“T is for Tetons!”

The team turned the vans southward today, headed for the Tetons. Early morning coffee at the Jackson Lodge invigorated the crew and everybody was ready to take in the beauty of these picturesque mountains. At the Willow Flats overlook, we took scenic photos and Greg and Melissa shared with us some of the human and geologic history of the greater Tetons region. Melissa also had her “Sound of Music” moment among the beautiful wildflowers of the Jackson Hole valley.

15 people in front of huge mountains

Group with the Grand Tetons

Next, we braved the crowds at Taggart Lake for a “perfect weather hike” – a 4-mile loop to the lake and back. Many pictures were taken lakeside as South, Middle and Grand Teton peaks provided the perfect backdrop. Those that bird (and they know who they are) enjoyed a plethora of birdcalls (Hello, Green-tailed Towhee!) and special sightings such as two darting MacGillivray’s warblers. The weather was almost warm, and we enjoyed shedding heavy coats and thermals. Swallowtail butterflies flitted and tent caterpillars wiggled in the midst of the vegetation. The aspen-lined trail followed the hillside down along babbling brooks, finally emerging into a sage-covered valley.

people hiking down a trail with mountains in the distance

Group hiking the trail to Taggert Lake

After a picnic lunch, our next stop was the Laurance S. Rockefeller preserve. The visitor center provided the group a moment of quiet reflection. Some chose to sit outside in nature reflecting and journaling. Others took a brisk 3-mile loop hike to Phelps Lake; another exquisitely mountain-framed loch. Laurance S. Rockefeller believed in the power of nature to restore and sustain the human spirit. He envisioned a place where visitors could experience a spiritual and emotional connection to the extraordinary natural beauty of Phelps Lake and the Teton range. This vision was enhanced by sensory rooms inside the center where we experienced the sounds and sights of the Grand Teton National Park. A quote from a poem by Terry Tempest Williams on the wall outside the soundscape room states, “Nature quiets the mind by engaging with an intelligence larger than our own.”

buildign in meadow

Visitor Center at the Laurance S. Rockefeller Preserve

On the way back north, we stopped for some excellent pizza at Leek’s Marina on Jackson Lake. As the sun was setting, we had our penultimate group meeting on the shore of Lewis Lake. Martha gave us the challenging task to describe our Yellowstone experience in three words. While no single word could do this journey justice, some of the words mentioned were reflective, grateful, invigorating, humbling, restorative, flora and fauna, and splendor. Another quote from Terry Tempest Williams’ poem in the Rockefeller preserve summarizes our experience well: “We see the Great Peaks, mirrored in water—stillness, wholeness, renewal. Reflection leads to us restoration.”


“Let the Sunshine In…”

We all emerged from our little yellow cabins to eat breakfast together and head out to hike Pelican Creek Nature Trail on Yellowstone Lake. Our daily physical/weather team today took a temperature reading of 38 degrees! We were bundled up and ready to keep exploring. Some of us journaled, some sketched the scene out in front of us, and others enjoyed the view while letting their minds wander.

Excerpt from Talicia’s Journal Entry:
“I’m losing track of the time. All the days are packed with new adventures, new discoveries, and new knowledge. I sit at the edge of Yellowstone Lake observing the view. The mountain caps are covered with snow. Pelicans perch on the island not far from view. Are they taking it all in too? I close my eyes and feel the breeze blowing gently across my face. I listen to the water swoosh, swoosh, swoosh- waves bouncing back and forth in a rhythmic dance. I’m without words to adequately describe its beauty, so I take it all in. The cool sand beneath me, sediments of earth’s history- shades of mocha, cocoa, and cream, a beautiful mix around me…”

Next, we headed to meet National Park Service fisheries biologist Pat Bigelow at the marina. She told us more about the NPS’s conservation efforts to reduce the Lake Trout population that unfortunately made its way to the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem after being introduced here by humans. These fish outcompete the native Yellowstone cutthroat trout and disrupt the delicate food web, causing a variety of negative effects to many other species. Forty-two species of Yellowstone predators (including grizzly bears and white pelicans) prey on cutthroat trout because of the shallower waters they inhabit. Lake trout, which typically stay in deeper waters, escape this predation thereby further exacerbating the pressures on cutthroat trout.

group on boat

Learning about the gill nets NPS uses to remove lake trout from Yellowstone Lake

A few more stops along the way to our next destination included lunch at Angler’s Bluff, the Continental Divide at Isa Lake, and Kepler Cascades.

