Yellowstone: A River For Summer Solitude

Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature  may heal and cheer and give strength to body and soul alike… the Yellowstone, Yosemite, Sequoia, etc. — Nature’s sublime wonderlands, the admiration and joy of the world.” (John Muir)

On day twenty one of our road trip. our scenic route along Interstate 90 paralleled the Yellowstone River, as we made our way west to the next destination, Big Timber, Montana. Visiting our close friend Bobbie there for the next two days, the untamed river flowing downstream behind her home soon aroused my curious interest. What kinds of wildlife/ avian species existed along this rock strewn channel? Are there hiking trails that followed along the riverbed ? Where were the best spots along the river for fishing? How did this town manage the river flooding danger at Winter’s end? What was the Indian history of this particular spot?

Yet it seemed to be a calm spirit resonating from this steady flowing river amidst its tranquil mountainside environs that most intrigued me then. For I genuinely needed a restful repose at this point of our long and arduous road trip and the sights/sounds of flowing river water behind Bobbie’s home could thankfully provide it. We would continue to follow the welcoming magic of this great river the next day, leading us South to the vast, geothermal wonders of Yellowstone National Park. Enjoy the photos.

Observe these classic views of the Yellowstone River and the scenic environs beyond from Bobbie’s back yard.

We also experienced a rare sighting of white pelicans resting quietly on a rocky mound.

Possessing a keen eye for art, Bobbie’s unique arrangements of rocks and wood from the nearby Montana landscape also captured my interest.

        I also enjoyed continuing my practice of yoga in the coolness of her outdoor deck.

Notice the appealing shades of color beyond the river at sunset each night.

Our gracious hostess and friend posed with us to create a final photographic memory of this enjoyable visit to Big Timber.

Steamboat Summer Sparkle

“Summertime is always the best of what might be.” (Charles Bowden)

Anytime Ruth and I take a road trip through the Rocky Mountain region, we prioritize heading to the small western town of Steamboat Springs, Colorado. Touted by many as a popular resort for the younger, skiing/hiking crowd amidst its picturesque mountainous setting and eco- friendly persona, our personal connection to Steamboat goes much deeper. For the Steamboat experience often evokes for us as a much needed opportunity for peaceful repose and rejuvenation from the stressful realities of urban life back east.

Because of the Covid-19 scare, Steamboat seems to be a particularly important stop on our mid- June road trip this year. For summertime’s flourish here now offers us a safe, welcoming outdoor experience on this Colorado leg of our sometimes risky road trip. So in proper social distancing manner, we wear our mask when the occasion arises and we typically observe others we encounter doing the same. While choosing to frequent less crowded hiking trails, we savor the opportunity to meet dogs more than people. Or by finding a park bench or a cafe patio to enjoy our meals, we stay healthily distant from any crowded social situations. So settle into a healthy slice of this year’s Steamboat Summer Sparkle in the following photographic display.

On Tuesday morning, we left Fort Collins, Colorado, traveling due west, for a leisurely, seven hour drive to Steamboat. As you can tell in the photographs below, the Rocky Mountain, summertime scenery captivated our attention along this narrowly winding road.

After settling into the rustic Steamboat Mountain Lodge, on Wednesday morning we embarked on an energizing hike through colorful meadows, dense forest, and a soothing stream along the Spring Creek Trail.

Continuing Wednesday afternoon to Steamboat State Park, twenty miles north of town for a relaxing excursion, I observed the magically visual combination of mountain meets water at the park marina.

Our  Thursday morning slowdown combined a breakfast splurge with a “window shopping” stroll through scenic “0ld Town.”


College Excitement On Hold

“I feel like a lot of experiences have been stolen from me” (Anonymous Cornell University senior opinion on Corona adjustment)

On a quiet Sunday morning marking the second day of our road trip visit to Lincoln, Nebraska, I decided to ride around town on my rented bicycle again. For I wished to conclude my tour of this Midwest “college town” with a visit to the University of Nebraska. Stopping periodically at key sites around campus, I realized how Covid-19 has played havoc for those students who desire to embrace the full college experience here. For as the “Big Red” landscape lies silent now, its students scramble to complete Zoom classes on line.

So much of what students learn about life success from college takes place outside the classroom. Picture an aspiring scholar walking to and from class each day along an open “green” feeling inspired to excel amidst these time honored bastions of learning surrounding him/her. Or imagine the spirited festivities leading to a major sporting event or student activity on campus as students congregate in mass and find fun diversion from the stress of high academic pressures. Visualize as well how this “home away from home” for a new freshman fosters self reliance, networking competence and diversity appreciation for the first time. So join me as I present a closeup look at the University of Nebraska in the following photograph display. Maybe one of you might even find good reason here to send a member of your family to this prestigious institution.

Lazy’s Ok In Lincoln

On day 13 of our road trip, I give myself permission today to slow down and be lazy in Lincoln, Nebraska with our younger friends Paul/Nicole and their two cats, Shadow and Sam. Working at home for both of them seems to have provided a flexible way to smoothly manage the Corona slowdown in the past few months as they seem to understand proper balance of their work/relax schedule for a healthier life. So I’ve taken the lead to follow their example this weekend and let the stillness of each day on their outdoor porch be my guiding principle as needed.

