[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.
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…
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.
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.
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.