Tuesday, July 27, 2010

A warm welcome and reunion. For a while I'll rest from my travels.

This place is eerie and haunting. Emigrants numbering around 400,000 traveled across Wyoming on the Oregon Trail from 1840-1860. My family on my father's side, Sowbys and Pettigrews, were on the Trail. Reaching Independence Rock marked 1/3 of the 2,000 mile distance from Missouri to the western frontier. Independence Rock is one of the most famous landmarks on the Oregon Trail. Emigrants wanted to reach the rock by the 4th of July to ensure passage over the western mountain ranges before winter snows.

Rachel Taylor, age 15, 1853, wrote in her journal:
July 21st
Started in good season and about noon reached the Sweetwater, a swift clear stream. Later in the day passed Independence Rock. We forded the river here and were somewhat hindered. Encamped near the river where grass is abundant. We have here a frightful as well as romantic situation. Just back of us Independence Rock stands out in bold relief, and in front of us yawns the Devils Gate.

Cecelia Adams & Parthenia Blank, twin sisters, age 23, 1852, wrote:

25 Sun this morning we started at 3 o’clock to feed and get breakfast. Sand very deep and dust very troublesome. Stopped for dinner opposite Independence Rock. It is a great curiosity but we were all so tired that we could not go to the top of it. It is almost entirely covered with names of emigrants. Went on to the Devil’s Gate and encamped. This is a great curiosity but we have not time to visit it and regret it very much. Passed 3 graves. Forded the Sweet water.

Breakfast in the T@B by Ashley; spinach & tomato omelets with the trimmings yumm.
Surprised & humbled by the Grand Tetons in all their glory. We wanted to canoe on Jenny Lake, but no parking in an overcrowded parking lot! Instead, a beautiful new Interpretive Center awaited us with a(nother) string quartet playing on the patio. Wow!

Paint pot!

String Quartet at Lake Yellowstone Hotel. Very fancy and great fun.

Yellowstone National Park, established on March 1, 1872, is the world's oldest National Park. It is famous for having more than 10,000-plus hot springs and geysers, the majority of the planet's total. (In two days we saw only about 20.)Yellowstone's geothermal features are created by one of the world's largest active volcanoes; its last eruption caused a crater or caldera that spans about half of the parks size.

The area in the photos is Grand Prismatic Spring, Yellowstone's largest hot spring, 370 feet in diameter. It's in the Midway Geyser Basin reached by following a boardwalk. The spring is deep blue in color, with yellow and orange rings formed by bacteria that give it the effect of a prism--more beautiful than photos or words can describe.

John Colter, the first white man known to see Yellowstone, was on the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Before the Expedition returned to St. Louis, Colter asked to be released from duty to return to the wilderness. In 1807 he and former expedition member John Potts , trapping in Blackfeet country, were ambushed by Indians. Potts was killed, but Colter escaped by outrunning the Blackfeet who had stripped him naked; he ran 200 miles to safety. Later Colter supplied Clark with many new details from his travels into the Yellowstone(Lewis & Clark somehow missed it). In describing the geysers and other geothermal phenomena, Yellowstone Park became known as “Colter’s Hell.”

We saw people from all over the world visiting Yellowstone 200 years after these historic events. A family from Denmark visited with us after Old Faithful blew. We loved the restored Old Faithful Inn, and stayed 92 minutes to watch Old Faithful again from the Inn balcony.

The Beartooth Highway in Montana is one of the most spectacular alpine highways in North America. Providing visitors access to Yellowstone Park's northeast entrance, the Beartooth Highway makes its way across the rugged Beartooth Mountain Range in Montana and Wyoming. The road is the highest elevation highway in the Northern Rockies. We saw people play in the snow. Naturally we would choose the most challenging way to enter Yellowstone Park; there was little traffic at the remote NE entrance to the Park.