Andrew worked hard to plan our vacation in Wyoming. He researched flights and hotels, studied Trip Advisor for places to go and things to do, and poured over Google maps. Now I get to tell the stories. However, there’s no way to recount a week’s vacation in a single blog post, so you’ll have to bear with me.
Our flight out included a stop in Chicago. While loitering in the terminal there, I observed a family that caused my antennae to go up. The patriarch was a youngish man, maybe in his late twenties, with neatly trimmed blond hair, wearing a blue t-shirt emblazoned with the American flag. He was corralling three boys, all mini versions of himself, none older than eight or ten, each one wearing the same t-shirt. When the mom came out of the restroom, she was trailing a little girl and pushing an even littler one in a stroller. All three were wearing the same t-shirt as the boys, but the mom’s was red. Where I come from, a family of this size, in matching patriotic garb, is unusual, and therefore notable. It was like a wildlife sighting; the first of our trip.
We spent the first day touring Yellowstone National Park. It was unlike anything I’d ever experienced. Everything we encountered was a delightful surprise, from the herds of bison to the pools of boiling, bubbling water; from Artist Point at Canyon Village where we saw the yellow stone that the park is named after, to the waterfall at Uncle Tom’s Trail. All the vistas were unique, each more awe-inspiring than the one that came before.
There are lots of hot springs inside the park, some surrounded by glorious rings of color. We were following a boardwalk around one of these springs when I saw a young, blond man wearing a red t-shirt with the American flag emblazoned on it. The boys who accompanied him were wearing the same t-shirt, as was the woman following behind. I was flabbergasted. It was the same family! I approached him and said, “Aren’t you missing a few children?”
He looked vaguely startled and answered brusquely, “No.”
“Really?” I asked. “But when I saw you in the airport you had more children with you.”
He ignored me and kept walking. His wife was far enough away that she hadn’t overheard our conversation. I tried again. “Aren’t you missing some children?”
She smiled absent-mindedly and said, “Oh, no.”
“But when I saw you in the airport you had more children with you.”
“We didn’t fly, we’re from Utah. We drove. But yes, I left the young ones in the van with their grandmother so they could nap.”
“Are you sure I didn’t see you in the airport?” I persisted.
“No, no,” she responded, pleasantly enough, “we drove.” And she walked past to catch up with the rest of her family.
Andrew and Hannah were horrified, and rightly so. I sounded like a stalker, or worse, a kidnapper! What was I thinking? In hindsight, they were clearly not the same family. The man in the park was definitely older than the one in the airport. There was no grandmother with the original group. And, as Andrew pointed out, the family I’d seen in Chicago could have been flying anywhere in the world. But why, then, did the mom tell me that there were other children in the van… It doesn’t matter, there’s no excuse for my crazy behavior. My desire to make a connection was stronger than my sense of propriety.
People behave in strange ways inside Yellowstone. There are signs posted all over informing visitors that they should keep a healthy distance from the wildlife, and yet, as you can see from the picture below, that advice is regularly ignored. Next time, I’ll be more careful.