Week-long Ramble Through Southern Yellowstone

Outdoor_Fool

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This trip has been on the back burner for a few years and I made a few adjustments before submitting my permit application in July. As I submitted the application relatively late, the Backcountry office called and let me know that a few campsites I requested were not available. She suggested that I reverse the trip to open up a few campsites which I agreed to. I headed to Yellowstone in September. This is a solo trip and I am really looking forward to it.

After flying into Jackson, I hitchhiked north. The hitchhiking went really well, I wait between 30 seconds and 10 minutes for rides. Then I reach the Colter Bay Visitor Center area. I walk over to the gas station and pick up some snacks and a drink, then walk back to the road. While standing along the road, a couple of Park Rangers pull over in their patrol rigs and, not sure what's up, I pull out my ID and have it out ready for them. They approach, tell me that hitchhiking is not allowed in Grand Teton or Yellowstone and one of them takes my ID and goes back to his car. I explain that hitchhiking is perfectly legal in Yellowstone and that I have a copy of the memorandum on my computer at home. I know that doesn't help but I felt the need to say it. He says it is not legal in either park, and I decide not to argue the point, but tell him that it is legal in Yellowstone. It's a pretty jovial conversation so I'm not too worried. We talk about the Parks and how the summer has been.

The other Ranger exits his vehicle and hands me my ID. He says that they are not going to ticket me but he recommends that I walk to the Visitor Center (VC) and see if a Park employee is headed to Yellowstone. At that point a car slows down and yells at the Rangers that the Suburban ahead of him is driving like an idiot and needs to be pulled over. They tell me that they need to move on, but that one of them will be back in a bit. Rather than walk to the VC, I decide to transfer my gear from my duffel bag to my pack in case I end up having to walk somewhere. I do this really slowly and somehow my thumb keeps sticking out whenever a car goes by. After 20 minutes with no rides, I see a Ranger vehicle headed my way, so I drop my thumb and continue busily packing my backpack. He rolls up, says they had a discussion with the driver, and tells me to throw my gear in back and that he'll give me a ride to the South Entrance. For security reasons, I have to sit in the back seat, but off we go. We have a really interesting conversation about his career, and how lucky he is to have his dream job in his dream location. Real nice guy. He drops me off at the YNP sign, we shake hands, and he turns around and heads south.

I catch another ride within minutes to Grant Village and the guy drops me off at the CG entrance booth. I pay for my site and walk over to my campsite. I have dinner, walk to Yellowstone Lake and back, set up the tent and crawl in. The elk are bugling like crazy to the west and I go to sleep with that.
YNP_Day-1_Grant_Village_CG_scene.jpg


Day 1
I wake up the next morning, pack my stuff and walk to the gas station/convenience store for breakfast. After that
I walk across the road and head into the trees. My destination is Beaver Creek CS on the north shore of Heart Lake.
Using my compass, I head south, eventually finding this elk trail.
YNP_Day-1_elk_trail-1.jpg


I'm fighting my way through a lodgepole thicket when a bull elk unleashed a bugle. He is hidden in the
trees but sounds like he is about 50 yards away. I pop out into a small meadow and scan the area. My eyes
settle on this pine marten. We inspect each other and it lets me approach to within maybe 30 yards, then
he moves off into the trees.
YNP_Day-1_pine_marten-3.jpg


I continue back into the thicket which lasts longer than I wanted. My goal is to spend as little time as possible
on the trails so that's the price to pay.
YNP_Day-1_into_the_thicket-1.jpg


In one small clear area, I come upon this lodgepole stripped and broken off by an elk.
YNP_Day-1_elk_rub_destruction.jpg


I eventually reach a meadow, then a trail and know I am approaching Riddle Lake. I follow the trail to the lake,
skirt along the east side, and continue on past off-trail again. There are these visible swans, as well as some
Canada geese, goldeneye ducks, a pair of osprey, and some sandhill cranes,
YNP_Day-1_Riddle_L_swan.jpg


After hiking through some much-easier stands of lodgepoles intermixed with small meadows, I reach the
meadow flanking Solution Creek, where I stop for a snack and water. I glass the meadow but see no wildlife.
YNP_Day-1_Solution_Cr_meadow.jpg


After crossing the meadow, I head into the lodgepoles again. Most of it is fairly open and mixed with more
small meadows. There are pockets of thicker trees but nothing too bad.
YNP_Day-1_Beaver_Cr_ridge_forest.jpg


I find several of these lodgepoles along the way. Trees stripped of their bark so bears can lick the sap-rich
cambium layer underneath. From what I can tell, this is sort of a last-resort option when their other food
sources are scarce.
YNP_Day-1_bear_tree.jpg


I also pass a lot of logs ripped open by bears looking for ants or yellow jackets and other members of the
bee family.
YNP_Day-1_Beaver_Cr_ridge_bear_log.jpg


I come upon this pinedrops plant. It is a saprophyte which means it obtains nourishment from live plants,
in this case, the roots of lodgepole pines.
YNP_Day-1_Beaver_Cr_ridge_pine_drops.jpg


This is the 5th or 6th ruffed grouse I have seen today. Must be a good year for them.
YNP_Day-1_Beaver_Cr_ridge_ruffed_grouse.jpg


The last couple of hours are hiking through a beautiful lodgepole forest toward Heart Lake. As evening approached
the elk bugling started up. I continued on, approaching 2-3 bulls bugling. They were moving along pretty quickly
and I never saw them.
YNP_Day-1_Beaver_Cr_ridge_open_LP.jpg


A quarter mile or so from the trail I passed this nest. I am guessing an osprey nest.
YNP_Day-1_Heart_Lk_raptor_nest.jpg


I arrive at the campsite, have some dinner, set up camp, and crawl into the tent. I listen to a wolf howling for
a while. It sounds like its coming from the northwest part of Heart Lake. I can also hear some distant elk
bugling for a short while.

