For my STEP Signature Project, I took a 10-day road trip out to Yellowstone National Park and back to Columbus, OH. The focus of my trip was to grow in environmental wellness and push myself out of my comfort zone. I got to spend time in nature while camping, hiking, watching wildlife, and viewing amazing geysers and scenery in the park. I even had time to travel down to Grand Teton National Park for a day which was an amazing, unplanned sight to see.
This trip taught me so much about the beauty of nature and my own personal wellness. For many students completing Banding Together for Wellness through the College of Nursing, the environmental wellness band will be achieved by using a water bottle instead of plastic bottles or simply turning off the lights when they leave a room. I wanted to do more than that and immerse myself into nature at America’s first National Park.
On this trip I was reminded how diverse our country is. Going from the flat plains of Illinois to driving up the sides of mountains in Wyoming. Seeing feet of snow up in the mountains while it was warm and summertime down below. I got to take a break from the hustle and bustle of college life in Columbus, and even technology at times due to the lack of service in the park. I was pushed out of my comfort zone of a warm house to sleep in, having a nice shower to bathe in, having the internet to direct me and show me the nearest place for gas or food, etc. In that time, I really got to relax and enjoy visiting the beautiful sites Wyoming had to offer. I got to be pushed to the edge with my fear of heights, bears, and lack of self-confidence. I was reminded not only of the beauty of nature, but just how amazing the human body is and how it can be pushed much farther than we may think.
I remember driving through the park at night with my traveling partner and having to stop abruptly because there were two bison walking in the middle of the road. We got to be within inches of them walking beside us and saw them interact with each other on the road. The one in the front would look back and make sure his partner was still there. It was a great reminder that we will all have a partner to go through life with and look out for us, whether it be a sibling, friend, significant other, etc. It was amazing to see this relationship in wild animals throughout our journey through the park. I got to see bison packs every day usually around the thermal sites. I also got to see baby elk interact with their mothers and other members of the group. I even drove around a corner one time and saw cars pulled to the side because a mother bear and her cub were playing just down the hill. These are moments that I will never forget.
While in Grand Teton National Park I remember dreading going on a hike because I feared I would not be able to finish it. The high altitude made it harder to breathe and I don’t have the best endurance. Despite the fears, I took a boat across Jenny Lake to start a trail to a hidden waterfall and southern viewpoint. On the boat, my travel partner and I met two German girls who were traveling in an RV for two weeks in America to visit different National Parks and cities. We decided to travel together on the hike because we were in bear country and park rangers recommended traveling in groups of three or more for safety. Initially, I was worried to hike with other people because I did not want to hold the group back or be embarrassed in front of strangers. However, I found having other people there pushed me to stay with the group and showed me that my body can do much more than I think it can. It was a great boost of confidence to look back and see what I had just hiked when we arrived back to our car.
Camping in a tent during the trip was a big step out of my comfort zone because I had not spent the night in a tent since I was a little girl. I was worried about being cold, sore, and not getting good sleep. I also had the fear of bears coming through the campsite as they often do in Yellowstone Campgrounds. We were allowed nothing but pillows and blankets in our tent due to bears keen sense of smell. The lady who checked us in told us that bears had come to campsites because they smelled water, make-up, deodorant, and much more. Despite all of my worries, I made it through the four nights of tent camping. I enjoyed having smores by the fire at night and being able to see more stars than I have ever seen in my life. I was very exhausted by the end of the trip and decided that maybe three nights in a tent was long enough for me in the future, but I am very glad that I did it.
Overall, this trip provided me with some much-needed time traveling away from my busy life in Columbus, OH. It reminded me of the importance of taking a break from everything and experiencing something new. Doing this is great for mental health by giving your brain a break and also pushing yourself at the same time. I plan to take more adventures like this one any chance I get to in the future to see even more of the beauty here at home and in other countries. I want to see as much of the world as I can before I grow old and am unable to travel.
This experience would not have been possible without the help of STEP funds, mentors, and other classmates in my STEP geology class last semester. I am so thankful that OSU provided me this opportunity to travel out west and grow exponentially in environmental wellness.