Yellowstone Hike - Day One
Another whole week went by before I posted another blog!
DAY ELEVEN – Friday July 20
Back to it....
It's the day of the hike in Yellowstone, the day I begin to walk my legs off. And despite a poor night's sleep on Matty's dorm room floor, I'm very excited. To recap as prologue because it's been a while since my last blog, my beloved cousin Jennifer was working in Yellowstone for the summer, and her best friend's friend Wes was in for a big hike they had planned. Well, Jennifer had planned it, and had said it would be about 20 miles, but she was still figuring out the route. Strap in, there's gonna be LOTS of pictures.
We woke, showered, sorta packed, threw our packs in the car, and got to driving. It was about 6am and we had a 2.5 hour drive from Mammoth Hot Springs, out to West Yellowstone, down through Ashton, Idaho, and back into the southern part of the park.
We were going to hike up the Bechler (pronounced Beckler) Meadows trail, which, about 15 miles in, connects to a trail you can take another 15 miles to Old Faithful. No thanks. We were in search of Mr. Bubble. The bathroom cleaner? No. It's a hot springs you can supposedly sit in. Very few people have heard of it and most of the park employees have no idea it exists. Cool. (I guess it's named after the Mr. Bubble Bubble Bath.)
For those who don't know (I didn't), Yellowstone was once the site of a volcano that ages ago blew big time, supposedly sending pieces of itself into Brazil This was, geologically speaking, 600,000+ years ago. It is thought to be among of the largest volcanic explosions in history. Krakatoa was nuthin' compared to this. Wow. What's left is the huge caldera, or the feature formed by the collapse of land after the blast, and it's why Yellowstone has geysers and hot springs all over.
So we were headed up the trail into the area of some hot springs, looking for Mr. Bubble. I could make fun of that statement, but since I was one of the people walking on my feet that far to find it, I won't.
I was told we were going to be fording some rivers on the hike, so I decided to wear my swim trunks. I also figured any other clothes I brought would get very dirty, so I decided to wear only one white t-shirt and toss it at the end of the trip. I also brought a long sleeve shirt in case it was cold at night or in the mornings. And because the sun was beating down pretty good, I brought my green floppy outdoor hat. It looks a little silly, but I was glad I had it; better than a baseball cap, people.
We got to the ranger station, and while Jenn was showing our camping permit to the lady ranger, I was checking out the posted trail map. So Jenn, of course, snapped a shot.
We lined up for a timer-shot to begin our journey.
And we were off. Wes was in front, I was in the middle, and Jenn was behind. Jenn and I began to have the conversation we'd been waiting weeks to have: so she could give me all the girly details about how she met her new beau Anthony. (As I've said on this blogspace many times, when it comes to this stuff, I'm a 9 year old girl. Are girls even interested in romantic details at 9? See...I'm horrible with ages.) While we talked and Jenn gushed about Anthony—and I kept stopping her and backing her up, telling her not to skip details...I swear I should have pink bows in my hair during these conversations—Jenn took some shots of Wes and me walking ahead.
We hadn't put any bug repellent on yet, and the winged critters began to bother us, so we stopped and lathered up with Jenn's lotion that had 30% deet in it. Jenn was frustrated with herself because she thought she had brought more, and the bottle was about half full. We'll revisit that.
Finally, the tree cover broke and we began to get to the meadows part of the Bechler Meadows trail. Just before the meadow breaks wide, there's a river and a suspension bridge. Here's what it looks like on the cool Satellite function on Google Maps. You can even see the suspension bridge!
We stopped for a break and walked into the cool river. Jenn took a pic of me on the bridge...
...and I took a pic of her (sans pack).
We decided to fill up our water, so Jenn broke out her cool little water filter pump and got to work.
They are currently serving this fresh cool water in Heaven. It was that good.
Here's another satellite pic of the river and bridge, with the meadows we began to cross. (The 9B1 is a campsite designation.)
The meadows went much further than that map, so here's another zoomed-out view from the bridge to our next stop, which we called the watering hole...it's about 2 miles of trail through the meadows. For some unknown reason, the trail zig zags out in the wide open...I've heard the shortest distance between two points is a straight line, but I guess that would be too easy.
We came upon a few guys packing out horses and mules from a week-long outfitter trip. (That's when folks go on a trip, but pay to have all the horses, food, equipment and guides supplied.) These outfitters were taking all the equipment out.
I was tired with this big pack on my back, and thought to one of the mules, "You and me, right now we're both mules. But you have two extra legs." He thought back, "Jealous much?" Yes...I have conversations with mules in my brain. In my world, everything talks, even if it's just a personification of dialogue in my brain.
We would later meet the actual group of travelers on horses and the guides. They were on the way out from a week-long camping and riding trip. They said it was fun, but they looked like it had taken its toll.
After crossing that seemingly endless sweltering meadow, suffice to say that arriving at the watering hole was a great relief. Here's some zoomed in satellite shots, and a few shots Jenn took of us crossing to the middle.
Jenn likes her new camera, and loves taking both color and black & white pics, if you couldn't tell.
