I arrived just in time for a little snow storm to sweep across the area. Even after all the snow I received on the AT this winter, it was still exciting to see. We got over a foot of fresh snow at my house... truly a beautiful scene. The few days I've been back, there have been deer, elk, and moose hanging out in my backyard. Watching them from a cozy interior makes for delightful entertainment.
Driving out here from Georgia, I decided to go out of my way a little and see South Dakota and the National Parks along the way (Badlands, Mount Rushmore, Jewel Cave, and Wind Cave). I loved the drive, and I loved the parks I stopped in, but the thing that made the trip completely worthwhile and incredible for me was seeing the bison.
I had never seen them in the wild before, so when I glimpsed them way off in the distance as little specks on the Badlands horizon, I immediately jumped out of my car and started snapping a series of blurry photos. Little did I know that I would soon become the bison paparazzi for the next few days. THEY WERE EVERYWHERE.
I arrived in the Badlands campground, and there was a herd of them grazing among the tents and car campers. I couldn't believe it. These massive North American beasts were just a stone's throw away from where I was distractingly setting up my tent.
I finally crawled into my tent with a fresh cup of coffee and watched the sunset. The bison continued to graze nearby, and as the clouds danced over the grassy hills, a chorus of coyotes struck up an ancient song. I was mesmerized.
Moments such as this demonstrate the importance and magic of our National Parks. I remember seeing my first bear in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. I can recall rounding that corner in Arches National Park and being dumbfounded by Delicate Arch standing defiantly before me. My jaw dropping above the infinite Grand Canyon of Arizona, and seeing my first herd of bighorn sheep in the Rocky Mountain wilderness.
A fresh wave of excitement and pride washed over me knowing what I was returning to.