After cold and wet conditions all morning, it was delightful to make our way through amazing geothermal features of the park in the Upper Geyser Basin. We stopped at Black Sand Pool, otherwise known as Thumper. The sun above us and the earth beneath us warmed both our bodies and spirits as we laid on the ground and felt the “thumps” or vibrations of the pressurized water and steam escaping from below.

people laying on the ground

The group laid down on the ground near Black Sand Pool to feel it thump.

We also saw a number of geyser eruptions including Daisy, Beehive, and OId Faithful. Did you know that Yellowstone National Park is home to more than half of all the world’s geysers? It is no wonder that people travel far and wide to see these unique and powerful displays of nature!

After a quick dinner, we headed to Grand Prismatic Overlook for an evening hike. The thermophiles (heat loving microorganisms) living in the pool give this water the beautiful rainbow-like colors for which is it famous.

people overlooking colorful hot spring

Sunset at Grand Prismatic Spring

It was the perfect place to have our end of day group meeting where we discussed highlights of the day and personal obstacles and triumphs we have experienced so far on this trip. We are heading to bed at the Old Faithful Inn, ready for another great day tomorrow.


“The Beauty of Yellowstone People & Places”

Good evening from Yellowstone! We are writing tonight from the magnificent Yellowstone Lake Hotel after spending five cozy nights at the Grizzly Lodge in Silver Gate. We started our migration south bright and early and headed into Lamar Valley one last time where we saw several mountain goats on the side of the road. After several stops along the way for wildlife viewing, we came upon a wolf jam — a traffic jam composed of people watching wolves. We set up our spotting scopes on a hill and quickly spotted a lone, collared wolf in the sage, who turned out to have quite a story. Also watching on the hill was Rick McIntyre, renowned wolf interpreter, author, and storyteller. We were super fortunate that he was willing to take a break in the wolf spotting to entertain us with the story of that wolf in the sage, named Wolf 907, and some of the Yellowstone wolfpacks. His passion and moving stories made the wolves so relatable to the human experience. We know these stories help us make connections to these beautiful animals as we see ourselves in them. This is another example of the beautiful generosity of all the people we have met here at the park, from experts to fellow visitors.

group in meadow

LIstening intently to Rick’s stories in Lamar Valley

The afternoon yielded a 4-mile loop hike along the south rim of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. We entered what could only be described as three different worlds. First, we saw the amazing Canyon with breathtaking views, and learned about the landscape that inspired painter Thomas Moran. As we turned the corner on the trail the landscape transformed completely. Steaming mud pots reeking of sulphur fumes could be seen around us, and we were fascinated at the changing landscape and high ground temperatures caused by these features. We descended a little further down the path to a serene lake, Clear Lake, where the lodgepole pines were mirrored in the turquoise blue water. The view captivated us, and we stopped for a moment to reflect and spend some time journaling. Our hike ended with a trek along a muddy path studded with wildflowers, and we loaded into the vans for our next adventure!

waterfall in canyon

Lower Falls of the Yellowstone

Talicia in front of a Carolina blue lake

Talicia in front of beautiful Clear Lake

The thermal features of the park are stunning to behold! We joined throngs of visitors walking boardwalks alongside bubbling, gurgling, steaming, stinking pits of water and mud. There were fanciful names for some of the features, including Dragon’s Mouth Spring, which looked like the entrance to the underworld. It is actually steam and other gases exploding through the surface water, causing it to crash against the walls of the cavern. One last stop before the hotel! We congregated at a peaceful spot near the Yellowstone River to hear about Yellowstone cutthroat trout from Sharon and to visit the gorgeous harlequin ducks in the rapids.

steaming hot spring

Dragon’s Mouth Spring

We were hungry and the good kind of tired after our hike and all the day’s adventures. Reflecting on the good will between the park visitors sharing information and spotting scopes, as well as their personal expertise and animal stories, we were reminded of the statement from the rangers at the Yellowstone Visitor Center that we humans are part of the Yellowstone migration story. We are so grateful to be a part of this magnificent place and its magnificent story.



