All I Managed To Show Carin Was My Disappointment

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Montana Prairie

Oct. 1, 1979

Carin’s parents just left my place and took their daughter with them. The emotional good-byes were short and sweet. In the next few days she will board a plane enroot to Finhorn, a colony of people tending a “magic garden” somewhere in Scotland. Carin and I never made promises to each other. We lived together for almost a year and half. We loved and respected one another. Many times in the past we joked about getting married. I think it was back in July that I tried to get serious about it, but her response was a silent, icy stare. I dropped the idea after that.

She was 22, a free spirit, and ready for independence. I had just turned 31 and was four years into the not so sensational work of self-development. Carin graduated “summa cum laud” while I, after twelve years, had just received my degree. Her life was just getting started, while mine meant little more than a scratch on the wall of another day. Our “getting together” would have, most likely, violated some kind of natural law. I guess that’s why we chose not to talk about it. I knew there would be no Carole Sue type break down or collapse for me. If I had learned anything from my experience with C.S., it was how not to let something like that happen again.

Carin and I shared some good times, but I never let myself look too far into the future. As the time for her departure approached, I couldn’t just let her go, though. We planned a farewell trip. On that trip I would take her to my spiritual home–the Rocky Mountains. I hoped that in the most beautiful place in the world she would wake up one morning, throw her arms around my neck, and tell me she wanted to spend her life with me. It didn’t happen, but I did manage to bring back a nice souvenir. It could have been worse. Anyway, here’s the record of that experience:

9-17-79

In the ’72 Chevy that I had just bought from my brother (to make this vacation possible), Carin and I pulled into Glacier’s Two Medicine Lakes under a constant drizzle. We forced ourselves to take a last ditch ten-mile rain drenched hike, before we packed up, and headed down to Yellowstone. So much for the beauties of Glacier National Park, all I managed to show Carin was my disappointment. I was the one who did most of the complaining. After two days of remaining in our rain suits, we both needed a change of scenery. I hoped that we would drive out of the rain. It was so depressing.

Once we got out of the mountains, the rain did let up some. That night, we pulled off on a tractor trail and drove the car behind a gravel mound. In the middle of the prairie, hidden from view, we fueled our campfire with an old fence that was lying on the ground. The makeshift gravel pit was a perfect campsite. Leaning against the gravel bank, warmed by the fire, and watching the dark and shifting rain clouds break apart as they pushed across the mountain peaks was an extraordinary experience. After dinner, I remembered the bottle of brandy that I had stashed under the driver’s seat of the car. With the night air came the expected mountain chill, but with a good size fire and a bit of brandy to sip on that chill could be tolerated, even enjoyed.

Watching the flickering shadows on the wall of gavel behind us inspired visions of ancient Indians and cave philosophers. We were made even more aware of that history, when a giant bird came swooping out of the night sky. The bird swooped down and barely missed Carin’s head. Carin thought the bird had to be some kind of omen. (It was probably a giant owl looking for table scrapes, though). We made a game out of it. If the bird had been an omen then we had to discover “an omen for what?” Huddling close together under the blanket, sipping brandy, trying to figure out our future, was the perfect game for that evening–a perfect evening in fact. As we climbed into our sleeping bags the full moon called to attention the howling coyotes, and we were serenaded into dreamland–incredible.

In the morning, we headed out to Yellowstone’s Mammoth Hot Springs. In order to get there we had to drive through the middle of Montana’s Gallatin Mountain Range. Back when I bicycled that stretch of highway, I was reduced to tears by the majesty of the place. This time, however, the hot summer sun had melted the snowcaps. Water run offs were scarce, and from the dry lakebeds to the brown meadows, the heat had taken its toll on the scenery.

At Mammoth Hot Springs our plan was to get up early, and look for a good backcountry trail to hike. I figured the northeast corner of Yellowstone would produce a lot of animal sightings. I had been everywhere in Yellowstone except the northeast corner. I planned a hike there once, but the snow clogged highway kept me away. I had heard of numerous grizzly bear sightings in that area, and I wanted to see one. There was no snow now, so Carin and I decided to hike in that area. We headed up Slough Creek. According to my map reading skills, the hike was not going to be too rough. I was wrong. The 11.2 kilometers went mostly up a canyon valley and did not follow the creek-bed. In addition to the hot tempers that hiking in full packs under hot sun produced, when we arrived at trails end, Carin had no less than five large blisters on her feet. Sweaty, dirty, and in pain, we were not awe-inspired. We didn’t camp in the designated camp area, either. Instead, we camped in front of a boarded
up Ranger’s cabin. That made a bad situation a little better. It was strategically located, so we had a panoramic view of the valley, and access to a cold mountain stream. Our motivation for camping there was not totally self-centered, however. Carin could not walk any further, and after l checked her feet, it’s a wonder she made it 11.2 kilometers.

We Soaked In The Hot Spring Till The Milky Way Patterns Were Clear

Yellowstone National Park

Sept. ‘79

We had band-aids, but her blisters were too large. After spending the first day soaking her feet in the cool waters of the stream, she was able to hobble, with the help of a stick, around camp on the second day. I also had a couple of blisters, but they were small enough to protect with band-aids. It was on the second day that I hiked up to where we were supposed to camp and found the campground full of trout fishermen. When I returned, Carin was in a better mood. She was sunning herself by the stream. Fortunately, the weather was accommodating– warm and sunny.

