aphasmart.jpgBrief backstory: I have an Alphasmart 3000, a somewhat goofy PlaySkool-looking AA battery-operated, bare bones portable word-processor that I bought prior to our Africa honeymoon trip in 2005 because I wanted something rugged and durable and cheap ($200) that, given our locations in the Rwandan countyside, the Serengeti (pictured at right tapping away on it into the dark of the night within our tented camp) and other various outposts with uncertain access to electric power, wasn’t in need of recharging. The device performed flawlessly throughout the more than two weeks abroad. I wrote this journal of that trip on it.

I barely used the thing since. In fact, the only time was in the summer of the following year when I brought it with us on our 4,500-mile roadtrip through California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Utah, and Arizona. I’d also brought our old Apple laptop with us as well and so I hadn’t much use for the Alphasmart.

Which brings us to today when I turned it on for the first time in practically two years and found the 1,421 forgotten words I’d written still stored in its memory, recounting a bit about our travels across the famed Beartooth Highway on to and through Yellowstone.

About 356 words from the end there’s a break where I’ve apparently stopped writing about Yellowstone and several days later picked the thing up to type a few emotional words after we discovered the four abandoned pups on the side of the highway in Monument Valley — and that ends abruptly, too.

For wont of a real blog post today, after the jump it’s all copied and pasted (with a couple links to pics) in full unedited glory.

So, how does one capture the remarkable things one’s experienced since last there was internet access on July 5 in Butte, Montana?

Since then we were awed by the magnificent scenery and vistas found along the Beartooth Highway from Red Lodge, Montana down into Cooke City, Wyoming. And from there we crossed the northeast gateway into the ridiculously splendid and speechless-making Yellowstone National Park where we stayed for three nights and two glorious days.

While there was no way to see EVERYTHING the park had to offer, we certainly did a lot, covering what’s refered to as the “grand loop” over the two days and taking in the outrageous level and variety of hydrothermal features – from Old Faithful on down to the Artist’s Paint Pots – to the mystical and surreal hot springs terraces located adjacent to the Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel where we enjoyed a quaint and comfortable cabin complete with its own hot tub.

The drawbacks were minor, with the most disconcerting being the lack of wireless internet access at the hotel keeping me from my blog addiction. The other inconveniences were a particularly sullen server who came with our first dinner in the hotel’s dining room, and on the outside there were a couple of trail closures that put frowns on our faces.

The first closure we encountered was coincidentally at our first real stop, the Artist’s Paint Pots, a series of geothermal pools and bubbling mudpots nestled against a hillside and surrounded by what should have been a boardwalk trail looping around them. But apparently a recent explosion from the most active of the pools rained scalding water and debris upon park visitors, causing injuries. Thus, that section of the trail was blocked off while I guess park officials sit and wait on nature and access the potential of whether it will happen again or whether the event was an anomaly.

On our second day at Tower Falls we were looking forward to the short hike down to the base of the 130-foot water drop only to find signs posted from May indicating that recent washouts had eroded the trail to unsafe levels and the section of it that went to the base had to be closed. We were still able to view the falls from the top, and didn’t let the signage stop us from hiking down and enjoying the banks of a particularly swift moving section of the spectacular Yellowstone River.

If I’m repeating adjectives it’s because of a combination of my limited vocabularly and the fact that even the greatest repository of words would have a hard time capturing and describing the Yellowstone that unfolds before your eyes.

So on the first day we stopped at practically every turnout from the hotel to Old Faithful, and after that partook of an almost six-mile roundtrip hike to Lonestar Geyser, arriving about 10 minutes into its latest eruption (it goes off about every three hours). According to others there we missed a spectacular show, but as we found out on our ride into the park the previous evening, everything happens for a reason.