At some point in the night, I awake to hear something running through the campsite, then down the hill to the lake.
It has soft foot pads, not hooves.

Day 2.
The next morning I walk around the campsite a bit and find this web attached to the campsite sign.
YNP_Day-2_Heart_Lk_8J1_web.jpg


I take the short trail down to the lake by Beaver Creek to pick up some more water for breakfast. A few feet
from the creek I see this wolf track on top of my boot prints from last night. While the water is boiling, I
walk around some more and find tracks heading down the slope to the lake. This wolf must have been what
I heard last night.
YNP_Day-2_Heart_Lk_wolf_tracks_beach-2.jpg


Earlier in the morning there was a mist floating above the lake. It burned off pretty soon, leaving this view of
Mt. Sheridan. Somewhere in this photo are 2 loons. I spent an hour earlier watching these loons, another
family of loons to the south, and some mergansers,
YNP_Day-2_Heart_Lk&Mt_Sheridan-6.jpg


I eat breakfast, pack, and hit the trail that leads from camp to the main trail, backtracking wolf tracks the whole
way out. When I hit the main trail, I can see that the tracks come into the trail to camp from the west.
Heading east along the trail, there are no wolf tracks but soon see that the wolf came back onto the trail
as I near Beaver Creek. This is a view of Beaver Creek looking toward Mt Sheridan and Factory Hill.
YNP_Day-2_Beaver_Cr&Mt_Sheriden.jpg


I end up following these wolf tracks for most of the morning.
YNP_Day-2_Heart_R_trail&wolf_track-2.jpg


The trail winds mostly through young lodgepole forest but occasionally it passes through a more mature
forest with lodgepoles and spruce. This is a picture of where a porcupine had a meal or two on this lodgepole.
YNP_Day-2_Heart_R_porcupine_tree.jpg


The crossing at Surprise Creek.
YNP_Day-2_Heart_R_trail_Surprise_Creek_upstream-1.jpg


Some fall color along the trail. Aside from this spot, there are very few aspens along the way.
YNP_Day-2_Heart_R_trail_fall_colors-2.jpg


An Oregon grape plant with some fall color.
YNP_Day-2_Outlet_L_trail_Oregon_grape-2.jpg


Outlet Creek valley. There's a campsite in the lower end of the valley and one at the top of the valley near
Outlet Lake. I hike past the lower campsite and continue up to where my camp for the night is at the lake.
Chicken Ridge and the Continental Divide are across the valley.
YNP_Day-2_Outlet_L_trail_lower_valley&Chicken_Ridge-1.jpg


I reach the lake. There are several social trails around the lake and I can't find any signs designating the campsite.
My permit has the coordinates for the campsite so I pull out the Garmin and plug in the coordinates and hit
Go To. This tells me that my camp is actually the lower one, a mile and a half back.

So its dilemma time. I decide that instead of heading back, I'm going to camp somewhere between here and
tomorrow night's camp. I climb up to the main trail and continue on.
YNP_Day-2_Outlet_Lake-2-2.jpg


I reach the small pass east of the lake and check out a few places to camp. Its a beautiful area but finding an
out of the way place to camp proves difficult. I continue on down off the pass and reach Grouse Creek, which
looks inviting.
YNP_Day-2_Channel_Mtn_Pas.jpg


I look around for an hour and finally decide on a flat spot away from the creek. I have to admit that I'm not
comfortable camping away from my assigned campsite but know that I will leave no trace of my camping here. A
little before this picture, a lone wolf broke out into a howling session from the ridge you can see to the right
in this picture. I crash in my tent soon after I take this picture.
YNP_Day-2_Grouse_Cr_camp_area_W.jpg


Day 3
I continue down Grouse Creek leaving the trail when it heads into the trees. It is a beautiful morning and I'd
prefer to stay in the meadows bordering the creek. I can hear sandhill cranes trumpeting as I continue down
valley.
YNP_Day-3_Grouse_Cr_to_E.jpg


My first view of the South Arm of Yellowstone Lake.
YNP_Day-3_Grouse_Cr_to_S_Arm.jpg


Approaching the South Arm of Yellowstone Lake. There are 2 adult sandhill cranes and at least one youngster
in Grouse Creek at it drains across this delta between me and the South Arm. On the lake, there are swans,
geese, and ducks.
YNP_Day-3_Grouse_Cr&S_Arm&Promontory.jpg


Peale Island in the South Arm. I am back on the trail. There are hundreds of ducks on the lake here. A few
minutes earlier, an elk was bugling to the south.
YNP_Day-3_S_Arm&Peale_Island_Yell_L-1.jpg


Chipmunk Creek. A new looking beaver dam has created a nice pond upstream. I hang out here awhile. The day
is incredibly gorgeous and I just feel like relaxing a bit here.
YNP_Day-3_Chipmunk_Cr_dam-1.jpg


I eventually move on from Chipmunk Creek. I am approaching the north end of Two Ocean Plateau. The sun is
really hot as I cross the meadow but also feels good.
YNP_Day-3_Two_Ocean_Plateau_N-1.jpg


I reach the trail that takes me to tonight's camp on the Southeast Arm of Yellowstone Lake. The point of land just
left of the center of the photo is where camp is. If I remember correctly, Langford Cairn is the name of the peak
to the right.
YNP_Day-3_6A3_camp_site_scene.jpg