A small, dedicated crew departed the lodge at 5:15 a.m. for wildlife viewing and a hike while the folks left behind took advantage of a rare opportunity to get some much-needed extra rest. On the crew’s outing, they hiked to Trout Lake and saw a bald eagle perched on a snag before it took off right over head, a bison carcass, fairy shrimp, and a muskrat. Our trip leaders enjoyed a face plunge into the frigid water before heading back to the lodge where the rain was pouring. With the town’s power out and no sign of the rain letting up, we did what all good teachers do, we pivoted. After all, one of our group goals for the trip is to “go with the flow”.

Heading to Roosevelt Lodge for brunch (that quickly evolved into lunch), we noticed a hoard of spotting scopes on a knob in the Lamar Valley, so we pulled over for a look. Wolves again. Five in total, three grays and two blacks. They were rambling through the valley before bedding down for a mid-morning nap, peacefully surrounded by bison. We resumed our journey toward lunch at Roosevelt Lodge. The lodge was constructed near the site of President Theodore Roosevelt’s camp when he visited the park in the 1800s. The log structure, with its open dining room is the ideal place for some roast beef by a hot fire in the commanding river rock fireplace surrounded by new friends and thoughtful conversation. Next stop: Canyon Village.

On the way over windy, snow-kissed Mount Washburn, we spotted seven bighorn sheep on a steep, rocky slope. Bouncing into the air, twisting and playing, the sheep put on a show for our chilly group. Bonus points for readers: what is a group of sheep called? Taking in the fire-scarred landscape on our way into the canyon, we reflected on how a destructive force like wildfire is a catalyst for new life. In 1988, the park experienced one of its largest recorded fires ever, burning 1.4 million acres in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. These wildfires are important for fire-dependent species, nutrient cycling and wildlife.

sheep in snow

As the rain tapered off, we enjoyed some retail therapy and flushing toilets in Canyon Village. Notice: If you have requests for souvenirs, please send them to your trip participant immediately. We enjoyed a hike “right off the road” (we are quickly learning that the participants have different meanings for this phrase than our brave trip leaders) descending into the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone to the top of Lower Falls. We all tested our nerves inching towards the edge for a picture in front of the raging Yellowstone River plunging 309 feet into the canyon below. For a different perspective, we hiked up and out to Lookout Point for a zoomed out view of the falls.

group at canyon

After dinner at the Canyon Village Eatery, we stopped near the rim of the Yellowstone Caldera for a quick lesson on the geology of the park. Yellowstone’s landscape has been shaped by volcanic activity, lake deposits, and glaciers for the past 570 million years and includes three major eruptions. Ash from one of eruption stretched all the way to the Midwest! These eruptions created calderas, or depressions in the Earth’s surface that result from the eruption being so violent that is blows apart the landscape. We had a team meeting at Slough Creek, passed through the Lamar Valley, navigated a bison jam, and returned to our lodge as the sun set on another day of wandering and wondering in Yellowstone.


“Magnificent Moms, Muggers, Marmots, Moose, and Many More!”