Case in point: After coming through the Lamar Valley and getting acquainted with the first of what would end up being hundreds upon hundreds of bison, we turned onto the road up to the hotel and while doing our best to avoid the near infinite number of kamikaze Uinta ground squirrels that would cross the road in front of us, we ended up getting stuck behind a slow-moving Mustang convertible whose elderly driver was in no hurry to either get going or get out of our way. Turns out that because of Mr. Slowpoke we had a remarkable encounter with a coyote. As we came around a bend in the road the coyote was in the middle of it trying to peel one of the hundreds of unlucky road-killed squirrels off of the asphalt. The Mustang’s driver paused momentarily at the occupied critter before proceeding on, but Susan and I stopped not only to appreciate the canine’s efforts to keep the roads carcass-free, but also to observe it take its new-found snack off the road an onto an embankment, affording me an excellent opportunity to bring my camera to bear upon it and get some pretty cool close-up shots as it gulped down its meal.

Thus from that we grasped that we should take any delays or missed opportunities in stride because it may very well portend us being on time for other unexpected and amazing things.

The interior parts of the riverside hike to and from Lonestar Geyser were frought with mosquitos and even though we’d liberally applied bug repellant I had to employ my bandana waving talents honed against the tsetse fly in Africa last year. Susan’s a bit more accepting that into every hiker’s life a skeeter bite or two must fall, but I take the vampiric attacks personally and am always proud to emerge unscathed. Or at least mostly so.

Rain began to fall as we returned to the trailhead and with it being well near 8 p.m. we decided to call it a day and return to the hotel for a late dinner (with a far nicer server) and plans to explore the rest of the park with an early start the next morning.

Hitting the road a full 90 minutes earlier than the previous day, we made for Tower Falls, but got sidetracked not only by a pair of pronghorn we spotted, but later by a young bull moose that was near the roadside beyond Tower Junction.

As to the wildlife we’d seen so far in addition to this morning’s antelope and moose, there’d been buffalo, coyote, elk, Uinta ground squirrel, yellow-bellied marmot, osprey, raven, grackle, Canada goose and white pelican.

It seemed our chances were becoming increasingly slim of seeing wolf or bear and I held out little hope for seeing bighorn sheep or mountain lion.

We did end up spying a wolf through a ranger’s spotting scope high up on a ridge looking down into an expansive valley:

 wolf.jpg

And on our way back from Yellowstone Lake we pulled over after seeing the tail end of a black bear moving deeper into the woods away from us and the dozens of other visitors who’d stopped hoping for a look.

So while technically we’d put eyes to canis lupus and orso negro.

—–

A few miles outside of the town of Mexican Hat on Highway 163 coming south through Monument Valley in Utah there are conflicting feelings when you roll around a bend and come upon two abandoned puppies lying helpless on the moist red earth at the edge of a small patch of standing red water by the roadside.

These conflicts in feeling are natural when you shift your vacation from recreation to a rescue operation.

You have no choice but to stop. I mean NO choice. To continue driving with that heartbreaking image burned into the brain and wondering how much longer they might have to suffer would ultimately drive you insane from guilt and grief.

It’s about right there that you almost envy those hard of heart. You’re almost jealous of the bastard or bastards that dumped these poor creatures with seemingly nary a look back.

Almost.

As you pull off the road there’s the sudden and blunt realization of the risk that you’re not going to have much fun from here on out. At least nowhere near the fun you had driving from Redding, Calif., up through Oregon and Washington to Idaho and Montana and down through Wyoming and Utah. The fun you were scheduled to have seeing Vermilion Cliffs National Monument and the Grand Canyon are now going to be weighed down and tempered by these two pups who, depending on their degree of exposure and or any illnesses that they have, might not even respond to the aid you provide.

As you approach them beside the dirty water, one wobbles away from you and the other larger one wobbles toward you with what is undoubtedly the last of its strength and hope and it cuddles up under the shade you make as you squat down to offer it a loving touch and some kind words.

But there aren’t two. In the brush behind them is a cardboard box next to some discarded clothes and a plastic trashbag you can only pray has nothing that used to be living in it.

It doesn’t, but you discover that the cardboard box holds two more puppies.