After arriving at camp, the waterfowl started swimming and flying by headed a little south to roost for the night.
This group of pelicans was the first I saw but over the next hour or so, several groups swam south to the southeast
extreme of Southeast Arm. By the time I turned in for the evening, there were dozens of pelicans, and hundreds
of swans, geese, and ducks. I believe that is Mt Schultz in the far back.
YNP_Day-3_6A3_camp_pelicans.jpg


Day 4
Another gorgeous day. This is a family of river otters swimming past. For much of the morning, the bird life that
had swum/flew past heading south last evening now headed back north for the day. A virtual parade it was.
YNP_Day-4_6A3_camp_River_Otters.jpg


After a leisurely morning, I packed and headed back west retracing some of yesterday's travels. Once I reached the
trail heading up Chipmunk Creek I headed south. I followed black bear tracks back to the meadow west of Two
Ocean Plateau. I was surprised that the bear stayed in the open so long but as soon as it neared a stringer of trees it left
the trail toward them.
YNP_Day-4_Trail_Cr_trail_black_bear_track.jpg


This wetland was mostly dry, another testament to the hot dry summer.
YNP_Day-4_Trail_Cr_trail_wetland.jpg


The lower section of trail heading up Chipmunk Creek. Not much of a trail here but further up it becomes a real trail.
Although not so apparent here, this valley is, IMHO, one of the prettiest in Yellowstone.
YNP_Day-4_2-Ocean_Plat_trail-1.jpg


Chipmunk Creek.
YNP_Day-4_Chipmunk_Cr-2.jpg


Further up the valley.
YNP_Day-4_Chipmunk_Cr-4.jpg


A log ripped up by a bear fairly recently. There was evidence of a lot of recent bear activity along this trail. No bears
were seen though.
YNP_Day-4_Chipmunk_Cr_bear_log-1.jpg


A close-up of the bear log. You can see a few yellow jackets, as well as a piece of the nest in the upper right, in this
photo. In years of poor berry crops, ants and bees seem to become really important to the bears here. I saw only
one bear scat filled with berries on this trip, leading me to think the huckleberry crop was poor.
YNP_Day-4_Chipmunk_Cr_bear_log_yellowjackets-2.jpg


A wolf track alongside a griz track. Looks like a busy trail.
YNP_Day-4_Chipmunk_Cr_wolf&bear_track-2.jpg


Grizzly hair. I found a couple more trees along the way with hair on them.
YNP_Day-4_Chipmunk_Cr_griz_hair.jpg


Another bear shredded tree.
YNP_Day-4_Chipmunk_Cr_bear_tree_strips-1.jpg


Nearing the top of the Chipmunk Creek watershed. Chipmunk Creek is off to the right (east) but this area drains into
it. I love this type of landscape, treed, yet open.
YNP_Day-4_Chipmunk_Cr_forest-2.jpg


At the next campsite, Upper Passage Creek. This is the first day I haven't seen anyone. I've seen 6 people so far. I
won't see anyone else until tomorrow evening.
YNP_Day-4_Passage_Cr_camp.jpg


I leave camp and hike up near the headwaters of Passage Creek. There's lots of recent elk sign around. Hopefully I
hear some bugling tonight.
YNP_Day-4_Passage_Cr.jpg


After exploring Passage Creek I head north from camp a bit. The west face of Eagle Peak is to the left, Table Mountain
is the broad plateau in the middle, and The Turret is the outcrop to the right. According to the YNP website, this area
in front burned in 1988. Scanning the area with binoculars, I eventually find a group of ~20 elk moving out to feed
off to the right of this photo.
YNP_Day-4_Passage_Cr_view_E-3.jpg


Some old snags left over from the fires. Another beautiful evening.
YNP_Day-4_Passage_Cr_snags.jpg


I returned to camp. Just before dark, the bugling began. Three - four bulls raising a ruckus. The bugles were sounding
out with great frequency for 10 minutes or so. I figured I'd be more comfortable listening to the bugling in my sleeping
bag. As I walked to my tent, feeling very concealed (within the trees) from the elk out in the meadows, a cow barked
the alarm and everything went quiet. I heard one more bugle that night.

Day 5
Another beautiful day. I left camp early (for me). It is a cool morning, but the climb out quickly warmed me. Soon I
was on the ridge and headed to the Snake River. Looking NE.
YNP_Day-5_Passage_Cr_Pass_view_N.jpg


I reach the pass - Passage Creek/Chipmunk Creek drainage to the north, Crooked Creek to the west, Plateau Creek to
the south. The clouds look threatening, at one point the the winds picked up leading me to think that rain was imminent,
but no rain fell. At this point I decide to head off trail to the west and work my way to the next campsite at Fox Creek.
YNP_Day-5_Plateau_Cr_meadow.jpg


The terrain and forest were very inviting. It should be a nice easy downhill hike to camp.
YNP_Day-5_Plateau_Cr_off_trail.jpg


I hike through several meadows like this. The terrain is filled with little drainages, wet seeps, and small ridges to keep
it interesting. Much better than slogging along the trail.
YNP_Day-5_Plateau_Cr_off_trail-2.jpg


I run into this mule deer along the way. She moves off quietly barely acknowledging my presence.
YNP_Day-5_Plateau_Cr_off_trail_conditions-2.jpg


I come upon this pine squirrel midden that has been raided by a grizzly. These squirrels spent a lot of time gathering
whitebark pine cones for winter and in an hour or so, the grizzly has dug out a lot of the supply. The seeds in these
cones are vital to Yellowstone Ecosystem grizzlies.
YNP_Day-5_Plateau_Cr_griz_dig-3.jpg


As I move lower down the ridge, I enter a large burned area. For the most part, the going is pretty easy.
YNP_Day-5_Plateau_Cr_off_trail-2-2.jpg


