Date- August 5, 2019
Location- Grant Village, Yellowstone
Elevation- 7,770 ft
Distance Traveled Today- 25 miles
Distance Traveled Total- 883.6 miles
Weather/Temp- partly cloudy, 70s
Pain level- zero
Spirits/Morale- ready to rock
Wildlife encounters- zero
Days without shower- 1
Days without laundry- 1
Said goodbye to Laura this morning around 8:30 and then killed another hour and a half eating breakfast, packing up, and lying on the bed wishing I didn’t have to hike today. Inactivity breeds more inactivity, and although my body was rearing to go, my brain was feeling mushy, tired, and wanting to do more mindless things that didn’t involve thinking about miles, weather, terrain, temperatures, time, food rations, etc.
You’re supposed to get back country permits for Yellowstone, but there’s a loophole around that… don’t camp in the back country. This means stay in lodges or camp in the big, car camping campgrounds. I didn’t get any permits, so I’ve relegated myself to the big campgrounds or not camping in Yellowstone at all.
I left Old Faithful almost right at 10 am with my sights set on a road 25 miles away. From that road I could hitch 6 miles into “Grant’s Village” and stay at their campground. The greatest variable was the hitch; I knew everything else would work out, but National Parks are notorious for being terrible for hitchhiking.
The terrain was easy and fast-going the entire day. I even caught Quiet Man and Jetpack before 1 pm. My 2.5 days off had been the perfect amount of time for them to catch up and just pass where I had left off. Now we’re at the same spot on the trail, but I’m not sure for how long. I’m still stuck on wanting to knock out bigger days and getting to Colorado with lots of August still left over. It started snowing the first week of September back in 2017 and I still have nightmares about it happening this year. I want to move…
By 6:30 pm, me, Jetpack, and Quiet Man had hiked the 25 miles to the road after braving mud marshes, hordes of mosquitoes, and a waist deep river- crossing at the outlet of Shoshone Lake. Now, to try our hand at some national park hitchhiking.
Quiet Man and I sat off to the side of the road next to Heart Lake Trailhead while Jetpack stood out by the road and did her thing. The volume of traffic headed towards Grant’s Village was absolutely staggering. Well over a hundred vehicles must have passed by before one finally pulled over after more than half an hour of Jetpack, and then both Jetpack and Quiet Man thumbing it by the road. And get this! It was a park employee that picked us up, not even a tourist!
Over the course of that 30 minutes, several people actually slowed down and started to pull over enough for Jetpack to begin approaching the vehicle; then they would gun it back onto the road and keep going! I don’t know if they were teasing, having second thoughts, or just trying to take a picture. As I’ve said before, national parks do funny things to people. I’ve never seen more bizarre, ridiculous behavior from other human beings than within the confines of national parks. Maybe it’s not even the national parks. Maybe it’s just large gatherings of suburbanites and city folk in a wilderness setting – the national park simply being a byproduct of giving them a convenient place in the wilderness to gather… for a price.
For example, when first coming to the geysers a few days ago, there were tourists everywhere on the edge of the forest, in an area where I had just emerged. I literally held up my phone for two seconds to check for service and a woman practically bum rushed me while exclaiming “What do you see!?!?” as she swung to my side and tried to position herself in the direction I’d been holding my phone. “A lot of bears,” I said very gravely and seriously. “You need to be very careful…”
Anyways, to these passing tourists on the road, we represented nothing more than a sideshow, a danger, or both. I truly believe that the majority of people visiting our more premier national parks (especially Yellowstone) are under the impression that they are in mortal danger at any moment they aren’t in their vehicle, aren’t in a building, or not within a herd of fellow humans. Make no mistake, this place is dangerous, but nowhere near as dangerous as I think people make it out to be in their minds. I suppose all the danger signs and warnings saturating the park don’t help the fear mongering. As far as these tourists were concerned, a few hitchhikers on the side of a busy national park road were as dangerous and unpredictable as a mother Grizzly. And maybe we are…
We double dipped and ate more town food for dinner before camping in an official campground at Grant’s Village. Ideally, I’d liked to hike out of the park tomorrow. I’m feeling a bit anxious about knocking out miles.
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