Feral Thoughts, Wyoming

[Part 2 in a 4-part series on a Rocky Mountain tour & camp-out with my daughter.]

We immersed ourselves for a much needed bath in the cool waters of the Snake River, near our Station Creek campsite. Our next move was to Alpine village for a patio beer at the renowned Bull Moose Saloon. The following morning we traversed the dusty Greys River Valley for about 25 gravelly miles, stopping to fish and hike as inspiration struck us.

The Greys flowed full and clear but the fishing was slow till late-afternoon. Caddis and mayfly hatches strengthened in the softening light, and the numerous fine-spotted cutthroats found a floating dry fly irresistible.

big paw…

Western tanagers and American dippers flew attractively above the pools and riffles and gave wing to other fine distractions. In the evening we enjoyed a take-out meal at Alpine’s Mexican restaurant, which leads me to the subject of a restless night– our second night on the Snake. The first one had been restful, lulled to sleep with the sound of the rushing river in our ears…

Snake River fine-spotteds on the Greys…

Now the noise from the highway’s logging trucks had disappeared. It seemed reasonable to think about grizzly bears along the Snake, even though a tent encounter was highly unlikely. How would I react at night with only nylon for a barrier? The feral mind quickened, and I could only hope it wasn’t a “feeble mind”– the product of an aging, over-civilized existence.

Feral mind is a natural condition, all too often shunned or buried by society. I was pleased to feel it in the freedom of the moment, understanding that it needn’t be fearless or ideal. The primal impulse was alive, and I felt obligated to give some thought to nature and mortality.

The next day’s visit to the Tetons was a humbling experience, as expected. Adjectives such as “grand” or “majestic” don’t suffice for the reality of wildness there. Such words can’t describe the hope suggested by such beauty, nor can they minimize the hatred for the damage people have done to other splendid scenes across the globe. The feral mind seeks to balance chaos and order.

Alyssa and I stepped off the beaten track and bushwhacked through the sand and sage then reveled at the sights of forested Leigh Lake and the peaks of Grand Teton and Moran. Later I would catch another cutthroat in the big Snake River– prelude to the sighting of a grizzly bear with three hefty cubs that browsed in a copse of aspen trees. Alyssa was especially fired-up by all the wildlife possibilities.

Snake River…

I like to think that feral thoughts are disciplined, though wild. They show respect for the universal aspects of common life and don’t run rough-shod over people or new places. I suspect they’re unlike the drunken biker caught up in the maelstrom of a Sturgis party, and more like an energy drink that brings a shot of fear and freedom to the heart.

Madison River camp, Yellowstone…

strange to think of it as one grand volcano…

When we arrived at Yellowstone National Park for our five nights of camping there, these musings seemed to reinforce our plan to purchase angling permits for the local rivers– and for a can of bear spray that we hoped to never use.

Alyssa casting on the Gibbon River…

Gibbon Falls, Yellowstone…

at Grand Prismatic…

a Teton favorite…



About rivertoprambles

Welcome to Rivertop Rambles. This is my blog about the headwaters country-far afield or close to home. I've been a fly-fisher, birder, and naturalist for most of my adult life. I've also written poetry and natural history books for thirty years. In Rambles I will mostly reflect on the backcountry of my Allegheny foothills in the northern tier of Pennsylvania and the southern tier of New York State. Sometimes I'll write about the wilderness in distant states, or of the wild places in the human soul. Other times I'll just reflect on the domestic life outdoors. In any case, I hope you enjoy. Let's ramble!
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12 Responses to Feral Thoughts, Wyoming

  1. alex55manta says:

    ‘Majestic’ comes to mind! I hope this posts – I’ve had either some ‘Yes Boomer!’ moments or WP has been just not allowing me to make comment/s (or something in between). The first installment was just ‘Wow……..Wow!’ And now, as I said, majestic! Looks like it was great! How could it not be? With family, open spaces, time, and a little scenery ( 😉 )? UB

  2. plaidcamper says:

    Beautiful, Walt! A feral state of mind, in the best sense, in a big state, seems pretty good. A natural response to a wild reality, so much better than the alternate reality garbage being spewed this week.
    Bears, mountains, rivers, fishing, good company and a saloon – real life!

  3. loydtruss says:

    Seeing all these areas you guys visited here brings back our trip we made 5 years ago. One can’t appreciate the beauty of these states you guys are visiting until you’ve had a chance to see it of close and personal. Cathey and I have often said if we were younger Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, or the Dakotas would be where we would spend the rest of our days. Really enjoyed the post, looking forward to the next.

  4. Bob Stanton says:

    Go feral, brother! My cousin, his wife and kids have just returned from a western trip as well, visiting Yellowstone, the Grand Tetons and retuning via N. Dakota, Minnesota, etc. Jen, his wife, is a talented photographer and was able to capture the majesty of the area in hundreds of great photos.

  5. Brent says:

    Wonderful pictures! That feeling of being in a place that’s so lofty and wild–awe mixed with no small amount of vulnerability and a humbling sense of your own cosmic insignificance–is what’s bringing so many folks off the concrete and steel path into places that demand mental, physical, and spiritual engagement. My personal take is that the pandemic has also reminded many of us that man can, even if temporarily, be brought low; we might as well stand on a precipice while we’re at it, or sleep with one eye open while the grizzly shuffles outside our tent!

  6. Dan Hayes says:

    Our disconnect with the natural world has morphed into a dangerous mix of sociopolitical issues but one could argue that the loss of the “feral mind” has jeopardized our very survival. To paraphrase old Cactus Ed, it is of the utmost importance to get out there and enjoy wilderness while you still can, while it is still there. Ed Abbey made a case for becoming a “reluctant crusader”
    and I think you have embraced this ethos in this blog we all enjoy. Thanks to your words and photos, we are transported to the places that remain our very best hope for survival.

    • Dan,
      Thanks very much for stating the case in light of Abbey’s influential work. “Reluctant crusaders” do just that– get personal experience with the wild existing in far off places & even in our own backyards, and then trying to relate its mysteries & beauty to others who may or may not have found the ways & means to enjoy them. Time is of the essence, of course, because the world is changing so fast. Much appreciate your thoughts, Dan.

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