where a campfire was inviting.  The woman sitting with her husband near me was friendly, and we visited.  They were from Illinois, not far from Chicago and were sharing an RV with relatives.  The subject was Fishing Bridge and its history--why the cabins were destroyed, fishing from the bridge stopped, and the story of how tourists feeding the bears was stopped over time.  It was in that process when I worked there, but bears continued to come to the roadside to beg for food in those years. The cut throat trout have become endangered because lake trout were illegally introduced in the 1990s so that was a big part of the ranger's talk too.  

My only full meal out during my trip was breakfast at Fishing Bridge--prepared to order after my first night camping at Bay Bridge.  I also got to re-charge my phone during the time I was there--about a 60% charge. 
Since that was my camera, the charge was important!

No bears were along the roadside; however, the bison were.  My drive to Canyon and beyond took me through Hayden Valley where the buffalo roamed.  A pair were fighting on a slope next to the road, snorting and pawing the first time I encountered a herd.  I did not roll down my window to snap their photograph.  

I spent a lot of time hiking down to the foot of lower Yellowstone Falls and to its brink, and hiking along the Yellowstone canyon ledge.  I will write a separate blog about the canyon and the falls, canyon and other falls.   

Saturday, August 23, 2014

The Tetons -- Majestic and Awesome!!!! Post 1 of camping trip

So I'm home!!!  Camping was fun--for the first two or three nights!  Hot coffee is sooo nice.  My borrowed homely tent kept me dry during the rain!!!  I arrived at the Teton National Park entrance about 5 pm a week ago Thursday and was advised that I wouldn't find a campsite at the first two areas (none of the Teton campgrounds take reservations).  I wasn't surprised.  A ranger suggested that I go back to one barely inside the park that never filled, but that wasn't where I wanted to be.  Clouds loomed and sprinkles hit my windshield as I drove into the park.  The majestic Teton mountain range called me to stop in awe.  I kept going.  What if Coulter Bay, where I was heading, was full?!  I needed to get there.

At the gate to the Coulter Bay Campground, the young woman suggested that we hurry, as it was starting to rain.  My campsite was next to the road but far enough into the campgrounds that I decided the traffic wouldn't bother me.  As I started putting out the tent, a young man hurried over to assist.  I quickly realized that I knew more about the tent than he did, but he was good at driving in the stakes.  Tent up, sleeping bag inside, I got out my home-prepared chicken, potato and black bean salads and realized that the young man (boy?) was seated at my picnic table.  "Since we are both alone, I thought we could talk," he said as I put out my food.  He had eaten.. After I ate, I said I had to take a walk after being in the car all day.  He knew a short way to Jackson Lake--and he was right.  There it was with the Tetons mountain range on the other side--amazing and lovely!

We scrambled down to the "beach."  "I thought you would want to walk along here," he said as I, in my old red sandals, felt my feet slip and slide among the rocks.  The rocky beach stretched as far as I could see.  I would learn that those rocks were millions of years old, and had been worn smooth by ages of water.  I caught the rhythm, and we walked until a path in the near woods seemed more appealing, even came upon one couple willing to chat briefly.  He was twenty, from North Carolina, and had come to the Tetons to see a girl who hadn't wanted to see him.  I knew the language, like talking to one of my grandsons before he realized that what he had learned about something wasn't necessarily all there was to know.

Back at the campsite, I wondered how I would get to sleep so early, sat in my tent and meditated.  I slept a bit fitfully, but I did sleep.  Awakening early, I drove to the store, only to discover that the store opened at 8 am.  I used a bath house in a camping area that was more remote, and wondered about moving there as I washed my hands and face in freezing cold water.  It was too much trouble.  I considered what I wanted to do, and decided to sign up for two more nights in my space.

At the lake, where the photo with the rocks was taken, I found a comfortable boulder, sat and meditated. There was no one around.  Jackson Lake that morning was just for me.

I wanted a hike that was longer I told the ranger, one where I didn't have to drive far. We settled on Two Ocean and Emma Matilda Lakes trails.  It wouldn't be crowded and was only a five-mile drive.  She didn't say the last couple of miles were over a rocky unpaved road.  Bear warnings were posted on the bulletin board and again at the beginning of the trail I chose.  On the map, the trail appeared to be closer to the lake than it was, wandered through tall weeds and into the woods.  Would this be fun, I wondered.  Then I came into a meadow filled with yellow flowers and decided to walk on.  I sang and hollered "Hello bear" like bear country trail behavior suggested.  A man and his teen-aged daughter and son came along, and I fell in with them.  "We're going on a three-mile hike," he told me.  "No, it's more than six miles," I replied.  He wasn't convinced.  After we had likely gone most of three miles, he asked a couple that we met going in the opposite direction.  They told him the trail around Two Ocean Lake was 6.8 miles.  I helped the daughter with the names of the flowers she was photographing as we walked.  On the other side of the lake, the trail went up and down, more interesting.  Talking and not looking down, I tripped over a root on the trail and tumbled into the brush.  My pride was hurt more than my body.  The dark clouds weren't ripped by lightening or roaring with thunder, but sprinkled us with rain the last couple of miles.  We wished each other well as we reached the parking lot.  I had been glad for the company.  On the way back I stopped at Jackson Lake Lodge, was met by a man with a tray of cookies, and found a bathroom with hot water to wash the scratches on my leg.  Had the weather been sunny, I would have bought a drink and sat in the lobby, but it was raining.  I wondered how much it had rained at Coulter Bay.    

                                                                     From Two Ocean trail

Saturday morning I got up the minute the tent became lighter.  The Jenny Lake hike with the ranger to Inspiration Point was first come, first served with an 8:30 start time.  I had been cautioned to get there early. Arriving to an almost empty large parking lot, I wondered.  The store where I could get coffee was dark. The same with the Visitors' Center where I was to get my pass for the hike.  They opened at 8 am.  As I chatted with the staff at the boat dock, where I bought a ticket on the boat shuttle that allowed me to extend my hike along the Cascades Canyon trail to Cascades Falls, a bear jumped from the woods onto a rock in the stream, just long enough for us to see him.  

Our young, attractive red-headed woman ranger guide, a Tulsa native, had obtained her Master's from Missouri State University, my alma mater.  After learning much geology, viewing Hidden Falls, and six of the ten of us arriving at Inspiration Point, I left the group to hike along the Cascades Canyon trail, not particularly thrilled by the news that it was relatively flat.  It was pretty, but the next three miles walking along the Cascade River seemed long.  I would have to go past the falls and head for Lake Solitude, the two summer rangers encouraged.  I would find wonderful views of the "dome" after about the first mile (2.7 to the lake from the Cascades).  There would be enough people, and no bears had been sighted along that trail for a couple of days.  (I had seen a moose and a moose calf near the river.)  

The trail began in the woods, but headed up.  That was encouraging.  Looking back as I hiked, I began to see the mountains.  Farther on, meadows with flowers spread before me and mountain peaks were beside and behind.  Getting hungry, at the second stream crossing, I found a flat boulder, took off my boots, and pulled out my lunch.  I was surrounded by the beauty I loved most--a bubbling stream, high peaks and flower-filled meadows.  It was worth the trek.  I didn't need to go farther.  As a young man coming down the trail said, it was just a lake.  "You have the best spot," he said.  I remembered that it was another six or so miles back to the boat launch.  
                                                  Cascade Canyon is between the front mountains

Before heading back to my tent, I drove to Jenny Lake Lodge and was rewarded with a place out of the past.  It looked exactly as I remembered--the lodge and the cabins!  We had visited a friend who worked in the dining room there a couple of times when we hiked and climbed in the Tetons all those years before.

The next morning, I packed up and headed for Yellowstone.  That's another post.  

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Through the Darkness into the Light -- An Inner Opening to God's Love

                                              Blue Lake -- yesterday's hike with Judith!
Good Morning,

I'm about to launch a new website!  At this time, the WIX folks are still working on making it possible for my current blog to show up there so I will be writing on my blog page on the website.  I'll touch base here from time to time and will give you the website's title and location as soon as it's up and running.

The motivation for the website is the workshop I have scheduled in Boulder October 10-11.  It contains elements of quiet days and programs I've previously given, but never have I presented a program that only I am sponsoring, and never have my programs been this explicit or extensive.

The flyer my talented friend, Elizabeth Hare, is putting together includes these words:  "Maggie Cox is a survivor of a ritual practice still alive today, damaging the lives of children and adults alike.  Her experiences include emotional, spiritual, sexual, and physical abuse."  Having that in print will be a huge "coming out" as I have not yet found an agent/publisher for the memoir.  (I have queries out that I could hear from in a month or so.)

This is a calling I've felt for years, but have wanted someone else to make it happen, as when I've been invited to be a guest speaker.  I knew that my Boulder church wouldn't be comfortable sponsoring this conversation even though my centering prayer practice will be demonstrated and taught as the foundation of my healing journey.  This morning I read a blog about research that's been done showing the value of a meditation practice in a short term being valuable in relieving and reducing pain.  That's something I can attest to in many ways.  I am presenting the workshop at St. John's, my church, and will have the support and presence of our associate rector, but I am the sponsor.  I will be using the Contemplative Outreach e-mail list as one means of publicity, but they are not sponsors.

