Sunday, August 28, 2011

Trip Report: Yellowstone Nat. Park - Old Faithful to Lewis Lake; Day 2 of 3

One of many pools in the geyser basin
***Click on photos in order to magnify for better detail
After falling asleep at the end of day one, I felt disheartened and frustrated by the set-backs related to my gear failing me. I hoped that a good night's sleep would help me feel better about the fact that I had two more days of hiking without an effective means of filtering my water, and I actually did wake up feeling much better about everything in general.

Day 2: Shoshone Lake (site 8R5 to site 8M1)
Due to the fact that we were forced to boil our water without another solution (other than skipping any sort of filtration), I woke up to one Nalgene bottle of filtered water, and one bottle of noodle water from the previous night. I remember reading in Backpacker (of course) that it's a good idea to drink the carb-rich water from cooking noodles instead of throwing it out, and thought that it would make more sense to use this for drinking water as opposed to boiling a new pot for drinking...

Sound gross??? Well, it was. The first couple of drinks weren't that bad, but by mid-afternoon I was pretty repulsed by it. I knew that we only had a limited amount of fuel for cooking, and that there was no way we would have enough to boil water for the three of us on the 1.5 canisters we had. I thought about it long and hard, and decided that the water in the stream was deep enough and adequately swift to just drink without a high risk of getting sick. Talk about a refreshing drink! Straight from the ice-cold stream. While it would have been nice to have the peace of mind my filter would have given me, I didn't feel concerned about the water I drank; but I knew that within the next 24 hours I would know for sure if this was a wise choice or not.
Jordan, Geoff, and yours truly from the boardwalk within the geyser basin
The hike on the second day started out with us going through the geyser basin, and it was definitely one of the trip's highlights. I've been to Yellowstone a few times and have seen Old Faithful work her magic time and time again, but there was something different about being in the backcountry with all sorts of bubbling water features - including a geyser that boiled and spewed water about every two minutes. Being all alone with no one else but my hiking companions really drove the uniqueness of Yellowstone home.
Throughout the hike on the second day we were on the lookout for animal life. Whereas on the first day we made plenty of noise (actually too much, in my opinion) in order to ward off any hiding grizzlies, we decided to not make any noise - realizing that scaring off any potential bears was also scaring off everything and anything else that lives and breathes. We saw our first wolf print in the mud, and were pretty excited. I wasn't paying much attention to the marks in the ground up to this point, but started to pay more attention after Geoff and Jordan pointed the print out to me.
Wolf? Cougar? We originally thought that this was a wolf track, but now I'm not too sure. What are your thoughts?
We made very good time, and got to our campsite at around 4:00, but not before being forced to cross through the stream that ran fairly close to our site. If the water wasn't freezing enough to make me lose my balance, the sharp rocks on my bare feet sure was. I was happy we only had about a ten foot section to cross, and was even happier that we found our campsite seconds after getting our shoes back on. Although painful on the feet, the last thing you want is to have to hike in wet boots; unless you want blisters and discomfort for the rest of your trip.

That evening Geoff and I spent an hour or so fishing in the heat, but didn't catch anything. That's the beauty of fly fishing though. I can sit on the bank of a river, casting to the same hole time and time again, and feel completely relaxed even as the sun burns into my skin. It also felt nice to put our 3-day fishing pass to good use, as well as using the extra weight our rods and fishing gear added. If I wouldn't have opened my fly rod case this second day then I wouldn't have noticed the love note my wife slipped into my case! The cool, fresh water may have worked wonders on my beat up body, but this little note did just as much good to my mentality. I worked through several obstacles in my thinking on this second day, and the note only helped that much more.

Although we hoped that the mosquitoes wouldn't find us on this side of the lake, we knew that they would be hunting us down here as well. I decided that the feeling of repellant on my skin, along with two days worth of sweat, wouldn't feel too good when in my bad the second night, and I chose to take a "quick dip" in the stream. I was worried about the freezing water, but soon realized after taking my clothes off that the water was nothing compared to the barrage of mosquitos that decided to use my back (and, uh-hem, back-side) as a landing strip. I tried to beat them away with my clothes, but only had about three or four corpses on my shirt as opposed to the couple dozen bites they gave me. I showed my war-wounds to Geoff when I got back to the tent, and I knew by his laughter that my back looked as bad as it felt. By the way, the water was cold enough to make my legs cramp up for a few seconds after getting back on the bank.

