CDT MT Section 11 Uncategorized

Day 95: Out of West Yellowstone

I woke up at 5, but forced myself to try to catch a few more winks, then got up a little after 6. I put my shoes on, grabbed my phone, and walked back to the Running Bear Pancake House.

Again, I got a table immediately, this time because it was much less busy than usual. The waitress indicated it was more like an October level of busyness. Anyway, it took me a long time to when my way through that huge Spanish omelet and a cinnamon roll and I drank a lot of coffee along the way, then took some to go.

Back in the room, I had to solve an issue with the blog to get the last few posts uploaded, then I plugged my phone in and took a shower.

I got ready to hike and then wasted a little time leaving. I drank one of the three remaining ciders and packed up the other two. At ten after ten, I decided I couldn’t waste any more time letting my phone charge up completely, so I got the road.

I took the highway west to the edge of town, about a twenty minute walk. Then I stuck my thumb out towards Targhee Pass. It was about a 15 or 20 minute hitch. Not bad! Almost as easy to get into and out of West Yellowstone as Augusta. The driver was a kid, Caleb, on break from college, visiting his girlfriend and out camping near the pass, doing a little bit of day hiking. Seemed pretty cool. Dropped me right at the trailhead. It was about 11:30.

I switched to hike mode and went as fast as I could. The first two miles passed in a heartbeat. Then I crossed a number of creeks, but I had some water and wasn’t worried. I passed up a side trail to an overlook. No time for sightseeing. A group of horse tourists passed me by. A couple of miles later, they passed me again in the other direction, having turned around at the overlook. They asked if I had seen the mama grizzly and cub they had stopped a quarter mile after passing me the first time. I guess they must have scared her off.

At the overlook, a couple of trail bikers wanted to chat. They asked me about water on the next section since they weren’t aware of any water on trail until Reas Pass in 11 miles. I checked and saw that there was a nice source just off trail in a mile and then nothing until Reas Pass like they said. I thanked them for bringing it to my attention, as I surely would have gotten low on water if I had passed up that next source.

In a mile, I turned out into a grassy meadow with water flowing through it and a good view of an energetic bulldozer doing who knows what on the other side of the road that passed through it. I took a break for a half-hour or so while filtering water.

I stopped again around 2:30 for lunch. I had a nice spot with a decent view just beside the trail at the top of a hill. I also had packed out some tinned lemon pepper trout with the lemons and peppercorns in the tin. A nice variation on the usual wrap.

Then, wanting to get as many miles as possible before dark, I buckled down and did the next 6+ miles without stopping. After 4 miles, I turned onto a dirt road that soon crossed the border into Idaho, taking me out of Montana for the last time. I was not alone on this road. I was passed by a speedy dirt-bike and saw an abandoned pickup parked just off the road too. I arrived at the Reas Pass turn-off around 6:45, and there were already a lot of people there, all nobos. The ones already cooking dinner were Caveman, Taco, Junk Cart, and Roadrunner, but more arrived after I had joined them. Unfortunately, I neglected to take any pictures of them. I was too focused on cooking dinner and drinking a can of cider while maintaining conversation with them.

They informed me that it was 0.4 miles to the water source here and it was the last for 27 miles to Summit Lake. I checked, and it looked like there was water in a small pond right next to the trail in only ten miles, so I skipped the 0.8 mile diversion, not wanting to carry that extra weight up the hill anyway.

A few of the new arrivals headed toward the water source and never returned, having found suitable camping somewhere along the road. I followed Goddess and a few other up the road they had just come down, and they peeled off down a side track to camp immediately. I kept going up the hill until 9pm, stopping beside the road just as the sun was setting. Late to bed is the price I pay for taking too long getting out of town.

It was a struggle to set up my tent in the very soft and crumbly dirt beside the road, and eventually, after replanting pulled-up stakes and standing everything up three times, three of out four stakes had one or more rocks weighing them down. The struggles of a non-freestanding tent again.

Anyway, I gave up catching up on blogging and knocked off to sleep around 10:30.

Trail miles: 18.5

Distance to Yellowstone boundary: 14.9 miles

Distance to Dubois: 131 miles

CDT MT Section 11 CDT WY Section 1

Day 96: Summit Lake

I went back to sleep after the 4am alarm on purpose, and then, figuring 6 hours of sleep was plenty, especially since my back was miraculously not hurting in the usual spot or between my shoulders, I started packing after the 5am alarm. I hit the trail just after it got bright enough out to put up the headlamp, around 6:15.

