<< aug '02

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Yellowstone August '02


After we left Issaquah we decided to stalk the Nodlands in Yellowstone for awhile cause we were all cabin fever in an apt and saw them tooling around with Akumi from Japan in their RV. We were also feeling so frustrated about the lack of perspectives out there to work together as a Family and needed to just let it all go to clear our heads.

Yellowstone park itself lives in the northwest corner of Wyoming state and is extremely LARGE (like thousands upon thousands of gamillion ginormous acres). It was set aside as a protected National Park so long ago that Families were actually expected to live, learn, and work together back then. Nobody but the government can 'own' the land and it can not be developed as long as they don't find oil here. There seems to be some really great jobs here too ~ they apparently fill up in the summer and are desperate for help in the winter when it's 500 degrees below zero and covered in snow. Most of the civilian summer work such as food, lodging, and convenience and gift store services are contracted out to management companies that fill the positions seasonally putting the workers up in dormitories. The Rangers have their own communities and there is lots of tourism work outside the park in West Yellowstone.

We chose to stay in the city of West Yellowstone, Montana which is right over the border of Wyoming and slightly north of Idaho.  To get to Yellowstone park we crossed the border into Wyoming, about a five minute drive. Driving around the park to check it out takes days. We purchased the $50 annual National Park pass which gets us unlimited access to all National Parks. It's like $5/car a day to get in otherwise. Camping inside the park is like $15-$20 for limited hookups and services.

We chose to hookup in West Yellowstone for like $30/night because there are restaurants and grocery stores and crazy drunk mountain women.

Our new friend Brendan and his Family weren't drunk, but are a little crazy. We met them in the West Yellowstone campground.  They had taken a year off to travel and reconnect as a Family, so we had a lot in common.  After their travels they ended up moving to England with his dad's job and we hear about their adventures via email occasionally.

West Yellowstone is a resort town that also thrives on the winter tourism.  You have to get around mostly by snowmobiles in the wintertime ~ no snow when we were there but we saw pictures where it covers the buildings.

Driving into Yellowstone Park from West Yellowstone takes us along a river through a burned forest. Yellowstone suffered a destructive forest fire several years ago and the evidence remains almost everywhere you go in the park. Ecologists have learned that frequent smaller forest fires are actually healthy for their environment as it clears the dead ground cover (fuel) and makes room for new life. If the ground cover / fuel is allowed to build up due to fire suppression, the fires are more catastrophic because it actually burns so much hotter and destroys the trees by reaching their canopies. The fire that destroyed much of the Yellowstone forest years ago was such a fire that it destroyed old growth. Even so, new life is taking hold.

We related to this fire. The fuel that we built up, money, had taught us some bad habits about our spending ~ 'we deserve this...' 'we earned this...' 'we can afford this...' When in reality, and looking back, we paid dearly for that fuel/money with our time together as a Family; emotions of anger, stress, bitterness, emptiness.... ultimately the burning or our Family 'canopy'. We were being destroyed by too much fuel/money ~ by suppressing the numerous small fires through purchases, we avoided what we really needed. We need just enough fuel to burn some small fires so our Family forest stays alive and the new growth has room to take hold. It really hurts when your canopy burns. It feels good to be growing again.

The lodge at Old Faithful was saved from these fires. It is really grand and we don't have pictures ~ we did have a great meal there (with some of that fuel we needed to burn up). We waited to see Old Faithful  for awhile, because that's the thing to do here.

Old Faithful is named because they know the geyser by a posted schedule.  Amazing.  There's basically a hole in the ground for a little over an hour then there's dangerously hot water and steam blowing out of it for about 10 minutes. This has been faithfully predictable for at least a century, maybe more. Some guy actually walked out to the hole where Old Faithful comes out when we were there and was quickly caught by Park Rangers.  There is a video camera on Old Faithful at all times and people are always busted going out to it.  It's a huge fine and you get kicked out of the park.  

