The thing about Yellowstone is that it's about 40 miles between every major intersection - lots of really cool sights along the road on both sides, mind you - and the speed limit is understandably fairly mild (in comparison to the highways in the surrounding states!) - so it took awhile to get where I was going... When I first looked at the map, and prayed, asking God where I should stay, I felt a pull toward Lewis Lake... so I headed there.
It was worth the drive. Isn't this beautiful?! I could've stayed here for hours, and I would have given a lot to sit on this shore and watch the sun go down - or come up. :) There was just one small problem with my grand plan to camp by this lake...
Several feet of snow.
Yep. Middle of June, and the campground was completely snowed under. Time for Plan B... (God, I thought You said something about this lake? Did I miss something? I mean, it's beautiful, and I want to come back here tomorrow, but oh my goodness... I really thought... wow. Now what?) So I looked at the map, and started driving to the nearest campsite... which was over half an hour away... and it was late afternoon already.
Stop #1 - the campground at Grant Village. "I'm sorry, we're full. And I know all the hotels and lodges in the entire park are booked for tonight. But check with lodging... they should be able to tell you if there's been any cancellations or if there's a site somewhere open..." All day long, I thought I knew where I was going; I thought God said He had this. What was I going to do?!
(This is my first camping experience on my own. I'd rather not be eaten by a bear. That would sort of suck. Kind of like getting trampled by a bison. "What did you do on your summer vacation?" "Um...." yeah... I think I'd like to stay in the Park.)
"Well, what about over here?" the same girl helpfully suggests. "I've never seen bears over there. Same thing - no toilets, just a field - it's not a campground or anything, but there's no sign that says you can't camp there, so I'm sure it would be fine. And if you're scared of bears, that's the end of the park to head for. I've not seen very many over there, just a lot of moose..."
At which point, someone else looks at her, and says, "Will you shut up? You're scaring her!"
And I start to hyperventilate.
I'm not kidding, I actually at that point in time started to have a panic attack. I haven't had one that bad in over a year - and I've never had them often or anything - but in high stress situations they can happen, and it happened then. The room started to close in, and I could barely breathe, much less stand up, and I wasn't sure if I was going to pass out or throw up. So I said, "excuse me, I need to sit down!" and concentrated on breathing and prayed hard for the grace to get thru this, and asked God to please help. "I need to go sleep, God. I'm exhausted."
And He came through. I got a reservation - at that point, probably the last site in the park, and drove the 40 minutes up to Canyon Campground. Checked in, signed the disclaimer about the bears.
me (to the elderly gentleman who checked me in): "Um... really? there's bears?"
the man: "Nah. I mean we saw a lot of them a week ago, but now that there's people around all the time, they don't really bother you all that much."
me: (heaving a sigh of relief and speaking without thinking) "oh good. because this is the first time i've ever camped by myself and that would really suck."
the man: (blinks in surprise, grins) "yeah. that would suck."
So he explained in great detail about how to minimize the chances of a bear visiting you. And I drove to my campsite. I pulled into the parking space and just sat there, looking at it. Yep. This is it. "You have got to be kidding." I think I actually said that out loud...
This isn't even all the snow...
I had two options. I could set up my tent over there and tromp thru a snow drift (in which, when I did tromp through it, I sank in up to my knee - and I was wearing shorts. It was cold...) to get out and to the road. (I was fortuitously very close to the rest rooms.) Or I could set up in the just enough space between snow banks at the very edge of the campsite. Close to the road (less likely to be pestered by bears, i hoped). It was rather scrunched - but the firepit was too wet to build a fire in anyway, and i wasn't going to eat at the table... so I got to work. And a very nice man from Minnesota named Scott watched me with a bit of amusement and then came over to help me set up my tent. "Are you sure you want it here?" "Yep." And I explained about the bears. "Well, if they bother you, we're right over there." "Oh, don't worry. You'll hear me!"
So, this is the view from the front door of my tent. That, right there, all that water - we nicknamed that "the little Yellowstone River." "You can tell all your friends you survived bears and camped by a river," said Scott. "And a bison," I added.
That night, I crawled into my tent around 8:00 or so, completely exhausted - and faced my faithlessness. "I told you I had it." "I know, Lord. I should have trusted You. Um. It's going to be 28 degrees tonight." "You'll be fine." "Ok..."
And I met with God. I read the Word, I journalled a bit, I started a book that I think may literally be life-changing... and for a couple of hours that soggy little patch of ground became incredibly holy. And I was home.