Thankfulness | Searching for God as for Hidden Mickeys…er…Treasure

Wall art in Morocco, EPCOT | Photo by nicholeq.wordpress.com

During a recent trip to Disney World, our family hunted day and night for Hidden Mickeys – symbolic representations of Mickey Mouse in the iconic three-circle shape, inserted subtly in the design of rides, attractions and artwork throughout the park. And we found them: created by white paint stains on a desk in Spaceship Earth, in the paintings along the Maharajah Jungle Trek in Animal Kingdom, as a three-dimensional object formed out of metal bands in a Living with the Land water tank, in the mosaic walls of The Coral Reef restaurant and more.

At The Coral Reef | Photo by nicholeq.wordpress.com

The only reward for discovering a Hidden Mickey is the excitement and satisfaction you experience upon finding one. And yet, in a park that offers some of the best entertainment in the world, our family couldn’t get enough of this game. We’d be zipping along on some ride and one of us would point and shout, “Hidden Mickey!” while the others craned their necks, trying to catch a glimpse of the shape before being whisked away. We were treasure hunting.

Maybe, like me, you love treasure hunting: searching for something hidden, something hard to find, or maybe even something that’s right before your eyes but if you really pay attention you realize it’s more than you thought…more than a paint stain…more than a few random pieces of metal.

Some of you may insist this desire stems from our need to hunt for food or what-not. Snore. Treasure hunting is about more than survival. It’s about finding something valuable, precious, unique or rare.

A couple of years ago, I read the book One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp. (Check out her blog aholyexperience.com.) In her book, she writes, rather poetically, about the power of thankfulness – but not in a trite “count your blessings and be happy” kind of way. By sharing from her own life journey and study of the Word, she illustrates that even in the face of great difficulty, we can find things for which to be thankful. And that in gratitude, there lies great power…power to release, heal, transform…because “thanksgiving…always precedes the miracle.” (p.35)

Her book inspired me to begin my own gratitude journal, writing down things for which I am thankful. First came the obvious, like family, God, shelter, food; then came crocuses in spring, warm pajamas, books, strawberries, hot showers, sunsets in Cape Breton, finding sea glass with the girls, eating popsicles with the family during a break from yard work, licorice tea, butterflies migrating through our yard, lemonade, thunderstorms, the root canal that brought relief, a spontaneous hike with a friend, a full night’s sleep, medicine for a sick daughter away at college and caught in a blizzard, Anne of Green Gables, and on and on and on.

When practicing thankfulness and gratitude, life itself becomes a treasure hunt, a search for the valuable, precious, unique and rare.

One sunny spring day, as I stood in the driveway with hundreds of little helicopter seeds from our maple tree swirling in the air around me, I thanked God for the beauty of his creation. A sense of childlike wonder filled my being and I smiled with inexplicable joy…

Hidden Mickey - Thunder Mountain

Hidden Mickey, Thunder Mountain Railroad | Photo from Wikipedia

On some days, I feel like life is mostly about losing…losing everything…losing everyone. And in some ways, that’s true. Life is loss. And I hurt. My girls grow up and out and away from me. And my grandparents pass away. And family gets busy and sometimes pain divides us. Even my body and mind betray me and I can’t stand the skin I’m in. How can I escape myself? The pain is painful and the emptiness feels like a black hole and I think, Why? Why God? Why so much loss? So much letting go?

And then I remember that every loss, every emptiness, is space for Him to enter, so that what was once barren can be filled again. Thankfulness lets Him in and I am filled. 

Not because I made a list. Not because I’ve had good experiences. Not even because, as most Americans, I have more than many ever will.

I am content because God has everything. Or more importantly, because God is everything. At least, He is everything that matters.

I am not saying that God and His gifts are one and the same. Rather, His gifts are an expression of who He is. By giving, He opens a doorway to the greater gift: Himself. Our gratitude lets Him in.

And then, with our thanksgiving, we give Him ourselves. It’s all we really have to offer Him anyway. And it’s exactly what He came for.

Maharajah Jungle Trek Mural, Animal Kingdom | Photo by nicholeq.wordpress.com

So what if every day we hunted for God’s hidden treasures like hunting for Hidden Mickeys? Could we find ourselves driving down the road with our family, pointing and shouting, “Look at the sun on the river!” …or opening the windows on a rainy night and whispering, “Shhh….can you hear the rain on the tree tops?” and savoring the scent of wet pavement…or hearing a baby wailing in the store and thinking, “The sound of new life.” …or holding the door for an elderly man, even though you’re in a hurry, and remembering that he is worth your time…could we?