I continue down slope for much of the afternoon. I eventually reach this unnamed creek that soon flows into the
Snake River. Just west (left) of here I ran into 2 elderly men with backpacks. One of them was hiking the CDT from
Canada to as far south as he could reach before winter set in. He was hoping to reach Steamboat before having to
quit. His friend had joined him for several weeks of the trek. His trail name was Poptart; I can't remember his friend's
trail name. They were having a great time.
YNP_Day-5_Plateau_Cr_W.jpg


So I overshot camp by 1/4 mile west and a bit south. I hike back up to camp and spend much longer than usual
figuring out where to camp. I end up about 100 yards west of this sign, by the same creek the above picture was taken.
Where I camped the creek was much smaller than seen above.
YNP_Day-5_6M7_sign&camp.jpg


I have a nice view from the campsite and the creek is only 100 feet away.
YNP_Day-5_6M7_camp-1.jpg


During the night, something hits one of the guy lines to the tent fly. My head is right next to where the guy line attaches
to the fly, so it wakes me up. I listen. I can hear the soft foot steps of something moving around the tent. It is slow
and methodical, the way a bear moves. At one point, I can hear that it is 2 animals moving around. I listen for a few
minutes as they move around then away from the tent. They walk away in the direction of the campsite sign, and
where, I assume most people camp.

It is quiet for another 10 minutes or so, then I hear them approaching my tent again. One of them hits another guy
line with their leg, I assume it is the cub. They mill around for a few minutes, then start walking up the creek drainage. Once
I can no longer hear them walking, the cub did something that irked the sow, as she let out one of her warning growls.
A minute or so later, she lets out another one, this one noticeably farther away. I assume that cub is lagging behind a
bit and she wants it to keep up. I check the time. it is around 3:30 am. I smile to myself, and soon fall asleep.

Day 6

I wake up to yet another beautiful morning. After breakfast I pack and hit the trail. I am heading down to the Snake
River trail at this point.
YNP_Day-6_down_trail.jpg


The Snake River valley. I will spend all day hiking along the Snake River.
YNP_Day-6_Snake_R_scene.jpg


Looking over the Snake River at the east ridge of Barlow Peak.
YNP_Day-6_Snake_R_Barlow_Pk.jpg


This is where the trail crosses the Snake River. The easier crossing was off to the right a bit. I grab some water while I'm here.
YNP_Day-6_Snake_R-1.jpg


An elk wallow. Looks and smells like a busy fall here.
YNP_Day-6_Snake_R_elk_wallow.jpg


Hiking along, I spot porcupine tracks in the trail. They have such a unique foot pad. It looks like a couple of claw
marks in the sand a bit above the foot pad. The porcupine is traveling in the opposite direction as me. I end up on its
back trail for nearly an hour.
YNP_Day-6_Snake_R_Porcupine_track-2.jpg


Below are marks left by the tail drag. One of the few times I have seen this.
YNP_Day-6_Snake_R_Porcupine_tail_drag-2.jpg


Mount Hancock over the Snake River valley. This side of the valley has burned in the last few years and the sun is baking
me. I am guzzling water at this point.
YNP_Day-6_Snake_R_Mt_Hancock.jpg


Some rough water on the Snake River about 1 mile upstream of Sickle Creek.
YNP_Day-6_Snake_R_rapids-1.jpg


Mt Sheridan dominates the vistas in this area.
YNP_Day-6_Snake_R_Mt_Sheridan-1.jpg


Sickle Creek just before it dumps into the Snake R. The slope is the south terminus of Chicken Ridge, the same Chicken
Ridge that runs east along the Outlet Creek valley.
YNP_Day-6_Snake_R_Sickle_creek-2.jpg


Camp 6 along the Snake River.
YNP_Day-6_Snake_R_8C5_camp.jpg


The Snake R by camp with the top of Mt Sheridan looming over.
YNP_Day-6_Snake_R&Mt_Sheridan.jpg


Day 7
After crossing the Snake River close to camp, this trail winds its way through the trees to the next crossing.
YNP_Day-7_Snake_R_Basin_Creek_trail.jpg


The view back after the second crossing.
YNP_Day-7_Snake_R_crossing.jpg


I continued on to the junction of the Snake River trail and the Basin Creek Cutoff trail. I followed the Basin Creek trail a bit, then
go off-trail again.
YNP_Day-7_Basin_CR_trail_off-Trail-1.jpg


Within a few minutes I arrived at this meadow and Basin Creek.
YNP_Day-7_Basin_CR_trail_off-Trail_meadow.jpg


I crossed the creek and headed up the adjacent slope. This is looking at the upper end of the meadow.
YNP_Day-7_Basin_CR_trail_off-Trail_meadow-3.jpg


I head into the lodgepole forest. Lots of bear sign in here. A real pleasant hike over the ridge to camp at Basin Creek Lake.
YNP_Day-7_Basin_CR_trail_off-Trail_ridge_forest.jpg


Young huckleberry plants showing their fall colors.
YNP_Day-7_Basin_CR_trail_off-Trail&huck_leaves.jpg


As I gained altitude on the ridge, the views opened up. Mt. Hancock in the back right, the long ridge is part of Big
Game Ridge North. The Snake River winds through the bottom.
YNP_Day-7_Basin_CR_trail_off-Trail_Mt_Hancock-1.jpg


There are a few small basins on the ridge. This one is pretty empty but the other one that I passed was dry. There were
some elk and deer tracks in the sand and mud.
YNP_Day-7_Basin_CR_trail_off-Trail_low_water_pond-1.jpg


Here is the other one. Bone dry. Chicken Ridge in the way back.
YNP_Day-7_Basin_CR_trail_off-Trail_dry_pond&Chicken_Ridge.jpg


