CDT: Yellowstone

July 22: 1979.3 – 1994.5 (15.2)

Up early to head into Old Faithful Village (OFV), we heard voices pass our camp while we were finishing our coffee. Turns out it was as we thought “Coins” and “Timber” who we had met in Dubois.

By the time we reached the junction for the Lone Star Geyser, “Google” and “Bear Magnet” (who we also met in Dubois) were just returning from the geyser. They were also now headed into OFV. They told us the girls were ahead of us. Off to “town” we all trotted. The youngsters much faster than us, and more food motivated, quickly disappeared from our view.

Early morning allows for easy glimpses of geothermal features

We had 5 miles to cover. Dense new growth forest flanked us on either side. With 2 miles or so left, we could see the roof tops to OFV and steam rising from various places in Yellowstone’s Upper Geyser Basin below us. Sounds of “civilization” began to increase. I was walking in front of Paul about 10 ft. All of the sudden to my right, and through the trees, I saw a black mass moving. My first thought was, based on the road noises I had heard was, what is a truck doing here? Then I realized that the black mass was a BEAR! I stopped and immediately walked back toward Paul as the bear was entering the trail in front of us. As I was stuttering, (B-b-b – BEAR!), I was also pulling out my bear spray.  Then Paul also saw it. “Get your air horn out”, Paul exclaimed. Mine was packed away nicely, as was Paul’s. In fact this morning was the first time he had packed it away in two weeks. Paul began yelling at the bear, who began to run across the trail and into the trees. And then, as we breathed a sigh of relief, the bear doubled back and came back to the trail, stopping at the edge and standing atop a downed log several feet in front of us. He had a huge square head. We both backed up as “calmly” and quickly as we could with bear spray at the ready. Shit! And we were so close to OFV too, we thought. We’ll never get there now if this bear doesn’t move…away. Paul began yelling again, as we continued to back up. Eventually the bear turned and walked into the trees. No need for coffee in town now! We gave it a little time and then continued toward OFV with bear spray at the ready, and the “hey bear” chant till we felt comfortable enough to switch to music playing loudly from our phones’ speakers.

Once into OFV, the post office was our first stop. New shoes were supposed to have been delivered. Paul’s arrived, but I had to wait till 1230 to see if mine would arrive. We also could have sworn that we had sent a resupply package to OFV, but I couldn’t find the receipt from the Rawlins Post Office. As it was, we had to pay to send a box of stuff home (our microspikes and assorted other gear we weren’t using), and to “bounce” our Lima and Leadore resupply packages we had mailed from Pinedale. The Pinedale postmaster had told us to mail it to OFV as we would be longer than 15 days to Lima and certainly Leadore.(Post Offices, especially small ones, will generally not hold packages longer than 15 days without notification and a reasonable pick up date) With the Postal service, unopened packages can be forwarded (“bounced”) at no additional charge to another address. This guy (Jim?) told us otherwise. Apparently the OFV U.S. Post Office does not “bounce” packages. We would have to pay the $21.05 flat rate price AGAIN in order for him to “forward” / mail our resupply packages to Lima and Leadore. The other option would be to get to the West Yellowstone Post Office. He told us that they would do it there, but then he reminded us that there were no buses/shuttles to West Yellowstone (thanks to COVID), so we would have to walk the 30+ miles with 4 boxes. We all knew that was NOT going to happen. What really put our “Spidey senses” on alert was the fact that this particular Post Office ONLY took cash. He also made a point to tell us that he works ALONE at this location, and that it was his boss’s decision to NOT allow the “bouncing” of packages, thus he was only doing what he was told. (BTW, he also told us that his boss was “on vacation” and set to “retire” the following Friday) Seeing as we had NO choice or recourse, we handed over a total of $105.25 in cash** ($21.05, we recognized as “legit”, as that package was going home). Luckily there was an ATM in the Village that we could “buy” some cash from.

**When we got to LIMA we filed a complaint with the Postal Service, as the LIMA postmaster confirmed as we had thought that what was done was “highly irregular” and “not consistent” with all the other post offices in the country. We did note that $21.05 in postage had been slapped on our packages when we picked them up in LIMA. As a note, we were aware that if you “accept” a flat rate package and open it, it nullifies the “bounce clause”. We told the postmaster at OFV, before he even retrieved our packages, that we needed to “bounce” four of them. In any event, hopefully this “irregularity” gets fixed for future CDT hikers needing to “bounce” packages from OFV. We wouldn’t mind a refund as well.

From the Post Office we headed to the store. Now who should we see on the steps of the OFV grocery store, but our hiker trash youngsters, Google, Bear Magnet, Timber and Coins. They had completed their resupply shopping and were “snacking” and watching in amazement, the droves of people scurrying about like ants. It was a little odd to see so many people in one setting, at one time. It was definitely a sensory overload. Prior to going in to shop for our resupply, Google told us the mileage to Mack’s Inn. Three days. Cool! This was going to be an easy and light resupply. 

