Lamar River, Pelican Valley, & Speciman Ridge loop - Yellowstone, Jun 29 to Jul 3, 2021

travel2walk

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Joined
Mar 1, 2018
Messages
42
We spend 5 days and 4 nights in the Lamar River region of Yellowstone. It was recommended by my new friend @TheMountainRabbit for a backpacking experience that represented Yellowstone and accessible during our time frame. To complete the hike as a loop without the highly contested and limited camping spots on Mirror Plateau, we used a suggestion from @scatman here in these forums. My reference material was this thread by @TheMountainRabbit https://backcountrypost.com/threads...alley-yellowstone-np-mid-september-2020.9572/ with @scatman recommendation in the comments. Thanks y'all for all the help!

This is just a quick report with a few raw images without any post processing I look along the loop for now. Eventually, I'll have a more detailed report and video at some point not in the near feature.

I wasn't the smartest regards to my reservation of campsites. The permit I pulled was as follows:
6/29 3F1 (this was a mistake as I was looking for one around 3L7, but was a bit disorganized when the backcountry office returned my call for my permit)
6/30 3T3
7/1 4W2
7/2 4W2 (rest day before off trail section)
7/3 3L4 (planned night if we crossed mirror plateau via @TheMountainRabbit route, which we didn't use since we decided we were done at this point)

lamar-125.jpg

lamar-126.jpg


My overall impressions was that we probably did it at the wrong time of the year. We saw no signs of bears, it was incredibly buggy, and the heat wave this year made us feel like we were in the desert. Our MVP gear for the hike was our umbrellas, which provided cover from the sun and rain on a couple of occasions. On the bright side, the wildflowers were everywhere and all the marshy areas were very dry making it an easier hike though our feet were still constantly wet.

As such, we didn't find the hiking and scenery to be the most impressive hiking experience of our hiking careers, but again I don't think it was the right time of year for us to do the hike and we didn't hike it the best way to optimize the experience. We are hikers that typically camp because it is necessary to see cool things and not camp for the sake of camping. I'm ok with bigger miles and not really the way to do this hike. For future trips into the Yellowstone backcountry, I'd plan for shorter days with plenty of time to hang around the many great campsites and look out upon the meadows for passing wildlife. Also maybe later in the year. I don't regret our plan though for this trip since we saw no signs of bears at all along our trail and no wildlife during the days we did have plenty of time at camp. The only wildlife were bisons and infinite mosquitos and horseflies. We were happy to get out earlier as we were being eaten alive, don't worry I did my part to bring down their numbers.

As for solitude on the trail, other than a couple of day hikers near the trailhead, we only saw on other couple camped along Lamar River and 1 guy coming out from 3T3. That was it.

Day 1: Lamar Trailhead/Soda Spring to Cold Creek (3F1)

It was hot and we didn't start until 11am cause of traffic. Umbrellas were our savior for the trip.
lamar-100.jpg


Cache Creek as only at our knees at the end of June during this very hot summer.
lamar-101.jpg


The views of the Lamar River were kinda repetitive or just seems that way when we hiked all 17 miles of it in one day. We were pretty low on morale at this point as the hike was a bit of a drag because of the heat. We kept looking out at the meadows and mountains sides hoping to see a bear, but saw nothing. This would be the theme for the rest of our hike.
lamar-102.jpg


Day 2: Cold Creek to Mist Pass (3T3)

We decided to continue despite low morale since it was going to be an easier day (thanks to our long day before) and we had time to relax at a nice campsite at the end of the short day. There wasn't much to see until we came to Mist Meadow. We really enjoyed the site, but didn't see any passing animals this time around. Evening mosquitos meant we hid in our tent and rain clouds meant we had to have our rain fly on for the night. Though the relaxing afternoon and a soak in the creek rejuvenated us enough to decide on finishing to the loop rather than bailing.
lamar-104.jpg


Day 3: Mist Pass to Watipi Lake (4W2).

