Stay on the Path

Sometimes I’m forced into managing my expectations. I get an idea in my head about how something should look. A picture of perfection that I attempt to manifest but circumstances out of my grasp humble me.

When we took our family vacation this summer, I thought I’d be feeling my best. I planned for the unexpected by bringing all my medications along, but I told myself that I wasn’t going to need them. We were going to have an amazing time, and I wasn’t going to let my family down.

The guilt of disappointing those you love most when your body refuses to cooperate is one of the hardest feelings to manage. The list of plans you made, go out the window. Hearing your kid try to be understanding even though he’s holding back tears… is devastating. Your husband gripping the steering wheel tight lipped even though he doesn’t blame you, he’s just attempting to manage his own feelings of frustration… it’s gut wrenching. Worse yet, is trying to contain the anger you feel towards yourself.

If you weren’t there, they would be able to tackle all the plans that were made. If you were someone else or had a different body, then you could go with them. If you were healthier. If you were stronger. If you were better. Yet it took a lot for me to accept myself as I am and to know when to call it quits. To know when my body has had enough. After days of limited sleep, camping in icy weather, attempting to hike,  and trying to stretch out in the car, my body was telling me that I couldn’t go on anymore.

We were walking together on a boardwalk on the top of a volcano. One of the largest volcanos in the United States and Nikolai couldn’t stop asking questions. Steam was rising out of these amazing blue pools. Water, mud, and other organic material was frothing along the bank. On our way to see these spectacular sights, a HUGE fountain of water shot up into the sky and shocked the crowd of people.

Big signs said things like “Enter at your own risk.”

“Caution hot thermal temperatures.”

“Unstable ground. Stay on the path.”

As we were walking and reading the labels on the different phenomenon’s surrounding us, a Hispanic man with a baseball cap pulled over his eyes decided to step off the platform. His feet shuffled across forbidden earth and bubbles formed around the souls of his shoes. Nikolai gasped clutching my hand tighter out of concern. The man proceeded to bend at the waist and put his face inches above the fountain that had gone off a few moments prior.

“What do you think you’re doing?”  My husband said sternly.

“It doesn’t look that hot to me.” The man smirked and shrugged his shoulders.

“What about it doesn’t look hot to you? The fact that it’s boiling water? The signs telling you to stay on the path? Or the fact that it launched like a rocket as we were walking up to see it? Do you seriously need the flesh on your face to melt off, and life-flight to haul your ass out of here before you’re able to admit that you’re standing on top of a volcano?”

Anger rippled across my husband’s face. Nikolai’s eyes widened, the confrontation had him feeling unnerved. The man just laughed and got back onto the platform. He made his way past us, a swagger to his gate. He was undeniably full of confidence… as if nothing out of the ordinary had just occurred even though he risked his life. My husband shook his head in disgust and strangers murmured under their breath.

“This is why we respect nature and follow the rules.” I said with an unamused expression.

“What was that guy thinking mom!” Nikolai wondered out loud.

“I don’t know, but he almost ruined it for everyone.”

A chilling sweat broke over my body even though I had burrowed into my sleeping bag like taco meat inside a burrito. I couldn’t stop shaking but my body was on fire. It was confusing. I hunted for a bottle of water inside our tent to help me swallow my pills. I didn’t want to wake my family. My bones throbbed; my stomach churned. So many of my chronic illnesses began hitting me all at the same time. I worried that I might not make it to the restroom and wished I had a hot bath available.

The signs had been there, I just didn’t want to read them. The exhaustion, the fact that I was struggling to hike and opt for staying in the car. I waited alone for my family to see the amazing things we had driven so far to set eyes on. I wanted to be with them, but I had pushed myself and I could feel the breakdown starting to happen. My head feeling light and dizzy, the worry I felt over making my way back to the car. Wondering as I walked if I was possibly going to pass out.

I had pushed through and now it was the end of me and the plans I fought so hard to create. The medicine wasn’t working this time and the only way to recover would be to get a hotel room and sleep heavily for the next day or more. The thought of missing out on our last adventure broke my heart. It would break Rob’s and Nikolai’s too. I tried to put off the inevitable, I attempted to sleep, but I ended up getting sick in the campground restroom. My ability to spend another night fighting the elements had come to an end. It was time to head home whether I wanted to go or not.

Nikolai stifled a sob in the back seat of the SUV. He wanted to be brave for me. We had one last amazing day planned but I just couldn’t make it happen. His little arms were crossed over his chest, I could see the rise and fall of his breath weighing heavily. We had packed up our tent and all our things before our last night in Yellowstone was through. We had come face to face with grizzly bears, black bears, bison, elk, five point bucks, and so much more. We saw old faithful, and some spectacular waterfalls. We had ONE last place we wanted to visit but it just wasn’t going to happen. We had one last animal encounter on our list but that wasn’t hopeful now either.

