Sunday, June 28, 2009

Birthday in Bozeman

Today was my real birthday, but this weekend has been so great that I feel like my birthday has lasted 4 days straight! Colin flew back to Denver from Bozeman tonight, but before that we had a wonderful day together. We headed towards Bozeman at around 10 AM. On the way, we stopped at Chico Hot Springs and soaked our tired legs in the hot water. We stayed there about an hour and headed the rest of the way to Bozeman.

Right when we got to Bozeman, we went straight to Zales, where Colin had gotten my engagement ring. Because the ring was too big, we had to drop it off at the store here to be resized. They have to send it out, but I should have it by this coming Friday. I can’t wait!

After that, we got some lunch at Mackenzie River Pizza in downtown Bozeman. Our waitress there was amazing and made us a beer sampler even though it wasn’t on the menu. She let us try at least 10 different beers but only charged us for one pint. Not only was the beer delicious (all from local breweries) but the pizza was incredible. We got two kinds and shared them: a Thai pie with peanut sauce, mandarin oranges, chicken, roasted red peppers, and peanuts and another with asaigo cheese, roasted potatoes, onions, and rosemary. I know we will be going back there next time we are in Bozeman!

After that, we walked around town and eventually got some ice cream before it was time for me to bring Colin to the airport for his flight. It was hard to say goodbye, but I know I will see him again in just four weeks for more hiking adventures here in Yellowstone. Knowing that made saying goodbye much easier. We had the most amazing weekend ever and I can’t wait for some more in just a few more weeks!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Sepulcher Mountain

Today Today Colin and I hiked Sepulcher Mountain, a strenuous 12-mile loop hike that starts and ends in Mammoth. We started on the Beaver Ponds trailhead next to the Mammoth Terraces. The first few miles of the hike were filled with beautiful yellow wildflowers. 

The first five miles of the hike climbed steeply uphill to the summit, an elevation gain of 3,500 feet. The weather was absolutely perfect for hiking – sunny yet cool and comfortable. Soon into the hike we entered a burned section of forest, then climbed steep switchbacks up a tall ridge. There we were treated to the first of many amazing views – we could see Mammoth and the Terraces on one side and tall snowcapped mountains on the other.

A nice view at the start of the hike

A nice lake 

The ridge we hiked up

Me at the top of the ridge with beautiful views behind me

From there, the trail continued to climb steeply alternating through meadows and forest. After a few more miles, we got our first view of the rocky summit ahead of us. During the entire hike up to the summit, it felt like we were going slow, but we made it to the peak in less than three hours which we felt was pretty respectable.

Another great view a little further up

Here we could see the summit ahead of us

We stopped at the summit for about an hour, where we ate lunch and took in the incredible views on all directions. We could see Gardiner, the Absorokas, and Paradise Valley on one side and Electric Peak looked as though we could reach out and grab it on the other side.

Electric Peak in the background from the summit

Colin and me at the top

View from the top

Another summit shot

Paradise Valley in the distance

Gardiner and mountains from the summit

Electric Peak

It was hard to leave the amazing views at the top, but we knew we better continue in order to finish the 7 miles left in the loop. We began switchbacking down the other side of the mountain from which we had ascended. The other side was a grassy meadow that offered amazing mountain views as we descended. It took us an hour and a half or so to get down the switchbacks. From there, we entered a forested area and then connected with part of the Terrace Mountain loop towards Mammoth. The trail was mostly downhill from the summit onward, which is harder than it sounds to hike. We finally finished the hike at around 6:30 PM and about 6 hours of beautiful hiking.

A view on the way down

Switchbacking down

One last look back at Electric Peak

Sepulcher Mountain was definitely one of the more difficult hikes I have done, but it was also one of the most beautiful. The views from the top were indescribable and the photos I took just don’t do them justice. I am really happy that Colin was here to share such an amazing hike with me!

After the hike, some of my friends at the dorm had a little birthday party for me. It was really sweet! Erica, Maeve, and Jess gave me really wonderful presents – a hand drawn card, a Yellowstone mug, a Junior Ranger badge (with my name on it!), and an arrowhead. Kate and Michaela baked me a delicious cake based on Michaela’s Italian grandmother’s cake recipe. It was delicious! Afterwards, we had a bonfire outside and everyone came down to hang out. Chris improvised a blues song and made up a verse about everyone at the fire – it was really memorable. What a great birthday weekend!

Friday, June 26, 2009

Mount Washburn

Today Erica, John, Charlotte, Colin and I hiked up Mt. Washburn. We originally planned to do the hike as a shuttle, which would bring us down a steep section and through an area of hot springs on the way to Artist Point in the Canyon area.  

The hike followed an old dirt road, built in 1905. Early tourists used to bring their Model-T’s up this road to the peak, but the cars could not handle the steep grade and had to make the trip in reverse. That is a scary thought, as many sections of the road are very close to large steep cliffs!

The road climbed upward steadily all the way to the summit, where there is a small interpretive center. About halfway up the mountain, we encountered deep, snowy sections of the trail.  The views were amazing the entire way up the mountain and at the top we could see a great distance on all sides – even as far as the Tetons!

