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Posts Tagged ‘Yellowstone National Park’

After slamming miles in Yellowstone National Park and for the first few days after Togwotee Pass, we finally hit the Winds with the Green River. It was actually green. I checked by jumping in twice in two different locations. It was also quite cold despite the warm sun.
A few miles past the Green River Lakes, we ran into Scout and Frodo.
Scout: “Where are you guys heading to tonight?”

E.D.: “Somewhere right around the junction for the Knapsack Col alternate.”

Frodo: “That’s supposed to have scrambling in it, right? I’m pretty sure Ley mentions that you have to scramble.”

Me: “Yeah, he writes an interesting paragraph about it…sounds awesome!”

Frodo: “Did Scout tell you about the last time he followed Ley’s notes egging you on to climb something extra?”

E.D.: “No, what happened? Where?”

Scout: “Remember Cottonwood Peak in Montana? I did that.”

Me: “The one where he tries to convince you too climb it for about three maps, then provides another zoomed in map of it?”

Scout: “Yeah, that one! I fell and broke a rib. It was so step coming down, it was crazy.”

Frodo: “So, no scrambling for awhile.”
Sometimes when Ley says things on his maps, they can be a little more intense than you’d think. We’ve learned that when he says something is “do-able” it means it can be done, but it will take all damn day and you’ll be exhausted afterward.

 

Green River

We continued on past them, cooked dinner, and started up a climb which was actually nicely switch-backed. Passing amazing small campsites the whole way, we sighed knowing that we’d probably end up with only a thru hiker acceptable campsite near the junction.
As the mountains would have it, it began to rain a bit despite a clear forecast. About half a mile from the junction, we spotted a campsite big enough for two tents right before a tricky creek crossing. Done. Close enough. Jeff and Memphis were probably only half a mile ahead at the junction. We could catch them in the morning, although, they are better at waking up.
That evening, a storm came through that woke me up. I laid on my back and could see the lightening through my closed eyelids, through my tent, and through the tree branches over my tent. Great.
The morning hit, the sky was clear, and the logs and rocks we could have used to get across the creek sketchily, were now wet.
Reluctantly, I plunged in. Starting the day with wet feet is better than ending the day with wet feet. E.D. said she’d be not far behind.
I reached the junction a little further uphill and went through Vista Pass with little difficulty. The sun started to come over the ridge and made it not freezing.
Then, as the trail goes, to go up, you must also go down.
After going down and crossing a stream, the trail bent back upward toward Cube Rock Pass where Ley leaves this wonderful note:
“The trail will disappear in the giant boulders at the bottom of the valley. Don’t despair! Look uphill to your left and see the trail pick back up again. You’ll have to scramble up through three boulders to reach it. Don’t walk all the way up the bottom of the valley… I’ve seen people do that, and…oh, those poor fools.”

 

Cube Rock Pass

I got to the boulder field and saw cairns going both ways. Climbing up, I stopped and stowed my poles on the back of my pack so I could use my hands. The poles would stay there as they are pretty useless when scrambling. And that was only the beginning.
Coming down the other side of Cube Rock Pass, I found Jeff and Memphis by Peak Lake. I stopped and grabbed some water and chatted. They kept going as I ate a snack. As I continued around the lake, I looked back and saw E.D. at the top of Cube Rock Pass at a junction which could take you back to the actual CDT.
I looked at Ley’s map when I got about half a mile past the lake and the trail disappeared. The purple line on the map became dashed. Basically: no trail…just a route.
I read the note that described the whole route again:

“The hike over Knapsack Col is really stunning, possibly one of the most amazing places along the CDT. It does require some tough scrambling east of the Col, so only do it if you’re sure footed on off-trail terrain. The hike on the west side is fairly straightforward. On the east side, there is a bit of rapidly melting glacier. You might be able to stay completely off of it by staying to the north side on boulders. Some boulders may be resting on ice, so use caution as they could shift underfoot (best to stay away from the ice edge). Also, take care to avoid the center of the snow slope below as there is rockfall danger. But all-in-all, this is a very doable route…especially for someone who just walked 1,000+ miles to get here.”

