After inhaling the steamy depths of the earth’s core, blinded by the colourful microorganisms living on top of the Grand Prismatic Hot Spring, it was time to go to bed. Bed tonight was smack bang in the middle of the most violent and dangerous volcano on earth. And it was also in the wilderness.
Turning up to the more conventional camping sites of Yellowstone National Park in the late afternoon wasn’t the brightest idea in the height of summer, camp sites throughout the park fill up before 10 am or even months in advance at this time of year. We were faced with the option of leaving the park and finding a camp spot in the outside world or camp in the wilderness above a super volcano. We had two hours until the sun set and, of course, we opted for adventure.
The Old Faithful Ranger Station was our final stop of our first day in the park where we had to acquire our wilderness permits. The Ranger in the station decides on whether you are fit enough to camp in the wilderness or not. They also show you a video of the dangers you may encounter being completely alone in the wild.
Once you are deemed fit to camp and have been further educated on dangers you didn’t realise existed, you are good to go with your $6 permit.
We bypassed the opportunity to hire the park’s ‘Bear Spray’ which acts as a ‘pepper spray’ should a bear or other big scary animal approach you.
Parking up the car at a dead-end as near to the wilderness as you could be, we folded out our creased up map of our home for the night, modestly named ‘OG1’. We had a mile and a half to walk and the sun would set in a couple of hours.
During a month long national park hop, our airbed pump failed us and after one night on the rocky floors of the western US, we vowed to never sleep without the bed again. We kept the bed partially inflated to minimise reflating efforts from the lungs in the harsh heat of the West.
So there we were, packed up with essential items heading into the wilderness of Yellowstone carrying a half blown up air bed. We headed onto the trail banging pots and pans together as well as blowing a safety whistle so the bears would know the humans had arrived and that we meant business.
It soon became evident that it wasn’t just the wildlife we had to be cautious of out here in the unique Wyoming wilderness, we passed a number of hot steam vents and bubbling waters reminding us of the angry earth that sits just a few miles beneath.
With numb arms from beating pans and carrying our inflated rubber bed for the night, we finally saw the signpost for our night’s accommodation, a perfect spot by the river with an incredible view of steaming geyser fields in the background.
We decided to barricade the tent with volcanic boulders and large logs whilst donating blood to the number of mosquitoes that suddenly decided to join us for supper.
We had a fire pit, an unlimited supply of deadwood and our prepacked supper, a high calorie 4 bean chilli with rice and a Satna Fe Black beans and rice.
Of course we didn’t miss out on desert, marshmallows, graham crackers and chocolate, overall probably the smelliest bear-magnet food we could have purchased!
After washing our dishes, we had the challenge of making ourselves as less smelly as possible. The video briefing we watched earlier at the Ranger Station advised us to hang anything we wouldn’t need in the tent high above ground. Yellowstone provided 10 foot poles by each wilderness camping spot allowing adventurers to hang up their belonging beyond the reach of wildlife. We brought our own rope and managed to successfully throw it over the hanging spot.
The smelly clothes we worn cooking would also need to be left away from the tent, as far and as high as possible away from the tent. We used all of our rope on the bag that contained the likes of the really smelly stuff such as toothpaste and marshmallows so we had to climb a tree and hide the remainder of our stuff.
As the sun starting to set, the creatures of the night appeared by magic. Then there it was. A brown figure moving in the trees. Do I tell Nicola who has her back to it? Do we run? Do we make noise? Do we climb a tree. Everything from the video disappeared from my mind.
Then it showed it’s big scary wild face, squaring up to us probably looking for a bite of marshmallow.
It’s ok, it’s just a dear. Nicola sang and it ran away.
As the sky turned a beautiful dark blue, we retreated to the tent. Then it hit us. What were we doing in the middle of the wild in Yellowstone National Park? We have never even done this at home in the UK.Nobody knew where we were, but I bet the bears and bison did. Bison had already gored 10 people that year and it was only July. And what about the wolves and lions? Or eerie alien mammals who thrive on the angry earth and volcanic microorganisms which give them super human tracking powers? If animals don’t find us, what happens if the ground starts to shake? We’re not going to lie, we were petrified! Our only defense mechanism from any form of living attack was a 3 inch flip knife and a heavy duty flashlight.
We decided to watch a movie on the loudest possible setting on our phone. Because that would really scare everything. Sleeping with earplugs made us believe nothing was happening and they would surely help morning arrive quicker, if we made it through the night.
The temperature dropped during the night, we idn’t anticipate how cold it would be out in the Wyoming wild. The only warmth came to us at 5am where the tent lit up with a glorious pink glow.
We peeked through the small tent to make sure there were no living surprises waiting for us.
This was one of the most beautiful moments of our round the world trip. Emerging from our tent at 5am into a completely still Yellowstone National Park, the largest super volcano on earth.