Today started early. The sun was no where close to hitting our tent, nor was it even out yet when we started packing up camp. The morning was cloudy in a dreary kind of way. Our goal for the day included but was not limited to big miles. We had our minds set on Grant Village in Yellowstone National Park.
We started hiking with no plans on stopping. A light rain began misting over us as we hiked. We did not think much of it at first but soon the drops became more frequent and larger. Throwing on our rain jackets we did not let it discourage us. We passed by a handful of Southbound hikers and exchanged the usual tips of the trail ahead. We had a ford across the Snake River which we would end up following along for the first part of the day. Our feet were already wet from the rain so we just pranced on through shoes, socks, and all. The rainy mist had settled into the river valley and we had to accept our day's cold and wet reality. The trail grew muddier as we rollercoastered along the river.
At the top of a roller, we could see Scavenger and Winter in front of us. As we grew closer to their hill that they were climbing when we saw them, we saw a black bear moseying down the trail. He would reach up with his front paws to pull a tree branch closer and then continue on. At one point he turned around to look at us, he flipped his whole body around and started moseying towards us. We started hollering "Hey Bear, Hey Bear!" (Our noise of choice when in bear country). He stopped in the trail, sat back on his rear end with his front paws in the air. His mouth began to stretch open but a vicious rawr did not proceed. Instead, a yawn stretched over his face, and then he wiggled and wobbled off of trail down towards the river. Out of pure excitement for our newest interaction, we began singing The Bear Necessities which led us to write and perform songs for our album debut. You can find classics such as
"You Fuzzy Thang" by Hot Chocolate
I bear-lieve in miracles
Where you from
You Fuzzy Thang.
"Bear's Way to Heaven" by Led Zeppelin
There's a Black Bear who's sure
all those berries are sold
and he's buying a bear's way to heaven
"Black Bear" by The Beartles
Black Bear snacking in the dead of night
Take these broken chips and Caprison lite
all your life
you were only waiting for this moment to arise
Bear-lieve by Cher
"Do you Bear-lieve in life after cubs. (After cubs, after cubs)"
"Bear-y Supersticious" by Stevie Wonderbread
Our singing began to fade as the cold set in. Drenched rainjackets led to wet layers underneath. The severity of our situation began to weigh on us. We hoped that the rain would slow soon and that the sun would warm us up again. We walked fast trying to keep our body temperatures up, but our hands still went numb and stiff. The trail continued to rollercoaster along before finally opening up to a meadow. The rain had stopped by this point and a small beam of sunlight broke through the clouds.
When we met back up with Winter and Scavenger, the sun was out and we all had a chance to dry out and warm up. We stopped for a quick break, not even taking time to sit down, before we continued on. We arrived at Heart Lake following one of her edges around towards our first sulfuric vents and pools of the park. We passed a ranger station and stopped to chat for a few minutes. We have so much respect for our park rangers and constantly give them a big THANK YOU for all that they do. We continued on through Heart Lake geyser basin. Mesmerized by the thermal pools and excited about the hot tub temperature creeks, we stopped every couple of yards to stare into the beautifully colored holes in the earth. It was like nothing we had every seen.
We hit a trail winding through trees and started to move quickly. As night approached, we wanted to make it into Grants Village before everything shut down. Just before the trailhead, Scavenger pointed out a large porcupine hiding in a tree. We stood in awe and fascinated by how he managed to fit between the pine needles and his own needles. Once we hit the trailhead, we stuck our thumbs out. No luck. Fortunately, a man we passed on the trail offered us a ride even though he was headed in the opposite direction. We made it just in time to grab dinner before the restaurant closed and even grab a campsite before the host closed up for the night.
Waking up in a packed campground is pretty unusual for us out here. Noises of children laughing and smells of eggs and bacon are not the normal sensations during our morning routine, (We wouldn't mind waking up to eggs and bacon though). It was only seven o'clock and we heard the voices of Scavenger and two others we assumed were coming from the occupants in the tents adjacent to us.
As Garbelly climbed out of the tent, he met a guy named Erick who was riding his bike across the country (http://bikewitheg.com). He also met a woman who was walking across the country pulling a wagon and walking roads as a part of a Buddhist path she was following. After the woman walked away, Erick ended up deciding to join us for the breakfast buffet we had walked so far to eat at.
Traveling by bike was definitely faster, but we still enjoy our slow intimate connection with the ground we walk over. We love glancing down to see small mushrooms pushing through the earth and the thick mat of pine needles. We love seeing birds fly to a branch closer to us to get a closer look at our strange upright shapes. We love the reward of coming to the top of a mountain pass and seeing the view on the other side. These things all continue to remind us why we are walking.
After breakfast, we walked to the permit office and talked to the very nice Ranger couple that worked there. They helped us get the exact spots we had asked for by radioing the backcountry Ranger. He told them that the only people we would be with were other CDT hikers. We were very ok with that. We thanked the two Rangers and started back to trail. Of course there was a restaurant on the way so we grabbed a snack.
Surprisingly with hundreds of cars, it was not easy hitching around Yellowstone. After waiting for thirty minutes with our thumbs out, a girl originally from North Carolina pulled over and gave us a ride four miles down the road. After being away from the southeast for four months, it is always easy to pick up on a slight drawl when we hear it.
As soon as we got dropped off, we started getting dumped on with dime sized hail. Critter was smart and made it under a tree. Scavenger and Garbelly made a dash for the concrete pit toilet, with Critter shortly following behind. Most people define a thru hike as a long distance hike from point to point. Garbelly said it is hard to consider that a thru hike unless you have waited out a storm in a pit toilet. Most hikers have been there, or desired to have one when rough weather moves in to the area.
After we left here, we had fourteen miles to camp and it was already nearing two in the afternoon. We weaved in and out of thunderstorms, with some lightning strikes coming within a couple hundred yards of us. It began to get cold again, and we desperately longed for Gore Tex rain jackets. As the rain picked up we began nearing a water crossing that we were told was chest deep. We despised the thought of the cold water chilling our body temperatures even more than they already have. To our surprise the outlet from the deep lake was much warmer than the surrounding air and we even found a crossing that was only knee deep.
From this crossing, the trail weaved up and down over a few hills. Besides losing the trail for thirty minutes and having soaked feet, our walk to camp was pretty uneventful. Just as we were walking our last stretch to camp, we popped out of the trees onto the shoreline of Shoshone Lake and walked along the sandy shores. As each wave gently slid into the sand, we watched them slowly approach our feet and retreat back into the dark. In the distant, geothermal vents blew steam high into the air and reminded us where we were.
We cooked dinner on the beach, hung our bear bags and fell quickly asleep.
Garbelly & Critter