Yellowstone - Through the Heart of the Park

Outdoor_Fool

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Day 1.
I awoke in the cabin at the Headwaters Lodge, headed over for breakfast, and walked into a big group of people in the lobby. Overhearing the conversations, the road into the Park was closed at the S Entrance due to the snow from the previous day and last night. Some people that I had met the previous night at the laundromat saw me and came over to say hi. They then started asking me questions about how long the road might be closed, were there other options, etc. I explained what I had read on the YNP website, and learning that the Grassy Lake Road was open, I recommended they drive that, and then head north to West Yellowstone, and into the Park. The entrance there was open. They took off to drive the road.

Anyway, other people heard me talking and then I was suddenly the person to ask. I tried to remove myself from that as soon as possible because I'm not that guy. More importantly, I needed to finish packing and head out to the highway before the entrance was opened and all these potential rides headed out. Too late, while I was in my cabin, the entrance opened and the vehicles mostly left. I left my duffel bag with the campground office (they agreed that I could) and I walked to the highway and started walking north to the pullout north of the Grassy Lake Road as a few cars and RVs passed me. After 10-15 minutes at the pullout, a car stopped and a young woman jumped out and after asking where I was going, asked me not to kill her, and opened the rear hatch of her car. I promised I would not kill her, put my pack in, and loaded myself into the front passenger seat.

There was a yellow lab on its bed in the back seat. This dog was the reason that the driver was in NW Wyoming. Keeping this short, the dog had been diagnosed with a terminal disease, spurring its owner to go on an extended road trip with him before he died. She quit her job, was in the process of taking care of everything before she took off, and found out that the dog's health issue was not terminal. Since she was so far in into the process, she took the road trip anyway. At this point she was in the 3rd month of the trip, if I remember right. Anyway, we entered the Park, and she dropped me off where I asked.

I was excited for this trip, 3 nights in non-established camps and one night at Ice Lake. The hiking was mostly off trail and the elk rut was on. I was starting near Yellowstone Lake and finishing near Mammoth.

I grabbed my pack and carried it into the trees. I do not like to be seen leaving the road and went out of sight as quickly as possible, before another car passed. I shouldered the pack and started off.
YNP_Day-1_Arnica_Cr_area_heading_in.jpg


Within a few seconds I hit these elk tracks. I felt this was a good omen.
YNP_Day-1_Arnica_Cr_elk_tracks.jpg


I headed up this unnamed creek, which I realized about 20 minutes later, was not the creek I wanted to be following. I checked the map and realized that I was headed west, not north. But for now, I followed the creek.
YNP_Day-1_Arnica_Cr_area_unnamed_creek.jpg


Once I realized my mistake, I turned north and headed into the forest.
YNP_Day-1_Arnica_Cr_area_off-trail.jpg


There are several meadows in the area so I traveled from meadow to meadow, feeling that I was headed to the right area. My compass usually showed I was.
YNP_Day-1_Arnica_Cr_area_meadow.jpg


I came upon this elk wallow along the way.
YNP_Day-1_Arnica_Cr_area_elk_wallow.jpg


The storm was still passing through, with frequent changes between squalls and patches of blue sky.
YNP_Day-1_Arnica_Cr_area_meadow&snowfall.jpg


At one point the the skies let loose and it poured snow for 10-15 minutes.
YNP_Day-1_Arnica_Cr_area_snowfall_downpour-1.jpg


I noticed a large bird flying across the meadow and it landed along the edge. I watched it for a few minutes before it flew to the end of the meadow and perched again.
YNP_Day-1_Arnica_Cr_area_snowfall_downpour&GGO-2.jpg


The next squall was comprised mostly of graupel.
YNP_Day-1_Arnica_Cr_area_graupel.jpg


I finally reached the meadow I was seeking. I passed through here a couple years ago and was treated to an afternoon of elk bugling and wallowing. As I walked out to the road, more elk were coming into the meadow and the bugling was nearly non-stop. But this year it was empty.
YNP_Day-1_Arnica_Cr_meadows-1.jpg


There's an abandoned trail in the valley with some trail markers remaining on the trees. The lower end of the trail becomes pretty spotty the closer you approach the road.
YNP_Day-1_Arnica_Cr_trail_marker-1.jpg


I crossed the creek, this is looking down valley toward the road.
YNP_Day-1_Arnica_Cr_down_valley-2.jpg


I think this is the official trail but it may have been a game trail. There were no markers or cut logs along this stretch.
YNP_Day-1_Arnica_Cr_trail-1.jpg


The upper end of the valley closed in with trees, giving it a real comfortable vibe.
YNP_Day-1_Arnica_Cr_upper_area.jpg


Another elk wallow. Where were they?
YNP_Day-1_Arnica_Cr_elk_wallow.jpg


I left the valley bottom and headed up into the burn. This burned in 2009.
YNP_Day-1_Arnica_Cr_burn_scene.jpg


Soon after I was following an elk's trail through the downed snags.
YNP_Day-1_Arnica_Cr_burn_elk_tracks.jpg