Could we stop to ponder what those gifts tell us about our Father God? Could we thank Him and be filled, not with stuff or feelings, but with Him, very God Himself?

As I stood in my driveway, caught in a whirlwind of helicopters and giddy with joy, I marveled at God’s handiwork, how he designed the seeds to fly and the wind to carry them and the soil to nourish them. I wondered at His ability and desire to create such varied and complex life. I soaked in the warmth of a sun that burns at His command. And in that moment, I knew Him.

He gave and opened the way. My gratitude let Him in. With thanksgiving, I gave Him myself.

And then a miracle happened.

I knew Him.

I know Him.

And knowing Him is the greatest treasure of all.

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I think the following song, 10,000 Reasons by Matt Redman, (one of my favorites) beautifully captures the joy of thankfulness:

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YOLO or YOLOL ~ A Post for the New Year

I admit it. I had to Google YOLO to find out what it means. (I guess I really am almost 40.)

YOLO: You Only Live Once.

True enough. I really don’t want to debate reincarnation in this post, so let’s leave it at that for now.

You Only Live Once. Like many catch phrases, YOLO can inspire us.

Of course, some people just use it as an excuse to act like an idiot.

That’s the way with words. They’re powerful, but the direction of that power depends on the meaning we give them.

After reading the Facebook debates about YOLO – is it about getting drunk or skydiving, making your life count or experiencing everything possible – I began to wonder…is there a better motto to live by? One that captures the essence of YOLO but with more lasting impact?

Not that I’m a big “motto to live by” person. Because, really, most mottos are formulas and most formulas don’t survive the tests of life. If we had formulas, we wouldn’t need God.

Anyway…I was mulling it over (yes, I said “mulling”) and here’s what I got – I mean it literally popped into my head:

YOLOL. You Only Leave One Legacy.

Isn’t that a better perspective? If you’re really going to make this life count, forget about living for the moment, feeding your selfish desires, amassing a fortune or making a name for yourself. And consider your legacy.

I believe that as a culture we’re in danger of forgetting what it means to leave a legacy. We live selfishly, haphazardly blazing a trail that future generations will have to navigate. What are we leaving them? What will be their inheritance?

We spend money in the hopes of getting through the week, the month or the next debt ceiling increase.

We spend time – on the computer, the TV, at the amusement park (umm…guilty!) – because we’re tired and just want a little something for ourselves…right now.

We spend energy, talent and gifts and when we don’t see results, we get discouraged. Because that track plays over and over again in our minds: You’re wasting your time! Life is short! You Only Live Once!

But the thing is, making a difference takes time. Often more time than this life offers us. And that’s where the legacy part comes in.

Our family just spent a week in Disney World.

Have you any idea of the reach, influence and extent of Walt Disney’s legacy? From animation to movies to music to clothing to Broadway to amusement parks to agriculture to technology to philanthropy to I don’t even know what else, Disney is doing it and they’re doing it all over the world.

Walt Disney started out with nothing and every time he found success, he leveraged it to try something new. For a wealthy man, he sure was broke a lot – mortgaging everything he and his family members had multiple times. He could have left his success in the bank, put up his feet and enjoyed the good life. But Walt never stopped dreaming, because he never stopped thinking about the future…and the generations to come.

In 1966, before construction began on Walt Disney World Resort, Walt died. He only lived once. But just look at his legacy.

Recently, a missionary visited our church. He and his family serve a people who are very “closed” to the gospel. And naturally, this family often feels discouraged. They live in a hut in Africa, walk to a well for water, grow vegetables, dig latrines, fight malaria, parasites, cultural challenges and spiritual battles. All for what? The villagers still practice Islam and witchcraft and polygamy and spousal abuse.

But they found encouragement in the sacrifices of other missionaries. Missionaries with stories like Nate Saint, who, in the beginning of his mission to the Waodani people of Ecuador, was brutally murdered by the very ones he longed to reach with the gospel of Christ.

To some, Nate’s life and death may appear futile. But just look at his legacy: Despite their grief, Nate’s family stayed in Ecuador and today, approximately one in six Waodani are believers. Nate’s son, Steve, considers the Waodani his family.