Another early morning start in the Lamar Valley. Wildlife sightings began with the identification of an elusive log bear. Which upon further inspection turned out to be an actual log…bummer. This was quickly followed by the spotting of a cinnamon-colored black bear on the hillside right next to the van. As the sun was rising over the valley, we stopped to take a few minutes to observe the bison herds. There were nursing calves who were butting the underside of their mothers causing her hind leg to kick out. We later learned this type of behavior induces lactation. We also saw a pronghorn mother nursing her baby while simultaneously eating his poop. They do this to prevent predators from picking up the scent of their young.

bison herd in front of mountains and sunrise

Bison herd at sunrise

Further down the valley, the crowds were coalescing, and we knew this meant one thing…wolves! Climbing the hill to get a better view, we soon spotted a pack of 7 wolves belonging to the Junction Butte Pack. The pack consisted of two black wolves and five wolves of various shades of gray. We tracked them as they meandered through a bison herd. Some bison were on high alert with raised tails, while others seemed not to be bothered by the wolves. Suddenly, two or three wolves in the front of the pack turned around and the ones in the back rapidly picked up speed- their focus was on one vulnerable baby bison who was walking in front of its mother. Mom and baby were quickly surrounded. Soon the melee caused the baby to tumble and roll. We thought we had witnessed a kill, but the mother bison was not going to give up without a fight. She maneuvered her body over her baby giving it time to get on its feet. Mom shoved the baby forward with her head through the chaos of scrambling wolves toward the safety of a larger group of bison. Did we just see that?? Yes, we did, and we have the video to prove it! We’ll try to share it when we have better internet access.

Could the day get any better?? It did! We met with wolf biologist, Kira Cassidy, in the Soda Butte Creek parking lot while eating breakfast sandwiches. She educated us about all aspects of wolf behavior and the lengths that she and her fellow researchers go to in order to collect data on the wolves, elk, and cougars inside the park boundaries. We learned the ins and outs of the tagging and collaring all three animals. Wolves are tranquilized via helicopter hot pursuit, then collared. Elk are “wrastled” to the ground by muggers (experienced rodeo cowboys) who first net them from helicopters. Cougars present the biggest challenge — they are treed by trained hound dogs, tranquilized with darts and woozily dragged out of the tree onto tarps below. (They also recover from sedation the fastest.)

people standing on a slope

Learning from Kira in front of an old wolf den that was used in 1996, just after wolves were reintroduced in Yellowstone.

Down the road, we ate lunch a little too close to some ground squirrel nests causing momma to relocate her babies by mouth to a safer location far away from those pesky, masticating bipeds.

We began a 3.5 mile hike with a little flower power. Melissa led us in a perilous field study of wildflower identification. Why perilous? Two words- DEATH CAMAS: a beautiful spike of tiny white flowers known to be deadly poisonous (other groups observed less deadly, but equally breathtaking wildflowers). The hike led us high above the Yellowstone River where we gazed upon columns of basalt and other igneous rock formations. We witnessed marmots getting their Beyonce on with the wind blowing through their silky fur while lounging upon rocks and branches. The rain tried to dampen our reflection time, but we persevered, finishing the hike beside a pond where Jessie presented on her expert topic: herps (reptiles and amphibians). After looking for salamanders from a boulder in the pond, Eryn gracefully jumped down to the water’s edge like a water nymph, while Melissa had a less graceful dismount resulting in wet boots.

Group hiking in o

Group hiking the Yellowstone River Picnic Area Trail

Yellow-bellied marmot showing off on a log

Eryn enjoying reflection time with a view of the Yellowstone River

After dinner, the road home did not disappoint. We saw two cinnamon-colored black bears and chanced upon Limpy, the coyote who didn’t let his injured hind leg stop him from thriving. Just before we rounded the final bend in the road to get home, we spotted a distressed moose calf in the river, a frantic mom on the road, and a mysterious third cow moose running who knows where!

A large cinnamon-colored black bear

In closing, we would like to give a shout out to all the mommas we saw today who took it to the next level to ensure their babies live to see another day.


“Sharing is Caring”

The past three days have been a whirlwind of movement. So far, it’s been purely the excitement to experience this new world (for many of us) that has pushed us past fatigue to keep our adventurous energy alive, but today was a reminder of the deeper “why” that moves us along.

It was another great viewing day in Yellowstone, it was a “three-dog day” for us prior to even lunchtime… We saw two coyotes running across a hillside from the van, three distant wolves while parked on the roadside, and later a family of red foxes who played around a log perhaps 20 yards from the road where a small crowd of cars (including ours) had stopped to watch. It was thanks to the eagle eyes of our leader Melissa and a few other group members (excitedly pointing these critters out to the rest of us upon discovery) making these sightings possible for everyone in our group… These days have only been so productive because of their desire to communicate these opportunities quickly before the moment is lost.

