YNP\GTNP 2014 – 8\10 2014 – Hellroaring Creek

This morning we needed to go to the backcountry office in the morning to pick up our permit for the backpacking trip up the Bechler River in two days so we had to wait till after that to start our hike. Since the backcountry office opens at 8 AM, we spent the morning driving towards Mammoth. 

First we stopped at Dunraven Pass to have some breakfast while watching the sunrise. P1030123 P1030120

Then we saw a large Grizzly in the meadow below. He was very far away so not the greatest look at him. He’s the small dot in the lower left hand area. If you click to zoom you can see better.

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After leaving the viewpoint we drove on to Tower and came across a mama black bear with two cubs. It was still early so she wasn’t causing a traffic jam and no Rangers were to be seen anywhere shooing people off. This allowed us ample time to enjoy watching her and to get some nice photos. 

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After getting our permit at the Mammoth backcountry office, we headed out to Hellroaring trailhead for today’s hike. Since we got a late start this would be a short hike, only 8 miles round trip to the bridge across the creek and back. It was a hot hike, out in the open most of the way. About halfway into the hike, Sara found a large elk antler. P1030140 P1030139

We hiked to the bridge and had some lunch before taking these shots and heading back. 

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Along the way back we noticed a lot of bear sign. Torn up trees, bear scat, bear tracks and overturned rocks everywhere. We later found out that a bear had been sighted back in the area the previous day. Wish we had seen him. Some pics of the traces he left behind: 

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On the way back you cross this large suspension bridge. While this seems like overkill for a hiking trail, this particular trailhead is a very busy one with access to about five of the more popular hiking and backpacking routes in the park, all of which start on the far side.

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After finishing up the hike for the day we went back to camp for showers and to do laundry. Tomorrow we take a shuttle to the far corner of the park to begin our backpacking trip so we needed to prepare. 

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YNP\GTNP 2014 – 8\9 2014 – Bighorn Peak

This morning we got up extra early and headed out for what was to be our only mountain climb of the trip, Bighorn Peak. This mountain is located in the northwestern corner of the park in the Gallatin Range. The hike is 12.8 miles round trip with an elevation gain of 3200 feet to 9930 feet above sea level. We chose this mountain both for it’s views at the top and the fact that it’s on a very lightly used trail that begins outside the park. 

To get to the trailhead we had to drive out the west entrance of the park and head north out of West Yellowstone for about 25 miles to the Black Butte trailhead. As yesterday, fog was the story of the morning so there were no pics to be had during the first half of the climb. Eventually we rose above the fog and the views started to come. 

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Nearing the top we found some petrified wood. This looks like wood, but it was hard as a rock. It had probably been here since the last eruption some 600,000 years ago. 

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We saw nobody until we were almost to the top. Once you get to about 9000 feet you break out of the trees and climb a long alpine meadow to the last section of the trail. In that meadow we ran into a younger couple who were out for their morning jog. They were just finishing up the Skyline Trail which includes Bighorn Peak but also adds on a loop to another section of trail that follows a ridge for an additional 8 miles. This is a well known route in hiking circles and many consider it a bucket list hike. I’d like to go back and do it someday. 

At the top of the meadow you begin the most exciting part of the hike:

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It looks more difficult than it was, but if you’re afraid of heights I could see it being scary. The trail follows a cliff the entire way and a slip could prove quite dangerous so don’t slip!

Some views from the top:

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On the way back down we took some photos of some interesting rock formations. These are held together by what looks like cement but I believe is actually compacted volcanic ash from the last eruption. Because the ash is softer than the rock embedded in it, it erodes at a faster rate and make some interesting formations. 

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We named this one Alien Rock:

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This trail also offered some of the best wildflowers of the trip:

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Of the entire trip, this was probably my favorite day hike. We saw only three couples all day, the hike was a great workout and the views were amazing. I would love to hike this one again someday but do the whole Sky Rim route instead of just the single peak. The hike was tough, but most things worth doing usually are. 

YNP\GTNP 2014 – 8\8 2014 – Sevenmile Hole and Uncle Tom’s Trail

After a couple of light days we were ready to get back to why we came here in the first place, hiking and lots of it! This morning our plans were to hike Sevenmile Hole in the Canyon area. I have no idea why they call it Sevenmile Hole, it’s 10 miles round trip. Someone told me that it feels like seven miles coming back up because the hike starts at the canyon rim and goes to the bottom to the banks of the Yellowstone River, passing through a large thermal area along the way. 

The trail begins near Inspiration Point on the north rim at the Glacial Boulder trailhead. This was less than a mile from camp. The hike starts off level and follows the rim of the Canyon. The views are great from the trail, but since the morning was very foggy they would have to wait till afternoon for us to see them. In the AM, this was our view: 

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About halfway down the trail we began to pass by both active and dormant thermal features. We also acquired the company of a doe deer who we kept seeing off and on for the next hour or so.

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Near the bottom we found this little waterfall. I thought it was very pretty with the lush vegetation contrasting with the red rock of the canyon walls. 

