5 Magic Moments in Wyoming / Montana:

River Rafting, A Gate in the Mountains and Visitors from Germany.

August 3, 2017

Longterm travel USA, Germans in the US, Montana, Wyoming, hiking
Awesome moments in Wyoming and Montana

My eyes are burning and I have a frenetic aversion against writing one more line into my silly travel diary. "Have a nice vacation," they said. By not knowing that we rip off a few hundered miles by car and hike about 10 miles almost every day.

I just decide to have a meet and greet with the Sandman when I discover a black spot on the wall. A spider. Of course. I curse and throw away my blanket to reach to my obligatory wine glass, with which I occasionally catch bugs in order to transfer them outside in a species-appropriate way. When I put it over the spider, it starts to run around in it like mad. I start to get mild goose bumps, press the travel diary under the glass and stumble against the bedside table. At the same time the church bell strikes midnight and the small light flickers before it dies down. I am trying to hit the switch. The glass tilts. It's as dark as a bear's ass and the spider is gone.

 

My time out here is an adventure. In so many different ways. In the past weeks we have done and seen so many outstanding things that I have hardly come to write them down anywhere. Therefore, here comes now a "Best of" of the most beautiful and extraordinary five experiences from dancing in the snow to a wet butt on a river rafting tour to gigantic outdoor art in the mountains and a super-lovely visit from friends in Germany.

1. Avalanche Peak - Lightning in Deep Snow

View from Avalanche Peak, Yellowstone to the Grand Tetons, hiking Avalanche Peak
View from Avalanche Peak to the Grand Tetons

Moss is hanging from fir trees like tinsel. Roots form small staircases and a small river flows over the trail. Avalanche Peak in Yellowstone National Park is only accessible for a short time in the summer because it can be snowy there until mid July. The ascent and descent is about 5 miles long and is challenging your bones and muscles right from the beginning. Between the parking lot and the summit lies an elevation change of almost 2.200 feet. After crossing the forest, I run into the next best snow field with my Converse shoes. Maybe I should invest in real hiking boots after all. At least since some rock tore a giant hole in the fabric. But before that happens, I obviously test the somewhat different definition of "snowshoes".

 

Shortly before we reach the summit a scree field opens up. I feel like I'm six years old again and learning roller skating, while I'm senselessly holding on to a blade of grass that of course breaks. But the view is gigantic.

"There are the Tetons!" my boyfriend shouts. He is already on the other side of the snowslide waiting for me to slither along like an elephant on ice. The Grand Tetons!

Snow on Avalanche Peak, Yellowstone, trail, hiking, USA
On the peak of Avalanche Peak between heaven and hell
"Heiliger Kuhmist," I answer (what means "Holy cow shit!"), because I taught him a bunch of useful German curses.
A little bit higher a hurricane slams in our faces. Colourful wildflowers resist the harsh wind. From here it is only a few feet to the summit plateau. Dense clouds swell over the horizon like smoke. There seems to be little difference between the glistening snow and the white sky. I run into the ice-cold flakes and flail wildly with my arms to express my enthusiasm about the blurriness of heaven and earth. We made it!
Then we sit in a wind hut that protects us from the storm for a while and eat a peanut butter sandwich. My boyfriend always makes peanut butter sandwiches with jelly when he climbs Avalanche Peak. I lean against his shoulder and we look at the huge mountain ranges around us that rise up like the backs of crocodiles. The landscape is massive, impressive and beautiful.
As we descend again, the clouds have become darker. Suddenly it thunders violently out of the blue. Of course we are in the middle of the bare mountain slope. We spontaneously decide to walk a little faster, which leads to me slipping down and landing with one foot in a muddy pond of ice and sand. My "snowshoes" are finally completely fucked up. It takes me a couple of minutes to get the disaster out of my socks. When I pull the last shoelace tightly, the sun shines again. Thank you, Avalanche Peak!

2. River Rafting on Shoshone River

River Rafting Tour, Wyoming, Yellowstone
Hoping for wild white water!

I have a list of things I really want to do before I see the daisies from underground. I gently ignore that large parts of the list could lead to the fact that I may see the daisies earlier than planned. But life wouldn't be rock'n'roll without a little risk.

 

The 100 mile long Shoshone River rises in the Shoshone National Forest (what a big surprise!) and flows from Yellowstone to the Bighorn Mountains. Sometimes nicely in wide windings, sometimes wild in thunderous waves.

"Hopefully there's some white water and we're not just floating around lamely," my boyfriend worries. He, by the way, keeps a very similar list. To make sure it doesn't get boring, we decide to run against each other with our mandatory life jackets to see what happens. As expected, we bounce off each other like little Michelin men and get strange glances from the other folks, who apparently still have all of their screws tightened.

River Rafting Tour on Shoshone River, Yellowstone
River Rafting Tour on Shoshone River, Yellowstone

But our fear of being on a sailing trip for seniors is baseless. As soon as the yellow rubber boat is on the river, we pass Mormon Creek, which runs into the Shoshone River and mixes it up with rapid currents. I'm trying to hold the paddle in a way that it looks like I know what I'm doing. Then a big wave breaks into the boat and 40F cold water trickles from my back straight into my pants. There are more pleasant feelings in life, but before I can start crying, a gallon of spray thunders into my face.

 

We sweep down the river for about three hours, stop at a small beach and observe the red cliffs, dark green firs and sharply formed mountain peaks on the left and right of the canyon.

The river plunges into the valley like a broken glass roof and tears everything away. The power of water. The weakness of man. Just a few days ago, a woman slipped here and fell into the floods. Her dead body showed up further down. We think we can just walk to the other side of the water. But nature is unpredictable and knows better. Therefore, for me, adventure and fun always require sufficient respect. So I have seen the daisies - so far and despite our lists - still from above.

