Monday, October 10, 2011

Yellowstone Diary

All 14 backpackers made it back on Wednesday from the wilds, unscathed, but for ferocious mosquito attacks. Yellowstone has experienced lots of rain and snow runoff this summer, breeding billions more mosquitos than usual. So unbearable was the assault on the 8 of us who scaled Observation Peak (9400 feet) that we, stopped little on our way up the mountain, compressed lunch and supper into a single feeding, hung the bear bag hastily, and sought refuge in our tents. We were asleep by 8:00 PM. The long rest, however, energized us to awake at 5:00 AM to watch a spectacular sunrise overlooking the Central Plateau, with reds, and pinks and yellows streaking the stratus clouds while the fog lifted in wisps from twinkling Canyon Village below. The descent rewarded us with hip-deep meadows of wildflowers and a papa grizzly grazing peacefully at a distance of about 300 yards. Detecting our bear-alarm whoops, he galloped off behind a concealing ridge. After a hot INDOORS breakfast in Canyon Village on Wednesday we headed south to explore the post-card perfect Upper Falls and Lower Falls of the Yellowstone River -- drops exceeding 100 feet and 300 feet respectively.

The six hikers who took the trail to Mt Holmes (led by Joe Barone and John Hicklin) encountered a similar assault by the needle-sharp mosquitos. Portions of there trail were strewn with downed trees and washed-out foot bridges. Some chose to cross the largest creek bare foot through frigid water, while others balanced as acrobats on piled up logs. Cade said the best part of the journey was trying to find the over-grown and sparsely blazed path, while Christopher remarked that the best part was getting back into the cars out of the mosquitos' reach.
The third contingent spent Tuesday hiking up formidable Mt. Washburn (10,600 feet) to experience a panoramic 360-degree view of Specimen Ridge, the Mirror Plateau, the rim of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River, and even the Teton Range more than 100 miles south. This day-hiking group spent the following day re-examining the colorful hot springs around Old Faithful.

Unannounced, each of the three groups converged on Wednesday afternoon at the Mud Volcano that Joe Scutt had warned us not to miss. The spewing mud pot is part of a ring of fissures where reeking sulfuric gases and boiling hot acidic water hiss upward to create the Dragon's Mouth, Black Cauldron, Boiling Hillside and other unusual geothermal spectacles. The rotten-egg smell permeating the area was actually a welcome relief to the BO cloud enveloping our gang.
Mr. Campion

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