YNP\GTNP 2014 – 8\14 2014 – Bechler River Day Three

Today was to be another big mileage day as well because we decided to exit the backcountry a day early to get home and get our new puppy before starting work on Monday. Plus, I think Sara had enough of bugs as she got chewed up pretty good. The plan for today was to get to our normal campsite, and then day hike to Shoshone Lake. Tomorrow we’ll exit at Lone Star Geyser and hitch a ride back to our car at Delacy Creek. This way we still complete the planned mileage while leaving a day early. 

Once again we awoke to rain the AM and had to pack up camp wet to begin our third day of the trip. It started raining at about 4 AM and continued till about 6:30. As we ate our breakfast of Nutragtrain bars and hiker mocha (instant coffee and hot chocolate mix) there were blue skies approaching which lifted our spirits considerably. We left camp at about 7:30 and hit the trail. The waterfalls along the route just kept coming. 

Ragged Falls:

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Twister Falls:

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As we continued past twister falls the terrain became more alpine with low grasses and lodgepole pines. This was a welcome change to the thick brush as we were able to stay mostly dry all day. We stopped near campsite 9D4 for a break and some fresh water and found a very nice meadow and spring area to rest and refill. 

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We also found these flowers growing out of a giant pile of obsidian sand and thought they were quite striking. 

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Sara on the trail:

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We reached our campsite at 8G1 and found that the previous occupants had left us some art. When we later hiked to Shoshone Lake, we found another of the same drawing on the beach. 

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After pitching our tent and hanging our food for the night, we went for a day hike to Shoshone Lake to explore the geyser basin. This is as impressive a geyser basin as any of the minor ones lining the road in the park. In fact, I’d say it’s bigger than most with the exception of the Norris and Old Faithful basins. Here’s a few photos of this beautiful place:

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After exploring the geyser basin we headed over to the lake shore. Shoshone lake is the largest backcountry lake in the lower 48. The only ways to get to get there are to hike, on horseback or to paddle up the Lewis Lake channel. There was a family camped opposite of us on the shoreline. 

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After a nice visit to the lake we went back to camp, had dinner and went straight to bed before dark. It had been a long day, about 14 miles total, more than half of that with full packs. 

YNP\GTNP 2014 – 8\13 2014 – Bechler River Day Two

Last night was rather eventful. The weather was great when we went to bed so we decided to leave the rain fly off the tent and sleep under just the screen. This worked great till about 1 AM when a thunderstorm rolled in. I was able to get the fly on before the rain hit but I did smash my middle finger between a tent stake and a rock while guying out the tent. Tore a big flap of skin right off of my fingertip under the nail. Ouch! It rained for about three hours solid so we knew the day was going to be wet and boy was it!

As we started hiking the brush became thicker and taller the more we continued. You could see the trail by your feet, but the brush was chest high in most places and had grown across the trail. The plants were wet with all the rain from the previous night so as you walked through them, you ended up wearing all that water. Within five minutes on the trail we were wet from the waist down as if we had jumped in a swimming pool with all our clothes on. Fortunately it was a warm day and this helped keep us cool. Some pics of the thick brush, some already showing fall colors. That’s the trail under that second pic. 

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After about 1.5 miles we came to Collonade Falls. It’s a set of two waterfalls, each about 80 feet high. 

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Next was Iris Falls a short distance later. 

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Then we came to our first ford of the day. This was perhaps the scariest part of the trip as this water was deep and fast from the previous nights rains. It was the only portion of the trip where I honestly felt my safety was at risk. We managed to reach the other side though as adrenaline gave us an extra push. We stopped to wring out our socks and had a quick nip of whiskey from my flask to calm our nerves before heading on. 

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After about another mile we forded the river for the last time. This one was easy, no more than knee deep and easy current. The river was also not as wide at this point as we were nearing it’s beginning. 

After that we were heading out of the Canyon and into a thermal area along the river. This area was very nice. We stopped for a rest and to dry our feet before continuing on to camp. 

