Wander here a whole summer, if you can. Thousands of God’s wild blessings will search you and soak you as if you were a sponge, and the big days will go by uncounted. If you are business-tangled, and so burdened by duty that only weeks can be got out of the heavy-laden year…give a month at least to this precious reserve. The time will not be taken from the sum of your life. Instead of shortening, it will indefinitely lengthen it and make you truly immortal. – John Muir, Our National Parks (italics mine)
Ahhh…what a great quote by John Muir. And I’m pretty sure that the artist in the above picture is living the quote – trying to capture the abundant beauty on his easel. He knows exactly what John Muir is talking about when he says ‘the big days will go uncounted’.
What does a ‘big day’ mean to you? I picture a day that involves wandering through nature – admiring everything as you go, untethered from email, unconcerned about being derailed by the next scenic spot or animal that lies around the corner. It may even be these two 2,000 pound beasts in the picture below…yikes!
I can tell you what a ‘big day’ is not. It’s not waking up day after day, doing the same routine, living a ‘business-tangled’ existence as Muir so aptly put it (apparently this has been a problem long before our time…).
Earlier this summer, we were so fortunate to spend 10 such ‘big days’ with some of our best friends, exploring some national treasures along the way. This is the story of our adventure. And since I’ve been so delinquent with posting in 2018 so far, I’m offering up the first ever Joy Adventuring prize! But you have to read to the end to find out how to qualify…and no skipping ahead!
The Cast of Characters
You may recall Martin and Sue from a previous guest post. I could go on and on about their collective impact in our lives, but let’s just say this: without Martin and Sue there would be no Joy Adventuring! And that’s no joke. So without further ado, let’s dive into the cast of characters for this trip.
Special Skill: Loving life
Description/Fun Story: Sue is literally high on life. She is deep, intelligent, fun-loving, spiritual, intuitive, and caring. Her advice is saturated with wisdom. I could go on and on…but really, if you don’t know Sue then you need to get to know her!
She also is constantly searching out new and amazing experiences. So when she suggested that we sit around the campsite and read all day, I have to admit that we weren’t certain that she could sit still. For about 90 minutes, everything seemed good. But then, to no one’s surprise, Sue wanted to walk to the river and see what wildlife she would find. Needless to say, none of us were surprised, and the phrase ‘Walking the Sue’ was born as we all took turns walking her around the area and making sure she didn’t get gored by a buffalo.
Special Skill: Grilling anything and everything to perfection
Description/Fun Story: Martin drips with life experience and wisdom. He is a citizen of the world; born in Argentina to a French mother and Argentinian father, married to an amazing wife from New Zealand (the aforementioned Sue) – he, along with Sue, has lived in Switzerland, France, England, New Zealand, traveled through Africa and South America, and (and this is probably the scariest part of his journey) lived in the US for 6+ years. Martin is the rugged (but still highly intelligent) gaucho to Sue’s spiritual zen life-loving persona.
Martin’s ‘gaucho-ness’ was tested a bit when we got to our campsite in Glacier. In Yellowstone, each of the campsites had grills on top of the fire pit. However, once we got to Glacier it become clear that there was no such grill. After inquiring further, we discovered that they had removed the grill because previous campers couldn’t be trusted to clean it.
So we were left with a problem. We had four amazing, delicious steaks to eat, and we were ravenously hungry after a long journey – but we had no easy way to eat them. Martin went to work immediately, finding and whittling the perfect sticks, and (as you can see in the photo) cooking out steaks on the sticks. The steaks turned out perfect, and it was a memorable experience. The challenge truly brought his inner gaucho out.
Special Skill: Spotting Wildlife
Description/Fun Story: Terra is the love of my life and the most amazing woman on the planet; we’ll leave it at that.
Terra spotted wildlife on a daily basis. It was amazing. She would be half asleep and spot an elk from 600 yards away. I’m not joking. We’re not even sure if she actually saw everything she said she did, but I implicitly trust her as she had an entire lifetime of practice spotting wildlife with her parents growing up.
Special Skill: Staying alive
Or that time when I ‘owned the forehead’…
I won’t say too much else about my own foibles since I’m writing the blog, but if you talk to the other characters I’m sure they will have much to share. I think we will all agree, however, that simply staying alive for 10 days in the wilderness was a real win for me!
