Saturday, September 29, 2012

Snow Around the Yellowstone Corner

Up at Lake Yellowstone, we know it can snow any day. Any Day. Last evening I hiked up to Elephant Back to get cell service. It began to thunder, sprinking just a bit. I knew it was time to get back to only 7782 feet elevation. On the way down it began to hail, lightening flashed. It reminded me of the Colorado Trail thru hike in 2003. We did the entire trail in 40 days, taking only one zero day. Being rained on, hailed on, snowed on for 38 of those days, mostly just after noon. This morning I hiked along the lake, hoping for some sunrise photos. It was pretty cloudy, but here are two of my favorites.

This photo was taken first. While not as dramatic as the first, its very mellow, with snow clouds heavy in the sky. I love it here!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Bison and Griz Face-Off on Wapiti Trail

Heading back from my hike to the Ribbon Lake up near Canyon,  it began to sprinkle, the thunder rolling over head.
Something briefly caught my eye. I looked left into a meadow, all tall and golden, and saw a huge brown boulder. Then the boulder moved. A bison was approaching this boulder, head lowered, stiff legged. I  quietly slid my pack off, grabbed my binoculars and sighted a huge griz, the tell tale hump clearly visible from his profile. The face off was about 100 yards away from me, either, or both, could be in my lap within a minute.
I always hike in stealth colors. Today I was wearing my camo pants, a black shirt, carrying a black pack. I'd quit making noise, instead thinking about the winter season, still no concrete job offers. Maybe I'll just go play near the canyon lands in Arizona.
A tiny pond beset with various prints, mostly elk.
Suddenly, the bison charged, the griz took off running, closely tailed by a very huge, very angry bison. Then they both stopped, stood still. This is mating season, a time you don't mess around with bison. It seemed I was frozen and quite thankful they ran away from the trail I was standing on. Watching them, I was unsure whether to call out, Hey Bear, so I didn't. Figured the bear had enough worries at this point.

The bark peeling from this fallen log create wonderful hieroglyphics, Modern Wilderness Art. 
I glanced down the trail. I couldn't remember if it would swing around that particular meadow, bringing me once again within  yards of these fearsome creatures. I pulled my bear spray, held both hiking poles under my arm, watched the two still in the feild, waiting each other out. I started walking, calling softly, hey bear. Neither turned their heads towards me.

I'm glad I took a few pictures on the way in. On the way back I decided to protect my camera, missing shots of the encounter. Let me be honest, though. I was more concerned with not getting in the middle of the fight than filming it. 

Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, quite a drop off.

My hiking poles, map, some raisins on the edge of the Grand Canyon in Yellowstone.
I crossed several of these fields, saw some prints on the way, deterimined the stride and markings were those of large bear. A year ago, one person was mauled to death by a griz on this very path. I still hiked alone, as usual. In the rain and late September, few hikers are out, and ususually get a much later start than I do.
After the close encounter, hiking back to my car, keeping a close watch for other bears, I couldn't resist laughing out loud at my good fortune of witnessing a rare sight so close. I even let out a couple wolf howls!

Friday, September 21, 2012

Specimen Ridge Trail Report

I hiked this trail on Wednesday after heading off early in the morning, motoring slowly through road construction up by Roosevelt and finally parking. I set foot on the trail by 8:30 a.m.
It was a beautiful day with blue skies. Here's a spectacular sunrise in the Hayden Valley. I stopped to take several shots like other tourists driving along the park road and watching bison waking up, enjoying a peaceful late summer day.

Once on trail, the paths split and I ended up off route peering over a huge drop off, spell bound by the beauty. Alone, I could take whatever time, route and breaks I pleased. Not a soul was seen until the afternoon. My companions were bison, Pronghorn (antelope) and several noisy ground squirrels. They seemed as surprised to see me as I them.

I felt eyes watching me, spun around, saw antelope and large Pronghorn watching from the mesa. All day, several others crossed my path. They were fat and sleek, traveling leisurely. There was no water on the route. It was quite warm for September. I was glad I had two quarts with me. 

The further I went, the more sketchy the trail became. Finally I saw a tall pole surrounded by rocks, a nice trail marker. I swung south, got on the real trail and started hiking several miles farther. I pulled out my binoculars, scoping for bear, at last glimpsing several large brown animals. Turns out they were solo bison.

Many large holes such as this badger home and various tunnels were seen along the way. I stopped to take a photo but saw no animals and marveled at the sheer size and quantity.

Heading back, I took out my field glasses and searched for markers then headed cross country looking for the designated trail. It reminded me of the CDT routes. The saying is that no two people can hike it exactly the same.

