Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Yellowstone- Part 3

My time in Yellowstone was becoming immanently short and in the last weeks there was much to be done. I woke with the morning dew glittering in the sunlight, poured a cup of coffee and watched the sunrise into the sky. I would take my freedom and run with it. My decision was to abandon the trail and bushwack through the backcountry to where ever my curiosity desired. I easily decided that I would go to the area south of Avalanche Peak and head towards Top-Notch Peak, then heading towards the mountains on it's backside.

Exiting my car I took a quick note of the general direction of Top-Notch and headed into the woods. Before hitting the tree line, the going was not easy. But as things opened up I picked my way up a ridge line that appear to make it's way reasonably to the summit.

The ridge line towards Top-Notch

Armed with my pack of essentials, I was feeling strong and energetic and the sun was not yet high in the sky. As I climbed the steep scree and as I crested what I thought would be summit, I found myself on the edge of less than favorable cliff edge. Knowing that what lay in front of me was impassable, I grudgingly headed down and around the backside of Top-Notch with the new intent of reach Mount Doane.
The top of Top Notch

Having crossed over the backside of the mountain into a beautiful pond filled bowl, I began my traverse toward Mt Doane. But the going was not easy, as I found myself down climbing into steep gullies and climbing out again. I was beginning to get tired and hot, as the sun was now baking the earth around me. I got within 6 miles of Doane and looking at my clock knew it would have to wait for another day. I headed back up and over the shoulder of Top-Notch and scrambled down another gully. Into the wood I went a clamored my way through the forest back to the vehicle feeling weary.

Mt. Doane in the distance

An alpine lupine

Two days later having given myself an ample day of rest, I made it out of the cabin late. I quickly decided I'd do the "seven mile hole" trail that took one to the bottom of Yellowstone and to what I presumed was a nice hole... as in whitewater. So I embarked from Canyon village by running down the trail until I reach the descent into the canyon. About half way down, I heard some ominous cracking and breaking of branches. I stopped dead still. Barely breathing I listen intently. Something large was moving on the trail ahead, and I was not about to find out if was a bare. I quietly walked back up the trail with my bear spray in hand and found a decent tree. I climbed up 20 ft up and waited. After hearing enough commotion I decided I'd let whatever it was know I was around and begun singing a tune. Whatever it was it took off.Yellowstone Canyon

I continued down the trail and made it to the edge of the crystal waters of the
Yellowstone Stone river. After the disappointment of finding no hole, I decided to take a quick swim before making my way out of the canyon. As I reached the canyon brim I halted my brisk walk to observe two set of bear tracks that had not been there on the way out. I nervously forged ahead, and found no sign of bear. I made it back to the car and drove back to my lodgings weathering the normal afternoon Yellowstone traffic.

The Yellowstone River

After two nights of rest and noting that I had time for one last adventure, I set out to hike a classic trail. I decided I would hike the Yellowstone river trail from Hell Roaring Creek to Gardiner, MT. I would have to leave a bike at the end of the trail and bike 20 miles uphill back to the car after hiking 18. Honestly, I wasn't sure I could do it. I had plenty of doubts as I left a bike under the bridge in Gardiner. But once I got back to Hell Roaring Creek and got established on the trail, my mind wandered elsewhere. However, I did notice that I was on the hot open plateau and hoped that I would find shad along the way. However the shade never came as the temps reach up into the 90's. I soaked my T-shirt in the river many a time in an effort to quench the days heat.

I kept walking along the river until the Mountain sides squeezed together and the water began to roar. I had reach Knowles Falls. Granite (or some other metamorphic rock) walls and smoothed formations pinched the river into some gorgeous whitewater. Viewing it from a kayaker my description is as follows: If kayaking the Yellowstone were not illegal, Knowles Falls would be a classic run. It consisted of 3 or 4 big water class IV+ and V rapids that looked absolutely beautiful.

The Lead-in to Knowles Falls

Knowles Falls!
(much bigger water than it seems)

Moving on past the enticing water, I again began to notice the heat. I walked on in a state of thoughtless motion, there but not really present. However, my conscious came crashing in on me. I had been walking looking maybe only 3 ft ahead of me. It took a second for mind to register what had entered my vision, but when it did I jumped back. I had nearly stepped on a extremely large snake, who otherwise didn't seem much alarmed by me. I'm not generally afraid of snake, but I also don't prefer to get ultra close with a bigger and hissing snake. I took a wide path around him as I snapped a picture. I later discovered that was a non-venomous bull snake, but really wasn't interested in finding out otherwise.

The bull snake

I kept marching down the trail find the Black Canyon of Yellowstone River and being disappointed I could more easily view the crazy whitewater that passed through it. I went on ward and just before the mountains opened up into broad plateau. I was shocked again, as a smaller bear ran from the trail in front of me. My bear spray's safety was off and I crept up a near by hill making all sorts of noise keep the bear from startling. For my good fortune, he had taken off and not looked back. I continued ferociously heated plateau. I was hot, tired, dehydrated, and slightly delirious as I finally reached Gardiner at 6 pm. The thought of biking another 20 miles uphill made me worry. Instead I waited until an older couple came up to the trail head. I asked for a ride and they agreed with thick French accents. I was elated to ride and talk with this couple who had touring the park just in from Paris. But as we neared the trail head, I was feeling more and more faint. I became so nauseous that I had them pull the car out. I felt so hot, faint, and clammy I quickly took off my shirt laid down on ground and poured water over my head. Before long I was ok again and made it back to the car. It was clear that the heat of the day had gotten to me and that I was pretty dehydrated. I made it back to my lodgings and fell asleep quickly.

And so with that adventure my time in Yellowstone expired. I was sad to leave the place I had called home for a month. It was a time for real growth in myself and a time of rejuvenation. I mounted a greyhound bus two days later, waved goodbye to my companion watched the open road open before me.

However, my bus ticket was not for Duluth but St. Cloud. I was on my way to meet a friend and head back to Sturgeon Falls for some last minute whitewater paddling before the start of school. (To be continued....)

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