Yellowstone - 9 Mile Post to South Entrance

Outdoor_Fool

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After a 6-day trek with my long-time friend Keith, we drove to West Yellowstone, where we met another college friend, Rick, who would join me for the second trek of the trip. We bid goodbye to Keith. I wish he could have joined us for this trek but had a niece’s wedding to attend in Seattle.

Rick hadn’t been to Yellowstone since ~1984, so we took off to see the park before starting our trek. We drove up over Dunraven Pass to Lamar Valley. I took some pictures overlooking Antelope Valley. We saw a sow black bear and her 2 cubs in the Tower area. Rick caught a fleeting glimpse of a couple of wolves near Lamar Canyon. His first wolf sightings ever. We also saw the usual assortment of ungulates along the way. He almost hit a buck pronghorn that careened across the road right in front of us. No grizzlies but we still had a couple of hot spots to drive through.

Rick with Antelope Creek behind him.
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Black bear & her 2 cubs. Both cubs were chocolate colored.
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We dropped Rick's truck off at the South Entrance, picked up a back country permit, and hitch hiked to 9 Mile Post TH, where a large crowd was gathered to watch this sow grizzly and her cub.
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After waiting a while for the grizzlies to move off the trail a bit, we took off for our campsite along Yellowstone Lake. Once we reached the campsite, we set up camp in a 30-40 mile an hour wind.

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We enjoyed a nice sunset over the lake and then settled into our tents at dark to sleep.
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The next morning, we breakfasted, packed and hit the trail. We ran into a couple of trail crew members on horses an hour after leaving camp. They told us we were the only permitted party in southeast Yellowstone as of 8 am. Good news to hear.

The winds had died during the night and we were hiking into a really nice day. Rick on the trail along Yellowstone Lake.
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The trail weaved in and out of creek bottoms and over the foothills of nearby Absaroka Mountains. The foothills provided great views of Yellowstone Lake and the Yellowstone River Delta.
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Wetlands just south of Yellowstone Lake.
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Camp 2 at Beaverdam Creek. We arrived early and had the opportunity to relax and explore the surroundings a bit.
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A set of antlers. A pretty typical decoration at many Yellowstone campsites.
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Although I think the park has too many signs along their trails, it is nice to see our progress as we move along.
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A view of the upper Yellowstone River valley, looking north.
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The Yellowstone River. This trail provides plenty of photo opportunities along the way.
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Rick on the trail. Rick lives in the paradise of southern Colorado but I think he enjoyed the different landscapes and wildlife diversity of Yellowstone.
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Table Mountain and Turret Mountain above Trapper's Creek.
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Rick looking for trout in the creek.
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Turret Mountain from camp 3 along Mountain Creek.
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Mountain Creek and Pinnacle Mountain, a couple miles east of the Park boundary.
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Rick, wetting the line. He is a professional fishing guide back home.
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Colter Peak, north of camp 3.
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Camp next to Mountain Creek.
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Mountain Creek and the north end of Two Ocean Plateau in the background.
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One of the teeth of Trident Mountain. We spent over an hour here glassing several bull elk and their harems on the fore slopes here. There were a few bulls to the west of us by the Yellowstone River also. Their bugles had awakened us that morning almost 2 miles away. It was 60+ degrees and right around noon and they were still going pretty strong with their rutting activities.
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Rick and Yellowstone River. We were now on our way to the Thorofore Ranger Station.
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Another view down valley of North Two Ocean Plateau.
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Rick crossing another creek.
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We're close.
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Nice back drop for a cabin site.
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The barn with decoration.
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Grizzly damage on the east wall of the cabin.
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It's nearly October and almost 70 degrees.
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Rick crossing Thorofare River.
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Our campsite along the Yellowstone River.
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Morning light on the cliffs to the west of camp. We ended up spending the previous evening watching and listening to a group of elk on the grassy slope at the base of the cliffs. One dominant bull bugled pretty regularly for over an hour and a satellite bull chipped in a few sparse bugles. At breakfast a lone wolf started howling south of us, seemingly near the boundary of the park a little over a mile away. It howled repeatedly for about 30 minutes as we ate and started to pack. Elk bugles and wolf howls, it's hard to beat that.
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Rick near the Continental Divide at the top of Lynx Creek.
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One of the meadows just before the divide.
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Rick & Mariposa Lake. The extreme headwaters of the Snake River are just behind the ridge on the right side of the picture.
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Fox Creek Ranger Station
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We left the park far enough to take photos by this sign.
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Upper Snake River & willows.
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A recent elk rub.
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Upper Snake River valley behind Rick. We bumped into a band of elk a few minutes later.
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A whitebark pine with some damage. We looked around and saw that a grizzly had raided the midden piles of pine squirrels for the hidden whitebark cones. the ground was pretty torn up. This wound on the tree was also caused by a grizzly.
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Inside the cavity was a stash of whitebark pine cones, a staple food source for grizzlies. This squirrel had found a relatively safe hiding spot from marauding grizzlies.
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The midden pile torn up by a grizzly. These middens can contain thousands of cones.
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A wider view of the site. The midden is thrashed and even some whitebark saplings took a hit.
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We continued up toward Big Game Ridge. About a half hour before reaching the top, we ran into this grizzly on an elk carcass. It was elk season and we were on National Forest land here. It could have been an elk wounded by a hunter that wasn't recovered although grizzlies have learned that rutting bulls are relatively easy prey items under the right circumstances.

