Saturday, July 21, 2012

Three State Stretch

Hi everybody, writing today from the amazing, awesome, spectacular (and much needed rest spot) Mountain View Motel in tiny Lima, MT.Its been a rough stretch, as I’ve essentially hiked 11 days straight to get here with only a couple brief resupply stops in Brooks Lake, Old Faithful Village, and Sawtelle Mountain Lodge, but no real place to recharge. It was definitely a relief to finally see I-15 and know that a bed, a restaurant, a shower, and a washing machine lay down the road somewhere.

But now, the good stuff. The hike coming out of Lander was amazing as the trail swiftly heads up into the Wind River Range, a rough and rocky area popular with climbers and classes from the Northern Outdoor Leadership School located in town.  Due to my long hiatus from the outdoors I was caught by Lint and DirtMonger, two fellow Northbounders, whom I hiked with for several days. It was nice to have someone else to walk with, though I let them do most of the talking. Their prescence made pushing in a few extra miles daily a little easier, though we eventually went different ways when I decided to take a more challenging route up to Knapsack Col, an absolutely beautiful pass at the top of an awesome basin full of overflowing lakes, and surrounded by glacier-draped peaks. From there, the path skirts more crystal clear ponds and drops down to the silt-tinged Green River before heading north toward less well tread trail nearer Togowtee Pass.

The next section, once again hiking alone, started towards Yellowstone National Park. This was yet another highlight on the trail, and included the unexpectedly cool Buffalo Falls, an undeveloped cascade into a narrow limestone ravine with overhanging cliffs, dripping stone formations, and knife-thin cracks etched into the bedrock. The lack of roads or tourist in the area lent much to the appeal of the place, particularly given the preponderance of equestrians crowding the rest of the trail through the area. Also of interest was the Parting of the Waters, an aptly named point in Two Ocean Creek where the stream divides and the water heads off for opposite end of the continent. I can only picture a gaggle of water molecules, falling like hyperactive elementary school kids from some cloud, forming cliques in their teenage years as they as they rush downriver, then parting to go their different ways as if to college; one, to the Atlantic, to get some job at a law firm.  The other, westward, to open a surf shop in La Jolla. But maybe I just have too much time on my hands. At least it takes ones mind off the threat of grizzlies, of which I have only seen one, and that was running in the opposite direction.

The hike through the park itself is somewhat lackluster overall, with long, flat stretches of swamp walking, but the cool bits obviously make up for the the less interesting hauls. The park is huge, so some fluff is to be expected I guess. The path passes through several remote thermal areas before reaching the main event at Old Faithful Village, as well as some huge open meadows and lakes which help relieve the monotony. While normally the National Parks can be a bit disappointing due to the swell of tourists and shops, its hard not to be impressed by this one. One look at the steam-filled basin, with its myriad of gysers, hot springs and bubbling pools, each with its own unique character, makes you aware that it is a special place on Earth. The park itself however is a good example of the thru hiker taking the bitter with the better, as one can't pick and choose the cool parts, or just run for cover when the swarms of mosquitoes arrive. And OH MY GOD the mosquitoes in Yellowstone. Now lets never speak of them again.

The trail eventually climbs out from the park basin and into the hill again as it crosses the border into Idaho. Alas, there is little fanfare as the state line lacks even a sign, but it was a good feeling none-the-less, and yet another milestone. From there, it seems to take special care in following the physical divide, resulting in a roller coaster ride of ups and downs complete with some great views overlooking the distant, river strewn lowlands. Unfortunately this also means alot of steep elevation loss and gain, as well as alot of unmarked bushwacking that can slow the hiking alot. It can be frustrating, and I only hope that it gets at least marginally better as it heads up into Montana proper. I hope to be done in approximately a month, but given the unpredicatbility of the terrain, it can be hard to make such a call, and the amount of miles one can cram in a day fluctautes quite a bit. Anyway, time to rest up and prepare for the next stretch; its finally begining to feel like the end is in sight with only 800 miles or so left to go.  I'm definitely excited to get to the finish line and back to civilization.

No comments: