28 years ago, Jim took a group of scouts on a 50 mile back-packing trip through Yellowstone. He didn’t have an assistant leader, so our neighbor Kim Young volunteered. He was able to experience Union Falls, Twister Falls, “Mr. Bubbly”(a back-country hot pool), and fell in love with Lone Star geyser. He has always wanted to take our family on this hike. This year, we put this hike at the top of the list for our travel adventures. We wanted to recreate the hike as much as possible. Unfortunately, Kim passed away 8 years ago, so we convinced his daughter Nikki to come in his place. We started in January with sending in our reservation for our camping spots. There is a $25.00 fee for reserving early, but then you are given a better chance of getting your chosen sites, rather than waiting until you get to Yellowstone. We arranged with our kids to be home in July and started assembling our back-packing gear.
In April we received confirmation that our campsites were reserved, as you can only camp in the backcountry of Yellowstone in a developed campsite. We then sent out a suggested packing list and menu.
We were going to have 7 as of us, but our daughter Jerie got a job for the summer in Alaska….hmmm….Yellowstone or Alaska, tough choice. She chose Alaska, so we were down to 6. The night before our hike, we finished packing, weighed our packs, and had Chinese as our “final” meal, as it would be dehydrated and packaged foods for the next 5 days. It is a 3 1/2 hour drive to the Ranger office at Old Faithful. We picked up Nikki as well as our driver Barbara. She was going to drive our pickup back to Idaho Falls and then pick us up on Thursday at Grassy Lakes on the Flagg Ranch Road. On the way, our pickup hit the 100,000 mile mark!!
On Saturday night we saw an alert that the Bechler Meadow trail might be closed due to high water at one of the river fords. So we were somewhat prepared to change our route. The ranger station opened at 8:30 and we had a nice volunteer ranger help us.
He informed us that the trail was indeed closed and we would not be allowed to hike through Bechler Meadow to Grassy Lakes. He cancelled the camping spots for Days 3 and 4 and we found new sites around Shoshone Lake. We would now be picked up near the South entrance of the park north of Lewis Lake on the Dogshead Trail, which is part of the National Continental Divide trail. Camping spots 1 and 2 were still reserved. We were excited as our #2 spot was near a not pool called Mr. Bubbly. It is one of the few spots in Yellowstone where you are allowed to sit in a hot pool. We had to pay $15.00 per night fee for each campsite and before leaving the Backcountry office we had to watch a Bear Aware movie.
Our starting point was the Lone Star Geyser trailhead. This is east of Old Faithful. It is an easy hike as you walk on the old service road. Lone Star erupts about every 4 hours, but has an eruption of about 50 minutes. There is a minor eruption, then a major eruption, and finally a very noisy steam phase.
Our first campsite was only a 1/2 mile away, so we checked the log book, and we had about 3 hours until the next eruption. We headed to set-up camp. To say the mosquitos were bad is an under-statement. We hung the food on the bear poles, took a quick nap, and then grabbed some snacks and headed back to Lone Star.
Being the afternoon, it was a bit busy. It always makes us laugh, that people will hike to the geyser and then are not patient enough to stay for the eruption.
Patience paid off and we had a wonderful “show”.
There was a stream nearby, so we walked down and filtered enough water dinner and breakfast. You have to constantly be on the look-out for dangers in Yellowstone, as there was a small hot pool near where we filtered.
We cooked dinner and ate quickly due to the mosquitoes. We built a fire, thinking that might help, but they seemed to like the smoke. Cindy stayed in camp to tend the fire, while the rest of the group headed back to Lone Star for an evening “show”.
Each established campground has a pit toilet. It is a fair distance from the campsite so as to not attract bears, but you get a nice view. Everyone was in bed by 9 as it had been a long day and we had an uphill hike tomorrow.
Even though we hiked in July, this is early in the hiking season for Yellowstone, particularly this year, with the extra snow we received. There were many obstatcles…fallen trees, marshy areas, and snow.
The scenery was spectacular…
Throughout the day, we stopped to filter water.
We came to the trail sign. We would hike down close to the Three River Crossing and stay at a campsite. Soak in Mr. Bubbly and tomorrow, hike back up to this sign as our third campsite was close to the trail sign. We had a stream crossing and we saw bear tracks.
When we first encountered snow, we were pretty excited, with it being July.
We were very much enjoying ourselves on the trail…
And then we encountered more snow, with the snow melt flowing down the steep trail.
And then more snow…what should have taken about 45 minutes to hike, turned into 3 hours.
We descended into a small valley and after encountering a completely snow-covered trail we decided to send Jim and Wade up the hill on an exploration to see if we could get near any campsite to stay for the night.
Our reserved campsite was still 3 miles away, but there was campsite on top of the hill, 1/2 mile away. They came back and said the campsite was covered by 8-10 feet of snow. So with no available campsite close by, we made the decision to set-up camp in the valley. Since it was not a designated site, we made sure to have the least impact on the area. We were disappointed to not sit in Mr. Bubbly, but vowed to plan another trip.
It was a chilly night. The next morning, Jim saw a doe run across the mountain, our first wild-life sighting except for squirrels and chipmunks. The 8 foot-wide stream, was now dry, as it was fed by the melting of snow and it had got cold enough during the night that the snow stopped melting. After a quick breakfast of oatmeal, we headed back down toward the Shoshone Lake trail.
Our travel plan was now on its third revision….you must always just go with the flow and enjoy the adventure. Yesterday, what had taken us over 4 hours to hike, we were able to traverse in about an hour, as it was mostly downhill and we knew the route.
We had encountered some hikers, who told us about 2 water crossings that we would encounter the next day. So after setting up camp, it was decided to hike to Shoshone Lake and see what we were in for. Back at a lower elevation we encountered beautiful scenery and no snow.
We walked past some hot pools.
After a nice cool walk in Shoshone Lake we headed back to camp.
After dinner, with the mosquitoes especially nasty, we sat in our tents and played battleship, yelling out the moves. Jodi and Wade got really lucky and won!!
So the trip hadn’t gone exactly as planned. The trail we would hike on days 4 and 5 we were not familiar with. This was truly an adventure. There had been some discouraging moments, but for the most part we were laughing A LOT. We were in a beautiful environment and it was so peaceful, how could we not smile. Still had about 16 miles to go over the next 2 days, bugs were bad so everyone in bed by 9 pm.
Part 2, as well the video of our trip, will be posted in the next few days.