Earlier I had spotted the elk a couple hundred yards ahead of me, a sizable bull. I took this picture assuming the bull was somewhere in it, looking back at me. If he's there, I still haven't found him.
YNP_Day-1_Arnica_Cr_burn_elk_tracks-2.jpg


Once I left the burned area, I entered a beautiful forest.
YNP_Day-1_Arnica_Cr_forest_route.jpg


Here's the old trail.
YNP_Day-1_Arnica_Cr_forest_route_sawn_log-1.jpg


I saw a couple dozen trail markers along the way.
YNP_Day-1_Arnica_Cr_forest_route_trail_marker.jpg


Another obvious section of trail.
YNP_Day-1_Arnica_Cr_forest_route_trail_marker-3.jpg


I lost the trail several times as I went along, usually finding cut logs to relocate it. As I approached Beach Lake, I found this recent set of black bear tracks. It looks like several hundred snow fleas are dotting the snow.
YNP_Day-1_Beach_L_bear_track.jpg


Beach Lake. I kept an eye on the point jutting out from the left as I figured the bear was likely to walk out on it at some point. I never saw it.
YNP_Day-1_Arnica_Cr_Beach_L.jpg


From the upper shore of Beach Lake. Looks dismal but it was actually pretty nice out.
YNP_Day-1_Beach_L-1-2.jpg


North of Beach Lake, I found a small meadow ringed by lodgepole pines. With the low clouds, the moonrise brightened the area pretty well.
YNP_Day-1_Beach_L_camp_meadow_N_moonrise_good.jpg


Day 2.
Here's camp in the morning. The storm was dissipating with the cloud cover persisting but slowly decreasing as the morning went on.
YNP_Day-2_Beach_L_camp_meadow_N_sunrise_camp-2.jpg


I continued north through the lodgepole forest, which eventually gave way to a small burned area, then through a short stretch of mostly lodgepole, before entering the meadows along Alum Creek.
YNP_Day-2_burn_route.jpg



YNP_Day-2_forest_route-2.jpg


As I approached the meadow, there were a few burned lodgepoles giving cover to a sharp-shinned hawk.
YNP_Day-2_approaching_Alum_Cr_SS_Hawk.jpg


I entered the meadows following this trail. Probably bison based on what I will be following further down the valley.
YNP_Day-2_upper_Alum_Cr_meadow.jpg


Pine marten tracks.
YNP_Day-2_upper_Alum_Cr_pine_marten_tracks.jpg


Further down the Alum Creek valley.
YNP_Day-2_upper_Alum_Cr_meadow-2.jpg


At this point, I'm following a set of bison tracks. I ended up following the tracks of one or 2 bison for a couple hours.
YNP_Day-2_upper_Alum_Cr_bison_tracks-1.jpg


Seems like you can't travel around this park too long without finding a bone, in this case, a bison bone.
YNP_Day-2_upper_Alum_Cr_bison_humerus.jpg


Alum Creek.
YNP_Day-2_upper_Alum_Cr-1.jpg


I followed the bison trail across Alum Creek and stopped for a snack and water to enjoy a few minutes of sunlight.
YNP_Day-2_upper_Alum_Cr_up_valley-1.jpg


A lodgepole forest heavily scarred by bison.
YNP_Day-2_upper_Alum_Cr_bison-scarred_trees.jpg


A bison wallow adjacent to well-worn trail. I heard a series of wolf howls off to the east from here, in the headwaters of Trout Creek. Sounded like 4-5 wolves.
YNP_Day-2_upper_Alum_Cr_bison_trail&wallow.jpg


Continuing on down the trail.
YNP_Day-2_upper_Alum_Cr_bison_trail-3.jpg


I finally reach Hayden Valley. It's still a bit chilly with a slight breeze, but what a great day.
YNP_Day-2_upper_Alum_Cr_Hayden_Valley.jpg


A bison along Alum Creek. This may be one of the bison I have been following.
YNP_Day-2_upper_Alum_Cr_Hayden_Valley_lone_bison.jpg


Staying on a bison trail through the sagebrush.
YNP_Day-2_upper_Alum_Cr_Hayden_Valley_bison_trail.jpg


Walking into Glen Africa.
YNP_Day-2_upper_Alum_Cr_Hayden_Valley_Glen_Africa_thermals.jpg


As Alum Creek passes through this thermal area, it warms substantially.
YNP_Day-2_Hayden_Valley_Alum_Creek-1.jpg



YNP_Day-2_Hayden_Valley_Alum_Creek&Glen_Africa.jpg


Looking back after crossing Alum Creek. I had tossed my pack onto the grassy island, almost losing my camera in the process.
YNP_Day-2_Hayden_Valley_Alum_Creek_crossing.jpg


A small group of bison. The nearest ones had been a couple hundred yards away but still spooked and ran toward the rest of the group.
YNP_Day-2_Hayden_Valley_Alum_Creek_bison-3.jpg


Looking back at Glen Africa basin.
YNP_Day-2_Hayden_Valley_Alum_Creek_Glen_Africa_basin-1.jpg


