Sunday, August 17, 2008

Summer in Yellowstone: Part Two

The days turned to weeks and the passing of time was of little concern. I never knew what time I fell asleep and likewise never was quite sure what time I woke up aside for the amount of sunlight streaming into the bed room window.

After several weeks of regular hiking/ running my body was adapting to the regular exercise, sweat, and dirt. I woke one morning and decided to hike up to the top of Avalanche peak, one of the highest points that there is an official trail to. It was a grey day that had enough patches of sunlight for me to get out the door.

Leaving the car behind made my way up the trail excited to leave the treeline and experience the expanse the alpine tundra instills. I was feeling good and brisked my way up the 2,000 and some odd vertical feet in hour and a half.

The view from atop Avalanche Peak

However when I reached the top I noticed some lightning and thunder clouds to the northwest of me. After sitting and watching to see which direction the clouds would roll, I decided to descend. However by the time I reached the tree line the sun was shining again. Looking at the expanse around me, I looked up to the ragged Hoyt peak and decided I might try and summit it and go completely off trail. Letting my curiosity take me where it would. I mounted the gap between Hoyt and Avalanche, and began to realize that Hoyt's peak upon closer look was going to end up in nasty loose 5th class. Looking down into the basin below Hoyt peak, my curiosity was peaked by clear alpine lakes.

I as I descended I felt more and more enthralled as I climbed into one of the most gorgeous places that had graced my eyes. The landscape was foreign to me. Mottled with little lakes along avalanche carved giant furrows and with snow covered remnants of the season previous. I scrambled around with the wonder and curiosity of my childhood. I went where ever interest took me.

Video of Hoyt Valley

Seeing the sun falling lower in the sky I picked my way up the scree filled gap and felt fatigue meet my legs. As I crested the gap, I looked to my right to see ominously dark clouds pouring over and obscuring Avalanche peak as the sound of thunder rolled in my ears. Seeing my venerability being above tree line and 10, 000 ft of elevation I began to run. My flight took me down hill at speed that only my adrenaline could have taken me safely. Thunder roared as I met the treeline and snatched the rain jacket from my pack and dressed myself in it. The rain came soon after and poured down in torrents, and I continued to run until I reached the road and hopped into the car and drove to the dry comforts of my lodgings. I had no idea how far I had traveled, and had little care of making any quantification.

After a day of rest, I headed back into the wilderness. I decided to explore the waterfalls in the southern portion of the park, namely, Union Falls. Getting to the trail head proved more perilous than the actual hike. I knew from my maps that I would be on gravel management roads, but never expected what I was to encounter. The road started out as normal dirt road, but as the miles went by the size of the gravel grew, along with the size of the potholes. Driving a borrowed and new vehicle with little clearance to begin with, I respectfully was forced to drive at an average of 10 miles an hour. After driving for an hour and a half the road became so bad I pulled the car over and began running to the trail head. It now the time being one in the afternoon and having the knowledge of a 16 mile hike in front of me, caused me to run the entire trail. The way out to Union falls went fast. People gave me inquisitive looks as I ran by and bounded through ankle deep river fords. When I got to Union Falls and felt it's cool mist floating from it's base I could not help but relax and feel drawn to it. I climbed down a muddy slope to the base of the falls, and let the ice cold water rain down on me and quench the heat of the sun filled day.

Gorgeous Union Falls

Despite me scarfing a granola bar.... Union Falls video

After a soaking from the heavens, I climbed back up to the trail an began running back. Things were a little more painful on the way back as my knees began to ache and my quads stiffened. I emerged from the trail head and walked back to the awaiting car relieved to drive back to comforts of shelter and companionship.

Giving myself a few days to recover, I headed back to the south and made my way to the top of Mt. Sheridan. Arriving at the trail head at 9 am I was aware that it was going to be a long day. Ahead of me lay 7 miles to Heart Lake then 3.2 miles to the peak of Sheridan then back, round trip totaling 21 miles. The miles towards Heart Lake went by fast as the sun had not risen to it's full height yet and as the lake was visible in the geyser filled valley before me.

Classic thermal pool in Heart Lake Valley

Mt. Sheridan from the beach of Heart Lake

Shortly after passing along the sandy beach of Heart Lake, I began hiking up Sheridan. Monitoring my condition so as to make it back in a reasonable condition, I was feeling pretty good and kept myself cool with the passing mountain streams. I kept the pace up the weaving ascent until reaching the glorious summit. I stopped to rest and soak in the expanse before, seeing the Tetons to the Southwest and all of Yellowstone Lake to the North. I took a few deep breaths of fresh mountain air and let my mind clear itself so as to find room to fit appreciation the vast horizon before me.

Myself atop Mt. Sheridan

I came down from the mountain, and retraced my footsteps as the afternoon heat set in. The sun being high in the sky, the trek back was more slowed and I fell into my normal meditative hiking state, only vaguely aware of the trail and lost in thought. As the trail ended and I headed back to my lodgings content and hungry. Having been lost in my own mind for a majority of my days, I came home to the shelter of warmth, shade, and company. I went to bed at night content and filled with happiness wholly.

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