At the wolf viewing area this morning, perhaps 30 minutes after we had sighted the wolves into our scopes and binoculars, a family of four who had just parked their car walked up to Lindsey and asked what we were looking at. Andy and Melissa offered to show them, adjusting the eye piece as necessary so that the smaller children could get a better look. Everyone in the family took a turn. The joy each person felt upon first seeing a wolf was obvious from their excited exclamation, “I see it! There it is!” followed by quiet awe.

Although we had two scopes of our own, because ours is a larger group than average on the roadside, a man standing adjacent offered each of us the chance to look through his scope as well. There we all stood, a group of strangers braving the cold June morning, just talking about the animals we were seeing united by one common desire. The world felt a little smaller as encounters like these with other visitors remind us why we’re on this trek… because ultimately, we want this experience so that we can share it with others.

After the wolf encounter, we met renowned wildlife photographer Dan Hartman at his home near our own lodgings and were treated to a private viewing of curated clips from three of his nature films. Dan has worked with magazines and media outlets such as the BBC and PBS since 1983. Besides being treated to his behind-the-scenes commentary of how he acquired the different incredible shots of birds, a family of mountain goats and more, Dan talked to us about the environmental concerns driving his work, chiefly the destruction of “sickly” aspen trees which are so vital to the life cycles of local birds like sapsuckers and mountain bluebirds as nesting cavities. He believes that their habitat is quickly disappearing while many are unaware there’s even a problem.

After discussion and Q&A in his living room, we broke for lunch then went on a hike with Dan to a new location for us in the Beartooth mountains. None of us knew what to expect… Dan has spent a lot of time observing the natural areas of Yellowstone for his conservation work and it was immediately obvious that he had brought us to a beautiful place which likely few tourists had seen; we saw scat and tracks belonging to bear(s) and many more wildflowers tucked beneath the trees and sunny outcrops than we had seen from our stops along the roadside. We truly appreciated Dan’s kindness in showing us more of his world. We will never forget our time in the field with him.

This trek is (at least in part) about building community… Within our group we share rides to every destination, our photos, laughs with one another, turns at the spotting scope (or the pit toilet), and many different pieces of ourselves during this trip. The lack of drama and strife between this group (after so few hours of sleep and alone time in particular) was enough for one group member to note it as his “surprising observation about this trip” during our end-of-day discussion, but another noted surprise was the abundance of wildlife encounters crammed into just the past three days, which besides today’s three canine species includes sightings of bison (both herds and the few individuals who seem to enjoy blocking traffic), black bear, a grizzly mother nursing two cubs, a staghorn antelope nursing two fawns, plus marmot, pika, Black rosy-finch and mountain goat in Beartooth mountains this afternoon. It really is incredible how much we have witnessed in such a short amount of time.

We can’t wait to see what experiences Yellowstone will share with us next.

We’ll add a few pictures later, so check back!


“Photo Highlights”

We don’t have a blog from today quite ready for you yet. In the meantime, here are a few photo highlights from our day.

Fox kits played among some fallen logs on the roadside
Black rosy-finches exhibited territorial and mating behaviors in the Beartooth Mountains
The weather and high mountains offered beautiful, though chilly, views

We’ll post more about our day soon!


“Worth the Wait”

It was only 6:45am — already we’d been greeted by a moose along the river and a grizzly with her two cubs in the brush. Not much later, we stopped to view a herd of bison on our right and spotted a grizzly bear nursing her cubs on a distant ridge. The morning did not disappoint.

bear and cub

This grizzly bear sow and her two cubs were near the road on our way into the park. Because they were relatively close, we viewed them from inside of our vans.


This moose was feeding near Soda Butte Creek not far from our lodge in Silver Gate, MT.

