Location- Shore of Summit Lake
Elevation- 8,563 ft
Distance Traveled Today- 27.5 miles
Distance Traveled Total- 822 miles
Weather/Temp- clear, 70s
Pain level- low
Wildlife encounters- garter snake
Human Beings encountered on trail- 4
Thru hikers encountered on trail- 4 nobos
Days without shower- 1
Days without laundry- 5
Of course I didn’t get an early start. I don’t think I or anyone else believes I can begin hiking before 7am without the prompting of others. It’s my late night writing that keeps me in bed 8-/
Not one of the two restaurants near me opened until 11am, and I refused to hike out without a decent meal; so I stuck around. Long story short, I didn’t end up hiking out until almost 12:30pm, and re-supplied from the local gas station. My snacks include Fritos and bean dip, and about two and a half pounds of beef sausage sticks. They had them in bulk for a good price, so I bought two large packages.
When I first set out back on the trail, I was faced with another 15 mile road walk, then a further 6+ miles to the Yellowstone and Wyoming border. With such a late start, I set my heart on only getting to the border and calling it a good day.
Before I’d even made it out of town I ran into another Nobo whom I’d known on the PCT last year. We chatted for a bit and I learned that CD had never even stopped in Island Park. He’d gotten a drink and a meal, then kept going. The nobo had run into him yesterday evening already ten miles south of town. CD was really taking his 30 mile days to heart, and I realized we had never even made plans to stop in Island Park. He’s either going to think I got lost on that Bushwack and couldn’t keep up, or that I ditched him. He expressed interest in catching up to the group I’d been with and hiking with them, so I’ll probably catch CD when I catch the old posse. A group that large won’t be able to stay ahead of a single hiker; they’ll only be as fast as their weakest link on any given day.
Shortly after transitioning from the gravel road to what amounted to a rough path, I crossed the Yellowstone National Park boundary. Another obscure bucket list item checked itself off the list. Several miles later, I hit the Idaho/Wyoming border and my Montanho perigrination was over.
I had been excited knowing that Wyoming was so close, and even more excited to put the other two states behind me. What I didn’t realize was just how strong of a morale boost I would get when I physically saw/crossed the border. The sight and feeling of being on to new postures kindled a fire in my belly that caught me off guard. It was already almost 8pm, and I’d originally planned to camp on the border, but now stopping was the furthest thing from my mind…
I loaded the Wyoming section of my map onto my phone and selected a lake 6 miles ahead to shoot for. I hadn’t seen another soul all day, but if there were any nobos slowly heading out of the park today, then that lake would have made for the best camping area for a decent distance in either direction. I committed to it, dark or no dark.
The trail itself was nearly flat, and the terrain consisted of mostly small pines, short burn zones, wide open meadows, and beatle kills. Total darkness fell a little before 9 pm while I still had a couple miles left. “Night hiking alone in Yellowstone” is phrase I never thought I’d say, let alone do. Yellowstone has quite the ferocious resume of inhabitants, and we’ve all seen the numerous documentaries on Yellowstone’s predators. I’d be lying if I said my nerves weren’t a bit jittery. I had to periodically remind myself that nothing had changed with the onset of night other than the visibility. Everything was exactly the same as it was in the daylight, except now I couldn’t see it and my imagination wanted to fill in the dark areas with equally dark imaginings. You have to clear your mind of those irrational thoughts and think of something else, or focus solely on the task in front of you (minus what you can’t see).
The trail was a little obscure with no short amount of blowdowns, so I was forced to dawn my headlamp. The two miles and 45 minutes of night hiking passed slowly, but uneventfully. No Yellowstone beasties to speak or hear of.
I ran into a small group of four northbound thru hikers who were enjoying a small fire. Mongo from my original little group was there too. I whistled a short ragtime tune to announce my presence in a non startling way as I approached the firelight. It’s always good to announce yourself in the dark, but using your voice can sometimes be just as startling, if not more startling than simply appearing unannounced.
We all stayed up until almost 10:30 before the last thru hiker went to bed. I’m now cowboy camped alongside a fire ring full of dying embers with the milky way shining full force through the tall pines above me.
I’m ten miles from Old Faithful Village; the trail will pass straight through it. I’m looking forward to the purported buffet at one of the lodges…and maybe seeing the world’s most famous geyser while I’m at it.