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The bottom of the canyon with some additional thermal features:

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On the way back up the fog had finally cleared and we had some gorgeous views of the canyon. 

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After finishing this trail, we went to Canyon Village for ice cream and then to the south rim for our second hike of the day, Uncle Tom’s Trail. This is a lot different of a hike from the previous even though it goes down the same canyon. This trail is heavily used vs. Sevenmile Hole where we only saw three other groups. Uncle Tom’s Trail isn’t really a trail at all. It’s a metal staircase built into the side of the canyon that takes you to a viewpoint very close to the lower falls. It’s only a mile round trip but there are 350 steps in the staircase. Good for a little cardio on the way up!

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YNP\GTNP 2014 – 8\6 and 8\7 2014 – Jackson Hole

The next two days were some well deserved rest. In the first three and a half days of of our trip we had hiked 45 miles and were feeling a bit run down. On Tuesday afternoon we drove from Flagg Ranch to our new home for the next two nights, the KOA in Jackson Hole. We rented a small cabin for two nights right along the Snake River. We got in rather late after our Union Falls hike and went straight to bed after a quick dinner.

Wednesday was mainly shopping and laundry. We did laundry in the morning and while doing so made some new friends from England, Jules and Kate who were vacationing in the US for the summer. We all had plans to go rafting the next morning so I went ahead and booked at the same time so we could go together.

After lazing around all morning we got our laundry done and caught up on some email we missed before heading off to get our errands run. After the intense bugs on Union Falls we decided we needed some additional bug protection so we went off to find headnets and stronger DEET than the OFF repellent we had. We also did some grocery shopping and had drinks at the Town Square Tavern overlooking the park. Dinner that night was at the Snake River Brewing Company in downtown Jackson. It’s a typical brew pub, mediocre food but great beer and atmosphere.

The next morning we met Jules and Kate for rafting. We also had plans to go horseback riding in the afternoon so we invited them to join us for that, which they accepted.

Rafting was a lot of fun. We started out at about 8:30 and spend about 90 minutes on the river going through at least 5 sections of rapids. I sat in the front of the boat and got most of the soaking every time we hit a wave. It was awesome. I don’t have any pics due to not having a waterproof camera unfortunately.

After we got back we had lunch and went horseback riding. It was a great trail ride, about 2.5 hours with great view at the end and along the way.

Sara and I before the ride:

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Some of the nice views along the way. The Tetons were having a cloudy and stormy day but less than 20 miles south, we were having wonderful weather. It’s funny how mountains work that way sometimes. 

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Kate, Jules, myself and Sara from left to right. It was really nice meeting them, we exchanged contact info and they have plans to visit Colorado in the future so we really hope to see them again. They’re both very nice ladies and a lot of fun to be around. 

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After horseback riding we had a long drive to our next campsite at Canyon Village in Yellowstone. Along the way we saw this guy by the road. We had to take pics from the car because the Rangers weren’t allowing anyone to stop. Sorry for the bad photo. 

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YNP\GTNP 2014 – 8\5 2014 – Union Falls

Not to be deterred from yesterday’s mishap, we decided to do Union Falls today. Union Falls is the second largest waterfall in Yellowstone at 230 feet tall. This is second only to the Lower Falls in the Canyon area that are 305 feet tall. The falls are in a remote area of the park that is infrequently visited. During the day, we only saw three other groups over 12 hours of hiking. We got up early and left camp at about 5:30 AM to drive to the trailhead. The road got pretty rough however so I was forced to park along the road about a half mile away. This added a mile to the hike for a total of 18, the highest of the trip. 

After about a mile of hiking you have to cross the Falls River, which was running rather high from the rains over the past 24 hours. The river is about 30 yards wide and with the increased flow was running about waist deep on the far end. It was a bit nerve wracking to make the crossing but also fun. We got thoroughly soaked. 

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The trail was forested the entire way and the bugs were beyond description. I wore heavy clothes and my rain jacket the entire day so my body was OK, but I got no less than 10 bites on my face and more on my hands. The bugs are renown in this section of the park, but are supposed to be greatly reduced by August. Unfortunately this was a very wet winter for the Rockies and the mosquitoes were still very much alive and well. The trail is in great condition though, so the hiking was easy. 

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Along the the way the trail was lined with huckleberry bushes, we ate many, many, many of them.

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After a long hike we finally reached the falls. They’re called Union Falls because tow rivers meet here and the falls are where they join. You can see the second river off to the left joining lower down the falls. This is one of, if not the, most beautiful waterfall I’ve ever seen. 

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Also close to the falls is the Ouzel Pool, or Scout’s Pool as the locals call it (for the frequent Boy Scout troops that visit it from nearby Camp Loll, one of which was there today). The water is heated by a hot spring upstream and comes down the falls in the mid 80’s for temp. There is a pool at the base about 6 feet deep and you can jump from the rocks into the pool. Sara and I swam for about 20 minutes and hiked back. It was wonderful as the day was cool and wet so warming up a bit was nice. 

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This was a really great hike, but it’s long and not a lot to see through the trees along the way. Between that at the bugs, I would wait until a later time of year and also make an overnighter out of this if I did it again. 

