The morning of August 28th I made a feeble attempt at posting some of the remaining content from the prior days at the Yellowstone West Entrance Visitor Center. I was able to upload one post that I had mostly done but the wifi was so slow I opted to grab some breakfast at the woodside bakery and head into the park to start my hike.
I packed my bag with more clothing than usual since the weather is starting to change and I need more layers to keep warm. With that spirit in mind I decided it would be a good time to start increasing the weight of my bag so that I would be used to the weight by the time I had to contend with it. I also added more food and water than I typically carry. When I threw the bag on I immediately felt the difference, it was packed with the weight of a weeks provisions I was only going out 3 days & 2 nights. I continued toward the trailhead and took a few pictures on way there.
The hike starts with an elevation gain and when you get to the top you can see the geyser and pool basin below. I got a little lost at this point following prominent game trails and eventually realized I was no longer on the established path. I turned back and eventually found my way back onto the trail.
There was one particular flower I noticed on my hike that I had not seen before and nabbed a picture of it.
In a large section of this hike there is clear evidence of a prior fire and there are multiple downed trees, trees leaning on other trees, and creaking trees that sway with the wind. Walking through there made me feel extremely uneasy especially since there were some trees that looked like they had just fallen. Other than that the hike was nothing out of the ordinary. I got to my campsite in a little over 3 hours with a total of 6.5 miles and about 1,000 feet elevation gain. I stuffed my face once I got there having granola and oatmeal, as well as some knorr dollar rice. After a full belly I looked out on the pasture and saw a few elk in the distance and an approaching storm.
It was not supposed to rain but the clouds coming in did not look good. I decided to pitch tent when… Dammit… I left my tent in my other bag! UGH! What an ass! Now my mental dialogue. “It’s almost close to 8pm so leaving means exiting in the dark and probably under rain. I could make a tarp by cutting open the garbage bag I always carry. I can make an impromptu leanto with some of the downed wood in the area and use the bag to make it water resistant. I have excess cord that can help me with that. I can set up a fire in the fire pit to keep warm and hope it’s a quick storm. The con is that I would have my face exposed so in the event it did not rain I would have to sacrifice it to hungry mosquitoes through the night. If it didn’t clear my stuff would likely be wet and this being a 2 night trip I might be really cold the next day and I would have to use this makeshift shelter twice.” Knowing how crappy mountain weather can get I decided the best course of action was to exit. Nothing like adrenaline, and fear of surprising a bear to get you moving. I popped in my spare phone battery and cranked up the music on my phone as loud as it would go and set off on a feverish pace. Soon enough I was caught in a torrential downpour. There was lots of lightning and wind gusts. This made my music completely ineffective other than to keep me company. I began to yell “heeeeeeeeeeeyyyyyyyy bear” every 15 seconds or so. At all times I was mindful of the ambient noise. It got dark faster than normal because of the clouds had just taken over the sky and I had to stop to put on my headlamp. I threw my spare lamp in my pocket so that I would not have to stop again in case the batteries ran out on the primary one. If I was scared about walking through the burned forest before, I was crapping my pants doing it in the dark with a windy thunderstorm. I eventually hit a juncture where there was a loop, I could take the higher trail which I had taken on the way up but was a slightly longer path, or I could take the lower trail that was shorter but would take me past a waterfall and I was unfamiliar with it. The waterfall would almost ensure I would not be heard by a bear. I opted for the shorter route because of all the lightning. I stumbled down as fast as I could hoping not to twist an ankle and got to the falls area. The noise was extremely loud so my yelling intensified in volume, frequency, and my pace slowed down a little to allow for that sound to carry.
I got to a juncture where I thought I was .3 miles from the trailhead and was awaiting the familiar wooden walkways but they never came. Instead I found myself walking on a soggy area and the trail seemed to vanish. There were some little flags in the earth but I could not see a trail. My inner voice was telling me make sure you know the path because walking onto a thermal is not something you want to do. I turned around and looked for any sign of a more prominent trail but did not find one. I decided that the flag clusters could only mean that that was the path. I eventually found my way onto something that looked like a path and it was confirmed once I crossed a little wooden bridge. However, at this point I knew I was not going to come out the same way I came in. I came out on the road and saw a sign for daisy trail. I took out my map and did not see it on there… Wonderful. I decided I had over shot the parking lot and made a left on the road walking roughly in the direction I came from. Once I took to the road I put on my second headlamp in strobe mode so that cars coming from the other side could also see me. I walked about 10 minutes and finally found myself at the parking lot. I jumped into my car cold, soaking wet, and turned on the car and cranked up the heat as much as it would go. I looked at my watch to see how long I had taken to get back and it was 2 hours and 5 minutes. That’s over 3mph in the dark and in the rain. Not too shabby for this tentless fool.