Jesus lived a mere 30 something years on Earth. He was conceived out of wedlock, poor and nothing special to look at. He was tortured, nailed to a tree and mocked by those He came to save. He suffered the agony wrought by all humanity’s sin, endured the rejection of his Father and paid a penalty undeserved. He died a criminal’s death and was buried in a borrowed tomb.

He left behind a handful of confused followers including His mother, a formerly demon-possessed woman and some guys who were so freaked out for their own safety, they locked themselves away in the second floor of someone’s home.

At first glance this doesn’t look like a successful approach to the whole YOLO thing.

But just look at His legacy.

YOLOL.

What’s yours going to be?

CC Day 15 ~ Disneyland!!!!!

Day 15 Disneyland!!! Many of you are probably wondering why we chose Disney over Universal Studios. Well, we love Disney and with limited time we decided we would rather spend our day at the happiest and most magical place on earth. We also had nearly $500.00 of Disney cash – so the visit was basically free! Fellow Disney fans out there are, no doubt, waiting for my comparison of Land vs. World. Don’t worry, I’ll get there.

We began our day by hopping on the shuttle at 7:00 am. We were at the Disneyland park by 7:15 and it opened at 8:00. We attacked our day by visiting attractions not available at Disney World, that we hadn’t experienced before and/or have long waits. Then we hit some of our faves. After riding Finding Nemo, Matterhorn Bobsleds, Alice in Wonderland, Pinocchio’s Daring Adventure, Mr. Toads Wild Ride and Indiana Jones, we went across the street to the only other park, California Adventure. There we rode Toy Story, Mickey’s Fun Wheel, California Screamin’, Soarin’ and Monster’s Inc.; after which we went back to Disneyland, got fast passes for Buzz Lightyear and rode Winnie the Pooh.

 Finally, it was time for lunch! We ate in New Orleans Square at the Blue Bayou Restaurant. Here the atmosphere is that of a dinner along the river in New Orleans at night. Paper lanterns and candles light the room, while the boats from Pirates of the Caribbean ride sail by. This was one of the day’s highlights for sure!

After a spin on Buzz Lightyear, we got fast passes for Splash Mountain and returned to our hotel room for a much needed nap. Had we not set the alarm for 5:30, we most certainly would have slept through the rest of our night! After dinner in the hotel lounge (also free!) we returned to California Adventure to catch the stage musical, Aladdin, which was fantastic. We especially enjoyed Genie (hilarious) and when the characters rode the flying carpet up to the balcony and mezzanine levels.

We then returned to Disneyland for Storybook Land (which we found is best seen at night, when all lit up!) and It’s A Small World. Here Christina found a hidden Mickey which was formed by the shadow cast by a light shining on three balloons that were part of the set. So cool!

We then rode Splash Mountain and Pirates before settling down for a great view of Fantasmic on the Rivers of America. We warmed up with hot cocoa and popcorn while waiting for the show to begin. Believe or not, we have never seen Fantasmic – we loved it! We completed our evening by riding the train to Tommorowland, taking one last spin on Buzz and doing a little shopping. We left the park at midnight and crashed as soon as we hit the beds! I think that’s everything but maybe not. This is a really long post so my Land vs. World comparison will have to come later. But if you’re a Disney fan and you’re considering a trip to the Land, don’t miss my review!

CC Day 14 – L.A. by Jacquelyn

Hello everyone! It’s Jacquelyn again:)

     Tuesday the 29th was our day in Los Angeles.  Neither of my parents had any real interest in seeing the city, so this day was mostly for my sister and me.  I had heard over and over that LA and Hollywood were so unimpressive that my expectations were not very high.  This was a good thing though, as it allowed me to enjoy the city rather than be disappointed.  Since I was expecting so little, it was actually pretty nice:)

            When we first got into the city we walked down Rodeo Drive (certainly not to shop, but only to look).  We entered a few stores but felt out of place whenever we did.  The street outside, however, was full of tourists just like us. For me, the buildings themselves were more noteworthy than what they were selling.  One clothing store on the corner required an elevator to enter it, another store had two spiral staircases with a chandelier hanging in the center, and finally there was the runway at Louis Vuitton.  Contrary to what you may first envision, this runway wasn’t for models but for purses! The purses rolled out from behind a gold, beaded, miniature curtain and appeared in the store’s window, spun around to face us, and disappeared under another curtain.  While we couldn’t actually shop in the stores, it was impressive to just walk down Rodeo Drive and see the stores.