After some time chilling (literally) in the watering hole river, we continued. We'd come 5.6 miles, and had 1.4 to go to our first night's campsite. That final 1.4 miles worked me over, and my legs felt like flexible straws. The packs we were wearing weighed between 25-35 pounds. I really couldn't complain, because I was carrying the lightest one.
I thought it too hot to sit in a tent, so I went down to the river.
Digital is cool, but when you have to shrink nature shots, it just doesn't do them justice. If you could see all the great shots Jenn took of this and other views in their large versions...wow.
It was refreshing and wonderful to go walk and splash around in that cool rushing water. God was everywhere and I thanked Him for the experience. I shouted up to Jenn and Wes to come down, that they would love it. Eventually they emerged from talking in the tent. About that time I saw a frog near the little island, and as he hopped away from me, I hopped with him, in a random zig zag, trying to corner him so I could catch him. Jenn saw me bouncing around and said, "What was that dance for?" I told her I was trying to catch a frog and she got all excited. I caught it and brought it over, and we took pics of our campsite mascot. At first, he wasn't thrilled about being cupped in my hands, and tried to jump away, but finally I was able to calm him down and he sat patiently for his close ups.
At first I named him Anton, because Jenn had found her prince in Yellowstone, but that name didn't catch on and we just called him Frog.
Wes took a break in the water while we all chatted.
Then I played a solitaire game I had just then invented called "river fetch," by throwing a piece of wood upstream and waiting for it to come back to me. I kept throwing it further and further upstream, and one time, amazingly, it came DIRECTLY back to me, I didn't have to move or adjust at all. Good River! GOOD BOY!
Yes, I can be that simple. This would have entertained me for an hour. But it didn't take too many throws for me to lose track of it. Boo hoo. I made the pouty-lips face and Jenn laughed. So to lift my only-pretending-to-be-lowered spirits I went to check on my frog. It took me a few minutes to find him, because he blended in, but he was right where I let him go, just hanging out at the edge of the island.
I know the name Frog Island made it seem like there were a bunch of them, but no. I looked. Either his family was well hidden from us humans, or he was a loner. (Coulda been a she, what do I know from frogs?)
We decided to eat. Wes made a fire even though we didn't need one for cooking. Jenn had brought some cooking gear and mini propane sterno cans. We had lots of snack foods (trail mix, peanuts, raisins, cliff bars, crackers) but also had the add-boiling-water camping food. It wasn't bad.
The mosquitoes were in full force by now, though Wes' fire was keeping some at bay. Jenn was getting extremely irritated and frustrated by them. She hadn't put on a fresh batch of deet lotion after we had played in the river, because she wanted to ration it. We were staying at least one more night, but might stay another after that. The difference being whether we hiked out 12 miles on the last day, or split it up to 6 and 6, which would mean we would need enough bug stuff to last us. I was in favor of the extra night, because after walking nearly 7 miles on day one, I couldn't fathom my walking 12 miles in one day. Wes and Jenn were in favor of the 12 mile day out, but we tabled the discussion until that needed to be decided.
Jenn got a little irritated with me when I tried to help her with stuff, because I hated to see her suffering the bugs and doing a lot of the work (cooking, tying up the food bag on the bear pole—a high crossbar on two tree you use to string up your food, so it hangs high and bears can't get to it). But even though she's a thin woman, she's tough when it comes down to it and doesn't like to be coddled. She sees it as patronizing and it irks her. I wasn't coddling her, I just wanted to try to do my part around camp; but sometimes there's a fine line of perception between the person trying to help and the person who doesn't want to be helped. She's stubborn, but I love her. And I'm oblivious in the moment and over analytical later, but she loves me. See, it's all good.
One thing she does that I love is answer truthfully. If I say, "Are you okay?" she'll often answer "I'll be fine," indicating that no, she's not okay, but will deal with it. My problem is when I get a 'No' answer to that, I want to help even more, and also want to talk about the issue. That doesn't work for everyone, especially when they are aggravated to begin with.
Part of this whole dynamic with her stems from the fact that Jenn had major back surgery 2 years ago, and since has also developed a subtle heart condition (still unexplained), along with something else I didn't yet know about (we'll get to that on hike day 3). So in some ways, her health is a delicate thing, and she can be very girly. But she's also a very active outdoorsy person, and is into hiking, backpacking, kayaking, volleyball, and now show-shoeing in the winter. She's an athlete in a non-athletic body, and in many ways she is one of my heroes. What she has been through and the effort she puts into experiencing life is a great encouragement to louts like me, who can't fathom walking 7 miles in one day, even though I just did.
But we both also have the perspective of our faith, and we love that we have that to share. So once we were in the tent, we talked about it and apologized to each other for getting frustrated with each other, even though it was very minor irritation when it happened. It was still early, but we were all fairly tired, and as the sun finally began to set (around 9pm-ish) we all fell asleep. Even though it didn't classify as "anger," I was glad, as the scripture goes, that Jenn and I didn't let the sun go down on our anger. (Ephesians 4:26)
NEXT: Hike Day Two - MR BUBBLE!