National Park Experiences: A Different Perspective
We'd like to give another warm Hashtag 59 welcome to our latest new contributor, Jill G!
Jill G is also wifey to Hashtag 59 Creator Mike R...so today she is sharing her side of the story when traveling to National Parks!
This won't be quite the same story as Mike R's...but at Hashtag 59 we believe you should be smart and safe while pushing your limits on adventure travel.
Jill G can be found raising money as Walk Director for the Central Ohio Alzheimer's Association, volunteering across the country during her 50 Charity Challenge, and of course...getting scared in the National Parks.
Enter Jill G:
I married a wanderlust…….I guess I’m proof that opposites attract as I would never be described as adventurous or a risk taker. Yet I seem to get myself in some precarious situations when we travel together, specifically to National Parks.
My husband Mike, chases waterfalls around the globe with three of his “besties” and they don’t seem to have any trouble, but if you add me to the mix, nerve racking situations ensue.
I’ll never be able to accurately describe these crazy encounters in a few short paragraphs but I believe at least I’ll illustrate some difference in perspective.
Experience #1: Joshua Tree National Park…..Lost on the Trail
Mike describes Joshua Tree as an “epic desert wonderland.”
I would tell you, among those crazy trees everything looks the same. I’ve done most of my hiking in Rocky Mountain….you go up into the trees, reach the summit and come back down. The hike we went on in Joshua tree was flat….. which posed some different challenges. We arrived late in the day and of course Mike wanted to do one quick hike since we’d never been, so we set out on a quick walk to an abandoned mill. The mill was amazing, I took 200 pictures of the old cars, tools and equipment that was left there so many years ago….kinda erie.
As we started to head back the sun was setting and out of no where the trail ended….however we weren’t back to the parking lot yet. We looked each way and everything looked the same. Somehow while chatting we got off the path. My chest got tight as I was starting to feel lost….in a park….as the sun was setting (it may not have been this dramatic but it’s how I felt). We traced our steps back to the mill and tried to head back again, paying close attention and again, the trail ended. What I learned later at a survival class at REI (yep, I made us take a class once we got home) is step one…do not panic….too late!
Mike wanted to trust his internal compass and wander through the desert to find our car….I wasn’t as confident in his abilities. We did continue in the direction of our car (at least the direct we thought is was) and somehow arrived, only about 20 feet parallel to the actual path. So to date, I haven’t had to stay overnight in a park….on a trail, but who knows with my track record.
Experience #2: Estes Park….Elk Attack
Mike would tell you our trip to Estes Park was filled with great hiking and fun with family. If you would ask him specifically about the elk, he would describe them as “big deer that you shouldn’t try to ride, but if you get too close they’re pretty docile”.
I would tell you we were attacked by an elk (we were) and that we experienced one of the most terrifying moments to date. As Mike, his cousin Chris and I went for a walk in the neighborhood we came upon a grazing cow elk. (She is pictured above prior to attacking us!)
I was instantly nervous (animals aren’t really my thing). I told the guys we should turn around and go back, but they wanted to head down to the lake, crossing the path of the elk. As we walked parallel to the elk on the other side of the street (which isn’t far enough away after doing some research) she charged us. I threw my hands in the air and started yelling… “no, no, no….” and she stopped right in front of me. We tried to move out of her way and each time she charged us….we were pinned. In the end Mike called his Dad who with his car wedged himself between us and the elk driving us to safety. Needless to say, I didn’t take anymore walks on that trip.
Obvious reminder, animals are wild… give them space.
Experience #3: Yosemite National Park…. Lights Out
Mike would tell you our trip to Yosemite was “amazing.” We couldn’t get enough of the “jaw dropping valleys.” It was exciting to see some of the “best rock climbing in the country.”
I would tell you that on our last night the power went out, the moon fell behind the mountains and the valley where we were staying became pitch black. We could smell the smoke from a forest fire miles away and my mind starting racing….there was only one road that runs through this valley. As Mike inquired about evacuation plans at the front desk (per my request) he was given flashlights to navigate the property. Mike’s plan….have a few drinks at the lodge and go to bed, not much else to do without power. My plan….stay awake, alert, in case we had to evacuate. Of course, I accidentally fell asleep and was then panicked that I’d missed something.
The next morning we drove out of the valley safe and sound. There was a terrible fire, miles away. We learned they had cut the power for the safety of the firefighters, not because it was about to wipe out the valley. In retrospect, having a few drinks may have done me some good.
In short, perspective is good…..we should always be aware of it.
We consistently look at these (and many other experiences) and laugh. Somehow these opposites did attract and even with our difference of perspective we continue to go on these adventures; one of us is a bit more reluctant than the other.
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Because Adventure Travel Feeds the Soul,
Jill G and The Hashtag 59 Team