“Travelling to Yellowstone”, Tuesday, July 13, 2010
On July 13, I headed out on my grand Fund For Teachers Fellowship to Yellowstone National Park to collect data on water, soil, temperature, flora and fauna, to become more infused with what I teach my students each year and to become the teacher/scientist I’ve always wanted to be. With me is Sean, who is helping to make sure I negotiate my way safe around the wilds of Yellowstone in a kayak, in a campground and on back country trails.
Our first day out was spent driving across this great nation’s ‘food basket’, as my dad called it when I called to check in with him. I saw scenes that many of us who live in a city just don’t see every day, pastures, cattle processing plants, corn that is almost as high as an elephants eye, and wide sweeping grain fields that are truly amber….and yes, there was waving involved. You see, we decided that the best way to get to Yellowstone is to take state highways, rather than the more commonly used interstates. And so far, I must say it truly is the way to go if you don’t mind moseying at a slower pace toward your destination.
We got sidetracked trying to find the ruins of some pueblos in Kansas, just a bit north and west of Scott City, and spent the better part of the next hour on a solid, well made dirt road free of traffic and big rigs blowing by. We saw corn and sunflower fields, cozy houses nestled behind wind breaks made of cedar and other trees, rolling hills, eroded rock formations and wide open sky.
I finally was able to observe the harvest of the fine wheat grains, and the hard work that farmers put into that harvest. It seems like in the past, I always just missed the action. Even as the sun set, you could see harvesting machines collecting the grains, separating the chaff and filling the grain trucks. That grain goes into the food that our countrymen eat, and it goes into feeding the cattle, which we also eat. There are extensive irrigation systems at work in these vast fields, and I was interested in things like how they move and how they avoid getting clogged up. I was left with a feeling of awe. What would we do if our nation’s farmers couldn’t or wouldn’t grow the grains to feed us? It wasn’t just one field loaded with wheat or corn…it stretched as far as I could see for the many miles of our travel today. We sure do eat alot of foods that use grains, and I appreciate all the hard work put into the food that makes it to my table.
We ended the first day in an absolutely delightful town called Wray, Colorado. It’s a bustling and busy little town where the folks are friendly, they have a full K-12 school, and at the center of town is towering mesa. In fact, the town has a feeling of being all snug and cozy in a valley with a mesa serving as a sentry. We felt right at home here. Lots of nearby farming and ranching and an active railway through town keeps this place alive and jumping.
Day 2 is next — July 14. We will be traveling up into Nebraska briefly, before veering west toward Wyoming. I don’t know what to expect, and that is the best part.