Special Skill: Accommodating all of our crap, and dealing with hail storms and other flying projectiles
Description/Fun Story: He’s just a truck – but he’s so much more than that. We did not pack light, yet somehow Justin was able to hold everything and give us all plenty of leg room. And he protected us from all the elements for 2,000 miles…see the video below for our welcome to Montana!
On the 10th night of Camping…
…my true love said to me – “Let’s get out of the wilderness!”
As you may know, Terra and I are not really campers. For those of you who know me, you are aware that I have had a mixed bag of success in the wilderness. I may need to write some blogs to pay homage to the old time Nate-stories – we’re talking PT (pre-Terra) time frame. It’s kind of amazing that I ever emerged from that phase, honestly. One would rightly wonder how I managed to get her to spend 10 days in the wilderness with me…
As you’ll see from this list, our trip contained some impressive elements, including:
- 2,000 miles traveled in the most amazing vehicle of all time, the aforementioned JUSTIN
- 22 degrees on the first night of camping
- 10 nights of adventure (6 of which were camping under the stars)
- 5 hail storms in a 24 hours period (with a bonus feature at the end of this video)
- 4 states traveled through (Washington, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming)
- 3 up-close-and-personal bison encounters (at least)
- 2 national parks (Yellowstone and Glacier)
- 1 amazing lunch at the most out-of-the-way restaurant I’ve even eaten at, the Home Bottoms Ranch
And as a bonus, our travels took us right past the place I ask Terra to marry me 15 years ago! As you can imagine, this was a very special moment.
Experiencing the Magic
As I mentioned, Martin and Sue have spent around 6 or 7 years in the States. One of their goals from the get-go was to see as many states and sites as possible. Yellowstone and Glacier were absolute musts on their list, and after this trip they’ve now been to 47 states, only lacking the Dakotas and Nebraska. And (sorry if I have any fans who hail from these plots of land) who wants to go to those states anyways!?!
When they invited us, we were excited to come along and spend so much quality time with some of our best friends. But, if we’re honest, as the date of departure approached we were filled with equal parts intrigue and apprehension. I’m a notoriously finicky sleeper – would we actually sleep on the ground, in the cold? I read that early June is the most active time of the year for wildlife – would we be scared with bison, bears and elk all around us? It sounds wimpy, sure, but our lives are pretty far removed from true wilderness these days.
Truth be told, we only spent 6 out of those 10 nights in the wilderness. The overnight non-wilderness stays were strategically placed within the 10 days so that we never went more than a few days without some serious comfort. On our last night, we stayed in a Cliff House at the Cave B Resort, which was everything we expected it to be and more!
Now I could tell you that we went here, and then we went there, and then we did that….but instead, I’ll leave you with our top takeaways from our time:
- Nothing solidifies friendship like shared experience – I probably don’t need to belabor this one given how much I’ve gushed about our friendship with Martin and Sue. The fact that we lived together for 10 days and we are still amazing friends says a lot about the health of the friendship! This also holds true in my relationship with Terra – our shared experiences such as this one strengthen our bond, and give us so many amazing memories to look back on.
- Yellowstone, I underestimated you – I’ve been to Yellowstone a few times before this, but I’ve never experienced the park in this way. Maybe it was the perfect time of year, or the perfect weather, or the up-close-but-not-too-close bison encounters, or the friends…or, I’m not sure what. But Yellowstone absolutely took our breath away every day. It was enchanting.
- Intentionally setting ‘yes’ as the default answer is equal parts scary and exhilarating – At various points both Terra and I wanted to say ‘no’ to this trip for a number of reasons, ranging from being away from Wi-Fi for so long to the previously mentioned cold and wildlife factors. But we held firm in saying ‘yes’ – and we are so glad we did! The truth is, there are only so many times in life when you have opportunities to say ‘yes’ to. We want to make sure that our default setting is ‘yes’, because -as we all know – there are so many reasons to say ‘no’ in this frenetic, over-stressed world.
You made it this far – congratulations! Now comes the fun part – recall I indicated a prize was in cards? The first person who can tell me what the below sign is wins a year-long America the Beautiful Pass…well, technically because it took me so long to write this blog it will be closer to 9-10 months. Simply indicate your guess in the comments (or on the Facebook post) and I’ll coordinate with you to send the card to you. (Note: There is an entire Nate-story around how I acquired an extra card in the first place, but I digress…)
I had a very unsophisticated first guess which I hesitate to write here…
As many of you know, Terra and I just returned from another trip to France – so look for more international posts in the near future!