Last year I posted on YouTube a video of some Yellowstone wolves crossing the road in front of me. One of the first comments was just one line: “U R brave.” I didn’t think it was brave, but it looked that way to someone out there.
Of course, courage is subjective. If you’re not afraid to do something, it doesn’t take courage to do it.
This week I did something that took a bit of courage for me. I camped in a tent, all by myself, in Mammoth campground in Yellowstone National Park. (Actually, it’s taking some courage to even write that: in my head I’m hearing people laughing at me and saying, “Really? That took courage??”) But here’s the thing: I’m 58 years old, and in the 29 years I’ve been married I’ve done plenty of solo hiking, biking, and travelling, but I’ve never actually spent a night by myself in a tent – and certainly not in grizzly country. I know how to change a flat tire, but have never had to do it, and I’d never even been solely responsible for putting up the tent or making the campfire. And, of course, there’s my fear of grizzly bears.
But, I really do mean that this took a “bit” of courage. It’s not like I suddenly overcame a fear of heights and walked across an abyss. Nonetheless, it feels good. And I had a marvelous couple of days. The gods even rewarded me with the chance to watch wolves and bears and bighorn sheep without the crowds of people who are usually present. And I managed to get the tent up, and make a campfire without a single mistake. I mean, really, just check out this great fire:
And sleeping alone in the tent felt perfectly comfortable. Something did wake me up around 4 in the morning, and I lay awake for a while wondering if the end was in sight. But I eventually fell back asleep. Once it got light, I could see what the noise was:
And since I was up so nice and early, I headed out toward the Lamar Valley to see what animals I could spot. And was I ever rewarded! I first saw a stunning group of big horn sheep:
And a fat and healthy looking black bear along the side of the road:
Then I found the wolves.
That can be entertaining in itself, but it’s much more fun to make your own discovery. And to then have the viewing all to yourself…well, that’s just unheard of.
But that’s just what happened this week. I pulled off the road, and after just a few minutes I saw two wolves running down a slope, straight at me. They spooked a big horn sheep, who ran up the slope. They came within a couple of hundred feet of me, and were joined by another wolf. The three of them tussled around, and I got to watch them, by myself, for about 15 minutes before other people came. Cars did drive by, but I think because I don’t have one of those big scopes, no one thought I was seeing anything. Fine with me!
Perfect. Here they are: