I just got back from ten days of traveling through Yellowstone, the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness, and the Big Horns. It was an incredible trip with an old college buddy (the winds of North Dakota nearly swept us up across the border) with too many highlights to discuss. Each place, each alpine lake, each nook below a peak offered some sort of unique beauty that I'll hold till I can't anymore. One day in particular will shape my days for a long time to come.
The day before, we woke at 4 a.m. and took the hour drive to be first in line at Slough Creek Campground. Well worth it as we got the best site, right along the river, with a great view.
We fished a lot of the big waters in the park - Soda, Lamar, Slough. All were really cool in their own way. But it was the freestone creek that required a long hike into the backcountry that provided us with the best memories and fish.
Within about a half mile of the trailhead, the valley keeps opening and Jesus it's beautiful and you forget who you are and why you are there because all you can do is just try to take it all in
Within a mile, there were no other people on the trail. The more dirt we put under our wading boots, the wilder it became. We both had bear spray and were both convinced we'd run into one. Just the night before, two black bears were rummaging about twenty yards from our tent. We kept coming across scorched bones of bison. Had these bones been washed down in the spring run-off? Had they been taken down by something right where we stood? Yellowstone has such interesting and diverse landscapes. The juxtaposition of seemingly foreign elements is jarringly beautiful. Femuroles next to spring creeks with brook trout, bones next to wild sage, high peaks next to deep ravines.
The trail kept descending until, finally, it reached the Yellowstone. It was day 5, we had no showers, and there was this long eddy and beach. What else is there to do but swim for an hour?
Big salmon flies and stone flies were hatching and fluttering in the air. I had some massive cutthroats nudge my flies, landed a few small ones. It was already mid day so we started to work up the stream we hiked down. Soon, we found this pool. Soon, we couldn't stop catching beautiful Yellowstone Cutthroats on big dry flies. The water was so clear, the cutties so bright, that you could see them streak up from the bottom or from the far banks for these flies.
We kept fishing until we got hungry and had a great lunch of peanut butter and bacon sandwiches next to some antler sheds...
We kept fishing and working our way upstream and catching cutthroats in ever pool and riffle Then regular afternoon storm clouds came through and we decided to make the trek back out. It was exactly the day I covet - backcountry exploring for wild trout in wild places. Yellowstone is pretty awesome... especially if you get off the road and away from the popular spots.
After a night of eating take-out Mexican food under the Milky Way while Nebraskan rednecks shot off legit fireworks around a lake a few miles east of the Wyoming border, we scarfed down an amazing breakfast at Luxury Diner before driving down the last hot stretch highway towards the Rockies. We made it to mountains after 2.5 long days of driving.
A strike through the Gros Ventres along the Hoback still swelling with the last snow lead us to Granite Creek. Spring currents under a heavy summer canopy.
From left to right: Yellowstone Cutthroat, Crystal Creek Campground, Our Home in the foothills of the Tetons, Granite Creek Hot Springs, a Mountain Whitefish, and Granite Creek Campground.
Black-eyed Susans marked the quebrada made by Granite Creek as it tore through the Gros Ventres. The hot springs cleaned us after days on the road, the mountain wind swept the dirt through our pores.
We stayed in Wyoming for about a week, camping almost exclusively in Forest Service and BLM campgrounds. We had nothing but wind and sun on the Green River. We were scorched, dry, our skin mottled with the fine scratches of the valley. Mountains bordered us on the north and west. Nothing but flatness and goat prairies to the south and east. We built a fire and watched, sat in the ecotone, the place between, while fireworks still scraped the horizon back towards Nebraska and early July.
After lounging in the Gros Ventres valley and wilderness, we decided to head out to the coast, to big trees, ocean, and rainforest. The Olympic Peninsula was just a day and half drive away. We stopped at the Kelly on the Gros Ventres for coffee and breakfast and kept heading west.
I stumbled upon the name "Raftman's Path" walking the river trail that traverses through the little town I live in. It was named during the days when lumber was a huge commodity in this area. The Susquehanna River was an industrial thoroughfare - bearing down loads of lumber from the northern reaches of Pennsylvania towards the Chesapeake. Marietta was a stopping point, a place for the lumber either to go to the mills lining its banks or shoot further downstream through pig iron smoke. Raftmen would guide the lumber down to the mouth of the Susquehanna into the Chesapeake - an estuary of salt, water, lumber, ore, eel and shad. When their job was done, they would walk the raftman's path back through the Susquehanna Riverlands of Lancaster County towards their homes. The path is now wooded and meanders through some of the only "wild" places left in the county.