From the market, we all wandered over to the Cafeteria. In previous years, there was an “All You Can Eat” buffet. Not this year, with COVID-19 concerns.

Bear magnet, Google, Timber and Coins

After having masked up, and waiting in line for access to the mostly pre-packaged/wrapped food at the over-priced cafeteria, we dined al fresco as we watched a couple THOUSAND people fill in around the boardwalk to Old Faithful, in anticipation of its “loosely scheduled” eruption.  We all joked that there was an old guy, we named “Larry”, that was located in the “boiler room” below Old Faithful sweating profusely waiting his cue to “turn the valve” and entertain the expectant masses. It was a government job and paid good benefits, but the best part was that he didn’t have to interact with the public.

Soon *Old Faithful erupted, as if on cue. More steam Larry! The plume of steam, that can reach upwards to 350 degrees, inched higher to a crescendo ,and then after 3-4 minutes retreated back into its cone. Historically, the geyser erupts with regularity every 60 – 110 minutes (+/- 10 minutes or so). Its plumes reach anywhere from 106-184 feet, and last as short as 1.5 minutes to as long as 5 minutes. We saw it erupt twice before we headed back onto the trail. Over 4 million people visit Yellowstone annually. Based on the crowds we saw, and the gal that rang me up in the grocery store, the visitation hasn’t suffered from COVID-19. She said sales of merchandise and the number of people in the park has topped last years totals already.

*Old Faithful was discovered by the Washburn Expedition in 1870, which led to Yellowstone becoming designated as our first National Park. For a really neat read and collection of old photos and illustrations about Yellowstone (not just the Upper Geyser Basin where Old Faithful is), click here. It’s obvious that a return visit to further explore Yellowstone, beyond the CDT is in order.

One more stop at the OFV post office to see if my shoes came in. Hurrah! They did!

While changing out my shoes, two SOBO CDT hikers, Brave and Gringo, arrived to collect their boxes.

Gringo (L), Brave (R)

Having just gotten married in March, they were on their “honeymoon”, hiking the CDT. A perfect “marriage test” if there ever was one.  We’ve survived several.

Adventure and “marriage test” 4,437 (approximately)

After having completed our “chores”, it was time to get back to the trail. Google had provided us with a map through the Geyser Basin that would lead back to the CDT.

Atop a raised boardwalk we wandered through the geothermal features. 

There are five types of geothermal features readily visible in Yellowstone:     (courtesy of the National Park Service, Yellowstone site)

  1. Hot springs: Pools of hydrothermally heated water.
  2. Geysers: Hot springs with constrictions in their plumbing, which causes them to periodically erupt to release the pressure that builds up.
  3. Mudpots: Hot springs that are acidic enough to dissolve the surrounding rock, and typically also lack water in their systems.
  4. Travertine terraces: Hot springs that rise up through limestone, dissolve the calcium carbonate, and deposit the calcite that makes the travertine terraces.
  5. Fumaroles: These hot features, also known as steam vents, lack water in their system, and instead constantly release hot steam.
Cars, at least a mile out by road, waiting to get into OFV

The path led across the road leading into Old Faithful Village. Cars were backed up, and according to a family who had decided to park their car and walk to Old Faithful, the wait in line could be well over 2 hours.  They asked us, “How far to Old Faithful?” Two more miles, was our reply…because it was true! We checked Guthook.

Another set of geothermal features flanked either side of this wooden boardwalk. In some ways I think they were “better” than the ones we had just walked through.

When the boardwalk hit the dirt, it was time to climb. Our destination for the night, Summit Lake. It was 4pm and we had 10 miles to go. The youngsters were probably already there. Our only obstacle was the crossing of Little Firehole River.  Several logs were available to cross over the fairly narrow (6-10’ft wide) river. Paul crossed with ease using a narrow log across a wide portion of the river. The depth of the river here was about knee deep. Not wanting to get my new kicks wet, just yet, I looked for a narrower portion of the river to cross on top of what I “assumed” to be a sturdy tangle of logs. All was good until the last log/step. With a flash of “you should have just gotten your feet wet” zipping through my head, the log collapsed (actually disintegrated beneath my feet). Like an elevator making an untimely descent, into the water I plunged. Feet first. To my chest. Yes. My chest. Apparently I had picked the deepest part of the river to try my “luck” on a log. Shocked, and glad I had securely zipped my phone into my Gossamer Gear large phone accessory (This is probably the single BEST addition to my backpacking gear EVER!) I was glad the water was tepid, as opposed to ragging hot, as the river’s water soaked through every fiber of my clothing, and of course my new kicks. “Don’t just stand there”, Paul chuckled.

With some effort I climbed out of the river. So much for dry shoes. A light breeze cooled and helped to dry me out as we made our 1,266 ft climb up to Summit Lake.

Summit Lake

We arrived just in time for it to rain on us as we set up our tent.

This entry was posted in Backpacking, Continental Divide Trail, thru-hiking, Uncategorized, Wyoming, Yellowstone and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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