Another long day begin with the short climb to Mist Pass. Looking back toward the Mist Meadows.
lamar-105.jpg


We were hopeful to see Bears as we dropped into the Pelican Bear Management area, but no signs of them here either. We saw Yellowstone Lake in the distance.
lamar-107.jpg


We took the Pelican Cone cutoff across a large meadow before starting to follow the Pelican Creek through another open meadow. There were some thermal features, which we enjoyed as it was something different than.
lamar-110.jpg


For those that like wildflowers (indian paintbrush), this was the time to hike here. Not so much for wildlife.
lamar-112.jpg


Rainclouds came in by the time we were at the Fern Lake Patrol Cabin and the mosquitos became worse after that so we pushed for our camp at Watipi Lake. There was a constant hum here from all the mosquitos during the evenings.
lamar-113.jpg


Day 4. nothing

We were tired.
lamar-114.jpg


Day 5 - Watipi Lake to Trailhead

We decided to take the most direct way out via @scatman suggestion as we were tired of fighting the bugs and were out of bug spray. The route was actually provided for our most interesting day of hiking on our trip.

We started by following Shadow Creek as it drains Watipi Lake. It was pretty easy going, though our early start meant the wet grass had our feet wet in minutes.
lamar-115.jpg


We pass a few small thermal areas and then turned away from the creek to head over to Wrong Creek through a large thermal area (Hot Spring Basin Group).
lamar-116.jpg


There was a steep downhill section dropping down into Wrong Creek, but the small creek here was dry to it wasn't too bad to just hike in the stream bed for the steepest section.
lamar-117.jpg


We crossed Wrong Creek and followed a tributary upstream toward a pass. There is a bison trail here, but also plenty of downfall now covering the trail. This was the beginning of the most difficult section of our day,
lamar-119.jpg


At the pass, the bison trail spits from the route I had from @scatman heading toward Deep Creek further east. I knew they had came the other direction so I wasn't sure if they were aware of the buffalo trail. Had we been in a more exploratory mood rather than getting out mood, I would have liked to follow the bison trail. As such we dropped down to a dry Deep Creek following @scatman's route before beginning our steep and long approach to gain elevation toward Peak 9474 and then 9245, where we'd hit the Pelican Ridge trail weaving through openings and avoiding the forest as much as possible.
lamar-120.jpg


Eventually, we found a nice bison trail to follow and it brought us to the top of a cliff band with a 270 degree view of the mountains we'd seen through out our trip.
lamar-121.jpg


Once we neared the Speciman Ridge trail, there were storm clouds all around us. We sheltered for a few minutes among some trees for the storm clouds directly above us to pass before gaining the ridge. While the weather was good for most of our way down the Speciman Ridge trail, it was raining on the area around us on Mirror Plateau and along the Lamar Valley.
lamar-123.jpg


This made our last crossing, the Lamar River, a bit trickier as the river was brown with runoff. It wasn't too deep as the deepest part was at my thighs, but we couldn't see the bottom and the bottom was plenty of slippry rocks.
lamar-124.jpg


After fording the Lamar, the rain finally dumped on us for a few minutes. We didn't care at this point, we were only a few miles from the car.
 
Last edited:

TheMountainRabbit

"Because it's there."
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Joined
Feb 15, 2020
Messages
112
Glad you made the trip! Bugs, heat, and rain are why I do most of my big Yellowstone trips in September. ;)

I'm surprised you didn't see more in the way of wildlife - though my brother and I didn't have a ton of luck on that account in September last year either. I guess you'll just have to come back.

I love the picture of the storm clouds coming into Lamar Valley.

I do think you've validated my preference for doing this route in the other direction though; we found the Lamar River section incredibly relaxing, but we were going downhill - and the temperature was in the 50s.
 

travel2walk

Member
Joined
Mar 1, 2018
Messages
42
Glad you made the trip! Bugs, heat, and rain are why I do most of my big Yellowstone trips in September. ;)

I'm surprised you didn't see more in the way of wildlife - though my brother and I didn't have a ton of luck on that account in September last year either. I guess you'll just have to come back.

I love the picture of the storm clouds coming into Lamar Valley.

I do think you've validated my preference for doing this route in the other direction though; we found the Lamar River section incredibly relaxing, but we were going downhill - and the temperature was in the 50s.
Yea, I was surprised too. Though I do wonder about if the heat and how dry it was had something to do with it. I'm going to have to come back for sure, I think animals are just much more of a probabilistic thing so definitely one of those hikes that the more time you spend out there the better experience. We though it would be cool to just go in via mirror plateau via your route then coming out the route we did (or vice versa) would be pretty fun. Let me know if you want a friend for a future September trip.

