July 20: 1944.9 – 1965.4 (20.7miles)
The day started with good tread and rolling incline/decline that allowed us to cover 8 miles by 1030am (which is good for us).
It of course started with an early morning crossing of the Snake River not once, but twice.
The trail would literally take us along the shoreline of Heart Lake.
It’s a beautiful and serene lake. You can see good sized fish swimming and feeding close to shore. A white pelican floated off shore, which seemed out of place to us. Maybe he was on “vacation”, we chuckled.
Heart Lake is massive and sits under the shadow of Sheridan mountain of which we had been inching closer and closer to ever since we entered Yellowstone. Standing 10313 ft.
If you look closely there is building on top of Sheridan mountain. It’s a historic fire watch tower. It was built in 1931 and manned until the early 2000’s. A 2700 ft climb over 3 miles (from Heart Lake), on the Mt. Sheridan trail will get you to the peak that is said to be the “best view” of Yellowstone. We never would have known this if we hadn’t talked to the resident Ranger. After checking our permit, he gave us a “hot tip”. “When you get to the first bridge, go soak your feet. The creek there is around 90 -95°. You’ll really enjoy it.” We took him up on his “tip”.
When we reached the wooden bridge that stretched over Witch Creek we tested the water. It was glorious. Almost as hot as our jacuzzi (103°). It wasn’t in our planned mileage stop, but how could we pass this up. Not only did we soak our feet, but we “cleaned up” a bit. Our shirts, shoes, socks, and even our hair. Two heavily laden, non-CDT thru-hikers passed by with quizzical looks.
Refreshed, we jumped back on trail and promptly started an over 600ft climb.
We passed several geothermal pools in various stages of peculation. Midway up the climb we lamented the fact that we hadn’t filled more of our water bottles. The day was hot and a bit muggy.
From the top of the climb leaving Heart lake you can see several of the geothermal features and the lake.
It a marvelous view, that is locked in time.
I also ran into sage grouse with little ones in tow. Were it not for the little ones, and the fact we had plenty of food, she could have easily become dinner.
Guthook has two water sources listed after the climb up from Heart Lake, neither of them had good reviews. With half a liter left each, we decided to forgo the stagnant mosquito infested pools and see if we could “Yogi” some water from people at the Heart Lake trail head parking lot.
On our way toward the trail head lot we met a man named Fred. Later to be known as “Just Fred”. He would unknowingly, but willingly, be our first on-trail, Trail Angel. As we approached him, and he said “hello”, Paul asked him, “Are you the guy with the beer?”. Fred replied, “No, but I know where two cold beers are hiden. They’re in a cooler in a white van. It’s unlocked. If you want them you can have them”. Now what are the chances of getting that exact response on the sparsely populated CDT?! We said we’d take him up on his offer, if he was serious. He was, and told us that he was only taking an hour walk.
In joyful disbelief we made our way toward the parking lot with a little more “spring” in our step. Two other guys just getting ready to set out for Heart Lake from the parking lot, shared their water with us, giving us a liter for our next 5 miles. Now onto the white van. Thank goodness there was only one. We checked the slider door handle. Yup unlocked. Paul slid the door open, spied a cooler. Yup. Two ice cold Corona beers. Hallelujah! Best beers ever! As we were halfway through our beers and I was writing a note to leave for Fred, he appeared. “We’ll, it looks like you found them”, he said with a smile. “If you don’t mind I’ll join you for a beer”. Wait. What? There were more? Fred poured himself a “warm” one over a cup of ice. We talked trail life and about life in general. We learned that Fred is quite the adventurer at roughly 75 years young.
A widower, he described himself as a “serial entrepreneur”. Until this summer, he has never worked for anyone, but himself. When his camp host spot in Oregon was cancelled, he thought he try working “in the kitchen” at the Yellowstone Lake Lodge. Having been (and still involved) in “organics”, Fred said he “loves to cook”. He showed us his latest garden invention, specially designed for the home gardener. Fred was the light to what was going to be an arduous end of our day. Can’t help but smile, and think of Fred when I drink a Corona beer.
Tonight’s campsite would be by Shoshone Lake. We were supposed to be in “boating” campsite on the lake shore, but a couple had already set up and were having their dinner when we arrived. No point in making them move as there were campsites further from the lake which meant we wouldn’t have to have a “yard sale” mid afternoon to dry everything out from camping next to water.