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Home » Adventures » Beartooth Wilderness » Yellowstone

Day 6 — Trail Goes Away

At 6 a.m. my fellow backpackers coerced me out of my warm tent so that we could get an early start on the trail and arrive back at our vehicles with enough time left to complete the rest of the day’s activities. Breakfast that morning was supposed to be some of the energy/granola bars that we had packed, but apparently I had missed the memo because I had already eaten most of my granola bars. So for my hike back to the trailhead (at least it was downhill) I had a nice breakfast of one granola bar. After taking down our camp and having morning devotions, we started back down the trail around 7:30. I had traveled at a fairly quick pace on the way up, and I decided that on the way down (the easy part) I would take my time and really enjoy the hike. After all, we were leaving our beautiful surroundings, and I wanted to suck every last bit of enjoyment that I could from them. Also, there was no need to rush through the trail again and pass by any subtleties of nature that are so easy to miss.

Myself standing next to the Beartooth Wilderness sign

I hiked down the trail with Rev. Wierschke. It was really neat walking with him because he knew a lot of details and facts about nature that I sure did not. He was an avid bird watcher so whenever we heard a bird singing we would stop and try to spot it. It was pretty amazing because just about whenever we were able to catch a glimpse of the it (and even sometimes when we did not), Rev. Wierschke was able to identify it. Also, he was familiar with some of the plants that grew along the trail so we were able to sample some of its berries. I would never do this on my own since I know I would pick the wrong ones and make myself sick. There were several different types of berries along the trail that we were able to eat. I do not remember exactly, but I believe the blueberries tasted the best. It sure was a nice (and very little) snack since I had a distinct lack of breakfast that morning.

A river cascading through medium size rocks

The trip down the trail was pretty uneventful, but still very enjoyable. We actually passed quite a few groups of people who were heading the opposite direction. But then again, this was a Friday so people were beginning their expeditions for the weekend. It took me and Rev. Wierschke just about four hours to get back to the trailhead. It was kind of ironic that it took me the same amount of time to hike down the trail as it did to climb it three days earlier. Everyone else in our party was well ahead of us, and we were the last ones in. No one was that impatient though, and all of us were actually still back at the vehicles before our itinerary told us to be.

Tim (the guy we stayed with the night before we hit the trail) had come out to meet us which was a nice surprise. We took some pictures of the entire group, but since all of us were quite hungry, we packed the vehicles pretty quickly so we could get lunch. Right as we pulled out of the trailhead’s parking lot, however, it began to rain. After three and half days on the trail with great weather, it finally turned bad right after we got into the cars. Boy were we lucky.


We had lunch in the nearby town of Cook City, which was basically just a tourist springboard into the northeast entrance of Yellowstone. We dined at a small restaurant named the Beartooth Cafe. I had a really good 1/3 lb. hamburger, but after three days on the trail with only limited food, it went down very easy. At the restaurant I was also finally able to look in a mirror, and boy was I hairy. I could feel my unshaven facial hair while we were backpacking, but it was quite another to look at myself in the mirror. It was not a full beard or anything, but it was the most facial hair I had ever worn.

After our snack also known as lunch, we headed over to Yellowstone to relax in Mammoth Hot Springs. I had been to Yellowstone once before many years ago as a child, so I did not remember a whole lot about the park other than it had beautiful scenery and lots of buffalo. Upon entering Yellowstone, it shocked me that they charge $20 per car to enter the park. It was even $10 if you ride a bike through. I guess I was still living the past (and was also really cheap) so 20 bucks seemed like a lot of money to get into the park. I also forgot just how big this park was. One of the signs at the entrance stated that a campground was over 100 miles away…all traveling over roads within the park. We, on the other hand, had about a forty-five minute drive to the Mammoth Hot Springs. Since I still was not driving, I just sat back, enjoying the scenery and catching up on a little rest. The scenery through Yellowstone was really nice. We had left the mountains and were driving through hills and valleys. The only wildlife we saw through our drive was buffalo. There were a couple of different herds a pretty considerable distance from the road. After a while, I noticed that I did not even have to watch the side of the roads for signs of wildlife. All I had to do was watch for break lights ahead of me. Any time there was any hint of animals (including large rocks in the distance) every car slammed on their breaks and slowed to a crawl, creating a nice gapers block. Of course, this happened about every two miles.

Swimming in Mammoth Hot Springs

Our group (and some other random people) swimming at the Mammoth Hot Springs

We arrived at Mammoth Hot Springs and changed into some swimming trunks at the visitor center. In case you do not know, Mammoth Hot Springs was one of the few locations in Yellowstone where you could actually swim in the rivers. A spring of nearly boiling water drains into a nearby cold river, creating basically a natural hot tub. The current of the rivers, however, was constantly changing directions ever so slightly, meaning the temperature in any given spot varied almost constantly. This meant that as I laid in the river, the temperature fluctuated from very comfortable, to freezing cold, to scalding hot all within a minute. This put me in a precarious situation where I was constantly moving around trying to stay in a spot that was hot, but would not burn me. We probably spent close to an hour in the river, which was really relaxing and therapeutic. Leaving this “hot tub” was a little difficult though. Since we had gone downstream to wade, we had to fight our way against the current to exit the river. The river was not real strong, but walking over many loose rocks bear foot up stream was a little difficult. I did not stub my toes too many times though, and we event made our way out.


After our Yellowstone fun we had to head back to Billings to drop our stuff off at Mount Olive Church, our hotel for that night. For dinner, we visited the Montana Micro Brewery. This was a nice little restaurant/bar that the backpacking group visits most years. This year, however, there happened to be a biker rally occurring right outside this eating establishment. It was not huge (only about one block was cordoned off) and there did not seem to be anyone too wild, but the micro brewery was packed with people because of it. A bunch of us ordered the sampler of their beers, but the waitress reported that the bar tender would not make them because too many of the bikers were bogging him down. The food was really good though, and our dinner was only disturbed a couple of times by the people in the bar yelling loudly (although they never got rowdy)

After our dinner we headed back to the church. At this point Tim and Brian left. Brian was going to spend a couple of days with Tim before he continued on to California to start his vicarage. I also finally broke down and bought chap stick at a nearby gas station. I think it was the best $2 I have ever spent. It was so nice to finally get relief for my chapped lips, which had gotten pretty bad and hurt a lot. Back at our lodging we had evening devotions in their sanctuary before heading to bed. For beds, we slept in our sleeping bags on hard floors in some stuffy preschool rooms, but at this point we were just glad to have a roof over our heads and quickly fell asleep.