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Our campsite was our favorite along this route. It had several thermal features in the camp including a very pretty hot spring right across from our tent. 

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After setting up camp we decided to take a side trail to a thermal area best known for it’s main feature, Mr. Bubbles. Mr. Bubbles is a section of the river that has formed a small pool. One side is fed by the river, the other by a hot spring. There is also a column of Bubbles rising from the middle of the pool although they are not hot. This makes a very good natural jacuzzi so of course we took a dip.  It’s a strange sensation because one side of the pool is cold and the other is hot. You have to find just the right spot to be comfortable and, since it’s a river, that spot moves around some. 

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Some other nice thermal features in the area, and a friend we met while there. 

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This was the best day of the entire trip and one of the greatest days of hiking I’ve ever had. Waterfalls, near death river fords, wildlife, hot springs and beautiful views all spent with my wonderful wife. Days like this are why I love hiking and camping. 

YNP\GTNP 2014 – 8\11 and 8\12 2014 – Cave Falls Campground and Bechler River Day One

8\11 was a down day for the most part. We spent the morning breaking camp and packing our backpacks for the next four days and four nights. We had to get packed, eat or throw away all our perishable food and clean out the cooler before going to meet our shuttle driver for transport to Cave Falls campground near the Bechler entrance. We were scheduled to meet our driver at 1:00 PM so we had plenty of time. 

Once packed we drove to the DeLacy Creek trailhead where we would leave our car. Jerry showed up a bit early which was great as it was a long drive, about three hours. He dropped us off at the campground and left us there for the night. It was now official, we were stranded 45 miles from our car and no way back except to walk. The trip was on. We set up camp at a nice spot next to the Falls River and went to bed early. 

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In the morning we packed up all our gear and food. It made quite the pile as we sorted it on the picnic table. 

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We left camp and had to hike 1.5 miles down the road to where the trail began. Less than 200 yards into the hike, we spotted this fellow:

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They call this section of the park Cascade  Corner because of all the waterfalls. It’s a well deserved name as we were to find out over the next few days. The first was Cave Falls. It’s named that because there used to be a Cave behind the falls. Unfortunately is collapsed several years ago so you can no longer enter it. 

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Next we came to Bechler Falls just a couple miles later.

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After hiking through the forest for a few more miles we came to Bechler Meadows, a huge wide open area. The dragonflies in this area were spectacular. There were literally thousands of them everywhere, all colors of the rainbow. Since they eat mosquitoes they were quite a welcome site and the meadows were largely free from them. This was a very nice break because the Bechler area is known for mosquitoes and this year was no exception. There were times when we were being chased by swarms of them through the forest and any time you stopped you were able to swat 10-15 of them in a matter of a minute or less. This was the worst mosquitoes I’ve ever experienced. Fortunately this day was the worst of the trip and they got better the higher we went upriver. 

The meadow was a beautiful place however, and we even got to cross a suspension bridge that had me humming the Indian Jones theme as we crossed. 

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Nearing the end of the day we came to the first of three fords of the Bechler River on this trip. The other two would come tomorrow. This was about waist deep at the far end but was rather easy as the bend in the river caused the current to push us towards shore. After hiking through that hot meadow for the last couple of hours, the cool river felt great. A little note on our strategy for footwear is in order here. Many folks take an extra pair of shoes or sandals to use for river crossing but we didn’t want the extra weight in our packs. Instead, we choose to do the hike in runnning shoes which dry fast. When we reached the rivers, we took off our socks and removed the insoles. The shoes dried quickly that way and within a half hour of the crossing we had dry feet again. Here’s a picture of the ford. It was quite wide, but shallow until the very end and a gentle current. 

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After the ford, the trail follwed the Bechler River to camp. We took a few shots along the way. 

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We finally readhed camp in late afternoon. Today’s hike was a tough one, nearly 12 miles from the previous camp and carrying our heaviest loads of the trip, nearly 40 lbs. each. Were were very tired and went to bed early to both get some rest and some respite from the bugs. 

Some toadstools and flowers around camp:

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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. 

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\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.