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Saturday, 6/9/01 - A Walk Above Paradise

Before I had arrived in Montana, while passing through Minneapolis, I had met with a woman, Joan Holman, who told me to look up a friend of hers - Katri Nordblom - when I got to Livingston. Katri does footwork, similar to reflexology but more intense and therapeutic, called Foot Zonology. I had made arrangements to stop by her house Saturday morning and she gave me directions. Instead of mileage or landmarks, she told me to make a left turn off of Highway 89 between 13-15 minutes after leaving the KOA onto Mill Creek Road. hwy

Since driving time in an RV is much different than in a car (slower), I added a few more minutes and scanned the left side of the highway for the road and a sign for Mill Creek. Twenty minutes later, I passed the blinking yellow light at the crossroads leading to Pray, Montana in the East and Emigrant, Montana to the West. A few minutes later, I passed the rest area which is about halfway between Livingston and Gardiner and that included a tiny chapel at the top of a hill called "Meditation Point."

I stopped at the rest area and called Katri from a payphone, only to get her answering machine, so I continued South. By the time I reached a big road to the left and discovered it was called East River Road, I knew I had gone too far. Since my cellphone wasn't working in the area, I back-tracked to the yellow blinking light and pulled into the gas station.

"Do you know where Mill Creek Road is?" I asked the woman behind the counter. She grinned and pointed North. "About 4 miles that way." I had passed it long ago.

When I got to Mill Creek Road I noticed a lot of landmarks at that intersection that I had actually seen on my way south, including a big sign for the Paradise Valley Church. I now saw the Mill Creek Road sign which was on my left, but when I was heading south, it was on my right which I never would have suspected. I laughed as I realized how vague 13-15 minutes was instead of "turn left at the big sign for the Paradise Valley Church and you'll see the such and such business on the right side along with the street sign." Well, good thing I love to drive! Needless to say, I was over an hour late in arriving.

Katri was a thin, vibrant woman with taut muscles and a pretty face, gently lined and weathered from sun and years. Her Swedish accent was thick as she spoke to me while working on my feet. Her assessment was that I had too much acid in my diet so my kidneys were straining. Also, my adrenals were affected, most likely by some stress (although I assured her that my life was now virtually stress-free since being on the road). She noticed some female stuff - ovaries, uterus. But overall, I was healthy and younger than my chronological age.

She also found a point on the bottom of my foot which caused intense, burning pain when she pressed it. "The heart," she said. "Something to do with true love. You have pain in your heart related to true love," she explained.

Yes. That's true.

"Be open now to new things," she instructed.

Yes. I will.

Before I left, she told me about classes she was teaching and asked if I would give a lecture on business marketing. Thinking about my schedule, I realized that I could spend the next day in Yellowstone, camp out, then return in time for her class, so I agreed to do it. horses

Then I drove back to the KOA, had lunch and headed for Pine Creek Trail, a hiking trail that had been highly recommended to me by several people. The drive up to the trail was hairpin turns, rough and narrow roads and a continuing incline, but the Apache made it without too much trouble and we finally arrived at the trailhead, passing horses roaming free on the way. pinecreek

I opened the windows and hatches to let in a cool breeze and got the Berts settled down before I embarked on my first solo hike, backpack on my back and water bottle and holder slung over my shoulders. Inside my backpack was everything I could find on the RV that looked like proper hiking gear, much of it gifts from my sister from months ago and never used. Snake bit kit, emergency foil blanket, emergency rain poncho, extra sunscreen and bug repellant, waterproof matches, 2-finger saw, extra water bottle. I was so thoroughly equipped for any possible situation, including a dry pair of socks in double ziplock baggies. So what if my hike was only going to last an hour or two? pinecreek trail

On the trail, two women were walking toward me, done with their morning hike. Suddenly, one of them exclaimed, "Aliza!" It was Deb from Bozeman. She and her friend encouraged me to keep walking, peel off some layers and watch out for the sun. "You'll love the hike," Deb assured me. It had taken them two hours up and one hour down.

I first crossed a bridge over a rushing river, the shushing sounds of the water on the rocks in constant motion was soothing and inviting. river

When I reached the waterfall, less than a mile and a half from the trailhead but mostly on an upward slant, I sat for a while, assessing my muscles, my lungs, my heart. My legs already felt noodly and weak as I sat on a cool, mint-green lichen-covered rock under a canopy of dark trees. Sunlight streamed across the roaring white falls and over the rushing river.

As I was walking alone, I was thinking that if anyone asked me if I was hiking alone, I'd say no and then point in the distance to one of the nearby groups that I'd just passed along the trail. "I'm with them," I'd say, "But I walk ahead to pretend I'm walking alone." Just a safety thing. But I really was walking alone. waterfall

The trail got steeper, rocks scattered staccato across the path, legs straining, lungs expanding. The view of the world below now were dizzying and I could see the snow of the snowcapped peaks right across from me, so close.

I went as far as I could without straining myself too badly and then turned around for the easier hike down. Once back at the RV, I got the Berts on their leashes and took them up the trail a little ways so they could get some exercise. I was feeling strong and wanted to try climbing back up again, but realized it was more exhiliration from making it as far as I did on my own than actual energy. waterfall

The drive down to the valley was much easier than the drive up, and there was more of a chance to look down over the valley. Beautiful! After going back to the KOA to use the phoneline and check email, we drove to Gardiner to the Yellowstone RV campground right on the edge of town and across the street from the rodeo.

I picked out a corner site, not by looking at the campground map, but by looking out the window and over the cliff from the highway. RVs lined a ledge several hundred feet below and another couple of hundred feet below that, the Yellowstone River glistened in the late afternoon sun. I was dreading the steep hill winding down the side of the cliff onto the campground itself, but the Apache did just fine and I pulled into my campsite. rv park

No sooner did I shut off the engine did my neighbors come over to greet me. Dorothy and Mick were there with their ten-year old grandson and another couple next to them were there with their three grandchildren, all of them from the Denver area. The two of them proceeded to trace their fingers over the decal map on the side of my RV, pointing out places where I hadn't yet been and making suggestions as to where I should go when I get there. Some unusual sites outside of Socorro, New Mexico, the Roy Rogers Museum in Victorville, California, the fantastic beach campgrounds in Oregon. I was making a mental note of them all, always grateful for sightseeing suggestions. the elk

I joined the entire gang to walk up the hill to the rodeo that evening at 6pm. As we approached the trail, I saw what I thought was a horse, then a deer. "It's an elk," everyone told me as I tried to get close enough to take a photo. What did I know? bronco

At the rodeo, there were bareback bronco rides, saddled bronco rides, bull rides, barrel races, calf roping - everything I've seen on TV or in the movies but never in real life. And there were cowboys and cowgirls - real ones, not poseurs or actors - with their prized horses parading back and forth behind the bleachers where we sat.

By 9:30pm, the sun was still letting off a glow in the sky even though it was no longer to be seen and the rodeo finally wound down, the crowd emptying the bleachers, hurrying home or to the local bar or to the campground before dark. I thanked Dorothy and Mick for letting me join them.

Thank goodness for RV neighbors!

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