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Yellowstone

July 30. First thing this morning I pop the clip out of the Glock, double-check the chamber to make sure it’s empty, and stow the gun. Like insurance on my house or my vehicles, I think of it as insurance on my person: a necessary evil. More for the sake of my family than myself, I’d hate to be defenseless in the unlikely event I should need the ultimate insurance.

But enough of that. From Pinedale to Madison Campground is only 128 miles. I figure 2-3 hours should get me there.

What I don’t count on is the traffic congestion in Jackson Hole, which slows me considerably. Then, once finally clear of traffic and heading north

Grand Teton Range

again at highway speed, I round a bend and am confronted with the most dramatic sight I’ve seen so far: the full panorama of the Grant Teton Range. These are the youngest of mountains, and rise vertically from the plains without the intervening buffer of foothills. There are numerous pull-outs and view points along the highway and I take advantage of many of them, if not to take pictures, at least to gaze in wonder at the sight.

I have to drive through Grand Teton National Park to get to Yellowstone, and I regret that I don’t have more time to spend there. Among its many beauties is the large Jenny Lake, formed after the last Ice Age when retreating glaciers in Yellowstone left behind a moraine that dammed the water up.

I often wonder if, as the last Ice Age was ending, there were global warming alarmist cavemen, jumping up and down waving their arms saying, “Ugh, see what your new toy, fire, is doing to our environment! The ice is melting!  The glaciers are retreating! What will happen to our lovely land when they’re all gone? We must stamp out fire now or we’re doomed!”

What an irony that today some of the most revered, beautiful landscapes in the world were carved by those glaciers, now disappeared. Graceful bowl-shaped valleys, meandering trout-filled flatland streams, magnificent forests rooted in the loose debris of countless moraines, rich midwestern topsoil, dozens of feet deep, on which we grow our food—all these are legacies of global warming. Contemplate what our world would be like if some caveman had it in his power to forestall the melting of the glaciers…. Human beings have never been great at anticipating unintended consequences.

But now I’ve lost the thread again. What I meant to say is that I finally arrive at Yellowstone, though I still have a 50 mile drive to reach my camp. Once I finally arrive, I’m assigned a tiny crescent-shaped “pull through” site with pine trees strategically placed so as to make access virtually impossible. I am reminded several times by the ranger that all tires and landing gear must be on the pavement, and nothing may touch dirt.

A little pine rash

Well, I spend a full half hour jockeying the rig back and forth, climbing in and out of the truck to spot myself, until I finally manage to barely kiss a tree with the tail light on the camper, shattering it. But that’s minor; it could be worse, right?

Yes. It could be worse. After another several minutes trying to shoehorn myself into this awfully engineered site, I hear a SQUEEEEK. I jump out of the truck once more and find that, sure enough, another pine tree has moved just enough scrape some paint off Big Red’s right rear quarter panel, barely rippling the sheet metal in the process.

Now it’s time to go for broke. I feel like everything’s wrecked anyway. Maneuvering like a madman, at last I manage to squeeze everything into the site with nothing touching any dirt. I’ve never experienced anything like this in 15 years of RVing, and I’m a little shaken. God knows how I’ll ever get this thing out of here when it comes time to leave. But that’s a week from now; I worry about it then.

In the meantime, I spend the evening in recovery mode finishing The Kill Artist, first in a series of cloak and dagger thrillers written by Daniel Silva that feature an Israeli master operative named Gabriel Allon, a kind of Jewish Jack Bauer. My brother-in-law Wilson turned me on to Silva. Thanks, Wilson!

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