7/10-18/18 109 miles plus 24 bonus miles
Jackson to Togwotee to Dubois to Togwotee to Yellowstone
After 2 nights in the Jackson Hole area waiting for my Zpacks tent, and not getting it, I hitched towards Togwotee Pass on 287 between Jackson and Dubois after getting a ride to the Moran junction from my German roommate at the hostel I wound up at trying to save money. After 2 hours and 100’s of tourists, I was getting discouraged. When a group of 4 cyclists came by, I jokingly put out my thumb and they stopped. I whined to them a bit and then they were helping. One guy unzipped his jersey to show off his chest to passing traffic (2 young women with no free board stopped), another edged his bike into the road and suddenly all 4 cyclists were waving to cars and pointing to me with my backpack. Within minutes, I got a ride from a climbing couple on their way from California to Lander, Wyoming. The cycling woman of the crew of 4 said goodbye to my thank you and quite sincerely told me, “Remember, think positive!” Good advice.
I got to the Pass and walked in past Brooks Lake under grey skies and thunder rumbles. About 3:30 there was a brief but intense rain, filling the trail ruts with water and slickery mud. The mosquitoes and flies were swarming. Since I jumped ahead from Colorado, it’s kind of a surprise how buggy it is in Wyoming, all the snowfall finally melting I guess, and flowers everywhere! And now I’m supposedly in grizzly country so I found a campsite away from water and with my back to a wall of downed trees and crunchy sticks. And then the zipper on the backup tent I’ve been using while waiting for my primary tent, failed. Ever try to sleep in a headnet? I lay there with the whine of the little bloodsuckers and 10 more nights ahead of me before civilization big enough to find a new tent.
So the next morning I backtracked to the highway crossing I’d started from the day before. Sigh. I waited about 45″ and car #57 gave me a ride to Dubois. My options were (1) buy a tent from the outfitter there, (2) order and express ship a tent, or (3) determine if my repaired tent had made it yet to Jackson and figure out how to get there. FYI, one of the many reasons I like Dubois is that St Thomas Church has a summer mission to serve hikers and bikers with a free place to stay. Very cool.
No tent at the outfitters that weighed less than 12 pounds. I could order and wait 3 days. Behind the third door? Bingo, my tent at last made it to the hotel in Jackson where Zpacks said it would be days ago. Now how to get there, now 75 miles away. Google, google, U-Haul has rental vans in Dubois at Bull’s Mechanics Shop! I reserved what they said they had available, a 15′ moving van.
When I got to Bulls the next morning and said why I needed to get to Jackson, they said they’d just got back a rental car, a Ford Focus (or in my Dad’s parlance a F*ing Ford Focus, “Triple F” in my stepmom’s kinder, gentler terminology). Woohoo! I gave a hiker a ride to the Pass, continued to Jackson, got my tent, drive back to Dubois and turned in the Triple F by 4 pm, $80 well spent.
I tossed my old tent, bought 100% Deet and bug repellent leggings and walked out of town to try a hitch the next morning. Glenn Mason, 81, gave me a ride all the way in to Brooks Lake. “I’m gonna teach you something,” he announced a few minutes into the drive. I was hoping for more history of the area. “See those 2 yellow lines?” In the center of the highway. “That means you can’t pass.” Uh oh. “Now I’m going to show you something,” as he drove to the right on the rumble strip. “That means you’re driving off the road.” Then he told me about rolling his former vehicle several months ago. Fortunately we made it to the trail and I contributed rather more money to his car payment than I’d anticipated. It was worth it, I got a much earlier start on my day than the last time I’d hiked out of here, thanks Glenn!
There was a river crossing about 15 miles in that I was warned about, so I was anxious to get past it. For sure it was a bit challenging, thigh deep with quite a strong current that had knocked several hikers over, but I crossed carefully. Several miles later I camped on a bluff with a view and a breeze that kept the bugs at bay. Pure contentment and quiet.
The next day was similar: warm, full of glorious wildflowers, not so glorious bugs, beautiful views and constant water crossings and wet feet. I found another breezy, viewy campsite.
Day 3 I made it to my first designated, permitted campsite in Yellowstone. Yuck. Hung my food bag from the provided cross bar and wondered if I’d ever see another hiker. I’d see not one human since Brooks Lake 3 days ago. And just weird to have to camp so early, 4 pm.
Yellowstone backcountry so far was unremarkable, the trail runs mostly on a historic logging road hemmed in by scrub trees, second growth, so there are few views and lots of bugs. It’s warm so I don’t mind the marshy meadows and stream crossings that keep my feet wet. Day 4 Jackrabbit(?) and Natural caught up to me, they have decided to camp once in the Park (permit for Heart Lake) then walk the 28 to Old Faithful Village, then the 15 or so out of Park boundaries. It was fun to camp with someone. As we sat cooking dinner, a thunderstorm burst with rain and hail and we scooted under a tree. Half an hour later, the sun burst out and as I lay in my tent escaping the bugs, they were swimming and whooping it up, making me laugh. They were gone by the time I got up at 5:45 am.
My designated campsite that night was disgusting, another dark, damp hole next to a creek hidden by thick, tall bushes where bears lurk. It smelled like pee, whether from the uncovered pit toilet or bear pee, I don’t know. I hiked on to another official campsite, pitching my tent just as another short thunderstorm broke to hatch millions and millions of buzzing baby mosquitoes.
Day 6 and I was at my campsite by 11:30 am, the first one I actually like. It’s open and breezy right next to a thermic area with wafts of sulfur and steam drifting about. Just a few miles from Old Faithful Village, I can walk in, get my box, shower, launder, eat and walk back out. There is no campground in or near Old Faithful Village, a tough situation for hikers. My final permitted, designated site is north of the Village about 10 miles. Or I can camp here all day long, go in in the morning, hike out later in the day. I decide I’d go crazy hanging out here all day, so I’ll take my chances. It’s a more interesting few miles in Yellowstone than the days before. I meet a CDT SOBO section hiker who got encephalitis last year on the trail in Colorado, quite a scary tale. I got a cell signal at about 1pm, called Yellowstone reservations and got the last room available of the 3 hotels/lodges. Unbelievable!!
The culture shock got me pretty bad. The Village is absolutely crammed with cars and people walking around in clean shorts and pastel tank tops. Where are all the mosquitoes and flies that have plagued me the last 6 days? Run off by concrete and fresh scent laundry detergent I guess. My room was lovely, the shower refreshing and once I washed my clothes, I managed to feel I fit in better in this “#1 Destination in the US.” No WIFI anywhere though, outrageous.