I’ve been walking the moody Madison River both inside and outside Yellowstone National Park for a few years now. It’s a fun place to hike, particularly since the Madison is such a pristine river for so much of its 183 mile journey to the Missouri River. It’s hard to find pristine river that’s easily hiked in this country but if your aching to walk along one…try the Madison…but avoid the hazardous sections and the stretches that wind through private property.
I have not walked all 183 miles…In fact I’ve only walked a little over a seventh of the river, or those portions where I believe Forrest’s poem leads me. I generally start where the poem suggests I should “put in” and then start searching for other key features of the poem. Most I find without problem. But that blaze has been a constant sticking point for me…
So I come back a few times each year when I get the chance and try something slightly different, a place less worn, a path less traveled, a slightly different direction.…and walk more. Sometimes right along the river and sometimes a few hundred feet outside of it. But I’m not aimlessly ambling along. I am searching…scanning the scenic landscape far and near for an elusive clue in the poem…not that I know exactly what it is that I am looking for…I try to keep my mind open to anything that fits…use my imagination…(which Forrest says I don’t have).
It’s not as if I don’t find things…interesting things…puzzling things…
One spring day I stopped at a bend in the river to watch a school of small trout racing around in circles near the bank. Eye candy! I stepped away from the bank to take my camera off my shoulder and a spot of red caught my eye in the sandy bank above the stream. Just a small glint of red. Maybe a fishing lure, I thought. So I got down on my hands and knees in the warm, soft earth and started digging away with my fingers where the color showed.
It wasn’t a dry fly or any other kind of fishing lure. It was the small arc of what turned out to be 4 pretty old marbles. A shooter, two biggies and an aggie. They had been there awhile. Impossible to say how long a while. But in my mind I decided they were 80 or more years old. Maybe Forrest and Donnie Joe stopped here to play some marbles in the sand while they were out exploring. Maybe they took a nap in the warm sun and when they woke-up they forgot about their marbles and headed back to the highway and their bikes for the ride home.
Maybe a Crow stole them from some playground in town and carried them, one at a time, out here and hid them.
Maybe they were in the back of a horse drawn wagon that an early tourist took from Virginia City to the park…before the highways…and the marbles fell out. Glass marbles were first made in America just before 1900. I believe the formal game of marbles is a British invention..but kids were probably playing some form of a marble like game with roundish stones for centuries before colored glass marbles and formal rules.
On another trip I found this small arrow point a few miles from where I found the marbles. It looks like part of the tang on the right side broke off at the notch. Maybe while being made or maybe while it was being used. I could not find any other pieces like this one in the immediate area so it does not seem likely that the site was a place where points were manufactured so I will guess that it was shot…maybe lost…or possibly discarded…
Close to a campground I found this 1985 Mexican 1 Peso coin. Not valuable but fun to find.
I ran into this deer antler shed in a thick lodgepole pine area while stalking wildflowers in Forrest’s old stomping ground near the Madison. Not a very majestic shed…but it had been on the forest floor for some time and the acid soil dissolved the softer parts of the antler leaving it grainy and interesting…Usually these things are devoured by porcupines or mice before they have a chance to lay around for a few seasons and get grainy. So this was a nice find.
And finally…the oddest of all…This is a Japanese fishing net float. Aside from being found in Japan they wash up on the beaches of the Pacific northwest coast after storms, making the trek across the ocean…unbroken. This one was trapped in a backwater, cut-off from the main stream of the Madison…covered in a thick green goop. Big floats are about the size of a basketball and are prized by collectors and seafood restaurant interior designers. This one is about the size of a baseball and still has the netting around it. But it begs the question…how did it get into the Madison River some 5,500 miles from Japan and at least 15 miles from the nearest seafood restaurant? It couldn’t be old or the netting would be rotted. I think it’s authentic…Japanese…but I am certainly no expert…fun find.
At one time we held a contest for the most unusual “found object” someone recovered while out on a hike. Some pretty interesting things were carried back with searchers…LOOK HERE