Camp 7 is in the trees left of center. Behind are the lower slopes of Mt Sheridan, which is to the back right.
YNP_Day-7_Basin_Cr_Lake_camp_area.jpg


The afternoon is cloudy with on and off rain. I decide to start a fire to ward off the chill. Same elk antlers as were in
@scatman's Heart Lake TR, if I remember correctly.
YNP_Day-7_Basin_Cr_Lake_camp_fire-1.jpg


Later in the day, I decide to take a hike on the lower slopes of Mt Sheridan. Looking down on Basin Creek Lake with
the ridge I hiked over earlier this day, in the back.
YNP_Day-7_Basin_Cr_Lake-2-2.jpg


The slopes above camp. I expected to run into some elk up here but no luck. Lots of sign though. I had to turn around
soon after this photo due to oncoming darkness.
YNP_Day-7_Basin_Cr_Lake_slope_above.jpg


Day 8
After leaving my tent, it was apparent that a storm system was moving in. I ate a couple granola bars, packed and left.
This was my last day out on this trip and didn't feel like enduring who knows what. A few minutes later I was hunkered
down under some spruce trees as the first squall blasted through. That cleared after 15 minutes.

After the squall, I heard some bugling from the ridge to the west. I pulled out the binoculars and scanned the ridge. I
ended up watching a loose group of 7-8 bulls moving around the upper slopes. Several more bugles rang out as I
watched them. Eventually they moved down the slopes and most of them were hidden by trees or terrain. I decided
to move on. So much for getting out of here ASAP.
YNP_Day-8_Basin_Cr_Lake_trail.jpg


Soon after I reach this meadow.
YNP_Day-8_Basin_Cr_trail_meadow.jpg


When the clouds lifted, the light hitting the meadow was spectacular. As I wound my way around the meadow, I reached
the correct angle for this rainbow to become visible. Since Red Creek is the only named creek to run into this meadow,
seems like it should be called Red Creek Meadow.
YNP_Day-8_Basin_Cr_trail_meadow_rainbow-9.jpg


The trail on the ridge along Red Creek. Lots of elk, bear, and wolf sign through here.
YNP_Day-8_Basin_Cr_trail.jpg


I am guessing but maybe this is why it's called Red Creek.
YNP_Day-8_Basin_Cr_red_rock_band-2.jpg


A subalpine fir marked up by a bear.
YNP_Day-8_Basin_Cr_bear_tree.jpg


Looking up the Snake River. The weather has been deteriorating rapidly the last 1/2 hour. A steady rain has been falling.
That's Red Creek draining into the Snake R.
YNP_Day-8_Snake_R_view.jpg


As I followed the trail down to the Snake River, black bear tracks appeared. I had seen some tracks earlier on the trail
by camp and assumed it was the same bear. I eventually saw a cub track which matched the sow and cub tracks by camp.
YNP_Day-8_black_bear_track-1.jpg


The Snake River crossing was cold. It was pretty chilly now. After crossing the river, I saw someone and lightly called out
to them. I think I scared the cra* out of her as she probably thought no one else was out. There were 3 tents near the
river just upstream of the crossing and she was part of that group. I dried my feet, and headed on down the trail,
eventually reaching the Snake River Hot Springs area.
YNP_Day-8_Snake_R_trail_wet-1.jpg


I reached the trail to the hot springs and was greeted by this "sign". I walked down the trail to the junction of the hot
creek and the river. After a minute or so, I heard a voice call out. I looked towards the trees and there were 4 guys exiting
the forest and headed my way. I waved. They approached and looked tired and soaked. Their packs had fishing gear
strapped to the outside. It was snowing at this point.

Long story short, they had lost the trail immediately after crossing the Snake River at the South Entrance and had
bushwhacked here the whole way (~5 miles), thinking the trail was next to the river. They were planning to camp for
3-4 nights but at this point were unsure if they would stay more than 1 night. Luckily their campsite was only a quarter
mile or so away. I hope they were able to start a fire and warm/dry themselves. They had come from Alabama or some
state in that region (a long effin way) and it would be a shame to need to bail.
YNP_Day-8_Snake_R_hot_springs_trail.jpg


The four followed me (on the other side of the hot springs creek) until the bridge. I explained where their camp was and they
moved up the trail looking pretty dispirited.
YNP_Day-8_Snake_R_hot_springs&snowfall-2.jpg


By this time the trail was pretty sloppy. It was still a nice hike though the forest. Last time I was here with a college friend,
we saw a black bear in this stretch of trail. I was hoping for similar luck, but not this time.
YNP_Day-8_Snake_R_trail_wet-1-2.jpg


Some baneberry along the trail.
YNP_Day-8_Snake_R_trail_baneb-2.jpg


Looking back at the last hot springs before the road.
YNP_Day-8_Snake_R_trail_thermal_area-1.jpg


I hiked out, crossed the Snake River at the South Entrance, walked south a couple hundred yards, and stuck my thumb out.
It took about a minute to catch a ride in the rain/snow mix. I caught a ride with a guy and his daughter to the Headwaters
Lodge a couple miles south. I went in, asked the maitre'd about dinner. She explained that due to covid, they were only
allowing a few people in at a time and that it was a crapshoot whether I would be seated or not. A few minutes later she
said there was a guy with reservations for one that might let me join him. I said that sounded great. She explained that I
should come wait in line but when he arrived, she would ask him about letting me join him.

I then went to the lodging counter and asked about a cabin/shower/laundry change. The attendant at the front desk told
me that to use the shower or the laundry, I needed to rent a campsite/cabin/room. I told her that I had used the laundry
before without having rented a room but also said I was interested in a cabin. She set me up in a cabin and after paying,
off I went. The hot shower felt so-o-o-o good. I headed over to the laundry room and started a load.