Oh yea, that last day was my favorite. It was kinda cool with all the storms around us but missing us.

I decided on clockwise so we would have the lightest packs of our off trail section. I don't think I would have mind that Lamar river section much if it wasn't for the heat and us doing it much in 1 day. Or if we saw a bear. lol. Really it was just the heat, our walking was so much more relaxing early morning or when the cloud was blocking the sun.
 

scatman

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Dec 23, 2013
Messages
1,833
We spend 5 days and 4 nights in the Lamar River region of Yellowstone. It was recommended by my new friend @TheMountainRabbit for a backpacking experience that represented Yellowstone and accessible during our time frame. To complete the hike as a loop without the highly contested and limited camping spots on Mirror Plateau, we used a suggestion from @scatman here in these forums. My reference material was this thread by @TheMountainRabbit https://backcountrypost.com/threads...alley-yellowstone-np-mid-september-2020.9572/ with @scatman recommendation in the comments. Thanks y'all for all the help!

This is just a quick report with a few raw images without any post processing I look along the loop for now. Eventually, I'll have a more detailed report and video at some point not in the near feature.

I wasn't the smartest regards to my reservation of campsites. The permit I pulled was as follows:
6/29 3F1 (this was a mistake as I was looking for one around 3L7, but was a bit disorganized when the backcountry office returned my call for my permit)
6/30 3T3
7/1 4W2
7/2 4W2 (rest day before off trail section)
7/3 3L4 (planned night if we crossed mirror plateau via @TheMountainRabbit route, which we didn't use since we decided we were done at this point)

View attachment 99774
View attachment 99775

My overall impressions was that we probably did it at the wrong time of the year. We saw no signs of bears, it was incredibly buggy, and the heat wave this year made us feel like we were in the desert. Our MVP gear for the hike was our umbrellas, which provided cover from the sun and rain on a couple of occasions. On the bright side, the wildflowers were everywhere and all the marshy areas were very dry making it an easier hike though our feet were still constantly wet.

As such, we didn't find the hiking and scenery to be the most impressive hiking experience of our hiking careers, but again I don't think it was the right time of year for us to do the hike and we didn't hike it the best way to optimize the experience. We are hikers that typically camp because it is necessary to see cool things and not camp for the sake of camping. I'm ok with bigger miles and not really the way to do this hike. For future trips into the Yellowstone backcountry, I'd plan for shorter days with plenty of time to hang around the many great campsites and look out upon the meadows for passing wildlife. Also maybe later in the year. I don't regret our plan though for this trip since we saw no signs of bears at all along our trail and no wildlife during the days we did have plenty of time at camp. The only wildlife were bisons and infinite mosquitos and horseflies. We were happy to get out earlier as we were being eaten alive, don't worry I did my part to bring down their numbers.

As for solitude on the trail, other than a couple of day hikers near the trailhead, we only saw on other couple camped along Lamar River and 1 guy coming out from 3T3. That was it.

Day 1: Lamar Trailhead/Soda Spring to Cold Creek (3F1)

It was hot and we didn't start until 11am cause of traffic. Umbrellas were our savior for the trip.
View attachment 99776

Cache Creek as only at our knees at the end of June during this very hot summer.
View attachment 99777

The views of the Lamar River were kinda repetitive or just seems that way when we hiked all 17 miles of it in one day. We were pretty low on moral at this point as the hike was a bit of a drag because of the heat. We kept looking out at the meadows and mountains sides hoping to see a bear, but saw nothing. This would be the theme for the rest of our hike.
View attachment 99778

Day 2: Cold Creek to Mist Pass (3T3)

We decided to continue despite low moral since it was going to be an easier day (thanks to our long day before) and we had time to relax at a nice campsite at the end of the short day. There wasn't much to see until we came to Mist Meadow. We really enjoyed the site, but didn't see any passing animals this time around. Evening mosquitos meant we hid in our tent and rain clouds meant we had to have our rain fly on for the night. Though the relaxing afternoon and a soak in the creek rejuvenated us enough to decide on finishing to the loop rather than bailing.
View attachment 99779

Day 3: Mist Pass to Watipi Lake (4W2).

