Our final night was spent in one of the craggy valleys in northeast Yellowstone. It was intended to be the cream of the crop at the end of the arduous two weeks of solid camping. We had finally acquired a map, and discovered that starting in the other end of the valley shaved a few miles off the round trip.
As we would soon find out these few miles were lost at the expense of a few thousand feet up and down. Entering from the wrong end of the valley, we found ourselves getting more crop than cream.
Wheezing to the top of the mountain, we could see our meandering valley below. One end of the valley meandered gently uphill, and the other rose over a mountain. It would be all downhill from here, until tomorrow. Then it would be uphill again.
Walking through the valley is one of my favorite camping memories. There was a gurgling stream with lush bushes, and wildflowers blooming alongside us. The forest that had once dominated the valley had burned down, leaving all of the mountains in clear view.
When we reached our campsite, we were not alone. A female deer was standing in the center of our campsite, and she was friendly. She showed no intention of leaving. We decided to name her Tabitha. I like to think that she valued our company as much as we valued hers.
Building a large fire, we enjoyed a relaxing night under the stars. We talked about the idea of every campsite having a designated animal assigned to it. It seemed like a ridiculous idea, until the next morning.
On the way out we told another group about Tabitha. They told us about their porcupine.
During the middle of a night of drinking around a fire, our neighbors had found their campsite animal. A porcupine.
I never knew that these animals could throw their quills, but our neighbors did. They ran around drunk and confused, hoping that they wouldn’t get hit on their way to the safety of their tent. Tabitha on the other hand would give us friendly looks, and much scenically on clover. These campers did not give their late night friend a name.
Finally out of the woods, we packed up the car to head home. It had been an insane week and a half, leading us up and down the Rockies, and spitting us back out on the volcanic park of Yellowstone.