For over thirty years, we have been visiting Yellowstone National Park during our trips to the Triangle X ranch. Stories from our family history are often linked to our visits to Yellowstone. The first trip Peter made with me was “the summer of the ’88 Yellowstone fire”. Then, there was our first trip with our oldest two granddaughters when “we watched Old Faithful erupt multiple times (2006)”. Or, the Wyoming trip “when we saw the frozen buffalo carcass” (winter 2009). This year is the year “the south entrance was closed three times by fire”, also known as the Centennial Year.
The Berry Fire, this year’s wildfire, was started by lightning in late July and burned over 20,000 acres around the north end of Jackson Lake. We had originally planned a route through the park and a night camping at Flagg Ranch but the fire jumped Highway 89 and caused the road closure and the evacuation of the campground, twice. By the time the repairs on our truck were completed in Bozeman, the road had re-opened and we made a memorable ride through the park. We witnessed the outcome of a fire fed by lush confer forests of spruce and lodgepole pine which now left eery stands of ghostly skeletons for miles along the highway. The ground itself, scorched black, is a testament to the intense heat and sheer power of the fires.
The immensity of Yellowstone, however, allows one to also experience the incredible beauty of unaffected areas of the highway where the colors of fall were on exuberant display. Bison continue to pose for pictures by the tourists on the open meadows along the Madison River, and a small herd of elk cows were visible along the Lewis River.
As we headed out of Yellowstone, crossing into the Grand Teton National Park, we got our first glimpse of the Teton range from the north side of Jackson Lake. The drought has depleted the levels in the Lake and the remnants of the Berry Fire were visible on the western side of the lake where charred and blackened hulks came right up against untouched conifer stands.
The Triangle X ranch sits in the Grand Teton National Park. Our time here is a time of reunion with old friends, time for leisurely horseback rides (these days we are “walking” our horses to the Snake River, or on the flat mesas up behind the ranch), time for reading and afternoon naps, time for deep conversations and relaxed walks along the county roads that cross the ranch property. This is the ranch’s 90th anniversary and so there were lots of occasions to thank the remarkable Turner family who have been caretakers of this ranch for its entire life time which is just a drop in the bucket of the timeline that created this place.
Being here provides a profound reminder that we are all on this earth for such a brief time and it is so easy to have our lives slip by when we are looking the other way, distracted by the mundane. The ranch opens the heart; and the doors of kindness, and love, and generosity, and friendship are flung open and paradoxically, the reservoir of grace is not drained but filled with gratitude for this life we have been given. To all you dear friends (pictured here below at “Chairhenge” one lovely evening) thank you for your presence in our lives.
Peter and Liz travel next to the Four Corners region in their Airstream, continuing to cross the U.S. as their pilgrimage to here unfolds.