Now there’s a challenge!
I meandered up the valley checking Guthook occasionally to make sure I headed toward the right col. Sometimes a tread would appear for a bit, but then it would disappear again. It would be the first time I was up above 12,000 ft on this trail and I was feeling the slowness around 11,000 ft. Great. However, it was one of the most beautiful places I’d ever been. I could see two moving dots up in the distance which were Jeff and Memphis, but every time I looked back, I saw no one.

 

Heading up to Knapsack Col

I climbed up higher and higher until Guthook showed the red line going straight upward in front of me, up a gnarly, loose, crazy slope. Looking at it, I didn’t like Guthook’s route, so I picked my own line upward. I laughed to myself a bit when I found some small three rock cairns on the line I picked.

When I finally got to the top, I continually reminded myself that I was only halfway there. Still have to get back down super steep stuff too.

Jeff, Memphis, and I took some pictures and they headed down as I grabbed some snacks. We looked back, but saw no one.

 


I started down slowly, trying to pick my foot placement carefully. I thought the other side was loose, but this side was looser. Occasionally, I’d try and step on something and it all seemed to want to move. I tried to pick the bigger rocks and boulders, but some of them moved too.

I saw Jeff and Memphis at the bottom watching me slowly pick a path down. When I was almost down, Jeff started walking back up without his pack and walked down with me.

The three of us stopped at a wind block where a trail picked back up again, absolutely exhausted. We were about to walk out of the beautiful Titcomb Basin.

We passed the dudes passed out with their stuff scattered around them. They were so passed out that I paused to make sure they were breathing.

Continuing out the basin, we saw an overwhelming amount of people.

We barely made it off of the alternate onto the actual CDT when we decided to camp and pass out ourselves.

The next morning, I woke up with sore legs for the first time on the trail since Glacier and we found E.D. sleeping in about a mile further.

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On the way into Yellowstone, there was a strange junction that threw us all for a loop. We had to make a left on a “road” which was blocked by large berms and small lodgepole pines. Jeff and Memphis managed to find it. E.D., and I missed it by .3 and had to walk back. Scallywag and The Darkness missed it by a lot and didn’t catch up to us that day.
E.D. and I found the tricky spring and kept heading toward the Yellowstone border and subsequently, the Wyoming border. When we reached the end of the Macks Inn alternate, we stopped for a break and heard voices. We thought it was The Darkness and Scallywag, but it was Tails and Chaps! They had hauled and managed to catch us! We were very excited to see them and we hiked closely together for both borders.

They went to camp at Summit Lake while we stealth camped right before it. In the morning, we didn’t see them, but found Memphis.

E.D., Memphis and I walked the 14 miles into the zoo that is Old Faithful and went toward the backcountry office for permits. However, when we got there, something we did not expect happened.
Ranger Lady: “Sooooo…we don’t have any permits for you. Everything on the CDT is booked up…”

 

Memphis: “What would you like us to do then?”

Ranger Lady: “Camp in designated areas only and ask people if you can share their campsite…”
We all looked at each other. Ok…

After about an hour of going back and forth, she gave us a permit for a campsite 12 miles out from a no show, then an admin site 13 miles later (because we’re totally going to only do 13 miles…) and then a site somewhere on Heart Lake 10 miles later.

We decided to stick to the permit the first night, then use her suggestion for bumming onto a campsite for the next night, then getting out of the park and it’s regulations the third night. However, we couldn’t just show up empty handed and bum onto a campsite…so we picked up a handle of fireball at the general store and split it into two plastic bottles to carry out as bribery.

After watching Old Faithful and the zoo of humans watching it through their screens instead of their eyeballs, we found Scallywag and The Darkness at another general store. We were on our way out and they said they’d be twenty minutes behind us.

The hiking flew by. The miles were easy with hardly any real climbing. We passed a geyser field that was actually way cooler than the Old Faithful area and with NO people. Amazing!

We were making good time, when we hit a marsh a mile before the campsite. It was a field of ankle deep water with no good way around. Again came a major theme of the CDT…wet feet.

