BOWEN COLUMN: Lost in Yellowstone (epilogue)

Published 10:30 am Tuesday, December 21, 2021

At the time of our writing this Epilogue, four months have passed since we exited the Thoroughfare at the southern end of Yellowstone. Since that time, I suppose I’ve said a thousand times to friends I’ve met along the way:

“Have I told you about Yellowstone?”

Sometimes I pose the question to acquaintances I meet at the Y for my workouts, which, by the way, are designed for my next big hiking adventure. Hold that thought a moment.

All the therapists I have seen over the past few months get to hear my story, too. Oh, no, you may have gotten that all wrong. I am not having to do the kind of “therapy” you’re thinking about. What happened was that, on August 30, just six weeks after coming home from Yellowstone, I fell on the basketball court while going up for a lay-up playing against my old sparring partner Kardel. It was an immediate break of my right wrist, with surgery and therapy to follow. At this writing, that therapy continues, and all the PT’s and assistants at the clinic know of my story, of course.

In every sermon I have delivered at church since July 15 I have rehearsed one part or the other of those six eventful days. The first four presentations were devoted exclusively to drawing the many spiritual lessons that the Lord has given us from this adventure. Those lessons, Lord willing, we plan to include in our next book.

On a number of occasions, I have had friends ask me to tell the entire story.

“Okay, but I need an hour,” I say with a smile.

Often, they will concede just to hear the Reader’s Digest version. Regardless, it is more than a little satisfying when I hear all the questions people ask:

“Were you afraid when the Grizzly came out?”

“Did you think you would not make it out?”

“What was the biggest mistake you think ya’ll made?”

On and on the questions go, and each requires a deep breath and a candid response. No, I wasn’t afraid. Yes, I always thought we would make it out – but you know there’s a great possibility that you won’t. My biggest mistake? Oh, the biggest mistake was going in the first place, I say with a laugh – then I always add, “But I wouldn’t trade it for anything. It was one of the best things I ever did.

Of course, there is then the biggest question of all:

“Would you do it again?”

The quick answer to that question is yes. Certainly, I would do it again.

Or, better, I am sure I will do it again, the Lord willing.

But there’s the one final thought that I’ve rarely shared, until now. And with this thought we’ll end our great journey together, and close the book, for now.

I not only would do it again, but I also feel something down in me that says I must do it again.

There are many things about my feelings on this journey that friends who have not found themselves looking out from that broad expanse where there is nothing but nature, danger, and you, do not understand, naturally. And this feeling, continually tugging at me from deep inside, may be one of them. I do believe that I must do it again, sometime, somehow, with a great deal more conditioning, preparation, and prayer.

But the desire to go back, to cross those rivers once more, may not be for the reasons we think.

When Todd and I walked out of that wilderness with the ranger Ethan on July 16, not all of me walked out. We walked out, unscathed, miraculously; and we left the wilderness to move on with our lives. But as I sit and write, as I sit and think sometimes in the quiet moments, such as I am now, this realization always comes back to me. It comes from a place deep within you that we probably seldom explore.

I walked out of Yellowstone’s wilderness. But a good part of me never did. I don’t know if I can explain that. A part of me stops every day to admire the great foe and friend, fearful and innocent, who stopped, and turned, fastening his wild eyes on me late that evening.

A part of me walks up the Snake River every day, the sun shining across my face, as I look ahead again with awe at the foamy current churning over the black rocks, wondering what lies around that bend just ahead – deep in my Yellowstone.