After a succesful, if rainy, 15 ½ hour day in Yellowstone in the company of cutthroat trouts, the cuddliest black-and-white wolf cub, a two to three-year-old (I did make up the age) black bear (who are brown in Finland, where I hail from) and many other wonderful creatures, we set off, at 6.30 a.m. I might add, for another day in the world’s first national park.
Having seen the mind-blowing lower falls of the Yellowstone Grand Canyon, the Lamar Valley and the Norris Geyser Basin the day before we had to find comfort in the eye-candy provided by the overdone-meringue-like Mammoth Hot Springs, the Grand Prismatic Spring as well as the, in Yellowstonian standards, tiny trickle of boiling water erupted by Old Faithful that gently flows into the Firehole River.
Obsidian Cliffs and its see-through black glass formations were, unfortunately, closed to the public due to illegal scraping off of the wonderful rhyolite formed by sizzling hot silica and magma a 180,000 years ago. Ninety percent, we were told, of the 4.3 million visitors to one of the greatest wonders on Earth never leave the roads to wander deeper into the wonders of the national park yet some barbarians try to benefit out of what is on display for the amazement of humankind. [insert vulgar insult of your choice]
The adventure, however, does not end here. In fact, it commences, as our ever-patient chauffeur, Dr Saldin, took us through a short and beautiful stretch of Idaho back into Montana’s Madison Valley and its ranches.
For a split-second I believed we were passing by O.K. Corral but at second glance it turned out to be Carrol Ranch. So much for ”true” Americana I thought, yet pasture after pasture followed under the protection of the Tobacco Root Mountains while Bruce Springsteen was playing Tougher Than The Rest, the greatest love song ever, on the car stereo.
A stop at Ennis, Madison County, gave us an opportunity to see an old Western, gold-rush town with boardwalks in front of genuine Wild West buildings, one of which still sported horse-troughs-cum-flower-beds on the front. And they say Euro-Americans ain’t got no history, little do they know.
On the way towards Butte we also discovered that it is a global phenomenon for people who normally drive under the speed limit to speed up over the limit as they are being over-taken on a passing lane. The psychology of these people was briefly discussed as was safety belt law ignorance around the world.
The final, and one of the most memorable moments, took place not long before returning to Missoula as we passed a two-truck convoy of pre-fabricated homes on Interstate 90. ”The dinner’s ready in the oven,” quipped our most-hospitable chauffeur.
Oh, oh, oh, I nearly forgot! We also passed by, in Yellowstone, a herd of at least a hundred head of bison, after which the tail-end of the cows and bulls assisted their young across the road by non-chalantly blocking off human traffic whilst lovably grunting orders to the calves.
We are now nearly halfway through our S.U.S.I. (I must inform you that ‘susi,’ in Finnish, is ‘wolf’ in English.) programme and here’s hoping to the rest of it being as half as great as it has been so far.
We have been hosted by a wonderful crew of intelligent and kind people and I hope the rest of the gang appreciates their work as much as I do. Thank you, you know who you are!