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Camping at Yellowstone

06/14/03 12:00AM By Will Curtis
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(Host) Commentator Will Curtis says that unrolling an old sleeping bag to air it out for another camping season - unrolls memories as well.

(Curtis) The other day I had the occasion to haul our sleeping bags from the cellar. They smelled musty and appeared to be stained with tomato sauce, but a strong and delicious odor of fly dope instantly brought me back to the night we camped near Yellowstone Lake when all the mosquitoes in Montana were inside our tent. I spilled the bottle of fly dope over myself and my sleeping bag. Luckily Jane loves that citronella smell.

What a trip that was but so were the other two trips we made to that fabulous park. The first time was in winter with a group of friends on a cross country skiing trip. The sleeping bags went with us; every night the thermometer dove well below the minus 30 below mark. Even at 20 below, the air was so dry we were forced to pull off our outer layers of clothing.

Every day surprises awaited us - as the time when we skied past what seemed to be a snowy boulder only to have a bison heave himself to his feet. When we found ourselves face to face with what appeared to be an ill-tempered elk on a narrow trail, it was we who did some neat quick kick-turns aud made a strategic retreat.

Yellowstone in winter is an ornithologist's paradise for in the geyser-warmed streams every imaginable species of bird finds refuge together. I'll never forget a little brown dipper diving into the stream to walk under the water just as unconcernedly as a robin walks across my lawn.

Then there was the summer Jane and I took our three young grandsons to Yellowstone to camp in a park shelter. Those Vermonters will never forget walking by what looked like a dry heap of clay only to have it suddenly erupt with a roar.

The third trip to Yellowstone was with the Green Mountain Club. The streams were full of fat steelhead trout that I had to release as our guide would not allow us to cook them for fear of attracting grizzlies. But there was that morning we awoke in our tent to start breakfast only to find the huge, unmistakable prints of a grizzly who had strolled by during the night. Luckily we had, as every good camper does, strung our backpacks with our food in the branches of trees. Our campsite looked like a weird sort of giant's Christmas party with ungainly Christmas tree decorations

So I'll air out the sleeping bags and put them back in the cellar but for a moment I found myself reliving those three memorable trips to that most fascinating of national parks.

Will Curtis of Woodstock.

Will Curtis is an author and naturalist. He spoke to us from our studio in Norwich.

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