Another long day begin with the short climb to Mist Pass. Looking back toward the Mist Meadows.
View attachment 99780

We were hopeful to see Bears as we dropped into the Pelican Bear Management area, but no signs of them here either. We saw Yellowstone Lake in the distance.
View attachment 99781

We took the Pelican Cone cutoff across a large meadow before starting to follow the Pelican Creek through another open meadow. There were some thermal features, which we enjoyed as it was something different than.
View attachment 99782

For those that like wildflowers (indian paintbrush), this was the time to hike here. Not so much for wildlife.
View attachment 99783

Rainclouds came in by the time we were at the Fern Lake Patrol Cabin and the mosquitos became worse after that so we pushed for our camp at Watipi Lake. There was a constant hum here from all the mosquitos during the evenings.
View attachment 99784

Day 4. nothing

We were tired.
View attachment 99785

Day 5 - Watipi Lake to Trailhead

We decided to take the most direct way out via @scatman suggestion as we were tired of fighting the bugs and were out of bug spray. The route was actually provided for our most interesting day of hiking on our trip.

We started by following Shadow Creek as it drains Watipi Lake. It was pretty easy going, though our early start meant the wet grass had our feet wet in minutes.
View attachment 99786

We pass a few small thermal areas and then turned away from the creek to head over to Wrong Creek through a large thermal area (Hot Spring Basin Group).
View attachment 99787

There was a steep downhill section dropping down into Wrong Creek, but the small creek here was dry to it wasn't too bad to just hike in the stream bed for the steepest section.
View attachment 99788

We crossed Wrong Creek and followed a tributary upstream toward a pass. There is a bison trail here, but also plenty of downfall now covering the trail. This was the beginning of the most difficult section of our day,
View attachment 99790

At the pass, the bison trail spits from the route I had from @scatman heading toward Deep Creek further east. I knew they had came the other direction so I wasn't sure if they were aware of the buffalo trail. Had we been in a more exploratory mood rather than getting out mood, I would have liked to follow the bison trail. As such we dropped down to a dry Deep Creek following @scatman's route before beginning our steep and long approach to gain elevation toward Peak 9474 and then 9245, where we'd hit the Pelican Ridge trail weaving through openings and avoiding the forest as much as possible.
View attachment 99791

Eventually, we found a nice bison trail to follow and it brought us to the top of a cliff band with a 270 degree view of the mountains we'd seen through out our trip.
View attachment 99792

Once we neared the Speciman Ridge trail, there were storm clouds all around us. We sheltered for a few minutes among some trees for the storm clouds directly above us to pass before gaining the ridge. While the weather was good for most of our way down the Speciman Ridge trail, it was raining on the area around us on Mirror Plateau and along the Lamar Valley.
View attachment 99793

This made our last crossing, the Lamar River, a bit trickier as the river was brown with runoff. It wasn't too deep as the deepest part was at my thighs, but we couldn't see the bottom and the bottom was plenty of slippry rocks.
View attachment 99794

After fording the Lamar, the rain finally dumped on us for a few minutes. We didn't care at this point, we were only a few miles from the car.

Most excellent @travel2walk! Congratulations are in order. No reason to be discouraged about this trip. I'm surprised that you didn't encounter more wildlife, particularly on your last day, off-trail portion, but bison along the route is always a plus. Sorry about the heat, but your red umbrella shots along the trail are fantastic. I'm beginning to think I might need one of those. Any recommendations?

Most people don't make it in this time of year to see the abundant wildflowers, so you should be commended for that. As I have gotten older, :moses: I have learned to appreciate the wildflowers as much as scenery and the wildlife.

Once again, I figured that you would do this in the reverse direction and work your way casually down the Lamar after big days to Wapiti and Mist Creek. Silly me. :)

Would have been interesting to see where that bison trail ended up.

