Yellowstone, one night by a lake

Pringles

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I recently did a hike with a group from Backcountry Post, and heard a couple of times that I should post more, that people like my little trip reports. (Thank you for your encouragement.) I live near Yellowstone and can drive in for a quick overnight, or a day trip. I don’t like day hikes a whole lot. Earlier this year I tried to do the Storm Point Trail for the fourth time. A bison didn’t want me to do the trail, so I turned around. Later, I saw on Facebook where someone happily posted images from hiking that same trail on the same day. I was feeling like a giant chicken because I had abandoned the trail after about 75 yards. The next day, a lady was gored by a bison on that trail, and I decided that I had made a good decision. Mind you, it took me two days to come to that conclusion. Anyway, I much prefer hiking to a backcountry site, and just seeing what is there. The old saying, “To look, to see, to see what you see” is one of my favorite activities.

I know that my backpacking season is running out for this year, at least around here. So I watched the weather, and picked a day that looked to be the best of the days in the near future. It was to be windy and 34*, so I picked a spot that was likely to provide some shelter from the wind, but still be a pretty place.

This is a single wall tent. I was really excited to get it. Long ago, in the last century/millennia, I had gotten a Clip Magic. It was a single wall tent based on the Clip Flashlight. It only weighed 3 pounds. At that time, most two person tents weighed in at 4 or more pounds, so I was really happy with it. Yes, there was condensation, but I loved that thing. One morning, I woke up, and saw sun shining in on my feet and thought, “Oh, look at the sunshine, it’s a beautiful day! Wait, why am I seeing sunshine on my feet IN my tent?” It was a sad day. The day I realized my tent had died of UV poisoning. The walls were shredding. So I went on a quest to find a replacement. Sierra Designs didn’t make the Clip Magic any more. I’ve spent years looking at this tent and that tent and the other tent (and some hammocks) for the perfect replacement. I’m pretty sure that the answer is that there is no perfect tent. In the mean time I have a Big Agnes, two Sierra Designs, two Big Sky Internationals, a Six Moon Designs, a Marmot… . When I saw this last fall, I fell in love with the pictures. It is large, has two doors—which can be set up as awnings, and weighs about 3 pounds. It also has condensation. But I love it anyway. Sometimes. When I think condensation won’t be a problem.

I’m clueless about when condensation is going to be a problem.

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Once I got my food hung, and my tent up, I put together my chair, and started watching. The wind was blowing, so I watched little waves. I tried taking pictures of the colors I saw by shore, but it wasn’t working. The strawberry leaves were about half in a deep, dusty burgundy, and half their usual green. The same was true for some plant that looked like it might be a blueberry bush, though I’m not sure what it really is. What I think was fireweed had both frilly seed heads and the dusty burgundy leaves. The grouse whortleberry plants were half yellow and half green. The grasses were about half and half, too. Everything was gently waving in the wind.

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This picture is right side up on my camera. I have no idea how to fix it, so either don’t look, or twist your head. I liked how the light played on the water. Though there were clouds, it wasn’t supposed to rain until the next day. Whooo hooo! (Spoiler, it rained in the night, but only in the night.)
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At this campsite, the food pole—and camp kitchen—are across the trail from the campsite, and not as close to the lake. It’s really not the kind of gathering spot that most other campsites in Yellowstone have. Lots of people do dayhikes right by the campsite, and the food pole, and while no one has ever stolen my food, when they pass, I always wonder if some day hiker might take it down because they don’t understand exactly what’s going on.

I sat on a downed log, with a nice view of the lake, and ate my Subway sandwich. (The folks on Scatman’s Grizzly Lake hike looked at me with a mixture of “What?”and “Mmm, that looks good for a first night’s meal.” If you choose to adopt this plan, don’t get any dressing, it makes the bread soggy. Also, get a side of pickles. Even if you don’t like pickles, they have a lot of flavor, and flavor is pretty awesome when you’re backpacking.) I had Sour Cream and Onion chips, too. I sat on the log and munched and crunched and looked at all the fall colors. While I could SEE fall, it didn’t smell like fall, though it smelled fresh and clean.

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There was a little trail to the water. I don’t know if it was made by fishermen, or hikers who wanted to sit closer to the water. The vegetation was very pretty, though.

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This is typical trail while walking back to the campsite. There were trees down all over. I’m not sure which fire burned through here, but the forest was young and often thick. The park service had sawed off the big trees that blocked the trail, but there were at least two places with small trees that you had to step over, or Limbo under.

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The trail to the campsite. Being on a trail that plenty of people take for a day hike, they see the campsite. I had people who waved and said, “hi!” I met a group of people as I was hiking in that said they had gone in to explore the campsite, and thought it was beautiful. I don’t mind the visitors, sometimes, but it is weird. When you’re at a motel, nobody just stops by to chat. And they never ask where you “go.” I’ve had people walk into camp, through camp, and straight to the water. No hello. Just walk in. I don’t think most realize quite what they are doing. On this trip, I only had two people pass, and they waved and said hi and moved along.

