Wednesday, September 20, 2017

A Night on Observation Peak

I spent the night in the backcountry patrol cabin on Observation Peak in Yellowstone National Park, with friends visiting from the eastern U.S. I’ll share my entry in the logbook, transcribed below.

“9/13/17  We had a glorious overnight trip to the cabin, departing this morning. Crew consisted of my friend Emily, her daughter Calia (age 10), and myself. We trekked up from Cascade Creek Trailhead. Two-thirds of the way up, Calia became fed up with hiking and threw a fit (as children are wont to do.) The rest of the trip was challenging, despite the perfect weather (sunny with a cool breeze) and the vistas of increasing grandeur as we ascended. We finally reached the cabin, and I was relieved to find that my 79 key really does work on the door—open sesame! Calia’s mood turned 180, from misery to elation, with the opportunity to stay the night in the ULTIMATE tree house. My friends are from North Carolina and have not previously sojourned west of Chattanooga, Tennessee. Therefore, the elevation here of 9,396 feet is by far the highest they have yet experienced! The challenge of removing the shutters was rewarded by the world’s best view of sunrise and sunset. I read Shoshone and Nez Pierce stories about the origins of the land below aloud to my friends in the night and the early morning. It was warm inside under the blankets at night, as the wind buffeted and rattled our little sanctuary. In the morning, the piercing bugles of elk rose from somewhere in the forest below. Emily is awed by the place and grateful for the opportunity to have stayed in the backcountry. Calia declares, “I want to live here!” Other wildlife observed include northern harrier and grouse, and two bald eagles, a mated pair. Emily is concerned that nearly all forbs were crispy and desiccated between Cascade Lake and here—punishing effects of an unusually hot, dry summer, due to global climate change?

We are all boundlessly appreciative at having gotten to stay in this marvelous shelter in a sacred land.

—Ross Wood Studlar, Interpretive Ranger, Norris

SKREEYAOOW! [sound effect for bugling elk]”

Bottom photo by Calia Sampson at Fairy Falls. All others by yours truly at Observation Peak.