Yellow Pine, Idaho, population about 40, sits on the East Fork of the South Fork of the Salmon River, at the end of a 32-mile, one-lane, paved road, then about 15 miles of unpaved road.
Today, we hiked to Taggart Lake, one of the pristine glacial lakes in Grand Teton National Park.
The lake, at 6,902 feet, was formed by a glacier that flowed out of Avalanche Canyon, scooping out the basin and forming lateral moraines, or piles of rock and soil, along its sides. When the glacier retreated, water was trapped within the moraines.
From the trailhead, the path climbs next to a creek, through sagebrush flats and a recently burned area, for about two miles to reach the lake.
I knew nothing of the Waterpocket Fold that extends nearly 100 miles across southern Utah. But once we arrived in Capitol Reef National Park, I was captivated.
In the ancient forest at Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park in northern California, you walk beneath some of the tallest trees on the planet, immersed in a green-on-green world dripping with ferns, their amazing fiddleheads unfurling in the spring. Ferns cover the forest floor, drape from the branches and trunks of the trees and line the 50-foot walls of the world-famous Fern Canyon.
Waist-high sword ferns surround our campsite, delicate deer fern and lacy lady fern line the sides of the trails. The deer fern has two types of fronds, sterile ones with broader leaflets, and reproductive fronds with much narrower leaflets that contain spores on their undersides.
Leather fern form mats in the redwood canopy, creating hanging gardens with up to six feet of soil and blooming blackberry bushes. Bracken ferns cover the prairie, nearly hiding the reclining elk munching there. And in Fern Canyon, a World Heritage site and an International Biosphere Reserve, five-finger ferns flutter from canyon walls.
In the three months that we were volunteering at Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, we had three sets of guests. First, Corbin, one of our son, Nate’s, former college roommates, stopped by for almost two weeks in his months-long tour of the West, then my mother, step-brother and sister-in-law, came for four nights, then my former colleague and always friend, Jen, and her partner, Reg, came for four nights.
We loved all of them, and each visit was unique. They enriched our sometimes solitary lifestyle. And they brought a feeling of home to our traveling abode.
A quick update on our elk, the four (former) “bachelors.”
Bachelors no more. Over the past month or so, the guys attracted more guys and, hooray, two females, one of whom is very, very round and, I suspect, very, very pregnant. The elk herd is called a harem, and these lovelies are fetching enough to do a dance of seven veils.
Now, the gang of 11 wander the prairie, munching and, occasionally, people watching. The males’ new antlers are growing quickly, up to an inch a day, covered with luxurious gray velvet.
I often stop to watch as they lie in the tall grass, chewing at leisure, and I anticipate the babies to come.
Here are a few new photos.
Then: Arizona 202 to The Arizona Republic in downtown Phoenix, where I was a reporter, 8 a.m. returning at 6 p.m. Tom took the same route off-peak, 2 p.m., for his evening shift at the paper, returning at 11 p.m.
Now: Volunteering at Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park in northern California, Tom and I walk from the campground to the Visitors Center on the Redwood Access Trail, a half-mile rise of nine feet through old-growth redwoods, ferns and blooming redwood sorrel, leaving at 8:45 a.m., returning at 12:45 p.m., three days a week.
We call them the bachelors, the four young Roosevelt Elk that inhabit the open prairie by the Visitors Center at Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park. The young males are old enough to be threatening to a bull elk with a harem, and so have been cast out to wander on their own.
By Tom Nichols
Paying for health insurance for our family of three was my biggest worry after Judy and I quit our middle-class jobs, gave up our employer-subsidized coverage, and hit the road in The Epic Van.
Thanks to Obamacare, health care has been affordable during our first three years of early retirement.