After a long, rainy, day before, we were given a day off to catch up on sleep and to explore the homey K-Z. The morning of the 5th Day on the trip around the state started off strong with a delicious home-cooked breakfast. The warmth of the food was a welcoming change from the typical cold bagels served while camping. As I waited for my horseback riding session, I was able to set up my hammock along the lake and reflect on how thankful I was for this entire experience.
The workers at the K-Z were incredibly helpful in aiding me to get onto the saddle and adjust the stirrups with instructions on how to “steer” the horse with the reigns. My horse, Margarine, always wanted to be in front, so she often tailgated the other horses a little too close. During the ride, the scenic views were highlighting the beauty of the Shoshone National Forest’s ecology and geology. Although, at one moment a new horse to the ranch was spooked by a herd of cows and the other horses (including mine) took that opportune moment to snack on some grass and lupins.
Later, the class took a trip to a swimming hole with a little too cold for comfort water. I jumped off a little rock but hopped out soon after to soak up warmth from the sun on a rock. On the rock, there were a ton of mayfly shells that resembled little aliens. Then we hopped back into the vans to explore the “coolest small town in America,” Cooke City. I had never been to Montana before so I can check a new state off of my bucket list! In Cooke City, we bought some huckleberry ice cream at the Sinclair gas station and a couple of souvenirs. From the locals’ reactions, it was evident our business was appreciated due to the economic decline from that entrance to Yellowstone being closed from flooding.
Once we returned to the K-Z, we ate another delicious meal and had a discussion about the effects of climate change in national parks. The day was super full of fun activities that I wasn’t in the best state to pay full attention to the conversation, so I would count that as the only possible thorn of the day. Although, it was insightful because I learned about tons of the “snowball effects” of global warming, especially on the tourist side of things. The topic made me question how my appeal of some of the national parks would change if they lost their significant features, such as Glacier National Park not having any glaciers anymore.
To end the day, a couple of students and I took the free boats out on the lake to watch the sunset. Since I bought a license earlier in the day, I got to try out some fly-fishing, instructed by another student with lots of prior experience. The stars that night were super bright, so we stargazed until we were just barely awake enough to make it to the cabin beds. Overall, I think this was my favorite day of the entire field study filled with tons of laughter and once-in-a-lifetime experiences.