I should have paced myself better, I should have listened to my body more. Yet I wasn’t reckless like the man standing above the hot springs was. Recklessness would have closed our trip with a hospital visit instead of heading home a day early. Stupidity would have been going hiking and needing someone to carry me to the car instead of staying behind, wishing that things were different.

“Don’t feel bad mom. I know you can’t help it. I’m just disappointed.” Nikolai sighed.

My husband gave me a sympathetic smile and held my hand. It was hard to see in the dark. Winding around twisted roads and praying we didn’t hit something as twilight descended. It took over an hour to find our way to the exit. We made a quick stop at the restrooms before entering a canyon.

Our headlights were turned to the high beam setting once we pulled back onto the highway. Something shook the tall grass and darted across the pavement. To our wonderment, a white tipped tail, red fur, and two pointed ears bounced to the other side. A breathtaking red-tailed fox with copper highlights was on the hunt for his dinner. The final encounter we hoped to have… spectacularly checked off our list, all because I stayed on the path and respected the signs.   

39 thoughts on “Stay on the Path”

  1. That final encounter ter was a blessing from above. Glad you got to enjoy some of the trip. I continue to love your writings, you bring it to life!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Your images are beautiful and have reminded me of my trip to see Old Faithful waaay back in 1993! Itès so very important to listen to your body – and you got a treat for it, to boot!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Glad you and your family had a chance to see one of my favorite spectacles of natural magnificence. Too bad the experience was marred by another unthinking brute, but as one of my friends in the ER observed, “you can’t cure stupid.”

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Beautiful pictures, LaShelle! I often find myself pushing hard just for the sake of others as well and what I end up doing is disappointing myself.. I feel you – you did the best you could and at the end of the day, you listened to your body and your family still had a memorable experience to cherish forever!

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  5. Wow – just amazing pictures LaShelle! I have never seen pictures taken by everyday people when visiting Yellowstone and Old Faithful, just videos or “National Geographic” specials or the magazine. You, the photographer were immersed in this wonderful place and got great shots. I’ve only seen photos of Old Faithful from a distance. The bison relaxing is incredible – again, I’ve seen pics of them in motion, never relaxing like this. Is that an elk with those huge antlers? You were stoic and saw a lot and had the experience with your family, though you didn’t feel well … you were a trouper!

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  6. Lots to unpack here, LaShelle. We all can relate to not wanting to let others down, especially when there’s a big build-up. It sounds like everyone handled the circumstances maturely.

    People who don’t think about how their stupidity will affect others frustrate me. I’m not just talking about the guy’s family and friends. What about the resources that might be used to get that buffoon to the hospital? Leave it to Nikolai to say aloud what everyone else was thinking.

    I’m glad the majority of the trip was a success. My wife has MS, and while she’s lived an everyday life, she’s had reminders like this that remind her she’s not infallible. She can’t get overheated or overtired or ends up in bed for days.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m so sorry about your wife’s diagnosis. MS is an extremely difficult illness to manage. I don’t know everything that’s wrong with me but I have answers to some of it. I don’t have enough money to figure out the rest of it- even though I’ve tried. I’ll have to write a blog about it someday. ❤️

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Looks like an excellent trip! I’ve pushed myself beyond my borders a few times on vacation- always with bad results. Good for you for being smart enough to push your boundaries without going overboard.


  8. Oh my goodness, this is a brilliant post, LaShelle. I felt my skin tingle as you revealed that last encounter. It is so hard to listen to our bodies and wisdom, but I like to believe that blessings will always come from it. Thank you for taking us on this amazing journey with your writing and pictures — and wisdom!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. And I hope you are fully recovered. I should have said that in my first comment but I just loved your writing so much, I didn’t send my sincerest wishes!


  9. This story was extremely touching. The last few years I’ve felt limitations in my body that make me embarrassed and heartbroken. When I have to stop because I’m too tired or too hot…I feel the weight of it as you did here. The scene in the car with your family was such a beautiful example of love and the true blessings of family. Such a hard thing to stop when you know you must. It’s courageous and inspiring.

    Your photos are all so stunning! It really looks like a marvelous trip.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Give yourself a hug – you did amazingly well to manage as well as you did. I have a lifetime of ridiculous expectations of vacations, many cut short and feeling worse at the end of it. There is a societal urge that we all have to make vacations unforgettable when often they are stressful. In months to come, you will look back on this trip with a rosy glow. How lucky you were to see what you did with your lovely family.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. What an adventure! Extraordinarily beautiful photos. You were right to listen to your body and wise. When we ignore the signs that our body is sending because we want to push on regardless with our mind and heart, we override systems designed to prevent us from becoming seriously ill. If only more people could listen and seriously attend to their body wisdom then the world would have healthier humans and a medical system that was not imploding due to overload. I’m enjoying your blog and posts, so very glad to have found you.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Wow, what a wonderful turn of events with no better way to end it. Of course, all that’s made even better with your wonderful storytelling and pictures. And yeah, sometimes we need to listen to our gut, because there are times we should push on, and there are times we need to take a breather. Glad you chose the latter!

    Liked by 1 person

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