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This is Rick's picture with higher zoom than me. We were able to watch the grizzly for 20 minutes or more until the downdraft reversed direction and within seconds the grizzly's nose went up and he took off for the trees toward the Park.
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We hiked over to the carcass. It was a little ripe. No avian scavengers had found it yet. The last few minutes that we watched the grizzly, it was clawing up large chunks of earth to bury the carcass. Most of the elk's entrails had been eaten by the time we arrived.
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Rick nearing the top of the trail on South Big Game Ridge.
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The Tetons.
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A ridge off of South Big Game ridge. I had originally planned to camp in this basin but decided to camp lower as this area was pretty exposed.
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View toward North Big Game Ridge and Yellowstone Lake in the back. It was fun to see where we had been 4 days before.
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Rick with Mt. Sheridan and Heart Lake in the background. We called our spouses from this site. "Hi hon, you'll never guess where we are."
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Another view along South Big Game Ridge. Classic healthy whitebark pine community.
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An old whitebark snag.
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Near our campsite on night 6. We were well off the high ridges of South Big Game Ridge which was great as later a storm blew in with 40 mph winds, rain, hail and lightning. Minutes before the winds hit us, it sounded like a freight train on the ridges above us.
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Camp. We survived the storm the night before. A couple of snags blew over during the storm but nothing too close. This night we had camped on National forest land so we had our choice of where to camp.
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Ranger patrol cabin at Harebell Creek.
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Huckleberry Mountain. As we descended toward Wolverine Peak, a pair of coyotes started howling and continued to howl for 15 -20 minutes. It made for a pleasant stroll downhill.
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Wolverine Creek.
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Grassy valley meadow of Wolverine Creek where the Snake River joins it. The two meet a little bit behind me.
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The view from camp 7 along the Snake River at Snake River Hot Springs. I never did find a good place to soak here. There were 2 guys fishing downstream when we first arrived. They hiked back to their vehicle later. First people we had seen since the morning of day 2.
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A view from the other direction. There was no place to soak where this met the Snake River, unfortunately. What a beautiful place to camp.
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The night before it rained hard for a few hours, leaving the last morning's hike a muddy venture. The good news was that all tracks on the trail were fresh. We followed these black bear tracks for more than a mile. Eventually we saw a small black bear on the trail but these were not his tracks. The bear that left these tracks was a full grown specimen. The bear we saw left much smaller tracks that were traveling the other direction towards us.
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Pine marten tracks.
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This sign greeted us just before we crossed the Snake River. According to the ranger that gave us our permits, a couple of idiot hunters shot a couple of elk along the boundary of the park. The elk ran and died inside the park boundaries, so the hunters could not salvage them. Within a day, a couple of grizzlies had taken over the carcasses, hence this sign.
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Rick crossing the Snake River. His truck is barely visible to the left of the red vehicle in the back right of the photo. What a great trip, it had everything we could have asked for.
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I did this route twenty five years ago this coming summer; thanks for taking me back. Great report!
 
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