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Wide-eyed in Yellowstone

Dear Syd,

I’m so glad to hear you like your job a Grant Village. Yellowstone, you know, is an entrance to the center of the earth. The caldera is huge, giant. The forces that make the world go around are close to the surface. Enjoy it. Not everyone gets to go there, and even fewer get to spend so much time where such energy emanates.

About getting out and around Yellowstone: Be sure to check around to see if there are any organized tours or trips for employees. Sometimes, these kinds of operations have employee entertainment things. But be thorough. Check the bulletin boards, ask you dorm manager, etc. There should also be an employee newsletter or something.

You can use these resources to get yourself out of Grant and into the park some. If you’re shy about this, it’s all right. A little at a time. Little things. Try a couple of things on your own like a trip to Old Faithful, just to take a look around.

Remember that you can do whatever you want, whenever you don’t have to work. Give yourself a day to think about it. “Tomorrow, on my day off, I go to Old Faithful and back.” No big deal. Be sure to start at a decent hour–don’t sleep until 11 a.m., fumble around until after lunch, the take off at 3 p.m. You can get there and back in an late afternoon, but you will feel nervous and anxious about getting there, running around to see something, and then getting back. Instead, get up at 8 a.m., have a breakfast, and take off for the day at 10 a.m. or before. That way, you can take your time getting there–it may take some time to get a ride (there may even be a bus!), have a good time seeing some things at your leisure, then heading back to Grant by, say, 3 or 4 p.m.

Then go farther to Norris Geyser Basin or Canyon, where you can access the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. You can make the public walks through the Norris Basin and to the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. We went both these places when you were a kid on our first trip to Yellowstone. I would say that these are important for you to see as an adult. The beauty and uniqueness are stunning and you will not be disappointed. Both have really accessible walking paths–boardwalks across a geyser/mud pot field at Norris. You can do them and not worry about wearing out.

Then, when you have confidence, you can go even father, to Mammoth Hot Springs, which has a number of easy walks. One amazing walk will take you up a hill through a number of small geysers and hot springs. Tiny bacteria give the cones that build up from the minerals in the water vibrant colors. Water running steadily and evenly over the cones and structures, along with the colors, make the cones seem to have living, throbbing skins. You will be able to build your lungs and legs and soon be able to keep up with your companions when you go for a longer hike in the woods.

At least once, you should take the trail to Lone Star Geyser. It’s a longer walk, two or four miles, I think. The trailhead is just across the road from Old Faithful. It’s a beautiful place, and the geyser erupts for something like 20 minutes, with another half hour of steam and rumbling. Very showy! Maybe you will even have the confidence to make the hike by yourself. Don’t be afraid. The solitude will do you good, allow you to think about things, listen to the sound of your own heartbeat.

Of course, you will find getting around easier as you get to know people. They will be planning to go here or there. Don’t worry about getting behind and alienating the people with you. Let them figure that out. That’s their business. You just need to try to keep up, and if you can’t, then tell them. Ask to stop and take a break. If people get impatient with you, Do the best you can and try again another day with other people.

If you decide to do something on your own, just make sure to plan a day for any one trip. Don’t take on too much. Just one step, and then another. If you read my book, you will find that I was scared shitless all the time. But just one thing, one step, one small trip.

You will be frightened. That’s all right. Just when you decide to go and the day comes, just get your shoes on. Go to your scheduled breakfast. Walk out of there and try to get a ride. You will be self-conscious. You will begin making excuses for not going. But once you get a ride, it’s all downhill after that.

You will also be nervous when you get to where you’re going. You’ll find your head in things like: “Will I get back in time?” “Will I get a ride?” “I’m going to get lost. Or stolen. Or robbed.”

All that’s normal. You just have to get used to moving forward despite the fear. The fear is just your head trying to keep you in your comfort zone. The way I kept myself going, and often times still do, is by thinking, “This is it. My chance. If I don’t do it now, I may never be able to do it.” But, Sugar, you have already done a great deal by getting there. The big trip is behind you. Now let your curiosity, your own drive take you. Realize that fear is your companion. But allow the fear of not doing great things while you are there outweigh the fear of staying safe in your comfort zone.

Don’t regret anything you do, even if you never make it out of Grant.

Take your moment. Don’t let anything, especially you, hold yourself back. If you never get around the park, it’s all right with me. I will never think less of you for it.

I love you, babe. You are the greatest and I’m proud of you like crazy.

All my love,

P.S. Take a look at this site.

On the left is a link the drops down to a number of hiking opportunities. Many of these are short trails you can take yourself. For instance, the hiking trails from Old Faithful range from just a couple of tenths of a mile to several miles. For instance, the hike to Lone Star Geyser is 2.2 miles, easily there and back in just a couple of hours.

Plus, one thing I didn’t tell you in the other note was how you will feel once you make your first adventure. You will get done and ask yourself, as I do many times, “What the hell was I scared of?” You’ll be frightened for the first few trips, regardless. But once you get out you’ll feel like a million bucks.

Of all nature writers, John Muir inspires me most. Please read this chapter out of a larger book he wrote about the national parks in the West. It’s short, well written, and, if nothing else, will help you see the beauty of where you are in Grant.


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