North Pitchstone Trail, Headwaters of Ouzel Creek, Bechler River and Mr. Bubbles(?) - Yellowstone National Park - September 13, 2021

scatman

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This backpacking trip took on many iterations before we actually hit the trail on September the 13th. At first I had wanted to request campsite 9D3 near Douglas knob for three straight nights so that I had one full day to explore Ouzel Creek as far as I could, and a second day to find and document the old trail up the north side of the Pitchstone Plateau. Unfortunately, 9D3 can only be reserved for a single night, which threw my plans all out the window. Then when I received my temporary permit, I didn't get the campsites that I had requested, taking me even further away from my goals for this trip. I was able to finagle 9D3 when I called for the official permit, but essentially I would have a long day to see Ouzel Creek with my full pack on, and not much time to find and explore the old trail.

Well, I'm done complaining. Any day in Yellowstone ought to be treasured and I am truly thankful to get to spend so much time in my favorite place. Here is our story.


A day after our Aster Lake day hike, @TractorDoc and I met @wsp_scott at the Lone Star Trailhead for four days of backpacking bliss.

Day 1 - Lonestar Trailhead to Campsite 8R5 on Shoshone Lake - 10.1 miles

North_Pitchstone_Trip_Day_01.jpg

Overview map for day 1



We set off along the Firehole River towards Lone Star Geyser at 9:00 am. The path to the geyser is actually an old paved road, that was used by tourists, who could drive to the geyser back in the day. We reached the geyser just after it had erupted, and those there to see the eruption were beginning to head back to the trailhead. They said that we missed it by ten to fifteen minutes. :( Thanks @Bob! :D We chatted with some park employees as the steam began to fade from the geyser holebefore heading on down the trail.

After departing from the thermal area, we soon came to a string of three footbridges, one of which had caution tape around it (I'm assuming will be replaced in the near future), another that was currently being worked on, and one brand spanking new bridge. Before we knew it we were back on the Firehole and wondering what adventures laid ahead.

Soon, we began to climb towards Grant's Pass through the forest, and then once reaching the highpoint, we began our decent down to Shoshone Creek. Before reaching the creek though, we came to a trail junction and headed left towards Shoshone Lake. Travelling along Shoshone Creek was very pleasant, and we had to cross the creek a couple of times before we got to the lake.

After leaving the creek we approached another trail junction, this one being the route to the Shoshone Geyser Basin, or left to the trail that heads along the north side of Shoshone Lake and at some point our campsite.

Before reaching the spur trail that leads down to the lake and campsite 8R5, the trail skirts an open meadow where we could see two canoeists leaving the small bay where boats can access the geyser basin. Other than thinking, "Oh, there are two guys in a canoe. That' cool." I didn't give it much more thought and continued on towards camp.

When we arrived at camp, I went down to the lake to take a couple of pictures, and once again noticed the canoeists heading east, close to the south shore of the lake. As it turns out, we may have been the last people to see the two alive. It appears that some mishap took place while they were on the lake and they were reported missing. As of today, they found the canoe, one man, a lifejacket and a paddle on the east side of the lake, which is a place you don't want to be in a canoe. Hopefully, they will find the second body soon and give the gentleman's family some closure.

After setting up camp, we made our way to the geyser basin to explore the thermal areas for a few hours before dinner. I'll let @TractorDoc give the lowdown on the basin for you when he gives his account of this trip.

After dinner, we all got some good shots of the sun setting over the lake, and then I was off to bed knowing that tomorrow's route would be a tough one for me.

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Map at the information board at the Lone Star Trailhead

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The Firehole River

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Lone Star Geyser, still putting off a little steam by the time we arrived

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Shoshone Lake next up

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Back on the Firehole

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Dave is testing out the new footbridge

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The reds of the huckleberry leaves were just beautiful, and I just couldn't stop taking pictures of them throughout our trip

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A mushroom next to the trail

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Scott, crossing Shoshone Creek

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A view back up Shoshone Creek

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And a look down the drainage

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Arriving at our spur trail to our campsite - It was a long one!

