This post was written in my sleeping bag at the end of a long day. Please excuse any errors.
There are so many hikers in Dubois. Seven of us and a southbounder roll in. I am the only woman, but I’m still happy to be with so many others. We go to the bar- someone has bought shots for hikers and Wild land, who doesn’t drink, hands me his. The Brits keep buying beers and soon I am the drunkest I’ve been so far on the trail. We stay up late chatting and in the morning, I feel like death.
I chug coffees and Gatorade and still feel awful. I have to call the Yellowstone permit office and it takes forever, first for the lady to assign campsites and then for her to email me my permit. We rush out of town, as the thunderstorms build. 13 miles go by fast and By the time we reach the highway, the entire sky is black. We hitch two rides back to town, even though we had intended to continue. Our second ride is Billy Snodgrass, an Iditarod musher. I feel a little guilty about bailing, but when a huge thunderstorm pounds town at 3am, I’m very glad to be inside. We leave early. I chat up an older gentleman sitting outside a coffee shop while Wild Land uses the bathroom and he quickly offers us a ride to the pass. Once on “trail”, I quickly wish I was back in town. There’s no trail, no trail markers and everything is swamp. There is decent tread after a mile or two, but the mud will plague us all day, slipping and sliding. After lunch, we cross South fork Buffalo River. I’ve heard sketchy things, but it’s only knee deep on Wild Land. This means it is crotch deep on me, of course, but I easily make it through. Then we are hiking through a burn to camp, following big cat prints and then biggish bear prints. It’s the first bear sign I’ve seen in a while. Grizzly country!
Continuing the theme of water, we start the day with another big river crossing. It’s only crotch deep again, but the bottom is covered with slippery boulders. It takes a long time for me to find flat, stable places for my feet, and every thing is numb by the time I reach the other side. We only have 25 miles to the park boundary, but we have a big climb over two oceans pass first, racing the thunderstorms as always. At the campsite, I realize I’ve made a mistake. Our Yellowstone permits are for a day later than I thought. Oh well. There’s nothing I can do with no phone signal, and I certainly don’t have enough food to sit for a day. Guess we’ll just have to go.
I wake up in the night to howling wolves. We make good time through the park and stop and hang out by heart lake for a while, relaxing in the sun. We pack up and hike by the ranger cabin. There are actually rangers there, so we explain our problem and ask what we should do. One of them gets on the radio and 15 minutes later, we have a permit for a spot 12 miles down the trail. It’s 5pm and that will make a 33.3 mile day for us, still a massive amount of miles for my short legs. But there’s nothing to do but go, go, go, past the hot springs and thermal vents, past the thunderclouds churning overhead. We make it just after dark. I’m up early, after very little sleep. We ford a warm river, and then it’s 20 miles to town and we are running for it. We go through more thermal areas, bubbling pools and steaming vents, and then we are dropping down to Old Faithful, overwhelming with its crowds and cars and bustle. We stop by the permit office and find the only campsite we can stay at is 10 miles out. Great. Another 30. But we can’t leave before seeing Old Faithful. We eat, then wait for the Geyser. It’s impressive, but the crowd is overwhelming. We walk down the boardwalk, stopping to watch the grand geyser erupt. It’s far more impressive than Old Faithful, spurting like a fountain. Then we’re running for camp. Two miles shy and I’m exhausted, when I spot Wild Land on the side of the trail. He’s packed out hotdogs and we roast them. I’m so tired and ready to camp here, permit or not, when Spindrift comes past. He’s heading for the same spot and we form a little dusk hiking train, hiking fast. Theres a southbounder already there and we all find our spots. Four hikers together, what a crowd! It’s not far to the Idaho Wyoming border from our campspot by Summit Lake and then I am running for Macks Inn, a tiny tourist town on the banks of the Snake. I can’t run too fast though- thimble berries line the side of the road and I eat handfuls of them.