Picking a favorite trip was not an easy task for me. Together, Janel and I have been to a lot of special places and seen some amazing things. There is one trip that will always stand out to me, though, as the most memorable. This was our week-long backpack trip through Yellowstone National Park.
In the fall of 2011, we took a two-week vacation to Wyoming. We spent most of the first week hiking, biking, horseback riding and kayaking around Grand Teton National Park.
Once we left the Tetons, we drove through the Wind River Mountains and spent a couple of days doing the standard tourist activities at Yellowstone.
After a couple of days in the Yellowstone frontcountry, it was time to hit the backcountry. Earlier in the year, we had signed up for a week-long backpacking trip with a wilderness guiding company named Big Wild Adventures. Despite having a lot of hiking miles on our boots, we had never spent any time in Grizzly country nor had we ever spent that many nights out. We decided it would be a good idea to go with an experienced guide and a group of hikers. It turned out to be a great decision. Our guide was excellent and the couple we hiked with from Denmark were so much fun.
Day 1 – Getting Started
Our trip started near Old Faithful in southwest Yellowstone. The first day was an easy mileage day and we got to camp with plenty of daylight. This was good because Janel and I both had huge packs and it took a little getting used to. It only took a mile or two on the trail before I began questioning every item I packed and thought I needed (Three t-shirts? Really?). After putting down our packs and setting up camp, we day-hiked to Lone Star Geyser.
Day 2 – Shoshone Lake
The next day, we hiked further into the backcountry. The further we hiked, the fewer people we saw. By the time we got to Shoshone Lake it seemed like we were the only ones around. We set up camp by Shoshone Lake, the largest backcountry lake in the lower 48 states, and day-hiked to the geyser basin on its shores. It was amazing to have all of the geysers all to ourselves with no boardwalks or tourists! On the way back to our campsite, we barely missed a thunderstorm that pounded our tent with hail. That night we watched the full moon rise over Shoshone Lake.
Day 3 – Relaxing
We started day three with some eerie looking fog. After the fog burnt off, we stopped for lunch near an old log. We quickly figured out this log was home to hive of bees and Janel got stung three times. The rest of the day was pretty easy walking and we spent the afternoon hanging out and swapping stories with our new friends.
Day 4 – Mr. Bubbles
I almost feel guilty for giving away the best secret spot in Yellowstone, but I couldn’t talk about this day without mentioning Mr. Bubbles! After a rainy start to the day, we hiked a few miles to get to get to another geothermal area. In this area, an icy cold river ran adjacent to some very hot springs. At Mr. Bubbles, a large pool is formed where the river mixes with a hot spring and bubbles come out of the ground like jets. It is the perfect hot tub. We ran into a few more rainstorms that day, but all was well around the fire.
Day 5 – Day of Water
At this point, we were in the Bechler River canyon and we would meet the river many times this day. After a few tedious river crossings, we took a break at the beautiful Iris Falls. Once we were hiking again, it did not take long to get to the double-decker Colonnade Falls. Much of the rest of the day, we hiked along the river until we reached the vast meadows outside of the caldera. After a little off trail hiking, we got to our established campsite at the edge of a meadow.
Day 6 – Rain and Hot Springs
Rain. All day. We passed the time with a mini deck of cards and some games of pinecone tic-tac-toe. By the afternoon, we decided it was time to make the soggy hike up to Dunanda Falls. It was worth it. Once we got there, we got to soak in hot springs while being sprayed by the massive falls. It was getting late, but we found it hard to leave our little hot tub.
Day 7 – Last Day
On our last day, we hiked out of Wyoming and into Idaho. The whole time we could see the backside of the Tetons. As we were hiking out, we met a ranger on patrol. We ended our amazing hike at the Bechler Ranger Station.
This was an incredible trip and really highlighted everything I love about backpacking: amazing scenery, solitude, and great people.