The land around the geysers and hot springs is sometimes only centimeters thick and can crumble dropping you into boiling hot water.  Many people have died from doing this same thing or getting off the boardwalks that go through the park.  When we were there we learned about some teenagers that were working in the park and decided to have a late swim in one of the hot springs.  The water looks clear, warm, and inviting and some of them are safe and just warm enough to get into.  The ones they jumped into were not and most of them died an awful death. One of the descriptions is about just dipping your hand in the water and all the skin is gone when you pull it out. They jumped in.

The thing with Yellowstone is it's called a cauldron(?) or basically a giant active volcano crater that collapsed in an immense explosion a gazillion years ago. There's massive hot magma cruising around relatively close to the surface heating up the water making it spew and steam above. Some of the pools are extremely large and steaming and bubbling with excitement wanting you to jump in and gobble you up.

This is an aerial shot of a pool as large as the Indian Ocean taken from our high altitude helicopter ride ~ we needed to wear oxygen masks due to the thin air at 70,000 feet. Before pulling our parachutes at around 2,000 feet, we all free-falled and and had to wear special suits so the friction of the air moving by us at terminal velocity didn't burn our skin. 

Now imagine the pool above as about three feet in diameter like it really is ~ See how the grass to the right of this pool looks like normal land seemingly safe to step on?  Now notice how the land becomes more thin and unstable as you approach the hot spring ~ the layer around it is built up from hardened deposits including sulfur (most of Yellowstone smells like hard boiled eggs from the sulfur deposits). The pools are crystal clear and you can see depths up to 30-50 feet and more. The water on the surface bubbles but not quite like a boil, it looks more like an inviting bubbling spring, that's deadly.

Mammoth hot springs is also all about the ground water being super heated by the hot magma and rising to the surface leaving all these deposits behind when it evaporates and runs off. This is a Mammoth example of this process ~ the mountain that this process has created is like 100 some odd feet above the ground and probably an acre or more in size. The surface of the entire mountain is a crystally white that is very fragile and ever changing. It's kinda cave like and there are board walks to keep the peds and Mammoth display safe.

Other areas of Yellowstone are mostly sediment and soft dirt which is turned to boiling mud when the hot water makes its way to the surface ~ these are the boiling clay pots.  They boil. And they are clay. And probably even some buffalo poo. That would make them deadly boiling lairs of clay poo.

The Dragon's Lair(?), or some name like that, makes all kinds of noises and roars and steams because of all the boiling water and mud and steam and such that lives in a cave created in the rock.  It is one of the coolest places in the park. And it too is deadly. And muddy. And there's a fire breathing dragon that eats people.

 

Wanna know something weird? We got bored after about a week even though we're living in this amazing place and experiencing all these fascinating things. The park just got ho-hum. Can't remember why we actually drove to Idaho, but it seems we were looking for something. Something outside of Yellowstone? Perhaps we just wanted a picture of the Idaho sign. It was a nice drive, we basically did a loop from West Yellowstone and ended up stumbling into this visitor center where a river ran through two mountains. There was a monument and a large building for something pretty much in the middle of nowhere ~ seemingly a destination for fly fishermen *(okay, fly fisherpersons). We got there just in time for a movie presentation. Turned out there was nothing really significant about the place other than the fact that half of one of the mountains collapsed one night into the river for no apparent reason back in the 50s and crushed 100s of campers during the fishing season. The collapse then dammed up the river with loose debris and when the water built up behind it and busted through the dam, it released like a 100 foot flash flood filled with boulders racing downstream creating havoc. We were no longer bored and went back to Yellowstone.

This is the hottest Ranger we have ever seen.

Well, three out of five of us at least. The boys think they're too sexy for their shirts and don't really care about hot ranger guy. 

We liked hot ranger girl. Mimi frightened Austin.

Actually, the hot rangers put us to work. The National Park system has junior ranger badges (to make junior hot rangers). The kids have earned several of these which requires things like dancing naked with bears... or you can take a book full of questions that send you searching the park for answers. Most of the badges they had earned were very simple and completed within five minutes to an hour. Not the case in Yellowstone. They actually considered finding a bear and dancing naked ~ wouldn't have really earned 'em a junior ranger badge but we offered to pay 'em $5.