After a while, I went to the restaurant and waited in line briefly. After a 10-15 minute wait, the maitre'd came over and said
the man agreed that I could join him. We met and went to the table. He had been fishing in southern Yellowstone's
backcountry for the past 10 days, moving from campsite to campsite along the way. We had a lot to talk about. After dinner,
I finished the laundry and went to my cabin, and fell asleep pretty quickly.

The next morning, I packed for my next (shorter) trek, and headed to the restaurant for breakfast. (TBC...)
 

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Last edited:

Titans

Member
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Aug 18, 2018
Messages
1,443
Really enjoyed reading this TR, it’s like we are right there with you! Hilarious story about the rangers and eventually giving you a ride. Very interesting to see all the tracks, the signs of animals and hear about the sounds they make. Awesome you to got to watch the elusive loons, they are beautiful. And fabulous fall colors everywhere! Captivating story about the bear visit, wow….
Guy lines: we had white lines, which I disliked, so we recently got some new camouflage colored. Great color, but now we trip over those guy lines constantly in the evening and at night. If bears are like deer & people, then you could just get some white guy lines, though it would eliminate the night entertainment!
 

Outdoor_Fool

Member
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Joined
Dec 11, 2015
Messages
1,919
Thanks @Titans The last several years the rangers have been super helpful in Yellowstone and Grand Teton. Not sure what changed from before but they have been great.

The loons called a few times but were mostly quiet and fishing hard. Wolves howling, elk bugling, and loons crying out, all from one campsite, pretty fortunate.

I saw some camo guy lines a few years ago, but luckily I recognized a serious problem with that. I have bought some of the reflective line, which also came with the tent. A great idea as long as you have light to reflect. Soon the bears will be carrying headlamps I guess.
 

Kmatjhwy

Wilderness Wanderer
Joined
Sep 23, 2016
Messages
664
Outdoor, Loved Loved this trip report of yours. Great!!!! Now I have been thru all of this country myself at this time year in the past and loved it. Good to hear of your experiences and seeing all of the photos. Brought back some wonderful memories. Now isn't the birdlife remarkable there on the backsides of Yellowstone Lake. And lIke you seeing all the wildlife back in there, remarkable isn't it. Thanks Thanks for posting! Yes there are always Loons at Heart Lake it seems also. Now some of my most favorite camping spots are back in here. Seems like from the photos it is all still the same, super wild and nice. Loved your story of your interaction with those rangers when you were hitchhiking. And the bears checking your tent out that one night.

Wishing You the Best!
 
Last edited:

scatman

Member
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Joined
Dec 23, 2013
Messages
2,703
Bravo @Outdoor_Fool ! This one is making me salivate. I read your report twice just so I could absorb it all. I spread my map out on the table in order for me to follow your footsteps. Just a wonderful descriptive write-up. And your pictures aren't half bad either. :)

Day 1:
- Love the marten shot.

- When I was back in there, the Riddle Lake Trail was closed due to the nesting swans. I've noticed that it is open now on recent drives past the trailhead. Maybe it was the location of the nest that caused them to shut the trail down back then?

- As you made your way along the meadows of Solution Creek, did you happen to find an old Canon Powershot SD700 IS just laying around by chance? It was my favorite point-and-shoot that I have ever owned, and I lost it when I put it in the false pocket of one of my kilts somewhere along Solution on my way to Delusion Lake. :mad:

- What were your thoughts on campsite 8J1? Good, bad, or indifferent? I've never stayed there before.

Day 2:
- Mount Sheridan always makes for a wonderful reflection shot.

- Are the porcupines going after the sap-rich cambium layer underneath the bark like the bears do? Is this a last resort for them also?

- I made the same mistake at Outlet Lake too back in 2010. I had an older map that showed the campsite near the west end of the lake. When I couldn't find the site, I thought that maybe it was just open camping around the lake, like they used to do at Mariposa Lake back in the day, but surely they would have told me that when I picked up my permit.

2010 shot for comparison
09.jpg


Day 3:
- Always great to see otters, and I love the yellows color of the willows down along the south end of the lake

- Were any rangers staying at the Trail Creek Patrol Cabin?

- I've stayed at that campsite twice, and both times had deer present.

Day 4:
- I have always felt that Chipmunk Creek and the Two Ocean Plateau Trail were some of the wildest parts of the Park. You just get that sense as you are passing through.

Day 5:
- not sure how quickly I could have fallen back asleep knowing that there was a bear(s) outside my tent. :)

Day 6:
- The porcupine tail drag is pretty sweet.

- I've been down that stretch of the Snake River a long time ago, and there were no trees whatsoever. It looks like they are growing back now. I remember that being an extremely hot day.

- I half expected you to off-trail up and over Big Game Ridge when you reached Sickle Creek. :)

Day 7:
- The huckleberries are beautiful.

- The infamous @Artemus used those elk skulls and racks to dry various clothing items on our trip last summer. If I recall correctly, we had those at three different campsites on that trip.

- How was the water source at that campsite? When we were there, it was fine in the morning, but had dried up by evening time.

Day 8:
- Looks like a cold hike out. I don't like cold and wet days backpacking anymore now that I am older. Just a wimp I guess.

- See any marmot activity near the last campsite on the Snake on your way out?


Well, thanks for taking the time to write this up and share it with us. Still need to buy you a beer at some point. Maybe two or three after this wonderful report!
 
Last edited:

TractorDoc

Member
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Joined
Aug 21, 2018
Messages
332
@Outdoor_Fool , I enjoyed your trip report quite a bit.

The Mount Sheridan and Beaver Creek pictures bring back good memories for me (even though they are only a couple years old!).

