Yellowstone's Hayden Valley, Trout Creek, Beach Lake, and Arnica Creek Meadows. September 11, 2022.

TractorDoc

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@scatman posted his version of this Yellowstone day hike, now it is my turn. After tolerating me in Yellowstone last year he agreed to let me hang out with him for another week in 2022. What can I say, he is a sucker for punishment. :) This year I'd be bringing along a couple friends and family to spice up the atmosphere on the trail. They were initially skeptical about meeting a kilt wearing dude named @scatman in the wilderness; I told them you only live once and that after meeting him their lives would forever be changed. I never said if it would be for better or worse. ;)

Way back in 2021 Hugh and I began planning the areas we'd like to see in 2022. Time was available for a pleasant day hike. We bounced ideas back and forth; one of the areas of interest was a small canyon along Trout Creek that we saw at a distance during our hike thru Hayden Valley last year. Somehow visiting that little canyon evolved into a sixteen-mile full day trek across meadows, thru forest, and over downfall. Lots and lots of downfall. After several years of hiking with Hugh I'm beginning to realize that crawling over downfall is a requirement vs. an option when it comes to getting from A to B.

Ultimately our route began at the Cascade Picnic Area just South of Mud Volcano. We would cross the Southern portion of Hayden Valley, head South along the meadows surrounding Trout Creek, cut thru the forest to the headwaters of Alum Creek, touch the shores of Beach Lake, and follow the old Plateau Trail (Hugh can correct me if I've misnamed it) out to the trusty Subaru waiting at a pullout. We woke up early at the Old Faithful area and drove swiftly thru the stalled construction on the Grand Loop Road before stashing Hugh's car. A prompt 7am arrival at the Cascade Picnic area found fellow BCPer @TheMountainRabbit waiting for us. Did he know what he was in for? Did any of us? Hugh would constantly call the day "epic." There are moments when I would think of "The Princess Bride" and would want to say to Hugh: "You keep using that word, I do not think it means what you think it means." :lol: You can judge for yourself, here are a few pictures to tell the story.

A blurry first picture, but you get the idea. From left to right: @TractorDoc , Friend Cody, @CajunPoncho (Brother-in-Law Patrick), @TheMountainRabbit , and @scatman .

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From the picnic area we followed a utility corridor moving towards Mud Volcano.

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The morning was cold, frosty, and foggy. It provided some nice "atmosphere" for photographs.

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That is not powdered sugar accumulating on my boots. . .

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This one might be fridge-worthy in the McGirt Household: "Hugh in the Mist." This is right up there with a Bigfoot or Loch Ness Monster sighting.

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Our travels took us thru a small hydrothermal area South of Mud Volcano. The steam was the product of a large frying pan. We tread gently in this area so as not to set off any alarms on the monitoring equipment.

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Large Frying Pan.

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Near the frying pan was a violently active mud pot.

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Mud pot splashing violently.

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Heading West from the thermal area towards Hayden Valley. Fog is beginning to lift.

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@CajunPoncho making his first Yellowstone water crossing. It was a doozy.

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Heading into wide open Hayden Valley.

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Another mysterious @scatman sighting. Did he emerge from the fog, or did the fog emerge from him? :thinking:

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This picture is the spot where we were treated to a chorus of howling wolves. We stopped and listened to the music for (Hugh says) nearly two minutes. Were they welcoming us, or were they warning us to turn around? We went with the welcoming theory and kept walking.

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Our route involved a crossing of Elk Antler Creek. I was expecting something more substantial.

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Hugh crossing Elk Antler Creek. I believe he may be utilizing my camera carrying technique. :)

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Cody, Richard, and Patrick leading the way.

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The Crater Hills Thermal area to our Northeast. We made a stop here during last year's hike.

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Arriving at small hills between us and Trout Creek.

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In this picture I imagine @TheMountainRabbit is telling Cody and Patrick what a special place Yellowstone is. Or he is telling them about the bears he saw on Mt. Holmes. Or he is telling them that @scatman and @TractorDoc are slow hikers and are holding him back. :D

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Wide view of Hayden Valley to the North before heading down Trout Creek.