Anyway, we had to attend classes, take samples from the rivers, watch movies, go on hikes, drive to different parts of the park, and answer questions.  They really make you work for that badge.  There were questions on there that Greg and Jenn had hard times answering.

During our quest to earn badges, the kids got to hold some skins from local wolves that had been caught and slaughtered for the pleasure of the tourists.  Did you know that wolves had to be reintroduced to Yellowstone National Park after stories that wolves were attacking surrounding residents livestock? These people needed their livestock to make a living and when wolves were reportedly killing their animals they started hunting wolves till there were none left.  Wolves are important to the balance of wildlife in Yellowstone National Park and were reintroduced to the park from wolves taken from their homes in Alaska to become part of the wildlife in YS again.  Tourists can now hear them howl at night from their cages in the wolf sanctuary in West Yellowstone. 

*In fact, the wolf skin was taken legitimately to educate and the ones from Alaska were injured, rescued, rehabilitated and released in Y.S. and the wolf sanctuary rescues wolves at risk and releases them when they're ready. We just thought cynical would be funny, oh well.

After a freakin' week, Austin finally answered a bazillion questions and earned his badge.

Finally, a patch and certificate! The girls are dancing naked with a bear in the background.

Here he is gnawing on them with his back to us because we're screaming and throwing dollar bills his way. This is the first bear we saw in the wild!  We were so excited because when we first hit the road we thought we were going to see all this crazy wildlife everywhere and never saw anything that would be happy to eat us till we saw this little black bear eating something on the side of the road.  We drove by it twice in our convertible before we decided to approach the bear to feed and molest it.

We felt really bad about that whole bear molestation thing after seeing this sign.

This is towards the North entrance of Yellowstone and is often populated with the free roaming elk.  They will also charge at you and kill you if you are not careful.

Coyote and buffalo are also deadly ~ tons of buffalo roaming around freely throughout Yellowstone and the campgrounds.  Buffalo have the right of way and often stop traffic. Coyotes pretty much stay out of the way. During the time we were here, the buffalo were 'in season' if you know what we mean.  We pulled over to observe some in a field doing their 'thang'.  They make this insane noise at each other before, well, making baby buffalos.  It is a weird site.  The kids have never been able to look at buffalo the same since.

This is more like what they think of now.

So we're all hanging outside the car as a Family at a pullout taking pictures of buffalo a safe distance away ~ as we're all enthralled and giggling at some buffalo porn in front of us, another buffalo with its baby decided to cross the street behind us right next to the VW where Jenn and the girls were sitting. Jenn was absolutely petrified and could not move even if she wanted to.  Greg turned to see them sitting there thinking 'don't they see the buffalo right next to them?'  The answer is yes Greg, the answer is yes.  As the buffalo came way to close to the girls, one of the buffalo made eye contact with Jenn.  Still scared, Jenn slowly grabbed the girls and led them around the car to a safer point.  It was freaky deaky dutch.

More danger. Danger in the city, danger in the wild, danger danger everywhere. Fear not. After all, according to quantum physics all matter is made up from a bunch of atoms that are made up of only space and particles that alternate between light and matter, never either at the same time but always dependent on how we look at 'it' ~ life. So it all really is just a dream ~ make it yours. And, energy never dies. We are energy. Go watch 'What the bleep do we know'. And thank God.

Thank you God. With that in mind one early morning, Greg took Sunny on a walk to watch the sunrise on Fishing Bridge.  This was such a peaceful time for us and we hadn't really thought about work or anything while being here.  We focused on learning and worked on our Junior Ranger badges instead.

The sunrise over Fishing Bridge (or any bridge, or any place) is a great time to meditate with those that you love.

We had moved to Fishing Bridge campground inside YS after over a week in West YS. During our stay here, a herd of buffalo passed through the campground one morning while we were out hiking. This was pretty scary because they came through the trees and we weren't sure where they were going and how spread out they were. We survived.

