When I was young — no this isn’t the beginning to the SuperTramp song! 😛
Okay, perhaps I should start this way: I was born in New York, but raised in the Midwest. We moved when I was 4 1/2 years old, so I really have very few memories of our time there. Dad was a professor at the local Univeristy, so each summer for vacation we would do one of two things depending on what year it was. We’d either travel back East to visit family (always fun), or we’d go camping out West (at the time, not so much fun but no one asked my opinion).
So, this post is focusing on the years we’d go out West.
When we first started, my Dad (being from upstate New York) and Mom (being from just outside NYC) would take us to Rocky Mountain National Park to camp. I remember tents, horrible ’70s clothing (ah, the joys of being a child of the late ’60s …), and photos of me, my brother, and Mom standing in a field of wildflowers with the mountains behind us. (I think that was at Maroon Bells, but I could be mistaken). I remember trips up Pike’s Peak and traveling by an old (read: touristy) train at Silverton. I remember getting motion-sick (stupid, twisty roads!) and looking out of the car windows to see marmots on the side of the road/mountain.
At some point, I can’t remember exactly when but I think it was around the time little brother #2 arrived, we shifted our camping visits from Colorado to Wyoming. Grand Teton National Park and Yellowstone National Park, to be specific. And, of course, driving through South Dakota to get there. Hello Corn Palace and Badlands, hello Mt. Rushmore. Also, hello Devil’s Tower and the Buffalo Bill Museum in Cody, WY. Hello geysers and mudpots, hot springs and thermal baths (Thermopolis further south). Hello fishing, camping in a pop-up trailer, and snow in Yellowstone in the middle of August. Hello Mt. Moran and Skillet Glacier.
Now, in complete honesty, I mostly hated these trips. While we didn’t go hiking a lot, there was a lot of walking around in Yellowstone to see the geysers, mudpots, hot springs, etc., all of which were pretty boring to me when I was 6-12 years old. Old Faithful was kind of neat, and a few of the other geysers, but at that age, you see one you’ve seen them all, so the interest waned pretty quickly. There were Visitor’s Centers we went to that had kids’ activities in them, and most campgrounds had ampitheaters that had different programs at night which were really neat. And even at that age, I had to admit, looking down on Jackson Lake at night and seeing the stars and moon reflected in the water with the mountains in the background was kind of cool. I also remember waking up one morning in Yellowstone (I can’t recall the name of the campground) and looking outside to see my Mom and baby brother sitting at the table and all around us walking, happy as they pleased through the campground, were three wild/natural animals, one of which was a moose and another a buffalo. (I can’t remember the other one, but all three were different as I recall) Helluva wake up call, let me tell you!
By around the time I was fifteen or so, life got ‘busy’ and we stopped going camping out West. It didn’t really bother me at the time, but as the years have passed, I realized I started to miss those trips. Grand Teton will always be my favorite place. There is nothing like looking out at Mt. Moran or over Jackson Lake. There was a pretty little church up atop one of the peaks near the campground, too. Always thought I’d like to get married there. Didn’t happen, but I suppose there’s always a chance it could. Someday.
In 1990, however, a sort of second chance arrived. We’d moved to the South right after I graduated high school, and by the time I graduated college four years later, Mom and Dad were moving again — to WYOMING! Granted, it was the opposite corner from Yellowstone and Grand Teton, but hey, it was Wyoming!!! I couldn’t find a job (as a high school history teacher) when I graduated, so I followed Mom and Dad out there.
Now, it’s completely different living out there than it is camping, as you might imagine. Also, never had time to get back to the NorthWest Corner of the state while I was there, but I did get my graduate degree from the University of Wyoming. Yup, that’s right, I have an MA in Medieval History from the University of Wyoming. No, seriously, I do! LOL They had it at the time and I still couldn’t find a teaching job, so I ended up doing that. Fat lot of good it did me, but hey, I’ve got it. 🙂
The summer I completed my degree, I finally got my first real teaching job. In Montana. That lasted for three years, but the best memory I have of it was going to the RMMRA — Rocky Mountain Medieval and Renaissance Association — meeting in Jackson, Wyoming with my Mom. I hated giving my paper (public speaker, I am not!), but I chose to drive down via Yellowstone. I stopped to see Old Faithful along the way because it was quick and easy to get to, and I waved at the mountains as I drove through Grand Teton National Park, even stopping at the Church to get a few gorgeous pictures, before arriving in Jackson. All in all, probably one of my two most favorite memories of living out there. (the other was meeting the Medieval Mystery author, Ellis Peters, down in Denver, but that’ll be a different post)
After three years of teaching out in Montana, however, I decided to part ways. My parents were coming back to the Midwest for two years and, as I didn’t have a job lined up and needed a new situation, I came with them. When they returned to Wyoming, I stayed, and have been here ever since. (side note: I’ve now lived here longer than I’ve lived any of the other places I’ve been – a total of 22.5 years! yikes!) I met the Ex, married, had Kiddo, and often we’d talk about the mountains, Wyoming (having visited the parents there a couple of times) and Montana, but we never really went back to ‘visit’ or camp. To this day, I’ve yet to get back out there.
In 2015, I got divorced. As you can imagine, I was pretty down and discouraged, and I considered leaving but I didn’t want to take Kiddo from his Dad. (and despite all that happened and how it did, I’m still friends with the Ex. I have too many friends/family angry at him over what happened. That left me free to focus on being more agreeable, which then helped Kiddo (or so I hoped)) I did, however, have an idea for a series of stories I wanted to write. My best sounding board for story ideas was the Ex. I will say, in the sixteen years we were married, he encouraged me to write. So, we met for dinner a few times, I told him my idea, and the ideas, as they say, EXPLODED! Over time, I decided to set the series in Wyoming because I loved living and camping there so much. (at least by this point I could appreciate what I didn’t fully when I was a kid!) And in one of these stories, it will take place at Old Faithful.
During the winter of 2017-2018, I was doing some reasearch on the old yet somewhat familiar geyser. I discovered, purely by accident, that there is a live camera feed on it! Imagine my surprise when I opened the link to see Old Faithful surrounded by snow! (I think it was February of 2018 I found it) This was the PERFECT scene for my story! So each day, when I’d sit down to write, I’d pull up the livecam and have it on in the background. Every time I was spurred on by a muse, I’d jot it down. Slowly but surely, I’m making progress on that story. (Sad thing is, it’s the fourth out of four and I’m still working on the first.)
Over last summer and fall, I was too busy with other things to remember to watch it, which was fine because I honestly really prefer it when there’s snow on the ground. It was fun to watch at times, too. I’ve seen coyotes and buffalo wandering through. I’ve seen people skiing or snowshoing along the path. This year, they replaced the camera with a newer, HD one, and they can now access some of the further out geysers when they go off, too. All in all, it’s great fun to watch, and a perfect background for researching for my story as well as something nice and simple to have in the background when I’m knitting. If you’ve ever been interested in seeing Old Faithful and can’t get there in person, I highly recommend it! You can also track it’s (and other geysers) eruption times and patterns here.
Whoops! It should be erupting soon, so I’m off to watch! 🙂 Enjoy!