Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Summer In Yellowstone- Part One

After medical school came to a glorious close, and I finished off the month of July banking a small income while gaining a little practical experience in an internship at the Cloquet Hospital. With money in the bank and the month of August free of obligation, the stage was thereby set for my next set of adventures . I started my journey to Yellowstone National Park.

My gravitation towards Yellowstone was two-fold. I needed to regain my soul and spirit and reconnect with that which is the essence of me. It is something that easily is stripped while in medical school, where I lose the absolute freedom to feed that which I love and the nourishes that deep part of me. Secondly, but not secondary, was the opportunity to indulge in the company of my significant other who generously offered a place for me to stay within the park.

I arrived in Yellowstone through smoke and flame. The east entrance to Yellowstone gave me my first experiences with forest fires, as helicopter bearing water flew over head and "hotshots" passed by. Having arrived, my new home for the month was beside Yellowstone lake whose waters reflected the surrounding mountain sides.

Clouds of smoke from fires near the East entrance to Yellowstone

Each day was a taste of freedom I had so missed. I woke every morning and lived by mere impulse alone. My impulse compelled me to hike into the backcountry, 3 days a week, often for 6-8 hours at time. Each day a new location, a new destination, and yet the same pristine solitude.

On the first of these outings, I mounted one of the more stereotypical paths summiting Mt Washburn. However, to spice things up, I decided I'd run the entirety of it. I recall getting many smiles, scowls, and looks of indifference from passers as I ran up and down the slope that reached the peak of Mt. Washburn. The view from on top was the first horizon of many that would come to grace my eye's.

Days later, I ventured onto the Thorough Fare Trail that followed the Northeastern shore of Yellowstone lake. By this time I became aware that carrying a bearspray canister was not necessarily an optional accessory for the backcountry. At this point I had not been entirly convinced of this but on this day was made a believer. I began by running the first few miles until coming up the bank of a creek. I stopped at the sight of grizzly tracks. This is being a heavily todden trail and with the knowledge that a party with horses was ahead of me, I knew these tracks were less than an hour in age. I walked slowly, singing loudly my newly formed and improvised grizzly bear song, which alerted the world to my presence; bears primarily but humans included. I wasn't able to relax until I passed another hiker who, with a grin, complimented me on my song and operatics. I must have hiked 14 or so miles that day. I topped it off by indulgent swim in the lake that quenched the heat of the day and washed the salt from my eyes.

From the paw prints, I guess bears are attracted to the stench of a backcountry outhouse on the thorough fare trail

After a few days had passed, I was back in the back country. I woke early as to avoid the frustrations of the daily traffic that infects the buffalo and tourist clogged Hayden Valley. I often spent more time in stuck in traffic in Yellowstone as I have in some metropolotin centers. Having successfully avoided this fate, I headed North to Tower. Leaving the trailhead behind, my feet carried me across the Yellowstone River and on to Hellroaring creek.

Hellroaring Creek

After fording the creek, I continued along it's banks. As I went the landscape around me changed. I started the day in the dry and open plateau covered in sweet smelling sag brush and blanketed by the noon heat. As I went further up the creek, the tree's and understory grew thicker. Small streams flowed down the mountain sides and the green came into the land. It started to feel like home again, seeing huckleberry's and wild rapsberry's while trodding through a muddied trail rather than the dust sand filled trails. I hiked 11 miles out as the heat rose into the 90's and on my way home jumped into a deep pool of Hellroaring creek's cool waters. By this time I was becoming my comfortable with the notion of Grizzly's and since I was in fairly open country my concern was lessen. However on the way out I noticed a park serive bear trap, along with a couple of old carcasses along the trail. Attempting to drive home, I had the misfortune of hitting traffic. Rather than waiting it out, I decided I'd go around it on a joy ride through the park. The sun was falling as I passed Old Faithful and Grant Village. I arrived home happily

The mighty Yellowstone River

I had gradually fell into a routine of waking each morning pulling out my guide book and deciding a destination. I spent my hours hiking being complative and enjoying my freedom from responsibility. I went to bed at night tired and content!

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