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The Western Parks

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Our 2016 Wildsam Travel Fellow, Kristen Blanton, spent ten days this summer in CO, WY and MT. This week, we begin sharing her dispatches, starting with a note about why such travels mean so much. 




The call of place tends to reveal itself gingerly to me. It comes slowly, but then I feel it in my gut. When deciding where to go for this solo, 10-day trip through the States, I asked myself one question: Of these regions, which would make me most uncomfortable? The answer was the stretch of America I call the Western Parks. Hiking alone for endless miles in Glacier National Parks bear country, riding shotgun to wildfires, exploring new terrain, clocking nine-hour driving days, all alone, through secluded landscapes and sleeping in tents and hostels and abandoned parking lots, peeing in fields - because why not - no rest stops for a hundred miles. All of that and more had me saying no. Not that place. So, when it was time, I asked for a plane ticket to, yes, the Western Parks.

"In these road moments I feel like the kid I can’t remember ever being. I can get back to her."


The road is a nostalgic tool. Beartooth Highway in Yellowstone National Park had me rolling windows down, shitty tears streaming, belting all those father-daughter country songs of my childhood. And then I'm remembering the muck that I labored tirelessly to suppress for decades and without warning there it is, it’s sitting on my lunch plate in Dubois, Wyoming, mocking me the form of a BLT. And it’s good, better than good really; because in these road moments I feel like the kid I can’t remember ever being. I can get back to her – to embracing the sounds of a creek’s song, to walking the blistered miles just to see that place, to really feel it. I stumbled upon landscapes that spoke to me, and every inch of me screamed, Stick your face in the cold hard earth and weep. And I did. -KB