I started packing up with the 5am alarm, only to find my tent had condensation under it. But strangely, it was almost all on one side. Probably something to do with an asymmetry in how I set it up, but it was barely damp on the left side or where my head was and soaked on the rest.
Anyway, I still managed to get hiking by around 6:20 and the trail was easy, all downhill into the Old Faithful area.
The Summit Lake rejoined a wide path that went out to Mystic Falls, but I went the other direction. The crowds started immediately, even if they weren’t that big yet because it was early. There were some small geysers going off and lots of hot pools (see video). I crossed Firehole River into a parking lot wedged between the river and a small bubbling geyser. No idea how they do that.
Across the road, a dirt trail started that eventually ran past some springs and inactive geysers. I rejoined a boardwalk near a spring, Morning Glory, that a private tour guide was named for Ladybird Johnson or her favorite flower or something. There were more geysers here along the river, none doing anything interesting, but the fish in the river were–they were jumping for bugs two feet above the surface, throwing themselves bodily out of the water.
Just ahead, I turned aside for the Riverside Geyser side track primarily because there was a trash can there to lighten my load into. But I got lucky because the geyser actually erupted while I was there. It is a fairly regular geyser, but the interval between eruptions is 5.5 to 7.5 hours. The eruption usually lasts over 20 minutes. You can hear me talking to the tour guide in the video. You can also see how few other people are there. Old Faithful was erupting about the same time, the Park didn’t have an accurate prediction posted for it, and Riverside is one of the predictable geysers that is farthest from Old Faithful. So it was a cozy venue, so to speak.
I took another hour working my way down the boardwalk past as many thermal features as possible. I found out I had missed an eruption of Beehive by the time I got there, and there was no chance it would perform again. But I finished up the board walk over Geyser Hill just in time for Old Faithful’s 11:35 performance. It’s a pretty spectacular little geyser, but Riverside was just as tall and much closer, so I’m glad I got to see that one.
Even before OF had finished its show, I was walking around the road to start getting through the gathered crowd to the service station down the hill. I figured most of the crowds wouldn’t be trying to get into a convenience store, and it was exactly where I wanted to be. I got some ice cream, some Combos, a beer, and a farm-fresh cinnamon roll. But first I had to get a mask. For the first time this trip, I had to wear a mask in a building that wasn’t an airport, and I had left my mask in Bozeman. (I had recently found a good mask lying in the road, but I hadn’t a chance to launder it yet.)
Anyway, in the shadow of the building next door, I ate the ice cream and the cinnamon roll. Then I carried the rest up to the OF Snow Lodge and just sat down in a narrow hallway that was kind of out of the way of everyone but had power outlets. This would be my base for the next few hours. My phone needed a full recharge and my mobile battery a partial recharge. And I felt a lot better about leaving my pack in a rarely used hall than outside where all the tourists passed.
Rather than recount moment by moment how I spent the next few hours, here’s a list of activities:
- Two phone calls
- Attempts to upload videos and photos to free up storage (unsuccessful)
- Chatting with other thru-hikers (nobos)
- Getting a chili dog and another beer from the general store
- Sloppily eating said dog across from a family badmouthing Dr. Fauci to their preteen child
- Getting a money order and a stamped envelope from the post office
- Returning to the post office to mail the money order
- Buying overpriced lip balm
- Filling my water bag in the bathroom
Regarding the money order, I would like to shout out accidental trail angel Ben Blom in Leadore, Idaho for helping me get back the box I left there by shipping it elsewhere on his own dime. Super helpful and nice guy, though I know it’s got to be a hassle for him dealing with all the fallout of Sam’s death.
Anyway, even after leaving it there in the hotel hallway outlet for three hours, my phone had not even reached 90%, but it was after 3pm and I still had another 11 miles to hike to my next scheduled campsite.
It was a bit of a challenge to find the trail beside the road that connected to the trailhead I needed to enter the woods from, but once I figured that out, I was slowly climbing a hill into the trees. The trail didn’t have much to show me for the first few miles. At some point, I saw a fox in the trail just hanging out. I snatched out my phone, turned on the camera, and selected video. Every extra millisecond it took to respond in each step of this process I was screaming in my head “Come on! The fox is going to run off!” But instead it just came down the trail right toward me and walked right by me like it didn’t have a care in the world. I guess it sees enough of us hikers it doesn’t worry about us anymore.
Soon, I came to another thermal area, home of the Lone Star Geyser. There was plenty of bubbling sound and a bit of steam, but no geyser activity. I took a snack break and walked on.
The next few miles were not so difficult nor interesting. I did see one male grouse with its neck feathers all puffed out but didn’t bother with a picture. Eventually, I came to another thermal area, with tons of boiling springs right next to the trail and signs everywhere warning me not to leave the trail. It was about this time I started feeling an uncomfortable pressure telling me I needed to go. But it was late and I didn’t want to stop until I reached my campsite (which I knew had a toilet). Also, as previously mentioned, I was not permitted to leave the trail. Plus which a hot spring makes a terrible toilet bowl.
I felt pretty awful by the time I reached the Shoshone Creek crossing. In theory, I could have crossed this creek without getting my feet wet, but I knew it was KO use. I stopped and changed into my sockwas.
It was also somewhere around here the mosquitos started getting bad. And some flies too. I thought the days of being swarmed by bugs were behind me as I hadn’t seen any considerable number in a while. I fact, I had tossed out two small bottles of DEET in West Yellowstone, carrying only the lotion forward. At this point, I was wishing I still had the spray.
Shortly after walking across the creek, I entered the bog. It was mostly trampled down grass and watery mud, but there were occasional deep channels crossing it. At the first such channel, the bridge was broken. I did not want to risk slipping and falling in, so I just stepped into the channel and immediately sank up to my thighs, wetting the bottoms of my shorts up to just below where my phone was in my pocket, thank goodness.
I had 0.6 miles of this slop before I made it to Cold Mountain Creek, which I stepped into to wash the mud off my legs. There was nothing to be done for the sockwas though.
My campsite was still 0.2 miles away, which was close enough that I didn’t want to stop and put my boots on for obvious reasons, but far enough that the fact I was walking on rocks and roots again in very thin-soled shoes got very annoying.
When I finally arrived at the camp, it was nearly 9pm, the twilight was nearly gone, and there was a tent already set up right next to the food storage area. A familiar voice greeted me.
“How ya doing?”
“Hi Windy. It’s Blast. How I’m doing is I’m really uncomfortable and I really need to find that toilet.”
“Sure thing. Want to chat about your day for five minutes first?”
Eventually, I pulled myself away from that conversation, found the plastic tank with a seat on top just sitting in the woods, and made the pain go away. Luckily, I brought my headlamp with me because it was completely dark by the time I returned.
I wandered around looking for a good campsite, a task much more difficult in the dark, and eventually found a spot to relocate my stuff to. Setting up a tent is not much harder in the dark, and I got it done quickly. It was well past 10 by the time I could go to sleep.
Trail miles: 21.2
Distance to Dubois: 89 miles