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Looking down a side valley that bordered Trout Creek. We would climb the hill ahead of us passing several bull bison.

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Some bison were curious, others were indifferent. This one was keeping an eye on Hugh.

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A view of Trout Creek as it wanders out into Hayden Valley.

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The Hayden Valley Hikers are about to become Trout Creek Meadow Wanderers.

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Making the descent to Trout Creek.

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Trout Creek becoming more visible. Can you see it?

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There it is! They could have easily named this Meandering Creek.

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The meadows still had more of a greenness to them that I was not used to seeing in September. Burned forest topped the hillside to our West.

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Who needs a footbridge? Not Cody! He levitated his way across.

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Looking down the Trout Creek Drainage. Hugh's aptly named "Ghost Forest" lay ahead of us.

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Walking was still easy at this point. I'd agree with Hugh and say that morale was high. :)

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Looking back downstream. @scatman present for scale.

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The crispy tree trunks are beginning to encroach on the Trout Creek meadows. I feel dizzy looking at the alternating hills rocking back and forth in this picture.

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Looking back North from whence we came. The bison provided us a satisfactory path to follow.

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Flattening of the terrain. Dizzy spell over. Richard, Patrick, Cody, and I waited here while Hugh had to backtrack to retrieve his forgotten camera. I was starting to worry about Hugh on this trip as his episodes of succumbing to gravity and forgetfulness were more frequent. He was not quite to the point of walking in circles while mumbling to himself so we carried on. :cool:

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We had seen so many bison by this time that Patrick and Cody were becoming indifferent to them. Just walk on by. . .

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A small, purple meadow flower that I had not noticed on previous Yellowstone trips. Perhaps I was just not looking in the right places.

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All good things must come to an end. The easy walking of Trout Creek Meadows turned into a hop, skip, and a jump thru Hugh's Ghost Forest on our way to the headwaters of Alum Creek.

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That first picture does not look too bad. The terrain quickly turned into this.

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Aaannnd then this. Can you see Patrick and Cody? This would be their first Yellowstone downfall crossing experience. Trial by Fire!

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New pine growth was present, but young. This must have been a recently burned area. I believe morale was still medium-high at this point. Richard was way off ahead of us somewhere. Cody and Patrick were still too new to this sort of cross-country travel to achieve an appreciable measure of hate for it yet. I was expecting this and tried to take the path of least resistance. Hugh? I think he was smiling from ear to ear. :scatman:

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Up ahead. . . is that. . . a clearing? We were finally entering the drainage for Alum Creek. Yipee!

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Patrick crossing over a skinny Alum Creek. Hugh filled his water bottles here and described the contents as "refreshing." Hugh has quite the fondness for Alum Creek. :)

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Heading towards the Alum Creek Headwaters. I think everyone was looking forward to lunch, we just needed Hugh to let us know when we were in the right spot.

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Hugh is savoring his time at the Alum Creek Headwaters. Hurry up Hugh, its Lunchtime!

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Scatman says the place we need to be is up ahead in those trees. I took the lead and set out to find us a nice sittin' log.

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This was the best I could do. Everyone took a well deserved break to examine what they had brought for lunch. Except for Patrick. He examined his feet. I had given him a gear list prior to our departure; one of the main items on it was a pair of quality, broken-in hiking boots. He assured me his were up for the task. His feet were feeling otherwise at the moment. Luckily Richard had a roll of foot tape handy and Patrick applied it liberally.

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Speaking of lunch, I wanted today's dining to be special. . . perhaps even historical. I am making the claim that we were the first party at the Alum Creek Headwaters to have a lunch consisting of Caviar, Fancy Crackers, Smoked Mussels, Canned Lobster Claw, Moon Cheese, Beef Jerky, Circus Peanuts, and a sniff of Angel's Envy Bourbon. If the Yellowstone Historian is reading and would like more details to document this substantial moment feel free to send me a PM. :) For what it is worth, I learned I do not like Caviar.