When I first began having serious conversations about presenting this workshop, I would come home exhilarated for a few minutes.  Then I would be almost sick.  After a few such experiences, I went into the silence and asked what the problem was.  It was that old fear deeply implanted in early childhood that my destruction would follow telling--in dramatic and horrible ways.  Bringing that fear to the light, being with it and assuring that little girl Margaret that she would be okay, has allow me to release that fear.  I'm moving toward getting the publicity out soon and am excited about this opportunity.  My prayer is that those who most need what I have to offer will be the primary audience, although I welcome friends for support and expect there is something for everyone.  Oh by the way, I'm charging for the workshop!!

Next time:  The Tetons and Yellowstone.  I'm heading that way soon!

                                        They are still blooming!!!  Long Lake flowers yesterday.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Inspirations -- mountains, flowers and blessings

                                                   Lake Dorothy, Indian Peaks Wilderness

Hello fellow travelers,

I have been writing, but didn't realize it had been such a long time since I'd written on this blog.  Editing and re-editing the memoir, developing a workshop I'm giving for the fall, leading the healing ministry group and the training, ushering at our wonderful Colorado Music Festival and a couple of other things--and finding time to hike in these beloved mountains--it's been a busy summer!  This is the final week of the Music Festival.  The usher part of me is ready for it to end. The music lover would have it continue though not with two or three concerts in a week. Last night after the concert as I headed down the hill to my car, I was filled with joy and gratitude that I could be at Boulder's Chautauqua Park for this inspiring series.

I am reading a book on hardwiring happiness in the brain.  It has specific exercises that are useful.  I also find that if I allow all the joy that is available to me for each blessing, however small, I'm happy much of the time. For instance, this morning I needed new flowers to add to a bouquet from yesterday's church service to replace two or three that had drooped too much to take to the lovely shut-in I'm seeing this afternoon.  I also needed to replenish my gas tank so I can drive to Estes Park tomorrow. First I found a spot at the crowded gas station nearest the florist's without waiting in line, and then, when I explained to the florist why I needed two or three individual flowers, she picked three of the prettiest orange and yellow zinnias, wired them and gave them to me at no cost.  I left the shop filled with joy and gratitude!  Watering my flowers on my return home, I marveled at how lovely they are for this time in August.  I couldn't wait to write about joy, though query letters wait to be sent to new agents.

There have been too many wonderful hikes to recount in one writing.  Saturday's will suffice for this post.  And you will likely recall another time when I wrote about the hike from the Fourth of July trailhead through the flowers to the narrow above-tree-line climb to Lake Dorothy.  I didn't take a companion.  It was, after all, a Saturday.  I wanted to poke and look at the flowers without feeling rushed.  I wanted to decide whether I was going past the 4th of July Mine site on to the Ridge or the lake as I reached that point.  It had been two years since I hiked to Dorothy at a bit over 12,000 ft.  It was later in the season, and I wondered about the flowers. They were lovely!!!  It was mid-season for the flowers, but even then columbine, usually an earlier flower, dotted meadows and mixed with larkspur, monkshood, paintbrush, and alpine sunflowers.
                                                 Elephant head above let, monkshood above

Most of the alpine flowers on the high trail were gone, but the views on a cloudless day and watching my steps on the rocks kept me busy.  Reaching the turn to Lake Dorothy, I treked on, feeling no fatigue.  There were lots of folks on the upper part of the trail, as many as I remember seeing, so imagine my surprise to reach the lake with only a family group at one end of the shore, a couple in the middle and me!  The woman from the couple came over to chat about the lake and a particular flower she wanted me to see.  I ate lunch and enjoyed the lake.  From their, I hiked up to the point on Caribou Pass--the spot where if I had taken another step, I would have been on my way down to a lake on the other side of the Continental Divide. There I met a younger man and his niece who had come up from the western side.  A Kansan, he recognized my accent as belonging to the Missouri Ozarks, highly unusual out here. His business partner is from a town near Springfield.  I perched on a rock and enjoy the view before beginning my trek down the mountainside.
                                                 Caribou Lake in the valley below the ridge
After passing and being passed by a man and woman hiking together, exchanging comments, we hiked together through the flowering hillsides, again enjoying the beauty.  Stopping to enjoy the flowers on the way down this trail is a luxury.  Often it is either raining and sleeting or threatening thunderstorms.  We enjoyed our time together and exchanged e-mails.  I left them taking more photographs at a waterfall and hiked my "going to the barn" speed to the trailhead and my car.  Only the deep potholes and rocky ledges on the drive down reminded me that not all was paradise on that mountainside.    

                                                        moss campion on a rocky ledge
                                                                    So lovely!!!!