            After lunch at a flatbread restaurant, we went shopping in the more affordable stores of the city and then headed for the Hollywood sign.  We drove up neighborhood streets (with people who we figured were so sick of tourists like us) until we saw some other people taking pictures in front of the sign.  Picking a location slightly further down the road (and across from an overlook so we weren’t too close to anyone’s house), we got out and took our pictures with the Hollywood Sign.

            After driving through the city a little longer, we headed for our hotel through LA’s rush hour traffic.  Arriving around 6 pm, we enjoyed the hotel’s complimentary appetizers and drinks.  To close out the night we bought our Disney passes for the following day and went to Build-A-Bear in Downtown Disney.

CC Day 13 – Nature and Man

Good news! The Sequoias look big without a sip from Alice’s magic bottle! At first the forest looks like any other pine forest but then suddenly one finds herself among trees towering over 300 feet and as wide as 40 feet in diameter. Giant trees line the road in certain parts of Seqouia National Park, but walking among the groves is the best way to experience them. We visited the General Sherman tree and trail first. The General Sherman Tree is the largest living organism in the world and is an estimated 2,200 years old. While Jesus walked on the other side of the earth, this tree was just a sapling. Each year the Sherman tree grows the same amount of wood in an average 60 foot tree!

Did you know that Sequoia trees have bark as thick as 31 inches and are resistant to fire, chemicals, insects and fungi? They are vulnerable, however, to falling over because of their shallow root systems and lack of tap root. We actually walked through some trees that had fallen many years ago. One, in particular, the Fallen Monarch, was completely hollow on the inside and all that was left was a long, cylinder of bark. Truly, someone could have lived inside this tree. It certainly was bigger than the Ingalls’ sod house or shanty!

 Walking among the massive, chestnut colored tree trunks, filled me with a sense of quiet wonder. How I wish they could speak. I half expected one to bend over and whisper something in my ear. What a mysterious, magnificent creation we inhabit. We also visited the Grant Grove, which was our favorite of the two. There is much more freedom to walk in and among the trees there; this grove is also less busy and therefore a little quieter. The General Grant Tree is the widest of the Sequoias, at 40 ft. in diameter. The park has many other groves on and off trails, but we did not have time to visit those. I wish we could have stayed longer; I think I might have walked among the groves all afternoon and never grown tired of them.

We left the park and drove straight to Santa Monica Pier. The contrast between the quiet, peaceful trees and the lights, music and sounds of boardwalk amusement struck me immediately. The natural wonder and the man-made frenzy. Is one intrinsically better than the other? Or is that personal preference? Can all people benefit from time in nature? Or just some? Would people be more content if they spent more time appreciating God’s creation?

At about 7:45 pm, We all dipped our feet in the Pacific Ocean and felt some sort of accomplishment, I guess. We truly made it to the other side of the continent. I wish the weather had been nicer and then maybe we would have gone swimming or lingered on the beach; but the gray sky and cool temperatures made the experience somewhat anticlimactic. Perhaps because the experience was nothing at all like I had anticipated. Nonetheless, we made it!

We did a little shopping, rode the ferris wheel and then ate ice cream and funnel cake for dessert, or well, maybe it was dinner. A typical ending to our very atypical days on this wild adventure!

CC Day 12 – Confessions along US 1

Today we drove down the California coast on US 1. Unfortunately, we were plagued once again by the fog. I wish I could tell you that I was like Ma Ingalls, ever cheerful, never complaining, looking for the good in everything. But I wasn’t. Nope. Not at all. 

Most of you, unlike my poor family, have been spared the ugliness of my cranky side. Even if I don’t say a word, the intensity of my emotions can fill a room, let alone a four door sedan. Painful self-awareness of my crabbiness and the impact it has on those around me, along with feeling powerless to change anything, only makes me angrier. Doug tells me to trust God and I snip back that it has nothing to do with trust, but that I just don’t like what He (God) is doing at the time. Soooo mature.

As I stewed in the car, mile after mile, fuming at the fog that seemed to be almost mocking me (just a glimpse inside the head of Nichole), I contemplated my feelings. What was really bothering me? I realized that what I wanted most was to change the situation or at least to run away from it  – anything to stop feeling so miserable. But here I was, stuck on this drive and I couldn’t change a thing. Sounds a teensy bit like a control issue to me!