Just before 8am, I had to take a break in the woods above the trail, and I heard some footsteps crunching by on the road below. I caught up to the owner of those feet a mile later sitting beside the road with his JetBoil out. Cooking something at 8:30 after walking only 5 miles or so? I think he said his name was Windy. He said he didn’t have a permit for Yellowstone and just intended to stealth the first night, then stay in places like Grant Village that didn’t need permits until he hiked out of the park. Apparently, hiking through with no permit is a common tactic for sobos and rangers are not being too hard on them when caught.

So I hiked on another mile to the pond, the last water source for the next 17.5 miles. It was extremely muddy and it clogged up my filter almost instantly. I ended up spending well over an hour babysitting it, squeezing it, backflushing, clearing air, etc. just to get two liters filtered. I walked out with a dirty liter still in the dirty bag. Knowing i had no choice about doing a 24 mile day, I really felt that lost time.

I also really felt the heat. It was shaping up to be a hot one by usual Yellowstone summer standards, in the mid-80s. It was also bright, sunny, and clear. Cheerful weather, but I was still, as I had been all evening the night before and all morning to this point, just walking down a wide, dry loose dirt and gravel road. There were occasionally trees, but they were small and there was little shade to be found along the road.

Eventually, the trail turned suddenly into the woods from the road for a mile or so, and I found a very nice bit of shade with a good sitting log in this little section of single track, so I stopped to have lunch. Soon after that, the trail joined another dirt road, followed it up onto a higher plateau, and stayed on it for several more miles. Even when it seemed like a single track might return, it was just a way to get to another ATV track that had been eventually blocked to motor traffic but still looked like a dirt road.

It wasn’t until I was approaching the Yellowstone boundary that the single track returned for good. The boundary turned out to be a bit anticlimactic for how much advance planning is required to legally hike through Yellowstone. A tiny little boundary marker sign. And it’s not like this was not an official park trail. It gets plenty of traffic from CDTers. Do better, Park Service.

From the boundary, the next half mile is a steep climb for some reason. You can see me get winded climbing it in the video. It levels out a bit after that and opens up. It’s not a very interesting section. Two miles of that and the trail enters Wyoming, leaving the “Zone of Death.” And here is where I left Idaho for the last time. There’s no official marker for the boundary, but a hiker made an unofficial one.

There were quite a few nobos coming out of the park as I came in, but the last one I saw before I stopped for supper was the biggest surprise. It was Kaleidoscope from the PCT last year! In a brand new pair of tie-dye-colored shorts (and by brand new, I mean he probably hiked the whole CDT thus far in them). He was the same as ever: cheerful, fast, eager to get going, not much for small talk. The encounter started and ended so quickly, I didn’t even think to take a picture until he was already walking away.

Anyway, I stopped right after that, just before 6, on a log in the shadow of a tree. I had enough water for dinner plus enough to get the last 4 miles to camp if I filtered the last of the mud in the bag. With some babysitting, I managed to get all of it filtered in the time it took to treat my entree and use the result to make dessert. I accompanied dinner with the last can of cider packed out of West Yellowstone, or 90% of it anyway, since it did explode on opening and pushed foam out with such force that trying to suck it up just pushed it down my windpipe. Not very effective.

From there it was a relatively flat 3 miles to Summit Lake campground. I started seeing and smelling signs of the volcanic nature of the park. There were white flats where plants weren’t growing that were dry and smelled of sulfur.

But that didn’t stop Summit Lake from being wet and beautiful and full of life when I reached it. The clear, calm water was a lovely contrast to the muddy pond swarmed with yellow jackets I had spent the morning next to. After dropping my food and attractants in the food storage area, I wandered around until I found a nice flat spot not too far from the water. I set up and then went to collect some of that good clear stuff. Then I turned it brown through backflushing my filter into it until it was flowing well enough to fill my clean water bag.

I thought I would see Windy camping nearby since he said he was going to try to stay in official campsites, but it turned out I had the whole lake to myself. Not counting the wild animals of course. From there, it was 8 miles to the Geyser Hill boardwalk, 10 miles to Old Faithful Village, and 21.2 miles to my next campsite. In other words, I could get up early, spend some time hanging out with the geysers and the town food, and still have no trouble getting to camp at a reasonable hour. It was going to be another warm clear day following another warm clear night. Nothing but fun to look forward to.

Trail miles: 23.2

Distance to Dubois: 109.9 miles