As I was saying, Yellowstone National Park is breathtakingly beautiful.
We started our last full day with breakfast overlooking Yellowstone Lake. Afterwards, we took am hour and a half boat ride with a ranger from Bridge Bay. This was the only activity that we paid for. OK, if you don't count airfare, lodging, meals, rental car, the odd t-shirt and souvenir coffee mug, plus all those cappucinos Neil was downing.
Each day we ate a hearty buffet breakfast, which is funny because if you know us, you know we aren't big breakfast eaters. I'm always hungry when I travel for some reason. I get to the airport and I'm immediately famished. So it was eggs and french toast and fruit and yogurt and pastries and oatmeal and bagels and smoked salmon. Yes, I really did eat all that. We skipped lunch after that and indulged in mid-afternoon huckleberry ice cream. Hard serve, soft serve, sundaes, all good.
We dined on burgers at Canyon Lodge, roast turkey (me) and stuffed shells (Neil) at Lake Lodge (adjacent to Lake Hotel) and wild game meatloaf (Neil) and trout baked in parchment (me) at Grant Lodge.
The boat ride was fascinating. We learned about the history of the lake and the very enterprising (but not so ethical) E.C. Waters, who operated two passengers steamships on the lake in the 1890s, the Zillah and the self-named E.C. Waters. Waters the ship eventually was abandoned (1906), beached at Stevenson Island (1921), its decaying hull torched by rangers (1930). Its corpse remains as a sightseeing stop for park visitors like us. Waters the man was "debarred" from the park in 2007 for his cavalier treatment of park animals and for generally "having rendered himself obnoxious."
We also learned the sad plight of the lake's indigenous cutthroat trout, once famously prodigious in Lake Yellowstone's waters. In the late 1980s or early 90s, by accident or malice, lake trout appeared in the lake. Lake trout prey on cutthroats and are decimating the cutthroat population, which also threatens other surface-feeding species (grizzly bears, bald eagles, river otters) who depend on the cutthroats for sustenance. Aggressive measures are in place to manage the ongoing problem, including trapping the deeper-dweller and larger lake trout in nets by the hundreds of thousands.
After the boat ride, we hiked out to Storm Point. It was magnificent.
We were planning to wind up the afternoon with a ranger-led hike in the Mud Volcano area but due to fire risk, all off-road activity in that area of the park was barricaded. Instead we high-tailed it to the West Thumb Geyser Basin and were lucky enough to catch up with another ranger-led walk.
It started to rain lightly near the end, and the group quickly dispersed, but I just pulled up my hood and hung in there. So we got to talk a bit with the ranger, and I asked a million questions, some of which I already knew the answer to (how did the lake trout get into the lake?). I like to hear stories about life as a ranger and by good fortune we had a ranger who liked to tell stories.
While we talked, this happened.
Although humans are prohibited from leaving the boardwalks and stepping onto the warm and potentially thin surrounding crust, elk apparently are sure-footed (and like the warmth).
It was a magical ending to a fantastic day, a wonderful week.
I'm so glad Neil and I had a chance to take this trip.
The next day we flew home.
As much as I love home and my own bed, I didn't want this holiday to be over.
In 2001, after our first date, Marty wrote this note to me.
This was a wonderful evening after all - so wonderful that I resist closing the book on it. I have to tell you how my heart smiled when you walked up to me. I know a little of it was just relief that we connected after all, but mostly I was just smitten and drinking you in.Before I even saw the email, he had written me three more times, and called too.
You're a beautiful and charming woman, and there was something really entrancing about the way you looked - the pretty dress and sweater, your hair, the brightness in your eyes and the little things like your nails, your heart ring and especially the little hints of glitter on your cheeks.
You're a lovely and hungry soul. We're barely acquainted, but I think we have some common dreams. Time will tell if we're here to help fulfill them for each other.
Our dinner date was Saturday. On Tuesday, he wrote me this.
I woke up a little early this morning and went out for a health walk. You know, the dawn was a little brighter, the sky a little bluer, and my step much, much lighter because I was thinking of you.... Dawn is a wonderful time, don't you think? A new beginning, new light, a cool breeze, a peaceful quiet transforming to choruses of singing birds, the blossoms on my portulaca opening to greet the sun..... I like this dawn.Consider that we'd corresponded for 10 days and met exactly once. Reading it today, it seems trite, silly, overblown. Dangerous, foolhardy. Melodramatic
Not then. I wrote back.
Marty .. you are doing it again .. you are making me feel so .. happy.Oh hell yeah. I was a goner.
Dangerously happy, because I have so much work I should be doing and yet I feel like a 16-year-old schoolgirl with a terrible first crush.
Marty, there is so much I want to say, but mostly I just want to thank you for giving me some very happy moments this week (the best day of my life, as Dido sings, comes to mind, but I have a feeling that is still ahead).
Thank you, sweet Marty.
I don't want to stop writing this letter.
I don't want to stop feeling this breathless electricity.
I want to listen to every beautiful song in the world with you.
Help, someone please stick a fork in me - I'm done.
"Hey, where did we go
Days when the rains came
Down in the hollow
Playing a new game
Laughing and a-running, hey, hey
Skipping and a-jumping
In the misty morning fog with
Our, our hearts a-thumping
And you, my brown-eyed girl
You, my brown-eyed girl
To Tuesday and so slow
Going down to the old mine with a
Standing in the sunlight laughing
Hide behind a rainbow's wall
Slipping and a-sliding
All along the waterfall
With you, my brown-eyed girl
You, my brown-eyed girl."