Day 120: Old Faithful Village

When we woke up, it was not only wet, but everything was freezing cold and slightly frosted. Garbelly sighed and began getting ready. This began with the deflating of his thermarest, and followed with him getting the food bags down from a tree. After shaking as much water as he could from the tent, he realized there was no hope.

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Our packs were now packed and we were shaking from the cold even with our down jackets and rain coats covering our upper bodies. We kept our feet dry for as long as we could. Five minutes later we were shin deep in water wading through a swampy trail. We continued to do this before crossing a creek. Fortunately this creek was fed by numerous hot springs and it felt amazing. Garbelly stood in it for quite awhile before reluctantly continuing to hike through the marshy grass.

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Before we knew it, we were winding through the Shoshone geyser basin. Steaming vents and small geysers completely surrounded us. Our trail snaked through these pools and a few times we could even feel the heat through the ground underneath our feet. It warmed us up quickly and we finally took off our jackets. As we stood there, Winter and Scavenger hiked ahead and we continued to stare at the sulphuric wonders.

We eventually caught up to them a few miles later and reached the junction to Lone Star Geyser. Since it was only 0.3 miles away we decided it would be silly to miss. We knew it erupted every three hours but were not sure when the last eruption had occurred. Unfortunately we had just missed the eruption, but since all of our gear was soaking wet, we decided to set it out to dry. With the sun high in the sky, everything dried out in about fifteen minutes. This was enough to convince Winter and Scavenger to head to the lunch buffet. We decided to wait for the twenty minute eruption of the strange alien mound protruding from the earth. 

As we waited, we were able to talk to the few day hikers that wondered in to watch the geyser. Lone Star gets its name due to its distance from the other geyser basins. Since its nearest geyser is still around three miles away, Lone Star is a bit of a loner. We passed the time by eating and looking for shade. A few rumbles were emitted from the smooth mineral deposit hill. After a few minor eruptions of spewing and gurgling, the geyser erupted into full force shooting water forty feet into the blue sky. We watched for ten minutes or so and then decided to hike onward towards Old Faithful Village. 

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We got to the village and immediately ran into Liam and Kate. They had just watched Old Faithful erupt and we had been able to catch the tail end of it as we were walking down the trail. We went to the post office to get our resupply boxes and then headed to the lodge to see about the buffet. Unfortunately we had missed lunch by ten minutes, and the dinner buffet was a whopping thirty dollars per person. We decided to save our money for the next town. 

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The history is so rich in our National Parks. You can just feel the buzz of life that dates back generations to visitors who have come before us. It is a wonderful feeling to carry on the tradition and to fill the same space while admiring the same natural world.

We heard from a couple hikers a few days ahead that a magical place existed in the Old Faithful Lodge. It was named the "Tub Room." This location was shared to them by a few staff members of the lodge. Basically we were given a treasure map and after arriving at the lodge, we set out to find it. From the downstairs common area, we wondered up the stairway to the second floor. From here we turned into a hallway and followed it until it intersected another hallway. Towards the end of the hall, a small sign read "Tub Room." We walked through a swinging door and found two private rooms with claw foot tubs, soap, shampoo, and even conditioner. The room was a haven set away from the zoo of people right outside.  Before we took a much needed bath, one of the maids asked us if we would like a towel. It was all coming together. Today we felt spoiled from the beauty of the National Park and also from the "Tub Room." 

We walked back down the hallway with wet hair and climbed up another stairway to the third floor balcony. Here we found a place away from anyone to pack our food for the next stretch. We had not planned on doing the "Mack's Inn" cutoff when we planned for the hike. However, we heard from hikers ahead of us that it was full of good food and cheap camping. This sounded like a good place to take a zero day and catch up on writing and rest. This meant that we had an extra day of food in our boxes. Combined with the couple days of leftover food from Yellowstone, our packs were heavy.

Just as we were finishing up packing our things, a couple beside us asked us where we were backpacking. As always, we tried to tell them that we had hiked there from Mexico without sounding too eager to brag. We talked for a couple minutes before continuing to pack and then leave to finish our mileage for the night. Soon, the woman showed up with their two children, and they proceeded to snack on cheese and crackers and drink wine. (The children of course did not drink any wine). Garbelly slung his pack over his shoulder ready to head out and say goodbye. Before he could speak they asked us if we would want to join them for a glass of wine and a little food. Hiking can always wait another hour.

We sat down with them and began to share stories about everything we had been through so far. The kids were interested in the animals we had seen so far, especially the two bears in Yellowstone. Before they headed to dinner downstairs, they brought us tangerines and cookies for later. The young boy even peeled a few tangerines for Critter while she told stories. After they left, we each looked at each other and said that we had to be the two luckiest hikers on trail. We could not be more grateful.

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Finally, we left and walked the trails surrounding the Old Faithful geyser basin. On our walk out of the park, we saw the sun set over all of the pools and geysers along our walk. Surprisingly, the park was still buzzing with visitors too awestruck to head to bed with all of the beauty the park had to offer. As soon as our concrete path turned to dirt and then disappeared into the woods, we saw no more people for the rest of the night. We stumbled down the trail for a couple hours and then set up in the darkness of ten o'clock. It had been a long day, but had been incredibly rewarding. 

Cheers!  

Garbelly & Critter

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Day 118-119 Welcome to Yellowstone + Basin Beach

 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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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We cooked dinner on the beach, hung our bear bags and fell quickly asleep.

Cheers!  

Garbelly & Critter  

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