Yellowstone National Park should be on everyone’s bucket list. I, luckily, have checked it off in my short 24 years, but I think a redemption trip is in order. I tend to be an impulsive trip planner, which is “fun” but may not be the “smart” route; I certainly found this out the hard way so just bare with me.
I hitched a ride into Jackson Hole which is just about the cutest town in I’ve ever been to, full of charming and downright helpful folk. A nice older couple offered to drive me the short hour into Yellowstone the following morning and even gave me a couch to crash on; Jackson Hole was bliss.
I slammed the truck door after many thanks to the gracious couple the next morning and started to trek. Wyoming, from what I’d seen thus far, was remarkable. In the short hour, the terrain had changed exponentially; from a quaint town situated in a bowl like “hole” to vast scenery covering all the colors of the spectrum.
I had my hammock, and that was it in terms of a shelter and bed. This was still a big solo trip for me as I was inexperienced and a bit cocky. My goal was to find some fellow trekkers and follow suit but it didn’t happen that way.
I ate little and slept even less. The park was glorious; everything was so picturesque. Once I got through the initial tourist scramble of the famous stops like Ol’ Faithful and the Sulfur Cauldron, I hiked into the backcountry and didn’t see another human for two days. Maybe this was due to my lack of knowledge and use of maps, but I was actually having a great time self-reflecting in the naturalness of Yellowstone—until the last night.
It was probably four in the morning when I felt a nudge on my hammock. I was curled up so that I was completely covered, but if you recall, a hammock was in no way protecting me from any form of wildlife. I had a flashlight on me, but I was hesitant to turn it on in fear of what was to be staring back at me. So, with my palms sweaty and my heart racing, I decided my only option was to start screaming at the top of my lungs like a cheerleader in a scary movie. Alone in Yellowstone, yelling bloody murder, I un-cocooned from my hammock and started flailing around shouting in attempt to scare whatever the beast was that had nudged me. I had no sense if it was big or small I’d just decided that it was indeed a beast of an animal.
And then, it hits me. The spray of a skunk begins filling my nostrils and burning my eyes and I begin gagging, flailing, and running blindly around my “campsite”. Eventually out of breath and energy, I sat against a tree to catch my breath as anger and annoyance crept in. I walked slowly and defeated back to my “campsite” and packed up my things. I began walking (again, blindly) to the closest road in hopes of another kind stranger with room in the back of their truck for a stinky inexperienced Yellowstoner.
By Suzannah Sage
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