We drove through some amazing scenery on this road trip. Crossing the Sierras and ending up in the Tetons, we experienced the terrain of the American West as one long unfurling roll of mountains, rivers, tall pines and high desert scrub.
Besides the magical Tetons, one of the most striking features of this landscape was the sky, the huge expanse of blue and clouds surrounding us all day every day. With very little light competition, the stars were so clear out there – the Milky Way a swath of cloudy light strewn across the sky – one evening my pest son and I lay out on our backs on blankets in the soft grass for hours, watching the light show.
What magic, what mystery.
We explored Yellowstone a bit on our way back, and as we drove through the park I couldn’t help imagine what it would have been like to be a native American traveling through that land looking for food and shelter, seeing ponds boil and geysers spouting and thick strange-smelling curls of steam coming out of holes in the ground; to live in a world peopled with the mythic creatures wandering in the woods- bison and bear and moose along with graceful elk, pronghorn antelopes and bighorn sheep.
Over 75% of the park had been devastated by the fires of 1988, and much of the forest we went through looked like charred toothpicks rising out of the thick undergrowth of baby pines.
Between the fire-scarred land and the water poisoned with heat and sulfur, I didn’t find it to be a cozy place exactly. Awesome rather than welcoming, it was ‘sublime’ in the Edmund Burkean sense: beauty with a molten roaring core. And yet it was very, very beautiful, and I spent each day in a kind of alert rapture, wondering what I would see next.