I headed up the ridge to the north and saw this group of bison, just ustream of the other group.
YNP_Day-2_Hayden_Valley_Alum_Creek_bison-1-2.jpg


I pick up a bison trail and continue north.
YNP_Day-2_Hayden_Valley_Alum_Creek_bison_trail.jpg


As I approach the Mary Mountain Trail, I pass this grizzly track.
YNP_Day-2_Hayden_Valley_Alum_Creek_N_griz_track_snow.jpg


Continuing north.
YNP_Day-2_Hayden_Valley_Alum_Creek_N_Mary_Mtn_trail.jpg


Approaching another bison wallow.
YNP_Day-2_Hayden_Valley_Alum_Creek_N_bison_trail&wallow.jpg


Looking east across Hayden Valley to the Absarokas.
YNP_Day-2_Hayden_Valley_Alum_Creek_N_view_E.jpg


A couple of mountain bluebirds. There were a few feeding on insects in the sagebrush in the warm sun.
YNP_Day-2_Hayden_Valley_Alum_Creek_N_mtn_bluebirds.jpg


A group of bison just northwest of Violet Creek thermal area.
YNP_Day-2_Hayden_Valley_Violet_Cr_thermals_bison-1.jpg


Violet Creek thermal area.
YNP_Day-2_Hayden_Valley_Violet_Cr_thermals.jpg



YNP_Day-2_Hayden_Valley_Violet_Cr_thermal_pools.jpg
YNP_Day-2_Hayden_Valley_Violet_Cr_thermal_area-1.jpg


The bison trail through and out of the thermal area.
YNP_Day-2_Hayden_Valley_Violet_Cr_thermals_bison_trail.jpg


In the meadow just north of the thermal area.
YNP_Day-2_Hayden_Valley_Violet_Cr_thermals_bison-3.jpg


The view to the southeast.
YNP_Day-2_Hayden_Valley_Violet_Cr_thermals_meadow-1.jpg


Heading north in earnest toward Otter Creek.
YNP_Day-2_Hayden_Valley_Violet_Cr_route_N.jpg


Coyote, grizzly and bison track.
YNP_Day-2_Hayden_Valley_Violet_Cr_N_griz_bison&coyote_track.jpg


Real walkable terrain and open forest.
YNP_Day-2_Otter_Cr_area_route_N.jpg


One of the many little meadows on the way to Otter Creek.
YNP_Day-2_Otter_Cr_area_meadow.jpg


Another thermal area. The terrain is littered with small thermal spots.
YNP_Day-2_Otter_Cr_area_thermal.jpg


A small thicket of young lodgepoles.
YNP_Day-2_Otter_Cr_area_route_N-1-2.jpg


More easy-to-walk, inviting terrain and forests.
YNP_Day-2_Otter_Cr_area_route_N-3.jpg


Another thermal area.
YNP_Day-2_Otter_Cr_area_thermals.jpg


One of the larger thermal areas along the way.
YNP_Day-2_Otter_Cr_area_thermals-1-2.jpg


A meadow in the headwaters of Otter Creek I tried to obtain a permit to remotely camp here a few years ago. I was denied.
YNP_Day-2_Otter_Cr_puddle-1.jpg


Another thicket, so far these come and go pretty quickly.
YNP_Day-2_Otter_Cr_thicket.jpg


I reach the Cygnet Lakes trail and follow it for a few minutes before heading northwest on my way to Ice Lake.
YNP_Day-2_Cygnet_L_trail.jpg


Pretty easy traveling off trail.
YNP_Day-2_route_N.jpg


I finally reach the Norris-Canyon Road. I have an hour or 2 of daylight left so feel good about reaching Ice Lake. Soon after this I run into large swaths of regenerating lodgepoles pines, slowing my pace substantially. Really substantially. I eventually spilled out of the forest onto the trail and followed it to the campsite, very relieved. I end up reaching the Ice Lake Campsite at about 11 pm, in the dark and exhausted.
YNP_Day-2_Norris-Canyon_Rd.jpg


Day 3.
The next morning, I woke up, had breakfast, and hike a few minutes back to the Gibbon River crossing. I saw it last night with a headlamp and thought it would look nice in the morning light.
YNP_Day-3_Gibbon_R_morning.jpg


I return to camp and catch some photos of Ice Lake in a beautiful morning.
YNP_Day-3_Ice_L-1.jpg


The campsite is pretty expansive compared to most. I did manage to set up my tent in a spot that received early sun, which was nice.
YNP_Day-3_Ice_L_CS_4D2-2.jpg


The trail heading west from the Ice Lake CS. I follow it to, and past the Norris Meadows CS. I saw 2 people along the north shore of Ice Lake, the first people I had seen since leaving the road 2 days ago, .
YNP_Day-3_Solfatara_Trail.jpg


Sometimes there's no escaping deadfall.
YNP_Day-3_Ice_L_Trail_deadfall.jpg


I reach the meadows. At this point I left the trail for good. Mount Holmes is off to the left. I believe that is Electric Peak in the back right-center.
YNP_Day-3_Solfatara_Cr_meadows&Mt_Holmes-2.jpg


