Home again, after a most amazing trip and the treasure of family time, which warms my heart and nourishes me deeply and daily. 

I am enjoying our new and thriving home window garden, and it’s a certain relief having two instead of ten to feed!  At the same time, I still relish and want to share with you some final highlights of my recent road trip, using the amazing creatures we had the pleasure to see as the mnemonic and the vehicle.

I’ve mentioned in previous blogs some of the grand animals we encountered  (Bison, Elk, Moose, Prong-horned Antelope, Red Fox, Bear… in Wild Wonders), and also those on our Snake River float trip (White Pelicans, Merganser families, Great Blue Heron, Bald Eagles, Kingfisher, Teals… in Hot Hot Hot!).  Each one is linked to precious and memorable experiences.  But there are many more!

Golden-mantled ground squirrels were numerous, and I particularly remember the inquisitive, bold, impudent ones clearly wanting to share our snack after we had hiked up the trail above Jenny Lake to Inspiration Point.  Snow abounded, the trail was partially closed, so we were thrilled to find a way up, and relished the overlook and sense of accomplishment.  There too we saw our first of many Yellow-Bellied Marmots, also at Hidden Falls, and on the Lake Trail.  We enjoyed watching them as much as it seemed they enjoyed watching us!

Fond memories too of the cottontails at the campsite near Arches National Park.  The evening was warm, the skies dusky, the bunnies hopping and peeping around delighted us all, especially Nick and Lilly!  A Western Tanager was our guest for breakfast in the pines at our camp at the Grand Canyon. The yellow and red flash was a thrill.  I haven’t seen many of these beauties. A Clark’s Nutcracker  in his stunning black, grey and white outfit, joined us while we were hiking Bryce Canyon.

If I had to pick a favorite spot, it would be Bryce.  It was a first for me.  If you haven’t yet been, plan to go!  The Collared Lizard on the Hat Shop Trail at Bryce that Martin caught for a closer look, was also a first, and the Northern Whiptail lizards fascinated us on the sands all through Utah.  Getting to recognize its and other desert animals’ tracks was really satisfying, and one of the several benefits of the kids doing the Jr. Ranger Programs at the Parks. These programs  were really rich, and we all saw, smelled, sensed, and felt more fully because of the suggested activities.

Raven, grave, cunning, bold, and black, were legion, but never lost their magic for us. There was the Pine Siskin twitting and flitting near Jackson Lake in the Tetons, where we also saw august and celebrated Osprey. And oh, the breeding osprey pair in the nest we saw at dawn from our camp at Wind River View!

At Colter Bay I hiked alone in serious bear country for an afternoon, singing loudly as I went!  A Western Bluebird kept me company, and I am glad I’m here to remember it!   Swifts were gracefully swooping among the arches at Arches.  We’re quite sure we caught a glimpse of the wild horses that are roaming in Wyoming,  which was a perk; and we know we saw coyotes, two of them, in the Lamar Valley in Yellowstone.  Handsome, sharp, confident, they trotted along, and we followed them with our binocs and felt lucky.

Another freeze-frame, memorable moment was spotting the Killdeer, such a striking bird, as Nick and I were walking on the trail to the Upper Geyser Basin, and then again together on the rim of the Minerva Pool of Mammoth Hot Springs.  We were both wide-eyed both times.

Our last day in Yellowstone (when we really wanted to see a bear, and finally did), included a stake-out at the site where a bison had died along the road, and we felt sure a bear would wander by.  One didn’t, but the nesting Sand Hill Crane on the little lake, beside which we breakfasted and kept watch, was as memorable for me.  Bears were more common than that glimpse, in my book!

I think I’ll conclude with Trout, an icon and symbol of the west — our rivers, and our interconnectedness, their glory and our folly.  Our first trout were a bit of a travesty, and to me speak of our grandiosity and short-sightedness.  Gargantuan, they were waiting at the foot of the also giant Flaming Gorge Dam on the Green River in Wyoming.  Survivors of a formerly rich river ec0system, which has been gravely altered and decimated by the dam, they swim in circles and wait to be fed, as they will be, by the tourists who come through like clockwork, every 20 minutes.  That was one experience.

The other was the wild, leaping cutthroat we spotted on their way up the La Hardy Rapids of the Yellowstone River.  A fellow visitor kindly pointed them out to us, or we would have walked right on by.  It was a lovely connection.  The trout were on that incredible journey back upstream where they had come from, years earlier, to spawn, and begin the cycle of life anew.  Wild and glorious, abundant and magnificent.

We don’t actually need to travel far and wide for these moments.  (“There is only one great adventure, and that is inwards toward the self.” Henry Miller), and/but travel, especially with dear ones, can indeed illuminate our souls in new and wonderful ways.

I am grateful for the gifts and wonders of this trip with my son and his Austrian/American family.

May your life begin anew, each day, and have many rich and memorable moments.

Jill Schroder is the author of BECOMING: Journeying Toward Authenticity. Check the website for a sample chapter, or see the reviews to get a flavor for the volume.

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