Friday, July 30, 2010

Write of Passage - Day 10 (cont. some more)

August 11, 2009: Night in Yellowstone

Night Fall in Yellowstone
"Colors of purple and pink, As it slowly must sink. God gave them for humans to treasure.
And I do."  ~Jolene Fischer, 1975

"The colors of a sunset, are never truly gone.
They rest inside the watching soul, throughout the whole night long.
And when the light returns again, to dry the morning dew,
I promise to be mindful still, and begin the day anew." 
~Jolene Witt, today

Cote and I drove away from Mt. Washburn, and began to look for a place to spend the night. It was now after 9pm, and the sun was long gone, only a few remaining tentacles of  light struggled to reach above the mountains in the distance. The peaks were fading, the meadows were slipping from sight. Soon, everything would be swallowed by the encroaching blackness, and no street lamp would be lit to counter the attack. Cote and I drove feverishly to find the best place to park, before the fullness of night arrived.
Several miles passed, along with several pull-overs. We slowed down long enough to scan the features of each one, debating pros and cons.....location, size, view, etc. We finally found one that had everything we were looking for. It was a small half circle look-out point, beautifully situated above a sunken valley, facing east, with mountains bordering the horizon. We could point our car straight towards the picturesque view, and in the morning, when the sun came up, its warm rays would overtake the peaks, spread through the meadow and into our waiting windshield. We would awaken to the magic of Yellowstone. I could imagine it already.
We pulled in and immediately began to re-pack the car. Cote and I had to clear space in the back seat, so that we could lay the front seats as flat as possible. We pulled all our everyday gear and stowed it in the hatch, while grabbing pillows, blankets, books, and flashlights. We brushed our teeth using bottled water and washed our faces with disposable cleansing cloths. We changed into flannel pants and fresh t-shirts, then climbed back into the Edge, to see just how comfortable our makeshift "beds" would be.
Excitement over-rode any other thought for a while. Cote and I talked about our day, the challenges we had faced, the fun we had shared. We talked about our hopes for tomorrow and the adventures another new day in Yellowstone would bring. Night had now fully fallen all around us, but the possibility of a passing car, kept us from being in a hurry to use the "facilities" and closing our eyes to sleep. We were winding down, but not yet ready to call it a day.
That's when it hit me. What if it was prohibited to park overnight in Yellowstone??
"Cote, what if this isn't legal?"
"Parking overnight. What if we're not supposed to do this?"
"What? Why? We're not hurting anything."
"Yeah, I know. But still. If parking overnight was legal, we would see other people doing it. I mean, people would be doing it all the time, all over the place. And think about the mess that would be......there'd be trash left behind and everything. I bet this isn't allowed."
I rummaged through the storage compartment of my driver-side door, and pulled out the Yellowstone Visitor's Guide. Sure enough, right there in black and white was an informational article about the "Do & Don'ts" while visiting the national park.
Rule #8 -- Overnight Vehicular Parking Is Not Permitted
And here we sat like sitting ducks, proudly perched for all to see.
Now what?
I pulled my seat up and put the car in gear. We couldn't stay here, that was for sure. But what could we do? Where else could we go? The campgrounds and lodges were all full. We had no choice but to find a less detectable hiding spot until morning.
We drove down the pitch-black road, slowly taking curves and keeping a careful eye open for any moving nocturnal creature. It was hard to navigate the unknown territory, now that all visibility had been stripped down to only the width and length of our headlight beams. Twists and turns seemed to pop up out of nowhere. After one particular curve, we happened upon a red-tail fox casually crossing our path. Further down the road, a solid wall of rock suddenly appeared on our left, jutting up into the blackened sky overhead, and drastically narrowing our lane. I kept driving, having no idea where we were or where we were headed. I only knew we hadn't "arrived" yet.
Finally, we passed a service drive for a quiet, secluded picnic area. I gratefully took the turn-off, leaving the main road behind us, and then pulled into the deserted eating area off the remote service drive. Tucking the Edge as far back into the pine-tree line as I could, I put the car in park and cut the lights. Everything went black, we couldn't see a thing, and as far as I could tell....(in our jet-black vehicle).....we couldn't be seen either. This was it. Our spot for the night. Cote and I breathed a sigh of relief, and then immediately tensed again when a hoot owl voiced his objection over our unannounced arrival.
This was going to be an interesting night, no doubt. Would I be able to sleep, I wondered? Laying the front seat all the way back turned out to be not that comfortable. Listening for bears, even less so. We grabbed our blankets and tossed them over our heads. Cote and I opened our books and turned on our mini-lights. We thought that if we read for a bit, maybe we'd relax, and sleep would quietly come find us. But this didn't happen. Within ten minutes, we both admitted to rereading the same page over and over, because our minds were preoccupied with other concerns. We were nervous about having our book-lights on (would we get caught?), and more nervous about what might be moving along the brush-line at the edge of the picnic area, (would it get curious?). We closed our books, and decided it would be better to just close our eyes, pretend we were somewhere else, and pray for morning. But there was one more detail that had to be dealt with before we called it a night.
It sat only on the other side of the parking lot, less than 50 yards away. But the wood-planked outhouse might as well have been on the top of Mt. Washburn, for all that mattered. We weren't going over there. No way. Who knew what creature was lurking in the shadows, waiting for one stupid move on our part. Anything could be OUT there......or, come to think of it.....IN there.
"So, what do we do?"
"Well, I think I'm going to quietly open my door, pee right here next to the car, and then jump back in."
"Sounds good to me."
So, that's what we did.
Finally, it was time to call it a day.....and what a long one it had been. With 16 hours of adventure behind us, sleep should have come easily, and with absolutely no interruption. But that was not the case for me. Throughout the night, I lost count how many times I woke up, trying to readjust my origami-shaped spine and my pretzel-twisted legs. Several times the moon shone so brightly through the windshield that I was fooled into believing morning had arrived. Cote slept soundly beside me, though. Her body being so young, so much more flexible, much more forgiving. She could curl, and squish, and flail herself into all different shapes and sizes, and not feel a thing. Not one ache, not a single pain.
Morning Arrives Gently....
By 5:45 a.m., I gave up the fight. I unfolded my body one last time, stretched my legs, and pulled my seat back up into position. A cold chill had crept inside the car over the past two hours and had just reached the point where our blankets weren't enough. Cote stirred as I reached for the ignition, and in her still sleep-like trance, asked me to turn on the heat. I did one better, and punched the button for her seat-warmer. With the engine humming, she curled to the right, bunched herself into a blanket-covered ball, and drifted back into her dreams.
Darkness still surrounded us, but I pulled the car out onto the main road, and did my best to remember how we got here. It was early enough to beat the sunrise and I wanted Cote to wake up where we had originally intended to spend the night......overlooking the meadow, with the mountains in the distance. It wouldn't be long before the first rays of morning would paint the darkened canvass of night, but if I hurried there was time to get us where I thought we needed to be. 
....And We Awaken
Fifteen minutes later, we pulled in. I took a deep breath, and found my camera. We were here, really here. And we had survived our night in Yellowstone. The sky to the east began to warm, and I gently shook Cote awake. I handed her a very special letter, and together we watched as the sun slowly overtook the mountain peak, welcoming us to a brand new day. It was peaceful. It was spiritual. It was everything I had hoped for, and so much more. 

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Powerful Words

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer's hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable. ~Kahlil Gibran