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CDT: Yellowstone National Park (Macks Inn to Togwotee Pass)

July 29 — Hello Wyoming

I finally left Montana. The state had been beautiful, amazing, challenging, boring, and everything between, while also fully earning its “big sky country” moniker. After six weeks though, I was more than ready to reach a new state. Although to be fair, the last several hundred miles of trail have bounced between Idaho and Montana while straddling the border.

The day began with a road walk, which turned to very old Forest Service roads, which eventually led to single track. The path through Yellowstone traversed a lot of burned land, perhaps still scars from “the big one” in 1988. The forest had only half regrown, with old, dead trunks still littering the ground.

My day ended in Yellowstone National Park with a nice campsite on Summit Lake.

I was southbound though, so I was finally leaving Montana and Idaho, and entering Wyoming at Yellowstone National Park
Clouds over Summit Lake

July 30 — Old Faithful

A morning walk through monotonous forest brought me to the much more interesting Old Faithful area. Many thermal formations — hot springs, geysers, and pools — were densely packed here. The unique sites came in all shapes, sizes, and colors. Of course I was no longer alone in this very popular area, with throngs of tourists milling about on the boardwalks. I meandered to Old Faithful itself just as its eruption started. I played tourist for a while, browsing the visitor center, eating at the cafeteria, and seeing the other sites.

My supply box was at the post office, and I now had many more maps and too much food, just as my pack was starting to thin out too. I happened upon Transient in Old Faithful Village, and we talked for a while. It turned out that a small outfitter in Sawtelle Village had a real sleeve repair kit which could have helped my crippled tent. I had stopped there, but the salesman said they did not carry any, and I never bothered to look around myself. I ordered a warranty replacement for my broken tent pole though, but would not have it for several more days until Togwotee Pass. Hopefully my duct tape and hose clamp “fix” would work until then. The crack had worsened slightly each time I erected my tent though. I did not have any alternative besides trying to hold out until my replacement arrived.

The Firehole River
Grotto Geyser
Old Faithful erupting, with many people around

July 31

I strolled over to Lone Star Geyser in the morning, pulled out a book, and waited for the three hour eruption window to elapse. After almost two hours the geyser finally blew its lid, causing a magnificent tower of water and thunderous roaring steam. I finally hit the trail after watching this geyser, passing other random bubbling, sulfur-smelling springs. The west end of Shoshone Lake at Geyser Basin contained another spectacular collection of thermal features. They were not as numerous as around Old Faithful, but still unique gems in their own right, and their relative remoteness gave an added bonus.

An afternoon hike through the woods along the south side of Shoshone Lake brought me to the busy campsite 8S1. A NOBO (Furniture) as well as a canoe party of four shared this site. We had a good evening chatting, and the less than ultralight boaters were generous with their food and beer.

Lone Star Geyser erupting
The expanse of Shoshone Lake
The sun lighting up the clouds at dusk over Shoshone Lake in Yellowstone National Park

August 1

It was August already — time flies when you are hiking a trail. The morning was crisp and the afternoon warm, but all I could think about was the winter winds at high elevations in Colorado closing in, encouraging me to keep moving everyday.

I had a long hike due to availability of campsites in Yellowstone, but the terrain was relatively flat. Just a long day of putting one foot in front of the other. I passed a group of four NOBOs, the largest single gathering of CDT hikers I had seen. Our conversation was nice, although short, as we each had to keep moving to reach our campsites.

Looking through the old fire damage of the Snake River Valley

August 2

I departed Yellowstone in the morning and headed into Teton National Forest. The dusty trail wandered through the forest, but also crossed many streams. Wild flowers were in blossom, and the yellow, red, and lavender colors from all the varieties filled the open fields.

Today I passed “parting of the waters,” a unique formation where a stream splits on the divide, half its water running to the Atlantic, half to the Pacific.

A waterfall along North Two Ocean Creek
Myself at “Parting of the waters.” The stream actually splits on the divide, with half its water flowing to the Pacific and the other half to the Atlantic Ocean.

August 3 — Togwotee Lodge

In the morning the dusty path revealed a lot of paw prints of animals that I would rather not encounter overnight. I would need to be more conscientious with my food for a while.

To reach Togwotee Mountain Lodge without hitching, I took a trail along the east side of the North Buffalo River. This route was not mapped by Ley and not even on my map, but a NOBO had given me intel about this path which would shave several miles off the day’s hike. I bushwhacked across the river and located an old trail, with many fallen trees across it. I slowly followed this path that faded in and out. It grew ever fainter and continued to have downfalls obstructing its little tread. These conditions forced me back towards the “official” alternate, as this shortcut was not saving any time.

On my way back though I stumbled upon a much more established trail still on the east side of the river and elected to follow that. Hiking a trail that was not on my map and did not always go in the direction I expected was a little disconcerting, but it eventually led to the right place, and a long climb up from Buffalo River brought me to Togwotee Mountain Lodge.

During this climb I came up with the bright idea of skipping resupply in Pinedale, and to push straight through the Winds to Atlantic City. This idea mainly materialized because I still had a lot of food in my pack, which combined with my care package at the lodge would provide enough food for that stretch. Plus reaching Pinedale involved a significant side hike and hitch. This new plan completely changed my strategy for The Winds from being as light as possible, to lugging a large burden on my back.

Togwotee Mountain Lodge had my care package, since resupply at the gas station was inadequate, but my replacement tent poles were not there. Not a good sign, but I grabbed lunch, took a shower, and relaxed in the hot tub. Afterwards I called my tent manufacture, and of course the warranty department had no record of my request, although they continued to look into it and would give me a call back. As I relaxed on the lodge’s ample front porch, eating and reading, a UPS truck arrived, and I saw the man in brown carry in a package with my replacement tent poles! Great, but very close, timing.

With the new poles I was mostly able to fix my tent, although the connector had also partially cracked since I put in my warranty request, and my box did not contain a one. It held for the moment though, and I would try to find a one at the next outfitter.

In the evening I left the comforts of the lodge, back to the trail. A several mile paved road walk led to a jeep trail that eventually returned to the CDT— although the tread was hard to find sometimes.

Togwotee Mountain Lodge is basically on the CDT, provides a shower and soak in a hot tub for $5, and accepts hiker packages.