Our Steps Matter

After clocking out from the early shift at the gift shop, I left the Inn for a long, leisurely stroll through the Upper Geyser Basin. Beginning at Old Faithful, I walked past lesser-known features and family favorites as I made my way to my destination: Morning Glory Pool. I didn’t need to invest any thought about how to get there. The boardwalk laid the course and I followed. Signs along the way were clear: STAY ON THE TRAIL. Geyser basins are dangerous places. In some areas, the thinnest of crusts separate our frail human frames from the seething intensity below. {Continue Reading}

Walking in Tension

Crossing the empty parking lot, I zipped my fleece jacket to my chin and drew my fingers into my sleeves. It was August and already the mountain morning air held heavy hints of the coming autumn–known in Yellowstone as “early winter.” Side by side, my dad and I climbed the sloping path to Tower Fall. During my growing up years, Tower had always been a regular stop when my family visited Yellowstone. That first year, its 132-foot plunge impressed me but it was the large boulder perched at the brink that held my attention. I was sure it, like us, {Continue Reading}

Embrace the Delays and Enjoy the Scenery

Eighteen hours into a twenty-hour road trip from our door to Yellowstone’s South Entrance, my high spirits tumbled at the sight of a sign. A happy-looking sign, it cast a shadow on my plan to get off the road and onto the trail as quickly as possible. It read: Expect delays and great scenery. It was a road construction sign in disguise. And I understood why. In Iowa, where I live, open roads and flat terrain allow travelers in construction zones to slow more often than stop. When a full stop is required, it’s usually short, and governed by a {Continue Reading}

What We Already Know About Navigating by Faith

Leaving the comforting bustle of the crowd, I stepped off the boardwalk onto the geyserite-strewn path. This was my first solo hike. I was leaving from the Old Faithful area, where I lived and worked, to make a six-mile round trip journey to a backcountry waterfall. The first section of the trail skirted the edge of the Upper Geyser Basin before crossing a highway, passing through another geyser basin, and entering deep forest. I breathed deep, inhaling the strong scents of sulfur and pine mingling in the crisp morning air. Just beyond the boardwalk, I stopped at the trailhead sign, {Continue Reading}

Walking by Faith Through Tough Terrain

The first trail—as in, an unpeopled, into the wilderness, marked-by-blazes-instead-of-a-worn-path trail—I remember taking was to the petrified forest in Yellowstone. I was fourteen, with my family, on our second visit to the park, and we’d finally stopped believing that we would be consumed by a bear if we left the crowded boardwalks and entered the quiet woods. It was not an easy hike. Oh, the walking part was fine. It was the finding the destination part that was the problem. Some trails through the wilderness are worn dirt paths, threadbare lines leading from where you’ve been to where you want {Continue Reading}

Walking by Faith | Using the Right Muscles

We left our car at the pullout, walked past the bungalow-sized glacial boulder, and started down an easy path. Short, flat, and offering a good view, the Cascade Overlook Trail promised to be a good wakeup hike. Enveloped in a thick evergreen wood, we relished the rhythm of quiet conversation and companionable silence mingled with the crunching rock under our feet and the rustling trees above our heads. Before long, the trail emerged from the trees, and there was the Grand Canyon, not of Arizona but of the Yellowstone River. We took careful steps along the curving rim of the {Continue Reading}

Walking Together

There is more to setting off on a hike than hopping over the back fence with a loaf of bread and a pound of tea à la John Muir–turn-of-the-ninteenth-century naturalist, writer, and outdoorsman. While his short list encompassed food and nutrition, survival and sanity suggest we take more when we head into the woods. We need to know where we’re going and how to get there. We need protection from the elements. We need first aid supplies. Beyond that, it helps to know a little about hiking technique—how to take an incline, how often to rest, and how to travel {Continue Reading}

One Question for When You’re Finding Your Way

The gradual slipping away of the pine-lined path went unnoticed—by me anyway. We’d set off that morning, wanting to spend just a little more time on the trail and in the park before heading home from our week in Yellowstone. Situated along the way, the Gneiss Creek Trail would do well, we thought. It was new. It was short. It sounded inviting. And it was, rising slowly through terrain that sang an unmistakable song of the west and stirred memories of Kevin Costner’s narrative segments from Dances with Wolves. Emerging from thick, head-high lodgepole pines into a sudden clearing, I {Continue Reading}

Two Ways of Waiting

Yellowstone’s Old Faithful Inn gift shop hummed like a hive. All the time. Except when Old Faithful was about to erupt.  Then, every visitor in the area was out on the boardwalk, waiting. After a short lull, the gift shop—site of my summer job between high school and college—began to fill with customers. They came first in a trickle, then in a torrent. Milling around, they searched for some thing to take home or some way to pass the time until the next eruption. Then, as if in response to a silent summons, they turned in unison and brought their {Continue Reading}