A woman in the locker room at my gym, hearing the endless complaints about the cold weather here in New Mexico (actually it’s been a mild, dry winter), commented, “We’re all wimps”—which struck me to the heart since I’ve never imagined myself as wimpish!
So a part of my delight in my recent trip to Yellowstone National Park in northwestern Montana, a National Geographic—Off The Beaten Path tour, was to experience real cold—somewhere between 4 degrees and 20—and find that it mattered not at all (with the right clothes, of course).
In fact not one of our twenty-five member band complained, even when we hiked through snow and a stiff wind to see the Dragon’s Mouth, a cone-shaped funnel emitting gasps of hot steam—more stunning, I found, than the more photographed, more dependable Old Faithful, which goes off about every forty-five minutes. Dragon’s Mouth goes off all the time, once with such force it blew off half its stone cone…
Then there were the strange blue mineral ponds in the back country, attainable only by the giant “bombadiers” we rode in—or by a phalanx of black snowmobiles which the Park requires to have four cylinder rather than two cylinder engines, rented there, in order to preserve at least some of the quiet—a decision that devastated the economy of little West Yellowstone, now seeking to re-create itself as The Cross-Country Ski Capitol of the World rather than the Snowmobile Capitol of the World, sure to be less enticing to those black-suited warriors who now have to follow a guide into the Park.
But back to wimpishness: several of our group have already proved their mettle with trips to Mongolia, Patagonia, and other far-off corners of the world I have yet to explore, a different level of mettle than is required of us here in Santa Fe when we hike in thin snow and slow winds.
I came home with renewed enthusiasm for exploring, especially with the extraordinary wisdom of our guides, Jeremy and Nathanial, to lead us through the intricacies of Park life: bison, wolves (who have turned to the bison for food after decimating the elk population), Bald-Headed Eagles, coyotes, red foxes—all those inhabitants of the wild world I have long pictured in my imagination.