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I finally found a place that I could zoom in on that showed some of the mauves and burgundies (burgundy’s?). I guess fall isn’t quite taking over yet. Maybe when I’m looking at small areas, I don’t notice that the big areas never do totally change to fall colors.

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The wind had shifted direction, and dropped off noticeably.

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Maybe I’m the only one who never thought of this, but I had my full length 1/4 inch foam pad (in case my inflatable died on me). I folded it up and put it on my Helinox chair and WOW. I was warm.
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Sunset came early, at about 7 pm. The light started changing at about 6, and it made things enchanting.

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I hadn’t been in the tent too long when I started to hear “plop, plop, plop.” No. It wasn’t supposed to rain tonight. It was supposed to get kind of cold (34*) but not rain. Yeah, well, it plop-ploped for quite a while. It was never a hard rain, but it rained.

Once it got dark, the elk started bugling. There was at least one young one, that sounded more like a squeaky door, and at least one old one that knew what he was doing. Every time I woke up, I would hear one or more.

In the morning, I looked at my little thermometer. It said 44* inside the tent. The rain had stopped, and it was certainly cooler outside the tent, but it wasn’t bad.

The views had changed.

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Condensation occurs, by the way.

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I looked at the fog for a while, then packed up and headed back to the car. I had planned on driving up to Dunraven Pass, but thought the fog would block the views. I figured I’d try anyway, though.

On the way, I saw this strip of fur. I touched it, and it was hard. I realized it wasn’t just a strip of fur, it was a strip of fur still on the bone. I think it really was a rabbits foot, though the owner hadn’t been too lucky.

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I did drive up to Dunraven Pass, and was pleased to see that the fog made islands of many of the higher points.

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Coming down Dunraven, I hoped to see a grizzly or seven on the flanks of Mount Washburn. People tell me they ALWAYS see grizzlies on Mt. Washburn. I’ve seen some black bears, but never a grizzly. Always? I want the secret.

I might have just been looking at the scenery, though.

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On my way through the Hayden, there was a forming traffic jam. I asked a lady what they were seeing (people are currently going nuts about seeing bison, so you have to ask). “Wolves! And they might cross the road!” So I parked, and walked down to where the people were forming. Sure enough, three wolves came up from the flood plain, crossed the road, and headed off into the big valley.

I asked a couple with spotting scopes if the wolves were from the Wapiti pack. They didn’t seem to want to answer, but after a few seconds said, “Yes.” “Thanks.” OK, no more questions.

I didn’t have my camera with a big zoom lens. This was taken with my phone. They were pretty close. That, and the picture is out of focus, but hey, that’s the way it was.

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I really enjoyed watching the crowd. Except for the knowledgeable wolf watchers, the people were thrilled. They had come to Yellowstone to see things, and they saw wolves! At one point, one of the wolves stopped to pee. The crowd went wild. “She’s peeing!” Voyeurism at its best, I guess.

Anyway, that’s my short backpacking trip report. That’s probably my favorite kind of trip. Quiet. Peaceful. An opportunity to just experience whatever shows itself. And of course, condensation. My old friend.
 

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Jackson

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I’m clueless about when condensation is going to be a problem.
Just based on experience, it seems to me like it's all about temperature, dew point, and relative humidity. The simplest way for me to predict it is whether the nighttime low is very low, and whether it's likely we'll hit the dew point. If it's been a hot day with no precipitation and humidity is low, it's usually drier and less cool at night, and in those conditions it seems like you never end up hitting the dew point. So you don't end up with condensation inside the tent because the air stays so dry.

Any time the dew actually falls, I end up with pretty heavy condensation in the tent. And out here in the arid west, the dew only falls when it either gets rather cold or it's humid outside. Sometimes cool temperatures alone lead to condensation, but the nights with lots of condensation are the ones where the dew falls. Or where it's like 10 degrees and my breath freezes on the inside of the tent before it can evaporate.

Being close to water sources can make a slight difference, but I find that the weather conditions are more determinative unless you're literally sleeping in a marsh or directly on the edge of a body of water. Wind also can make a difference and keep things dry.

That's all layperson armchair uneducated meteorology, so take it for what it's worth. Haha.
 
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wsp_scott

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I wish I lived close enough to Yellowstone to do a simple spur of the moment over-night trip. It would be great to feel no pressure to "see things" and just relax with a subway sandwich and a view :)

thanks for sharing and keep posting the "little trip reports"
 

Yvonne

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Nice!! I live close to Mount Rainier and also go quite often and do overnight trips.
I wish I could do the same in Yellowstone.

And what a cool experience with these wolves!!
I only saw wolves in the winter and once again at night right next to my camera last September. It just walked next to me like it was the most normal thing to do. Too bad my camera was at Astro settings, soI couldn't switch back fast enough
 

Pringles

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Jackson, Thanks for the detailed information about condensation. I always check the weather report, so I can figure out which part of the park to aim for, if I don’t already have a scheduled trip. But I don’t always get it right. I currently have three tents that seem to attract condensation, or that I decide would be the perfect tent to take to a place for which it really isn’t the perfect tent. I’ll have to pay more attention to the dew point, though the rest of the forecast was enough wrong that maybe it wouldn’t make any difference. I use weather.gov, because I can pinpoint where I’ll be.