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Group photo -- action shot. This picture may be out of the correct time line as Patrick still has his boots on. Richard could be working on a crossword. I think he is asking Hugh for an eight letter word beginning with "D" that is also known as "horizontal lumber." :D

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Another group photo. I believe Hugh is meditating. Richard is starting to wonder if Patrick is going to use all his foot tape. Cody is beginning to regret what he signed up for. I am questioning why I forgot my sunglasses back at the trailhead.

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Post lunch entertainment included Hugh telling us about the time he walked the entirety of the Howard Eaton Trail in a weekend (I may be paraphrasing here) as he sipped Patrick's whiskey.

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Then of course there is the traditional tossing of the peanut. I believe this is one of Hugh's favorite sports, second only to basketball.

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So Close! The degree to which @scatman can unhinge his jaw is impressive. Almost snake-like. No one was injured during the festivities. However, Hugh did suffer the loss of his beloved titanium spoon. Apparently, he was so focused on airborne peanuts that he left it wedged into our sittin' log. I have a theory as to what we might be planning next year's day hike around. :rolleyes:

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Lunch was enjoyable. The reality was that we still had a long way to travel, so it was back into the woods in the general direction of Beach Lake.

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The lazy stroll thru soft grasses did not last long. To reach Beach Lake we would have to cross more treacherous terrain.

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There was a lot of fungus among us during this trip. I thought this was an especially nice specimen.

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Cody looking for a reasonable path forward.

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Hugh's GPS provided the directions. I had a tendency to wander off the desired path.

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After several miles of woodsy terrain we could see Beach Lake thru the trees. Our route dropped us right on the beach. :thumbsup:

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Beach Lake is Lovely. East side.

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West Side.

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Group Photo on the Beach of Beach Lake. I'm really wishing I had my sunglasses by now. My crow's feet were substantially enhanced.

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Walking the Beach at Beach Lake. Check out those tracks on the shore. Not far from here we would take a hydration break -- Beach Lake water is delicious!

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Once refreshed we carried on in search of the old NPS trail that once led to Beach Lake. I can understand why folks would want to come here -- it really would be a nice day hike destination. Hugh said the trail was abandoned to allow the wilderness to be more wild for the sake of the wildlife.

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Having an old trail to follow was going to be great!

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There were trail markers and everything!

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The trail had not been maintained for quite some time. There was some downfall.

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Hugh navigating some obstacles.

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Then there was some more downfall.

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Hugh on his Yellowstone Throne.

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Our trail quickly became an obstacle course when we entered a recently burned area. It was a challenge to follow the trail tread, we used cut logs and the occasional crispy metal trail marker to guide us thru this stretch.

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Cody has rather good balancing skills.

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Cody, Hugh, and I stuck together thru the burned area. Richard and Patrick had taken their own path. For a bit of time I was worried about Patrick. . . he has a way of wandering off. I did not want to have to call my sister and tell her we lost Patrick on the first day!

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Luckily both Richard and Patrick appeared ahead of us in a small meadow.

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We found the trail once more and tried to make us some time on it. The sun was getting low in the Western sky.

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The trail opened up to the meadows surrounding Arnica Creek. The meadows were beautiful but probably a little underappreciated as the group was tired by this time. At least I was. Morale was still good . . . medium at worst. :)

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Hugh is savoring his meadow experience. Can you find him amongst the grasses?

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Tired or not, I did take the time to appreciate some canine prints in the mud along the way.

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As we worked our way thru the last stretch of forest and down logs we deviated from the proper course. Our group found the way out regardless and popped into a utility corridor that had recently seen some maintenance.

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Sadly, the maintenance took out this tree and associated trail marker that marked the beginning of the abandoned trail. Hopefully crazy people like us will still try to follow it on occasion -- it will not be long before nature consumes most of it.

