Saturday, May 28, 2011

Wilderness Therapy

Dark clouds loomed over head on Saturday morning as I reached the trailhead of Blacktail Creek, located in the northern part of the Park. With the daunting clouds and reports of isolated thunderstorms I was beginning to regret my decision to lead an optional backcountry trip for the seasonal naturalist staff. I had just finished working 11.5 straight days in a row and quite honestly I was exhausted. However I knew I couldn't let my team down, and when I reached the parking lot of the trailhead  and was greeted by the happy and eager faces of my naturalist ranger team, I was instantly excited about the trip! We quickly suited up with our rain gear, gathered around for a safety talk, and soon we are on the trail heading towards the Yellowstone River.

Our destination for the weekend was the Blacktail Creek Patrol Cabin- a short 4 miles from the road system but just far enough to enter the wild lands of Yellowstone National Park. It was my first time since October that I had been able to slip my feet back into my trusted hiking boots. I looked down at my sad boots: Dirty, tattered and worn out. They should have been replaced over a year but emotionally I am just not ready to give them up. These boots have hiked all over the country from California and Alaska to Hawaii and Montana. How can I toss them aside when they've helped me see things I never thought I could? Ignoring the unraveled stitching, I trotted down the trail without a care in the world.

Despite the clouds our team of nine was in no rush and we stopped often to explore the birds, flowers, scat and bones!  Shooting Stars, Pasque Flower and Balsam Root covered the hill slopes while Bald Eagles and Red Tailed Hawks graced us overhead. We stopped to watch a herd of Bison, at least 100 strong, cross over the hillside, making their way toward the Lamar Valley with little orange calves in tow.  With a wide variety of expertise and experience we all taught each other little facts and told each other stories. Nina spoke of geology, Tim identified birds, and Sacha pointed out flowers. Little did we know when we started that this was not only the trail to the cabin, but also the trail to becoming better naturalists.  And those daunting clouds, well, they never did open up and rain on us!

Several hours later we found ourselves down where the Blacktail Creek drains into the Yellowstone River . The waters the both the stream and river were dark brown in color from the sediment which was being churned from the raging waters. With record high snowfalls it is to no surprise that the river was enormous, grand and furious. We dropped off our packs at the cabin and continued to explore the area.

Crossing over the Yellowstone River Suspension Bridge we magically crossed over into a different world. The sun forced it's way through the thick fog, and the clouds began to disperse. The trail meandered along and soon brought us to a open plateau where giant Douglas Fir trees dominated the landscape. We couldn't help but be drawn to the open plateau, away from the trail. Naturally, we seemed to spread out, each person setting out to discover their own piece of wilderness. But soon we were all drawn back together as we looked over the horizon and found a beautiful alpine Lake. The  turquoise colored lake, which was about 200 feet below us, was silently still and seemingly pristine. The hillside which sloped down towards the lake was covered in green grass and speckled with bursts of colorful flowers. It was perfect- plain and simple. Finding our own little spot we each sat down in peace to admire the beauty which lay before us. After taking my moment to admire the scene, I glanced around inquisitively to see the expressions of my newly hired seasonal staff, and it was just as I expected. In a perfect blend of serenity and silence they were immersed in the resource. They looked engaged, content and at ease. But best of all they looked inspired. With a glimmer in each of their eyes I knew in an instant that they had fallen in love with Yellowstone. I knew that this was officially the start of an amazing summer in the Nation's first National Park. 

Before we knew it dusk was upon us. The evening brought forth a perfect sunset and the song of the river sang us all to sleep. Tucked away in a little cabin somewhere in the Northern Rockies nine Park Rangers were sound asleep while the smoke of the woodstove steadily rose from the chimney. 


  1. Bri,
    Now thats Therapy! Beautiful scenery, great company,no pressure to be somewhere at an exact time, and final destination the cosy cabin that I'm sure Thomas Kincaid would paint. I totally get your favorite hiking boots as I now have my favorite hiking sneakers you got me with hints of red soil from our amazing Utah/Colorado trip just waiting to be worn again! Love Mom

  2. I love reading these. Makes me want to be a Yellowstone Ranger.

  3. Interesting to see if the rest of your weekend was so serene, peaceful and DRY. Saw where Yellowstone received 10 inches of snow. Glad you were able to find a bit of Spring!

  4. Oh my gosh so unbelievably great. The landscape is just amazing. How can it not change you! This is interesting to me. I went to a wilderness therapy program,, and I can whole-heartedly tell you it changed me for the better. The responsibility and nature really helped and healed me. Lovely to see this!

  5. Aww. You and your team of nine had a very productive day. Exhausting, yes, but I’m sure your exhaustion quickly went away once you caught a glimpse of the beautiful panorama and were able to open up. This experience, I think is perfect as you were able to loosen up and let go of the things that were stressing you out. Nice!

    Georgine Roe