Our Nebraska visit of this road trip also offers the opportunity to take full outdoor advantage of their home location, which lies alongside a popular green belt with inviting bike trail options. At Nicole’s direction, I thus spent Saturday morning pedaling easily along the greenbelt and through a public park for a few miles with her on a brilliantly sunny morning.

Tonight the fireflies may glow in the dusk and I hope to catch a few in a glass jar. I will a savor a fresh blueberry cobbler and I’m sure there will be plenty of time to play with the cats. I might even catch a glimpse on their porch at the setting sun descending in golden grace below the Lincoln Capitol Tower. How’s that for Corona isolation therapy? Enjoy the pictures.

“Pony Up” No Corona Rider

“The Pony Express rider was usually a little bit of a man, brimful of spirit and endurance. No matter what time of day or night his watch came on…, he must be always ready to leap into the saddle and be off like the wind! “ (Mark Twain,1872)

The Corona impact clearly lingers in our mind as we end the second week of our road trip. At our motel stay in Independence, Missouri on Tuesday, the atmosphere seemed eerily quiet in the hallways today with guest services quite limited. Thus, we would be offered a meager breakfast bag containing only a small apple and granola bar while any room cleaning would be unavailable. Moving on the next morning to the Pony Express National Museum in the historic river town of St. Joseph, Missouri, numerous hand sanitizer stations conspicuously lined the hallways while press button functions for interactive exhibits had been disabled. Ending our second day at a local tavern for dinner, I was also required to give my name and phone number to the manager present to receive a potential future call from the Health Department in the event anyone in the cafe was reported to be testing positive for Corona Virus at the time of our visit.

It seems to me the that our current road trip adventure into our Corona stricken country, resembles the quote description of an 1860 Pony Express rider described in the quote at the beginning of this blog. Instead of a western bandana around his face, we must wear a mask. While he endured far west dangers of extreme heat, wind, and rain, we resign ourselves to stay healthy from airborne viral particles. While he moved great distances daily through remote western lands on the legs of a sturdy pony to assure safe delivery of their goods, we largely depend on the air purified isolation of our vehicle to provide safe arrival at our intended faraway destinations. So let’s “giddy ‘up and go” as I provide a photographic look at the life of a Pony Express rider in the mid 19th century as so authentically depicted at this museum.

A Pony Express rider required unique qualifications to withstand the dangers they would face along each ride.

This panel provides a brief history of the Pony Express period in 1860-1861 as well as the typical route westward taken for almost 2,000 miles.

On April 3, 1869, a lone rider left on horseback to a wildly cheering crowd in St. Joseph, Missouri for the first Pony Express ride west to California.

The famous Pony Express rider, Johnny Fry and his horse seem anxious to leave on their latest adventure in this exhibit.

Riders usually stopped every 10-15 miles at relay stations to freshen up and often change horses.

A Pony Express rider typically carried 20 lbs. of mail per ride. Observe a typical saddlebag from these occasions.

Riders riding westward from St. Joseph encountered their first natural obstacle: the free flowing Missouri River.

This rider wore a fringe covered, buckskin coat on these long mail runs.

This map depicts the various stopping points on a typical rife westward surrounded by various dangers they would face along the way.

Remembrances Of A Racist Past

“We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.” (Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.)

I dedicate the following blog reposting from our road trip past to George Floyd and those demonstrators who so rightfully advocate “Black Lives Matter.”

I felt the ghosts of segregation as I walked the downtown streets of Montgomery, Alabama today. It was difficult to imagine a time when a black skinned person could be jailed if they sat in the front of a bus, took a seat at a restaurant lunch counter, or attempted to enter a bus terminal through a whites only passageway. The evidence was clear at the Rosa Parks Museum, however, that these heinous acts of racial discrimination against African Americans were once sanctioned by law in this city. Yet Rosa Parks’’ courage to peacefully reject the injustices of a blatantly, racist system reminded me here that Americans must invoke a  similar resolve to preserve their “liberty, justice, and pursuit of happiness” for all.”

What exactly it meant to be black as I followed the segregationist path of history at this museum confused me. If you looked white, but we’re actually a mulatto black, you might obtain a first class travel ticket. If you were white and painted your face black, you could be adored as a performer in a vaudeville minstrel show. At the federal level, a black could be protected by the equal protection provisions of the 14th amendment but at the state/local level they were sure to be denied basic rights by racist, Jim Crow laws. Accordingly, inner city, public schools were technically integrated by mixed race, yet white flight to suburban communities ultimately re-segregated them over time.

I took a short walk along Dexter Avenue to find the imposing presence of the Alabama State Capitol and the adjoining First White House of the Confederacy. Along the way, rebel flags flew as an anti-abortion protest took place nearby. It was here that Martin Luther King and his freedom fighters ended their peaceful march from Selma to Montgomery after being viciously attacked by angry, white supremacists along the way. Only a simple, Civil Rights Memorial plaque remains today to honor the forty one people who died in this infamous episode of American History.

