After finishing college, my friend Nate, his friend Tomac, and I drove for 18 non-stop hours from Los Angeles to Yellowstone, a place that we had hoped to visit for years. As advertised, the park was gorgeous, with its serene lake taking center stage.
We came in pretty late, so we didn’t do much the first day except pitch our tent, make our fire, cook some dinner, and go to sleep. I did manage to overhear someone at the office talk about the sunrise over Yellowstone. “It’s amazing! Too bad it is so early.” Early? I could do that, considering how early we were sleeping. I grabbed a map of the campground and took it to our tent.
I woke up early in the morning determined to see this sunrise, but my friends didn’t share my 5:00 am enthusiasm. As the sunrise was at 5:30, I had awoken a bit late and it was decision time. I had no time to go around the entire camp as I would miss it for sure. Looking at the map though, I thought I could devise a short-cut. If I cut through the dense forest that surrounded the campground, I would make it. Besides, it looked like just a couple of trees, no more than 50 feet from the campground edge to the lake, how hard could it be?
I grabbed a flashlight in pitch black darkness and took it to the entrance of the tree-line. It was far more dense than I realized, as had to squeeze between trees just to get through. The tree-line was a lot longer than it seemed on the map, too. No one bothered to tell me that the map was not to scale! After 100 or so feet though, the worst thing possible happened, my flashlight died.
Now I had an even more pressing choice. Should I go back through the path I knew was safe and give up on this en devour, or press on for a chance at what now seemed like a legendary sunrise? I hate living with regrets, so I pushed forward. After a few minutes I exited the forest, and now, it seemed like the lake was no more than 100 more feet away with nothing but friendly looking grass in-between us. I was wrong!
My first step into this grass, I realized it was a wetland, or a swamp with water about a foot deep. What could be living in here? Snakes? Crocs? Something worse? I tried not to think about it as my feet moved faster than my sense of reasoning. Without thinking, I just made a run for it! I made it to a tree (pictured) that extended itself into the lake and got on it before anything else happened – the perfect stump to rest on and wait for the sunrise.
Of course, as luck would have it, sunrise was actually much later than 5:30, and I sat there waiting for over an hour. After hearing creepy noises and feeling like the end was near (maybe a bit melodramatic on my part), I made a bunch of sound recordings explaining how I was about to be eaten by wolves. Needless to say, I survived and this is the sunrise that was as beautiful as advertised.
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