This last year, God has been revealing to me that my response to any situation I don’t like is to fight or to flee. If I am afraid, hurt, uncomfortable, angry…any situation where I feel something I don’t like…I either fight to change it or I run away. There is no middle ground. Apparently acceptance is not one of my strengths. Who would’ve thunk it? I can hear a question from one of Andre’s sermons, “Are you trying to deliver yourself or are you trusting God and waiting on his deliverance?” I love how God never abandons us to ourselves. How He continually calls us to a higher place by challenging us to go deeper in our relationship with him.

As the evening wore on, we drove up into the California hills and I apologized to my family for my bad attitude. I am so grateful for their love and understanding.

You should know that we did see some breathtaking views along US 1 along with a beach full of enormous, active and loud elephant seals. Did you know a male elephant seal can weigh up to 5,000 lbs.! In the spirit of Ma Ingalls, let me say that I have seen the sunny, bright view from US 1 countless times in movies and ads, but today was the only time I have ever seen the coastline covered in fog. In many spots, we rode beneath the fog, which covered the hill tops just above us in a misty blanket. Yet we could still see the cliffs, rocks, sand, surf, birds, roads, people, everything, in between the fog and water. The experience brought back childhood (and parenting) memories of playing beneath a fort made from blankets and living room furniture.

On the way to our hotel we watched an orange sun set over the golden hills and Ma Ingalls’ words kept coming to mind. “All’s well that ends well.”

CC Day 11 – San Francisco Fog & Our Anniversary

We spent day 11 of our trip sightseeing in San Francisco, staying over for a second night. Until this stop we haven’t spent more than one night in any hotel. We finally got a break from loading and unloading the car for a day! Soooo…..let me share something with you about San Francisco in the summer. I am assuming this will be new information for all of you, because not a single person warned us of what we would encounter here in the foggy city.

Apparently Mark Twain once said, “The coldest winter I ever spent was the summer I spent in San Francisco.” I learned this while on our open top motorized cable car tour, shivering beneath fleece blankets. Why is it cold in San Francisco in the summer, you ask. The friendly, native San Franciscan sitting next to me says it’s because of the fog that rolls in off the water coupled with the ocean winds. So if you ever want to know what the Golden Gate Bridge looks like in person, I am probably not the person to ask. The fog was so thick we could only see about 1/3 of the bridge at any given time, even when we were standing on it.

The good news is that the further east you travel from the coast, sometimes a mere 500 ft or so, the sunnier and warmer the weather becomes. If you ever come to San Francisco in the summer, dress like you would in New England – in layers! And when I say layers, I mean a tank top, then a t-shirt, then a long sleeve tee and then a heavy sweatshirt. Chances are you will need them all as the temperature can vary from place to place by 20 degrees, maybe more!

Being in a city as populated as San Francisco was quite a culture shock after a week in the mid-west. People, people everywhere! On our trip we have seen towns whose populations are smaller than our church’s membership (the lowest population was 10 in the town of Emblem, WY) and neighbors were three, five, ten or more miles apart. Yet in San Francisco, as in any major city, people literally live stacked upon one another. According to our tour guide, in San Fran’s Chinatown, about 12,000 people live within the 30 blocks. American lifestyles are so varied.

I found the streets of San Francisco the most interesting part of the city. Some hills were so steep, I was convinced that before our car reached the top, we would simply roll backwards, front end over rear end, all the way back to the bottom. Anyone living and walking in this city must be in great shape!

Doug and I celebrated our 17th anniversary on Saturday by having dinner (with the kids, of course) at Lori’s, a 50’s themed diner in Ghirardelli Square. No, this wasn’t your traditional anniversary date but I think fish ‘n chips and chili cheese fries suits our marriage well. For dessert we all shared a Ghirardelli sundae. Then we went to the hotel and warmed our chilled bones in the hot tub!

Remember, if you are holding information…like, oh I don’t know, in June San Francisco is blanketed in fog reminiscent of a Stephen King movie…if you are holding information like that about any of the other places we are headed, please share!!! I would hate to get to Sequoia National Forest and find out the trees only look big after a swig from Alice’s “Drink Me” bottle.

CC Day 9&10 – Nevada, Tahoe & Baseball

Thursday we drove from Idaho to Lake Tahoe. The drive through what they call the “high desert” in Nevada was interesting. The drive was smooth, fast and easy thought the scenery was a little boring. We arrived at Lake Tahoe, which is a lake that rests – like a bowl of soup – inside a ring of mountains on the California/Nevada border, just in time to see the sunset. What a beautiful view!

