A magical trip to Yellowstone, perfectly preserved in the writer’s memory
Sunlight pierced the split in the canvas tent, awakening the rustic room. The pellet stove glowed lightly and sounded like afternoon rain on a tin roof. Warmth filled the room. I rolled over lazily and looked at the crowded tent. My brother and I were scared of bears, so we all had to share a single tent. We were scared of a lot of things back then, like the monsters that lived under our beds and in the dark. Everyone was still asleep. I turned to Keane, my little brother, who was peacefully sleeping in my parents’ bed.
“Hey, Keane,” I whispered as I shook his arm. “Wake up.” Keane woke up and turned to face me.
“What time is it?” he asked groggily. He rubbed his eyes and waited for them to adjust to the sunlit room.
“I don’t know,” I said and looked in the mess of covers on the bed for my phone. I then noticed that we had woken my parents up. My dad was checking his cell phone.
“It’s 7:15,” he said. “We should start getting ready.” My dad took Keane out of the tent into the cold morning air. The bathroom cabin was a short walk away. My mom picked an outfit for me and put my hair in a braid. We were getting ready to leave our campsite to head again into Yellowstone National Park, where the Grand Prismatic, with its awe-inspiring colors, was waiting for us.
* * *
We followed a trail to the middle of nowhere. Tall grass brushed against my knees and mud stained my boots. Poppies bloomed from the gravel. A river rushed alongside the trails. The sun glowed like dying embers and painted the sapphire sky. I stared out into the mountains that reached for the heavens. The top of the mountains hid in the clouds and made friends with the birds. It seemed like a whole new world up there. The terrain was rocky. I listened to the sound of gravel cracking below my feet. Birds circled overhead and sang their eerie lullaby while the bison grazed the fields that seemed to go on for miles. Dragonflies hovered around my head and crickets hummed from the trees. The world was buzzing with life. We followed the rocky trail to a narrower one that led through the forest. We pushed onward into the woods.
There was something almost magical about the woods. Cold air ran through my hair and danced through the trees. It whispered to me and called me deeper into the forest. Sunlight danced on the forest floor, which was littered with fallen leaves. It smelled like moss and morning dew. A soft fog hovered around the edge of a clearing.
I ran my hand over the rough bark of a nearby tree. I breathed in deeply. The tree smelled like fresh rain and pine. A small cloud formed around my mouth. It was so cold I could see my breath. I closed my eyes and heard the sounds of the flowing river and birds flying overhead. The beauty of the forest filled my head with daydreams—daydreams of fairies that rode the frozen breeze and unicorns that hid among the pine trees. I wandered aimlessly around the clearing. Small yellow daisies and dandelions covered the forest floor. I picked up a dandelion and blew on it softly. Then I closed my eyes and made a wish. I wished to stay in that clearing forever.
* * *
We pushed onward for what felt like an eternity. We climbed deeper into the mountains until we reached a small ledge overlooking the Grand Prismatic. It looked like some kind of jewel. It poured over the barren, burnt terrain like liquid gold. The ground was cracked and burnt. It was strange to see the barren ground after emerging from the blooming forests. Sunlight sparkled on the spring’s colorful surface. It looked so shallow even though it was hundreds of feet deep. It was a deep blue in the center, but it turned into an emerald green around the edges. Silver steam hung above the spring. Even with the vibrant colors, the water was crystal clear.
“Wow,” I breathed.
* * *
We drove back to the campsite in a dark-grey Jeep. The window was freezing cold, but my brother and I had turned on the seat heaters and were blasting the hot air. We slowly pulled into the campsite parking lot. I hopped out and ran to the tent. “I bet you can’t catch me!” I called to my brother as I ran to the tent as fast as I could. He ran behind me but never caught up because I was older. I slammed my hand on the sign that read “TENT 13.”
“No fair! You cheated! You had a head start!” he complained.
“Did not.” I laughed. Then I noticed a grass path near our tent. “Let’s go exploring.” I walked to the path and began to follow the winding trail.
“Wait up!” he called and ran up next to me. We went down the muddy path and hopped over a muddy ditch. My boots were stained and Keane’s pants were covered in streaks of mud. There was a sense of adventure in the air. We followed the grassy path until we could barely see the campsite.
At that moment, we were in our own world. We let our imaginations run wild. It’s strange—when you’re little, the world around you can be anything you want it to be. We were pirates and mermaids, explorers of strange lands; we would fly to the moon and back, or save the world.
We came upon a sparkling river. Tiny islands sat in the center, and flowers scattered the muddy islands. Green grass lay across these magical islands and stared at the sky. Sparkling silver stones sat at the bottom of the river. The water was clear as glass. My bare feet sank into the mud by the riverbank. I rolled my jeans up to my knees and jumped into the water.
“Come on!” I called my brother.
The river was freezing cold. My brother ran in after me. We splashed around wildly. At that moment, we were in our own world. We let our imaginations run wild. It’s strange— when you’re little, the world around you can be anything you want it to be. We were pirates and mermaids, explorers of strange lands; we would fly to the moon and back, or save the world.
We were the rulers of our own little kingdom in that river by the mountains. We pretended and played for hours and simply let the time pass by. The sun began to sink behind the mountains, and the sky grew gold.
“It’s time to come inside, kids!” yelled my mom from the river’s edge.
“Come on! Just five more minutes?” Keane whined as he hopped from one island to another.
“Yeah! Please?” I called and chased after Keane.
“It’s almost sunset. You don’t want the bears to get you!” She laughed. We both laughed and ran through the river, through the daydreams that floated in the air and the imaginary world we’d made in our minds. I clutched the riverbank and lifted myself out of our riverside kingdom.