Day 4, Yellowstone: Bechler River Traverse

Day 4, Wednesday, August 6, 2014


Sunlight breaking through

STILL Raining…

Despite my hopes that the rain would end overnight, that did not happen.

This morning, packing up tents and the other belongings was hurried and having the equipment soaked was just a fact. We would just hope that by the time we arrived at the next camp the weather would improve and then dry things out after setting up the tents.

This was, by far the most miserable day for hiking. Not only was there the rain, the trail was overgrown with lush vegetations, which only helped soak our clothing up to the waist and higher. Better on my feet this day, my thighs still were a bit unsteady as we marched along on trails that were so covered with plant life that it was very difficult to see the ground. Most of my attention was focused on where my feet were landing on what was becoming a sloppy, muddy mire, oftentimes as small retention ponds filled with run-off, or as little steams that served as aqueducts for the flowing rainwater.

Not long after breaking camp and hitting the muddy path, as we trod along, I stumbled and fell. Nate was behind me and immediately was there to offer assistance. I really needed it. Feeling like a turtle on its back, and slipping in the mud, nearly obscured in the overgrown, it was very difficult to get back on my feet by myself. The guardian angel Nate reached down and I offered my right hand by which he got this old turtle back on his feet. So now, not only wet but muddy as well, I just (can’t say dusted myself off), put my feet back on the trail and resumed, none the worse, not even my pride, for wear. Thinking of it now, it strikes me as oddly funny - one minute I’m slogging along and the next I’m down in a heap in the slop. Funny how things can change so quickly…

It was so confounded drizzly I had packed my camera in my backpack that morning. It was obvious, entering our 3rd day of rain, that photography was nearly futile. It took all my effort just to keep my eyes focused on the trail, and looking around at the scenery was pointless. Who needs another shot of gray, sun-less landscapes anyway? It wasn’t until we reached our next destination that I took the first photos that day. And the wait to do so was reward enough.

We had made a swoop to the north of Bechler River to that night’s camp. This was the Dunanda Falls Camp, located along Boundary Creek in the western edge of Yellowstone Park. 

Luck was changing for us also.

As we neared camp, trudging up an incline, Chris stopped our procession and told us we were at the “driveway” to camp. And he was spot on. For soon after we emerged from the trees and in sight was the camp’s bear hang. But not only that, the sky appeared to be clearing (oh, if only the blasted rain would end, the skies part and send forth warming, drying rays of sunlight)! 

Dunanda Falls camp was the most scenic for where we placed our tents, higher up on a hill that sloped down to a plateau, and in the distance the Teton Mountains in NW Wyoming. Some rumbling from the skies indicated that the old rain man was not about to throw in the towel just yet. So as quickly as possible we claimed a piece of real estate and set up our little tents.Setting up my nylon abode next to a lone pine tree, near Sophia’s domicile, we used the tree branches as our clothes line and set about hanging out our wet and dirty laundry.  

While still not completely sunny, the rain skirted us and blessed us with ever more clearing skies. 

In anticipation from Chris’s description, we were to visit the Dunanda Falls, PLUS, make that a BIG PLUS, more hot springs in which we could lounge and ease the aches and pains of several days of drudgery. 

Leading us down to the river on a now well saturated, slippery path, we scrambled down to a large fallen pine tree that provided us the bridge to the opposite shore. A short walk, over some hot streams, brief spongy bogs and scrambles over boulders, and there it was - Dunanda Falls! possibly the best of the falls we had witnessed, primarily so, as I see it, because we were able to get up close to it from the bottom. But the real rewards were the hot spring spas that awaited us on the other side of the creek. An easy, though careful fording and we were in the pools created by past visitors. Hot springs of water flowed into the river in several places. By building up walls of rocks, the colder currents of the creek were diverted somewhat allowing more of the hot water to stay within the pool. With a nice mixture of the hot and cold, the spas were temperate to very warm to hot. Some drafty cold currents swirled about in the pools also, but it did not stop us from trying to sit, lounge, lay back in the spots that offered us comfort and relaxation. Most of the troupe chose a spa a short distance away from the fall, while a smaller number of us chose one a bit closer. 

Lying back in a nearly prone position, Donna dozed off in the hottest part of that pool, while I chose a more moderate, equally soothing spot to stretch out and relax.

As though just experiencing the falls as we lounged in the healing, soothing spas was not enough, Nate and Chris toted down water bags, cups, burners and made hot drinks for those who wished them. BUT, we were  SERVED the drinks as we soaked, Nate carefully crossed the currents, gingerly maneuvered over wet rocks and logs and brought the hot refreshments to our sides. What a gem! I found I could keep my hot tea hotter, longer, by slightly submerging the cup in the hot spa water. My own personal hot pad, so to speak.

Mists from the falls were chilling, yet refreshing, The density of the mists being almost like the relentless rain of the past several days, but in this case much more welcoming. The waterfall itself may have been creating some of the stiff wind blowing the droplets of water over and all about us. Photos with waterproof cameras were the only possibility (which I do not have). 

Squinting through the mist, I watched the water as it flowed over the upper edges, dispersed and fanned out and over lower protrusions and unfurled itself like a curtain, pouring downward to the waiting boulders below, hitting them, splashing and spilling over them like white, frothy milk, continually repeating the cycle regaining it’s true liquid form as it once again became the rushing waters of Boundary Creek.

After what may have been an hour, we all departed this delightful garden of Eden, and made our way back up the steep slope to camp. Chris, having left earlier to start dinner was well into his preparations as we arrived. All in high, good spirits, we also knew that, as the weather did now truly appear to be clearing, we were NOT leaving this camp the next day. The following day, Day 6, was a day of rest, as planned. 

With Ryan taking the lead, he began to gather up dry firewood from fallen trees. YES, we were allowed a fire here and, amazingly enough, dry enough wood was found to create a most welcome, warming blaze for us to enjoy. No need for a tarp covering us this night, as the rain had really departed. 

As we sat around the warm campfire, Chris and Nate prepared chili and grilled cheese sandwiches, (if memory serves me correctly). 

After the days lengthy hike, arrival in camp,  the comforting waters of the hot springs and a fit and filling dinner by a warm campfire it was good to crawl into a dry space, snuggle into the cocoon sleeping bag and drift off to sleep to the sound of the rushing waters of Boundary Creek.



And, tomorrow, a layover day. A day to rest, dry out and enjoy more of the hot springs.



IMG_7886

Our bridge across Boundary Creek

Blue Skies!


At last - a sunset! And a splendid one at that.