Campfire Nostalgia: Hayden Valley Hymn

Campfire Nostalgia.
A collection of stories, written by our favorite outdoor enthusiasts, 
curated by AC and fostered by a shared passion for camping adventures. 
Everyone has a story. A moment on a strenuous hike, laughter around the campfire, 
silence under the stars. We want to hear these stories. And this is where they will be told.

Story No. 1 is by AC, a brief moment during our first trip to Yellowstone National Park. 

The cool morning air, lingering from nightfall at high elevation, mingled with the warmth blasting from the heater. The windows were always down, beckoning the crisp mountain breeze and the fresh vanilla scent of ponderosa pines. We savored the temperature dichotomy during summer’s peak. The valley was dimly lit, as first light began to peak over the horizon.

“What do you think we will see today?” he playfully probed as he guided the FJ Cruiser around the bend. We were nearing the valley’s lush meadows.

“We haven’t seen a grizzly yet,” I sighed. “I’ve never seen a grizzly before. Have you?”

“Not that I can remember. No. No grizzlies. Lots and lots of black bear growing up though.”

“They kind of scare me. But at the same time, the thought of them enlivens me,” I tried to describe.

“Well, who wouldn’t be intimidated by a grizzly? They can nearly split you in half with one wave of the paw. But yes, they are brilliant animals – strong and beautiful. Don’t worry. I’m sure we’ll see some on this trip. Just keep looking!”

“As long as we see them from a good distance away, I cannot wait,” I exclaimed.

As he guided the FJ around the bend, I kept my focus on the yellow fields of balsamroot, looking for the slightest movements. Sunrise was the best time to spot wildlife and I was feeling lucky.

Continuing down the winding road, we spotted lights and movement in the distance. Two cars were parked near a shallow ridge and a family of four stood gazing west. We parked. The mother was pointing and whispering to her son, my eyes followed the path her outstretched arm framed.

“Do you see them?” he said softly.

“Three of them! A momma and two babies.”

Quickly and quietly we hurried outside, grabbing the binoculars and a camera. We walked a few steps toward the young family. Another couple was watching intently from the safety of their car.

“Are you sure we’re far enough away to be outside?” I said gingerly.

“The mother doesn’t seem to be alarmed. See, they’re walking in the other direction.”

We stood in silence. Sharing wide-eyed grins and the binoculars. Snapping a photo here and there, but concentrating on the view from our eyes rather than through the lens.

We watched their cinnamon coats ripple like ocean waves, with every step the three bears took through the tall grass. There was a rhythm to the mother’s lead. A cadence. Graceful and brute. The little bears strolled behind their mother, curiously, rebelliously straying off a bit, but not too far. Their traipse was melodic. A tender wind rustled the tall green grass, harmonizing their anthem.

Listening, fearlessly, I remarked, “This is going to be an incredible day.”

I turned to him, attentively. Smiling, the spark in his eyes said it all.

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Campfire Nostalgia