Day 1, Yellowstone: Bechler River Traverse


Bright eyed and bushy tailed, ready for an ADVENTURE!

Day 1, Sunday, August 3, 2014 

What I pictured of this hike and what was reality differed. 

It was an adventure of unforeseen and unpredictable circumstances, as well as all that one could expect from a wilderness trek. It was scenic, awesome, green with lodge pole pines, dense vegetation, many, many streams and waterways, steaming fumaroles, vividly colored hot spring formations, frothing potholes, soothing hot spa pools, wonderful waterfalls, river fords, helpful and attentive guides, an enthusiastic, friendly, international contingent of hikers, and a sprinkling of minor mishaps, damp weather, pleasant memories and personal achievements.  


Arising early, I arrived at the Wildland Trekking office meeting our guides Chris and Nate, and our van driver, Vi.  After they finalized equipment packing and last minute details, we all boarded and drove to the motel where the other hikers were assembled, gathered up their equipment, packed that into the trailer and set off for a 2.5 hour drive to the West Yellowstone, Montana entrance to Yellowstone National Park. A short distance from the Old Faithful Lodge, and geyser, we had a quick lunch, assembled our backpacks and divvied up the food rations amongst us. With further assistance from Chris and Nate we had our backpacks evenly packed and properly adjusted to our bodies. 

The pack was heavy.


One last item of business was the use of our personal canisters of bear spray. With a quick release safety, the trigger could easily be accessed and the spray dispersed if a bear were to attack or approach too closely. This was an item that was NEVER to leave our sides. Luckily we had no need to use or activate our little safety devices. Darn, and I really thought I’d get a chance to at least SEE a bear, especially a grizzly, although I’d not want to see one UP CLOSE.

And so, with packs on our backs, trekking poles in hands, sun and bug screen applied, and bear sprays holstered our boots hit the trail. After leaving the trailhead we soon came upon Lonestar Geyser, the largest in the backcountry. Though we missed the eruption interval, we did stop, dropped packs and re-fortified ourselves with some of our snacks. Soon thereafer we followed the Firehole River, crossed the Continental Divide (though there is no actual indication or marker signifying its location) and continued on to near Shoshone Lake for our first campsite. While most of the group opted for a side trek to the lake, guide Chris, Ryan and I stayed in camp to rest our feet. Chris took us a short way into the forest by camp to show us where elk had rubbed bark bare of the pine trees as they scratched the velvet from their antlers. The velvet, as I understand becomes irritating to the animal and attempting to rub it off on pine trees relieves that discomfort.

In camp, we were educated by Chris concerning proper backcountry camping in bear country. At the beginning of the trip, Chris told us that it would be unlikely that we actually would see any bears due to the size of our group. Our presence with talking and other noises would probably alert the animals to keep their distance. And so it was.

Our actual “camping” spot, where we set up tents was more than 100 yards from main camp. The main camps all had “bear hangs”, a pole high above the ground over which all the food and all scented items (like toiletries, sunscreen, and insect repellant), were suspended each night. Backpacks also were relegated to the main camp. Our personal needs for the tents each night remained with us, but no food or items with scents. So it was a bit of an inconvenience to be separated from our packs with things we might need, which meant hiking back up (or down) a hill, retrieve what we forgot and then back to the tent. And don’t forget to have that bear spray with you!


Chris planned and prepared a fantastic stir fry meal with fresh and packaged ingredients. Since we all were carrying part of our meals (all marked and in plastic baggies with the appropriate meal marked upon them), it was a delight to know your part of the meal was thus going to lighten your load. My day for that pack weight reduction was L-3 (day 3 lunch). And I, as everyone else, was ever so thankful that day for having just lost more that 5 pounds, though I swear it was 10 pounds or more! The loss of weight was very noticeable to me.


After our dinner, clean up and attending to our dental hygiene and other personal matters, we sat around (alas no campfire was allowed in this camp), chatted and then by 8:30 most of us headed to our tents for a well deserved and good nights sleep.

No bear sightings, encounters or other dangers encountered on day 1. 

What would await us on Day 2?


Tents far away from main camp area

Water filtration system provided a quick and safe source for our drinking and cooking water.


Fresh foods throughout the week. See the D-1 for first nights dinner.

Fresh broccoli for the stir fry, using portable fuel and burners


Nate and Chris clean up. Sophia handing her plate.

Debbie, international traveler from the UK, modeling her fashionable mosquito net


You may be wondering about “the facilities” when nature called. On the trail, if nature called, a guide would remain on the trail while one would find a more “private” area, dig a hole with a trowel, and relieve oneself. Toilet paper, in that case is to be carried out and not buried (so don’t forget to take a spare plastic baggie with you…AND your bear spray!). This all is part of the “leave no trace” in camping, which also includes any food items regardless of how small, trash or any other items or signs of human presence in the backcountry. Anything left behind can be an attraction for wild things to return and search for a quick bite of leftovers. Otherwise, much to our relief, we actually had a toilet available to us - at a distance from camp of course. It was primitive, being simply a box with a hole sitting on a hillside (with a very nice view). © Donald E. Kline 2012                                         Disqus Comments