lost, for a little while

destination: yellowstone national park
July 13, 2011, 11:55 pm
Filed under: trips

Welcome to Yellowstone

Confession: When I first planned this trip, I had no intention of going to Yellowstone. It seemed like one of those destinations too vast to try to cram into a couple measly days, so why bother? But as time went on, I decided to give it a shot, especially since I had wanted to see Grand Teton National Park, as well. But I would have low expectations, and not try to fit in too much while I was there. I’d see some geysers and drive through the park on the way south, and hopefully see some animals along the way.

Yeah, right.

Like has so often happened already during this trip, monumentally lucky coincidence and circumstance changed my plans. Remember my friend, Margaret? Bird aficionado and nature girl extraordinaire? Well, she just so happened to be visiting Yellowstone with her parents at that exact same time. So my planned drive-by tour of Yellowstone became a five-day vacation of exploring, hiking, and camping with one of my good friends, and now I can’t imagine how I had ever planned on skimming over this park.

Mammoth Springs

Confession number two: Before I planned this trip, my knowledge regarding Yellowstone was pretty…embarrassing, to say the least. I knew Old Faithful was there. I knew they had buffalo, and that a lot of the time, there would be traffic jams due to animals crossing the road or people stopping to take pictures of said animals beside the road. I knew that a bunch of tourists have gotten gored there trying to get too close to the animals while taking pictures. I knew it was pretty big and had trees.

That’s about it.

Oh, and also I think Yogi the Bear’s Jellystone was based off of Yellowstone. Maybe. I could be making that up.

What I’m trying to say is, there’s way more to the park than this laughable information I just presented. While I was picturing acres and acres of forests and rivers, Yellowstone has endless fields of wild flowers, mountaintop elevations, and an impressive geological history that created the beautiful Mammoth Springs (above), the steaming fumaroles that waft an eggy smell around areas of the park, and, yes, good Old Faithful.

More punctual than I ever am

I get that people are sick of the hype, and that the massive crowds with their telephoto lenses, cameraphones, and iPads (really? You’re taking a picture with your iPad? Do you like being a douchebag?) are a bit off-putting, but the fact remains: Old Faithful is impressive and worth seeing.

Even more worth seeing are the other geysers, hot springs, pools, and mud pots that can be found in the area surrounding Old Faithful.

Grand Prismatic Spring

The colors that appear naturally in the world continue to amaze me. Grand Prismatic Spring and Morning Glory Pool were two of my favorites to see; their vibrant colors come from the bacteria that grow in the hot water.

Shake 'n Bake

The geysers were cool. The springs and pools were beautiful. I saw so many wild bison that it made me a little embarrassed for how excited I’d been when I first saw them on a farm in Utah. But the real highlight of the trip was the camping Marge and I did at the tail-end of our stay, taking a break from the small cabin we’d been staying in.

I’ve camped, sure, but up until then it was your standard, wussy car camping. Transporting gear only a couple feet from the trunk of the Blueberry to the ground. Walking a hundred yards to the campground bathroom. Surrounded by people who brought more electronics and amenities with them than I had when I first packed for college. This time, we snagged a backcountry permit (free!) and hiked our gear out eight miles from the trailhead into the Lamar Valley, away from the crowds, tourist gimmicks, and national park road rage.

The isolation, pristine surroundings, and general feeling of accomplishment was worth all the mosquito bites I ended up getting. Keep it on the DL, but Margaret and I actually missed our camp site by a couple hundred yards and ended up crashing at the ranger’s site. So, we weren’t exactly slumming it–yes, we still slept in our tent, collected wood, started our own fire, and all that jazz, but we had the bonus of being within eyesight of an outhouse.

Gentlemen might not understand why this is such a blessing; ladies, you know why this is clutch. Peeing in the woods when you’re a girl is an art form, a skill mastered only after many frustrating failed attempts.

Speaking of useful skills, while we were there, Marge broke out her bow drill kit and taught me how to start fire the old, old-fashioned way–something I’d wanted to see back when I saw her in Olympia but didn’t get the chance to.

Margaret’s unique in many ways, but one thing that makes her especially badass is the fact that she’s learned a lot of wilderness survival and primitive skills in college, through special courses, and from friends (outdoorsy hippies are in ready supply in Washington state). If you’re interested in learning a little about the basics of making fire with a bow drill, I’ve got the video up on Facebook.

Some more?

After a delicious dinner of lentil soup and Trader Joe’s turkey chili warmed in their cans over the coals of our fire, we set up the tent and crammed in some roasted marshmallows before the evening rains hit. By the time we went to bed, two bison across the creek from us were bedding down for the night, as well.

The night was freezing, I got some of the worst mosquito bites I’ve ever experienced, and we hiked more than 16 miles, total, with about 40 pounds of gear on our backs, but when we reached the car all I wanted was to do that again.

Wherever I end up, whatever I’m doing, a goal of mine needs to be to find people to go backpacking with. Keep exploring. Keep learning. Keep loving life.


1 Comment so far
Leave a comment

Amen! Well written. Honest girl, you’ve got some writing talent. Your wit and dry humor is refreshing to read.

Comment by Margaret

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