3. Holy Art Shit! The Tippet Rise Art Center in Montana

"The Domo" at the Tippet Rise Art Center, Montana, Fishtail
"The Domo" at the Tippet Rise Art Center

We are sitting at the Toyota joint and hang out in the waiting area, while we hope that we didn't tear away half of our car on our last tour on an unpaved road. Meanwhile I browse through a National Geographic and discover fantastic photos of huge artworks with rugged mountains in the background. I always found outdoor art exciting. How landscape becomes a canvas and natural surroundings take on a whole new meaning with man-made installations. Besides, I used to work in a museum for two years.

 

I'm about to put the magazine away because the most beautiful places are always at the other end of the world anyway. Then I read the word Montana. The US-State is only a stone's throw away from us. And the artworks belong to the Tippet Rise Art Center, located just behind the Beartooth Mountains. The next day we are there!

The "Inverted Portal" at Tippet Rise Art Center, Montana, outdoor artwork USA
We made it to the "Inverted Portal"
Almost 12 acres of rolling green hills extend from the Visitor Center. Partly snow-covered mountains and endless meadows with yellow and violet wildflowers are lingering in the background. Eight monumental works of art are scattered on this scenery. We are totally impressed by the artificial rock "The Domo", which looks as if it had just risen from the ground like a continental drift. A little further away, a huge red pendulum slowly swings in the wind. So slow that its movement can barely be seen. So we lie down on the meadow below and look at it against the blue sky. Particularly impressive is the "Inverted Portal", which consists of two 200-ton slabs leaning against each other like the entrance to another world. Wind wafts along the walls, whispers in the grass and a wide and peaceful silence spans the endless landscape.
10 miles of hiking trails connect the works of art. You could go with a shuttle bus but that would be almost as uncool as a sailing trip for seniors. That's why we traipse the whole way through the midday heat and feel like Christopher Columbus in Death Valley. In the evening we sit together in a strange wooden hut that looks like an oversized xylophone and just enjoy the moment, the art and that we are together.

4. Just some Waterfalls - or the Bucking Mule Falls

The majestic Bucking Mule Falls at Devil's Canyon, Bighorn Mountains
The majestic Bucking Mule Falls at Devil's Canyon

"Do you have any idea what we can explore our here?" my boyfriend asks the Toyota-Dude while my nose is still stuck in the National Geographic. Sometimes we're like treasure hunters. Not looking for gold but looking for new places to discover. The guy's got an idea. The Bucking Mule Falls in the Bighorn Mountains. Oh well. Waterfalls. Again. I think I have already seen one or two since I got here. We still follow his advice, because of our philosophy: "There is only one way to find out: doing it!"

 

The road meanders through yellow flowering fields and along egg-shaped rocks to a car park. We don't expect much when we walk a few miles through a forest to the marked viewpoint. Then our jaws drop. A deep crack runs through the landscape and opens the view to a huge canyon, which unfolds in terraces down to the ground. The Bucking Mule Falls plunge about 500 feet into the depths - through a rugged incision in the rock face. Like someone blew up a cathedral in the stone. Bluish light lies over the gorge. "It's like the little brother of the Grand Canyon," I whisper. Awesome.

We should take our car to the garage more often.

5.Two Days of Yellowstone-Excess with friends from Germany

Biscuit Basin Overlook, Yellowstone, Mystic Falls
Short break at the Biscuit Basin Overlook with Sandra and Olaf

I'm standing at one of the parking lots near the west entrance of Yellowstone looking for a white SUV. That's about as successful as counting ants. Every second car here is big and white. We are waiting for Sandra and Olaf from Germany. They are friends of mine and have lived in the US for four years a while ago. Now they are back to revisit their old home country and find new places. When it appeard that they would be traveling while I was also in the US, the big Yellowstone-Tour was set, of course. After my fiance and I have debated about the two billion sights in the park, the plan was made: Getting up at 5 am and not missing the slightest bit!

 

First we go to Grand Prismatic. The brightly coloured Hot Spring is something you have to see once in your life. Then we head on to Biscuit Basin. Where it promptly starts pouring. Of course Sandra's and Olaf's rain jackets are in the car. While my boyfriend goes to get Sandra's backpack, we stand in the warm steam of a small geyser - like around a rescuing campfire. When the rain jackets are finally available, Sandra mysteriously manages to tear up Olaf's cape in the sweeping wind. Three people are highly amused by the damage, while the fourth person, with fluttering plastic on his shoulders, bears the mockery.

 

The day ends with a spectacular visit to Old Faithful - the most famous geyser in the park - and a thunderstorm at Artist Point, which dips the cliffs in such bright colors that Edvard Munch would have screamed with envy.

Mammoth Hot Springs in Yellowstone
Mammoth Hot Springs in Yellowstone

The second day starts at the snow-white Mammoth Hot Springs. After short five hours of sleep, the fascinating limestone formation almost burns my retina away. I remember my boyfriend showing me all those wonders of nature for the first time in 2017. At that time, he was "just a guy" that I happened to stay with for some days on my four-month solo trip. Two years later we are back at the same places, holdig hands and showing other people the highlights of the Yellowstone National Park. I decide that life is not quite right in the head. But awesome. 

 

We leave the park through Lamar Valley with its large herds of bison and take the breathtaking Beartooth Highway to Red Lodge in Montana. Sandra bravely resists the icy wind on the Beartooth Pass and even survives the gaping abyss with discreet fear of heights. On our way we throw snowballs, discuss geological facts and fool around. Some wires in my brain run hot, while I switch from one second to the other between German and English.
I fall into bed at midnight. Without spiders. The bedside light flickers and turns dark.

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