I woke bright and early one Saturday morning, happy to have my last paper out of the way and to be headed into Fall Break. Dragging a bag of warm clothes, I met my fellow OP Explorers to pack the vans. Some strategic organizing was involved, but eventually we shoved everything in, and we were off to Yellowstone for the week!
The OP took 19 students to Yellowstone this Fall Break – 9 to car camp and 10 to backpack. I was thrilled to be helping out with the backpacking group in my position with the OP as an Assistant Leader. I was involved in the slight terror of realizing there are almost no campgrounds open in West Yellowstone the Tuesday before we left. I participated in the most insane shopping trip I have ever been on as we tried to find food (we didn’t get everything on our list, and had to go back again).
Our backpacking plans had a wrench thrown in them our first day in the park when we got to the Ranger station and they told us the area we had planned to backpack in was closed because there was a carcass (bear danger!). So we had to change our entire trip plan on the spot. It was exciting.
We ended up setting off from the Hellroaring Trailhead on a drizzly Tuesday morning. We were excited though, and the rain didn’t bother us too much. We were bothered when, as we stopped for a rest, a buffalo that had previously been on a faraway hilltop decided that it wanted a closer look at us. That was probably the fastest we hiked on the entire trip.
Backpacking is cool because the whole four days we were hiking, we barely saw any other people. It was so cool to get to experience a national park that way, with true isolation. Our isolation didn’t stop us from having fun. We always laughed and joked with each other, did yoga on tops of rocks, did each other’s hair, collected water from the streams in groups, and hauled our food up into trees.
When we finished our trail, we were all exhausted, sore, filthy, and dying to eat real food again. But it was a wonderful experience, that I wouldn’t have traded for the world.
Caitiln Fellows is a senior International Political Economy major from Salt Lake City, Utah