The call of nature caused us to pause for a pit stop, which yielded the sound of coyotes yipping in the distance near Soda Butte. Then, we hiked up a mountainside with Ranger Michael in search of pika. We made observations and collected data for a citizen science project called Pikas in Peril.

group sitting on logs in front of mountain view

Learning from Ranger Michael.

We drove to Mammoth Hot Springs. Melissa led us on a two-mile hike up a scenic and steep trail that we had all to ourselves. At the top of the trail, overlooking Park Headquarters and the travertine terraces, we had storytime in the blustery wind with Greg. Ask us about thistle, please, and we’ll tell you more! Then, we joined the throngs of visitors for the more typical experience of the Mammoth Terraces from the boardwalk.

group next to hot spring

Kim measures the temperatures of a hot spring next to the Howard Eaton Trail near Mammoth.

group in front of hot spring

Here we are at Mammoth Hot Springs.

Our next stop —a highlight for many — was a Great Horned Owl nest for owlet viewing. The day was full of amazement and wonder and worth the wait. These words by John Muir sum up our experience:

Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves.”

Submitted with gratitude, today’s bloggers, Andrew, Rachel & Talicia


“We made it!”

It took 4 years, but, as they say, fourth time’s the charm. The 2020 Yellowstone Educators of Excellence trip has arrived on June 14, 2023. We met at RDU at 4 AM and had seamless travel to Bozeman, MT. We got lunch, grabbed supplies, and made our way to the Roosevelt Arch for our first team meeting, where we set goals for the trip and bonded over who we’d each choose as our celebrity best friend. Then we began the drive across Yellowstone from Gardiner to Silver Gate, rushing to make it through the “blast zone” for road reconstruction before an evening road closure, work that’s being done to repair damage from last year’s trip-cancelling flood. We enjoyed a burrito picnic in Lamar Valley and started looking for wildlife in earnest. Today alone we saw a pronghorn with twin babies, mule deer, bison, elk, a bald eagle, an osprey, a western tanager, a badger, a black bear with cub, and a grizzly with two cubs. We were pleasantly surprised by the flora, including cacti, sagebrush, lodgepole pine, aspen trees, and many wildflowers. It feels surreal to finally be here after so many obstacles along the way!

group standing under a stone arch with blue sky


“Yellowstone Ready”

By trip leader Melissa Dowland

Right now, twelve educators across North Carolina are wrapping up the school year, submitting grades, packing up their classrooms… and packing zip-off pants, puffy coats, hiking boots, and even hats and gloves for the adventure of a lifetime — the Educators of Excellence Institute to Yellowstone. We’ll meet at RDU at 4 am on Wednesday, June 14 for ten days exploring the ecology and geology of our first national park, learning from experts, and getting ideas and information to bring back to students in North Carolina.

12 head shots of adults in a grid

The Yellowstone Team: Andy, Becqui, Dana, Kimberly, Rachel, Talicia, Eryn, Darryl, Jessie, Scott, Lindsey, and Sharon. Find out more about them on the Meet the Team page!

This incredibly patient group has been waiting more than three years for this opportunity! When they applied to join the Museum’s Yellowstone Institute in winter of 2019–20, little did they know how long it would be before they had the chance to make the trip. As with so many things, our Yellowstone Institute was canceled in 2020 at the height of the pandemic. In 2021, we again put the trip off out of an abundance of caution. 2022 was going to be our year, or so we thought. But on June 13, 2022, just 24 hours before we were set to head to the airport, devastating floods hit the park, washing out roads and closing Yellowstone entirely. Needless to say, we didn’t head into the maelstrom of chaos that descended in the days following the flood. Thankfully, with a lot of hard work, roads have been repaired and Yellowstone is back to welcoming millions of visitors.

Our Yellowstone team is really hoping 2023 is our year! I say “hoping” because we’re not there quite yet, and you better believe I’m knocking on just about every wooden surface in my house as I write this!

