“You want it darker, we kill the flame”. The deep voice of Leonard Cohen roamed through the car. A dark blue river plunked above yellow rocks right next to the car just to tumble into a deep nothing. Steam was rising around the corner out of a turquoise crater. We had to get out of the car for a closer look. And while I was looking into the crater all my words and thoughts seemed to collapse into it. Into those endless, clear beauty. Like an open-heart operation at the center of the earth. Right next to me stood my host, smiling gently. He is 70 and nothing can stop him from running up a mountain of an elevation of 10.000 feet while I’m still far behind. Yellowstone. A place that changed my view on this world forever.
I was living in Cody for three days. It’s a small Western city in Wyoming close to Yellowstone National Park. I was living at Paladin’s house. He has long, gray hair, an encouraging smile, is always wearing a hat, and he has an outstanding knowledge about the park. I got to know him because of Couchsurfing. There he offers a place to stay in his nice wooden home. His wife does not hike anymore but I’m sure that Paladin’s energy will last for the next 200 years – and so he invites travellers to explore Yellowstone with them.
When we started off to the park, Bob Dylan was playing. How does it feel to be without a home. Like a complete unknown, like a rolling stone. A little later we approached Old Faithful. This might be the most reliable geyser ever. He erupts as punctual as a German officer. Just in a more spectacular way. At first, it was just a growl. Then steam was coming up. And suddenly! Water shot into the blue sky. Like a huge fountain. Just without an engine. “They turn it off at night,“ Paladin joked. We were laughing. We were laughing a lot. He has a deep understanding of nature, power and joy. He is able to drive 16 hours without a break, he climbs up dusty and steep hills in a few minutes, and he takes me with him. Beyond my physical and mental limits. I was stumbling and swearing. But I found the ultimate freedom – by wading wild rivers and beating high mountain peaks. I was touching snow and almost the sky.
On our second day we were driving to Mammoth Hot Springs. Those small, white terraces were looking like ice. But they are out of chalk. Hot springs were running down them. I took a breath of stinky air that smelled like rotten eggs. Just because I was not able to close my mouth again. All those wonderful things are part of our planet. Of the world we live in. This beauty was driving my crazy because I could hardly find words to describe it. A journey to Yellowstone is a journey to our human history and far beyond. It’s not like in a museum or in a documentary on TV. But so hot, thundering and real that you simply forget to breath (what is not too bad to avoid the thing with the rotten egg.)
On our third day Paladin took me up to the top of Mount Washburn. In an elevation of 10,219 feet. On our way up we were throwing snow balls and laughing about bison poop. And I simply forgot about the rocky way up – and suddenly we approached the peak. The breezy wind was hunting around the corners of the small ranger station and a chipmunk was running across the stones. Down in the valley Lake Yellowstone was glimmering in the sunlight. Dark shadows in the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone and tons of green trees.
In the afternoon we went to the Beartooth Highway. Driving it all down to Red Lodge. For sure this is one of the most beautiful roads of the world. White carpets of snow, wildflowers climbing up the steep rocks and a long winding way up and down. Like floating on a river. On the pass it started to hail but Paladin lent me a big, cozy jacket so that I felt like a fluffy owl.