Heading up the Solfatara Creek valley. More awesome travel conditions.
YNP_Day-3_Solfatara_Cr_route.jpg


I reach this unnamed creek coming in from the east. At this point I was feeling pretty lazy so I took my time deciding where to cross. I spent probably an hour here.
YNP_Day-3_Solfatara_Cr_unnamed_trib.jpg

As the day wore on, I noticed more and more pieces of obsidian.
YNP_Day-3_Solfatara_Cr_obsidian.jpg


I spent most of the day traveling through expansive meadows. No sign of humans at all, well except for these poles. But by early afternoon I was past the last of them.
YNP_Day-3_Solfatara_Cr_meadow.jpg


A lone bison. I love how these quiet valleys seem to provide a good spot for these old boys.
YNP_Day-3_Solfatara_Cr_bison-1.jpg


A log ripped open by a bear.
YNP_Day-3_Solfatara_Cr_bear_log.jpg


A small unnamed pond.
YNP_Day-3_Solfatara_Cr_meadow&pond-2.jpg


One of the northernmost meadows along Solfatara Creek. The meadow closes down pretty tightly in the back.
YNP_Day-3_Solfatara_Cr_into_big_meadow.jpg


Another of the interesting finds along the way.
YNP_Day-3_Solfatara_Cr_elk_skull.jpg


Hiking closer to the extreme north end of the valley.
YNP_Day-3_Solfatara_Cr_way_up_valley.jpg


It opens again for a short while then closes as I approach the headwaters .
YNP_Day-3_Solfatara_Cr_looking_up_valley.jpg


The forest closes in for good.
YNP_Day-3_Solfatara_Cr_into_the_trees.jpg


I continue up valley. I realize just past here that I wandered up a side valley and need to turn left up the slope to reach my next camp. Plenty of time left for that.
YNP_Day-3_Solfatara_Cr_wrong_valley.jpg


And then it's deja-vu all over again. I hit an extended patch of thick lodgepole regeneration and my pace slows to a crawl. I start to realize I may end up in the same situation as last night but all I can do is keep going and hope it ends soon.
YNP_Day-3_Solfatara_Cr_upper_thicket.jpg


Day 4.
Well it takes a while but I leave the thicket behind and travel the last 1/2 mile to camp in a few minutes. I set up camp, find a great tree to hang the food, have some dinner, and hit the sack. I am asleep quickly. The next morning, I break camp, grab a couple granola bars and head out. Yesterday was a great one and I'm excited for this one.

Horseshoe Hill Thermal Area. I reach this in about 5 minutes after leaving camp.
YNP_Day-4_Solfatara_Cr_Horse_Shoe_Hill_thermal_area.jpg


A brief stretch through the trees. A perfect warm up.
YNP_Day-4_Lava_Cr_forest_route.jpg


Then up through another section of the thermal area.
YNP_Day-4_Solfatara_Cr_Horse_Shoe_Hill_thermal_area-2.jpg


A chunk of sulphur.
YNP_Day-4_Solfatara_Cr_Horse_Shoe_Hill_thermal_area_sulphur-1.jpg


Another big chunk of obsidian. At this point I realize that I'm not too terribly far east of Obsidian Cliffs.
YNP_Day-4_Solfatara_Cr_Horse_Shoe_Hill_thermal_area_obsidian.jpg


Mount Holmes with Trilobite Point in front.
YNP_Day-4_Solfatara_Cr_Horse_Shoe_Hill_thermal_area_Mt_Holmes.jpg


A lot of flat ground as I headed north.
YNP_Day-4_Solfatara_Cr_Horse_Shoe_Hill_thermal_area_N_route-1.jpg


One of several meadows in the area.
YNP_Day-4_Solfatara_Cr_Horse_Shoe_Hill_E_meadow.jpg


A shallow pond along the way.
YNP_Day-4_Lava_Cr_pond.jpg


This pond at really low water. There were a handful of ducks as I approached but they moved off to a puddle a little south of here.
YNP_Day-4_Lava_Cr__dried_pond-1.jpg


More lodgepole thickets.
YNP_Day-4_Lava_Cr_thicket.jpg


Eventually I came across a game trail.
YNP_Day-4_Lava_Cr_thicket_path.jpg


The thicket ended and an easier hike began.
YNP_Day-4_Lava_Cr_thicket_ends.jpg


I spent a couple hours hiking through a beautiful and open lodgepole forest, It doesn't come any easier than this.
YNP_Day-4_Lava_Cr_open_forest (3).jpg


After crossing the above gully, I'm back on a long relatively flat ridge.
YNP_Day-4_Lava_Cr_open_forest.jpg