Oh, I really like your Wapiti Lake shot too. :thumbsup:
 

Titans

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Messages
1,154
Thanks for sharing! Love the photo with the storm clouds in the distance and the valley partially lit up.
Also- I'm checking out your website now, nice! Looking forward to the scuba TRs (since that's all we used to do before our desert trips!).
 

kwc

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Joined
Mar 31, 2016
Messages
540
Love your report and the photos! Things aren’t looking very positive for a western trip this year for us but definitely in 2022!
 

Bob

Trailmaster
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Mar 3, 2013
Messages
2,735
Nice ... It was hot everywhere..... We'll have to get you on a epic...... Read your windriver account...lol....we pioneered a high route there back in 2009..... For you youngsters
 
Last edited:

travel2walk

Member
Joined
Mar 1, 2018
Messages
42
Most excellent @travel2walk! Congratulations are in order. No reason to be discouraged about this trip. I'm surprised that you didn't encounter more wildlife, particularly on your last day, off-trail portion, but bison along the route is always a plus. Sorry about the heat, but your red umbrella shots along the trail are fantastic. I'm beginning to think I might need one of those. Any recommendations?

Most people don't make it in this time of year to see the abundant wildflowers, so you should be commended for that. As I have gotten older, :moses: I have learned to appreciate the wildflowers as much as scenery and the wildlife.

Once again, I figured that you would do this in the reverse direction and work your way casually down the Lamar after big days to Wapiti and Mist Creek. Silly me. :)

Would have been interesting to see where that bison trail ended up.

Oh, I really like your Wapiti Lake shot too. :thumbsup:
Thanks again for your recommendations @scatman. Yea, I don't think I planned it out the best this time around to take advantage of the best part of the route, but I am not discouraged and a I see it as a good learning experience. Definitely looking forward returning another time to explore more of mirror plateau or other areas of the park like Bechler, thoarofare, etc. In emails from Joey, he had an idea of a loop starting from Lamar, going up Miller Creek toward Parker Peak, ridge walk the border of the park starting with Lamar Mountain to Frost Lake, before circling back. That sounded like an epic hike, but we didn't have the flexibility time wise to make it work during my last days in the area. Next time hopefully. If anything, I feel like this hike gave me a good idea of what to expect in Yellowstone so I can be better prepared for something like that in the future.

I think Meg's umbrella is just some cheap grocery store umbrella lol. I definitely didn't discourage it as it stood out nicely in the shots. I was using a generic carbon fiber umbrella we bought from amazon 5 years ago. We had 2, but one broke since. Picture below of how they looked in their newish form. They are more functional than Meg's grocery store special as they reflect more light, but hers definitely made for better pictures.
1625718327056.png


Being based in Appalachia for almost a decade, I kinda had to look for flowers and plants to keep the hike interesting lol. Otherwise, most of the trails are just a tunnel of green.

I think most probably would expect to go counterclockwise. I think I just preferred to take on what I thought was the most challenging section with a lighter pack and after we had our legs under us. I also wasn't sure which way (either over mirror plateau like @TheMountainRabbit in his report or your route). I think I wanted to have a better feel of the area and a better idea of how I was feeling before choosing. You know, push decisions so it's tomorrow's problem. lol. I definitely goofed on my permit with a 17 mile Lamar trailhead to Cold Creek day, it should have been a much more even and chilled days to start out hike.

Hopefully, we'll find out on another trip where that bison trail goes.

And lastly, Wapiti is a gorgeous camp. We just relaxed at that camp, read, and relaxed that entire 4th day. That shot is part of a timelapse too, which I'll have in the video of the trip, though that will be a while until I get to it.
 

travel2walk

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Joined
Mar 1, 2018
Messages
42
Thanks for sharing! Love the photo with the storm clouds in the distance and the valley partially lit up.
Also- I'm checking out your website now, nice! Looking forward to the scuba TRs (since that's all we used to do before our desert trips!).
Glad too. Yea, those photos turned out really well and it was pretty cool having these thunderstorms all around us but the sun still beaming down directly on us.

And thanks for visiting our site. Scuba definitely open up more destinations for us to visit, especially in the winter month. I think part of the Yellowstone experience is kinda like the scuba experience. That is the probability of seeing cool animals can make or break a hike and the more you are there the better probabilities you'll have. The best scuba spots I've done were the ones where you are just drifting through a pass or sitting on a ledge looking at the animals that swim by. That is very much like finding a great camp spot (3T3) and looking for bears to walk by.

