I pushed another corn chip into my mouth, stretched my toes and gazed with sudden interest at the mountainous valley to the west. The sun had vanished, and dark clouds now choked the vale down to the valley floor, creating a menacing wall of grey vapor. The storm reminded me of a bottlenecked flash flood, fighting itself to get through to where I’d been resting peacefully against a dead tree. Shreds of concern began creeping their way around the edges of my curiosity, until I suddenly realized I was staring at the atmospheric equivalent of an oncoming train.
Warning bells should have gone off sooner, but hiking in the excessively-popular Yellowstone National Park had had muted my instinct for self-preservation. I had been exploring the Lamar River Valley, hoping to meet a descendant of the fourteen wolves that were reintroduced to the park in 1995. Any clever wolves lurking about would have taken shelter by now, I imagined, and I wished the shelter of my vehicle wasn’t still over two miles away.
Though the air around me was calm, I could now see the leading edge of the storm scouring the riverbanks, kicking up huge plumes of dust into the sky. Quickly, I laced up my boots, grabbed my backpack and hit the trail. A clash was inevitable, as my return path intersected that of the approaching storm. Tension made me grip the handles of my hiking poles tighter, and I wished I hadn’t left the Jeep windows cracked open.