It's hard to describe the difference you can feel when being in the heart of a national park such as Yellowstone as opposed to being with hundreds of other tourists sitting around Old Faithful. Pretty sure that it's for this reason (among many others) that I continue to make plans for such trips. It was only about an hour ago that I added up the miles on the Teton Crest Trail for my next potential trip. I've only been back for a week and I'm already planning next years outing:)
***Really wish I would have taken more photos. I'm regretting not having any photos of the stream we crossed/fished...

Breakfast - Granola and Powdered Milk
Lunch - Mountainland Buffalo Style Chicken Wrap (would NOT recommend it...) and tortillas
Dinner - Ramen Noodles (straight from the package) and Jack Links Beef Nuggets
Snacks - Dehydrated (at home)Yogurt/Apples/Bananas and Snickers

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Trip Report: Yellowstone Nat. Park - Old Faithful to Lewis Lake; Day 1 of 3

Where we stopped for lunch on our first day
For about six months now my friend Geoff and I have been planning a trip to Yellowstone National Park. Originally we wanted to head back to the Tetons to experience another amazing trip as I reported on previously, but decided to hit a backcountry neither of us had experienced before. Geoff took the reins and planned a three day trip, scheduled just before we both start another semester at school.

Above is a map of the terrain we covered. We started at the Old Faithful area (tourist central), and ended up wrapping around the Shoshone Lake, and ended at the road next to Lewis Lake. In all we covered approximately 26 miles over three days. I'll be giving this trip report in three segments, one for each day on the trail.

Day 1: Mishaps and learning experiences
The first day started out simple enough. We spent the night before in a campsite inside the park in order to have an early start the next morning, and were able to get to the Ranger's office for our backcountry permit just after 8:00 a.m. Car camping the night before kind of messed with my head as we were still using our backpacks, yet enjoying the comforts (Elk steak cooked over a fire) of camping within a campground. It felt good to finally get on the trail and slowly start the 9 mile hike to our first backcountry site.
Geoff and Jordan pictured where we stopped for lunch the first day.
We ate lunch next to the river pictured at the top of this post, and enjoyed the solitude as we took our time eating and replenishing our water supply. The breeze felt great while sitting next to the water, and Geoff and I were tempted to get our fishing gear out in order to try catching something, but wanted to push forward since we still had plenty of miles to cover.

Geoff invited his brother in-law, Jordan, along with us, and I'm so glad he did. Geoff and I always have a blast, and Jordan only made it that much better. While I'm focused on keeping my pace up with both Jordan and Geoff, Jordan was actually reading and hiking at the same time! That guy cracked me up constantly as he has the type of personality where he is just naturally a funny guy.

Only about a mile into the hike I decided that I was done with my trekking poles (I've actually decided to only use them when snowshoeing from now on) as they seemed more annoying than useful. I think that I've tried to convince myself that I like them more than I do, and was happy to put them on my pack. At some point following lunch, one of the locks on my poles came loose and two of the three sections on one of my poles fell off. Since I was in back most of the hike, there is really no way of knowing when the poles came apart. This was the first mishap of the day...

By the time we got to Shoshone Lake all three of us were ready to be done for the day. We had to backtrack a little as we thought our campsite was on the opposite side of the cove, and when we did find our campsite we were a little surprised to find out that it was a good 200 yards from the actual trail itself. We were happy to see that we would be fairly secluded at our site instead of being right off of the trail (as it was in the Tetons), and appreciated that this is how backcountry sites are in Yellowstone.

We camped at 8R5 this first night after hiking past the OA's campsites.
When we got to our site I volunteered to filter enough water for all of our bottles, and was excited to use my filter again as it had been a couple of years since the last (and first) time I used it. I began pumping and pumping, thinking that it was taking longer than expected to fill up the six liter bladder I bought just for the trip. Frustrated, I screwed the filter on my Nalgene bottle so that I could see how fast it was filtering. I discovered that something serious was wrong with my filter, as it was only filtering a small trickle for every pump, and pushing the rest of the water back down the tube. After spending close to an hour trying to figure out what was wrong with it, I gave up and told Geoff that we would need to use his SteriPen until I could figure out what was wrong with my filter. Geoff whipped out his SteriPen, only to discover that the lithium batteries had failed him, and the pen was not working. Mishaps two and three...

