Monday June 30th: By 4pm we were at the Ranger Station of Yellowstone National Park, ready to hit the trail again. We knew that we were getting a late start, so we hurried as much as possible. Once arriving at the Hellroaring Creek TH the sky was getting darker by the minute. We changed back into our hiking gear, and packed our bags for the next couple days. I decided to put the rain cover on my pack just in case it started to rain, and then it started! We climbed back in the car, and decided to wait 15 minutes to see if it was going to pass. Lucky for us, the rain slowed after almost exactly 15 minutes. Danny looked at me to get a comfort reading, as to whether we should venture out at 6:30pm, with light rain, and sporadic lightning... I thought, well we made it this far - might as well keep going!
We put on even more gear - rain pants and rain jackets - and hit the trail.
The excitement of it all and the nightfall creeping in, kept us moving briskly. Going downhill I was lightly jogging just to keep up with Danny long legs.
We headed straight for the creek, which would determine our hiking schedule - if we could cross/ford the river, our campsite was only 2 miles further. If we couldn't cross/ford the river we would have to hike an additional 3 miles to use the bridge to cross! That would put us to camp after nightfall. Needless to say, I was REALLY hoping that we could safely cross the river. We arrived, and quickly got to work strategizing. Danny would go first, carrying both of our packs, drop them at the other side, them come back across to help me. I was so proud we made it safely across!! Looking back now, there are a number of ways this could have gone wrong, but we didn't really have time to worry about those when we were in the moment.
Covered head to toe with long sleeve shirts, pants, socks, and mosquito nets, we continued our hike through the buffalo pastures to our campsite. Once we arrived are could not stop moving for 3 seconds before being attacked by 50 mosquitos THROUGH our long sleeve shirts! It was so intense.
Our only saving grace, was to set up the tent and focus entirely on getting inside without letting any creatures in... So Danny worked on the tent, while I started dinner about 100 yards away, near the bear pole and the creek. Our Ramen dinner was made quickly but there was no way of eating it with a mosquito net on, so we had to enjoy this meal on the move. We literally had to hike while slurping soup, up and down the trail until it was all eaten and we could quickly clean up and hide out in the tent.
Although it was just barely dark out, it had been an exhausting day that started in the Tetons and ended in Yellowstone. We were more than ready to be in our sleeping clothes, tucked into our sleeping bags, well protected from the hoards of mosquitos buzzing around outside.
Tuesday July 1st: We took our time waking up and packing our things, since we were spending the whole day today in the park and only hiking about 6 miles to our next campsite. We climbed up out of our buggy campsite, to the top of a rock outcropping to make a yummy breakfast of oatmeal and coffee. It really is so much better when you're out in the elements with such a treat like coffee :)
Again, after taking our time with breakfast we packed our things and headed back down the path we came to meet the main trail. This part of the day was not my favorite by any means. We were up to our elbows in buggy pasture brush, with an occasional mucky puddle on the trail. We were each carrying at least 50 flies on our packs. As we moved back toward the creek, the mosquitos came back out in full strength, forcing me to put my rain jacket back on even though it was over 90 degrees out. yuck!
About 2 hours later, we made it to the an amazing overlook over the Yellowstone River. Danny was so excited about fishing, it's all he could think about! We took some photos and made our way down the ravine to the river. For the next 2 or 3 hours we would stop at a good looking fishing spot, Danny would do his thing, I would relax on a rock, and then we would keep moving to find the next fishing spot. It was nice not having a strict schedule of regimen for the first time since hitting the trails. The only issue was that I was so busy hanging around and relaxing in the hot hot sun, that I forgot to keep drinking water and electrolytes every 10 minutes, like I was on the trail. This left me feeling a weak and a little dehydrated once we started hiking again to our final campsite. Chilling out for a minute in the shade and drinking an entire bottle of electrolyte water got me back on my feet, long enough to get to camp.
Our last campsite was very nice! It was near a creek that Danny eventually fished as well. We got to camp at around 4pm and all I wanted to do was rest. I pitched the tent and took the best nap of my life while Danny went in search of more fishing spots further down the trail. Best decision ever :)
When he returned, we made a good hot meal, then went straight to bed. The mosquitos were much better than the night before, but we still couldn't stand to hang out outside of the tent.
Wednesday July 2nd: Last day on the trail. We packed up our camp and set out to the main trail. We crossed an awesome suspension bridge, and decided to climb to the water below the bridge to have breakfast and coffee. Danny was obviously interested in one last fishing opportunity, while I painted a quick watercolor postcard. It was perfect. We were finally comfortable with the routine of making camp coffee, breakfast, filtering water for all four of our water containers, and everything that went into "trail living", that it was easy to just sit back and take it all in without worry about what's coming next and how to prepare for it. This was a real ah-ha moment for me, as a first time backpacker. It was pretty tough making it to this point but this one relaxing hour, deep in the park, made it worth it for me.
And then - the final climb out began! haha Just as I was lingering and loving the "trail life" the reality of a really tough climb set in. For the record, the final 3 hours of our hike out were up there in the toughest of the trip. It was WAY more elevation change than we anticipated, and most of the trail was completely exposed to the sun with little or no tree cover. SO HOT! Luckily, the bugs seemed to leave us alone the farther be walked away from the river.
I could just barely make out the Trailhead parking lot in the distance, when we came up on some fellow hikers. Three girls with WAY too much gear. This might be mean, but when I saw them struggling way more than me, it made me feel better about my stamina and strength after the past 16 miles we hiked the past 2 days. Not to mention, this was my 5th consecutive day on the trail!! Anyway, we chatted with them as they sat on the ground trying to regain strength, and they offered to take us to our car a few miles away. This was a huge help, because it meant that Danny wouldn't have to hitch hike back! The girls were eager to help, because it gave them a much needed excuse to get off the trail and enjoy some AC and lunch :)
I stayed back with our gear, as Danny hitched a ride to get our car. It took what seemed like forever for him to return! I was so ready to be sitting down on a comfortable seat, out of the heat and sun. I know there is some saying about the difficulty of the journey make the destination better... and boy is that spot on. We hiked a total of 42 miles with over 5000 feet in elevation incline in 5 days, and it was an incredible feeling to be able to say, I did that! I was hurting and tired and sore, but I did it!!