Yellowstone National Park: where I got to stay with a park ranger in his cabin for a while. No, really.
I was initially a bit cool to Yellowstone. The crowds were annoying and a string of small misadventures plagued me from the get go. After a few days, however, I really warmed to the place and it’s scenery remains some of my fondest trip memories. The turning point was when I accidentally dumped a large water container onto my bedding and suddenly had nowhere to sleep. I’d resigned myself to leaving the park and finding a motel outside when I mentioned my misfortune to a man I was chatting with online. His response was, well, surprising: “I’m a park ranger. You’re free to go sleep in my cabin.”
I was mighty wary of this offer. I imagined he either just wanted to bed me or was pulling a prank on a coworker by sending me into their cabin. But after chatting with him for a while I became convinced it was worth exploring. He claimed wasn’t even going to be in the cabin for a day or so and I’d have it to myself. I decided to take the chance.
The cabin was a gorgeous 40s design with elk-horn door handles and giant beams in the celling. I cautiously entered while calling out to see if anyone was home. My mind raced thru explanations and excuses I could offer to shotgun-wielding occupants or the police: “But this guy online said I could sleep here!”. All was quiet. No one was around. I found the guest bedroom he’d mentioned and settled in for a very comfortable night.
The next day the ranger showed up with steaks. He turned out to be a great guy and a lot of fun to hang out with. Having a fully appointed central base and a knowledgeable guide made a immense difference in seeing the park. I knew where to go and how to avoid the crowds. I had a buddy to hang out with at nights and a very comfortable spot to unwind. It was a gem of an experience.
Yellowstone is an amazing park and truly a great American treasure. I’ll be posting a lot more about it soon.