A guest blog post by Tracy
My boyfriend, Steve, and I finally made a visit to Yellowstone National Park a reality this past June. It was our first hiking trip of any kind…ever. (Cue suspenseful music.)
It should be noted that I’m a city girl who generally likes to remain dry and free from unnecessary dirt and grime whenever possible. I deem a weekend spent on the couch, binge-watching Netflix series after Netflix series with a bottle of wine (or 5) a stunning success.
As you might imagine, five days of hiking in a national park would be a slight deviation from my usual sloth-like existence. I work a desk job in a city where walking to and from most destinations is downright impractical. If my pedometer reaches 5,000 steps in a day, I consider that a major accomplishment. Steve leads a similarly sedentary lifestyle, so when he suggested we’d likely be hiking 10-15 miles per day, I was more than slightly apprehensive. He assured me, however, that this was absolutely feasible.
So, with guide books and maps covering every available surface of our home, we painstakingly planned out each day’s hikes. 2 miles to this geyser. 3 miles to that waterfall. Numerous miles spent exploring various animal viewing areas. Uphill two miles to a spectacular vista? YES! Absolutely!!!
So, on our first morning, bright and early, we strapped on our brand new hiking shoes and ventured out for what would undoubtedly be the first of many delightful hikes. This particular hike would lead us to LeHardy Rapids, and we had a very picturesque image in our minds of our arrival: the beautiful running water, our picnic lunch by said water, and, best of all, drinking the bottle of chardonnay we’d packed to commemorate our first glorious hike.
Upon locating the trailhead (which, on its own, took more time than I’m willing to admit), we came upon a sign that warned of bears “frequenting the area” and which advised us to make noise so as to prevent encounters. Then, just a few minutes into the hike (without the highly recommended bear spray), we discovered a bear track.
I could tell immediately that Steve was just as nervous as I was, and that the lack of bear spray was going to make for a very long and anxiety-ridden 6-mile roundtrip hike.
For the next few hours, I clapped…and clapped…and yelled…and clapped a little more…until my hands literally ached. Fortunately, there were no bear sightings.
Unfortunately, due to our lack of experience navigating hiking trails, we never located LeHardy Rapids (not that this prevented us from drinking that Chardonnay). Hike #1 – FAIL.
After waking from a two-hour, fatigue-induced coma back at the hotel (damn straight, we napped), we stopped at the local General Store for bear spray (better late than never!), then made the 20-minute drive to Avalanche Peak. The name alone should have hinted at the difficulty ahead, but we pressed forward like the adventure seekers that we…oh, let’s not kid ourselves. Within just a few short minutes of continuous incline, it was clear this was going to be one of the most challenging physical activities we’d ever undertaken.
We kept at it a bit longer, but after what seemed like an eternity of uphill hiking (but in reality was about 25 minutes), we waved the white flag and headed back down. Hike #2 – FAIL. This did not bode well for the remainder of the week.
It was now about 4:30 in the afternoon and Steve, not one to accept defeat, was sure we had time for one last hike. Just a short one. Shouldn’t take too long. An easy one, he assured me. Despite my exhaustion from a day of physical activity for which I’m completely unaccustomed (and unprepared), not to mention the constant fear of being eaten alive by a pack of ravenous grizzlies, I reluctantly agreed.
We headed over to Elephant Back which, according to the guidebook, is about 2 miles roundtrip with “gentle” inclines. Be forewarned that “gentle” means something very different in Wyoming. In all fairness, I’ve read a few reviews of this particular hike since we returned, and most people agreed with the guidebooks that it’s a relatively easy hike, but apparently not so much for couch-sitting-binge-watching-wine-drinking Houstonians. Despite the rain (yes, rain!) and frequent stops for water and a feeble attempt to resume regular breathing, we finally made it!!!! Hallelujah! We’re not (complete) failures after all! We enjoyed the view for a bit (and more celebratory wine) and headed back to our hotel, feeling exceptionally accomplished.
As we were preparing to head to dinner, Steve commented that the bottom of his feet hurt pretty badly and asked that I take a look. OH…MY…GOD. I’ve never in my life seen blisters like the ones I saw that day. They were about the size of quarters, nearly black, and smack dab in the center of each of his heels.
It was abundantly clear at that moment, despite Steve’s best efforts (and handfuls of pain medication), that we were not going to be able to keep up the pace he’d so meticulously planned for us.
And here’s the important part: While I’d like to tell you that I’m the type of person who maintains a cheerful disposition despite the conditions, that throughout that first day, with each and every incredibly exhaustive step, a constant fear of becoming bear food, taking several wrong turns, the aching feet and cold, wet clothes, that I maintained a sweet, cheerful, and positive attitude – never letting my smile falter for a moment – the sad truth is that those blisters very likely saved our relationship.
Tracy, Guest Blogger
Read a short bio on Tracy in Red Shoes. Red Wine.‘s Guest Contributor section here. Follow Tracy’s adventures in Travel, Wine, and Photography on Instagram: @texanstracy