I do want to get more into desert trips and the canyon out in Utah etc. So I'll have to check out some of your trip reports.
 

travel2walk

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Joined
Mar 1, 2018
Messages
42
Nice ... It was hot everywhere..... We'll have to get you on a epic...... Read your windriver account...lol....we pioneered a high route there back in 2009..... For you youngsters
@Bob, if you are ever looking for company on a Wind River trip, let me know. I'd fly out. And yep, the high route in there is a hike I plan to do.
 
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Jon Carbaugh

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Great report, I love that you kept it real! A lot of trips don't go down as you had envisioned it in your head. And I'm glad you didn't bail, it all works out in the end. Good on you! This really takes me back to our first Yellowstone trip! My wife and I bit off much more than we could chew in the Lamar, but I wouldn't change a thing... we learned a lot on that trip.
Thanks for posting,
Cheers!
 

travel2walk

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Messages
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Great report, I love that you kept it real! A lot of trips don't go down as you had envisioned it in your head. And I'm glad you didn't bail, it all works out in the end. Good on you! This really takes me back to our first Yellowstone trip! My wife and I bit off much more than we could chew in the Lamar, but I wouldn't change a thing... we learned a lot on that trip.
Thanks for posting,
Cheers!
Thanks. For sure, learning is a big part of backpacking and really the anti-bucketlist attitude I see a lot with travel. That is we travel and hike to look for cool places to come back to.
 

Titans

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Joined
Aug 18, 2018
Messages
1,154
Glad too. Yea, those photos turned out really well and it was pretty cool having these thunderstorms all around us but the sun still beaming down directly on us.

And thanks for visiting our site. Scuba definitely open up more destinations for us to visit, especially in the winter month. I think part of the Yellowstone experience is kinda like the scuba experience. That is the probability of seeing cool animals can make or break a hike and the more you are there the better probabilities you'll have. The best scuba spots I've done were the ones where you are just drifting through a pass or sitting on a ledge looking at the animals that swim by. That is very much like finding a great camp spot (3T3) and looking for bears to walk by.

I do want to get more into desert trips and the canyon out in Utah etc. So I'll have to check out some of your trip reports.

Anytime, reach out with a private message about southern Utah, have plenty of desert stuff to share (have not posted TRs about our last 2 trips). We certainly miss the scuba trips. We traveled mostly out of Europe when we lived there, easy to get to the Red Sea, Maldives, etc. Later from the US we did more in the Caribbean. Lots of great memories after 500+ dives! There's nothing like a great drift dive, absolutely love it. But we started going to southern Utah in the winter and we somehow didn't return to scuba diving o_O. Desert love! Your website reminds me of all the cool underwater life.
 
Joined
Jan 18, 2014
Messages
107
Wow…y’all had an adventure..this time of year, th bug spray bottles need to be as big as your bear spray cans….th skeeter pic had me literally hearin’ that annoying whine…I was there years back and it was so hot that we sat in th only shade we had…..from th bear poles! Glad y’all got to go
 

travel2walk

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Joined
Mar 1, 2018
Messages
42
Wow…y’all had an adventure..this time of year, th bug spray bottles need to be as big as your bear spray cans….th skeeter pic had me literally hearin’ that annoying whine…I was there years back and it was so hot that we sat in th only shade we had…..from th bear poles! Glad y’all got to go
lol, we emptied our bug spray and oh yea, the whine was very prominent. The combination of that and the heat made our tent placement very specific. We decided to move it with the shade at Mist Valley campsite. Luckily, our campsites all had some woods around.
 
Joined
Jan 18, 2014
Messages
107
lol, we emptied our bug spray and oh yea, the whine was very prominent. The combination of that and the heat made our tent placement very specific. We decided to move it with the shade at Mist Valley campsite. Luckily, our campsites all had some woods around.
It’s all th sometimes little things combined that can turn a trip / journey into a memorable adventure. I would have rather been on y’all’s trip than here in Austin for sure! You will appreciate th cooler bugless trips all th more!

Happy Trails to y’all on th next adventure!
 
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