Mt. Washburn Trailhead

View from the beginning of the hike

About halfway up

The old dirt road that we walked up

My darling with an amazing view behind

The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone in the distance

Snowy path on the way to the summit

We could see for miles

The interpretive center at the top

Almost to the top!

As we enjoyed the views at the summit, we could see the sky darkening all around us. We decided to go back the way we had come rather than finish the hike as a shuttle – the steep sections of the trail would probably be hazardous, especially in the rain and we didn’t want to put ourselves in harm’s way. After a nice lunch break, we headed back down the mountain, making it to the car just as the sky opened up and it started pouring down rain. We definitely timed the hike perfectly – it was absolutely beautiful and we missed the bad weather.

We made it to the summit

We decided to stop at Artist’s Point really quickly to see the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.  It was amazingly beautiful and colorful and I was glad Colin was able to see it. Hopefully the weather will clear up so we can do some more hiking tomorrow. 

Colin and I at Artist's Point

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Why I'll Never Forget My Hike To Observation Peak

Last night, Colin flew in to the airport in Bozeman and I picked him up and brought him here to Yellowstone for a long weekend together. This morning, Colin came to the public tour of the HRC and got to see what kinds of things I am working on this summer. I was able to use comp time to leave work early at around lunchtime so we had some lunch and then packed our bags for a hike up Observation Peak.

It was a beautiful, sunny warm day. We took Dunraven Pass to the trailhead, but on the way, my gas pedal stopped responding and my car was lurching up the mountain pass. I found a place to pull over and as soon as I did, my car stalled out. I tried restarting it a few times and it would start up but kept stalling out. I called AAA and they called the park service station to come tow me out (AAA is not allowed into the park for whatever reason, so they dispatch to the park service station and then reimburse their customers for the tow/service). The tow truck arrived within an hour. When I told him the situation, he said it sounded a lot like vapor lock, or the conversion of gas to vapor in extreme driving situations. Apparently it happens a lot on steep roads like Dunraven Pass, especially on days like this one that are very hot. He asked me to try starting my car and it started right up. He followed me to the service station and the car ran fine. I was just thankful that it wasn’t broken down, especially on Colin’s visit!

We got to the trailhead at around 5:45 PM and started hiking at around six o’clock. The hike is an 11-mile out-and-back up to Observation Peak, where there is a quaint little backcountry cabin and beautiful three hundred and sixty degree views. The first 2.5 miles were flat and oftentimes muddy and brought us to a beautiful blue lake. At the lake, we took a sharp right and started climbing through burned forest up to our destination. We were hiking fast to beat the sunset. Towards the top, we trekked across large snowfields.

The beginning of the hike

A nice stream along the trail

The turn for Observation Peak, next to Cascade Lake

Starting to climb

Cascade Lake below

Burned forest

Finally we came to the summit, which offered amazing views of the valley below and the mountains in the distance on all sides. As I sat eating trail mix, Colin came over and began a wonderful speech about how much I mean to him and how we are made for each other. I didn’t realize he was proposing until he got down on one knee, pulled out the most beautiful ring I have ever seen, and asked me to marry him. I must admit I was quite surprised and my jaw dropped nearly to the ground. Of course I said yes and just couldn’t be any happier or more excited! After meeting Colin up in Glacier National Park last summer, I suppose it was only fitting that we get engaged here in another amazing western park!

The summit ahead

The observation tower/patrol cabin

Nice view

Cascade Lake from the summit

Still in shock at this point

As the sun was beginning to set, we booked it down the mountain and back to the trailhead, excitedly talking the entire time about our future together. After the car trouble earlier in the day, things definitely worked out the way they were supposed to!

The perfect end to the perfect hike!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Ice Lake to Wolf Lake to Little Gibbon Falls

Today Emily, Erica and I went hiking in the Norris area of the park. Our plan was to hike to Ice Lake, Wolf Lake, and Grebe Lake in a shuttle hike. We started by hiking to Ice Lake, about half a mile from the trailhead. We hiked all around the lake and then headed toward Wolf Lake, about two and a half miles away. The entire trail went through areas burned by the fires of '88, which scorched about a third of Yellowstone. Many burned trees still stand, and underneath, new lodgepole pines are growing. Lodgepole pine trees rely on fire - their seeds are released from their cones by the heat of forest fires. The young lodgepole pines are thriving in this area and all over the park. 

Ice Lake Trailhead

Ice Lake

First makeshift bridge

Emily crossing another makeshift bridge 
(on the way back, I lost my footing on this one, and my feet went into the river. The water went higher than my boots, so I was walking in puddles the whole way back)

We had to cross several makeshift bridges made of piles of logs across rivers and streams. After crossing a couple of these, we found ourselves at Wolf Lake. At this point, we lost the trail for a little while. After some searching, we realized that it crossed a slow moving, but deep stream. We didn't have sandals for a ford, so we went off trail along the river to look for a place narrow enough that we could jump over or a place where we could cross on a fallen tree. Unfortunately, we didn't find a place to cross so we headed back out the way we had come in, except we went out on the other side of Ice Lake so we could see Little Gibbon Falls. 

Wolf Lake

Emily, Me, and Erica at Wolf Lake

Little Gibbon Falls

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