We had dinner at Chili’s and found a Trader Joes’s which made us all feel a little closer to home even though we are thousands of miles away!

On Friday we drove down from the mountains to San Francisco. We decided to go into the city to do some shopping for the evening. As we were headed in, I asked Doug if we could check if the Giants were playing at home this weekend. I said it could be my anniversary present (which is today 6/26) but he just rolled his eyes. Really? What guy out there wouldn’t be thrilled that his wife asked to see a ballgame for their anniversary?!

Anyway, part of his reluctance was because we had checked the Red Sox schedule months and months ago and they weren’t going to be in any of the towns we were in on our trip. He didn’t want to pay to see just anyone. As we drove by AT&T Park, we saw all the fans lining the streets and Jacquelyn pointed out how many of them were dressed in Red Sox gear. I didn’t think much of that; Red Sox fans are everywhere. But there were more and more Boston caps, Ortiz jerseys, Red Sox sweatshirts. Finally we asked someone and sure enough, due to some scheduling changes with the LA Dodgers, the Red Sox were playing the Giants, right here in San Francisco!!!

Some would call that destiny – it felt like it to me! I even had on my hot pink Red Sox cap and Doug was wearing the team sweatshirt by brother gave him. Our plans changed quickly – how can you fight destinyJ 🙂 – and we bought four tickets on the top level just behind home plate. You don’t want to know what we paid…or rather I don’t want to tell you! But it was worth it. Our view was absolutely amazing. As Christina put it, “I like this because it’s like an aerial view.” The ballpark sits right on the edge of San Francisco Bay and from our seats we could see the water, sail boats and sky just over the bleachers and right field. 

I love baseball! I love baseball games! One of my favorite moments in life is walking from the dark tunnels of the concourse up the ramp or stairs and out onto the wide open, sunlit or lamp lit, green field. At that moment, a feeling something like freedom and expectant hope washes over me. There is nothing else quite like it. Even after a night of rooting for our team on someone else’s soil, watching a star player leave the game hurt, leaving 13 men on base and losing the game while down one, with two outs and the bases loaded (for the 3rd time) could dampen this girl’s spirits. Nearly 12 hours later and I am still riding the high. Doug said it best when he told the girls, “We can go home now. Mom’s vacation is complete.”

Well, we aren’t quite intending to come home yet, but I am feeling pretty great!

CC Day 8 – Yellowstone Part II

I have decided that Yellowstone is nature’s Disney World. The park is so large (3472 sq miles) that it has been divided into numerous smaller areas, such as Tower Roosevelt and Mammoth Hot Springs, just as Disney (only 40 sq miles) divides its parks into regions like Fantasy Land, Frontier Land, etc. Each area contains themed lodging, dining and gift shops while boasting multiple attractions that people travel to and from throughout the day. Yellowstone and Disney both require tremendous amounts of walking and some waiting, resulting in exhilarated yet exhausted children and adults. Both parks are meticulously maintained (with one exception – more on that later) and beautiful in their own regard – a feast for the eyes, ears, mind and heart.

 You nature enthusiasts out there probably think I have lost my mind so here are some important differences: First and most obviously, Yellowstone features spectacles of nature, not the creativity of man, engendering awe, solemnity, wonder and even humility. Also, while at Disney one may wait for the Spectra Magic Parade but at Yellowstone people stake out a seat in front of Old Faithful an hour in advance of nature’s performance. (That’s what we did! Doug even ran to get us lunch and we all picnicked around the geyser as we waited.)  Transportation at America’s first national park is up to you (unless you sign up for a guided tour) and, due to its vastness, this means lots and lots of driving. Most drives offer beautiful views, which often include wild life, such as buffalo, moose, elk and more. But this is no Animal Kingdom. You’re in their territory, now; no fences between you and that Grizzly Bear so be careful! The facilities at Yellowstone are appropriately rustic but well maintained. I  believe they offer too few bathrooms; and while the restrooms at information centers and gift shops are clean, the bathroom huts at attraction sites are really just glorified – and unclean – outhouses. This is my only complaint 🙂

 As many of you know, Disney World is one of my very favorite places. I laugh at myself as I admit that, because I am typically averse to commercialization and the like. My love for Disney is a mystery, even to me (except that it really may be the happiest place on earth!). NOW I have two favorite parks – man-made and God-made. I feel my life has reached what others might call a “zen-like” balance. Aaahhhh.