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Shoshone Lake

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Checking out some thermal features of the geyser basin

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Thermal feature

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Thermal feature next to Shoshone Creek

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It's well worth ones time to see the geyser basin

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One of my favorites

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This one looked deep

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I found this interesting

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Sunset on the lake.


Day 2 - Campsite 8R5 to Campsite 9D1 via the Continental Divide, Ouzel Creek, and Phillips Fork - 16.1 miles

North_Pitchstone_Trip_Day_02.jpg

Overview map for day 2

I had been contemplating day two for some time, I knew that it would be a long tough hike for me with 11.1 miles being off-trail and not really having a good grasp of what those off-trail miles looked like. Nevertheless, I was excited to give it a go. We retraced our route of day one, up until we reached the junction with the Bechler River Trail. Once on the Bechler Trail, we started our ascent up the Continental Divide. This section of trail was fun due to the fact that we came across many "I" blazes, which the Park Service used to use to mark their trails way back in the 1920s and 30s. The Becher River Trail has many of these blazes, and I tried to take a picture of each one, slowing down my partners in the process I'm sure. :)

When we reached the divide for the second time, it was time to head west off-trail, where we essentially just followed the divide through the forest across to Trischman Knob. At one point, we did divert north to look down on Madison Lake before moving on towards Trischman. At last, on the west end of the knob, we ran into a dry drainage which marks the headwaters of Ouzel Creek. We then headed down creek for about 2.5 miles, with some standing water showing up in the small creek bed, and then eventually it began to flow. The hike down the drainage was one of the highpoints of the trip for me, but then again I'm partial to drainages. :)

We reached a substantial tributary to Ouzel, and at this point we worked our way up that stream and off towards Phillips Fork. The travel between Ouzel and Phillips was more open than the the trek along the divide earlier in the day - some forest and then some open meadows. Once we reached the dry creek bed that dropped into Phillips Fork, we worked our way slowly down the drainage to the base of Hourglass Falls. There are numerous falls in the fork, but Hourglass is the most spectacular of the bunch.

Taking some time to take some pictures of the falls, we then proceeded down the drainage, but were soon thwarted by drop offs and steep canyon walls that we didn't feel comfortable proceeding in that direction. This meant that we would have to regain the ridge above the fork in order to get to our campsite on the Bechler River. There was only one problem. My left knee! While it had done so well up to this point, I was beginning to have a hard time pulling myself up the steep slope to get to the top of the ridge. At this point we were only about one mile from camp, but it took all I had to make it there. I found that if I went nice and slow that I could manage, and I eventually made it to our site for the night.

Now our campsite 9D1, is the closet backcountry site to Mr. Bubbles on Ferris Fork, and after dinner all three of us headed over to watch the moon and the stars while soaking in natures hot tub. Since it was dark when I was there, Dave and Scott will have to furnish the pictures of Mr. Bubbles and the thermal area on Ferris Fork, as they returned the next day for another soak, and a round of picture taking.

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@TractorDoc, making his way across Shoshone Creek

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Yellowstone "I" candy.

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Time to head cross country along the divide

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Typical of the view along the divide

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Madison Lake below

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Jump! :lol:

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The dry drainage which is the headwaters of Ouzel Creek

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I'm all giddy.

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Standing water a little further down the drainage

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Ouzel Creek. Yahoo! We have flow!

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Following the creek

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Lots of seeps along our way to help increase the size of the creek

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Ouzel Creek

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Beautiful fall colors along the banks of the creek

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Ouzel Creek

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Scott, at our turnoff point from the creek

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On our way to Phillips Fork

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If you take this down, it will take you to the brink of Hourglass Falls

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Some cascading falls in Phillips Fork

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Hourglass Falls

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More falls lower down the fork

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Heading out from the creek and back up to the top of the ridge

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More falls

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Just happy to make it to camp!