The kids built a clubhouse at the Campground and Greg's butt itches. There is tons of lumber laying around the woods from the fires so the Nodland boys lead the campground kids in a construction and renovation project ~ those Nodlands, always thinking real estate.

They made a two story club house with several rooms and a dog house.  Some little girl decided to join after all the hard work was done.

The Nodlands took us on a tour of their favorite parts of Yellowstone.  Artist's Point in the background is one of the most painted pictures in the world.  The Nodlands have spent a lot of time in YS and Ed knows everything, about everyone.  Really he does.  Strange that Boeing training classes benefited us well here?!?

This is an actual photo we took of Artist's Point.  So good it looks fake...

GregJennandKids.com, still lame.

We drove to the other side of Artist's Point to the top of the falls.  Max and Austin are contemplating a pulley system to ride to the other side.

Back at the campground, we stared long and hard ~ What do you make of this? What's in the trailer? Did they actually tow this any distance? What's the towing capacity of a Jeep? Are those three 5,000 pound axles on the trailer? Is there 15,000 pounds in the trailer? Does the Jeep weigh more than 5,000 pounds? Are they watching our group laugh and point at them out their tinted window?

Eventually the Nodlands left and we had to cook for ourselves again (thanks Cheryl!). We fell once again into a funk in this beautiful place, we had to work. We have to work together as a Family. We want to share this and our adventures and risks on our cheesy website named 'GregJennandKids.com'. We need a better name for the site. Something we don't have to spell out slowly and describe ad nauseam. We need to get out of the campground and drive. 

We drove for the first time into the eastern regions of the park. We were told this was one of the best places to see wolves and bears and fewer tourists. There are rolling fields and inspiring views. We let go. Our minds wandered and became clear. Jenn broke the silence with 'barenakedfamily'. Greg looked awkwardly at her and knew immediately what it meant to us ~ from the shallower perspective of being huge Barenaked Ladies fans inspired a great deal by their lyrics; and the deeper perspective behind the definition of 'naked' ~ without. Bare being the same term as naked yet emphasizing the term when put together ~ barenaked. Family ~ the one and only term that defined everything we desire and are passionate about in our world. The reason we left everything, the reason we were living 'without'... for Family. We had previously thought through and wrote down all the thesaurus terms for the word Family to include in our web name and they were all cheesier than how we felt about the word Family. We contemplated how it would be misunderstood and Greg actually got hung up on it, even embarrassed. He later looked up the definition of naked and learned it basically meant 'without'. Nude was primarily the definition for no clothes. 

barenakedfamily. We liked it. 

A name that would mean something.  A name we could be proud of.  A name that represented what we had done with our life. There it was, scribbled on the paper with all the others we had come up with ~ barenakedfamily.com.  Finally, there in the middle of nowhere we found something we were looking for.

We became more excited as we drove through eastern YS. We became energized when we discussed how it would be perceived; how it was inspired; how deep it really went; and how and where it came to us. We knew we had our new web name. We had no idea how much attention it would get or what it would become. We have no idea where it is going and hope to leave our paddles in the water and allow the winds and currents to take us there. WILSON!!!

Peace.

We stayed in Yellowstone for about a month with the Nodlands and during this time we got some real wisdom from Ed. We often just hung out and let our minds wander about what was next. We thought about camp hosting and talked to some locals about seasonal jobs. Yellowstone was not for us since cold and lonely winters sound difficult to find a restaurant, there are no malls or Wal-Marts, and we just don't like to be that remote that long.

Peace out.

...to Salt Lake City for some shopping malls and fast food! After a month in Yellowstone we feel refreshed and are starting to think about work again.  Also thinking about what the website could become with a name like barenakedfamily.  It was funny to think about the reactions we would get from people about it.  Some like it, some hate it, some are embarrassed about it, and some don't give a crap.  We said bye to the Nodlands and went our separate ways.  Those guys are so cool.

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