I'd like to think I could wander/camp as you do solo but I'm not quite there yet. Next time I see someone hitching in the park I might just have to offer them a ride. :)
 

Outdoor_Fool

Member
.
Joined
Dec 11, 2015
Messages
1,919
Bravo @Outdoor_Fool ! This one is making me salivate. I read your report twice just so I could absorb it all. I spread my map out on the table in order for me to follow your footsteps. Just a wonderful descriptive write-up. And your pictures aren't half bad either. :)

Day 1:
- Love the martin shot. I didn't mention that I actually saw another one near the bottom of Chipmunk Creek. It was running across an elevated log and disappeared quickly.

- When I was back in there, the Riddle Lake Trail was closed due to the nesting swans. I've noticed that it is open now on recent drives past the trailhead. Maybe it was the location of the nest that caused them to shut the trail down back then? I suspect that by the time I was there (September) the nest was no longer in use because the cygnets had fledged already, so no reason to protect the nesting area.

- As you made your way along the meadows of Solution Creek, did you happen to find an old Canon Powershot SD700 IS just laying around by chance? It was my favorite point-and-shoot that I have ever owned, and I lost it when I put it in the false pocket of one of my kilts somewhere along Solution on my way to Delusion Lake.
I did not, but maybe I'll go back and find it and ship it to you, only $300 shipping & handling.
- What were your thoughts on campsite 8J1? Good, bad, or indifferent? I've never stayed there before. I thought it was a great campsite. Elevated above the lake a bit so a little warmer. Good water source, excellent views, wolves running through it, etc. I stayed at 8J2 in 1996 or so. Nice quiet campsite but aesthetically not as great.

Day 2:
- Mount Sheridan always makes for a wonderful reflection shot. :thumbsup: :thumbsup:

- Are the porcupines going after the sap-rich cambium layer underneath the bark like the bears do? Is this a last resort for them also? They are, as well as the the bark. From what I've read, it's a standard part of their wiinter diet. We see them in the spring south of the Alaska Range keying in on the sprouting willow branches, probably much more nutritious.

- I made the same mistake at Outlet Lake too back in 2010. I had an older map that showed the campsite near the west end of the lake. When I couldn't find the site, I thought that maybe it was just open camping around the lake, like they used to do at Mariposa Lake back in the day, but surely they would have told me that when I picked up my permit. I should have checked the permit a little more closely, my fault, but that would have been a really short day. That slope on the north shore has really grown up.

2010 shot for comparison
View attachment 107420

Day 3:
- Always great to see otters, and I love the yellows color of the willows down along the south end of the lake

- Were any rangers staying at the Trail Creek Patrol Cabin? Not that I saw, there was 2-3 canoeists camped at the site (6A4) east of the RS.

- I've stayed at that campsite twice, and both times had deer present. I had a cow elk walk into the site during the night, she came in quietly and left in a hurry, waking me. I had a mule deer come into my improvised site during the night. It snorted and bounded off.

Day 4:

- I have always felt that Chipmunk Creek and the Two Ocean Plateau Trail were some of the wildest parts of the Park. You just get that sense as you are passing through. I agree completely. Surprised I didn't see any bears in there with all the fresh sign.

Day 5:

- not sure how quickly I could have fallen back asleep knowing that there was a bear(s) outside my tent. :)
First off, I assumed they were black bears, the first ones I've had outside the tent (that I know of) while strictly backpacking. When I worked in Kenai Fjords, it was a fairly frequent experience. I guess you become used to it. Anyway, that was the favorite part of the trip.
Day 6:

- The porcupine tail drag is pretty sweet. :thumbsup:

- I've been down that stretch of the Snake River a long time ago, and there were no trees whatsoever. It looks like they are growing back now. I remember that being an extremely hot day. They are coming back slowly on that dry barren ridge.

- I half expected you to off-trail up and over Big Game Ridge when you reached Sickle Creek. :)
I thought about hitting the ridges but it was so frigging hot, the thought of hiking up was not pleasant. I would like to hike the ridge sometime from Hancock down to the the Snake River near Heart River.
Day 7:
- The huckleberries are beautiful.

- The infamous @Artemus used those elk skulls and racks to dry various clothing items on our trip last summer. If I recall correctly, we had those at three different campsites on that trip. Best drying rack ever.

- How was the water source at that campsite? When we were there, it was fine in the morning, but had dried up by evening time. There was no water at all in the creek through camp, I had to pick up lake water.

Day 8:

- Looks like a cold hike out. I don't like cold and wet days backpacking anymore now that I am older. Just a wimp I guess. You'll freeze during my next TR. I was amazed at the run of great weather during the trip, it certainly added to the great pleasure of it.

- See any marmot activity near the last campsite on the Snake on your way out? I did not, maybe they were laying up in their dens during the storm.


Well, thanks for taking the time to write this up and share it with us. Still need to buy you a beer at some point. Maybe two or three after this wonderful report! :thumbsup: :thinking:
 
Last edited:

wsp_scott

Member
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Joined
May 16, 2016
Messages
1,021
Awesome trip report, I really like all the animal details that you noted. I try to pay attention when I hike, but I'm pretty sure I miss a lot more than you do.
 

kwc

Member
Joined
Mar 31, 2016
Messages
731
Awesome trip report! Quite an adventure through some absolutely beautiful country.
 

b.stark

Forever Wandering
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Joined
Apr 8, 2015
Messages
957
Great trip! Particularly enjoyed the attention to animal activity. Elk bugling in the backcountry is one of the best sounds there is, I think.
 

wsp_scott

Member
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Joined
May 16, 2016
Messages
1,021
I was thinking about this trip report and hitch hiking and places to stay when you come off the trail and I have some questions.