The next day she was healing fast, but still wasn’t ready to hike. She encouraged me to explore the area. I hiked up to Bliss Pass. The trail was 8 kilometers long and steep. At the low point in the mountain peaks, I still had daylight in front of me, so I decided to keep climbing. I was trying to gage how far I could go and still get back by dark. When I reached a large rock outcropping with a gorgeous view of the valley, I gave myself a half hour to enjoy the solitude.

On the way down I followed a dry steam bed. It ended abruptly at a ridge—a waterfall ridge. When I headed in a different direction, I came upon what looked like a large log, but it was not a wooden log, it was stone. I dug away at the large petrified log and found it to be completely in tact. I took a couple of small cracked pieces, and then started down the mountain once again. This time I actually tripped over another piece of petrified wood. It was a tree stump. It was a very exciting find. When I examined the stump, a large chunk fell off the main part. I lifted the beautiful piece of petrified wood–10 to 15 pounds– up to the light. I decided to take it with me.

When I made it back to the campsite, just before dark, I found Carin sitting at the fire. She had already eaten dinner, and had left some macaroni and cheese in the pan for me. She was not excited about my rock. When I told her I wanted to keep it, she even got mad. Apparently, she thought I was going to carry her pack when it came time to hike out. When I told her I would carry her pack and the stone too, she relaxed a bit. We spent the next day hanging around the campfire. When we did leave, I got most of her stuff in my backpack. Our food was pretty much gone, so that freed up space. I carried my piece of petrified wood in my arms. For me, it was a long 11.2 kilometers back to the car.

From the northeast corner of Yellowstone we drove to Yellowstone Canyon and then to Yellowstone Falls. We camped at Norris Junction. The falls and canyon were absolutely fantastic—a must see. At the campground, we drank a few beers with the two Connecticut fellows that we met. They told us about the hot spring over at Madison campground. In the morning, after checking out the Norris geysers one more time, we headed over to Madison.

The following evening, after some help from fellow campers, we found the hot spring. It was a large pool of water, which was continuous with the little stream that ran along side the campground. It was outside of the campground, but not very far from where we camped. After dinner, Carin and I hiked over to the hot spring and found eight people –four girls, four boys—already in the water. The temperature was around 90 to 100 degrees, just perfect for the muscles that were still aching from our trip into the backcountry. Our prayers had been answered. We were happy, very happy campers.

We submerged ourselves in the hot water just before sunset. Seated in the pool, with our heads sticking out of the water (the pool was not deep), we watched the daylight fade into starlight. Two of the girls left early, but the rest of us stayed until the patterns in the Milky Way were crisp and clear. It was obvious that the temperature had dropped, but it was not obvious how far it had dropped until the steam off the water began to interfere with our view. We finally took the hint. The transition from hot spring to air temperature was excruciatingly painful. It was too cold to even dry off. Climbing into dry clothes wet was nasty, but the alternative was turning into a human icicle.

Back at the camp, we built a quick fire and then poured the wood to it. Charley and Bill, our two hot spring buddies from Tennessee, followed us back and helped with the fire. The fellows were from Chattanooga, real southern boys. They were easy to talk to, humorous, and very excited about traveling in the northwest. They were 23 spent rolls of film (three weeks worth) excited to be here. We laughed and talked late into the evening. Topics of conversation ranged from Charlie’s Vietnam outrage to Bill�
��s engineering job frustrations, from finding women to finding God. Our energies spent, along with the firewood, eleven beers, half pint of brandy, and two large bowls of marijuana, we called it a night—a good night!

After Madison, we drove down to the Teton Mountains, just south of Yellowstone. The weather remained good, but it was a little crowded, for my taste anyway, at Colter Bay Campground. The next day we drove down to the Jenny Lake. The first time I had camped at Jenny Lake I climbed Mt. Teewinot and lost my wallet, but found it the next day. This time around, the weather was beautiful, and I was enjoying it with the woman I loved. This was going to be our last stop before we headed home. We planned to make it a rest stop. But the Tetons had a way of reinvigorating even the weak and lame. After resting a day, Carin suggested we climb Mt. Teewinot.

I didn’t try to change her mind (I knew the mountain would do that for me), but I did suggest that we check out a few of the sights before the big hike. She agreed, so we hiked up to Hidden Falls and Inspiration Point—absolutely beautiful scenery. On the third day we headed out to Mt. Teewinot and managed to climb up to a waterfall. From that height, we had an excellent view of the surrounding countryside. Carin agreed that we had climbed high enough. Spending the day on the mountain, in the hot sun, just the two of us, proved to be the best part of the whole vacation. Carin and I had never gotten that close, or at least that’s the way it seemed to me, on that perfectly beautiful fall day.

Back at the campground, we had an early dinner and then went for a drive hoping to see some wildlife. Perhaps it was the dryness, or perhaps we were unlucky, but we didn’t see any animals. In fact, on this trip the sum total of all the wildlife we saw was: three cow moose, one calf, a coyote and a buffalo. In the backcountry we did hear the sounds of some distant bugling elk, but unfortunately we didn’t get to see any.

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