November 2, 2016

A Beautiful Farewell Journey - Part 3


We pushed on to Gillette, WY for the night, arriving very late after such an ambitious tour schedule that day! As we started out the next morning, we saw that wonderful sight of mountains in the distance.  The first area we entered was Bighorn Canyon.  The snowy landscape and partially frozen rivers were like a picture postcard.  Then on to winding roads that revealed breathtaking views around every corner. We saw just the southern tip of this gorgeous park.  It would be nice to return to see the Yellowtail Dam and the canyon.  We couldn’t help but wonder what effect these sights might have if everyone had the opportunity to get out and see them.  Do we forget what a stunning nation this is?

The night before, while planning our route to Bighorn, we thought it was best to not attempt Yellowstone, and instead push on for home after Bighorn.  However, the next day as we drove on, it was just too much to resist.  How could we go so close to this amazing park and not take a peek?  We have both been to Yellowstone before, but not together.  There were portions that were already closed off for the season, but we were able to map out a way to go straight west from Bighorn and enter the park. One of our best decisions on the trip for sure!  The two highlights were the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, from which we saw the Yellowstone Falls (Artist’s Point to be exact), and the shocking buffalo road block as we wound through the park.  The first picture of the posing buffalo by the lake seemed amazing enough to us, but coming upon the herd in the road was jaw dropping!  You can see the vehicle of the park ranger who came a long to break it up.  He was pushing them with the SUV and making a huffing noise on his car's bullhorn.  They responded, though reluctantly!  I took a video of the parade and posted it on FB, so if you aren't already a friend and want to see it, let me know. :)  It was a fascinating experience, though I'd be lying to say I wasn't terrified that they were going to ram into our car.  We saw so many herds as we drove on, so they obviously run the park!  We had both seen Old Faithful, so we didn’t make that side trip, and surprisingly I didn’t remember all the other geysers, hot springs, and mud pots all over the park.  I DID remember the sulfur smell – so overwhelming! 

We saw lots of wildlife in addition to buffalo – antelope, pronghorn sheep, elk, and a lone black bear on a hillside that caused another traffic jam!  People just stopped their cars erratically, opened the doors and all aboard jumped out to see and photograph the bear.  Nuts.  More nuts was the sight in the 1960’s when my family visited there and people were stopped along the road feeding the bears from their cars!  Can you imagine being a park ranger back then? Ha!  The first town just outside the park exit was Gardiner, MT.  The elk clearly have the run of the place.  It was dusk and they were on every green spot and helping themselves to landscape plants by pushing aside the protective wire cages around them - pesky. Must not have been elk hunting season just yet. :)  Yellowstone - we'll be back, Lord willing!  So much more to see.

We spent the night in Missoula, MT and then made for home.  But of course we had to stop for lunch, and Ellensburg, WA was a good point on the road.  And if you’re going to stop in a town, then you should certainly look in your WA travel book to see if there’s anything interesting there – right?  Bingo! This is the home of a well-known Western artist named John Clymer, who created over 80 covers for the Saturday Evening Post.  There was a very nice Clymer museum in town, and predictably we found two posters of the Saturday Evening Post covers that "needed" to come home with us. I really loved his style because it reminded me of Norman Rockwell, whom I’ve admired for many years.  And one more Ellensburg tidbit from the travel book - on the campus of Central Washington University, tucked quietly into the Athletic Annex building, resides The Chimpanzee and Human Communication Institute.  Did you know???  They taught ASL to the chimps starting in 1980.  Apparently there are no chimps residing there now, but you can still see the facility that the university made for them.  How bizarre to find this here!

As if written in a happy storybook, for our final stretch, just about 15 minutes from our front door, we crossed Deception Pass Bridge to Whidbey Island. We were surprised by an extra special view with a gorgeous rainbow on one side of the bridge, and on the other side was a magnificent sunset.  This was such a fitting finale to one of the most spectacular trips we’ve ever taken, a true gift from God, for which we will always be grateful.

“When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
    the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
 what is man that you are mindful of him,
    and the son of man that you care for him?” Psalm 8:3-4


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