Craters of the Moon, ID

"As I returned through the one-foot crawl, my headlamp simply went out. Of course it did. I cursed, but turned on the only other flashlight I had, in my hand. Still, there had been a split second of panic as my eyes searched for light that wasn’t there, my brain confused at the curtain of dark that had so instantly fallen, like a blackout."

Grand Teton, WY

"The lady ranger came around to warn me, inexplicably appearing out of the dark green trees. She smiled confidently to warn me of the momma bear and cub that had just passed over the trail to the lake’s edge. I grinned nervously, and asked if she thought it was safe to pass. She hesitated, which was all the answer I needed."

Yellowstone, WY

"From the overlook, an unbelievably bright pool simmered and steamed down below. Acid-aqua and sulfur yellow, umber orange and ocean blue in the middle of this stark gray-swirled plane. The most beautiful water I have ever seen, although I couldn’t approach closer down on the actual boardwalks due to the perpetually full parking lot over there. A better view from above anyway, I think."

Badlands, SD

"This road trip around the West was something that I knew I would want to remember for a long time, so I decided to keep a running journal to tell a story about every park I visited. It was just a pen and a notebook in my tent, by a lantern at times. So, depending on the day, some of my entries were ecstatic, and others were a little sour. I would say this day was a bit sour."

Wind Cave, SD

"The trail spun outward into infinity, and I followed. Into the gently waving horizon, nothing and no one surrounding me. I slowly spun in the middle of the rich emptiness, just breathing. My sun-strained brow relaxed, my shoulders loosened. I let down my final guard, and I stared."

Rocky Mountains, CO

"I slipped. I landed on my butt at the top of this hill in the snowy rut, legs out in front of me, hiking pole somehow managing to lose contact with the ground. I started sliding. 'Well,' I said out loud, defeated and irritated as my wet ass gained speed on the damn slope."

Black Canyon, CO

"Black Canyon was unbelievable. The sheer steepness of its painted walls, the finger of the Gunnison River down there at the bottom. From the overlook, all you can hear is the faint roar, and the rush of the wind pushing you back from the edge."