Walking With Bison, Fleetwood Mac, and Adventures in Yellowstone National Park

I will always be the first to confess that I know next to nothing about Fleetwood Mac.  If an armed gunman were to burst into a room and say, “I will shoot the first guy who confesses to know next to nothing about Fleetwood Mac,” my hand would dart up into the air and I would proudly volunteer, “I am that guy.”

Who is this charming young devil?

Who is this charming young devil?

The things that I know or think I know about Fleetwood Mac are as follows:

  • They loved drugs
  • Everyone had sex with everyone
  • They were manufactured for an episode of VH1’s Behind the Music
  • Music critics adore them although no actual human beings do

Perhaps I’m being unfair.  I know of at least one human being who cares about them a great deal.  Someone who finds their music to be majestic.

Angie was one of eight Pitt students on a month long field course  held at Yellowstone National Park and its surrounding areas.  She was wise (or at least old) beyond her years for she enjoyed the music of Fleetwood Mac and recommended that it be played during our lengthy car rides.  “Everywhere” was Angie’s jam, so to speak.

Eh.

And how could it not be?  Listen to that intro.  It is magical!  Pixies are comin’, y’all.

We started each day at the K Bar Z Ranch (the website is almost unchanged since 2002), close to Cody, WY and the Montana border.  We loaded up two vans with instructors and students and drove to some hardcore hiking in the Beartooths, the Abserokas, and in Yellowstone itself.  We went to Cody to see the rodeo and Fleetwood Mac followed us.  “Everywhere” was everywhere.

Young hooligans.

Young hooligans up to no good.

The trip was split into three portions, the first focusing on geology, followed by biology, and then a historical and political review of the development of the West.

During a particularly brutal and desperate hike we devolved into rampant lawlessness.

During a desperate moment we devolved into rampant lawlessness.

The hiking was hardest in the geological segment, but also the most giving in its beauty.  The Yellowstone region is essentially a laboratory where you witness almost every significant geological process at work.  Old Faithful is merely a fraction of what is fascinating about the region.  I saw gorgeous blue pools that could melt your skin off, young kettle lakes, stones transported by glaciers that were large enough to crush houses, and the collapsed remnants of an ancient volcano.  The whole place could still blow up soon.

In the Beartooths.

In the Beartooth Mountains.

Rushing waters.

Rushing waters.

I was impressed beyond the geology because the wildlife was also incredible.  We drove to the park long before the sun rose to search for wolves and we encountered a baby bear on the side of the road eating flowers, so unlike the ruthless killer it would eventually become.  The mysterious watermelon snow could be found at the tops of the highest mountains in June.  We walked through a field of hundreds of bison and came within 30 yards of the massive creatures.  We wore boots for the hiking and also for protection from rattlesnakes.  There were midnight raids from curious black bears.

Vicious honey bear at work.

Vicious honey bear at work.

I’ve done a good deal of international travel since 2002, but I regard the Yellowstone trip as the most important of my life.  It gave me a sense for how large, weird, and wonderful our world is and how you don’t have to go that far to see it.  Perhaps it is a naive memory on my part, but I feel that even the politics were different out there.  I recall that Red State/Blue State flag-planting was muted by a strain of libertarianism that existed before high school philosophers thought it was cool.

Cody, Wyoming children traumatizing a calf.

The young children of Cody, Wyoming traumatizing a calf.

That Fleetwood Mac would be my most dominant memory from the Yellowstone trip seems appropriate.  The band seems like it would be a hit with the “turquoise and silver” crowd, the kind of guys that wear cowboy boots, bolo ties, and t-shirts with wolves on them.  There’s a lot of that in one of America’s last sanctuaries of nature.  I never seek out “Everywhere”  for a listen, but the song is a time warp for me during our scarce encounters around the radio dial.

A better kind of turquoise.

A better kind of turquoise.

Deep blue pool.

Deep blue pool.

From within Yellowstone.

From within Yellowstone.

Also from the park, possibly from the top of Mt. Washburn.

I will never forget.

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