At the beginning of eighth grade, at an ungodly hour in the morning, my 36 classmates and I gathered at the airport in t-shirts, shorts, and hiking boots. Packed in our suitcases were outfits similar to what we had on, with the exception of a light jacket and a few pairs of jeans. We were off to Yellowstone National Park for a week; one of my school’s most famous field trips. There, we’d learn about buffalo, the fires from ‘89, and hike three miles up to see the spectacular view from Mount Washburn. We lived in Texas, and though Yellowstone was in Wyoming, we never thought we’d get that cold, or wet. We thought we’d bring the sun along with us. We never thought we’d be eating lukewarm chicken in a bathroom because it was raining too hard to eat outside.
Yellowstone is a rite of passage at my school; it’s the first airplane trip we all take. Landing in the smallest airport I’d ever seen, my grade and I didn’t think too much about the weather: windy and cold. We assumed it would lighten up. We assumed wrong. For the next six days, if it was not pouring rain, it was freezing cold. Thus, started the most intense week I’ve had with my class.
The most glorious thing, besides Old Faithful, was supposed to be the view from Mount Washburn. “The hike is hard,” an upperclassman had told me. “But the view is so worth it.” My instructor promised us it had never rained more than ten minutes on the hike up. After five days of non-stop weather, my classmates and I were overjoyed at the thought of finally seeing a slice of what we know Yellowstone is famous for. But, of course, we were wrong. If it wasn’t raining on our hike, it was hailing. Even while peanut-sized hail nailed us, our hopes stayed high–to find we were inside a cloud. Yes, our “glorious view” from the top of the mountain was a thick sheet of white.
And yet, every time I tell the story, when people always comment on how awful and terrible my experience must’ve been, I can’t bring myself to agree with them. Yes, I slept in a flooded tent with four other girls, but I learned the best ghost stories of my life from being kept up by the thunderstorms. For showers, we had to take a ten minute car ride, and our payment to the driver had to be in song form. And even though I was sitting on a guys lap, I had to belt out Hannah Montana’s “Best of Both Worlds” because that’s the only song everyone knew. I was constantly cold, exhausted, and laughing. I attend an incredibly small school; one where the grade sizes are less than 40 kids. We’re family. And though my grade’s the biggest in school, that doesn’t make us any less of a family. We may be giant and dysfunctional, but we have each others back, and I got to see that solidify during my Yellowstone trip. So, no, I didn’t love it because of the view (there wasn’t any), or the wildlife (very scarce), or even the geysers (okay, maybe I loved those a little bit). I loved it because of the people. They say home is where your people are, and in my case, my people happen to be my home. No matter where I am, they’ll be there. Most people can’t say that about their classes.
So thanks, class of 2019. See you soon.
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