Here are a few snippets of the ways folks have been preparing for the trip…


From Becqui Masters:

I’m lying wide awake in bed trying to think of what to write for this blog. The closer the calendar gets to our group of teachers meeting at RDU, the more nervouscited I become. I anticipate our journey to Yellowstone to be a successful 4th attempt. The three year delay has sometimes made me think that we weren’t meant to go. But patience, perseverance and planning by our leaders have hopefully paid off. I’m so elated to be done with school, and we now have 2 months to refresh, renew, and regenerate. What better way than to participate in an educational trek through our country’s first national park! I know that we each have our own reasons for wanting to go on this trip: fifteen different personalities, fifteen different stories to tell, fifteen individuals who will each bring something unique to the table. Friendships and bonds are certain to form. Memories are meant to be made. This morning I finished packing, something that took me weeks to finalize. I took over the empty bedroom belonging to my daughter, who’s away at college. Her bed and floor were covered with all the belongings I overpacked, plus one antsy border collie, who instinctively suspected someone was leaving. I haven’t picked my quote to share with the group yet (one of our homework assignments). I still have the items I prepared for my expert topic last year, but I have to refresh my memory on the actual lesson (our other homework assignment). I’m super excited to see wild bison and elk. But what I’m most looking forward to are the hot springs and geysers. So many mixed feelings about this trip, but I know the rewards will be worth it.

A bed covered with clothes, bags, a backpack, and other gear.

The scene from Becqui’s guest room before fitting everything in a suitcase.


From Sharon Harbaugh:

Just over a year ago, I heard that I was called up from the waiting list for a trip to YELLOWSTONE. Lots of rushing, packing, rescheduling, and figuring out what to do with my classes ensued. And then, the drive to Raleigh. But on the way, BAD NEWS from Melissa — flooding in Yellowstone might affect our trip. And then REALLY BAD NEWS — catastrophic flooding and park closure and the trip was postponed… until the next year. But I continued on my way to Chapel Hill where I was planning on spending the night with my mom before the trip. In typical mom fashion she said, “ That’s such a disappointment. But now you get to look forward to the trip for a whole year.” And so I did …. look forward to the trip for a whole year. And now it’s almost here. I think that I’m ready, despite having spent only two weekends at home in the last three months. I have been getting ready for Yellowstone — reading about wolves, reviewing information on my expert topic: the Yellowstone cutthroat trout, looking at the map, taking each of my five classes to Singletary Lake for 3–4 days apiece, hiking in Massachusetts with a former roommate, enjoying trails in NC and backpacking on the Appalachian Trail with my daughter. My bag is packed. I’m pretty sure that I have forgotten something important even though I have gone over and over the packing list because this year it all fit in a smaller bag than last year. I did not forget my underwear even though it wasn’t on the packing list (thank you, Becqui), but something must be missing. It’s not the excitement or enthusiasm that’s missing. Hopefully, the only thing missing is the new teacher friends and amazing Museum staff — and hopefully they are all packing themselves.

Two women in packs standing in front of a barn with the letters AT on it.

Sharon and her daughter, Katy, have been section hiking the Appalachian Trail since she was 16. This trip was from Tennessee into Damascus, VA, one of the sections they hadn’t yet hiked.


From Talicia Smith:

The view of mountains, bison and bears became a fixed image as I climbed stair after stair on the gym’s stair climber in preparation for my upcoming Yellowstone trip. At work my coworkers were a little concerned as I was all too eager to climb the stairs carrying armfuls of Chromebook computers to our media center after the elevator broke. Anticipation built as I completed each end-of-the-year task. What presented itself as an ending — this school year — also gave birth to a new adventure: Yellowstone. I chuckled to myself as my trainer at the gym asked me to do “bear holds.” Although cute in name, the all-fours position, which is held for what seems like eternity, was not cute, but required strength and endurance, much like the school year that just ended. Nevertheless, the strain of the hold was worth the adventure I would begin. Yellowstone, here I come.

A collage of images of Talicia working out at the gym.

Now we know who’s going to be the fastest hiker on the trip!

Cross your fingers for us that everything goes smoothly in these last couple days leading up to the trip. Then, when we (hopefully!) make it to Yellowstone, follow our adventure and send us questions and comments through this blog!