One of my priorities for visiting national parks was to get into the backcontry as much as possible. In a famous park like Yellowstone, there are crowds of people at the sites. Even the campgrounds can get crazy. So before leaving I applied for a backcountry camping permit.
Yellowstone makes you pick three choices, so I had to do a lot of research on trailheads and campsites. I ended up getting my second choice to hike in the Hellroaring Creek area in the North part of the park. The day before my trip I went to the Canyon Visitor Center for my mandatory safety briefing. The ranger was helpful and made sure I understood the bear safety video and that I knew how to use my bear pepper spray. The ranger also warned me that my hike may require me to ford a creek. “Creeks” in Yellowstone are more like rivers, so I had to be prepared.
A note on bears. Encountering bears is pretty rare. I never saw any. Most of the bear safety precautions are for the bears’ safety, not ours. If people leave food out and bears associate people with food, the bears have to be killed. So it’s very important to follow all bear safety precautions.
My hike started with a steep descent down switchbacks to the Yellowstone River, where there was a large suspension bridge. After this I was in the backcountry, with no signs of civilization. Hills covered with grass went on as far as I could see under the clear blue sky.
I eventually got to Hellroaring creek, which I would have to ford. This is where the dayhikers were turning back. I stopped to change into my hiking sandals, put my camera and lenses into a waterproof bag, unfastened my backpack straps, and stepped slowly into the freezing water. I went slowly at an angle to the current, using my hiking poles, because the fast moving water would make it easy to slip and fall. This was not a place to rush, so I endured the freezing water than went up to my knees. I made it across without incident.
I saw nobody beyond the creek. The hike was nice, through meadows, and along the Black Canyon of the Yellowstone. I went through spooky meadows littered with elk skulls. I even saw a couple live elk from a distance. My campsite was next to the Yellowstone River in complete privacy. I went to sleep with only the sound of running water. I highly recommend spending time in Yellowstone’s backcountry. It is the Yellowstone at its best.
A bit of site news. I’m going to concentrate on site design for a while. That means I’ll be posting fewer updates. Hopefully in the next few weeks I can roll out a design I’m happy with.