Today’s journey was an awesome adventure, and I really don’t throw that word “awesome” around. I really wasn’t even wild about taking any time off in Wyoming. We had to take our vacation days to squeeze in the trip. “But let’s just go speak for those folks in Cody and come back and save the rest of our vacation for someplace where the air is oxygenated, and the burgers are beef (not moose or elk) and there’s a Cheesecake factory.”
But I simply did not know. I didn’t know there could be a day as perfect as this one spent driving through the Bear Tooth Pass from Billings, Montana to Cody, Wyoming. If I have time to reflect before I die and name the most glorious days in my lifetime, this one will have to be in the top five, for sure.
It began in a hotel room in Billings when I awakened to the realization that my husband, thoughtful man that he is, was in the bathroom studying so as not to waken me. A few minutes later, we were off to the UPS office to ship home a big box of little treasures I had found in our antiquing escapades throughout the four days we had spent in Northern Montana. Three quilts (amazing good deals on hand-sewn quilts in Montana!), some books, a light fixture for the bedroom, and all of our dirty laundry went into the huge box as we packed it carefully in the UPS parking lot. The box was actually so large that we had to flatten it to get it in our rental car and then reassemble it at the UPS store. Finally finish that task, we went to revisit one of the antique stores we had traipsed through earlier in the week. At the earlier jaunt I had racked up the deal of the week: two first edition Dick and Jane first grade readers dated 1940! Now I had always wanted these books and it took my breath away when the lady pulled them out of the showcase and told me they were only two dollars each! But after I got back to the hotel and began researching the value of these books, I began to think a lot about the golden rule–you know–
“As ye would that men should do to you, do you even so to them” (Mt. 7:12).
I decided to take the books back and offer to let the dealer buy them back, since he obviously did not know that they were worth about 40 times the amount I had paid for them. After the dealer recovered from his state of shock that we had actually returned, he very graciously told us to keep the books. He began to explain how that he himself had been blessed to find lots of good deals and how that he had no discomfort at all with us keeping the books. It’s fun to have these books on a shelf. I will probably never sell them. My love for them is not in their monetary value, but rather sentimental. They just make me think about Mrs. Shipp, my first grade teacher, those giant phonics charts, and the Redbirds reading group I was in at West Birmingham Christian School back in the 1960s.Very fun memory handles.
We wanted to patronize this kind man’s store, so we walked around for a few minutes more, and bought some baby shower gifts and an autumn throw for the church pew in our living room. Then, at last, we started our trek across the mountains. I thought the view was simply breathtaking as we left Billings. But the picturesque peaks around the city paled in comparison to what I was about to see. With every steep grade we climbed in that little rental car, the view became a little more surreal–with every hairpin curve, the majesty just bowled us over. It made us sing quiet praises as we gazed. It made us joyful to know that our Father, the one who had already listened to our prayers with favor that very morning was capable of speaking these wonders into existence. With every roadside overlook, I stood amazed in His presence.
“…Which by his strength setteth fast the mountains; being girded with power…” (Psa. 65:6).
As we continued the ascent, we traveled through open grazing ranges, where livestock were grazing inches from the highway’s pavement. Though these cows were in no man’s fence, I knew to whom they ultimately belonged.
“For every beast of the forest is mine, and the cattle upon a thousand hills” (Psa. 50:10).
Every twenty feet or so on portions of the roadway, tall stakes stood straight up–maybe 12 or 14 feet in height. We later learned that these stakes were strategically placed, so that snow clearing crews can ascertain the exact curvature of the road, when they come to clear the drifts that may be in excess of twenty feet deep in the spring. The stakes will keep the crews from rolling off the cliffs and into the canyons. Locals later told us, also, that it will be June of next summer before the roads will be passable, once the snow starts falling in a few days. Skiers actually go in June and there is still plenty of snow for summer skiing.
“He giveth snow like wool: he scattereth the hoarfrost like ashes” (Psa. 147:16).
As we continued our ascent we began a friendly argument about the cement-colored patches that we could see toward the tips of the peaks. Glenn thought they were naturally formed patches of sand. I thought they were man-made erosion inhibitors. I even thought I could see little water tunnels in some of then to route the water as the snow melted. We were both wrong.
Soon, we’d climbed so high that we got out of the car and hiked several hundred feet to see and touch the sheets of ice…ice that had been laying on this ground all summer long. That’s a piece of ice I am holding in the photo. It’s September. It’s time for a new snow. Yet here, on these peaks where it’s hardly cool enough for a jacket, there are still large sheets of ice. I marveled at how frigid it must have been, how deep the ice and snow must have been in the middle of the winter to have taken all the warm months to thaw and still never to have completed the process.
He casteth forth his ice like morsels: who can stand before his cold” (Psa. 147:17)?
It kept crossing my mind that Lewis and Clark didn’t drive over these mountains. They didn’t have snow markers or rest stops with facilities. This was the first roadside rest stop I’ve ever visited that didn’t have running water. No humans inhabit the barren peaks of these mountains. But visitors there today have it comparably good. No government workers were around to bring Lewis and Clark a bucket of water and a bottle of hand soap like they had provided for us beside those make-shift, but relatively clean toilets. In fact, there were no toilets at all for Lewis and Clark. I was counting my blessings of comforts and conveniences throughout the day.
“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning” (Jas. 1:17).
And from there, we made our descent. My husband talked about how very sad it would be to see what we had seen today and have no One to thank. We talked about how just knowing that the majesty was formed by our Father is one way we inherit the earth.
“Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth” (Mt. 5:5).
We, as His children, inherit earth’s beauty from Him. We enjoy it as a foretaste of heaven, with gratitude and joy; a gratitude and joy that cannot be experienced by atheists.
Then we stopped at a little mountain outpost for a late lunch. We bowed our heads and talked to the Father. We thanked Him, the all powerful One, for hearing us, His children, and for using His vast power to care for and provide for us.
As we checked into the little motel in which we would sleep once we finished our seminar, the lady at the desk told us about the wild buck that likes to rest in the shade of one of the buildings on the premise. Sure enough…
“…and the wild beasts of the field are mine” (Psa. 50:11).
All of this and the best part of the day was yet to come. We gathered with the people of God–family members we had never before met–and we praised God together and studied from His Word. I got to speak to a sweet group of sisters. I always feel the instant bond of family when I am with sisters and this night was no exception. They encouraged. They smiled. They hugged. Together we studied and grew.
It was almost ten o’clock when we, traveling in the back seat of a car belonging to folks we had met only moments earlier, arrived at the little cafe where this sweet couple treated us to a taco salad for supper. As we chatted with these elderly people, we were surprised to find that she had been previously married for fifty years and he had been married for forty-six years. They had been married to each other for eight years. She was a Georgia peach and he was from Wyoming.
“So how did you meet?” we queried. “Where else?”…they chuckled. “Churchofchristsingles.com.”
What a fun day!