Some more hikes in the month of August. Temperatures are consistently dropping to below freezing at night and daytime highs reaching only the low 60’s. Yes, here in the high country, fall has arrived. Elk will be bugling soon.
Besides Avalanche Peak and Amphitheater Lake, I also did Purple Mountain, and Slough Creek trails. The latter two are north of Grant Village and enjoyable hikes. Like most hikes, the crew that I drag along is what makes it the most fun. Purple Mountain was a crew of 8 willing to tackle a beautiful hike overlooking the lower Firehole and Gibbon Rivers. Slough (pronounced “slew”) Creek was a small group of 3 exploring the valley north of Lamar Valley in the Northeast corner of Yellowstone.
To get to Purple Mountain, it is a 40 mile drive from Grant up past Old Faithful to Madison Junction. We pass the iconic geyser village and follow the amazing Firehole River with all its fermoles. Because of Old Faithful and Firehole River, this road is often congested (no comment on the driving ability of visitors). In an hour we are at Madison where the trailhead is.
Fortunately, our hikes are designed for early starts (most people in the world are NOT morning people, so traffic was light.). Arriving at the trailhead around 9, we take introductory pictures and then head up the well-marked trail. At first it is a gradual climb but as the landscape gets steeper, the trail starts into a series of switchbacks. The trail narrows but is dirt and has relatively good footing.
Pics from Purple Mountain
After 3 miles, we summit the small mountain. Gibbon River cuts a beautiful valley below, mostly east to west heading towards the Madison River. We can even see our van parked below. It is a white speck amongst the greans and browns and ribbon of black top. Looking due south, the Firehole River cuts a path as it heads north to merge with the Gibbon and Madison Rivers. The Firehole is easily distinguishable as it has many thermals (with their rising steam). The scenery is just breathtaking!
My next hike has 2 students from the Czech Republic accompanying me. Slough Creek is a much longer drive to get to. But like everything in Yellowstone, the journey is just as much fun as the destination. Traveling the 35 miles past the lake, we pass several elk including a big bull with its antlers full and covered in velvet. The next 20 miles has us passing Mud Volcano into Hayden Valley. Here we see coyotes and bison. Our trip continues through Canyon, over Dunraven Pass, and eventually into Lamar Valley where the trailhead to our hike is. It is an 80 mile drive but certainly not boring.
Trailhead & blockage
As we start up the well-maintained trail we immediately encounter a “problem”. A bison is smack in the middle of the trail feeding on some greenery. In backwoods fashion, we blaze a short detour around the buffalo and eventually continue up the exquisite valley on this beautiful sunny morning. This area is very remote but popular with anglers. Like all of Yellowstone, it is full of wildlife and home to a fairly large wolf population.
The trail is wide and easy to follow. Even though it goes up for a ways it levels off and is relatively flat (particularly when compared to some of my other hikes!). But this is a long one at 10 miles round-trip. We pass a ranger cabin, several bison feeding in the Slough Creek valley, and just take in the serene beauty of Mother Nature. In this remote corner of the park, there are no motorized sounds, not even an occasional airplane. It is easy to get lost in your mind as your worldly worries seem to float away. Communing with nature certainly helps you re-focus your priorities.
Campsite and antlers
Before you know it we have arrived at the remote campsite, “2S1”. Here, we meet a family fly fishing and camping. Several old elk antlers litter the site. The place has a bear-proof food box, a 12 foot hanging bar (also used to hang food out of bear’s reach), and a well placed fire pit. After lunch we head back. We pass a marmot feeding on shrubs and other birds and small mammals. Yes, it is easy to commune with nature in a place like this.
A marmot – one of many animals seen on the hike.
The trip back home is much of the same with one exception. The tourists are out. So a “bison jam” was inevitable. And sure enough coming back through Hayden Valley, we got stuck in one. Two hours later, we arrive safely back at Grant Village. I am a very fortunate person to have this Yellowstone experience, bison jam and all.
STAY TUNED! More “tales from the campah”!
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Coming Soon!!! YouTube channel with movies of the adventures!