YNP\GTNP 2014 – 8\4 2014 – Car Trouble, West Thumb and Old Faithful

The plan this morning was to hike to Union Falls in the Bechler region of Yellowstone. We awoke early and drove to the trailhead which is located at the Grassy Lake Trailhead on Grassy Lake road. This is a rough road leading out of Flagg Ranch and following the south boundary of Yelllowstone eventually winding up in Ashton ID if you go far enough.

Along the way are several small campgrounds with pit toilets available so we decided to stop and use one of them before beginning the hike. We pulled into one that wasn’t occupied and turned off the car. When we got ready to leave, the car would not start. The battery had died. We couldn’t push start it due to the road being so bad so we decided to hike back to the ranch to call for help, almost a five mile hike. Fortunately we only went about 2 miles before seeing another car coming down the road (this road is very rarely used). He had jumper cables and was able to get us started up. We thanked him profusely and drove immediately to Jackson for a new battery and our own set of cables. I wasn’t sure I needed it, but with a full vacation on the line I thought it best to be safe. By 11 AM we had a new battery and were back in business. We had no more trouble for the trip. 

It may have been for the best that we had trouble though, because by 9AM the sky had opened up and it rained steadily for the next few hours. This rain would continue off and on for the next several days, although we were fortunate to usually be able to avoid the worst of it.

Having been forced to change our plans for the day, we decided to go drive into Yellowstone and maybe see some wildlife. By the time we got to West Thumb the rain had partially cleared so we took a hike through the basin. West Thumb one of my favorite areas of the park, especially in the morning with the sun coming in on the lake. We didn’t take too many pics, but here’s one of the fishing cone. Back when the park was a little less strict about such matters, you could fish next to the Geyser and then dip your catch in the cone to cook it in the boiling water. Not sure I’d want to, but supposedly people did. P1020953

After leaving West Thumb we drove to Old Faithful. We watched it erupt, but couldn’t get any good pics because the rain and cool weather was really making a ton of steam. From there we hiked around the basin a bit. 

Observation Point and Solitary Geyser: 

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Giant and Grotto Geysers:

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All in all we made a good day out of a bad start and still managed to get in about 8 miles of hiking (including the road). Tomorrow we’ll try Union Falls again. 

YNP\GTNP 2014 – 8\2 and 8\3 2014 – Flagg Canyon and Lake Solitude

After months of planning and waiting, our big trip is finally here! Two weeks in the Tetons and Yellowstone, hiking nearly every day. We got up at 3 AM on Saturday morning and drove to the Tetons. We arrived at about 1 PM in the afternoon and drove to our campground at Flagg Ranch which is almost to the south entrance of Yellowstone. We’ve never stayed here before, but it’s the only campground in GTNP that takes reservations so we decided to try. Our campsite was nice, nothing special really. They did have nice heated bathrooms with hot water and clean showers so that was good.

After arriving and setting up camp, we decided to take a quick afternoon hike to stretch our legs from riding in the car all day. We looked on the park map and found a trail that starts from the campground and runs 2 miles each way. That sounded nice, so off we went. While the canyon was pretty, we ran into lots of bugs (which would end up being the theme of the trip…) but even worse was the dust on the trail. It turns out that this trail is used by the trail ride company at Flagg Ranch where they do four rides a day on it. Over the years this has turned the dirt into fine dust. After four miles we were covered up to our knees in dirt and needed a shower badly. Ironically, this was the dirtiest we got all trip. It was disgusting really. I do not recommend this trail for hiking due to the dust. Without it, this would be a nice short hike. Here’s a nice pic of the Snake River and Flagg Canyon.

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After returning to camp for a shower, we went to bed early. We have a big hike in the morning, Lake Solitude.

We awoke early to begin our hike and drove to Jenny Lake where we would take the shuttle boat to the trailhead. This takes two miles each way off the hike reducing it from 19 to 15 miles. On the way to the trail we saw a porcupine in the road, but he was gone so fast we couldn’t get a pic. We also say this herd of elk near Jackson Lake. P1020874

 

On the boat at Jenny Lake:

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This is Hidden Falls, it is the first stop on the trail. You take a short side trail for about 100 yards to come to this fall. P1020883

From there we continued up the canyon following Cascade Creek the whole way. The scenery just became more spectacular all the way. The canyon was dotted with wildflowers and dominated by great views of the Tetons.

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As we neared the lake we had to cross what was obviously an avalanche from last winter still hanging on. The snow here was many feet deep and you could see where it slid down the mountain and destroyed a ton of trees. The power of this fall was incredible and this snow will not melt this year.

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We finally reached the lake where we had lunch of tuna sandwiches and wine. P1020924 P1020926

After lunch we headed back to the boat and saw this guy along the way:

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This is inspiration point, about one mile from the end. It looks out over Jenny Lake and the eastern part of the Teton park.  Most hikers only go this far so the crowds became much more thick at this point. From here we hiked back to the boat and then went back to camp for another early bed time. Our first full day of the trip was done as was the first of many great days of hiking.

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More to come.