We decided that we would just have to boil our water, even though doing so is inefficient on so many different levels.

Another section of the stream we hiked next to at various times
By the time we started to get our dinners ready the mosquitos were out on the hunt. It didn't take long before hundreds upon hundreds of mosquitos found our campsite, and were determined to make us as miserable as possible as we made dinner. Although I was smart enough to buy a bug net just before the trip, I thought that the little bottle of insect repellant (deet-free so it doesn't ruin your gear) I've had for a couple of years would do the trick. This is when I realized that deet substitutes just don't cut it. Mishap number four...

By the time we crawled into our sleeping bags I was pretty discouraged, and realized that I wasn't thinking right. Why would I get so worked up about my filter when I knew that we would be hiking fairly close to fresh water a few times each day of our trip? Why would I let a few small things mess up my head? This is when I realized a couple of important lessons: one - being with at least one other person in the backcountry will help you get a better perspective when things may go wrong (which Geoff did for me), and two - when fatigued from a long day's hike, it becomes much easier to become discouraged and to stop thinking straight.

What did I learn on this first day? When packing away trekking poles, make sure that all locks are tightly secured, and pack the poles upside down so that even if the locks aren't tight, there is no way that they will come apart. Also, bring a back-up filter cartridge and/or batteries for water - you can go weeks without food, but water is essential. Finally, when wanting to lighten the amount of weight you will be carrying on a backpacking trip, better forget leaving essential items at home, assuming that you wont need them (extra bug spray and, again, a way to filter your water).

I didn't take too many photos on this first day. Plenty more photos to come for days 2 and 3 though!

Meals for Day One:
Breakfast - Powdered Milk with Granola
Lunch - Mountain House Chicken Salad with tortillas
Dinner - Homemade spaghetti sauce (frozen, then thawed while on the trail) with Ramen Noodles.
Snacks - Snickers, dehydrated fruit rolls (actually yogurt that I dehydrated at home)
**As a side note, there is a quick fix to my filter, I was just too dumb to pay attention to the instructions when at home...and chose to foolishly leave the instructions behind.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Website Review: Gear Junkie

I've been following Gear Junkie's blog for several months now, and recently "Like'd" them on Facebook. Soon after adding them on Facebook I saw that they were having a contest to win these awesome camp shoes pictured below. What are camp shoes? When backpacking for miles and miles, it feels good to get out of your hiking boots to let your feet dry out, air out, and just take a break while walking around your campsite. Camp shoes don't need to be constructed like regular shoes because they are only worn for short distances around your campsite, so it would make sense for them to weigh close to nothing right? It may seem that way, but with the exception of wearing (in my opinion) some hideous Crocs or flip-flops, lightweight camp shoes are hard to come by. I digress...this post is about Gear Junkie....
How did I win these awesome camp shoes that actually zip up, making the shoe small AND compact? Below is my answer to how Chuck Norris would use this shoe.

Needless to say, I was pretty excited that my Chuck Norris knowledge finally paid off after all of these years:)

Go to Gear Junkie and check out the website. These guys have a very impressive list of gear reviews for biking, running, camping, climbing/mountaineering, food/hydration, women's gear, footwear, clothing, skiing/winter, biking, technology, ultra-sports, backpacks, boat/water, and misc. Seems like a lot of those categories overlap a little, but it makes more sense as you browse through each category.

"Like" them on facebook here and check out their blog here. I am a supporter of any site which makes finding quality outdoors gear easier, and can tell that these guys know what they are talking about. 

In closing, I have a few questions. Have I ever won ANYTHING in my life? No. Was I excited to win this contest? Yes. Have I received the shoes yet? Nope... I sent them an e-mail a couple of weeks ago, asking if I would have the shoes in time for my trip to Yellowstone which is now only a week away, but haven't heard back yet...

In a couple of weeks I should have a trip review of me backpacking in Yellowstone. Can't wait!!!!