 I helped set a pole up then hauled rocks to brace it, knowing how important the poles were should snow hit. I thoroughly enjoyed my hike, did about 12 miles and met two school bus loads of kids from Cody taking a lunch break just one mile from the trail head. You can do a short hike from the Yellowstone picnic area. Its about 3 miles, which is what I figured they did, intersecting the Specimen Ridge trail near where I found them lunching.

The smoke is very strong still in Yellowstone. The fires abated a little after a night of rain. The water levels are quite low and its very dry. But so far, I've not had my hiking hindered in any way due to these circumstances.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Hike to Shoshone Lake from Old Faithful

I was planning an overnight backpacking trip on my two days off here in Yellowstone. Most of the back country offices are closing now, the season being so late, so I elected to get to Old Faithful bright and early and see what campsites were available. I packed my gear, bear canister, bear spray, 800 power- fill Marmot sleeping bag, my custom prototype Brawny tent, on my retrofitted exterior frame. As you can see, I am a stealth, black and green girl.

As fate would have it, all the campsites were spoken for. The young kid manning the shop at the Ranger station couldn't seem to understand my objective, Continue my hike along the CDT in Yellowstone. Fine, all the sites are taken, I turn this into a day hike.

I got a late start because I waited for the ranger station to open. If I had called ahead and tried to reserve one, it would have cost $25 bucks. Sometimes we have to work because of co workers calling in sick, so back country permits are best when gotten at the last minute. Then, they're free.

I started at 9 a.m, met several guys hiking out. They had decent sized packs, had poles and could very well have been CDT hikers. Its the right time of year for Northbounders, maybe getting late, but about now is right. I was surprised to see these three bear boxes down at Lake Shoshone.

All along one could see evidence of the fact we do live on a volcano. Hot spots and steam rising were evident, then suddenly, I'm hiking through lush green forest. I passed many heading towards Old Faithful. I saw a green tent, and two rangers heading out from it around 11 a.m. We greeted each other. It was obvious they had day packs and would return to their tent later.

At 1:00 p.m I took a 15 minute lunch break.

The Lake had one kayaker on it, and I thought this spot would have made an ideal campsite with the bear boxes just down the trail.

There were many signs directing the hiker to various destinations, with mileages. The trail was well marked, unlike some other places in Yellowstone where bush wacking and general direction is all you can go by, just keep the river on your right in, on your left heading back.
All told this day hike was a wonderful 21 mile day, ending back at the Ranger station at 4:50. I took off my boots, put on flip flops and ate food from the bear canister I'd left in the car, along with other over night gear, like the tent, sleeping bag, and cook set.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Hike to Heart Lake in Yellowstone National Park

This trail is a small portion of the Continental Divide Trail going through Yellowstone National Park. I started at 7:30 this morning. The frost was heavy on the grass, the flowers have their kiss of death. So do the mosquitoes!
Just getting to the Lake is 7.5 miles, but its fairly level. My first view of the lake came after 4 miles.

I was really surprised by all the bubbling hot spots, the stream was bath water temperatures. I planned to take a break there, just to stick my feet in. Two guys ahead of me on the way back decided to skinny dip. The clouds rolled in, I felt pending snow in the forecast and gave up ideas of bathing in the wonderfully steaming water.

The trail winds through forest showing signs of fire about 20 years ago. This is normal Yellowstone eco systems. Everything is flourishing here, little chipmunks squeaking as I passed by.

Heart Lake is fairly cool. A group of four fishermen said hi, and continued looking for a deeper spot to fish. They had plenty of gear. Most people look pretty loaded with big packs. Its been getting down to 31 degrees at night, so warm clothes are key now.

The tree must be quite old. I took its picture, but didn't attempt to count the rings.

This little dude struck out at me when I passed. He looks like a grass snake, one of many I saw along the way today. I tagged the point I left the CDT two years ago at Lewis Lake, and tallied up my day hike at 19.5 miles.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Cell Service on Elephant Back

A two mile hike up a thousand feet will give you cell service. So I found out on Thursday after checking in to work at Lake Lodge, at Lake Yellowstone. For one month, I will be the Employee Dining Room Manager, helping close down the kitchen for winter.

The view is beautiful, the hike a somewhat strenuous climb if you're not used to the elevation of nearly 8,000 feet. Once you get to the bench overlooking the area, you can dial up or text friends and family. There is no cell service otherwise, within quite a few miles of my new home.

My summer has been quite interesting, meeting lots of people, making lots of friends. Some of us will winter here, some will go home and just chill until next summer.

The bison have left Lake. The cold rains have put an end to the smokey skies here. Winter is fast approaching and it will soon be time for the fleece.