Sunday, October 23, 2011

Trip Report: Yellowstone - Old Faithful to Lewis Lake, Day 3 of 3

Alright, last and final day of my backpacking trip in Yellowstone a of months ago...
Check out the other two days:
Day One - Old Faithful to Shoshone Lake
Day Two - Shoshone Lake, sites 8R5 to 8M1

Check out Geoff's take on things, and a few more photos here: Day One, Day Two, and Day Three
Final decent view of Shoshone Lake
Day 3: Campsite 8M1 to Lewis Lake

The morning of day three was the coldest by far. The night before I hung my underwear outside to dry out over night. I was happy to see them still hanging on the branches I hung them on, and was not surprised to find them frozen stiff (note to self - if you're going to rinse out clothes, and you plan on wearing them the next day, do this as early in the afternoon as possible so they can actually dry out).

It was only about forty minutes after all of us got up and starting getting our breakfast together that Jordan said "guys!" and had a look on his face like he saw something exciting. I thought he was just joking with us, and waited for him to chuckle or something. Then I looked at where he was staring, and saw this...

Geoff and I grabbed out cameras, excited to FINALLY see some wildlife! The moose was impressively quiet, and although it was aware of our presence, it didn't seem to mind us creeping up closer to get a photo. So exciting! Just as quickly as he walked through our camp, he disappeared through some brush about thirty yards away from us.

I was so happy to have finally seen some wildlife. To be completely honest, I personally don't see the purpose of visiting Yellowstone more than once or twice. There is an incredible amount of backcountry worth seeing, but I feel that the real pull to go there in the first place is to see moose, bears, elk, buffalo, ect. To see a buffalo on the side of the road is pretty cool, but to be in the backcountry when seeing wildlife is that much more impressive. Being miles and miles away from any help when seeing a wild animal brings with it a natural rush. Who knows if the animal is going to be o.k. with your presence, or may see you as a threat?

Although I love my backpacking trips, I always seem to hike with more anticipation on my last day. It's not that I look forward to the trip being over, I just look forward to being with my family again. For most of the day I played a psychological game with myself, trying to focus on just enjoying the hike instead of feeling anxious or rushed to get out and back home ASAP. Even though I felt like I was hiking a hair faster than the other two days, Geoff and Jordan proved otherwise. During the other two days the three of us hiked within talking distance of each other, and we (honestly I should say, rather, Geoff and Jordan) would wait for whoever was straggling behind (me...), but the third day I only really saw them when we started out on the trailhead, when they stopped by the river for a photo opp, and then whenever they stopped to wait for me.

 Interesting, Geoff and I have never really talked about "the last day phenomenon" when he tends to walk twice as fast, leaving me out of sight and out of mind. He did mention it in his post of the trip, assuming that I might have been annoyed by it, but I don't think it really bothered me at all really. It gives me an opportunity to just take the scenery in and get a final alone-time. It does make me more self-conscious though, assuming that Geoff may be bothered with me falling behind, but we will have to talk this out the next time we go on an outing together. Here is what Geoff said in his post:

I don't know why but the last day of a hike I always just push harder.  It isn't that I want to get out of the woods or even get the pack off my back.  I just feel like I can improve my time, like a runner that catches a 2nd wind.  Something that is hard to explain.  I'm sure it annoys Zach a little bit, he is the one always putting up with it.

We were forced to cross the river when finishing up Shoshone Lake. It was at this moment that I wished I would have had my camp shoes I posted about a few weeks ago. The water was cold, but the real problem was wearing a 40 pound pack while walking on sharp rocks. Having anything on my feet for protection would have made all the difference. I felt like I was the wimp when it came to crossing though. Jordan and Geoff didn't seem bothered by it at all.

It was also at this moment when we had to decide between taking the shorter route which would have taken us up and away from the river which connected Shoshone and Lewis lakes, or take the longer route which would follow the river the rest of the way until we connected to Lewis Lake. Although I wanted to save time in order to get out faster (remember, I still had an 8 hour drive home AFTER actually hiking out, and promised my wife I would be home before she went to bed), I grew tired of the indecision when weighing out our options, and voted to just stay close to the river. Although it added another 1.5 miles, I'm glad that we did. The scenery was gorgeous throughout most of the hike, and it was fun walking within view of the water.
The Tetons in the distance while at Lewis Lake
Once we made it to Lewis Lake, we soon stopped on the bank and I took the above photo of the Tetons. There is something about the Tetons that I can't really describe. Maybe it's due to the fact that it was at the Tetons that Geoff and I had our first backpacking trip together (and it was my first backpacking trip ever), or maybe it's because the feel at the Tetons remind me of, what I consider to be, my second home (the Grand Sierras), or it's just because the Tetons are so gorgeous - whatever the reason is, whenever I see the Tetons I get a serious longing to be there.
Lewis Lake, towards the trailhead
When we finally made it to the trailhead, I was honestly planning on hitchhiking to Old Faithful to get my car, and then come back to pick up Geoff and Jordan. I thought that the chances of Geoff's wife getting to the trailhead within fifteen minutes to a half hour of us arriving was slim-to-none, and that hitchhiking would get us out of there quicker. We had only been sitting there for maybe two minutes when Geoff's wife pulled up in their truck! When we got to the trailhead Geoff walked out to the road to flag down his wife, and it was only a minute or so after that when she drove by the turnoff. This was, by far, my favorite moment of the day:)

I've kind of started a tradition for myself, something I found myself thinking about constantly on our hike out that final day. The last two or three trips I've done have ended with a nice greasy hamburger, fries, and a coke. Something about not having to prepare such a high caloric meal just feels like heaven after going without any real comforts while on the trail. I should have done my research and found a good hamburger within Yellowstone, but ended up waiting until I got to Idaho Falls since I was crunched for time, and just bought a cheap fast food burger instead.

This was a really fun trip, full of adventures and hard-learned lessons. When I got home I took out the instructions for my MSR filter, and found out what a true idiot I was when packing. Thinking that every ounce counts, I left the instructions for the filter, and the scrubbing pad to clean the filter at home. All I had to do was scrub the ceramic element for about thirty seconds and the thing worked as good as it did when I used it before. I mistakenly assumed that when I boiled it before storing it, this would have taken off any sediment or contaminants. It took care of the contaminants, but not the grime that slows down the filter. Never again!!!!!

I put off writing this last post for several weeks after seeing that I wasn't getting too many views. I had a lot of fun with the previous posts about equipment and such, and will soon be posting about the best outdoors blogs I have found, as well as some survival blogs as well. Stay tuned!