1) I guess you had some clean clothes while you did laundry. Do you carry extra or is this something like your sleep clothes that don't get wet/dirty?
2) What would you have done if there wasn't anything at the Headwaters? Cross your fingers and down to Coulter Bay or something else?
3) Getting back to the airport, I'm guessing you plan on hitchhiking or maybe had something else arranged? Any plans on a hotel or at least a shower to get clean before the flight?

I'm asking these questions because I think maybe I'm a little too risk averse from a travel to backpack point of view and I need to "wing it" a little more, but the logistics get more difficult if you carry everything with you and I'm not sure about off-trail sleeping without reservations. I'm not afraid of hitchhiking, never done it personally, but I have picked up hitchhikers in similar places. It is all the other pieces that are hard to put together. Any insights or advice for cross country backpacking travels?
 

Outdoor_Fool

Member
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Joined
Dec 11, 2015
Messages
1,919
I was thinking about this trip report and hitch hiking and places to stay when you come off the trail and I have some questions.

1) I guess you had some clean clothes while you did laundry. Do you carry extra or is this something like your sleep clothes that don't get wet/dirty?
2) What would you have done if there wasn't anything at the Headwaters? Cross your fingers and down to Coulter Bay or something else?
3) Getting back to the airport, I'm guessing you plan on hitchhiking or maybe had something else arranged? Any plans on a hotel or at least a shower to get clean before the flight?

I'm asking these questions because I think maybe I'm a little too risk averse from a travel to backpack point of view and I need to "wing it" a little more, but the logistics get more difficult if you carry everything with you and I'm not sure about off-trail sleeping without reservations. I'm not afraid of hitchhiking, never done it personally, but I have picked up hitchhikers in similar places. It is all the other pieces that are hard to put together. Any insights or advice for cross country backpacking travels?

Great questions, @wsp_scott !

1. I hang a bag of travel clothes and extra gear (if necessary) before I head into the back country. Caching food in the Parks is illegal so I use the area between the 2 parks. I am super-careful about hanging any food here as I do not want to be that person who creates a problem bear.

Since flying with bear spray is prohibited, I usually have a can or 3 cached somewhere so I don't have to worry about buying it every time. I've had to ask drivers if they can stop at such-and-such a point so I can go out and grab my bear spray. So far they have had no problems with it.

2. I usually camp a couple hundred yards off the Rockefeller Memorial Parkway. Roadside camping is prohibited but away from the road is allowed.

3. Hitchhiking is a usual plan, BUT, I have a niece in Lander who with her husband is usually willing to meet me at some point after my treks and shuttle me around/ camp/etc which is a nice luxury when available. Otherwise its hitch hiking. I give myself at least a 8 hours to reach the airport if I am just hitchhiking from the South Entrance. There are showers/laundromat at the entrance road to Signal Mountain CG, as well as Old Faithful Inn, and a few other places around. I also figure I can clean up a bit in the Gros Ventre or Snake Rivers as a last resort.

I did not like camping in the Park where I was not permitted and hope I don't screw up like that again.

I have a lot more specific details of logistics in the Teton/Yellowstone area if needed but it's a much longer read.

Hope that helps.
 

wsp_scott

Member
.
Joined
May 16, 2016
Messages
1,021
Great questions, @wsp_scott !

1. I hang a bag of travel clothes and extra gear (if necessary) before I head into the back country. Caching food in the Parks is illegal so I use the area between the 2 parks. I am super-careful about hanging any food here as I do not want to be that person who creates a problem bear.

Since flying with bear spray is prohibited, I usually have a can or 3 cached somewhere so I don't have to worry about buying it every time. I've had to ask drivers if they can stop at such-and-such a point so I can go out and grab my bear spray. So far they have had no problems with it.

2. I usually camp a couple hundred yards off the Rockefeller Memorial Parkway. Roadside camping is prohibited but away from the road is allowed.

3. Hitchhiking is a usual plan, BUT, I have a niece in Lander who with her husband is usually willing to meet me at some point after my treks and shuttle me around/ camp/etc which is a nice luxury when available. Otherwise its hitch hiking. I give myself at least a 8 hours to reach the airport if I am just hitchhiking from the South Entrance. There are showers/laundromat at the entrance road to Signal Mountain CG, as well as Old Faithful Inn, and a few other places around. I also figure I can clean up a bit in the Gros Ventre or Snake Rivers as a last resort.

I did not like camping in the Park where I was not permitted and hope I don't screw up like that again.

I have a lot more specific details of logistics in the Teton/Yellowstone area if needed but it's a much longer read.

Hope that helps.

I would never have thought to cache a bag of travel clothes, feel kind of stupid to write that :)
Good to know about public showers in the park, I would have assumed you had to be a registered camper.

I'll try to remember to pick your brain the next time I head back to Yellowstone
 

Miya

Because I am able.
Joined
Dec 31, 2017
Messages
1,341
Amazing TR! Can't believe you got to see a marten! So cute! I hoped to see one all of Washington and never did, darn. Thanks for sharing!!
 

Reef&Ruins

Colorado Plateau is calling...
Joined
Feb 3, 2017
Messages
873
I've seen a marten in Grand Tetons but not in Yellowstone. So cool you saw one there. TR was epic!

BTW @Miya the place I have had the most luck with martens (seen several) was Yoho and Banff in the Canadian Rockies.
 

Miya

Because I am able.
Joined
Dec 31, 2017
Messages
1,341
I've seen a marten in Grand Tetons but not in Yellowstone. So cool you saw one there. TR was epic!

BTW @Miya the place I have had the most luck with martens (seen several) was Yoho and Banff in the Canadian Rockies.
Aww wonderful! Appreciate the tip!
 
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