Plunging in, the cold water infiltrated our socks with no hope of drying because the sun had just set. Occasionally, in the middle of this marshy stuff, an actual creek would flow through and a board would appear to cross it. Not that a board was necessary when one has to step up out of ankle deep water to step onto it.

After the marsh, we threw our poles down and took a shot of fireball. The warm whiskey went down so well and made us both feel better.

When we found the campsite, we also found Memphis and we cooked a late dinner.

The next day, the weather turned to shit. According to our permit, we only had to do 13 miles. Easy miles. Right.

The storms and rain seemed to come in waves. There was no point in putting on dry socks to walk in the rain, so we all put the wet socks back on. If you’ve ever had to put on cold, wet socks, you’ll understand the frustration.

We started running into a slew of nobos. Despite the fairly constant waves of rain, we always stood there with our packs on and swapped beta for about 200 miles in either direction. One of the major points immediately south of us was a ford that the Ley map said could potentially be chest deep. It was ankle deep. Maybe Ley just went for a swim in the lake instead of crossing the outlet stream.

In hardly any time, we got to the “admin” site assigned on our permit near the road. The road that went to Grant Village…which has food…and beer…it was lunch time…

We went toward the road and decided to try hitching there for fifteen minutes and see if we could get a ride. If not, we’d hike on. Memphis spotted the parking lot nearby and suddenly yelled over that he’d yogi’ed a ride.

After a good lunch, we got a ready hitch back from a couple hard of hearing from Missouri. We had about half an hour of dry hiking when the rain came back.

Later in the evening, after getting soaked for hours, we found a ranger cabin without the ranger (conveniently) and we cooked on the porch.

The three of us moved on to try and find a campsite that we could share with someone else.
We took a right down a side trail toward a campsite and the damn side trail was about a half mile off. When we saw the people there, who looked utterly confused, we explained ourselves. Then we offered fireball.

Dude: “Oh shit! Christina forgot hers! She’ll be so happy!”

Other dude: “Cool, we’ve got some Maker’s too!”

A mutual stand around and drink whiskey from assorted containers happened with friendly conversation and we shared the campsite. Note: diffuse situations in the woods by sharing whiskey.

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This title worked equally well for both a thru-hike and grad school.  In a thru-hike, the last two hundred miles or so begin to feel weird.  As the end of the trail gets nearer, an odd feeling comes up; the long, epic journey will stop in its current form and change directions.  The body rallies, excited to sit on a couch and eat for a week to regain lost weight and allow muscles to relax, but the mind begins to feel unrest.

My feet begin to hurt for a new round, probably because I should replace my sandals but I am stubborn and do not want to only for the last little bit.  My hips have absolutely no fat left on them and I’ve cut off a chunk of my sleeping pad and duct taped it to the hip belt of my pack for extra cushion.  My legs and arms show a summer full of scratched mosquito bites, gashes, scrapes, and bruises.  My stomach growls even after eating 800 calorie meals.

The destination feels great, but the mind and the body thirst for more, just moved to a new place after some rest because the journey made the highlights of the trail in its own right.

In TSS, the capstone represents the final push toward graduation.  Most of our grad class works field education in Kelly split into three teams: one team of six, one of five, and one of four (but the team of four has adopted other members).  I am in the team of four which created a course on Sustainability and Leadership, or SNL for short.  The course spans for three weeks, has nine Summer Search high school students, has two weeks in Kelly, one week front-country camping in Yellowstone National Park and visits a farm.

In true TSS style, we also had a group to teach the week before our capstone course so we work for a month straight.  Many, if not all, of those days are 12+ hour days.  Free time does not really exist.  In my “free time” right now, I’m working on this synthesis homework project…

My brain has hurt for a month straight.  My room has papers scattered everywhere.  I found a book in my bed one night.  I cannot process words very well without yerba mate in the morning.  My “to-do” list never ends and usually covers an entire page.  Teaching has somehow become more relaxing than logistics.  I’m not drinking from the fire hose, I am the fire hose!

This summer has taken the term “flexi-pants” to a whole new level.

Rainbow in the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone.

Rainbow in the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone.

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