Day 3 - Campsite 9D1 to Campsite 9D3 at Douglas Knob Meadows - 4.1 miles

North_Pitchstone_Trip_Day_03.jpg

Overview map for day 3. The pink line represents the old horse trail up onto the north side of the Pitchstone Plateau.

Today, the group would spit up. I was heading directly to 9D3, while Dave and Scott were going to check out the thermal area on Ferris Fork and try to catch some more of the waterfalls downstream on the Bechler River, before then heading to 9D3. Again, they can provide some detail about their day exploring the Bechler and Ferris Fork.

My legs were pretty tired from the previous days journey, so it took me a while to make my way up the river and on to 9D3. When I got to camp, I set up my tent and then headed back down the trail to go search for the old trail up the north side of the Pitchstone Plateau.

It took me about forty minutes to get back to where the old trail joins the Bechler River Trail that I had found back in 2014. From there I essentially did a zig-zag across where I thought the old trail might be on the ground. Eventually, I found it! I then hopped on it and followed it up the plateau. There were sewn logs along the way, and even a trail marker. I was in Scatman heaven! Following it for not quite one mile, I began to run out of trail and time. The old trail was getting hard to discern and I needed to get back to camp because I didn't want to be hiking through the woods alone in the dark. So with a heavy heart I turned around and followed the old trail back down the plateau to the Bechler River Trail and then back to 9D3.

46.jpg

Cascade Falls on Phillips Fork, in the morning, near our campsite

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Thermal feature on the Bechler River next to our campsite

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Looking down the Bechler River Canyon

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The intersection for Mr. Bubbles? :thumbsup:

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A good view of what we bushwhacked through the day before

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The lower half of Twister Falls

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The Bechler River

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Approaching Douglas Knob

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The meadows north of Douglas Knob

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Our campsite for the night

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Beginning my search for the old trail

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Well looky there.......... I found it! :D :thumbsup::thumbsup::thumbsup::thumbsup::thumbsup::thumbsup:

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Plain as day as it traverses the hillside

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Right through the downfall

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A sewn log!

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What's this? A trail marker!

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The corridor the trail runs through as it ascends the Pitchstone Plateau

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A view of Douglas Knob from the old trail on my way back down

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Sunset at 9D3



Day 4 - Campsite 9D3 to the Lone Star Trailhead - 11.3 miles

North_Pitchstone_Trip_Day_04.jpg

Overview map of day 4

Not much to say of day four except that we retraced our footsteps back to the Lone Star Trailhead. @wsp_scott did manage to see Lone Star Geyser erupt though.

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Some more I blazes on the south side of the divide

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I call this an "H" blaze. :)

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Folks from Idaho Falls scraped their names on this old trail marker back in 1956 - 55 years ago.

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Back to the new footbridge

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I'm pretty sure that @TractorDoc sent this grouse after me. :)

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Missed it again. :( Dave kept me calm by offering me a circus peanut.

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Would have been better on tap, but It'll do. A celebratory drink for a wonderful four days

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This raven wanted our food

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Sunset at the Snow Lodge at Old Faithful


Hopefully @TractorDoc and @wsp_scott will add their accounts and images of the trip so everyone can gain a slightly different perspective of our trip.


The End
 
Last edited:

TractorDoc

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If it was possible for the Scatman to cry, I think he would have emitted a tear of joy when we reached the headwaters of Ouzel Creek.

For a brief instant I swear I saw him crack a smile. . . or I could have been hallucinating from dehydration. :)

I'm only thru our first day when it comes to sorting out pictures, but I'll be sure to post up when I make more progress.

For now I'll attach a couple of the group from the little camera.

Looking over Madison Lake:

GP__0211.JPG


At Minute Man Geyser:

GP__0197.JPG


Two Guys in Mr. Bubbles. Nobody is naked this time. ;)

GP__0251.JPG


Somewhere along the trail -- this could have been the point where we left the trail on our way across the divide to Ouzel Creek:

GP__0257.JPG
 

wsp_scott

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This was a great trip, I'm glad that I was able to join you and @TractorDoc.