Yvonne, it is a blessing to be so close to Yellowstone, or in your case, Rainier. I am about the same distance from the Bighorns, the Beartooths, and the Absarokas, all featuring national forest service lands. The Winds and Tetons are a little further. It’s a wonderful location. I have focused almost entirely on Yellowstone because I like being able to get a permit and know that there is a spot for me. There’s always been a bear pole or a box, though I know that bear poles go down, and I’d have to make due. Usually, the sites are near some water and the folks who set up the sites have done a good job of creating a site that has something appealing, whether it be a lake or a view or a stream or ??? I’d like to hike more in the Tetons, for the same reasons, but the cost of their permits is pretty high, and until it goes up, I guess I’ll stick to hiking in Yellowstone. There’s something special about hiking in a place where the earth burps (fumaroles), and you have to yell while you hike, to alert grizzlies, and you round a corner and there’s a 200 foot waterfall, and well, I guess there’s just a romance to being in Yellowstone. When the price gets too high, I’ll try one of those other places. :)
 

Miya

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Great share! Such stunning photos!

Do you use anything special for your thermometer? I always wake up and want to know what the temperature is but whenever I try the little keychain ones, they get moisture in them and don't seem reliable.
 

Pringles

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Thank you, Miya. I have a Thermocell for a thermometer, and I believe Scatman had the same kind. They're kid of expensive, I think I got it on sale, shipped for maybe $20. It gives the high and the low. It seems pretty durable. And it comes in about 8 colors!
 

Miya

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Thank you, Miya. I have a Thermocell for a thermometer, and I believe Scatman had the same kind. They're kid of expensive, I think I got it on sale, shipped for maybe $20. It gives the high and the low. It seems pretty durable. And it comes in about 8 colors!
Thanks! I will have to look into it!
 

Fatboy

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Thanks for the report, I to enjoy your reports.

When bees feed on Fireweed it makes for some nicely flavored honey.

Living in California I do not have many opportunities to see wolves so the one we did see while hiking the North Coast Trail on Vancouver Island gave us quite a thrill.
 

Pringles

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A few hikes ago, I spotted a wolf quite close to the road. I parked, stood by my vehicle, and took pictures. I was astounded, no one even asked what I might be looking at. Down the road a couple of hundred yards was a traffic jam. Someone had spotted a bison.

There are lots of places to buy local honey. They say the flowers in the area make a difference. I’ve not developed a taste for honey, so I guess I don’t know what I’m missing.
 

Jackson

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Living in California I do not have many opportunities to see wolves so the one we did see while hiking the North Coast Trail on Vancouver Island gave us quite a thrill.
If it makes you feel any better I have never seen or heard one in the backcountry. Haha.
 

Outdoor_Fool

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As for the condensation, if it is not raining when I go to sleep, I leave at least one door of the tent fly open, allowing air circulation. Unless it''s raining hard, I leave the doors partly open which still provides some benefit. When doing this, I rarely have a condensation problem.

If it's cold enough out that I want the additional insulation of the tent walls, I deal with the condensation in the morning.

Remembering that most of the condensation is caused by our out breaths, I also try not to breathe at night.
 

Pringles

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I have seen a wolf in the backcountry, but in Alaska. I've heard them howling at night a few times.

Outdoor_Fool, I do keep a door open unless it's raining. I'm sure it helps. This tent has some neat features that I think help, too. It has little flaps at the top, which can be opened even in the rain. On both ends, the pullouts make a little flaps of mesh pull out. It's only mesh, but it actually is a little mesh shelf. I like to use it as a way to peek out when it's raining. The vestibule fBric can make an awning, using a hiking pole. I've not done that because the tent seems to attract rain, so I've kept the vestibule at least mostly closed.
 

Fatboy

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Having never experienced it, I would like to believe that hearing wolves howl while in the Backcountry would be quite thrilling.
 

Bob

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Backcountry wolves and griz are great..... But it's neater when you hear wolves / see grizz off of you deck at home....
 
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Thank you…. Made me feel like I was at th campsite n you tellin th story. I will be tryin out th pad with th chair! Great idea.
 

Georgia Yankee

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Love the two photos of the trees across the lake. First with warm sun, then total fog.

About the bison and the aborted trip--sometimes your gut can decide better than your brain. Sounds like you made the right call!
 

Pringles

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It would be neat to have bears and wolves right out back, but a little too close for my comfort. Though the ability to step inside might help.

Thanks for the comments!
 

Pringles

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Miya, I got the name of the thermometer wrong. It's a thermodrop. It's kind of expensive, but records high and low temperatures. I think it's petty accurate, and it comes in about dozen, bright, only-found-in-plastic colors.
 
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