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{day 3}

Overnight rain meant a cold and damp morning, but we were up early in anticipation of a long day of hiking. We were scheduled to move on so we broke camp and loaded our gear. As the group gathered to hike out, Jeff and Louie posed for a few photos with the bear hang.

We always get questions about bears, and Yellowstone is definitely bear country. Every park handles it a little differently — Yosemite had us pack and store everything in bear canisters, Glacier had bear hangs similar to this and our guide carried bear spray, and Yellowstone had both bear hangs AND encouraged each hiker to have their own personal bear spray! Bear hangs are designed to keep food and toiletries a minimum distance from the ground and a minimum distance from either tree. Add those dimensions to the size of the claw marks on the tree above — and that should give you a pretty good idea of how big Yogi can get!

Group photo at camp Day 3
Group photo at camp Day 3

We stayed in sight of Heart Lake that morning, and took a break to enjoy a river otter in the water and deer on the hillside.

On the banks of Heart Lake
On the banks of Heart Lake

Day 3 was all about variety — and it was a long one. Almost 11 miles through thick forest, across beautiful meadows, and along the river.

Our guide, Louie, had just been on this trail the week before and presented us with a choice he’d discovered — “the long way” including getting our boots wet in Basin Creek or keeping our boots dry by taking “a short cut” over a beaver dam.

We unanimously opted to put our faith in beaver engineering and bushwhacked down to the dam.

I’ve never been a fan of bridges, and while this was certainly not a typical “bridge” it was no picnic. Beavers know what they’re doing, but they don’t exactly build those things with hikers in mind!

All day it sprinkled on and off, but never heavy or sustained enough to warrant rain gear. We enjoyed the wildlife — deer, elk, ducks, otter, falcons, marmots — and as we made it to camp about 4:15, the rain was coming on. Camp that night was along the Snake River, and we had a great view of the canyon as we closed in on campsite 8C6 for the night.

Yellowstone 2015

Yellowstone 2015

We hurried, but ended up pitching tents and making camp in the rain. And — again at the mercy of nature and the weather — we cancelled plans to soak in a natural hot spring after dinner. We huddled under a tree for a quick supper then headed to the tent for an early, rainy night.

This, friends, is what boredom in the cold, rainy woods looks like… We were zipped into the tent before 7pm, looking at a long night.

Tent selfies. I think we were delirious.
Tent selfies. I think we were delirious.

Yellowstone 2015

At least modern technology allowed us to break it up a little — we enjoyed a video of Colt telling jokes at his school talent show. And there was even some excitement when we discovered a leak in the tent — but I MacGyvered it with my rain jacket and all was well.

Yellowstone 2015

G’night, rain!

Day 3 – 10.75 miles hiking and more than our fair share of rain.

{day 4}

Let’s just say this — I’ve spent more pleasant nights in a tent…

It rained. ALL NIGHT. And it was cold. And once you’re wet and cold — there’s not much to do but try not to dwell on it.

And maybe I woke up cranky because it’s tough not to feel a little down on the last day hiking — you know you’re headed back to civilization and reality and everything that comes with it.

But there’s nothing like an early morning river crossing to get your head on straight! Right off the bat, we had to fjord the Snake on our way out of camp. And it was MOVING. The all-night rain had the river higher than the night before, and the current was strong enough to make us nervous. Add slick, mossy rocks on the bottom and packs that make balance a challenge — and this was a lot trickier than it looks.

Yellowstone 2015

Yellowstone 2015

Yellowstone 2015

Yellowstone 2015

Jeff went across first, and I didn’t snag a photo — but we stopped for a Keeping TIME photo after everyone was safely across.

Keeping TIME on the banks of the Snake River
Keeping TIME on the banks of the Snake River, Mt. Sheridan in the background

An ice cold river crossing and the morning was just getting started!

As we hiked along the Snake, we had what is universally considered the IDEAL bear sighting — from a safe distance, across the river.

Yellowstone 2015

And shortly after, we were ready for another treat — the hot spring soak cancelled by the rain the night before. We bushwhacked to a secluded, off-trail spot where the Snake River meets Hot Creek.

Hot Creek - approximately 180 degrees
Hot Creek – approximately 180 degrees

The ice cold Snake River meets the 180-ish degree Hot Creek to form a perfect spot for us to soak, and have some breakfast.

Yellowstone 2015
Snake River meets Hot Creek

Yellowstone 2015

Yellowstone 2015

The current in the water meant we had to move around a bit to keep from getting too hot or getting an ice cold shot of the river water along the top — but it felt amazing. We enjoyed the Yellowstone Hot Tub soak and had our breakfast on the bank, before it was time to get moving again.

Yellowstone 2015

We always rave about our guides — and this trip was no different. Thad and Louie were pros and a great team — and we would confidently recommend Wildland Trekking Company to anyone.

Jeff, Thad, Louie, Sarah
Jeff, Thad, Louie, Sarah

Thanks to the rain the night before we had a seriously muddy hike out that day — our short 5 miles after the spring felt like 10 as we tried to avoid the deepest mud and find alternative routes when we could. But! Mud makes for great tracks! We saw wolf, deer, and some eerily perfect grizzly tracks.

Grizzly Bear track on the muddy trail
Grizzly Bear track on the muddy trail

Yellowstone 2015

As we slowly made it through the mud, we talked about our favorite parts of the trip and were already reminiscing about our adventures in Yellowstone. But we had one more hurdle before we were done. We got to fjord the Snake – again! This was just short of our final destination so Jeff and I opted to keep our hikers on, rather than change into river shoes.

Safely across the river – again – we were headed to our shuttle driver and a cooler of lunch.

Yellowstone 2015
Packs off! Our whole group at the South Boundary Trailhead.

That photo was taken just before we headed for the nearest picnic table and enjoyed all the deliciousness our shuttle driver brought in the cooler. Everything tastes amazing when you’ve been in the woods for four days.

Day 4 – 6.5 miles hiking and 2 river crossings

Yellowstone delivered big. Geysers and bears and weather and scenery unlike anything we’ve ever seen. After years of making these trips together, Jeff and I are repeatedly asked if we have a favorite — and I genuinely hope the answer is always no. I hope we keep finding new adventure and making new memories — and that each trip continues to make it impossible to pick a favorite.

[typography font=”Copse” size=”24″ size_format=”px” color=”#8c0510″]Adventure is out there!
– Ellie, Up[/typography]

Yellowstone 2015

3 thoughts on “Yellowstone, Part 2 | Bear Tracks and Nature’s Hot Tub

  1. i love your adventures and your commitment to them! adventure on, friends!!

    also, as i look through the photos i am coveting your pants. i am going to need some recommendations from you!

  2. Dear Sarah, we have just relived the hike and so enjoyed your posts and all the photos. I realise now that we have your faithful record, that I might have exaggerated distances and pack weights a little as I have recounted our great adventure to friends. For us, interesting to see a photo of Colt too. Can I say cute?
    So nice that you have kept our English quaintness to yourself! I was wondering if “jumpers” and “hoovering up food” was going to appear in your blog.
    Cecily and I are thinking about doing a one week hike next year. We haven’t read your blog post on Glacier yet, we are getting quite interested in the Continental Divide!!
    I hope all is well with you guys . We greatly enjoyed your company on the hike. It all made for a wonderful and memorable holiday, very best, Lucinda

  3. Lovely pictures! Looks like you guys had a great time. Hikes can be so refreshing, and being so near nature can be exhilarating. Thanks for sharing your experience!

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