It continued...
YNP_Day-4_Lava_Cr_open_forest-5.jpg


...until it doesn't. I reach a thicket from hell. The only respite is finding the larger down logs that allow me to travel in a straight line for a few dozen feet. I keep waiting for it to end but it goes on and on.
YNP_Day-4_Lava_Cr_thicket-2.jpg


and on.
YNP_Day-4_Lava_Cr_closing_in_LP_regen.jpg


I found a downed log that was a bit elevated. I climb on it, take out my camera, reach up and take a picture. I look at the picture and realize it is not ending anytime soon. Time to take a different route. I turn right and head to the Lava Creek valley.
YNP_Day-4_Lava_Cr_overview_LP_regen-1.jpg


Within 10 minutes I am out of the thicket. According to the Garmin InReach, I traveled 1/10 mile in just under an hour. Things look much better now. Looking over Lava Creek.
YNP_Day-4_Lava_Cr_sideslope_Ceanothus&LP-1.jpg


Lava Creek and a lone bison.
YNP_Day-4_Lava_Cr&bison-1.jpg


Looking up valley.
YNP_Day-4_Lava_Cr_sideslope_up_valley-1.jpg


Some fall color on the west side of Lava Creek.
YNP_Day-4_Lava_Cr_sideslope_colors-1.jpg


Alongside Lava Creek.
YNP_Day-4_Lava_Cr_up_valley-1.jpg


More colors.
YNP_Day-4_Lava_Cr_colors&rock.jpg


YNP_Day-4_Lava_Cr_colors&rock-5.jpg


YNP_Day-4_Lava_Cr_colors&rock-1-2.jpg


YNP_Day-4_Lava_Cr_colors&rock-2-2.jpg


I loved all the red.
YNP_Day-4_Lava_Cr_colors&rock-5-2.jpg


YNP_Day-4_Lava_Cr_colors-9.jpg


Now on the eastern slope of Lava Creek.
YNP_Day-4_Lava_Cr_sage&colors-5.jpg


I continued down valley and found these 2 specimens.
YNP_Day-4_Lava_Cr_elk_antlers.jpg


Another set in the rocks.
YNP_Day-4_Lava_Cr_bear_elk_antlers&rock-2.jpg


YNP_Day-4_Lava_Cr_colors&rock-3-3.jpg


The colors and the light were awesome to travel through. A beautiful afternoon and evening.
YNP_Day-4_Lava_Cr_colors&rock-6-2.jpg


Another elk wallow.
YNP_Day-4_Lava_Cr_elk_wallow.jpg


There were several springs draining off the hillside. I did not want to sleep along the creek in the tight valley so I headed upslope near one of the springs and found a great spot to camp. After dinner, on the ridge across the creek, a lone bull started bugling. I glassed the slope for several minutes but could not locate him. He finally walked out of the forest briefly and wound his way through the trees as he headed down valley. I glimpsed him briefly one more time, then he was gone. The bugling continued another 10 minutes. As darkness approached, a cow elk started talking with soft mews and squeals. I watched her and her calf a bit and then crawled into bed.

Day 5.

I awoke to another beautiful morning.
YNP_Day-5_Lava_Cr_camp-4_scene-2.jpg


While heating water for oatmeal, I heard a bugle. I started looking around and saw this guy just over the ridge. The bugling continued for nearly an hour as he moved back and forth along the ridge.
YNP_Day-5_Lava_Cr_camp-4_elk_ridge.jpg


He appeared to be very curious about my presence but this was as close as he came.
YNP_Day-5_Lava_Cr_camp-4_elk_ridge_close-6.jpg


The moon is almost gone for the day.
YNP_Day-5_Lava_Cr_camp-4_setting_moon.jpg


Once the bugling stopped, I packed and continued on game trails through the sagebrush. Pretty soon I started finding more antlers.
YNP_Day-5_Lava_Cr_elk_antlers_sagebrush-1.jpg


I finally neared the Douglas fir forests. This is some of the best black bear habitat in the park. I felt optimistic at my chances of seeing one.
YNP_Day-5_Lava_Cr_Doug_Firs.jpg


More shed antlers.
YNP_Day-5_Lava_Cr_elk_antlers_both_left-1.jpg


A few more elk wallows in the wet seeps.
YNP_Day-5_Lava_Cr_elk_wallows.jpg


Rather than head straight down to the road, I contoured along, hoping to spot a bear. I passed a lot of sign along the way.
YNP_Day-5_Lava_Cr_Doug_Fir_forest-1.jpg


Mount Everts across the valley.
YNP_Day-5_Lava_Cr_Doug_Fir_forest&Everts.jpg


I eventually reached the road. I saw no bears in the trees, unfortunately. While walking along the road, I did spot this bald eagle.
YNP_Day-5_Bald_Eagle_over_road.jpg


I briefly tried hitchhiking to the Mammoth area but after a few minutes, I decided to walk there. My niece and her husband were delayed on their way up so I was in no hurry to reach the development. The view opened up providing this view of Mt Sepulcher and Mammoth Terraces. The top and a ridge of Electric Peak shows itself just left of Mt Sepulcher. Clagett Butte is at the far left.
YNP_Day-5_Mammoth_Terraces&Sepulcher_Mtn.jpg


I reached Mammoth and headed in for a cold drink and a snack. I was hoping for a shower but those are not provided here. I found a spot in the shade and sat down to enjoy my Dr. Pepper and ice cream sandwich. Eventually my niece and her husband and 8 month old girl showed up. I throw my gear in and we're gone. The drive to the south entrance was uneventful. There may have been a grizzly visible in the Swan Lake Flat but we just wanted out of the crowds and parked cars lining the road. We stopped at Old Faithful Lodge and stopped in for a takeout dinner, which we ate in the nearly empty parking lot. I hustled into the Old Faithful Inn, bought a shower and hurried through that.

