The theory of relativity applies no where more than on vacation. Go back through and look at the “national parks trip” tag on my blog, and this is already my 17th post on the trip. In a way, our night in Laramie felt like it was weeks ago, and yet hadn’t we just gotten to Grand Teton? I can’t fully explain the paradox, but anyone who has been on a long-awaited, fun-filled vacation knows exactly what I am talking about. Fortunately for myself and Elizabeth, we would be heading to Yellowstone the next day, so our trip was still far from over. But for my family, this was the final night of their trip out west. We still had a chance to make a few more memories by the campfire before it all ended though. To start, we’d need to find sustenance at the Colter Bay General Store, a rustic general store located in the upper quadrant of the t-intersection at Colter Bay. This general store honestly was almost a grocery store in and of itself – there were aisles of food options, giving you everything from dried meals to Hunts ketchup. There was a whole meat section, and even a produce section in the back. It was enough to overwhelm a Nolan or an Elizabeth, much less a Pam. To start, I wanted to find a good hearty meat to cook over the grill or the fire. I wasn’t super picky about which one. Elizabeth found the perfect match – bison burgers right here in the home of North American bison. In the interest of inclusiveness for others, we also got some hot dogs for the picnic, but mostly I just wanted to grill up some hot, juicy bison patties.
Except… on the way out, Elizabeth convinced me to get one of the “just add water” meals. I mean, I had to try it for the culture, right? In a misguided effort to get something Elizabeth and I could share, I think I passed up on the Sante Fe rice and beans in favor of the vegetable lasagna. I should have known that there would be zero chance of Elizabeth eating it regardless and just bought what I wanted.
I did choose to buy what I wanted at the gift shop located on the other side of the general store. That, of course, was my Grand Teton National Park pin to commemorate the experience. My debit card actually got a crack in it right by the chip as I was paying, which meant that I spent the rest of the trip worrying that I was about to have no way to access my money. In reality, that card is still going strong now 5 months later, with the rip in it and everything.
Of course, the general store also had one more thing I was interested in – ice cream. A lot of my Grand Teton plans were grandiose and involved hiking to glacial lakes, or being the first people in the morning to the kayak rental station. This one was simple. A lot of what I had seen suggested that the Tetons and Yellowstone area were well-known for their huckleberries, and in particular that huckleberry ice cream was a delicacy of the area. We’d already had huckleberry-flavored coffee that morning from the general store (yeah, I missed some stuff that occurred before kayaking. For one, we got showers at the exceedingly nice Colter Bay shower facility, and for another we got real Starbucks coffee from the general store because that’s apparently a thing you can do), but the ice cream was even more exciting. And it was also *delicious*.
Once the shopping trip had ended, we made our way back to the campsite to set up a fire and prep for our final evening. Thank goodness for Garrett getting firewood from somewhere, because I legitimately don’t think I got any wood the entire trip. And, in actuality, although we didn’t know it, this was our last campfire of the trip. Our first couple of days in Yellowstone were quite busy, and the latter half of our time there would be a cold and rainy mess. But that was in the future, and for all we knew there would still be more time to burn the pile of wood that the Colemans had bought.
In the meantime, I got my gas stove fired up to cook bison burgers. Meanwhile, Elizabeth measured out the water to cook our “just add water” meal. Everyone else, as far as I was concerned, was on their own, and to their credit, no one complained too much. Alex did have to go to bed early, but that is understandable. My bison burger hit the spot of a hungry hiker/kayaker that had only had pizza for lunch. The veggie lasagna? Genuinely not bad, although it was a bit chewy and people took my delayed reaction to it as a sign that it wasn’t very good. I would be able to eat that in the midst of a backpacking trip and enjoy myself. Not so sure Elizabeth could, but that is neither here nor there.
The most exciting part of the meal occurred when I was seated on a rock near the campfire, happily gossiping. All of a sudden, someone yelled, “Look!” Not 50 yards away, staring right back at us was a red coyote (or a fox? I am pretty sure it’s a coyote, but I have heard someone say it was a fox. Don’t think they’re right but I’m not an expert). I instantly sprung to action, pulling the camera bag out from where I had conveniently left it near me and hastily flipping out the standard lens for a zoom lens. Everyone else sat frozen around the campfire until the coyote turned around and began to walk further down the loop, towards the bathroom and away from us. As soon as it started walking away, I stalked it, taking care not to disturb it by following too closely or too directly.
It continued trotting until a couple of campsites later, when it came upon a site where the occupants weren’t present and stopped next to a child’s bike. I wasn’t entirely sure why it had stopped there until it jumped up on the campfire grate.
I continued to close with the coyote, circling around until I was in front. He pulled something out of the fire pit… a sandwich? Bread? Toast? I’m not entirely sure.
And then he feasted on the incompetence of the idiot humans.
And then he was gone, receding into the vast woods of lodgepoles that surrounded Colter Bay’s network of campsites.
I returned triumphantly to the campsite with the story of a coyote that I’d walked to within 20 yards of (wait, was this not smart?). It was one more insane story to cap off an insane weekend. We had one more insanely hazy sunset to go:
It was also another great night for my family to get to bond with elements of Elizabeth’s family. Despite how long we’ve been together, our families haven’t spent much time together, so I really cherished the time as an opportunity for both of them to come together in the bonds of fellowship. Garrett’s attempt to turn the flames in the fire pit green didn’t really work, but it’s okay. We judge the effort, not the results.
Shortly after sunset, my family members drove back to their cabin with a plan to meet up for the final time in the morning at the general store for coffee. Terri and Garrett wandered back over to their tent one site over, while I tried to clean up slightly so it wouldn’t take as long in the morning. After the random nocturnal rain shower had briefly soaked us a few nights prior, we had put the tent’s rain flap on, which meant I couldn’t see the stars tonight. As it was, I still wanted to see the Perseid meteor shower, and took my chance to do so around 2:30 that night. I had bought a camera trigger specifically for this purpose and had learned the proper meteor-shooting settings. I got the settings all good to go, sat down in my lawn chair, and turned the camera. With anticipation, I pressed the button… and nothing happened. Somehow, the trigger or the camera didn’t want to shoot in the manual settings I had lined up. Fail!
I caught a few meteors and took a lame regular iPhone star picture before heading back into the tent dejectedly. All I’d really managed to do was spook Pam.
When I awoke, it was August 16, the day I would be seeing Yellowstone for the first time.