 Yesterday we finished up at Yellowstone by visiting the geyser basin, home to hundreds of geysers, colorful hot springs and bubbling mud holes. To describe them in writing would be futile. I have included an aerial picture of the Grand Prismatic Spring. (Just in case you are wondering, we didn’t take it!) The long, thin, tan colored line to the left of the colorful water,  is the boardwalk we walked along. This is just one of the many amazing natural wonders we witnessed. If a trip to Yellowstone is out of the question for you, I recommend a Google image search so you can see more!

On the way to our hotel in Pocotello, Idaho we drove through Grand Teton National Park, ate pizza in Jackson Hole and watched the sunset over the Idaho countryside. One really interesting fact about the land out here is how elevated everything is; even in the valleys we are a mile higher that those of you back home in CT. Just imagine what the mountains would look like from sea level!

CC Day 7 – Yellowstone Part I

Today we visited the eastern and northern portions of Yellowstone National Park. We drove in through the eastern entrance over a 9,000 ft mountain pass. When we reached the top, the temperature was around 45 degrees and there was so much snow it looked like late March or early April in CT. Even under a gray and misty sky, the views were stunning – white capped mountains on every side and waterfalls from the melting snow rushing down the cliff sides and underneath the roads.  

First, we stopped at the mudpots, which are basically small ponds of boiling water; the acid in the water turns the surrounding rock into clay which bubbles, steams and even rumbles and growls in some places. We walked along wooden boardwalks which protect people, like us, from being scalded by the hot, sloppy, gray mud. The only part we didn’t like was the smell – sulfur! Think hardboiled eggs, gone bad, times 1,000. Then multiply that by, oh, I don’t know, a million. OH! I can’t forget this: there were sections of the parking lot in that area blocked off because the asphalt had either been blown out or sunk in because of the geothermal processes going on there. There were just these holes left there in the parking lot, with steam coming out of them. I read about this and posted it on FB before we left. I can hardly believe it really happens!

Next we drove onto the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, an amazing two level waterfall. While there we met Dick Maher, of Maher Paint, from Avon, CT. He stopped to talk to us because he saw our CT plates. It was fun to see people from back home. As we continued our drive we saw more falls, amazing landscapes, rivers, streams, creeks and marshes. and even some Elk and Buffalo. Doug really wants to see a Bull Moose. I mean he really wants to see one! Maybe tomorrow. Christina, however, is glad to watch any cute ground animal, like a chipmunk or squirrel – but she is ever on the lookout for the tiny Pika. Of course she had to choose to search for one of the smallest animals in the park. 🙂

I convinced the family to see the exhibit about Yellowstone’s supervolcano. Fascinating? Yes. Comforting? No. At one point Jacquelyn said to me, “Why did you think it would be a good idea to come learn about this?” Oh, well. Not much we can do about it now, right?  Then we had lunch at the Roosevelt Lodge, which included drinking from mason jars and eating Roosevelt’s home made baked beans.   

Our final stop in the park was the Mammoth Hot Springs, my favorite part of the day. Here, magma pushes hot water up to the earth’s surface and, through a variety of chemical reactions (I won’t bore you with the details, but if you’re interested, google it!), the water solidifies when it is exposed to the air. Certain microorganisms, called thermophiles, thrive in the acidic water and color it blue, orange and yellow. (My inner geek is really shining through now!) The entire process results in pools of water atop terrace like formations, which then overflow into more and more terraces below. Over the years, if water stops flowing in an area, the terraces turn grayish white. But then, undoubtedly, the water will begin to flow somewhere else, creating new, colorful pools of water and terraces. Some terraces are shallow and wide, some are deep and stout like staircases. There were other formations too, though, like simple falls and even a big, orange mound (20 ft. tall maybe) that is growing so quickly it is making its way into the road. 

I was amazed by just how close we could get to the springs or terraces. Again, we travelled along boardwalks that stretched directly over and around the hot, colorful, sulfuric water. The entire area is plastered with signs warning people to stay ON the boardwalk and paved roads because the earth’s crust is so thin in those areas that one might just fall through to, well, who knows what? Some hot, boiling, sulfuric water, I guess – similar to what happened to the parking lot we saw earlier. 

I got to talk to my mom tonight and then we had a great dinner at Rosie’s in Montana. It’s also nearly a full moon. Aaaaaah. I know it was a long post but there was sooooooo much to tell. 🙂