Yellowstone National Park Reflection

Rafting down the Snake River, Wyoming

Growing up and having family on both coasts, we usually visited one or the other side when my family took “vacation”. By time I turned 12, I’d traveled across America nearly half a dozen times. Traveling was a means to valued family time. Despite having friends who’d never flown or traveled out of state, at age 12, I was jealous of the ones who’d been to Disneyland!

Living on the West Coast meant more trips along Interstate 5 than cross-country. Around Christmas and at least twice again in the year, we packed up our silver grey Volvo station wagon and drove north for a long weekend. By pinching pennies, nickels and dimes, my parents saved enough for us to fly out to see our East Coast grandparents for a few weeks about every other summer.

Then one summer my mom’s favorite big brother and his wife came out West to go camping. And they were taking me (and the rest of the family) with them. They flew to PDX where we picked them up before packing up and driving to Yellowstone National Park. I was super excited. We were really going on a real vacation, a real adventure. We were off to see not some member of the family but solely to see a new location and experience a new place.

There in Yellowstone we saw waddling porcupine, sparring elk and shaggy lumbering buffalo. We attended reliably spouting Old Faithful’s water show and gazed at gorgeous snow crested mountains – the Grand Tetons and the Rockies. We rafted down the Snake River, walked around the hot brilliantly colored Paint Pots and waded in sparkling blue Jenny Lake. We ate scrambled eggs cooked over a camp stove, slept outside in a tent at a KOA, took the junior ranger pledge and learned all about preventing forest fires. The time flew by with all we experienced.

Charlie Tremendous Jones, a motivational speaker, has been quoted, “You’ll be the same in five years, except for the books you read and the people you meet.” A college professor of mine thoughtfully added, “And the places you visit.” Arguably you could say the places you visit lead you to the people you meet and thus that’s covered, but considering my Yellowstone experience, I’d have to agree with him. Sure, we spoke with rangers and exchanged greetings with the rafting guide, but being a kid, I really didn’t talk to those people. The people I interacted with were family. The people I barely met didn’t influence me like the place I visited.

All the memories came back the other day when I found a cassette. The recording my Aunt bought while in Wyoming – Goin’ Wild by the Banana Slug String Band – sounded just as peppy as it had the first time we listened to it while driving some highway in Wyoming or Idaho with miles of western scenery stretching out before us.

Did visiting Yellowstone change me? Am I a different person because of my Yellowstone experience? While I can’t say for certain that due to Yellowstone I resulted in changing these exact ways, looking back, I know it influenced me.

It changed my dreams. I dream of ‘returning’, which a different dream than the dream of ‘someday going’. Dreams of someday going always have an element of wonder and can take more belief that the trip is worth it. I wonder what xyz is really like; it’s gotta be amazing. Dreams of returning are more confident and more tangible in the memory. Dreams of returning to Yellowstone also bridge my dreams of other places and future trips. While I don’t know what it’s exactly like to ride with a pack string in the Rocky Mountain Range, having been to Yellowstone gave me a glimpse into that world. Someday I’ll take such a trip, and I know it will be amazing.

It increased my awareness of the world around me. The Paint Pots are a natural wonder had I not seen, I would not have remembered by only hearing or reading of them. Oh cool – colored hot springs. Ok, on to the next thing. No, no, no – they are more than that! They are BRILLIANTLY colored and acid-burn-you-to-death-HOT. Seeing them looking so clear and curiously deep, innocent and mesmerizing in a gorgeous mountain region, smelling the gases rising off them and leaning against the sturdy wooden rails to peer more closely at a sapphire blue pool – those are experiences you only get being there. Having seen such phenomenon of nature tantalized my appetite to see other wonders of this world. What else is out there?

It satisfied as only vacation travel can. The pressures involved in traveling to visit family are not there. Before cell phones my parents called my grandparents just as we left our house. My grandfather then estimated our time of arrival. We were always under time constraints to get there at or before Grandpa’s estimation. That pressure isn’t there. When we’d go visit the East Coast, my grandparents always expected us to stay with them. They’d raised seven kids in their old large New England home, and there was plenty of space and no reason we shouldn’t stay with them. That pressure isn’t there. The pressures are more internal with vacation traveling. When do you want to get there? Feel free to adjust that mid way along. Where do you want to stay? Let your imagination and wallet decide that.

Okay. Now I want to go on a vacation! While I still haven’t been to Disneyland, there have been other trips solely for suspending normal life to escape elsewhere for rest, relaxation and fun. Each one has influenced me, and it’s fun when something simple, like a cassette, can bring up such good memories.

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