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Trip 1998, Yellowstone National ParkReturn of the Backpacking Home
Welcome to the summary of my 1998 backpacking trip to Yellowstone National Park (YNP).
After several years in the Sierras we decided to increase the adventure and try a trip in Yellowstone. Yellowstone presented some new challanges for us, both in preparing for the trip and in the experience of it. We left on Saturday August 15th at noon and hit Las Vegas around 6PM. After a brief pit stop we were on the road again, around 8PM, for the non-stop leg of the trip to Jackson Wyoming. In the interim we passed through Arizona, Utah, and part of Idaho.
The members of our band were some familiar faces and a new one. Again there were Rich, Little Rich, Mike and me. The new-guy this year was one Dave Cataldo. Dave didn't try to adhere to most of the new-guy agenda set the year before by Little Rich. Dave never sat on the hump, rarely sat in the backseat at all as a matter of fact. But in the end he was a new-guy through and through. It did my heart good to see Dave limping and grimacing in pain, tending to blisters, struggling with his pack and the like. If only because I've been there all too many times... Dave did very well for his first time, but next year, Dave, leave the CANS of stew, Levis JEANS, and half those 5 pair of underwear at home... Unfortunatly, Jesus couldn't make it this year, we missed his wit and melodious belching.
Once we got to Jackson we ate breakfast, did some quick shopping for last minute items and repaired the shock mount I'd broke in Utah on their lovely freeways. Did I mention the &^%#*$&^%#*#)(*&^!@%$#$$ freeways in Utah? Oh, what a joy driving through Utah was. First the freeway was being worked on and only one lane was open for about 20 miles. I never saw any workers but it was 3AM. Traffic wasn't bad but the bumps were H U G E!!! Hitting one unexpectedly was what pulled my shock out of the mount. Then Salt Lake City (SLC)was just a dream. There is a lot of work going on in preparation for the 2002 winter Olympics. Just a little detour for about 10 miles or so of HWY 15. Only problem is each detour sign had two arrows on it pointing in TWO DIFFERENT DIRECTIONS. Sheer Genius...
Well, early on the morning of the 16th we passed through the Tetons, Awsome, and on into YNP. Traffic in the park was surprisingly light with very few motor homes. The day was beautiful with no clouds in the sky. We spent the day checking in, doing some tourist stuff and a little shopping, in general, walking around looking like zombies. That evening we went to dinner at the lodge, quite good actually, and then back to the room to try and finish off the case of beer that DAVE brought, FNG. We tried to sleep that night but the LIGHTNING, and THUNDER, and POUNDING RAIN kept us up most of the night. We awoke the next morning to an absolute downpour.
There was some brief discussion about not walking in that day and perhaps waiting till the next. Since YNP has very strict rules on back-country use we either went in that day or went home. So in we went. The drive to the trail head was sort of slow because we could hardly see between the rain drops, but eventually we made it and the real adventure began.
The first hiking day was to the northern shore of Shoshone (I pronounce it showshowknee) lake, which, over the next five days we would circumnavigate. This 8.5 mile day seemed like 12, and it rained most of the day. We made camp around 4:30, quickly pitched the tents and ate dinner. We were then treated to a beautiful sunset over the lake and some geysers across the lake. The next day we were up and out of camp early. This was supposed to be a sort of easy day, only 7 miles, which felt 10. We walked through some swamps, again it rained, and we had a couple of mild river crossings. All in all it was a harder day than the map indicated, I've really got to learn how to read those things. The day ended with a COLD crossing of Moose Creek which has a bed of volcanic rock, painful on bare feet. We spent two nights next to Moose Creek, the only place we could have fires, and repaired our various aches, sun showered, relaxed and enjoyed the rain. The second day at Moose Creek Rich and I decided to take a day hike and scout out a large river crossing we had to make the next day. It turned out to be a very nice walk through some areas that were burned in '88. It was good to see a carpet of ten year old two foot tall lodgepole pines filling in the scarred areas of the forest. We got to Lewis Creek after a 2 mile hike and gulped. When we got down to the river we saw that it was about 100' feet across and moving fairly swiftly. The bottom of the river is lined with black volcanic rock and obsidian making it difficult to tell the depth. Rich and I plunged in and enjoyed an invigorating swim in and across the river, finding a suitable place to cross. This would be a good time to note that Rich is part Polar Bear and just loves swimming in recently melted ICE. We got cleaned up and refreshed and realized that if we saw wild life at that moment, we'd be stuck in the river unable to get our cameras, or anything else for that matter. So we got out and started to dry off. And wouldn't you know it, we saw a moose right then. We were just in our wet shorts but we grabbed our cameras and took off to get a better view. He was a biggun, he came down to the river and crossed, and ate some grass right below where we were standing. It was pretty cool to see. Seeing a Moose was one of the reasons we'd driven 28 hours and 1100 miles, so Rich and I were very full of giddiness and self satisfaction at that moment, something I'll never forget.
On the morning of the 20th we packed up and headed for a campsite called Grizzly Cove, hhhhmmmmmmm. We were now back on the north side of the lake and 3/4 the way through our trip. This day was once again MUCH harder than we anticipated and that the map seemed to indicate. The camp was right on the water and as we pitched our tents the wind died down and we went for a very refreshing swim. We were now 18 miles from the trailhead with two camps to go. Our next day was supposed to be a six mile day which would leave our walk out to be 12 miles. Considering how every mile in Yellowstone is like 1.5 miles anywhere else we scrapped the planned stop and extended our hike by about 4 miles. The only risk here was that the camp site we had intended to stay at could have been occupied once we got there. The beauty of backpacking, however, is that we've got everything we need right on our backs, so if the camp site was taken we just mosy into the woods a ways and viola, another camp site... Alas, the site was empty and we set up. About an hour after arriving and setting up, we'd cleaned up a little and relaxed, we got hit with a DOWNPOUR. We scrammbled to our tents where we preceded to stay for the next 3 hours. After I'd read EVERY WORD in my tent I decided to cook dinner, in my tent. Another interesting adventure. Both Rich and I cooked dinner and neither of us burned down our homes. The rain finally stopped and we played cards for a little while and enjoyed our last night in Yellowstone. The next day was walk out and drive home day. Salt Lake City sucked again but the drive home took about three hours less then the drive out. All in all a great trip with a long drive. I'll go back but not for a few years.