CDT Part 7–Yellowstone

Yellowstone National Park is big. Like, really big. But, it’s not just big geographically. It just is big. Standing on a ridge looking into the park, I could just feel that Yellowstone was special–big, wild, untouched. 

We hiked into the park from the north side, skirting the edge of the park that first day. It was raining and threatening to rain all day, but that only made the Sky Rim trail that much more dramatic. 

Up, down, and up again, all the while overlooking a massive valley. Maybe it was just that I knew it was yellowstone, and that this land had been sacred to indigenous people, and then preserved by white people almost immediately upon “discovering” it, but it felt like those valleys could swallow a skyscraper they were so big. 

But no skyscrapers here, except for the ridgeline we’re walking. 

That day the rain fell all afternoon, but by evening it was clearing up. We camped right oon the park boundary near a small lake. 

I drank that lake water, and it tasted like a pond: grassy, mossy, and stagnant. But, the following morning I didn’t care. My shoes and socks were wet but my shirt was dry. I put some instant coffee in that pond water and hiked toward the Yellowstone village of Mammoth Hot Springs. 

And then I realized what a zoo Yellowstone was near anywhere that had a road. 

Okay, so that whole big, wild, and untouched part? That was over. Now, I’m in disneyland. But there are geysers and overpriced food. 

Rather than spend a week walking the eastern edge of the park, resupplying in expensive national park stores and missing out on Old Faithful, we walked the main road that bisects the park from the north to the south. 

About 30 miles of road walking, at least it was through Yellowstone, though. And, once we got near Old Faithful, there was a lovely bike path that led to hiking trails, and those led to Old Faithful Village. And, in Old Faithful Village I will connect back with the actual CDT. The Big Sky Alternate is over.

Don’t try to sleep in Old Faithful Village unless you’re rich, though. There is no camping there, and the Inn costs hundreds of dollars per night. But, there is a dinner buffet and 1000s of tourists. 

Just outside of Yellowstone I slept on top of a pass. For some reason that evening I was particularly choosy about selecting a good campsite. I walked a mile or so along that high meadow, looking for a spot with coverage from the inevitable wind and away from dead trees. There were a lot of dead trees up there, but I eventually found a nice spot tucked under some very alive pine trees. 

I wake up at 10:30 to bright flashes of lightning and big thunderous booms. I had been asleep for an hour already, but the thunder was loud. 

That lightning must be really close, because it’s flashing on all sides of my tent. Holy shit, good thing I picked a protected campsite. I watch the lightning flash and listen to the rain for a little while. Then, I cover my eyes with my black tights so I can’t see the flashes and fall back asleep. 

The next morning the storm had stopped. I pack up my things and start walking.

The storm resumes after I walk a couple of miles. 

It’s just raining, though. Okay, now it’s thundering. Now it’s raining harder, and there’s lightning. Now it’s raining really hard. This rain is going to be hail soon. I find a tree to wait under. Yep, it’s hailing now. 

After 10 minutes or so the hail has passed. It’s just raining again. I walk on. So far today I’ve walked downhill into a valley. I can tell from the map that I’m going to be crossing the river that runs through the valley soon, then climbing out of the valley on the other side. Well, it’s thundering all around me, and the lightning flashes are still happening right after the thunder. Maybe I shouldn’t cross this river yet.

But as I sit next to the river, thinking maybe it isn’t safe to fjord a giant river during a lightning storm, I see the puddle I’m sitting next to and decide this all isn’t particularly safe. And I’m not the tallest thing in the area, anyways. 

I fjord the river and don’t die. 

Climbing up the other side of the valley, the storm finally passes. Now, the rest of my day is a muddy mess. But, it’s not raining, much, so I’ll take muddy shoes. 

Now I’m closing in on the Wind River Range. 

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