As I concluded my brief glimpse of Montgomery’s turbulent past, I observed some encouraging signs of a “fair treatment  for all” change. A black college student spoke steadfastly to me of her plans to obtain a doctoral degree in her southern hometown. Some restaurants filled with integrated gatherings of many races. The Confederate flag no longer flew atop of the conspicuous dome of the State Capitol. all. As you observe the following photographs, I hope you will realize that state sanctioned racism of any kind must end.


Savoring Smokies Silence

“Keep close to Nature’s heart… and break clear away, once in a while, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean.” (John Muir)

There was a time in my life when a visit to the Great Smoky Mountains offered a daring adventure of inner tube rides along a wildly running river or an arduous hike to the top of a steep mountain. But this other world of youthful physical exuberance has now vanished as Ruth and I pondered a more subdued experience in visiting this popular National Park on our 2020 road trip visit on the first weekend of June. Most assuredly then, these picturesque mountains would now entice us with easier hiking exertion as well as a much desired mental escape from the past three months of pandemic quarantining.

Regretfully, however, so many other tourists in Gatlinburg, Tennessee appeared to have the same thought in mind as we drove through the busy downtown. With heavy traffic gridlock into the park thus arising as a potential problem, we realized that our next morning plans to visit here might have to be changed. It seemed that a timely road turnoff or an empty picnic table would become our less ambitious reality on this day visit if parking near hiking trails could not be found. Good fortune, however, would strike us today as we found two hours of easy hiking bliss along the “Fighting Creek”Nature Trail on our way back to Gatlinburg. For those of you who are tired of those lengthy periods of pandemic isolation, the following photographs might provide you with some outdoor emotional therapy.

Asheville’s Art-Filled Action

“Few people go to art exhibitions nowadays, the art comes to them! “(Chris Geiger)

June 3 -4

When we arrived in the picturesque region of North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains in mid afternoon Wednesday, we anticipated finding a plentiful amount of remote “country” serenity. Yet it seemed unsettling for us to hear about expected pandemic/protest concerns in nearby Asheville and then encounter a strange National Guard presence at our next motel. So as we continued our strategy to “play outdoor tourist” at this second stop of our road trip, racial unrest/social distancing would also be firmly on our mind.

On Thursday morning, we then began a two mile, loop walk in downtown Asheville intending to observe designated sites along the well marked, “Urban Trail.” Unlike “antebellum” preserving Savannah, our casual encounters with a series of creative artworks along today’s walk revealed that while Asheville remains equally proud of its historic past it seems heavily committed as well to progressing forward for a more modernistic image of “New South” values. I would also notice today that on few occasions amidst the quiet of this still heavily quarantined city, racial protest flared noticeably as small crowds of demonstrators gathered on street corners to draw attention to their impassioned cause or to artistically present their latest banners.

In the following photographic display, then, I hope to “feed your head” with the idea that Asheville “on the outside” can be a safely fun stopover in conjunction with any current visit to the nearby Blue Ridge Mountains and/or Smoky Mountain National Park. Next stop: Gatlinburg, Tennessee.

Stately Savannah Survives

“Savannah is a lovely, gentle, sad old city. You can walk through the shadowy, cobbled streets of the town on a tranquil Sunday morning and feel the atmosphere heavy with the burden of lost greatness and relaxed by quiet decay” (Mills Lane)

If you ever want to visit an American city that seems to be little changed from colonial America in the late 18th century, then the historic center of Savannah, Georgia fulfills your request quite well. Originally founded in 1733 along the south bank of the Savannah River, the historic center of this town remains a uniquely authentic setting of stately aristocratic mansions, tranquil public squares, towering Christian churches and heartwarming statue remembrances. Sadly, however, we anticipated that our tour options of Savannah’s historic past would be somewhat limited as we realized that many sites in the city would be closed during the duration of our three day stay because of the Covid 19 shutdown.

So we would thus opt for a walking tour on this inaugural Monday morning of our 2020 road trip to provide us with an exclusively outdoor glimpse of the old town area. For the next two hours, as we sauntered along Old Savanna’s wide avenues seeking tree shaded cool from oppressive summer heat, we were fortunate to discover so many surviving vestiges of Old Savannah’s glorious past. After regaining our energy with a a leisurely lunch stop in the City Market vicinity of Old Town, today’s tour would resume along the River Street pathway for a cobblestone look at seafaring, colonial times I thus invite you to travel back in time as I share with you an authentic glimpse of Old Savannah in the following photographic showcase. For my political enthusiasts , I note that anti-police protests had recently taken place in downtown Savannah minutes before we arrived. Yet I observed no evidence then of vandalized property destruction or enhanced law enforcement security.

Road-Trip Plan 2020

Ruth and I will begin our 2020 summer road trip on Saturday, May 31 from Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Our first stopover of this two month journey will take place in Savannah, Georgia. USFMAN looks forward to posting his weekly blog postings/photos for red dot areas we will visit on the above reposted map.  I would also welcome your health/safety comments that pertain to any of these pinpointed regions. Thank you for continuing to find interest in “Snippets of the Traveling Mind.” Stay well and Namaste.

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