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An exhausted but happy group back at the Subaru. Patrick is in there. . . I think his feet hurt so he is using the Subaru to hold himself up. Morale is back up to a significant level of highness.

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All in all it was a great experience to visit so many seldomly seen areas of the Yellowstone backcountry. We drove Richard back up to his vehicle at the Cascade Picnic Area. Our group planned on bringing him along for the backcountry portion of our trip that would start the next day. Richard had some other stuff come up and would not be able to make it. . . we figured he had enough of us after one day (or he looked at the weather forecast). :lol: Just kidding Richard. It was great meeting you and I hope we can hike the wilderness of Yellowstone again sometime.

I give both Cody and Patrick a lot of credit for taking on this sort of hike with us. Even though I tried to explain it ahead of time I don't think either of them knew what to expect. Never once did I hear either of them have anything negative to say even though I knew they had to be tired and hurting a little. After dropping Richard off we drove back to the Old Faithful area (poor planning on my part) and cooked a supper of freeze dried meals before heading to bed. Hugh wandered into the general store and acquired a new eating utensil. . . aka the Heavy Spoon. Having to carry this new spoon thru the backcountry would have a profound effect on Hugh's demeanor; we will elaborate in our next report. ;)

This day hike could be described a lot of different ways. Scenic. Peacefull. Hair Raising (remember those wolves?). Squishy. Cumbersome. Brutal. Refreshing. Prolonged. Historical.

I suppose Hugh is right. We will just leave it at "Epic." :)

More to come in the form of a report on our backcountry experience. If you enjoyed the day hike you will love the backcountry version!
 
Last edited:

OldBill

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Another great TR for this outing. Nice fog captures. Always seems to be plenty of mud and muck on these...
 

scatman

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Epic! Great report Dave.

I think your recollection of the events on September 11, 2022 are spot on. My only disagreement with you is that the caviar was good.

What are your thoughts on me bringing up the rear in all your photos? :) I need to get these old legs to move faster apparently.

What happened to the faceplant shot? I was so looking forward to it. :thumbsup: Go ahead and load it up, I can take it.

I hope @CajunPoncho and Cody were not permanently scarred from this and the subsequent trip the following day. I lay awake at night concerned about them you know. :D

Thanks again for going with me, and giving me the opportunity to see Trout Creek, Alum Creek, Beach Lake, and to hike the old Plateau Trail one more time.
 

TractorDoc

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What are your thoughts on me bringing up the rear in all your photos?
We just thought you needed your personal space -- that and I bet you were trying to keep an eye on all of us so no one wandered off. Hiking with a group like this is a lot like herding cats. :)

What happened to the faceplant shot?
There were so many faceplants. . . I must have captured one later in the trip. You'll just have to read the next trip report to find out. ;)

I hope @CajunPoncho and Cody were not permanently scarred from this and the subsequent trip the following day. I lay awake at night concerned about them you know. :D
I find myself worrying about Patrick most nights, but I don't lose sleep over it. :lol: Both said they are up for another go in the future. Cody requested the terrain be a little less intense. Patrick wants something more brutal. I'm sure we can come up with some sort of compromise.

Thanks again for going with me, and giving me the opportunity to see Trout Creek, Alum Creek, Beach Lake, and to hike the old Plateau Trail one more time
I was not sure what to expect on this hike. I really enjoyed the meadows along Trout Creek and our time at Beach Lake. It was rewarding to hike the Old Plateau Trail as well. I'm glad we accepted the challenge! :thumbsup:

Such a cool route. Love the all-day Yellowstone day hikes you guys go on.
We know you live close by. . . if you are up for a little punishment @Jackson you need to join us for one of them!
 

scatman

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I find myself worrying about Patrick most nights, but I don't lose sleep over it. :lol: Both said they are up for another go in the future. Cody requested the terrain be a little less intense. Patrick wants something more brutal. I'm sure we can come up with some sort of compromise.

Maybe we could go recover the light spoon? :D Unless you think that a sly fox has already claimed it for itself. Poor spoon. :(
 
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