Ouzel Creek was a highlight for me as well, along with the Shoshone Basin, Mr Bubbles, seeing Lone Star go off, ... did I mention that it was a great trip :)

My photos are going to take a while since I have a huge backlog to process
 

Ugly

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Really glad that we did not get more pictures from Mr Bubbles. I know it was probably in his front yard, but that 4th of July bikini madness from a few years ago still haunts me.
When I run into you randomly someday @scatman do not be alarmed if I fall over into the fetal position and laugh until I cry before offering a circus peanut.

Honestly though, all this from Yellowstone is so good. Loving all the reports and commentary and red huckleberry bushes. Great stuff!
 

scatman

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Really glad that we did not get more pictures from Mr Bubbles. I know it was probably in his front yard, but that 4th of July bikini madness from a few years ago still haunts me.
When I run into you randomly someday @scatman do not be alarmed if I fall over into the fetal position and laugh until I cry before offering a circus peanut.

Honestly though, all this from Yellowstone is so good. Loving all the reports and commentary and red huckleberry bushes. Great stuff!

I didn't even think about taking the bikini with me! :mad: I must be losing a mental step or two. I know what everybody is thinking, more like three or four. :)

You do know that you are going to have to go on one of these with us one of these years. :thumbsup:
 

scatman

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I'm going to head up Scatman's way with a big bag of circus peanuts (pink ones even) and see if I can bribe him to do some more bikini/kilt shots. Scots on the Rocks wants some for marketing next year's Celtic games in Moab.

Pink ones might not do the trick. I think I might need an assortment of colors to reenact the bikini shot. You know I'm about nine pounds heavier now than when that picture was taken. It might not look as good now. :) Of course, you could start a poll and see if it what BCPers want. Hehehe!
 

scatman

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Great TR @scatman . Especially love all gorgeous fall colors. Did all 3 of you make it across the Shoshone creek tree log without falling in? Thats some very impressive balancing skills.

@Tracdoc and @wsp_scott are like tightrope artists. I cheated and used hiking poles. As you can see, my balancing leaves a lot to be desired.

shots courtesy of @TractorDoc
NP_01.JPG


And what the hell is going on here? Three bounds and I should have been across this.
NP_02.JPG
 

Ugly

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I didn't even think about taking the bikini with me! :mad: I must be losing a mental step or two. I know what everybody is thinking, more like three or four. :)

You do know that you are going to have to go on one of these with us one of these years. :thumbsup:

For sure. Yellowstone and its environs are on the sometime soon list.
Just don't mind me getup and gear choices:
Patsy.png
The leather coif does wonders for keeping the head from sun burning and protects from scratches or flesh wounds.
 

Rockskipper

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For sure. Yellowstone and its environs are on the sometime soon list.
Just don't mind me getup and gear choices:
View attachment 102130
The leather coif does wonders for keeping the head from sun burning and protects from scratches or flesh wounds.
Right after that movie came out, my sister and I would carry rocks (no coconuts in Colorado) and clack them together when we hiked just to goof off. People would give us odd looks. Now people talk to themselves, sing, clack rocks, ring bells, etc. and everyone just thinks it's normal and has something to do with bears...
 

scatman

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For sure. Yellowstone and its environs are on the sometime soon list.
Just don't mind me getup and gear choices:
View attachment 102130
The leather coif does wonders for keeping the head from sun burning and protects from scratches or flesh wounds.

Old school, I like it. Just remember though, it you are backpacking with me, you have to clack the coconuts together in such a way that they make the sound of mules walking or trotting along, not horses. There is a very fine difference between the two you know. :D
 

scatman

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I heard your wife now hides her bikinis - or did you go out and buy your own?

As well she should. Where did you gleam this tidbit of information if I may ask? :thinking: I've yet to buy my own. No poll yet? :(

Heads up - @Ugly might need your class on the differences between a horse and a mule walking/trotting sounds. I've heard that your class comes highly recommended. :)
 
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