We drove out of the Park, turned onto the Grassy Lake Road and went looking for a campsite, eventually ending up at Grassy Lake Reservoir. We were the only ones there. Exhausted we pitched our tents in the dark and crashed.

We woke to a chilly but beautiful morning by the reservoir.
YNP_Day-5_Grassy_L_Reservoir-1.jpg


It seemed to take forever but the sun finally reached us, warming us quickly. My niece let the bambino out to play in the gravel.
YNP_Day-6_LBF&Kennedy.jpg


We headed to the Headwaters Lodge, grabbed some delicious burritos to go, and continued south to the Jackson Airport, where they threw me out in disgust and told me to never return. I caught my flight and was headed back to AK.
 
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Titans

Member
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Joined
Aug 18, 2018
Messages
1,435
Nice trip @Outdoor_Fool . Love all the colors along Lava Creek. Great owl sighting. The thicket areas look like type 2 fun. Which brand of boots do you wear ?

And it was very nice of you to not kill the lady…. That story reminds me of some very young girls in our neighborhood. Last summer they approached a neighbor with a tiny white dog, the youngest girl immediately went to pet the dog but the oldest stayed away and said, “remember what dad said!”… the youngest looked up and said, “this man looks nice enough, I don’t think he would kidnap us” .:)
 

Rockskipper

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Joined
Jun 11, 2017
Messages
3,707
That photo of the Snowy Owl in the snow is fantastic. Another great TR. And people who drive through the park and think they've seen it, well...

So nice of you to not kill the girl who gave you a ride. You're a great guy! :)

ETA: Guess it's not a Snowy but a Great Gray.
 
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WasatchWill

Ready For More
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Joined
Jul 23, 2013
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Echo the owl comments. I also really liked the bear/bison/elk print. I don't know how well my mind would fare having to hike solo in the dark through grizzly country in the middle of elk rut season like that. Especially with the grizzlies looking for final meals in preparation for hibernation. Probably just irrational paranoia on my part. Bummer you didn't get to see any blackies. I still get excited whenever I see a bald eagle so that's still pretty neat for you to have to seen one. And kudos to the young lady for giving you the benefit of the doubt and took you to your starting point.
 

wsp_scott

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Wow, awesome trip. Thanks for dropping enough place names that I could follow on a map :) Very cool seeing Glen Africa and the Hayden Valley after my dayhike with @scatman and @TractorDoc

I really like the looks of Lava Creek, not sure I'll ever see it but maybe somewhere to aim for in the future.

How hard was it getting permission for this trip?
 

Kmatjhwy

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Now Outdoor, Loved this trip report of yours. Yes have to echo the question, how hard was it to get the offsite camping permits for this hike? Loved the photo of the Great Gray Owl! Good For You for seeing one! Seems like you had a good time when you were here in Wyoming. I remember this snowstorm in September. It came in right after the Rabbitstick Gathering finished up.
 

Outdoor_Fool

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@scatman Yes, considering her parents propensity for the outdoors, she is doomed to a life well-lived.

@Titans The colors were a fine treat that day.

That was fun to see the GGO. I've been lucky the last few years in YNP, either seeing or hearing one at some point.

I think I need more time before I will even class the thickets as Type 2 fun. But all part of the trek so I'll take it.

Vasque Breeze 3 I think. I love them.

That story is every parent's nightmare.

@Rockskipper and @Titans Disclaimer: I am not a serial killer. But I guess that's what all the good ones say. That comment from her really caught me off guard. Maybe if I was a serial killer it would have flustered me to the point of running away screaming. I dunno. Or maybe her yellow lab was really Cujo.

@Rockskipper Thanks on the photo. Boy do I wish I had my better camera gear.

If that's the standard for being a great guy, I guess I qualify.

@WasatchWill Thanks on the photo.

I always get a kick out of seeing tracks mixed together. Glad you liked it.

The only thing that worried me was tripping and falling. I was making enough noise to scare just about any animal away. I crossed the tracks of a black bear and her cub a few times at one point. I assume if she was still around when I came through, she left in a hurry.

That was disappointing not seeing a black bear in there. I have seen so many in that area while driving through.

I did not expect to see a bald eagle at that location but very nice to see, nonetheless.

@wsp_scott When @scatman and @TractorDoc posted their pics of your trip, I was reminded of my hours hiking through the area. We did not miss each other by too many days, IIRC. That would have been awesome to have run into you guys back there.

I recommend at least a day hike up Lava Creek, if not more.

