I’m not sure where I obtained my spontaneity. Definitely did not get it from my dad, and my mom is totally a planner. I’m almost positive that my random acts probably give my parents a heart attack. And they can attest that when I get an idea and I want to do it, there is no stopping me. So naturally when I wanted to run off to live in Yellowstone in an RV with my then-boyfriend Chad, my parents couldn’t do much except support my decision.
Living and working in Yellowstone was such an incredible experience. DNC has an international work exchange program, so I was working with students from Poland, Kazakhstan, Taiwan, Ecuador and a few other American students. We mainly socialized at the secret employee pub hidden in the forest, or outside hiking on our days off. Having two days off in a row every week gave us the opportunity to explore every corner of the park.
Naturally, I wanted to spend all of my time off outdoors. We had been briefly planning our outings in advanced so we could make sure we saw all that the park had to offer. The night before our planned trip to Shoshone Lake, Chad and I got into an argument. It couldn’t have been over anything serious since I can’t remember what it was about. Must have been one of those you-didn’t-show-me-enough-affection-today kinds of fights. Anyways it was a big enough argument that he had decided he didn’t want to go on our planned backpacking trip to the lake, which was fine by me because I was going to go either way.
Chad, either being a nice guy or not trusting my backpacking capabilities, decided to come with me. So when we woke up in the morning we both silently packed our bags and started our drive to the trailhead. I’m not sure we said a single word until we were halfway in to our hike. This is where we realized our lack of communication while packing led us each to carrying our own multiple person tents. I was immediately frustrated that I was carrying extra weight, but at least I had my own tent for the night.
The trail consisted of rolling hills through the forest and pockets of meadow crossing until we reached the lake, our campsite wasn’t much further. We were perched right on the edge of the lake which was perfect so we could try to redeem ourselves from our last fishing experience. Some of the tension wore off and we set up the one larger tent and then grabbed our fishing poles and headed for the lake.
Fishing off the shore was not working out for us, the lake was too shallow right off the beach and there were no fish, seems to be a reoccurring theme for us. Although the water temperature had to be nearly freezing, we decided to take our pants off and wade out in to the water where it was deeper. We struck gold! Every time we tossed the line out we would get a bite! The tension between us was fading as we both reeled in fish and compared who caught the bigger fish. We stayed in the water playing catch and release until the sun started to fall behind the tall pines surrounding us, and our feet were pruned and turning blue. We kept one large fish and cooked it up for dinner as the sun started to set.
After we ate the fish we realized how close we cleaned the fish to camp and that grizzly bears were a real threat. It was starting to get dark, the mosquitos were swarming and we had to dispose of the fish carcass somehow and not attract a bear to our camp.
We walked down the beach as far as we could and disposed of the skeleton there, we would have gone further but the mosquitos were going crazy. There were clouds of them everywhere. I didn’t want to open my mouth for fear of inhaling. Were they always this bad? Were we just distracted by having fun fishing? With a constant buzzing in our ears we ran and hid in our tent for the night, even though it was hardly eight.
We broke out the cards and played Gin Rummy in our safe haven from the blood sucking clouds that infested our campsite. We both seemed overly aware of everything outside of the tent, perhaps it was from the carelessness of spilling the blood of a fish so close to our camp. It was then we noticed this cascading noise, and we didn’t know who or what was making it. Dun—dun—dun–dun-dundundundun. I had heard this noise once before in the RV, but never investigated because I was locked safely inside, literally, a tin can. The noise was shifting around us. We could hear it getting closer. It was on the left side of the tent, and then the right, and then it was far away again, and then close.
Just pressing my face up against the screen net of our tent was scary, I was sure I was going to get mauled, but I couldn’t see anything in the thick brush around us. We whispered, thinking the worst. Bear, moose, wandering buffalo? Whatever it was, I hoped we wouldn’t find out until we were safely using Google in the confides of a building. I undeniably went to bed with one eye open, waiting for the tent to collapse under the weight of whatever creature was lurking out there.
The next morning we packed up and hiked out; there was no trace of whatever was making the noise. As soon as we were driving back and had phone service we were madly searching the Internet for what could have been the culprit of the unknown noise – it’s hard to search for a noise on Google and we weren’t finding much. We stopped at the Ranger station and asked a Forest Service guy about the noise. He was older and had been working in the park for years, surely he would know. We both tried to imitate the noise and explain it to the guy. He chuckled and responded with something along the lines of – ‘I have never heard that noise before, someone must be following you around and pulling your chain.’
Not the answer we were looking for. Had we just nearly escaped death?
Another hour of searching the interweb and listening to different animal sounds on YouTube showed us no, we did not nearly escape death. There was never a threat of even being injured. There was no bear, or moose, or wolf, or anything with big teeth, or really any teeth around us. In fact, we were hiding in fear like children because of a bird. The drumming of a ruffed grouse is what had us cowering.
It was another successful trip; we caught and redeemed ourselves from our previous fishing experience, an animal didn’t maul us, and we didn’t kill one another. The only thing I walked away with was a butt covered in bug bites. Literally so many it looked like I had measles. Apparently the mosquitos were just as bad in the lake, and with only my butt uncovered it was their prime target. I itched for what felts like weeks. Brings a whole other meaning to the term ants in your pants.