What’s next after Yellowstone?

15 09 2013

My Yellowstone experience is coming to an end. I can now safely say it has been a wonderful summer, filled with adventure, achievement, learning, and, not to be forgotten — love. There are so many stories to tell, episodes to write and characters to develop, I don’t know where to begin.

We’ll start with the stars. They are incredible here. At 7,000 feet, the Milky Way is quite visible to the naked eye (with the help of glasses.) I’m still wearing Clark Kent style frames courtesy of that great American retailer, Sears. A few nights ago, I put on those glasses and joined my Canyon colleague Kirk for a late night ride into Hayden Valley. Initially we had planned to just blow off some steam after work, but it turned into an amazing evening of star gazing and elk listening. With no moonlight, the stars were spectacular and the constellations all there, although I’m still trying to figure out where Ursa Minor begins and ends. Kirk says it reminds him of a “planetarium” he went to in high school. Kirk, I’m finding out, had a privileged childhood.

The elk bulging made the night cooler. These beasts are in their mating period or “rut” as it is known in slang terms. The males are seeking to create harems and cry out in the darkness for new members. We are told to stay far away from the bull elk during this time as their behavior can get quite aggressive. Mammoth Hot Springs, where we stayed during training, is typically overrun by the elk this time of year.

Meanwhile, the fires that had been burning in nearly every section of the park have subsided, but it was scary for a while there. Dry and windy conditions coupled with lighting strikes had set Yellowstone ablaze once again. Apparently, this is quite a common occurrence with some years — 1988 comes to mind — being worse than others. During “Fire Season” this year we were greeted each morning by the smell of burning pine trees and sage brush and a sky colored in hazy pink. Some of us were lucky enough to have a front row seat. From my post inside the ticket office at the Canyon Corrals, I could see the Alum Fire raging across Hayden Valley. Tourists, rightfully so, were concerned.

“Why don’t they put it out?,” they kept asking me before saddling up for their one-hour horseback ride.

In Yellowstone, what happens naturally, stays naturally — including fires.

But the fires weren’t the only thing burning in Yellowstone. My relationship with Ann was heating up by the day. Our hitchhiking adventure led to more hikes into the backcountry and soon we were spending all of our free time together. This was not something I had expected nor pursued. It just happened, naturally and I find myself searching for ways to describe these feelings.

We met at a difficult time in both our lives. “I thought there was no love for me in this world,” Ann revealed.

I understood. On our hike to the Canyon’s brink of the lower falls, I shared with Ann my spectacular fall from grace in the summer of 2008. The story of greed, ignorance, betrayal and ultimately, ruin. Much to my surprise, with each devastating detail, Ann pulled me closer as we made our descent, hand in hand. The brink of the lower falls is an amazing sight to see and because of its steep drop, it is not a trail many visitors to the park take on. But I had become accustomed to crawling out of canyons and compared to last year’s hikes in Arizona, this was a piece of cake. At the brink, you witness the full fury of the Yellowstone River as it crashes 309 feet over the falls and into this deep and colorful canyon. This is where we kissed, passionately and so much so that a nearby tourist offered to take a picture of the, “love birds.”

As happy as I am for this blossoming relationship, I have no idea what the future holds.

Soon, Ann will return to Italy and continue her studies in hopes of one day becoming a teacher. As for me, I am unsure where life will take me next. I have a little money in my pocket again, a plane ticket to Seattle and a strong desire to return to journalism. Last year, my summer in Grand Canyon emboldened me for the campaign trail. Having survived six months in the desert, I was able to enter the hostile Florida panhandle with no fear and carry out a “boots on the ground” winning effort.

I wonder what a summer romance in Yellowstone will lead to?

Yellowstone Canyon Lower Falls

Yellowstone Canyon Lower Falls

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3 responses

15 09 2013
Cala

Great summer..have a wonderful winter. I already have given a promise to return with a promise from Kelsey I will have a better schedule with more afternoons to roam.
For now back to Florida – I have a date with Mickey and Minnie.

15 09 2013
Bobparvin

Ah….such sweet sorrow, John! Good luck and stay in touch. Remember, you’ve got a bunk down in Texas.

Sent from my iPad

16 09 2013
Rosie Delgado

Good luck John and don’t forget about us

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