Well, THIS was the longest day yet! As agreed, I picked up my road buddy, Russ (AKA: Siyona Yona- Hello Bear, in Cherokee) as promised at 9:30 AM, and just got in at 9:30 PM. I stopped at the bakery here in town and bought two fabulous muffins and a decaf latte, and we sat by a wild river and started our day.
True to his Native name, we saw more bears today than I could have dreamed! Each time, he’d call out a few words in Cherokee, greetings he told me. Our final sighting, a black bear was about 100′ from me and I could watch it graze, knowing that there were much slower and dumber people between me and that bear! Russ, however, said he was a tad worried that he might have to drive my car back for me. In all, we spotted 6 bears, including 2 grizzly; as well as 1 wolf; loads of bison; deer (several types); a fox; pronghorn; bighorn; 2 rainbows; 1 storm; Old Faithful again, and loads of scenery that caused us to stop and sit a spell.
This was an challenging re-introduction to the world again. For nearly 2 weeks, I have really spent almost all of my time entirely alone. I’ve talked with a few people at stops or trails, but have also had days where I spoke to no one for all or most of a day. I haven’t eaten a single meal with anyone for two weeks, until today. For those of you who know me and think I can talk… I said very little today, and there was barely a silent moment. This man can TALK. And he has stories to tell that are pretty amazing! His tour in Korea, his “ladies”, his mistakes in life, etc… in lots of detail. It was a sensory over load that I hadn’t anticipated. It is something to digest and think about, as I rejoin my husband tomorrow and return home next week.
A wise man, he had a lot to share with me about interacting in the world, things that matter, things that don’t, and how to manage some of what sent me on this trip in the first place. Great perspectives, wonderful humor and not a person the man doesn’t stop to chat with. If I turned around for a moment, he was off making friends with every tourist in his path. Saying hello in more languages than I could possibly say and asking for a hug as well! A total gentleman, he pulled out every chair, opened each door and then explained that he would never want me to not feel as special as I am! Nice. At the Roosevelt Lodge, he announced to all within earshot that I was “his angel, who had come to relieve him from his driving for a day; was an exceptional tour guide;” and then added: “I want witnesses, she has one of the cutest butts I’ve seen in a long time!” EEK! Red faced and flustered, I was out the door in a second! At the car, I told him that was pretty embarrassing. He replied “Lovey, I may be old, but I’m still a man. That’s one cute butt!” Not what I expected from the sage guru. We finished our touring at Old Faithful, and headed back.
Spending the entire day together, driving about 300+ miles, was an interesting challenge for me, as I have realized just how much solitude I actually appreciate. To have someone talking all day and sharing so much, has left me exhausted beyond words and really wondering how I will re-enter life at home. I feel so changed and know I could keep driving for a while longer, lingering in this golden space. Some of what he shared I will need a while to process: as knowing what is right, or which path would be happier and healthier, isn’t necessarily the easiest path to take.
Driving down the road with a stranger, sharing stories and personal journeys is a rare thing. The last time I really did something like this was hitch hiking in Australia, when I was 20. I’m a different person now and the challenges, rewards and journey are all different. I have come home tonight drained and energized all at once. I’m so grateful for the 4 sad ice cubes in the ice box at my cabin. That cocktail will be mighty good tonight, after a hot shower and crackers and cheese for dinner! My final 24 hours alone…
The big viewing of the day, may remain a mystery. We were in Lamar Valley, my favorite place still, when we saw a long line of people far off in the country. We pulled out the binoculars and there in my scope, I believe, was my son! It was definitely a group of kids, backpacking with 2-3 guides. One looked an awful lot like Little Man/AJ and for a moment I was so excited to think that he was that close and seeing the very same vista, that my heart raced. Hard to know for sure if it was in fact his group, but I’m hoping to find an update posted from the group and find out. Ran in to one of my favorite rangers (know several by name now and it’s fun to have a ranger call my name out, when viewing animals), and he wasn’t sure if it was Little Man’s group, but asked me if I wanted to get a message to the group, or have him check the log for me. Not a chance! It was a magical encounter and I will go to bed tonight, believing I saw my boy, in beautiful place and looking happy. Why break the spell?
Photos from the day:
Large bull bison, just off the edge of the road
and spectacular storm, coming in over the hills. If you look closely, you can see the rainbow bursting
from the peak in the middle. Spectacular day of wildlife and wild places, with one wild and crazy old man.