@wsp_scott & @Kmatjhwy I have been lucky in my undeveloped campsite trips so I'd have to say they are easy, but I don't know for sure. I have had the rangers call me to explain that a particular night's request is not allowed so if I can work around that, I'm good. Figuring out an alternative is usually pretty easy.

@Kmatjhwy I definitely had a good time in Wyoming this summer, as always. It's always funny to hear the tourists' comments when a snowstorm like that blows through. Some people love the new experience and some hate it. I figured if it kept snowing I might need to alter my trip but luckily it was short-lived.

Now I need to Google "Rabbitstick Gathering".
 

Pringles

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That was wonderful. Thank you so much for sharing. On a few occasions I have given hikers a ride. Now I know to simply request that they not kill me, and all will be good. Pringles
 

scatman

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Alright, let's dive into this treasure trove of a report. Shall we? What a great route @Outdoor_Fool. I've done pieces of this, but never filled in the gaps and chained the whole thing together into one trip. Kudos to you for doing so.

Here are my questions and observations.

Day 1 -

- Day 1 looks awfully cold to me. Brrrrrrrrrr.............

- Where did you actually put in at? I'm guessing the north side of West Thumb, or did you work your way around the Thumb to some extent? Clearly not at Arnica Creek.

- The old Howard Eaton Trail intersects your route at the beginning. It runs from Arnica Creek to Duck Lake. Did you see it? Most likely running east-west, but depending on where you started (see above question) it could take on a more north-south direction. I've hiked a portion of it, but not the entire section from Arnica to Duck.

Some shots of that section
03.jpg

Isn't that the truth!
04.jpg

05.jpg

Hard to make out, but I am on the trail heading towards West Thumb and Duck Lake
06.jpg


_ The owl picture is a keeper.

- Are the beaver ponds still located along the Arnica Creek Meadows? Those meadows are some of the most beautiful meadows in Yellowstone in my opinion.

- At the end of the meadows, where the old Plateau Trail enters the woods to the north, on your way to Beach Lake, are most of the snags in the burn area still standing, or have they begun to fall, making the going rougher than it should be?

Shot from back in 2015
07.jpg


- Beach Lake is a cool lake, worth making a day out of for those who haven't been before.

- Did you catch the trail from Beach to Dryad Lake? It is only marked in the west to east direction. It's possible that you might have picked it up between Beach and the meadows near the headwaters of Alum Creek

At Beach Lake
07b.jpg

Just off the lake to the northeast
08.jpg



Day 2 -

- Glad to see the weather clear up.

- The meadows along Alum Creek are on my bucket list, I'm glad you chose to follow them towards Hayden.

- It looks like you popped out into the valley, east of Alum Creek? Did you decide to leave the creek just before reaching the valley, or where you able to see the old snowshoe cabin tucked back in there?

- Hayden Valley rocks! :)

- The thermal areas north of Violet Hots Springs are nice to see. I have not been to those before. Maybe I can twist @TractorDoc, or you perhaps, to do a day hike through there in the future. :)

- I've read that there was an old poacher's cabin back in that area, though it could have burned up back in the '88 fires. Run into anything like that?

- I had a local call that thick regeneration "Dog's Hair." I was following the old Howard Eaton Trail above Gibbon Falls making my way through that thick new growth. I lost my bear spray somewhere in there by the way. :( I went to the Bear Pit at Old Faithful for a beer after I was done that day, telling my story to a guy that told me that term. When I returned home, I looked up that term, and it appears to me that it is another type of pine, not lodgepole.
It is pretty bad around Ice Lake. No question that kind of travel will tire you out.

- I like that campsite at Ice Lake. I've stayed there many times

- @TractorDoc and I are going to be doing a day hike next September that will begin at the Cascade Picnic area, and skirt the southern edge of Hayden, crossing Antler Creek and then making our way all the way up Trout Creek before cutting over to the literal headwaters of Alum Creek, then on to Beach Lake and out at West Thumb along the old Plateau Trail.

Day 3 -

- Looked to be a pretty straight forward day.

- The meadows along Solfatara Creek are pretty, though the telephone poles annoyed me for some reason when I passed through.

- I like your shots of unnamed ponds, full, partially full, or dry. :thumbsup::thumbsup:

Day 4 -

- Horseshoe Hill looks interesting. I've never been there before. Is it worth checking out in the future?

- I like your shots of Mount Holmes when you can get a view through/above the lodgepoles

- 1/10th of a mile in almost an hour. That is Scatman speed! :D

- I absolutely love the shot where you are looking out from the trees to see where your location is, where you can just make out the Lava Creek Drainage off in the distance. That shot brings back lots of memories of me doing the same thing when making my way through new growth.

- The Lava Creek Drainage looks absolutely splendid. The colors are really popping. May have to put that on my bucket list to see in the fall one of these years.

