I finally had the chance to do a backpacking trip that I have wanted to do for a long, long time. This was a 75-mile long trip across the wildest part of Yellowstone National Park (YNP) and joining me for the adventure was my friend Aman. Regrettably, I am behind posting to this blog, so I will keep the prose brief and let the pictures below do all the talking.
Day 1, Sunday, July 21: Aman and I arrived at the south entrance of YNP to pick up our backcountry permit at the ranger’s station. We drove a considerable distance to the northeast corner of Yellowstone Lake to the Nine Mile Trailhead and dropped off the car. It was already late into the morning when we donned our backpacks and set off on the Thorofare Trail heading south alongside the lake. The weather was hot, sunny, and dry. The good news was that the terrain was flat so the two of us were able to reel off easy miles, save for the occasional creeks and downfalls to cross. On towards late afternoon, the mosquitos became almost unbearable … the worst concentration of them I have seen outside of Alaska. We camped just beyond the south end of the lake and were actually visited by a friendly park ranger as the sun was going down.
Day 2, Monday, July 22: The weather was a carbon copy of the day before, and so were the mosquitos 😂 The Thorofare Trail continued to head south through the vastness of the Two Ocean Plateau, which has the distinction (literally) of being the most geographically remote location of the Lower 48. This was a lush, flat valley with mountains to the west and east and was very beautiful. Once again, Aman and I were able to make quick work of the easy miles throughout the day. What was so remarkable was that we still had yet to see another backpacker. Towards the end of the day, as we neared our targeted campsite , we had to ford the Thorofare River, an unsettling, yet fairly easy, crossing. The picture you see up top in the banner is the picture taken from our campsite that night. Not a bad view, ‘eh?!
Day 3, Tuesday, July 23: Things became much more serious in terms of the hiking. We had to switch over to the South Boundary Trail and had to cover 20 + miles over much more aggressive terrain in order to keep to our schedule. Now the fun was transitioning into work. First, we had to cross the Yellowstone River. This crossing was legitimately dangerous because the current was swift, the water up to our waists, and the river bottom filled with unstable cobblestone. One slip here in such a remote part of the world could have had very unpleasant consequences. We carefully made it though and breathed a collective sigh of relief. Next, the trail climbed steeply into the mountains stacked up to the west. Grizzly bear hair, poop, and tracks were frequently observed, so we made sure we did lots of clapping and yelling to make our presence known (I also had a bear bell attached to my hiking pole). The trail kept climbing all through the day, as the weather began to take a turn for the worse. We passed alpine lakes and through mountain valleys sprinkled with beautiful wildflowers. Towards evening, Aman and I were tired and it began to rain. Quickly, we set up our tent (our mosquito-free refuge!), ate dinner, pumped water, hung our food in our bear bag, and went straight to sleep.
Day 4, Wednesday, July 24: Since we had to cover a lot of miles today, we set off on our backpack relatively early. I think both Aman and I agreed that this day was the most spectacular in terms of the scenery. Shortly after embarking, we reached the apex of the trail and had a world-class, breathtaking view of the Grand Tetons. After taking some pictures, we continued on. The trail began a gradual all-day descent for many miles and we began to see a few other parties of hikers and backpackers. By now, we were stopping a little bit more for water and food because it had been a long, tough 4 days of backpacking. The trail started to parallel the Snake River all the way to the south entrance of the park. Here, we had one last major river crossing late in the afternoon before we could say we were done. Luckily, once out on the main road, we were able to hitch a ride with a lovely, retired couple the whole way back to our car.
If you like truly wild adventures with a sprinkle of some unknowns, then this is the trip for you. Be aware that it does require some careful, advance planning. However, the payoff is a trip of a lifetime. Enjoy and let me know how you liked it.