Monday, July 25, 2022

Day 123: Biscuit Basin and the Widow-Makers

August 21: I woke up and hit the trail early. Weather forecasts called for rain--again--but it wasn't expected to start until the afternoon which left the morning for rain-free hiking, and I only had about 10 miles to do to reach my next (and last) required campsite. This was the campsite that I could, theoretically, skip completely. Just hike outside of the park and camp wherever I wanted. It wouldn't even be particularly hard to hike outside of the park, but it would have added an extra 10 miles to my day and there was no way I'd finish before the rain started. I hoped to get into camp before it started and just wait out the rain until I left tomorrow.

It was a cold and foggy morning....

So that was my plan. Although it wasn't raining in the morning, it did start cold and foggy. I explored some more of Yellowstone's thermal features around the Biscuit Basin area. Almost nobody was up this early in the morning and I had the area almost entirely to myself which was nice.

Leaving the Biscuit Basin, the trail climbed higher, eventually popping out above the fog, but the temperatures continued to stay cold. It never really warmed up.

The rest of the day's hike was easy and uneventful, and I reached my designated camp next to Summit Lake at 10:45am, all before any rain started.

The campsite didn't really have any good places to set up my tarp, however. My permit warned about dangerous, dead trees at the campsite, and looking around, I could see why they added that warning. Definitely a lot of dead trees around, and I didn't feel comfortable setting up camp under them. They're often called widow-makers because, well, you can imagine.

There were other locations, but they were exposed or prone to flooding, and since rain was forecasted, those didn't seem particularly wise either. Eventually I settled on a spot among some already fallen logs. It might flood if it rained long enough and hard enough, but at least it was somewhat well-protected from the dead trees which seemed like the bigger threat.

I wound up setting up camp among some logs and these trees. It wasn't an established place for tents, but the beaten down, well-used locations were either under widow-makers or too exposed for my tarp. You can see a little bit of Summit Lake in the background through the trees.

With nearly 12 hours before bedtime, I had plenty of time to kill. I started by sewing up some holes that had formed in the shoulders of my shirt. I read my Kindle, played on my phone, wrote postcards. The time seemed endless.

In the afternoon, wind gusts picked up dramatically, but I was pretty well protected from them under my tarp.

Money and Stranger dropped into camp. They had decided to hike through Yellowstone with no permits at all in the hopes that no ranger would catch them, and told me that they had actually camped on a park bench by the Yellowstone Art and Photography Center in Old Faithful Village last night--completely in the open! That was pretty audacious, I thought, but apparently nobody noticed. I told them that they were welcome to join me in my camp--I had a permit and this site was mine--but they wanted to push onward.

There were a few, light sprinkles in the afternoon, but nothing serious and I was a little disappointed that I had stopped so early. I could have easily have walked outside the park and set up camp and the rain wouldn't have been problematic. I felt like I wasted the entire afternoon by stopping. If it had rained, I'd have been glad to stop. But it didn't rain. At least not hard enough for it to really count.

The rest of the day passed on without anything happening, but long after sunset, at around 10:00pm, three northbound hikers showed up. The long overdue rain that had been expected had started, and they arrived looking like drowned rats from a sinking ship. I welcomed them to Camp Tortuga but suggested that they watch out for dead trees--they were everywhere! But since it was already so late at night, we didn't really stop to chat. Perhaps I'd get their details in the morning.

The thermal features of Yellowstone often move over time. In this case, a hot spot popped up in a parking lot that the authorities blocked off. One less parking place for vehicles!

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