I ran into a brown phased black bear right in that area as you neared the road, back in 2008
10.jpg


- The next time you do this route, I need you to take a right at the northern road and find, then follow the Howard Eaton Trail, located north of the road, from the Blacktail pond, east to the Hellroaring Creek Trail that drops down to the Yellowstone River. :)

Well, once again another great report. I may think of some more questions when I read through it again so be aware. :)

Oh, just one more. Where are you heading this coming summer? :scatman:
 
Last edited:

wsp_scott

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going to be doing a day hike next September that will begin at the Cascade Picnic area, and skirt the southern edge of Hayden, crossing Antler Creek and then making our way all the way up Trout Creek before cutting over to the literal headwaters of Alum Creek, then on to Beach Lake and out at West Thumb along the old Plateau Trail.

@scatman that sounds like an awesomely hard day, I wish I could join you guys again. Instead I'll be in a classroom trying to educate college students who don't want to be educated :) While you climb over/under stuff you can remind yourself that it could be worse :)
 

Outdoor_Fool

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Now to answer @scatman 's questions. I started the trip about 8/10's mile south of Arnica Creek by mistake. We drove by the pullout there twice and it never seemed to be where I expected it to be so I finally asked her to pull over and off I went. I never saw anything that looked like a trail in the first bit of the day. Judging by your picture of it, with the snow cover, I would have assumed it was a game trail. Funny etching on that trail marker. Awesome.

No beaver ponds in the meadows. The first time I was back there, I hiked back and forth around that creek in the meadows. No sign of beaver at all that I remember. The snags in the burn are starting to fall, not too bad making it through there though. I did have the advantage of the elk tracks in the snow that I could follow. Although elk will lead you into the nastiest tangles out there if they think you are after them, they do know how to travel through an area in the easiest way possible.

I agree, Arnica Creek is an awesome area.

Funny you mention Dryad Lake. Originally, I was going to hike through there first, then work my way over to Beach Lake but with the snow and all I decided to just head up Arnica Creek. I did have a permit to camp by Dryad a couple years ago. The day I was due to hike there through the burn, the winds were up and I had spent the morning hearing snags falling between Chickadee Lake and Arnica Creek. Once I reached Arnica Creek and saw the burn I had to travel through, and realized that the winds were still ripping, I decided to play it safe and hiked out to the road.

My plan was always to cut off Alum Creek at the last big meadow before it reaches Hayden Valley. Had I known there was an old cabin further along, I may have stayed on Alum Creek. I saw no evidence of a cabin north of Violet Creek but it could have been easily missed. Ever since my college days at Colorado State, dog-hair lodgepole has been part of my vernacular. Moving through it is a challenge, to put it nicely.

I had planned to hike through Solfatara Meadows since the idea of this trip was formed in my head. I'm glad I went that way as they are beautiful and go on for miles. The poles did not bother me as they are part of the Park's history, I guess. I had considered leaving Ice Lake and heading to Wolf Lake, then proceeding NNE to gain the ridge that includes Cook Peak. After all the lodgepole regen I had been through, I decided not to risk putting myself into that again, so stuck to the meadows.

Speaking of power poles, do you remember back in the 90's when a live electrical wire in the park came down and ended up electrocuting 3 grizzlies? I just Googled this and it killed 3 male grizzlies in the Hayden Valley area in 1995. Funny, I (mis)-remembered it as killing a sow and 2 cubs.

Seeing all the dry or half-empty ponds was a stark reminder of how dry things have been down there.

The Horseshoe Hill area is definitely worth checking out. Sort of out-of-the-way, and the area is off-limits to dispersed camping, but worth it nonetheless. Best access is from the Obsidian Lake area. Only 3-4 miles in there. Just watch out for the lodgepole regen :rolleyes: SE of Obsidian Lake. Google Earth imagery shows the regen really well.

Mt Holmes is quite the landmark, sort of like Mt Sheridan when you're in the south part of the Park.
That was interesting to see on my InReach. Definitely slow-going. 2 stars, do not recommend.
Yet another advantage of digital cameras, take a picture and see what's what.
Lava Creek was a very pleasant surprise. I had considered heading east to Lupine Creek in the planning but once I was in the Lava Creek valley, I decided to stay. I'll see Lupine Creek some other time.

That's what I was looking for, a bear just like that.

I'll look for that trail next time I'm in there.

Not sure on next summer. Putting in for a permit in Glacier NP, hope to do something in NW Wyoming but not sure if the work/life schedule will allow it this year. I'll keep you updated.

Thanks for the kudos. I am always impressed with your knowledge of the Park's history. Fun to read.
 

TractorDoc

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- @TractorDoc and I are going to be doing a day hike next September that will begin at the Cascade Picnic area, and skirt the southern edge of Hayden, crossing Antler Creek and then making our way all the way up Trout Creek before cutting over to the literal headwaters of Alum Creek, then on to Beach Lake and out at West Thumb along the old Plateau Trail.
A true shuttle hike. :) :thumbsup:

I wish I could join you guys again.
We will definitely keep a spot open for you. . . just in case.

dog-hair lodgepole has been part of my vernacular.
I've definitely heard of the thick forest growth described as dog-hair before. . . but I tend to think of it as "tree jail." :)
 
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