Day 6, Yellowstone: Bechler River Traverse

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Day 6, Friday, August 8, 2014

Before ending the previous day, Chris had let us know that to be on the trail by 7 a.m. we would need to have arisen around 5:30, giving us all ample time to take down the tents and pack up the sleeping gear, stuff that in with our own belongings, have breakfast and close the camp. We managed very well on the time, according to my watch it was 7:02 when we departed.

This was not to be a day of excessive elevation changes, but it did require a lot of tramping through extensive stretches of meadows that really were marshes. It was a beautiful morning, with the early light streaming across the meadows and through the pine forest. The sunlight cast long morning shadows over the grassy expanse as blue skies were clear and bright. This was a great day to enjoy hiking.

While I had not been particularly bothered by mosquitos over the previous days, this day was the exception. Perhaps I forgot to spray myself, or the little buggers were just more determined after so many rainy days. Despite that, I just kept trudging along.

The meadows were drying, but not dry. Wet grass soaked our pant legs, and in many places the trail was mushy, forcing us to step off trail above the soft, muddy sections. There were several little streams to cross without the need to remove boots. But eventually we did come to a larger stream where most of us changed into our water shoes and waded across that sandy bottom creek. Ryan had taken the lead this morning and kept up a good steady pace that seemed perfect for the whole group. After an hour of hiking, as we stopped to rest, Chris calculated we had come 2 miles. So the 2 mile per hour pace, if kept up, would get us to the Bechler Ranger Station near to 11 a.m. We did stop several times to drop backpacks, get a snack or to just rest, then hoisted up the packs and set off again. 

Between forest trails (giving relief from the warm sun) were more meadowlands throughout this last day of hiking. Nearing the ranger station, several groups of people were heading into the backcountry from whence we had come. Some appeared to be prepared for several days, others only out for a day hike.

The rangers who visited us in Dunanda Camp the day before, said we might see a moose on our return. That did not happen. We did see marmots, garter snakes, squirrels, chipmunks and maybe some other small mammals, but none of the beastly kind or other 4 legged creatures. Oh, but I forgot to mention, one day, crossing a marsh/meadow, we encountered two sandhill cranes that followed us squawking all the way until they strode away from us. But, as I said, no sightings of any significant large mammals. I imagine, while we slogging in the rain, the bears were sitting in their dens, all warm and cozy eating a tasty rabbit stew and sipping hot huckleberry tea. Smart bears to stay out of the rain.

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At just before 11 a.m. we saw the buildings of Bechler Ranger Station. What a relief seeing that and knowing we would soon peal off the backpacks and rest until the driver came with the van and trailer to pick us up for the return to Bozeman. The driver was a little late in arriving, but with him he brought sandwich fixings, chips, and frozen Gatorades for all, and a watermelon! It was a delicious lunch and excellent ending to our 6 day trek into the Yellowstone backcountry.

Our first stop on the way back to Bozeman, was at the Frostop Root Beer stand in Ashton, Idaho, where many of us indulged in a treat. Donna’s husband met us in Ashton, Idaho, where she then parted ways with the rest of the hikers. It was still several hours drive, during which many chatted, laughed, napped, admired the views, and rested. We hit several pockets of heavy rain on the return drive, but that did not seem to slow down our driver. 

Upon delivering the other hikers to their hotel I went along in the van to the Wildland Trekking office where my pickup was waiting. All was well. 

That evening most of the remaining hikers and Chris met at Ted’s Mountain Grill downtown Bozeman where we had a few beverages and scrumptious dinners. A couple of techies of our crew will set up a webpage where we will share our photos. 

Overall, I must say this was a difficult hike for me. Even the MOST difficult. At times I really did not think I had made a very good decision. With the unwelcome aches and pains that afflicted me, I wondered if my backcountry adventures on long backpack trips were coming to an end. There are many other places that are awaiting me, however, and unless, or until, I am totally unable to venture into the wilds, I will most likely be venturing off on a similar adventure. While sunny days are the best, I’ll still take the good with the bad. That is what adventure is all about.

This will not be my last rodeo.

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None the worse for wear.

Back row, left: Don, Donna, Debbie, Derek,

Front row, left: Ryan, Nate, Geert, Chris, Sophia

Thank you ALL for making this a very memorable adventure!

And now, my Horse Pack trip begins tomorrow, Wed. Aug. 13, 2014. I will again be exploring more of this awesome backcountry in Montana and Wyoming. I return to West Yellowstone, MT on Sunday afternoon, August 17.


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