BGO Ownership Group
- Apr 11, 2009
- Reaction score
- Greensboro, NC
Got back late last week after driving almost non-stop back to NC from Montana...just now clearing my head and getting my mind around the trip we experienced.
First of all - my anxiousness over the physical demands of the trip was validated. I probably haven't been tested like that since the last marathon I ran way back in 1993. I'll explain why it was such a tough, challenging 5 days in a few minutes.
Our trip started at the trailhead of Yellowstone National Park's Gallatin Mountain range. Day 1 was strenuous enough, a 7 mile or so gradual climb upwards with 40-50 lb packs. We had two great guides, Chris and Rob, from the Wildlands Trekking Company, who led us into our first campsite, a huge meadow next to a mountain stream. One of the more amazing things about the trip was the food. I'll confess that for the first several days, I was so nauseous that I couldn't enjoy it - had to force myself to eat as a result of fluid loss and the altitude - but these guys cooked us amazing meals every day (no dehydrated foods on this trip). I was so proud of my 15 year old son Daniel - although we'd done some pre-work hiking up some mountain trails in NC, nothing could have prepared us for how challenging the terrain on our route turned out to be. He hung tough every step of the way and by day two was leading the charge from the front while his old man huffed and puffed his way on the tail end of our 8 man group.
Day two was literally a bitch. We dropped our heavy packs in favor of day packs, and began ascending a just under 11,000 foot climb to one of the tallest points in Yellowstone, Electric Peak. I began having doubts about being able to hang even before the mid-point. My two neices Lauren and Erin were hanging tough though, and that kept me plugging away. We reached the summit, essentially scrambling over loose rock and boulders on a narrow path for the last 2 miles, around 2 p.m. About 500 yards from the top, I had and animal called a 'Pika' hop out in my path. Ironically enough, after a 30 minute rest on the top of the peak, storm clouds began rolling in (Pikachu!) and we had to make a rapid descent down off the rocky peak. We were all nervous as we were hammered by hail on the way down with lightning and thunder serenading us all the way down. Electric Peak came by it's name honestly afterall. One of the most memorable moments of the trip came about halfway down the slope when we spotted a HUGE grizzly ambling through the meadow just adjacent to the campsite we were returning to. This was a little unsettling.
After spending the night in our previous campsite (thankfully, I got my appetitie back for chili night), we again donned our packs and headed out. Littel did I know that our 3rd day would be even more challenging than the Electric Peak climb, as we were fully loaded and moving over and through 'Electric Pass', nearly as challenging a climb as the day before but with the added pleasure of carrying all our gear. We ended the day at an incredible campsite near 'Sportsman's Lake'. A number of us took the opportunity for a quick dip in the very cool waters - an amazing place.
Day 4 was supposed to be our 'easy day' since having done nothing but climb for 3 days, our route now took us steadily downward. Everything was beautiful and idyllic until we began seeing fresh Grizzly tracks on the very trail we were on (apparently, bears are as big a fan of the 'easy path' as humans are). Although the massive prints of an adult male grizzly coming towards us were disconcerting enough, it was the clear side-by-side prints of Momma grizzly and her cubs that were just ahead of us that made all of us more than a little nervous. Although there have been incidents where single rogue bears have attacked and killed people in Yellowstone, the vast majority of attacks (including some fairly recent ones) occurred when hikers surprised a mother bear and her cubs. It's easy enough to rationally reassure oneself that a grizzly attack is exceedingly unlikely, until you're following tracks clearly made just an hour or two in front of you.
Despite some nervousness, which we addressed mostly by periodic shouts (this had very much a 'whistling past the graveyard' feel to it), we survived our proximity to grizzlies and arrived at our final campsite, crossing a beautiful creek/river that ran down the middle of an incredible meadow. Our final night took place at the height of the Perseids meteor shower, and corresponded with the only clear night of our 5 day trip. After dinner and a round of communal joke-telling, darkness finally arrived. We decided to pull out our sleeping mats, put on our cold weather gear (the clear sky meant temps in the 40's), and parked ourselves on the hillside for a couple of hours watching the show.
The next day, we hiked a leisurely 3 miles out to our pickup point.
What a great trip. If you get the chance to hike the Yellowstone backcountry, I cannot recommend it enough. And you won't find a better partner to help you make it happen than the Wildland Trekking Company. We loved our guides Chris and Rob so much, we invited them out to dinner in Bozeman, Montana that night and had a great time. There is a huge microbrewing community in this area, and one of the added pleasures of the trip was getting to sample some wonderful Montana and Wyoming brews along the way.
Tonight, I'll enjoy my first glimpse of Robert Griffin III since I missed his debut in Buffalo. But I can't say I was sorry. I'm pretty sure the view I had that night topped anything even RG3 could have shown me. Probably the best thing about this trip was being able to share it with my son. One of the sad truths of life is that we spend so much time on things that don't matter, failing to take advantage of the opportunities staring us right in the face. I know my son and I will both remember this trip for a long time. I learned things about him I didn't know - like how physically tough he is. But most importantly, we got to share an amazing place together.