One Time at Yellowstone

April 9, 2002


I had wanted to take my brother and his girlfriend Carrie to my favorite campsite which was almost always void of other campers. Indeed, we were lucky to have found it a second time. It was off this little dirt road that stretched for like thirty miles until, out in the middle of nowhere, appears the Half Moon campground which is like a fairytale come true. Set deep in the Crazy Mountains of Montana, Half Moon is surrounded by lush green forests all the way up to the tree line of the mountains, a healthy river which winds its way for miles depositing beds of well-sculpted volcanic rocks that are perfect for just “hanging out”, and roaring waterfalls created by glaciers who fall victim to the summer sun every year for billions of years. It is enough to inspire the deadest of us all. Best campsite I’ve ever been to and the secret was passed on to me from my boss’s husband – the Cherokee Indian who, when shopping for clothes with his wife, asks her if what he’s tried on makes him look too white. He wears a red bandana around his forehead all the time and his vanity plates read “CHEROKEE ONE”, but somehow he managed to stumble upon this really cool campsite. The first time I went with my boss Mia and her husband Irvin, I really did have a most wonderful time, but how could you not in such a setting? So, when Kirk and Carrie came to visit, I just had to take them there, and that is when I learned one of the most important lessons in life – never try to recreate the moment. We went in the middle of summer when the fire danger is “very high” and building fires while camping is temporarily prohibited. Well, not taking this into account, we packed all kinds of foods to cook over an open fire for dinner, breakfast, and lunch, and the trail mix was devoured in the car before we ever found the campground, of course, we did get lost. Our fire lasted for no longer than an hour before the forest ranger showed up out of nowhere and made us put it out. I’m all for fire safety, but it had been drizzling all day where we were, and all around us in the mountains, heavy rains fell and every once in a while I could feel small pieces of ice hit my bare arms. We argued this point with the ranger but it was useless. He told us that if he saw we started the fire back up, he would have to fine us. The lights of his truck disappeared into the darkness of the wooded mountains and we were left in complete darkness. One flashlight did exist between the four of us, however, it failed to keep us warm. Still, the night was not lost to a dead fire. When the inevitable fear of a bear attack set upon us, we were forced to liven up the party, and so the beer kept us warm and the joint we passed around managed to spark up conversation. Towards the end of the night, after we had run out of material, we resorted to bellowing made-up animal sounds like “Twee-eeeee” (our favorite) and other unrecognizable nonsense as loud as the night would allow. Sleep came soon after. At the time I considered the camping trip officially ruined, but now I just want to be back in the Crazy Mountains with my loved ones. Kirk and Carrie will be working at Yellowstone this summer in Gardiner laundry, living at the Bunk House, and hanging out with almost all the friends I made last summer. I could have put my application in but at the time I didn’t feel like it, and now that it’s too late, I’m starting to regret it. I guess what I miss more than anything is driving out to Livingston or Bozeman to go shopping, or driving to the Beartooth Mountains, or the Tetons, or the lake. Picnicking with newly made friends by a waterfall. Staying up late in a crowded room drinking beer and watching movies at the Bunk House. Hanging out at Gardiner’s local bars recognizing almost everyone who walked in. Hearing the laughter of coyotes through my open window – always open. Double rainbows. Day hikes. Wind storms. The continuous roaring of the nearby river. Watching the sky for bald eagles. Late night Scrabble games. Letters from home. Postcard hunting. The Town Café…Tonight in the Bayou City it is in the 80’s with high humidity as always. It is only April. I miss waking up on the morning of my birthday, June 13, and seeing snow.

Author: Lindsay Niemann

Writer | Graphic Artist